Deaf Coffee Chat

It’s called a comfort zone for a reason, it’s nice and cozy and familiar. There are hardly any expectations or anything out of the ordinary. You don’t get your feet wet in anything new, and there isn’t a reason to fret about going there, it’s like home.

In Texas, colleges require students to take a language. After having to take Spanish for four years, I couldn’t redo the first two years, again. The University of North Texas offers American Sign Language, and I chose to take that instead.

Every third Saturday of the month, a group of people get together at a coffee shop, Zera’s. It’s a local hang out in Denton that makes a pretty good cup of joe, without the hefty price tag. It has couches, mismatched chairs and tables, with odds and ends hung up on the walls.

It is a dimly lit coffee-house, but an interesting one none the less. It felt like I as hanging out in a friends basement. The kind where all the old furniture gets thrown in to and forgotten. The walls are dark but it feels cozy. I guess you would say this place was ‘hipster central.’

Anyways, my ASL professor offers extra credit to any student who shows up, one point for every hour. Doesn’t seem worth it, but after missing a few key points last test, a couple extra points sounds pretty good, plus, who doesn’t like coffee?

As Saturday approached, I began to name everything under the sun as why I shouldn’t go, or why a couple extra points wasn’t really worth three to four hours of my time. It was nearing the time I would have to leave when my hubby bribed me into going. Promising me a surprise for going and that I needed to provide proof. The stipulation was that I had to stay at least for one hour.

I’ve grown to be so socially awkward my own husband has to bribe me into doing social things, woof.

As I pulled into the parking lot, the nasty knot in my stomach began to tighten and the want to drive home was greater than the want for extra credit. I circled the lot twice, not able to find a parking space. It must be the parking Gods telling me, “go home.” Before I could even finish the thought, the red truck I had passed twice was pulling out, dammit.

As I walked through its doors and checked out my surroundings, I had never wanted to run so badly. There were over 30-something people signing to each other, the only noises being those coming from the baristas making coffee.

I was definitely out of my element, I was in a place that I have never visited, and everybody was conversing in another language, somewhat foreign to me. It had been the first time I’d seen ASL outside of the classroom. The conversations were much quicker and weren’t repeated twice, the courtesy my ASL professor gives us.

After I ordered my coffee I wandered over to a corner filled with handmade goods. Something most local businesses do in Denton, and I pretended to look through the stuff that I probably never buy, to pass time. I had no idea what I was going to do after browsing.

Thankfully, I noticed a few girls from my morning class and went in their direction to see if they recognized me. Gratefully, they did. After we signed in to gain extra credit, we huddled near a fake wall Zera’s had put up, for a wedding reception. We listened to the wedding party speeches instead of mingling with other students, and other deaf people.

An hour was going to be painstakingly achieved at this rate. I felt like a creep watching other groups sign to each other, like I was eavesdropping on their conversations without hiding it. I was that creeper staring!

I was terrified to start any conversations with anyone who was deaf and wanted to ask me anything else besides, what is your name? My professor, Dori Reeves, probably sensed this because she came over asking us ‘what up.’ All I could do was shake my head. In a matter of an hour, I had forgotten everything I had learned in almost a year, insane.

She started to sign to me, I imagine to make me feel comfortable with my signing. Then, she tried to introduce me to a couple of guys, she asked them what the sign for ‘Mormon’ was and told me to introduce myself to them. I nervously shaped my fingers into letters to form my name and said ‘bye’ almost immediately after.

Before I knew it, a few other people, both deaf, started a conversation with me. I almost ran.

Two hours later I made a few friends I’d be happy to see next month. It was awesome. I came home telling the Hubs all about it. I did mention I messed up a few signs, when signing ‘it was nice to meet you,’ I accidentally signed ‘it was nice to date you.” Everybody had a good laugh and I did too.

I had a great time, stayed for over thee hours and can’t wait to go again. It’s nice to go out on a limb every once in a while. It was nice to use something I learned in real-time. We should all remember to step put of our boxes every once in a while.

If you’re reading from North Texas tonight, stay warm and safe. You guys can’t drive in snow or ice! ;]

I’ve got the ‘Ities & the Itch

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The art of writing is a sacred being, its appeal is charming and the idea easy, the latter is never true. Writing isn’t easy and it never will be. If you write long enough you acquire a passion for words and new ways to express them, but it’s never an easy journey, though nothing worth while hardly ever is.

Any soul who enjoys the magic of writing remembers when they first got the itch to put pen to paper and create something creative. Any “great” remembers the craving to prefect a skill became apparent. A jolt of weightless energy that hits you hard, causing the lightbulb to brighten above your head. That’s what I want to do!

Personally, I was little, maybe six or seven, too little to actually be thinking about future plans, but I knew I enjoyed reading what I wrote and creating short stories were my fav.

I acquired an eccentric style of writing while in grammar school, and my mom thought it was adorable. I had a funny tendency to only write on the left-hand edges of my paper, the rest of the paper seemed tainted. I remember thinking, look how many pages I can write! Well, when you only use half the page …

My signature trademark was soon corrected by the first or second grade, whenever the teachers start to send you home with real homework. I’m sure it’s Pre-K now, the books are heavier and the snow they have to walk to school in is deeper.

Anyways, my itch started with writing fan fiction, I didn’t know that’s what it was called, but regardless, anybody remember the T.V. series Arthur? Yes, yes I did. I wrote my own stories for Arthur and his family and friends to wander through. I wrote some stories that were funny, others were sad. Mostly, I liked to write ones that had a good moral buried in it. Typical Shannon, I was seven going on 30. 

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My mom used to keep them in her dresser, the bottom right hand drawer. By the time I was in my teens the drawer resembled how stuffed and worn it was, papers were being pushed from the sides, the handle was hanging on by one screw and the drawer had long been knocked off its frame. It was the perfect setting for where my mom crammed us kids’ works of art.

The prized possessions were all slightly brown and had obviously seen better days. Every once in a while I wonder if my mom still has them shoved in that drawer, but the memory vanishes by the time one of us calls each other.

It took years of denying any worth to my writing before I told myself to shut the -efff up. I started my higher education with the thought I’d never leave education, I’d just become a teacher. I did my classroom visits and almost ran out the door, though working with kids was rewarding.

I think that when something sinks its teeth into you, it’s hard to deny the sting it leaves. Writing got its dirty paws around me long ago, and the sooner I realized it, the quicker I believed I did have a purpose. College really does seem to suck the life out of you sometimes. 

When did your passions sink their teeth into you? Was it a furry, ( what was Arthur? An Aardvark?) cartoon friend that sparked your enthusiasm!?

-Ramble Out

The V.A. Hospital is a Joke

Dear Mr. President & South Dallas V.A. Hospital Director,

The Veterans Affairs Hospital in South Dallas is the most atrocious building, company and hospital I’ve ever had to set foot in. The receptionists you employ to handle the front face of your organization are horrible, rude and miserable human beings. I hope that with this letter, it challenges you to take a closer look into how the people who selflessly fought for this country, are being treated with such a lack of respect, a dog wouldn’t bother its time.

On February 6, my husband and I spent almost six-god-forsaken-hours at your E.R. not counting the two hours it took to drive both ways. He didn’t even get to see a doctor. A total of 10 hours wasted at the hands of your entire staff. Tell me, how would that make you feel? Do you remember what it feels like to be treated like a peon?

The whole fiasco started a week ago, when my husband injured something near his groin area. After two days without a change in the swelling or pain, that Wednesday morning he called his primary doctors office in Denton, another V.A. clinic, to schedule an appointment. That receptionist took down his information and promised a phone call by the end of the day.

No such call came, instead an explanation that appointments could be made after business hours, implying my husband needed to practice patience. So he did, for three more days until on Friday when he left work early to sit in their offices until they had to see him. It’s hard to promise a phone call to someone when they are standing in front of you.

His primary doctor explained that he wasn’t sure what was causing the inflammation but that if it were him, he’d make a trip down to the V.A. hospital in South Dallas. A urology appointment could take at least a month, and with it being so close to the family jewels, it was in his best interests to make sure nothing major was wrong.

So here we are, still waiting, staring at this faux wood walls waiting to hear his name called. So that he can vanish behind the mysterious doors that are so damn hard to get through. Where nobody knows how to get in, but plenty have made it through, just not my husband.

A women at the from desk, rudely waves off my husband at the four hour mark, when he questioned if his name had already been called. “You’re still waiting for a bed.” She couldn’t even remove her eyes from the computer screen to give him the shitty news. Where did these people, if they can even be called that, get their people skills? Didn’t they receive any customer service training?

These same employees were chumming it up with their fellow coworkers while texting and browsing around on their phones. A constant show of how much they didn’t care about the people waiting beyond their plastic patrician. What a bunch of disgusting individuals.

But it’s true, isn’t it? They don’t care, because this hospital gives “free” health care to its guests and if you don’t want to receive the free part, you are more than welcome to visit a regular E.R. I heard that solution come from a few of your employees mouths, as a problem solver for other wannabe patients. Is this how you want to be represented?

Two more hours have passed, and this time it’s my turn to do the questioning, women to women. “Hey, I was just wondering if there is any way you could tell me how much longer it’s going to be, we’ve been here almost six hours.”

Without as so much of  glance my way she told me, “he’s still waiting on a bed.” She never even asked about my last name.

“We’ve been here longer than all the people in this waiting room, you can’t give me any information on how much longer it’s going to be, or where he is on the list?”

“No, we have a priority list and that is how we see our patients.”

I had tears in my eyes because of how frustrating it was, words couldn’t describe the feeling, only the sounds of steam coming from my ears and my teeth grinding gave truth to my emotions, furious.

“Well when will my husband be a priority? How much time do we have to pay before he is allowed a doctor?”

I have few suggestions for how to better operate this lack of professional taste and common courtesy company, and it’s to employ people who have a heart. Administer attitude and personality tests, those in the green are only allowed to deal with the public, the rest of your barbarians can work with behind closed doors.

The amount of disrespect shown in such a small space is sickening. I have dealt with the public since I was 15-years-old and I have always treated people the way that I would want to be treated. Communication is what makes all relationships work, and it’s a crying shame the people in charge of this world don’t know that.

It’s a shame our own country can’t protect the same people who fought to protect them. They fulfilled their contract, now fulfill yours. If small business owners ran their businesses the way the government runs theirs, they would be out of business and maybe that’s the solution to the problem.

Get your act together.

Regrettably,

An angry, taxpaying, higher educated, concerned and frustrated wife.

“Shinseki Obama VA hospital”Jeff Koterba May 22, 2014

**Update** A little over a week later the V.A. called my husband asking if he was okay. The hospital called his name at 5 a.m. the next morning (11 hours after we arrived) and he wasn’t there. They were calling to make sure he was still alive …

Farewell Joni

There’s a scary reality that all living things face – death and its finality.

At night, when you nestle your head into that pillow or each morning when you pull out of the driveway, it never feels like it may be the last time you do it. You expect to see your home again, wake up from your slumber and return to doing the same routine things you do every day, the same way you have for years.

It’s never intended to be the very last time you grab your keys, slip underneath the covers or check the rearview mirror while leaving.

I got a frantic phone call this morning, in the wee hours before the sun was up. I usually go into work at 7 a.m. so I was shocked to see “Worrrrrrrrkkkkkkk” popping up on my phone. My immediate thought is “Sheet, I’m late!”

“Hey – it’s Wayne, there’s an emergency. I don’t have any openers and I’ve tried calling the other 7o’clock servers but have gotten no answer. I need you to come in early, I’ll explain then, please, I’m sorry for waking you up, but I need you.”

While I was still not sure if I was dreaming or not, I mumbled “of course.” I rolled out of bed and stumbled through the dark halls trying to find the back door. My dogs knew I was up and expected me to let them out and then feed them. I cursed whoever it was that caused me to be woken early.

My shoes were the last thing I needed to find and as I searched I began to register the voice of my frantic, breathless and somewhat desperate tone of voice my manager had so early in the morning. I tend to go straight to worse case scenario, a trait I swore I wouldn’t receive from my mother, and I hardly will say them out-loud.

Although I wouldn’t say it or let myself to think it, I had a horrible feeling and knew something bad had happened. The thought sat in the back of my mind, hiding somewhere behind my eyes, holding its breath waiting for someone to confirm its truth.

Finally, I made it to the front door of my workplace. As I stumbled into into the building, I realized I looked like I had indeed just rolled out of bed. My apron was untied and hanging from my neck, my shirt was buttoned but I missed one, in one hand my belt and the other a grapefruit.

My fear got the best of me as I headed towards the back of the restaurant and into the kitchen. Who wasn’t here? What’s going on?

“Oh, thank God,” I said. ” I thought something happened to you. Where’s Joni?”

“She called in, she went out last night with some friends to celebrate it being Friday. I think she had a little too much fun.”

Well, damn. I got a breathless manager calling me in early to cover, sounding frantic and encouraging my worrisome-self to imagine the worst. I had began to thought they had gotten into an accident that morning. They drive together some mornings and in Texas the highways aren’t lit through the long patches between cities, anything can jump out and derail you.

As I knocked on the office door to get my manager to swipe me in for duty, I looked into his eyes to see if they would deceive his calm demeanor. “Help me set up the store,” he said. “I’ll tell you later, just please help me.”

I stumbled down the server isle, into the refrigerator walk-in and around and back through dry storage. I gathered containers for ice and lemons, sugar to sweeten the tea and labels for the perishable items. All awhile imagining the conversation I would have with Joni the next day at work.

“Joni bologna, you know you got me in here two hours early because of your old partying bee-hind.”

I imagined what she would say also.

“I know that’s not you talkin’ to me like that! I know you know you can kiss my A double S!”

We’d laugh and she’d probably reach out to smack my butt. I’d respond with my usual, “harder” and the normal banter between us would ensue the rest of the day.

Before I knew it, my fellow opener, friend and co-worker was being called into the office. “I’ll speak to you next.”

I made myself busy for a few minutes, pouring myself a cup of coffee and stirring the right amount of sugars so It would make the color a nice caramel shade. I starred at the office window wondering if I should peek in, knowing I would know what was occurring the second I saw her face.

I peered into the window and saw tears streaming down her face and still I didn’t believe it.

It’s my turn now and as I walk into the office I crack a joke about how hot it is. “Yes Wayne, it’s hotter than Hades in here, can’t you just enjoy the cooler winter months temperatures?” With his back to me, he replies with a smart mouth joke. In the same second, he turns and looks at me with a look that can only described as regret. What ever he had to tell me, he didn’t want to.

“Joni’s sister called me this morning, there was an accident last night-early this morning and we’re not entirely sure what happened.”  He paused for a bit and then said, “she didn’t make it.”

I sat there bewildered with the truth finally showing its ugly face. I picked at the laminated calendar on the desk and fidgeted in the wheeled chair for what seemed like forever before I could simply say, “okay.”

I got up, headed towards the door and said I’d watch out for my fellow co-worker. They were close friends. I opened the door and went straight for my friend, gave her a hug and told her it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t of prevented it.

I was a shoulder for each co-worker today, for anybody who wanted it. My shoulder was soaked with tears as they shuddered in my arms while bellowing out their sorrow and sadness. All I could do was stand there, they needed a shoulder and I wanted to be that rock for them.

I can’t remember a time in the long 8-years of serving that the back of house was silent. There was no obscenities being thrown around, or jokes being told. The grill cooks weren’t screaming for servers or vise versa. Nobody knew what to say to each other. They came into work that morning to do a job, and there were plenty of guests that needed our attention.

I came home and went to my rock, my husband. While I laid on the couch voiceless, he let me. After a substantial amount of time, he reached for my hand and asked if I would go outside with him. When I couldn’t find the words, he just nodded and said, “I know.”

Life is such a beautiful thing and it’s a shame when somebody has to die to remind you. There won’t be anymore tomorrows for my friend Joni, so make the best out of yours while you still can. Life is beautiful and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

I will miss your cackles every weekend that accompanied your crude banter. You always talked about how much you missed your mom, at least we can all find comfort in knowing you’re finally with her again. Rest in peace.

Twenty-Something

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There’s a song by Macklemore that fits with the story I’m about to tell. It’s called Cowboy Boots and there’s a lick that embodies what is going on in my husband’s life and mine right now.

I was laying on the couch last night, probably around 8 p.m. – ya know, real late for us old married folk. Matt leaned over to snuggle in and watch a few episodes of Parenthood, when he made the astonishing discovery I was still wearing a bra this late in the day.

“Mark it down people!”

I would’ve rolled off the coach had I not been in the nook of the coach where the sectional meets, that sweet spot, those who have a sectional know what I’m talking about.

There’s plenty of truth though to his discovery, as embarrassing as it may be, Ha. It’s called wearing mom jeans when you have kids and get comfortable, maybe a little too comfortable around your husband, and public appearance standards drop. But, what is it called when you’re a twenty-something student with two dogs and a husband?

I still haven’t found a real job, meaning a grownup one. I waitress on the weekends, go to college during the week and intern wherever I can, gotta make those connections. So, it’s not like I have this grownup schedule, going to work 9-5, ew, being required to dress like an adult at all times.

You have to relish these times, right? One day I will have spit up on all my clothes, a grownup job, maybe not too grown and a set schedule. These times are the days our parents tell you to enjoy. No kids, no real responsibilities, less pressure, though I beg to differ sometimes.

That lick I was talking about before is bolded and the whole verse goes like this:

Hold on to what you were, forget what you’re not

The streets were ours that summer, at least those two blocks

Reminisce on those days, I guess that’s OK, you wonder why

Some grow up, move on, close the chapter, live separate lives

The twenty-something confusion before the suit and tie

Strangers become mistakes but those mistakes made you feel alive

Hindsight is vibrant, reality: rarely lit

Memory’s a collage pasted to the glue that barely sticks

Good Lord, they broke all my shields

Locked bathroom doors, graffiti, and high heels

Until you felt that altitude you don’t know how high feels

Party mountain, some don’t ever come down from around here

To be young again, I guess it’s relative

The camel lights, the whiskey rye, sink into the skin

I fantasize about a second win

Grow a moustache, pick up another bad habit and let the games begin

Are you catching my drift? I’m in a weird limbo with life, bras included. I’m in the split where anything can happen. I’m going to enjoy not having to be dressed at 8 pm. and if I’m lucky I’ll land something that won’t require be to be either, haha.

It’s the Twenty Something Confusion before the Suit and Tie

What would you call it?