Friday, September 30, 2005

Deaf missions and ASL classes going well

So far, I've had three Wednesday night beginning American Sign Language classes, and they've all gone really well. I've had about the same number of students (give or take two or three) in every class! I consider this a success. The same people have come back three times, and seem to be enjoying it.

Most have purchased the text book that the Board of Evangelism bought, so I've turned that money back over to the board to reimburse those who spent the money in the first place. For most people, it seems, $20 is reasonable enough for a book that teaches beginning ASL. I certainly agree, especially since some of my textbooks for school have cost at least $75!

I'm starting my Saturday class tomorrow afternoon. I'm expecting a smaller turnout, but with some people who have not been able to come to the Wednesday night class for some reason or another. So far, I know for a fact that my sister, my mom, and Jeff (the one my husband refers to as "the virgin of fireworks") have all said that they're going to the Saturday class, plus four others whose names I won't mention since I don't have their permission. That's seven people for Saturdays, and about 12-15 for Wednesday nights! Cool, huh!

Now that I've been teaching the class for a few weeks, and I've been drilling them on the alphabet and am teaching them more numbers during every class, I'm teaching them the lessons that are in the book, which consist of complete sentences with sign illustrations. There are some signs that I know to be different in the actual Deaf community, so when I come across them in the book, I teach the class the way the signs are done in this part of the country. Since I'm the instructor, I have ultimate authority to do with the lessons as I please.

Also, and I have yet to announce this to my students because I don't want to scare them off, there is a Deaf Ministry workshop coming up on Nov. 5 in our state's capitol, Topeka. There will be at least 20 Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals there who use sign language to communicate, and they're all members of the LCMS. In addition, there will be at least two LCMS pastors there who know sign language!

As you have probably already surmised by the previous paragraph, I'm planning to attend this workshop, and I'm going to invite my students to attend, too. There's nothing for them to fear, even if they feel a bit intimidated to talk with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, because there will be plenty of people there who don't know much sign language, and they get along just fine because there are so many people there who do. Plus, it's the perfect environment for my students to use what they've learned and learn even more. Once they see that what they're learning is useful and readable, I'm sure their confidence will be boosted, too. I just hope they can make the 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive up to Topeka for the workshop.

Something interesting about this workshop is that the pastor of the church where it's being held is the step-dad of the profoundly deaf boyfriend I had when I was in eighth grade! In fact, it was his family who taught me how to sign, although it was Signing Exact English, which is not accepted in the Deaf community.

SEE is used in the school systems for the sole reason that teachers don't think Deaf children can read or write proper English unless they're taught to use a sign system that is exact English. In other words, it's a bastardized version of ASL in which prefixes and suffixes, as well as tenses, have been added to make it more English-like. Also, the same sign is used for the same word regardless of the context in which it's used.

Example: My nose is running. Ryan decided to go running. The water is running.

Obviously, the word running is used in three different contexts here. In ASL, it has three different signs, but in SEE, the same sign is used for every context. ASL is conceptual, while SEE is not. Conceptual meaning that the signs generally look like whatever they represent.

Hey! Now you know more about the difference between the two sign systems! Aren't you glad you decided to read this today?

Anyway (I'm really good at digressing, huh!), I'm looking forward to seeing how my sign students will react to the possibility of going to a workshop where they can learn more sign language and more about Deaf Missions, too! Have to wait until November 5, though.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What a reputation to try to uphold.

My instructor for my Interpreting I and Deaf Communication Studies classes refers to me as "the walking dictionary and thesarus." If there's a word she doesn't know how to pronouce, doesn't know the meaning of or a word or phrase that is similar, she looks at me. Consequently, the others in my classes have started doing the same thing.

It's a blessing and a curse. When I give an answer, they're simultaneously pleased and satisfied. If I can't give an answer, they're disappointed. If I'm found to be incorrect, they laugh.

Because of my post-graduate education and my journalistic background, my vocabulary exceeds that of my instructor and all of my classmates. My instructor might have a four-year college education, but I highly doubt it.

She's a CODA, which means she's a child of deaf adults. Her parents did not receive the education that most deaf do nowadays. Worse yet, they grew up in Missouri (sorry if you're from Missouri), where education in some (hick) parts of the state is like being educated by the illiterate. Trust me, I went to school in a small Missouri town for three years. By the time I finished third grade, I had just as much education as my dad's boss.

I digress.

One of the books that was required for my Interpreting I class is a book for building vocabulary. Needless to say, most of the words in the book that I've encountered thus far are words that I use in everyday conversation. Some of the definitions it gives are crappy, though, so I sometimes use other resources to give a more accurate representation of the word or phrase.

Geesh! I'm a reliable geek! I am a walking dictionary! Just don't pit me against a true genius. I run like a girl. Wait. I am a girl. Wait. I can't run: doctor's orders. Darn!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Breast Cancer Awareness for Women ... And Men!

It's true. If you thought you were in the clear from getting breast cancer just because you are a male, you're very mistaken! Nearly 17,000 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Although mamograms are recommended very highly for women, there are also some men who get them (although it may be more difficult for them to get mamograms since most have flat chests).

My godmother died of breast cancer. It spread from her breasts (which she had removed by mastectomy) to her lymph nodes, and ended up killing her when it spread to the brain stem. I was about eight years old at the time.

She wasn't related to me, but cancer doesn't have to be hereditary in order for one to have it. If you want more information, I suggest you visit The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation website. This link will provide you with an endless number of resources on the matter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Second Sign Class Tonight

Since my class met last Wednesday, I've had several people tell me how much they enjoyed it, and others who have told me they want to join, although they didn't sign up. This is great news!

Part of my class tonight will focus on alphabet review, another part on learning numbers, and the rest on study and discussion about deaf culture. There are many sign classes out there, but not many that discuss or delve very deeply into the culture of the Deaf community. Since at least one of my students is very nearly deaf, herself, I think this is an important area to touch on.

I don't want to go into too much, because I haven't started my Saturday classes yet, and I won't be able to hold one this Saturday because I'm going to an interpreter conference/workshop. It's going to be really cool, partially because it's a two-day conference/workshop here in Wichita, I'll get more than 10 CDs or DVDs meant to help interpreters succeed, and supper is included on Friday, all for $30! Nevermind that it's being held at a Nazarene church. I just hope they don't try to talk theology.

Anyway, seeing how many people return, and how many new people are in my class tonight, will tell me for sure how many people got hooked at my first class meeting last week! There were 16 in class last Wednesday. I'll give an update (hopefully tonight) and tell you about the actual turnout.

And my books came in! Yea! I'll be handing them out tonight, encouraging everyone to purchase one per family/household because it will be so beneficial to them, especially if they plan to continue their education in sign language. Each book is only $20! How cheap is that?! And instead of learning individual signs all the time, it teaches them how to form actual sentences, so they can communicate their thoughts right away! (If you want to know where you can get the same book, send me an e-mail at ron DOT erica DOT olson AT gmail DOT com.)

I appreciate your continued prayers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Some clarification

I just want everyone to know (because it was brought up as being ambiguous) that Ron and I are fine living off his income alone right now. One of the reasons I'm pursuing employment is because we can achieve more in a shorter length of time if we're both employed. Another reason is that I hate staying home with nothing to do except housework. I like to be able to get out of the apartment and feel useful to other people besides just my husband and myself.

Also, the test for the U.S. Postal Service was just as dumb as I thought it would be. I was probably one of the first 20 people to finish out of about 300-400 people. Many of them couldn't follow the simple directions and bring two sharpened number-two pencils, separate the first page of their information packet from the rest, and show up on time. IMHO, if you can't follow directions as simple as those, don't even bother showing up.

One more thing: I went to a career expo at Century II this morning, and a lady from Snelling Personnel told me she wants me to call and set up an interview. I think (and the other lady I talked to while attempting to schedule an interview does, too) that the lady from the career expo has a position in mind for me! Oooh, how I hope it's a temp-to-hire or permanent placement with people who are intelligent!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Arrr Mateys! I be...

My pirate name is:

Dirty Grace Rackham

You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from

Not my idea of "perfect"

Tonight, instead of going to my Interpreting I class, I will be taking a pre-employment test for the U.S. Postal Service along with probably 300-400 other people. There are three types of positions they're hiring for, and my hope is to bypass the data conversion operator positions and get in as a clerk-stenographer, if I get a job there at all.

After the test, I'll have to wait probably two weeks for my results. At that time, I will probably be asked if I wish to be considered for a position, and I'll have to go through a number of screenings, a personal interview and a medical assessment. For the stenographer position, they only require a typing speed of 45 wpm. While at the Wichita Eagle, I'll bet my typing speed got up to about 65 or 70. I could type about 60 wpm before.

The benefits that the U.S. Postal Service offers are really good. I mean, it's the federal government! Maybe if I get in, eventually they can help me become an interpreter with the federal government. I know. I'm reaching. I've got to a little bit. I don't want to be unemployed for another two years, even if that's how long it might take me to finish my interpreter training.

The reason I titled this post "Not my idea of 'perfect'" is because I've never wanted to work for the Postal Service. I've always, until recently, considered myself a journalist. I've got a bachelor's degree, nine credit hours toward a master's, and am going through interpreter training to receive an associate's degree. I want a job where the people around me are educated beyond high school not just because they want to be, but because they have to be in order to have the job they do.

I've had jobs before where I was the only one with a college education. I was educated beyond the level of my bosses. That was not pleasant. I don't like to have more education than my boss, because then my boss is jealous of me and doesn't treat me the same as everyone else, and my co-workers are jealous of me, so they don't like me. They think I'm there to show them up or something, when all I want is a way to make money until I can get a job somewhere that I really want to be.

All the benefits in the world can't make you want to go to work if the environment is unpleasant all the time. I've been there. In fact, I blame one of those experiences for my problems with acid reflux. It was either I quit or end up in the hospital with stress-related stomach issues, maybe even an ulcer. I just hope that if I get a job as a result of this test that it's something I can live with for as long as I have to.

Plus, if I get a job, Ron and I can move out of this puny 400-square-foot apartment that we've been living in the whole three years we've been married. I'll just have to do everything I can to remain employed, even if it means shutting up about unfair treatment, I'm afraid. That's what got me fired from the Eagle: complaining about unfair treatment.

Anyway, I've got lots to do before my test tonight. One of my action items: trying to get my lazy landlord to replace the compressor in our air conditioning unit. It broke down last night, and now it's 81 degrees in here, and it's not even 7 a.m. Should have slept outside. Would have been cooler.

Pray for me that I get a job, and that it's one I can live with. I don't need luck for the test. It's going to be a dummy's test. It's composed of simple math, filing skills, spelling, enumeration, that sort of thing. I'll let you know whatever comes of this test.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Vicar Chaz Lehman, Host of Lutheran Carnival VI

For all those interested, our friend Vicar Chaz Lehman is hosting the Lutheran Carnival VI, which is up and running right now!!! Go visit. I command it! Ha!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What a turnout!

So, it turns out that two of the people who signed up for my class thought it was a sign-up for the midweek dinners, but there were still 16 people who came to my class! There were even two people there who hadn't signed up! A few of those who didn't come are people for whom Saturdays would work best, so I wasn't that surprised to see them not there.

Ron took a few pictures of me and my class at the very beginning, so there are a few people who aren't in the pictures, but it was still a good turnout! Here are some of them:

I started out the class with the typical "who are you and why are you here" icebreaker, and then I told the class a little about myself and my experiences with the Deaf and sign language. Then we moved on to the manual alphabet, which they caught onto very easily. I taught them the whole alphabet so they could practice spelling their names and other words.

To end the class, I had them play a game my interpreting instructor suggested: "sign language baseball." In this game, I divided up the class into two teams. They chose people one by one to take turns at the dry-erase board. Whomever wrote down the letter I signed first correctly won a point for their team. Everyone got a chance to play, and they all had a good time! It was great!

Just before I dismissed them, I asked who might be willing to take the class on Saturdays. Most who said they could said that Saturday afternoons would work best for them, so I'm going to ask permission from my pastor to have a class from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. I don't think it's going to be a problem.

The funny thing about tonight's class is that I was teaching a sign language class in a choir room! I think I'm going to move the class to a room where we can all face each other next time.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me. Please continue sending your prayers and support. I plan to continue this class for a long time and begin new ones like it every year.

My class begins today!

In honor of the start of the beginning American Sign Language (ASL) class that I'm teaching, I thought I would share a bit of information from a Religious Signing book a friend of mine loaned me until mine comes in. This book was published in 1986, so much of it is dated, but it's interesting anyway.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) was the third denomination to take an active interest in the spiritual needs of deaf people. Its work began quite by accident when deaf children came for religious instruction to what was intended to be a new orphanage in Detroit. Instead the institution opened in 1874 as a school for the deaf. It was by special request of one of the graduates of this school that church services for deaf people were begun in 1894 at what is now Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Chicago.

August P. Reinke was the first pastor to that congregation, and as his reputation regarding his ability to conduct church services in sign language spread, he was called upon to establish a regular circuit of preaching in midwestern cities. Soon thereafter LC-MS officially recognized the mission work among the deaf and established a Deaf Mission Commission [I'm sure has since been dissolved]. Within the next five years the number of pastors serving deaf people grew to seven, and by the time LC-MS celebrated its fiftieth anniversary of working with the deaf, there were twenty pastors conducting church services in approximately two hundred seventy-five cities across the United States.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has developed the most extensive work of the three Lutheran Synods [remember that at the time of this printing, the ELCA had not yet been established], with special training programs in both of its seminaries for students wishing to study for the deaf ministry. [I think Fort Wayne is the only one that offers training now.] At the present time there are approximately fifty full-time LC-MS pastors working with deaf people, a few of them whom are deaf themselves. The pastors are orgainized for the purpose of mutual support and continued education into the Ephphatha Conference, which was founded in 1903 and continues to meet annually. [Not sure if this is still true.] The International Lutheran Deaf Association was orgainized to assist the LC-MS deaf ministry throughout the world. LC-MS supports two schools for the deaf, the original one in Detroit and another in Long Island, New York, which was opened in 1951. [Not sure if this is still true, either.]

So much of the funding from LCMS headquarters has been reduced, and in many places even eliminated. What happened? Did the deaf population shrink? No, in fact, it has grown. Has the need for funding gone away because so many people have given to Deaf Ministry? No. If anything, there has been less money given to this ministry.

That's why I am so thrilled that 23 people signed up for my sign language class at church! Maybe I've opened people's eyes to the fact that the Deaf need to "hear" God's Word, too. When I presented my idea for beginning a Deaf Ministry program at my church, I told board members that "the deaf have been in silence for long enough." Maybe people were actually listening to me! I'm not exactly used to that yet.

Pray for me! My class begins at 7 p.m. (Central Time, of course) I'll let you know how it went.

Monday, September 12, 2005

What a laugh!

My sister called me this morning singing the following:

"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday old lady! Happy birthday to you!"

Keep in mind, my sister is 23, so she can get away with it. Barely. =D

As a present for my 25th birthday...

The Sedgwick County Courthouse decided to call my husband for jury duty today. Maybe he'll get home earlier than he usually does from work, but, then again, if it's a difficult trial and they actually pick him to be a juror, he could have to serve for more than just one day. (But who wants The Terrible Swede to be a juror? Just kidding, Babe.)

I also get to go to my Interpreting I class tonight. Which reminds me: I haven't finished my homework, so guess what I'm going to be doing!

Oh, well. It's a weekday. Celebrations are usually held on the weekends, so I can wait. My mom, Ron and I are trying to decide whether we're going to have a party for me at my parents' house or at Applebee's on either Saturday or Sunday. Hmmmmm... I could have one of Applebee's "Perfect Margaritas," which are very yummy, or I could have something storebought or homemade instead. Applebee's is more centrally located, so more people might be able to come, too. Decisions, decisions! I just hope 25 candles don't scorch the cake! ;)

I wish all my blogging friends could join me, but I know you'll be there with me in spirit.

I just checked my profile, too. Blogger has updated my age already! Even though I technically don't turn 25 until 6:11 p.m. central time. Hee, hee!

23 People!

Yesterday at church, I realized I had left my sign-up sheet for my sign language class in front of the office, and I needed it to see how many people were going to be in my class and who they were. As of yesterday, 23 people have signed up to take my class! And I only ordered 25 books!

What's really funny is that I found out yesterday where the Board of Education had decided I should hold my class during the Midweek program: the church library, a room in which ten people would be crowded! I talked to Pastor Hoger about that, and asked if I could have everyone meet in the choir room, which is right across the hall from the library, since it isn't being used. He said that would be fine.

I'm definitely going to have to try to divide up the class into two sessions: one for Wednesday nights and another for Saturday mornings. So far, three or four people have told me that Saturdays would work best for them. Hopefully a few more will make the switch. Ten to twelve people would be manageable for a beginning ASL class, but 23 is way too big for individual attention.

Also, in the bulletin, they called my class "Religious Sign Language," which is the name of one of the books I'm needing to get. I told my choir director that if I only teach religious sign language, people wouldn't learn the alphabet, numbers or conversational sign language. Religious signing is something that goes hand-in-hand with conversations, for the most part. You can't have an entire conversation with signs from a religious sign language book, because those books leave out the signs for words such as the ones I'm using right now.

Anyway, my class starts this Wednesday, and I still haven't gotten the books in that I ordered! Hopefully they will come in between now and then.

Please pray that God would grant me the strength, courage and knowledge that I will need to teach these students how to communicate with and minister to the Deaf.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Anniversary made better with family

As many of you have probably already seen from my husband's blog, we recently celebrated our third wedding anniversary! He had a whole trip planned out, and we were able to arrange to stay with his brother and his wife in Colorado Springs. We also enjoyed a few of our outtings with them. We would have done more with both of them, but my brother-in-law's wife is pregnant with their first child! What a blessing! I've gotta say, I'm jealous.

Ron and I got to their house at about 10:30 p.m. mountain time, and found their gorgeous house, which we had never been to before. Unfortunately, Ron had to prove his manhood by repeatedly attempting to drive our stick-shift truck up their 49% grade, winding driveway. Once we got up the side of the mountain to their house, we were amazed. The part of Colorado Springs where they live is one of the most newly-developed, and also one of the most beautiful. From that area, you can see a lot of the foothills, and if you went to the top of the foothill my brother-in-law lives on, you could see Pike's Peak.

Ron and I visited The Royal Gorge with his brother and sister-in-law the day after we arrived. We walked across the bridge, took a tram ride down to the bottom, and rode a sky-coaster on a cable across the gorge. Did you know that the ArKANSAS river flows through the gorge? (My brother-in-law's wife gets a kick out of the way we say that in Kansas, with the emphasis on Kansas.) It flows through Wichita, too.

Ron's brother went with us the next day to Pike's Peak via a cog rail train. That was awesome, too. Ron and I took lots of pictures from the ride up, down, and at the peak. We made sure to bring warm clothing, because even though it was in the upper 80s at the bottom, it was only 38 degrees at the top. I even had to put my gloves on to keep my hands warm! It still wasn't enough, so the three of us got cappucinos at the cafe in the Summit House.

Jason also went with Ron and me to visit Cave of the Winds on what was going to be our last day in Colorado. (We decided that day that we would stay an extra day.) Although I had been there once before with my family when my sister and I were younger, I think the tour we went on was a different one. Ron and his brother made sure they could lag behind the tour group so they could take pictures and be ornery. Jason's wife might have gone with us if she hadn't had to work. I think she would have liked it.

Saturday, Ron and I went alone to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We rode a motorized, gas-powered trolly to take us as far up the mountain as it would go, and then we walked around to look at all the cool critters. We even saw one of their newest additions: a white lion. Beautiful. We saw all kinds of monkeys, a whole slew of giraffes (about 15 or 20 all together), some hippos lounging in a pool outside, and even some penguins! While we were there, it started to rain, so we found the trolly and rode it around the whole route to make sure we didn't miss anything. By the time we finished riding, it had stopped raining.

That night, the four of us went to this really awesome Itallian restaurant, Zio's Itallian Kitchen. We had a great waiter. He answered all kinds of questions, obliged to some requests, and made a spectacular wine suggestion to go with my meal. He also reacted perfectly to a joke my dad usually plays on the wait staff at restaurants:

I was showing Jason's wife how my dad makes it look like he's bending a fork, using a spoon, when the waiter came to the table to refill our water glasses. He saw me "bending" the spoon, and gave me a look like "What the hell!" I held up the spoon, showing the waiter that the spoon was never bent, and he took a sigh of relief. He said, "I was about to ask you what the hell you were doing to my silverware!" Then he laughed with all the rest of us.

We had such a great time. It kind of made us think more about moving to Colorado. If we do, though, it will be a while.

(BTW, I'll come back later and make links to these places and try to insert pictures.)

Mary Kay Inc. sends aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina

For more information, please visit the Pressroom page on my Personal Web Site.

May God bless all who are suffering.