Playing ball when you’re deaf

Girlpower, Health, Parenting, Pop Culture, Sports/Fitness

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

Girlpower, Pop Culture

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:

**************
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.

**************
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?

cochlear implant, Girlpower, Health, Parenting

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

Alabama, family, Featured, Parenting, writing

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

music, Pop Culture

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”

books, freelance, writing

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.

My writing goals

freelance, writing

The following questions come from author and writing teacher Christina Katz:

On a scale of one to ten, how’s your self-respect? Can you say no? Do you say yes to yield to social pressure and supposed-to’s and then suffer for it? Are you catering to too many other people’s needs but burning out in the process? Do you listen to and trust your instincts about what is and isn’t the best way to proceed?

My self-respect is about a 9 – hey, no one’s perfect, right? Over the past year, I’ve learned to say no when a writing project doesn’t fit my goals or when the topic doesn’t interest me. If a subject doesn’t appeal to me, it’s hard to make it interesting for others. And isn’t it a bit dishonest? “Hey, I couldn’t care less about doomaflotchies, but I sure wish you’d read my story about them.”

Also, I got in over my head a couple of times last year, taking on too many assignments and had to back out of projects. I hated doing that, but I would’ve hated even more turning in something that wasn’t up to par. Now, I’ve learned how much I can handle without spreading myself too thin or losing my sanity or self-respect.

And when it comes to getting paid for my work, I’m not afraid to ask for more. The worst a client can do is say no, but many times they’ll say yes. For instance, yesterday, after agreeing to write a piece on short notice, I asked my editor if she could bump up my per-word rate. She thanked me for my work and doubled my rate for this article and future ones.

Another editor agreed to boost my pay for an assignment after I pointed out that a lot of information was available on my topic and would need to be distilled. A couple of national sources and two or three local sources and I’m good to go.

It pays to ask for what you’re worth.

Photo by sushivina on Flickr’s Creative Commons

Alabama: National Champions: A family affair (Part 2)

Alabama, family, Health, sports, writing

Part 2 of the 2009 edition of Crimson Tide football and family

Dec. 2
Just when we thought things were getting back to normal, Daddy faced another setback. A lingering fever signaled an infection that landed him back in the hospital, facing more surgery, at least three procedures.

Dec. 5 Florida (SEC Championship), 32-13
Momma, Michael, Ryan and I watched this one with Daddy in the unit, along with the other patient and nurses, who were all Bama fans. For the first three quarters, we took shifts with him so we didn’t tire him out too quickly. In the fourth quarter, we all gathered around his bed and watched the Tide finish off the Gators and earn a trip to the National Championship game in Pasadena. Finally!

Dec. 12 NYC
Sophomore running back Mark Ingram of Flint, Mich., became Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner. I was as nervous watching this as I was watching The Drive that beat Auburn.

Dec. 16 Surgery day
Daddy underwent an axillo-bifemoral bypass, the removal of the infected aortic stent and the removal of part of his bowel. The surgeries went well, and Momma, Michael, Ryan and I were able to go see him a couple of hours afterward.

Dec. 25 Christmas
Ryan, Riley and I took presents and a little fiber optic tree to the cardio-thoracic recovery unit where Daddy was. The gifts and our visit cheered him up. Momma said the next day that our visit really helped lift his spirits.


We’ve been to see him as much as possible between school and work, and finally just before the new year, Daddy got to move to a regular room.

Jan. 7 Texas (BCS National Championship), 37-21

Daddy was released from the hospital and sent to a rehab center at a nursing home closer to their house. He made it in time to watch the title game. Again, I had to work, but at least I was at home. I texted Daddy before the game and got a “Roll Tide” back. I was unhappy with the way this one started – it was like Auburn all over again – and I hated to see Colt McCoy get hurt. But I loved the 24-6 halftime score.

However, the conservative third quarter made me nervous. And 24-21? Yikes! But I was confident that Bama’s run game could keep the clock moving and our defense could tighten up and stop the Longhorns. And they did.

Marcell Dareus, Eryk Anders and Mark Ingram came up big. Heisman jinx? No such thing. Sports Illustrated jinx? Whatever. McElroy played with two cracked ribs, Ingram was banged up and linebacker and soon-to-be NFL star Rolando McClain was given fluids before the game and at halftime after suffering a stomach virus all week.

Heart. Toughness. Dedication. All part of Coach Nick Saban’s process. Focus on the journey and you’ll arrive at your destination.

I think that philosophy could help Daddy, too. (And me as I start on a new path in a few weeks.) Ryan, Riley and I went to see him yesterday at the rehab center, where he’ll be for three weeks. He and Momma were tickled by the championship T-shirts we took them. It was good to see him in a sweat suit instead of hospital gown and without all the tubes and drains.

We all took a stroll with him down the hallways, and he said he was looking forward to starting his physical therapy today. I hope he puts in good work and is able to get home by February. I know he is ready.

Alabama: National Champions: A family affair

Alabama, family, Health, sports, writing


This season of Alabama football took me on a roller coaster ride, despite finishing the season a perfect 14-0. The Crimson Tide has always been special to my family, and this year was no different. Although, circumstances kept us from watching as many games together as usual, Bama football was still a family affair.

Sept. 5 Virginia Tech, 34-24

Sept. 12 Florida International, 40-14


Sept. 19 North Texas, 53-7
I just remember this being an early game on Fox and being glad I didn’t have to buy it on PPV, which I would have done. And early season backup QB Star Jackson led a TD drive. Then I went in to work.

Sept. 26 Arkansas, 35-7

Oct. 3 Kentucky, 38-20

Oct. 10 Ole Miss, 22-3
Bama intercepted four Jevan Snead passes, but it only scored one offensive TD … by Mark Ingram, of course. Leigh Tiffin kicked five field goals. Ryan, Riley and I watched the game at home.

Oct. 17 South Carolina, 20-6

This was Riley’s 8th birthday, and we were at Walt Disney World. We hit the Magic Kingdom first, had lunch with all the princesses, rode the dizzying tea cup, race cars, the Astro Orbiter, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We headed back to our room to let Riley open her DSi and Three Musketeer Barbie dolls. Then we plopped down on the beds and watched the Tide whip the Gamecocks at the most magical place on Earth. Ingram’s 246 yards rushing landed him on some Heisman watch lists.

Oct. 24 Tennessee, 12-10
I wasn’t able to watch this game closely because I had to work, but it was probably a good thing. Otherwise, I may have thrown something at the TV at home. I had my emotions a bit contained at work. However, I did see the key blocks, thanks to a co-worker and fellow Tide fan who was nice enough to arrange his TV so I could see, too. I downloaded this one from SECSports.com, so I could watch at my leisure.

Oct. 31 Open

This is where things got crazy for my family. On Halloween, we carved our jack-o’-lanterns, Momma came over, and we went to hang out with friends. While we were eating dinner and making trick-or-treat plans, Daddy had an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture, or AAA.

He’s very lucky that he called Momma and listened to her when she told him to call 911. The blood was leaking into his abdominal cavity and was life-threatening. He went through four hours of surgery to put a stent in his aorta and was in the critical care unit for six days. He spent another 13 days in a regular room, including the LSU and Mississippi State games. We spent lots of time in the hospital waiting room.

Nov. 7 LSU, 24-15

Riley and I drove to the hospital in Florence to hang out with Daddy and Momma and to watch the game. Daddy was in good spirits, and we watched most of the first half together. However, the rooms are so small and an 8-year-old can only take so much, so we headed to my cousin’s so she could play. I watched the rest of the game with her husband, a big Auburn fan, who kept trying to discount Ingram’s Heisman candidacy by saying “he isn’t even the leading rusher in the conference,” that AU’s Ben Tate was. If that was true, it didn’t take long to rectify because Ingram ran for 144 yards. QB Greg McElroy also had a nice game with 2 TD passes. After the game, Ryan & I went back to the hospital to discuss the win with Daddy. He was pleased.

Nov. 14
Mississippi State, 31-3
This game is always played the week of Daddy’s birthday, Nov. 11. This year he celebrated in the hospital and with a butt-kicking of the Bulldogs. It was also my first time live-blogging with the fine folks at Roll Bama Roll.

Nov. 21 UT-Chattanooga, 45-0
Senior Day whoopin. And another Saturday at work. Daddy actually got to watch this one at home since he was released from the hospital Nov. 18.

Nov. 22 Griffin born

Another big day for our family: My brother and his wife welcomed Griffin, on his due date. Big brother Lincoln proclaimed him to be “perfect!” And he is.

Nov. 26 Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving at Momma and Daddy’s with the traditional turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, pasta salad and rolls. It was good to see Daddy eat some good food and watch a little football with him.

Nov. 27 Auburn, 26-21

Who thought playing the Iron Bowl on the day after Thanksgiving was a good idea? It was dumb. And I had to work in the office. Let’s just say that my co-workers who are Auburn fans were not too happy with me. 🙂 Few people were working during the game, so I didn’t feel bad about my outbursts. However, on one of those big AU plays, I did hurt my hand by banging my fist on the desk too hard. I got a text from Ryan late in the game: “What do ya think?” My reply? “Bama’s going to win.”

To be continued ….

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

deafness/hearing loss, family, Health, hearing, Parenting

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.