Hear now. And always.

I hope Cochlear’s tagline fits my daughter, Riley. She has bilateral cochlear implants – the first in October 2003, the second in April 2007. She was diagnosed with severe to profound, bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at 18 months, which is a long way of saying she could hear virtually nothing because of damage to the cochlea in each ear.

Today she is 6 and is excelling in kindergarten. She plays soccer and softball, loves to dance, sing and swim, and except for her brightly colored ear accessories, she’s a normal little girl.

This blog will tell about our journey from silence to sound. And since I’m starting five years into the process, “flashbacks” will appear as I dig through old journals, photo albums and videotapes.

The work is hard, but the frustration and fear are all worth it when I hear Riley’s sweet voice saying, “I love you, Mommy.”

You’ll Never Walk Alone

A couple of weekends ago, my friend and I went out to eat for our annual birthday celebration; mine is Feb. 23, hers March 6. We reminisced about high school and old friends we hadn’t seen in awhile, including Robin. For an instant, her phone number popped into my head and I thought, “I should call her.”

Later that week I read this verse during my nightly Bible reading Wednesday night.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 (NIV)

And I stopped and thought, “That’s kind of weird.” Then I read it again, and thought, “OK, I get it now. That means His child is now with Him in heaven.”

Thursday morning my dad called to talk to Ryan about some golf range balls, and I heard Ryan say, “You’re kidding me. Oh, no.” I wondered what that meant in a conversation about old golf balls.

“Tiff, I’ve got some bad news.” My heart started beating faster.

“Robin died.” What? What do you mean? I felt numb, and I couldn’t move. It just didn’t seem real.

He put his arm around me and the tears started. My dad couldn’t tell me that one of my best friends in high school died, so he asked Ryan to. I’m so glad he was there when I found out.

We’ve been friends since kindergarten, and even though we’d go long periods without seeing each other, when we did bump into each other when I’d visit my hometown, the friendship was always there. Robin was sweet, smart, pretty and a good person – homecoming queen, a cheerleader, Miss Hazlewood.

Thursday night’s Bible reading was titled “It’s Later Than You Think.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NIV)

Kind of hard to do, but as I thought about it, I gave thanks that I knew Robin as long as I did. The gist of the devotion: “Our greatest fear is running out of time.” We’re constantly rushing to get things done, and we tend to forget the important things: friends, family, rejoicing, being thankful.

Monday’s homegoing celebration was sad and touching. Her family barely held up; her fiancé shared about his love for Robin – “She made me feel like a man again” – and it was heartbreaking. After lots of struggles, she was finally happy. And it was over. You know what verse the preacher chose to highlight?

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 (NIV)

If a friend’s phone number pops into your head, call her. If you have thoughts about someone you haven’t seen in awhile, get in touch. It could be God’s way of preparing you for something. Maybe they need a friend; maybe it’ll be the last time you talk to them.

The Hazlewood High School Class of 1990 lost another friend; Michael T. died about seven years ago. Robin leaves behind three young daughters; Riley could’ve been great friends with the two youngest if I’d done more than think about getting in touch. I should’ve called her, spent time with her and her girls, shared mom experiences.

It’s too late to do these things with Robin now, but I hope my regrets inspire me to keep in touch with other friends, do more fun things with my family and be grateful for the blessings I do have.

I’ll never see Robin on this earth again, but I will see her again. I take comfort in that. Show your love whenever you get the chance.

http://media.imeem.com/m/Oz5RytCydO/aus=false/

Love to y’all!

Hail to the Chief


President Clinton at Huntsville High
Originally uploaded by Tiff1723

Listening to Bill. He’s down and to her right, the circle of white light is his head, and it looks like he’s holding a square of white light.

It was cool to hear a former president speak; and I got some decent pictures, which, of course, I’ll have to upload later. Bill touted Hillary’s experience, talked about health care, the mortgage crisis and education. What he said sounded a lot like what Obama said. They have many of the same ideas, just different ways of implementing them.

It’s exciting to think of having a woman as president of the United States. In high school, I was all about “girls can do anything boys can do” if we have the same resources. The football team didn’t have to raise money for uniforms or trips by having car washes like the softball and volleyball teams did. We had 5 different coaches in 6 years; the football and basketball teams had the same ones. Everytime we’d get a good coach, the school board would not renew her contract for the next year. It sucked being a female athlete in high school as far as respect and resources, but we were pretty good anyway. And I love playing sports, and so far Riley does, too. (Another post for another time.)

However, I won’t base my vote on the fact that Hillary is a woman or that Obama is black. Either one would show that America has progressed from white men only. And I think that’s important. But what’s most important is what they’ll do to fix the mess we’re in in Iraq, make health care and college affordable, make our schools better, take good care of our veterans and repair our standing in the world.

We’ve got two more days to decide. No matter who you choose or which party you like, make sure you vote Tuesday!

Electricity

The rally for Sen. Barack Obama Sunday was like a rock concert and revival all rolled into one; 11,000 people showed up to fill the arena. There were gospel singers, soul music blaring from speakers, folks holding up their cell phones to light up a darkened Bartow Arena on UAB’s campus. It was electric, energetic. It felt like we were part of something bigger than just Birmingham, bigger than Alabama, bigger than the South, big enough for America.

People clapped, cheered, raised their hands and shouted “Amen!” My mom, Riley and I clapped and sang, and if I didn’t clap when everyone else did, Riley made her displeasure known. “Mommy, clap!” 🙂 She enjoyed it as much as we did, but she fell asleep about three-quarters through. Afterward she said, “Mommy, I saw Obama!”

I liked Obama’s style; the only time he used notes was for his thank-yous to start the speech. The rest of the time he just talked to us, like we mattered. A couple of quotes that stood out to me:

Hope is “reaching for what you know in your heart is possible.”

On education: “I can give you that $18 billion for education, but all the money in world won’t matter if parents don’t take responsibility for their child’s education.”

“We don’t want to play that old game, that game that has held us back. That game that says some of you got a black child in a bad school and a white child in a bad school and that’s two different situations. They’re the same situation, and we need to get black and white children working together with their parents to create good schools for every child. That’s what America’s about.”

On the justice system: “No more Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others.”

————————————–
From The Birmingham News” story by Charles J. Dean, News staff writer

Photo above is also from The Birmingham News

“We cannot wait to fix a broken health care system. We cannot wait to fix our schools. We cannot wait to bring an answer to global warming. We cannot wait to create new jobs with good benefits, and we cannot wait to bring this war in Iraq to a close and bring our troops home. The time for change is now.”

“There is nothing we cannot do if the American people decide it is time,” Obama told the cheering crowd at UAB’s Bartow Arena. “There is a moment in the life of every generation, if it is to make its mark on history, its spirit has to come through. This is our moment.”

“This is our time. And, if you’re willing to stand with us, and if you’re willing to march with me and organize with me and vote for me, I promise you we will not just win the nomination, we will win the general election, and you and I together will transform this country, and we will transform the world,” Obama said as the crowd filled the arena with shattering applause and shouts of, “Obama, Obama, Obama!”
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It was well worth the hour-and-a-half drive, the half-hour wait to get inside and the hour wait until it all got started. I’m glad we went, and I hope Riley will remember the day she danced and clapped and shouted and cheered for the person who could be the next president of the United States.

A Change Is Gonna Come

I’m going to hear Sen. Barack Obama speak Sunday; I’m taking Riley and my mom to experience it with me. When I first read that he was going to be so close to us, I got a tingly feeling and my heart skipped a beat, like this could be something big and I needed to be part of it. And I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go. How many times will a presidential candidate hold a town hall meeting free to the public in Alabama?

Whether he wins or not, this is still a historic event. I’m excited about being part of the process and maybe helping change things for the better. And I want Riley to see that she can make a difference, too.

I’m still undecided about who to vote for Feb. 5, so this should help me make a decision.

When your time comes, GO VOTE!

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

So “Santa” came to visit the little ones at our family Christmas party Saturday night. He had a sack full of gifts for every kid under 18. (When you turn 18, you start playing Dirty Santa.)

Last year my dad was Santa, and we talked him into doing it again this year. Last year, none of the kids had a clue. This year not so much. After Santa left and Daddy came back, Riley looked down at his shoes and said, “You the Santa!” And she just laughed and laughed.

On the way home, I said, “Wow, Riley. Santa brought you a dog, like you asked for.”
Riley: “Pawpaw is Santa.”
Me: “What makes you think that?”
Riley: “I saw his shoes, Pawpaw’s brown shoes.” Laughing… “Santa has black boots.”

So cute, and it did nothing to alter her love for the real Santa. 🙂

Here we are gettin’ our groove on to a little Elvis, probably “All Shook Up.” We also did the Pepsi-Cola dance to “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. And we all got down to a little “Baby Got Back.” Good times, good times.

My uncle is taking Riley and her cousin for a spin around the dance floor.

Here’s Riley and Granma. She’s 85 and the source of our love for Elvis. She gets everyone something for Christmas every year. This year the grandkids and great-grandkids each got a presidential gold dollar. If you don’t think that’s a lot, consider that she has 8 kids, plus all but one of them have at least two kids, then the grandkids now have kids. That’s a lot of money for an 85-year-old on a fixed income. And we all get birthday money, too. 🙂

End-of-the-night family portrait. We had a ball!

I hope you all feel the love of family and friends this season. Merry Christmas! Here’s my crazy, beautiful family singing “Silent Night” at the end of the party to remind us why we celebrate. Love to all!

http://i36.photobucket.com/player.swf?file=http://vid36.photobucket.com/albums/e2/thp1723/SilentNight07.flv

Superwoman

From Miss Zoot’s NaBloPoMo site: When you were little, did you wake up early to watch cartoons or did you sleep until noon? At what point in time did you stop waking up before your parents? What about now? Do you sleep in on Saturdays? How much later do you sleep on Saturdays than you do on other days of the week? How different are your Saturdays now from when you were little?

I don’t recall my little brother and me ever being early risers, except maybe on Christmas. I do know that when we were 12+ we started sleeping later and later. Michael played football and he’d be so wiped out after games that sometimes he’d sleep until noon or 1 p.m. I never slept that long unless I was sick or something.

We didn’t get up for specific cartoons; we just watched whatever was on. We had three channels to choose from, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I remember Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, Superfriends, Wonder Twins, Laff Olympics. I still love cartoons, and today’s Justice League is way better than the old Superfriends.

I generally get up about 5:45 on weekday mornings to get Riley on the bus by 6:40. Sometimes I go back to bed for an hour or so; most times I have to get ready for other things. Saturdays I get to sleep about an hour later … Riley gets up around 7 on weekends. Today since she’s at my folks’ house, I slept till 8:45. Nice!

I still watch cartoons; now, they’re just educational and on Noggin or Boomerang.

Later …

Talk Talk

A Children’s Hospital rep called this morning to ask if Ryan or I would like to speak to a local Rotary Club meeting about Riley’s hearing loss and how she’s doing now. Yikes! I’d like to do it, but I’m not great at public speaking. However, it’s only 3-5 minutes; surely I can handle that!?!

Anyway, we went to a local minor league baseball game in July because it was free and in honor of Chidren’s patients. (Riley had her cochlear implant surgeries at Children’s in Birmingham.) The kids played games, we had hot dogs & drinks and we got to watch a baseball game. We got Riley’s picture made and filled out a form with her story. That’s how they knew about us and why they called.

The rep said we could even bring Riley; “everyone would love to see her,” she said. It’s a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting, and we’d probably have her at school by 8:30. I know having her there would make it much easier for me to talk to a roomful of business people, and it would make the story more concrete for them, too.

I think I’ll do it. Where are my index cards? I need to write it all down and practice. 🙂

More Than Words

This was the question of the day at Writer Mama for her big back-to-school giveaway. I enjoyed answering it, so I thought I’d post it here.

My top three writer role models

1. Anne Lamott taught me in “Traveling Mercies” that I don’t have to be perfect for God to love me. She shares her imperfections, and it turns out those are things that make her beautiful. Writing is not about getting it just perfect; it’s about getting it perfectly you.

2. Brenda Ueland‘s “If You Want to Write” is one of my favorite books. I stumbled on it in a used bookstore in Dallas; the previous owner had highlighted many phrases and I’ve added to it. Brenda’s wisdom holds true: Know that you have talent, are original and have something important to say.

3. Sassy magazine from the late 80s and early 90s was my inspiration to be myself – in my writing, in my dress, in my beliefs. I regret that I didn’t keep all my back issues. Sassy spoke to me like no other magazine before or since. I loved it so much that at my prom as a junior the seniors “willed” me a lifetime subscription. Anyone know how I can cash in on that? 🙂

Later …