The Energies Around Us

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, I imagine I’m not and it’s only that people don’t tend to talk about it, but I distinctly feel different energies from the world around me in different situations and locations. This is a large part of what has drawn me to a pagan path. Some of these energies charge me up and others drain me. These energies I feel are especially noticeable to me when I’m around the ones that charge me up and make me feel more alive. Often times I don’t pay as much attention as I should to the energies that drain me.

This is always a topic on my mind in the fall and early winter. It’s a time of year of change, of crisp air, of storms, of vibrant colors of the fall leaves, of holidays and celebration. Early spring can be the same way for me. Being outside in such weather always charges me up. Leaves me feeling motivated and in tune with myself and the world around me.

The more time I spend outside, the more I benefit from this feeling. It’s one of the reasons living in New England is such a double edged sword for me. On one hand, we have 4 very distinct seasons and brilliant fall colors. The seasons I mentioned above are pronounced and the intensity of that can charge me up like the Energizer bunny. And yet, for much of the year, the weather is too lousy for me to want to be outside: the stifling humidity in the summer, the bitter freezing cold in the depths of winter, and OMG the mosquitoes!! I never notice quite how much my lack of time spent outside due to poor weather affects me until I get a string of weather that draws me outside again. I suddenly realize what a fog I’ve been in and the clarity and lightness I feel comes in clear contrast.

This past year in particular, especially the last couple of months, I have been especially limited in my time spent outside. It has been a hard and busy year. New baby. IEP fights. Demanding job. Mental health struggles (mine and husband’s). Husband switching to a second shift job. As such, I’m stuck working all day and then stuck with the sole responsibility of dealing with the kids in the evening which keeps me inside much of the time. The weekends are spent scrambling to catch up on things that didn’t get done during the week rather than outside.

Until this fall hit, I hadn’t quite noticed how drained I’ve been in the slog of things. Fall always hits me like a refreshing splash of cool water to wake me up. I’ve been making a focused effort to pause and enjoy the weather each day on my way to pick the kids up from MIL’s house after work. I’ve noticed a difference.

Even beyond the general energy I get from the weather or season we’re experiencing, there have always been some places where the energy of the place stands out to me more than others. Sometimes it’s an outdoor place such as a specific spot along a stream (or once sitting on a large rock in the middle of a stream). But sometimes it’s an indoor place feeling the history of a place around you and the impact of its architecture. Some places I can never feel comfortable in, but other places can instantly feel like home simply based on their energies.

One thing I hadn’t noticed much before because I rarely have time to specifically sit down and practice my religion in any sort of focused way with rituals, spells, and the like is just how strong of an energy I feel emanating from my tools and my practice.

I recently got a desk to put in our bedroom so that I have some place to work that’s away from the kids during the day while my husband is home. I fully intended it to serve dual purpose as a place to organize my ritual and spell stuff as well, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet despite having the desk for a while. I have intended to, but never found the time because until recently, the baby was still sleeping in our room.

Today I go up to work at the desk for the first time in several weeks. I saw the incense holder I had placed on the desk (one of the only pagany things I had put there yet) and decided to light some incense. I realized that my lighter was in the hope chest with the rest of my pagan stuff. As I open the hope chest to get it out, I was hit with a strong energy filled with power and focus that surprised me. A sense that I had been missing and didn’t realize that my faith was one place I could pull that energy from (I have never been a super strong practitioner).

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It’s an energy I’ve been in desperate need of, so I decided to take a moment and do a quick, rough set up a mini altar at my desk in addition to lighting the incense. Nothing crazy, just some basics. But I swear, I have been more focused and on task with work today, which is something I have really struggled with lately, than I have in in the past year. As I sit here, I can feel the energy pouring off the items I set up and wrapping me in this calm, focused, and empowered feeling.

Here it is, the beginnings of my first more permanent altar. It’s far from done, but it’s there and it’s mine. I wish I had done this ages ago.

This feeling also reminds me that I really should be putting more energy into becoming a practicing pagan on a regular basis. I have never made my religion a priority, and as such, since it’s not a religion I grew up with and don’t have any other fellow practitioners who I share my beliefs with, I often let this part of myself slide.

I know it’s cheesy as hell, but I want to be that witch who incorporates it into my daily life. Life goals would be to live life with everyday spells and little magick woven throughout my day celebrating every holiday on the turn of the wheel and the full moons…incorporating all of this into my family’s daily life as normal and pervasively as many Christian families do. But that’s hard as someone who’s still forging her own path and traditions and still learning the craft myself.

But that’s a subject for another post.

For today, I am just feeling the energy washing over me from this season and from the starts of my new altar set up, soaking it up, and thankful for it all. This is the stuff of everyday magick, simply being aware of and harnessing the energies around you.

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Parents: Get Those Hands Up

Infographic: Deaf Children are at High Risk of language deprivation

We were at an event for a local children’s D/HH program tonight. While the event wasn’t targeted at signing families, all of the families there said they sign with their children. Guess how many signing hands I saw at the event today? I saw one parent signing a couple of single words from the game they were playing. That’s it besides myself, my 2 girls, the Deaf staff member, and the interpreter that was there. Over the course of 2.5 hours. Besides Jessie, the other Deaf kids were 3, a baby (I give those parents a pass because this was all very new to them), and the other Deaf kids there were about 7-10 yrs old.

Jessi’s school had a restaurant fundraiser the other day and I saw the same thing with the few families there. Signing a couple of words here and there, but not even a full sentence, much less a full conversation. And all of the kids were at least 4 years old. I and one staff member were the only ones really signing.

Please parents, get those hands up and start signing. Your kids need you. I get that learning a language is hard. And I gave the moms of Jessi’s peers a pass when the kids were all babies because it’s tough to pick up a whole new language and that takes time. But those babies are now 4-5 years old. I’m not seeing much improvement in the parents signing skills or frequency with which they sign with their kids. And I see the husbands hardly knowing a handful of signs, and the grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, etc knowing virtually nothing.

I know this isn’t unusual. My own parents have only learned some and my siblings virtually nothing.

But just because it’s common, doesn’t make it OK. Our kids need better from their parents. I get that most parents don’t know any sign when their Deaf child is born. I get that learning a language is hard. But this is your KID we’re talking about. After 4ish years, you should be developing a decent degree of conversational fluency. And sure, your kid is learning English, but spoken language will never be easy, clear, or even always accurate for any D/HH person under the best circumstances. By only minimally signing, you are depriving your child of having truly strong and easy communication with you. You’re slowing their language acquisition. You’re limiting their everyday incidental learning opportunities, which can add up to huge deficits as they get older. You’re limiting their ability to learn the finer details of how social interactions should work. And more.

Communication is the foundation of a person’s success and the foundation for all their relationships. You can’t have either without solid communication skills. You want a strong relationship with your child? Sign. You want your child to have all opportunities for success available to them? Sign. Parents of D/HH kids who are learning to sign, please…pick those hands up and SIGN. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be slow, and awkward, and halting…but even imperfect signing is better than whatever garbled amount of English your child is able to hear/lip read any day of the week. Even imperfect signing is GOLD to your D/HH signing child.

Labels: It’s all in a name

“What’s with all these LGBTQ+ people’s obsession over all these labels?!! Why can’t they just be themselves??”
It’s a common thought among those who aren’t a part of the community (or sometimes even among those who are a part of the binary sexuality or gender identities). Sometimes it’s a genuine question from someone wanting to better understand. Sometimes it’s a rude and dismissive remark scoffing about supposedly hyper sensitive snowflakes. But the commonality remains that many people don’t understand why there’s a need for all of the myriad of terms used to describe someone’s sexuality or gender. Many feel like we’re just splitting hairs, but it’s more than that.
The need for labels is finding words to explain yourself to yourself, to figure out and describe how you fit into and experience this big world and how you interact with others within it, and to attempt to describe your experience and who you are at your most true self to others.
While our society has the labels “straight” and “cis”, labels for “male” and “female”, the folks who fit those labels never or almost never need to use them (outside of advocacy/ally situations) because those labels are the assumed default. Everyone knows what those identities entail. There is a rich understanding of the assumptions about behavior and expression that’s imbedded in each identity, as well as the “acceptable” variations within each identity. An understanding of the rules and limitations expected by each label. Everyone is assumed to fit those identities until proven otherwise.
Those of us who don’t fit those default labels, need to use our labels to create space for us to be ourselves, and hopefully be understood/accepted by others, in a society that doesn’t make space for us. To try to build an understanding of ourselves for ourselves and others similar to that built into the layers of understanding of the default labels.
When you don’t fit either/or, then you don’t have that automatic background layers of information and culturally shared frame of reference that goes along with it. So don’t scoff at or get frustrated with people who feel the need to differentiate between non-binary, agender, genderfluid, demigender, etc. Or those who feel the need to differentiate between bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual. Each one of those have subtly different meanings. While the specific language and terms being used might be newish, the concepts behind them are old and have been around for centuries. Instead of scoffing and/or getting frustrated, perhaps instead try to understand what it is the person is trying to convey. You don’t have to remember every term, I know I don’t. Try to remember some of the concepts behind them, especially as it pertains to the individual.
Here’s a link that describes many of the popular terms. Here’s another one (this is the source of this post’s graphic, but I don’t love all their descriptions).
Disclaimer #1: Understand that some individual people use some terms slightly differently than the “main” definition as some of these terms are still evolving and still making their way in to a greater degree of general awareness. Always respect what each term means to the individual’s identity.
Disclaimer #2: Keep in mind that many LGBTQ+ people whose true identity is a lesser known one that is less understood by the mainstream will often tell non-LGBTQ+ people a less accurate but more familiar mainstream term. For example: When it comes to sexuality, I consider myself pansexual, but I’ll often tell people who are not likely to be familiar with that term that I’m bisexual instead because it’s close enough and most people understand it without significant explanation.
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Oppression from the Professionals

So my daughter had her audiologist appointment today. I went into the appointment fully expecting her audiogram to show a slight regression in her hearing loss. We’ve certainly noticed a decrease in her ability to understand spoken language over the last 8-12 months.

Her previous audiogram from 6 months ago had shown a very slight progression (a 5-10 dB difference in most frequencies) from her previous audiograms, which had been pretty consistent since birth. However the audiologist refused to acknowledge it as a progression. At the time she said that one test isn’t enough to show a regression and that 5-10 dB could be just a margin of error of the test. I didn’t really buy it because that change matched up with our observations at home of her mishearing things a little more often and matches up with the genetic family history of progressive loss. But ok, fine, whatever. I could wait another 6 months for a confirmation.

Then today’s appointment showed a similar regression, actually slightly worse (5 dB) than even 6 months ago in a couple of frequencies. At birth and through her first few years, her lower frequency hearing was normal…now it’s also mild to moderate. Her higher frequencies have moved from mild to moderate to pretty solidly in the moderate range.

And yet, her audiologist is still calling her hearing loss “stable” and refusing to acknowledge a regression. Which, on a practical day to day sense, I don’t really care. I know what I’m seeing at home. We’re already signing with her. Etc. So it doesn’t impact our day to day at all other than me knowing that I need to really focus more on ASL than we have been so far.

Where her refusal to acknowledge a regression becomes a problem is in dealing with our school district. The district isn’t on the same page of us. They are fighting our desire to have her attend a Deaf school. They are fighting us on the importance of ASL for her. They continue to insist on considering the impact of progressive hearing loss an “if” thing rather than the “when” thing it really is. And at this point, I feel confident in saying that “when” has really become a “now” thing. And while we know from family history that the progression isn’t likely to happen super fast, it will happen.

We need to be actively considering progression as a factor during her IEP meetings as a “now” problem, not a “we’ll worry about it IF it happens” problem. But without the audiologist labeling it as a progression, the district won’t take us seriously. They don’t know that even seemingly small changes on an audiogram make a big difference in ability to comprehend speech. The speech “banana” as they call it is in the mild to moderate range. It doesn’t take much hearing loss to really eat away at what portions of speech a person can recognize.

Audiologists like this who refuse to acknowledge such a progression do great harm to their patients. They hinder their parents ability to get them the access and supports that they need and deserve. Which in turn can impact the rest of their lives. No, that’s not a melodramatic statement. Our educational experiences are the foundation for the rest of our lives. It’s where we build our knowledge as well as our sense of self. And those earliest years set the foundation for everything that comes afterward. You fall behind, academically or socially, and it’s really hard to dig yourself out of that hole and repair what it does to your own sense of self.

My husband is a perfect example of this. He still to this day at the age of 40 has struggles that are directly related to not receiving the supports he needed and deserved while in school. Don’t get me wrong, he has a decent job, he’s pretty smart, he knows quite a bit about a lot of stuff. But he also isn’t fluent enough in ASL to feel comfortable with interpreters or in a Deaf social gathering. His self confidence is not what it should be due to the struggles he faced…his depression and anxiety started due to his academic and social struggles in school. He views himself as “not smart” and “antisocial” and “socially awkward” when he is really none of those things, he has just internalized the oppression he faced in school and doesn’t realize that what he sees as personal failings are really a result of being failed by the system. He could have gone a lot farther with his education gotten a better job and he shouldn’t have experienced all the bullying and the social/emotional damage that did to him. But his experiences K-12 have definitely held him back from his full success and it didn’t do anything to prepare him for living life as a deaf adult.

The oppression of DHH folks is baked into the system. It comes at all angles. Too many professionals in the field are too focused on making deaf people to be as hearing like as possible instead of valuing them for what skills they do have. Even from the angle of an audiologist who is refusing to acknowledge the data right in front of her. This is why it’s such a challenge for us parents to fight the system and get our kids the access and rights they deserve.

6 months

My daughter came out to us as trans 6 months ago. Six consistent months. This is our new normal. Things have settled down and things are just our new normal and a non-issue for the most part.

My MIL still has issues with using the right name and pronouns. I struggle with this. My SIL tries to excuse it as “she always gets pronouns wrong” (pronouns in ASL are actually gender neutral) and “she has a hard time pronouncing Jessica”. I don’t buy it though. She gets most other people’s pronouns right 98% of the time. But rarely gets Jessi’s right. She still uses her old nickname for Jessi from before. It oddly doesn’t seem to bother Jessi, but it’s making me crazy. I keep trying to correct her, but she just doesn’t seem to understand how important this is. She’s not intentionally being rude or anything, but just that her brain is NOT making the switch.

Greg it seems has more or less lost a friend. The friend still chats with him online and via text, but has stopped inviting us to things and has avoided our invites to things. Which cuts him off from most of his old HS friends. I didn’t love that group, so I’m not too upset about it except for the fact that I know it hurts him a bit and I’m of course protective of him. But I’m not that surprised, that group isn’t the most socially accepting group and I’m not the least bit surprised that they aren’t supportive.

There might be others who aren’t supportive, there probably are, but if they are, they keep it to themselves, which is all I ask.

Other than that, the hiccups that we initially hit seem to have blown over. My parents are now on board, if a tiny bit awkward about it still. The DCF drama of course was determined to be unfounded. And we have a ton of friends and family who are super supportive, even some unexpected ones.

I feel like 6 months is a somewhat significant milestone. I feel that it allows us enough time to finally be able to tell the doubters that “oh hey look, this is real. See? Not a phase.” Which feels good. I was always pretty sure it wasn’t a phase, but I know that others will take us more seriously about it now that a few months have gone by.

Now tomorrow is the first of several appointments with doctors who have only known her by her deadname. Wish us luck…

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Smart Choices with Littles and Their Hearing Aids

Handful of colorful ear molds for hearing aids: blue, purple, pink, orange, and clear with colorful glitter.

When my daughter first got her hearing aids, she was only a few months old. As soon as she was able to, she started pulling them out. She’d pull them out all the time and would rarely wear them for very long, if she wore them at all. The only thing she liked was picking out colors for new ear molds.

While this was frustrating to have her constantly pulling out her aids, we accepted that she simply clearly didn’t like her hearing aids for some reason or didn’t feel like she got any benefit from them. We respected her feelings on that front and did not force her hearing aids on her. Which we were able to do because we were also signing with her and raising her to know ASL as well as English (one of many reasons I believe ASL is essential for all D/HH kids, but that’s another post for another time).

I think it is key with little kids and their hearing aids to not force the issue. Far too often, the parents, usually at the misguided instruction of their audiologist, will push and push and push a child to wear their hearing aids during all waking hours and create a power struggle. This stresses the parent out, and it definitely stresses the kid out. Many kids who get locked in such a power struggle with their parents will “lose” their hearing aids many a time over their childhood to avoid having to wear them. My husband likes to tell as story about how he’d throw his aids under his dresser to hide them when he was a kid. My husband eventually reached a point though where he realized the benefits for his aids outweighed the negatives.

Now at 4, especially the last few months, this decision has paid off. She started being more willing to put her hearing aids in for school. Started wearing them longer both in school and then leaving them on longer and longer after school. She now will wear them all day most days. While I would have been fine either way, choosing to use her hearing aids or not, I am happy to see her choosing to wear them as it gives her the most options.

So to every parent out there who is told by your child’s audiologist that if you don’t force your child to wear their aids every waking minute, then they’ll never wear their hearing aids, your audiologist is wrong. Both my husband and my daughter prove it. I know other Deaf folks who have made similar decisions. Each Deaf person, young and old, must make their own decision about if their hearing aids are beneficial enough to be worth the hassle. Hearing aids are but one tool for communication available to deaf kiddos…certainly provide them as an option if you’d like, but don’t feel obligated to push them, and always give your child other tools at their disposal as well. Give them the ability to function comfortably with or without their hearing aids.

Along with avoiding a power struggle around the hearing aids, the other smart move we made was to drill into her head from a very young age that whenever she took her hearing aids out, she had to give them to a responsible adult (us parents, her teacher, or whoever else was watching her) right away and never just leave them laying about and to never play with the batteries. We did this both to avoid losing hearing aids if she took them out and left (or worse, threw) them somewhere and to be extra careful about her or other kids swallowing the batteries or destroying the hearing aids…either intentionally or by accident.

I think we may have done a little too well on that last point though because last night she comes into our room at 2:30 a.m. waking us up to hand me her hearing aids telling me that we forgot to take them off before bed. LOL. That totally could have waited till morning kiddo.

Non-Binary in a Binary World

Being non-binary (NB) in a binary world is a tricky thing. There are just so many ways we do not exist to the world.

I am my children’s parent, but what should they call me? There is no generally accepted good gender neutral alternative to mom & dad. There are a few out there such as “ren” or “renny” (short for “parent”), but mostly I don’t like the options that currently exist. The only one I kinda like is “mada” (combination of “mama” and “dada”). But am I really ready to fight that fight with basically everyone? Am I ready to automatically stand out that way in a society that doesn’t readily accept folks who don’t fit the binary. Is it fair to ask my kids to fight that fight when someone inevitably questions their use of the term? Or what about my nibblings (gender neutral niece/nephew)…what should they call me? There’s no gender neutral alternative to aunt.

Everyone sees a parent with breasts and that automatically means the only reasonable option is “mom”. Everyone sees a pregnant person and automatically that means the only reasonable option is “mom”. Baby groups are always called “mom” groups as if only “moms” need support after giving birth and in being the primary caregiver raising a new baby. Sure, you can still go unquestioned if you pass as female and you might even be able to be upfront about your identity, although even that can be a dicey gamble, but it’s still a clear sign that the system is not designed for you. Gender reveal parties automatically not only falsely assume you can tell gender by genitals, but they also assume that the only gender options are boy or girl.

Being married to a straight cis man, I automatically get assigned to the roll of “wife” by others and all the expectations that come with it. There’s this unwritten pressure to bond with and hangout with the wives when hanging out with our other friends and family who are in heterosexual relationships. There’s also more expectation placed on me to be primarily responsible for the kids, or at least expected to do so more so than Greg is. Yes, it’s all subtle. Yes, no one says it out loud. But it’s also very definitely there.

If you move beyond the social scene, legally speaking on basic identification forms in most states and federally there’s no way to be represented as anything other than male or female for gender. In most forms you fill out for any number of things, there’s no option other than male or female. It’s like you don’t exist. Sure things are slowly changing in some states, but not at a pace that there’ll be any federal recognition any time soon. Especially under the current administration.

In work, it feels borderline unprofessional to ask coworkers and bosses to use they/them as pronouns. It shouldn’t, but it does. Having them switch to Alex instead of Alexandra was awkward enough. Asking them to switch pronouns, especially to something unconventional, and especially to something that many (incorrectly) consider grammatically incorrect when our field and my job in part focuses on editorial tasks. It just seems so personal of a detail to reveal at work, too personal, but it shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t have to feel like I’m rocking the boat just to ask people to recognize my basic identity. Heck, I shouldn’t even have to ask at all…imagine a world where employees whose pronouns didn’t match others assumptions didn’t have to make a thing of asking fellow employees to use the correct pronouns and it was some how just built into the systems and the expectations.

And then there’s growing up…

Where you aren’t even aware that such a thing as non-binary exists. And don’t discover the concept until your mid 20s.

Nor are your parents aware such a thing exists. So when you mention to them at age 3 that you’re both a boy and a girl, they and even the therapist you were seeing at the time (some family issues at the time) correct you insisting you’re a girl without even thinking for a second that there might be anything going on other than sibling jealousy of your younger brother. This is something I just found out recently, but has really thrown me for a loop. On one hand, I know they didn’t intentionally stifle my identity, but on the other hand, it means it took me another 20 some odd years and lots of self doubt to refigure out what I already knew at 3…which is a tough fact to swallow.

Most of my childhood and teen years I had a strong sense of not fitting in and of not being able to fit society’s rules and expectations. Except since I didn’t know why so I internalized it as some personal failing. Not cool enough. Not pretty enough. Not likable enough. Not fashionable enough. Not fitting in enough even when I try. Failure. Etc. Had I known then that I was both a boy and a girl, so many things would have made so much more sense. And yes, I would have had different problems…maybe bullying, maybe being an outcast, etc. But I would have known myself and who I am and I would have known why. So at least when facing some of these other struggles, knowing why, knowing that I was being my true self, and having a way to explain it all would have made it all easier to tolerate. Which friendships did and didn’t work and why all make so much more sense. My feelings on clothing, makeup, and other issues of personal style and grooming make so much more sense. My interests as well. If that stuff had made more sense, I have better understood what I was looking for in friendships or at least getting a better idea as to why I seem to kinda confuse people and not always fit in. And knowing the “problem” would help me figure out how to solve it or how to work around it. Perhaps knowing what was going on would have helped me find my confidence and “my people” earlier and helped me have a better idea of what I was looking for in friends and romance earlier. Perhaps it would have helped me realize that fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that “my people” are mainly not the ones who are the popular/quasi-popular “fit in” types instead of only starting to figure that out my senior year of HS and took me nearly a decade to get a full handle on…at which point I was out of school and married and suddenly making new friends was a lot harder and I had missed the boat on figuring out a few things that are important to me in a relationship.

But nothing in my childhood indicated anything about trans people, much less NB trans folks. I had to wait until I met a genderqueer person in my mid 20s before I even got a clue as to what my gender identity really was. And it took several more years of serious self doubt brought on by a lifetime of conditioning, both subtle and explicit, telling me I was a girl and not knowing there was any other option.

Although all that speculation about my childhood is just that…speculation. It’s entirely possible that I’d have lacked the guts to come out then just as I mostly have lacked the guts to do so so far now.

It’s so hard to claim a space by creating one where it doesn’t exist …