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Leigh Newman (186 posts)
As a little kid, my official babysitter in the afternoon was Sesame Street, and, like many in my generation, I remember watching the nice, curly-haired lady (Linda) try to teach all of us at home sign language. That, shamefully, is where my understanding of deaf culture begins and ends.
Today, however, is the last day of Deaf Awareness week, during which Encyclopedia Britannica blog has published a fascinating summary on the etiquette of deaf culture. For example, one rule: "Although your mother always told you not to stare, in Deaf culture staring is necessary. Breaking eye-contact while a person is signing to you is incredibly rude because it shows a lack of interest...It is the equivalent of plugging your ears."
For more unexpected dos and don'ts, check out the full article. Or brush up on your sign language with this vintage 1970s clip featuring Big Bird and Linda, who not only writes a letter to her mother (instead of texting) and buys a hat for five dollars (instead of $40) but also gently reminds us what it's like to live without speaking out loud or having others understand your language—a little unnecessarily difficult but, like most things, doable if you refuse if you refuse to give up.
One mother's moving story about raising her deaf daughter
A classic, don't-miss novel with a deaf hero
Yesterday morning at 5am, I was not only awake but browning three pounds ground beef (cursing, once again, the fact that one can't just dump raw meat into a slow cooker) for spaghetti sauce. It occurred to me that not only was I cooking 11 hours in advance for a dinner, but also 35 hours in advance for the next day's dinner, which would also be spaghetti, just one day old and reheated. It also occurred to me that I had actually started cooking at six pm the night prior, since I had had to take the ground beef out from the freezer in order defrost it. Then, it occurred to me that I had planned this meal five days before taking the meat out, in the aisle of Stop and Save, where I had to calculate, sort and purchase a horrifying $300 of protein to last us the month.
When you do the math, it turns out that I started cooking on Thursday in order to eat leftovers the next Thursday, which we need to eat because on Thursday night, my son has swimming, my husband has his food co-op meeting, and I have an article due (the baby just gets to sit there, limp noodles up his nose, watching us run around). This is the juggling act between 5pm and 8 pm in the average American household, one that requires throwing a ball up (dinner!) one week in advance and keeping it up there in the air by the sheer force of grit, will, and reminder Post-it-notes plastered all over the house—so that you have your two hands free to manage the other five or six balls (job ball, kid ball, volunteer ball, spouse ball, house ball, friend ball, errand ball, the poor neglected goldfish who hovers by his sunken, algae-covered castle, looking ever upward for the possibility of a food flake ball—okay that's 8 balls, but who's counting).
Which is why I found this video on The Daily Dot so inspiring, even though the site had such a different interpretation of Selyna Bogino's talents, focusing on her 967,967 views on YouTube and her rigorous practice routine.
To me she was not only literally doing what so many of us do figuratively, she was adding new ways to do it that I will institute this upcoming Thursday:
How to balancing work and life
Dr Oz's 7 Ways to Reduce stress
Ending the multi-tasking madness
Everybody has their inexplicable fears. I once knew a woman who was afraid of coconuts and spent her whole vacation in Hawaii sitting inside the condo, afraid that if she went outside, one was going to drop off a tree and onto her head. As for me I am afraid of leeches, weird cults that suck you in and brainwash you, and the wholesale collapse of the economy, which would cause my husband to lose his job, which would cause us to lose our house and....move in with my mother. Late at night before bed, I often rehearse this worst case scenario in my mind: selling off all our stuff on the sidewalk, assigning us new bedrooms, and somehow finding schools for my kids in the middle of the year. Hence, the bags under my eyes.
My toddler, on the other hand, is afraid of dinosaurs. You do not want to be a two-year-old boy in America with this particular phobia. Dinosaurs are everywhere, lunging off lunchboxes, raging across raincoats, tromping with bared teeth across every television and playroom in the neighborhood.
Today was his first day of daycare. We entered the classroom and grabbed a tub of plastic animal figurines, all about 6 inches high. We pulled them out one by one...a lion...a chicken....a whale...a German shepherd....and gray-green T. Rex with jaws like some kind of prehistoric trash compactor. My son shrank, inserted thumb in mouth. I attempted recovery. I held up a giraffe.
"Is this a dinosaur?" I said.
"No," he said.
I held up cow. "Is this a dinosaur?"
I held up a lobster. "Is this a dinosaur?"
He wobbled, and jammed that thumb back in his mouth.
I looked at the lobster. It was the same size as the cow and the cat and the suddenly horrific-seeming crustacean (note to humanity: for us to maintain our supremacy on the food chain, crustaceans must remain smaller than us). With the change in scale, a lobster could be a dinosaur, a monsterous armored one with evil, neck-snapping claws.
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale today, the revolutionary (gut-wrenching) memoir...
Mighty Be Our Powers
By Leymah Gbowee (with Carol Mithers)
At her high school graduation party, beautiful 17-year-old Leymah is surrounded by music, family, friends and a glittering pile of gifts (including gold bracelets and a pair of rare Dexter boots). Six months later, her country, Liberia, is torn apart by tribal conflicts and overrun with rebels and government troops who rape, loot and kill at random. Separated from her family and struggling, Leymah gets involved with an older, seemingly safe man, who gives her plenty of beatings and four kids, at one point leaving her to sit in a hospital corridor nursing her newborn preemie, with no money for even an incubator. Worse, however, is her emotional destruction—emblemized by her own children, who, in imitation of their father, begin to call her "stupid" and refuse to share any of their rice with her. "When you move so quickly from innocence to a world of fear, pain and loss," she writes, "it's as if the flesh of your heart and mind gets cut away, piece by piece, like slices taken off a ham. Finally there is nothing left but bone."
Broken, Leymah somehow finds the strength to start training as a social worker (studying at night in bed with her babies, reading by candlelight) and rises to become the leader of the women of Liberia, who, as a group, overturn their powerless roles and march their country toward peace with a national strike that includes denying their husbands lovemaking until the fighting stops. So many memoirs focus on the story of a single person who inspires us all with her story and language, but Mighty Be Our Powers is a different, larger, more universal kind of book that tells the story of both Leymah and an entire generation of girls-turned-women-turned-world leaders. Read it—and be inspired.
18 fresh new books to read this month
How to help women and children in Africa
Today, the MacArthur Fellows were announced, known casually as the "genius" grants, since the winners are recognized for their unparalleled creativity in a variety fields, from medicine to musical composition to law to (this year) silversmithing. Each receives $500,000 to continue doing what they love to do—breaking boundaries.
Our favorite of this year's award honorees is the poet Kay Ryan, who explains in this short video that "only through the manipulation of language...was I able to reach the most interesting places in my mind."
Her happiness at wining the grant at age 65 is lovely, but note that midway through her talk, she mentions that "I'm always just beginning." She is speaking of how she approaches a new piece of writing and how her past writing can't or won't help her in the creation process. But taken out of context (why not?) the line makes a great motto for all of us, if not a poem in and of itself. Consider what your day would be like, if you woke up in the morning and said to yourself, "I'm only just beginning." On tough days, try putting an exclamation point at the end.
7 ways to spark your creativity
Inspirations from a few of the world's most creative people
Monday is too stressful. Wednesday is already hump day. But Tuesday is "you" day: a day when you have the energy to do—or plan—something fresh and unexpected that might just turn your whole week around.
Celebrate being who you are—honestly. Read this woman's account of how her life will change today, the first day of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell
Summer is coming (weep, bawl) to an official end. Mark your calendar for this Friday, the Autumn equinox, and use this handy guide to learn how to calculate the exact time it happens in your time zone and what in the heck, scientifically, it is.
Honor this Thursday, Dear Diary day, by revisiting your private notebook. How to reinvigorate your journal writing with 3 essential, attitude-changing questions.
Look back on all those bands whose songs you love but whose names you can't remember (the Divinyls? The Chords?) this Sunday, also known as National One Hit Wonder day. How to scan the top 100 One Hit Wonder songs of all time, or search for your favorite songs by decade (check out the 1980s!).
Coming to terms with painful situations can have a power that verges on miraculous. We've all heard the classic tale of, say, the woman who gets pregnant (after years of trying) once she reunites with her estranged family or the sick mother who gets better after a visit from her long-lost son. The Washington Post's story last Thursday about 9/11 widower Floyd Rasmussen begins like such story. After his first wife, Rhonda, died in the attack on the Pentagon, Rasmussen moved out west and started his life over by marrying another woman (the frank, insightful tale of how these two faced the losses in his past is itself reason enough to read the article immediately). Unfortunately, he also developed renal failure, which made travel not only difficult but perhaps fatal.
Regardless of the danger, he refused to skip the tenth anniversary event in Washington DC. He flew across the country, attended the ceremonies, and even met with President Obama to talk about what had happened that day, including the fact that he had only been two floors away from Rhonda and yet had escaped the wreckage unharmed. On the plane back home Rasmussen had trouble breathing, and, a few days later, passed away—but not before talking with his mother, other family and friends, to whom he declared that "he no longer felt any need for vengeance, no longer felt hatred for the men who had blown a hole in his life."
In the traditional miracle, he would have arrived home and found his condition cured. But that doesn't make his experience any less amazing. The forgiving of the unforgivable still qualifies as a marvel in my book—perhaps the kind most worth remembering and repeating, since we all can try to make that particular kind of magic happen in our own lives.
Making peace with yourself—no matter what
How to say good-bye
Ever since I read the brilliant poet David Whyte's description of our "need to overhear the tiny but very consequential things we say that reveal ourselves to ourselves," I've been trying to listen more closely to what comes out of my mouth. But doing this is more difficult than it seems, due the chatter going on in life and in my own head. In his essay, Whyte describes a woman who sings her thoughts to herself in order to recognize the feeling and meaning behind them. I actually tried this once, to the horror of my kids, who were also in the car with me.
Now I'm beginning to think I need to buy a cockatoo. Yesterday, Australian Geographic revealed to the world that wild cockatoos were learning the art of conversation—including curse words—from trained cockatoos who had escaped their cages or had been set free. In the article, the site included this clip:
It's hard to hear, but listen to what the bird is saying: "What are you doing?" (in a frustrated, annoyed, on-the-edge mom tone), followed by "Look at that!" (in a wondrous tone, as if he'd just seen his baby stand up and walk for the first time), followed by "Uh-oh. Uh-oh," over and over (in the classic child's I-just-broke-the-family-champagne-flutes tone). Clearly, this is a family pet.
I tried to imagine what such a cockatoo might repeat after spending time with my family—or even me. Would it say in an exhausted voice, "I have so much work!"? Or, crossly, "Be quiet! It's 4 am!"? Or would it say, "God I love you so much," or even "Thank you"? Two out of the three things the bird learned above were negative. Would my ratio be the same? Or worse?
A snippet of repeated dialogue does not define the emotional character of a person's entire existence, but it is still a window into the kind and quality of messages we give each other. I not only want to start talking as if a cockatoo were about to speak my words back to me, but I also want to fill my life with all of the other sounds I would wish such an bird would imitate: laughter, doorbells rung by neighbors, violin notes from my son, the fizz of ice cream when it hits the soda in a root beer float.
This is not a completely idealistic thought. The same Australian Geographic article describes certain lyrebirds that still make the noises their mother birds and grandmother birds and great-grandmother birds learned while in captivity: the chopping of axes and the clicking of old shutter-box cameras.
David Whyte's 10 questions that have no right to go away
Are you listening to your life?
Everyone has at least one body part that doesn't exactly thrill them. Mine is my calves. I have wide, chunky calves—hunks of muscle the width of some women's thighs, made for running marathons or surging up mountains (neither of which I use them for). Each fall, as I attempt to buy boots—not the galoshes type, the flattering, elegant, go-to-work or go-to-dinner models—I have to endure the raised eyebrow of more than one skinny-legged saleswoman as she struggles and fails to zip them over my below-the-knee bulge. I know I'm supposed to laugh about my calves and accept them as my inheritance from my dad and grandmother, who handed them down, but I can't. They remind me of big canned hams strapped to the back of my shins.
Now along comes Masha Turchinsky a creative producer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who professes her love for hawkish noses and charts their present throughout history using different pieces of art from the museum's collection. Rather then hide her family's less-than-perfect facial trait, she celebrates it for reasons you'll understand from her video:
Her analysis of J.P. Morgan's approach to his nose ("He chose to emphasis it. This is a powerful man who makes sure we look at his face") led me to briefly muse to how to deal with my calves in a more original and up front way: Paint them red? wear short shorts? Give them sassy, lovable nicknames like Lois and Sherri?
What really gives me pause for thought, however, is Turchinsky's comment about Mary Cassatt's Lady at the Tea Table. "It's interesting" she says, "That you could like everything else except for a nose—and that could render it [the painting] unacceptable." I can't go so far as to say that my dislike of my calves make me want to stick my whole body away in a closet, the way that happened to Cassatt's painting, but I do suspect that fixating on any one part of anything—be it anatomical or artistic—can and does miscolor your perspective of the whole.
For example, the one thing I noticed about the lady in Lady at the Tea Table was her clear, alive blue eyes, and how the light in them highlights the color of the wall behind her. Her nose, to me, was a blob. Her nose was just a piece of her face. Perhaps the key to self-acceptance is treating our legs—and the rest of us—with the same courtesy as we'd give a painting at the Met—by looking for the detail that's beautiful instead of the one that's not, a detail that, in the final analysis, has the exact same power as one that's not, because it can overwhelm and illuminate the entire picture.
Learning to love the gap in your teeth (and other supposed flaws)
Living a mirror-free life
Why it’s better to go on a vacation than buy a new couch...how spending a lot less and on different things can make you happier.
The book that showed actress Andie MacDowell how "to deal with something that was impossible to deal with." Report from Rwanda: one young American woman keeps risking it all to help the young women of Africa change their lives—from protecting their own bodies to increasing their village power.
Do you know when it's time to say good-bye?
The Life Lifter: Carrie Fisher will put on her teeny-tiny metal Star Wars bikini "if a whole bunch of women over 40 come to Yankee Stadium...and sit around and laugh and talk about the old days when we ate a lot.”