Playing ball when you’re deaf

She’s come a long way since she got her first glove.

Riley’s had two softball practices with another set for Saturday. She’s paying better attention this year, but we still need to figure out a better way to communicate than just yelling at her. It’s hard for anyone to hear a coach yelling from the dugout during a game and even harder when you’re hearing impaired. That’s one reason we’re considering an FM system … so she can hear easily whether she’s on the field, in the classroom or out in the backyard.

Another family offered to let Riley try out the system their children no longer use, so I think a phone call is in order. Of course, the system will have to be tweaked to complement Riley’s hearing and programs, but we should get started on this soon.

The first two practices were COLD – the poor girls were bundled up so tightly they could barely move! And you know how much it hurts when you swing the bat and don’t hit the ball solidly. Ouch!

She batted right-handed the first practice and did OK, but she switched back to being a lefty the second day and did even better. I’m going to let her decide how she’s most comfortable at the plate. Lefty or righty, it’s her choice.

The coach worked her out at second base and Riley did really well for her first time on the field since May. Several of the other girls played throughout the fall and are also playing on a travel team during the community season, too. They’re getting a lot more reps, but Riley will catch up.

I’m the dugout mom again – keeping the batting order; making sure helmets, batting gloves and bats are where they’re supposed to be; helping the catcher get dressed; bandaging any scrapes or strawberries; and yelling for mom or dad if I can’t help. Basically, several moms are tag-teaming to take care of everything from uniforms to snacks to picture day to concession duty.

We’re all ready for spring and softball and warm weather.

Happy Birthday to Jon Bon Jovi

JBJ as seen through my 12x optical zoom lens and the big screen.

Today is my rock star fantasy’s birthday: JBJ is 48 and still rockin’.

Here’s a bit about how this love affair started:

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My journey into infatuation started in the mid-1980s. I was about 14 and just getting into MTV. Long hair, tight leather pants and ripped shirts were all the rage. And I’m not talking about the ladies.

One band surpassed all others in every way…music, looks, number of cans of Aqua Net … Bon Jovi was the baddest, the coolest and the hottest. To use the slang of the day, lead singer Jon was fine. And I was hooked.

As a teenager, I didn’t have the means to buy the albums or go to the concerts. I started my collection by obsessively listening to the Top 40 countdown shows on the radio, tape recorder at the ready. “Casey, would you stop talking over the intro!” I wore those cassettes out, playing “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Bad Medicine” over and over and over.

I taped their videos, their appearances, anything I saw. I have no idea where those tapes are now, but I wish I could find them.

Yes, I changed the words to “I was born to your baby, you were born to be my man.” Yes, I imagined getting backstage and meeting Jon. (Get your minds out of the gutter – he was always a perfect gentleman. And back then I wasn’t as well educated as the kids are now.) Yes, I begged my mom to let me go to their concert in Huntsville just before I turned 16 … no dice.

Fifteen years later, just as I was about to turn 30, part of my fantasy was fulfilled. I was in the same building as Jon. Oh, my gosh … finally I got to see my Jersey boys in all their glory! And I was not disappointed.

It was like going back to high school…I felt like a schoolgirl, screaming and dancing and singing every song.

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I’ve seen Bon Jovi twice more since then, and unless I hit the jackpot, I doubt I’ll see them in April in Nashville. Ticket prices continue to climb, and I can’t justify $150 for a ticket stuck in the middle of an arena, where I can barely even see Jon, where my camera batteries will die five minutes into the show because I’m so far back I have to use the flash, where my photos will come out grainy because I have to shoot the big screen in order to even see Jon’s face, plus finding someone who can afford to go with me … and so on.

They’re pricing fans out of their shows, and it’s unfortunate. Even being a fan club member got me no perks … unless you consider $1,500 for a front-row ticket a perk. Sure it’d be a priceless experience, but sometimes the price is just too high.

The ever-increasing cost of seeing my favorite band live tends to dampen my love a bit. It’s disappointing that longtime fans have to spend so much money just to get decent seats. Meanwhile, bands and brokers and promoters are raking in the dough. It’s frustrating and unfair.

At least I’ll always have my fantasies.

As close as I’ll likely get to JBJ, and with a 12x optical zoom. Sigh. In Nashville, 2008.

How do you map an ear?

Riley waits for her snack after the softball game. See her blue and pink CIs?

I’ve previously talked about taking Riley to her mapping appointment at the HEAR Center. You’re probably wondering what that means. Mapping means programming. It’s a little like upgrading the software on your computer. Sometimes your computer slows down or needs a boost to do some new processes.

Same thing with the CI processors, which are the pink and blue devices you see Riley wearing. They contain tiny computers that need occasional updates.

The cochlear implant processors have to be readjusted at various intervals depending on how long a child has worn them. For example, when Riley first got her CIs, she had to get them mapped every month for the first couple of months. Then every three months for a couple of years. After nearly seven years, unless she’s having trouble with the CI, Riley’s map is updated every six months.

The audiologist hooks the processors to her computer and updates the software on them. This mapping sets the devices’ electrode stimulation levels in Riley’s cochlea so she can detect soft and loud sounds comfortably.

Over time, Riley will adapt to the settings. What was once too loud might become too soft as her brain’s auditory center gets used to the sounds. Then we’ll go back for another mapping session.

A Southern afternoon long ago

This short short story is just a compilation of memories from my childhood. I’m not sure if the people and dates actually match up, but this is a snapshot of a day in the life of two little kids in Town Creek.

Family circa 1980s
We were at some cookout somewhere on the river.

 

After School

by Tiffani Hill-Patterson (April 7, 1999)

Rrrrriinnnnngggggg. Finally. School is out. Time for a Coke and a candy bar.

I grab my books and wait on my little brother, Michael, to meet me at the end of the hall. I’m 10, he’s 7 and we both go to Hazlewood Elementary School.

“What took you so long?” I ask.

“Miss Davis made me stay after,” Michael says.

“Did you get in trouble for not having your homework again?” I ask him.

“Yeah, I’ve got to get a note signed, too,” he says, frowning.

“Oh, well, you probably won’t get a whipping or anything. They’ll just make you miss ‘The Dukes of Hazard’ tonight.”

Daddy is waiting for us at the end of the road by the school. Our house is right across the highway, but he doesn’t want us to cross the big four-lane by ourselves. So he meets us whenever he is off work to help us. If he’s at work, we walk to the babysitter’s because Momma works, too.

“Hey, y’all,” Daddy says. “How was school?”

“Fine,” we say together. But Michael hands Daddy his note.

“What happened with your homework?”

“I forgot about it. We had baseball practice and I forgot.”

“Well, I’ll let you off this time, but from now on you better have it done,” Daddy says sternly.

“Yes, sir. Can we go to the store now?” Michael asks as we begin to scurry across the highway. Traffic is heavy at this time of day in our little town. High schoolers who drive and parents who pick up their kids from school form a line that stretches about 100 yards from the red light and past our house.

“Not yet. I’ve got to go to the post office and go pay some bills,” Daddy says as we reach our road.

“Awwww. That’ll take forever,” I whine, walking up to the carport.

“Get in the truck and we’ll hurry,” Daddy says. So we all climb into the old gold Chevy, roll down the windows and turn up the radio. The post office is two minutes up the highway and City Hall, where Daddy pays the water bill, is a minute from the post office.

We pull up to the post office and climb out of the truck.

“Daddy, can I open the box?” I ask. Daddy picks me up and tells me the combination of letters as I turn the knob. I get the box open and out tumbles the mail – a Field & Stream, a couple of “duns” as Daddy calls bills and a Marvin Morgan Furniture circular. I love getting the mail.

Daddy gathers all the mail while Michael and I stare at the FBI “Most Wanted” posters behind the glass casing. We memorize the faces, just in case.

Back in the truck we head down the street to City Hall so Daddy can pay the water bill. He never understands how it can be so high. It’s probably because Michael and I run the hose outside for so long, squirting each other to death.

Michael and I play with the radio a minute, and then Daddy walks out the door. Uh-oh. Mr. Hoover stops Daddy to talk.

“Look, Michael,” I say, nudging him with my elbow. “Now we’ll be here all day.”

“Yeah, Mr. Hoover always talks too much.”

After listening to The Oak Ridge Boys sing “Elvira” on the radio, we finally see Daddy shaking Mr. Hoover’s hand and walking to the truck.

“Can we go now?” Michael asks.

“OK,” Daddy says as he cranks the truck. “Where do you want to go? Clayton’s or Mr. Reg’s?

“Mr. Reg’s,” we yell.

Mr. Reg has a punchboard that you can play for a quarter. We love to punch out that piece of paper, hoping to win something.

We go home, get out of the truck and walk through the backyard to Mr. Reg’s. It’s easier to walk than drive and park at Mr. Reg’s. His parking lot is on the corner of two highways and it’s barely big enough for one car. So we walk through our grass, stop on top of the grate to look down the water drain, jump up and touch the Joe Wheeler State Park sign, and finally step into the cool, damp store.

“OK,” Daddy says. “Tell Mr. Reg what you want.”

“I want a Coke and a plain Hershey bar,” I say.

“I want a Dr Pepper and a Whatchamacallit,” Michael says.

“And I’ll take a Coke and a bag of peanuts,” Daddy says.

“All right,” Mr. Reg says and hands us our food. “That’ll be $2.50.”

As Daddy pays for the goodies, we grab the drinks out of the cooler and stick them under the bottle opener and pop off the caps.

We walk back to our yard and settle under our big oak tree next to the highway.

Daddy dumps his peanuts in his Coke, and Michael and I tear open our candy bars. We play the car game – the red cars are mine, the blue ones are Michael’s. And that chocolate tastes so good.

Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights

Kim and I headed to Crossroads in the pouring rain to hear Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights. I have been waiting for this day for more than a year now.

We got there early and headed for the bar and a drink. We camped out in a booth near the sound board and waited. It wasn’t long before I spotted bassist Nick Jay and introduced myself. We chatted for a moment then he went to change clothes for the show.

A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy walking up to the bar. Yep, it was Jonathan Tyler. I waved and went to say hi. Bless his heart, he remembered our conversation on Twitter, and he came over and talked to me and Kim.

Soon we were hanging out at the pool tables watching JT, Nick, Jordan Cain (drums), Brandon Pinckard (guitar) and Jimmy (tour manager) rack ’em and break ’em before showtime. The guys were easy to talk to and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say.

Once onstage, joined by fabulous vocalist Mo Brown, the band did not disappoint. Opening with a cut off their upcoming album Pardon Me, slated for release in April, they got the crowd, though sparse, moving. From my post leaning on the stairs, I could see folks bobbing their heads, tapping their toes and doing that little shoulder shake we all do when we hear something we like.

They played two of my favorites Slow Train and Gypsy Woman, and though I’m sure I looked a fool, I couldn’t help but dance while shooting some photos. Good music always makes you move.

Their music? Gritty, honest, soulful, Southern, bluesy rock. But listen yourself. And don’t let Jonathan’s soft-spoken, sweet voice fool you. This man can sing, with power. JTNL are not some little bar band hoping to make some cash. They have played with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, AC/DC, even drawing a huge crowd, and an unheard of encore, at the Austin City Limits Music Fest.

After the much-too-short set, Kim and I finally met Mo and Brandon, took advantage of photo ops and the merch table, and shared a round of shots with the band. Maker’s Mark. (And I managed to stay upright.) We got the scoop from poet, playwright, author and singer-songwriter Mo, chit-chatted with the dudes and watched a few games of pool before it was time to load out.

All in all, it was one of the best music experiences I’ve ever had. Not only are they great musicians, they are nice, asking about our lives and including us in the conversation. Now that’s how you connect with fans … and keep them.

Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights are going to make it big. Right now, they’re touring the country, and if you get a chance to hear them, take it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”

Before A Moveable Feast, I had never read an Ernest Hemingway book. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Interspersed throughout his stories about his time in Paris in the 1920s, Hemingway describes his writing process (“I always worked until I had something done” ) and how he coped when the words would not come (“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know”).

He talks about his friendships with Gertrude Stein (she was “always right”), Ezra Pound (“the most generous writer I have ever known”) and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Though he seemed somewhat of a chauvinist (“There is not much future in men being friends with great women …”), a surprising part was his writing of fatherly duties such as boiling nipples and mixing formula for his son Bumby’s bottles and taking Bumby with him while he wrote in cafes.

However, the fatherly duties didn’t include hiring a sitter. He and first wife Hadley often left Bumby alone at home in his crib, watched over by only the family cat. “F. Puss was the baby-sitter,” Hemingway explained.

If you’re interested in Hemingway, “A Moveable Feast” is a good first look. It offers insight into how he wrote and how his personal life influenced his works.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Wonders and Marvels in return for a review.

Losing a pet is hard for an 8-year-old

December has been a tough month: Daddy is back in the hospital with a serious infection, and he is scheduled for major surgeries Wednesday. My grandmother fell for the third time since summer and is now in a nursing home. And last week, we had to let Carlo, our 11-year-old lab mix, go to a better place. Ryan and Riley had taken him to an emergency vet a week earlier because he was eating very little. They came back with a diagnosis of fungal pneumonia and prescriptions for pain and antibiotics.

The meds did nothing, so our regular vet came to the house to check on him. Carlo was laboring to breathe, could hardly walk and completely stopped eating and drinking. Our vet listened to him breathe and checked him out and said it was either fungal pneumonia or lung cancer. We had already discussed a plan and once we had confirmation that we could do nothing more, we made the decision. And it was hard. Riley gave Carlo a hug, and we sent her to our neighbor’s. Ryan and I stayed with him until the end, crying and talking to him.

Carlo was the sweetest, goofiest dog. When it came to eating, he was like a vacuum. He loved to run around in the backyard, and he loved our first dog and his mentor, Eboni, whom we lost several years ago when Riley was very little. And he loved us.

I miss him snuffling against the back door when he wanted in. I miss his barks when we pulled into the driveway. I miss him looking at me with those big eyes when he wanted to go outside.

That night, Riley asked when the angels were coming to get Carlo and if we were going to put his body under his tree. She asked if he was going to play with Eb and Bonnie (Nanny’s late dog). She asked if he was going swimming. We said yes to all. We tried to explain about his spirit, but that was fruitless. We didn’t have the words to get it right. She drew a card for Carlo and Eb and took it to school and all her classmates signed it. Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard?

The photos below show a 20-month-old Riley checking out Eboni (red collar) and Carlo; Ryan helping Riley get to know Carlo a little better; Carlo hanging out on the patio; and Carlo “opening” his Christmas present last year. In the drawings, Riley encourages Carlo to go see Eboni in heaven and marks Carlo’s final resting spot – under his favorite tree in our backyard.



Hearing Anniversary: Cochlear Implant

Six years ago today we saw our lives change with the help of amazing technology, amazing doctors and nurses, amazing audiologists, amazing therapists and amazing family and friends. See for yourself:

Right now she’s using her bionic hearing accessories to listen to Spongebob, dance to “Get Up Offa That Thang,” sing to “All In This Together” from “High School Musical” and read “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook.” Life is sweet!

Delivering the Diagnosis: Your Child Is Deaf

When children are diagnosed with hearing loss, parents feel grief, anger, anxiety and guilt.

Audiologists can help them through these emotions by remembering this: You’re about to tell a family the child they think they know does not exist.

At least, that’s how my husband and I felt when our 18-month-old daughter was diagnosed. All the dreams and hopes and plans were put on hold when we heard:

“She’s never heard your voice. She doesn’t even know her own name.”

Thankfully, our audiologist was kind and straightforward in her diagnosis, and once we were over the initial shock, she outlined the various treatment options available.

Now that our daughter is 7, hearing with bilateral cochlear implants, and excelling in second grade, those hopes and dreams have returned. We just have to do a little extra planning and coaching. This can be true for all families, regardless of the treatment they choose.

Follow these tips to help make the diagnosis easier for parents to digest:

* Show sensitivity when delivering the news; don’t just blurt it out.

* Explain in layman’s terms the type and severity of loss and what it means.

* Give parents a chance to recover from the shock before telling them about treatment options.

* Offer information on support groups for parents of children with hearing loss.

* Offer a complete list of options when it’s time to discuss treatment. From ASL to hearing aids to cochlear implants to Total Communication, any and all options available and appropriate for the type of hearing loss should be discussed.

* Put families in contact with someone who can help them navigate insurance, approval and Early Intervention issues.

* Offer contact information on other families who have been through the same situation.

This is an emotional time for families, so anything you can do to make the journey forward a little easier will be appreciated.

Who says women hate football? Not this woman!

I’m so happy that football is back! Fall would be boring without it. What would I do? Sew, cook, shop? Scrapbook? Garden? Get my nails done? Yeah, right.

Give me a Mountain Dew, my Bama shirt on Saturdays, my new purple #4 shirt on Sundays, some Golden Flake barbecue chips and my remote controls and I’m a happy girl. Throw in a Hershey Special Dark bar and I’m in heaven. 😉 (By the way, I got my exercise in early today, walking a mile around the neighborhood while Riley rode her bike.)

I love watching the Alabama Crimson Tide, and thanks to Brett Favre unretiring and my joining a fantasy league for the first time, the NFL will even be interesting this year.

Last night, Ryan, Riley and I headed over to some friends’ house to catch the Bama game on PPV. I tried really hard to be chill and watch the game, but I just couldn’t contain myself, especially when Bama busted coverage on a 3rd and long from the FIU 2 to give the Panthers a big gain. Or when they let FIU run a kickoff back for a score. Compared to watching at home, though, I was laid back. LOL

After being shaky early in its first two games against Virginia Tech and FIU, Bama made some adjustments and picked up the pace. The Tide must get a handle on special teams, though, or that’s going to be a recipe for disaster in SEC play. There’s no excuse for giving up a a touchdown on a kickoff return two weeks in a row. That must stop.

Know what I’m really enjoying? The talent Alabama has. One running back is injured? Put in another who will rack up 100 yards and a touchdown or two. True freshman Trent Richardson got it done last night when Mark Ingram (last week’s star runner) went out with a sprained ankle.

Mike McCoy (80) stepped up and went for about 100 receiving yards and a TD when starter Julio Jones injured his knee early in the game.

QB Greg McElroy (12) completed a school-record 14 straight passes at one point and completed throws to seven different receivers. Nose guard Terrence Cody even got in on some offensive action when he led the way on a TD run.

Speaking of Cody (62), he made some good stops on defense (look left) and Marcel Dareus and Rolando McClain had great games for the Tide. I love seeing Bama’s defensive guys put a lick on the opponent. Makes me want to suit up and hit somebody. Rawr!

Oh, yeah, Notre Dame and Tennessee lost yesterday, which made Bama’s win even better.

Right now, I’m switching between the Atlanta-Miami game (ATL’s Matt Ryan is my fantasy QB, but not my “fantasy” QB, which is Favre) and the Dallas-Tampa Bay game (DAL’s Jason Witten is my TE). My team is losing, and I’m just trying to figure out how the scoring works. I’ve got more games today and tomorrow, so maybe I can catch up. Also, I’m hoping former Tide QB Brodie Croyle has a good day and doesn’t get hurt in his start with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Thanks to Lance at RollTideBama.com for letting me use the photos above. Check out his site for more Bama news and photos.

Roll Tide! Go, Favre! Go, Chiefs!