I met Ricky Vertz when I was 15-years-old. He was my first love. His parents were deaf. I had never met a deaf person and was fascinated by the way they communicated. Wanting to ensure my position in the family (as Ricky's wife) LOL....I undertook to learn sign language. I loved Ricky and continued to pine for him when he dumped me less than two years later for Becky Hartman: even though I was getting pretty good at sign language. My plan was foiled. Or was it?
Looking back, each of my careers involved a passion for communication and understanding. And though, perhaps a little loud, I believe I was always aware of the quiet ones. Kids who were vulnerable, or kids with special needs, which was my first "real" work through Special Olympics. Individuals without an audible voice; deaf students who were mainstreamed into public schools, but not understood. I went back to school to become a certified sign language interpreter. I became a voice for deaf people's thoughts and ideas, and provided them access to participate in conversation, discussion; even arguments and debates. I worked in the classroom and then became an interpreter in their everyday lives--doctor appointments, court appointments, AA meetings, family meetings, and therapy sessions. It was a privilege to provide the means of connecting and, hopefully building consensus and understanding among all parties involved. It was very personal and extremely rewarding.
Fast forward to Joy; the homeschool mom of two boys and a career on hold. I am attending a coop with the boys where the moms would gather and each would teach to their strengths--mine being writing. I sat in my son's sign language class and watched the mom teaching sign language and realized that I could be of service in her classroom. I developed an online sign language curriculum for the elementary school-aged kids. I had a lot of fun doing it. The curriculum lives on and people actually still write me and ask me questions about how to interpret something. It's been great to carry this piece of myself forward from the devastated 16-year-old, dumped by the boyfriend who introduced me to sign language, to this season of my life when I really have grown to appreciate the beauty and the power of American Sign Language. The subtlety. The concept of a singular, simple sign that has no one-word translation. It is an art form. I am thankful for it in expanding my own vocabulary and for granting me access into a really different world from mine. A world of beautiful visual language and rich communication with rarely a sound uttered.