Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

June 5, 2017

By Liz Thompson
This Week News

In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.

My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.

All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.

Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.

Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.

Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.

I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.

Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.

The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.

But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.

I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.

A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.

At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.

My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.

I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.

One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.

Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.

One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.

My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.

The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.

I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.

Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.

Hugging palm trees is optional.

 

 

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Slow down, listen to what 2016 brings

Day by day

Slow down, listen to what 2016 brings

LIZ THOMPSON

January 11, 2016
This Week News

 

I woke up this morning and couldn’t believe another year had flown by. I’m thankful for another day and, hopefully, another year.

Time really does move faster as we get older. It seems there are more stars in the Arizona sky than in Ohio.

Yet no matter how fast time seems to fly and how many stars we can, or can’t, see, what’s important is how we spend our time and our appreciation for things such as the stars twinkling in the night sky.

The new year is a time when some make resolutions to change something for the better. Admirable, yes, but I don’t think resolutions should pervade our thoughts as much as society thinks they should.

It’s infinitely more important to mark each day as important, since the number of our days is uncertain.

In January 1998, I sent what would be my first column to Suburban News Publications, yet it seems like weeks ago. I still remember I wrote about my hearing loss as it was marching to deafness. I don’t remember what I thought the newspaper would do with my writing, but I was compelled to write and send.

As my hearing waned, I liked to say writing was like talking through my hands onto the keyboard and into the computer.

All those years as a secretary paid off. But I did also talk with my hands using sign language. Anything to communicate.

The commentary editor at the time called me on my TTY (text telephone) to confirm I was the author. I was stunned, as most hearing people either didn’t know how to do this or just didn’t take that extra measure to reach me.

A few years later, my hearing really did take a hike. It was as elusive as the stars in a cloudy Ohio sky. I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I kept on, day by day, until the miracle of a cochlear implant in 2002 restored my hearing — although I perceive sound, not hear it — to about 95 percent in a quiet setting. Technology at its best.

Sometimes I forget the sounds happening while my voice processors are off: the radio sending out music and voices; the dog’s nails as he walks on the hardwood floor; his barking; birds chirping or singing; the coffee dripping through the machine; the furnace or air conditioner kicking on; people talking; water dripping; coughs and sneezes; the wind chimes; wind and rain; and all kinds of clanks and bangs.

Our youngest grandson, now 15, used to whisper into my ear when he was younger, prior to my implants, telling me whatever was on his mind. Typically he was asking for gum or candy. As a grandmother, I always had both, just like my grandmothers had.

I would remind Andrew I couldn’t hear his whisper in my hearing aids. He would repeat his request facing me so I could read his lips and I’d tell him to ask his mom or dad first.

He thought I was a soft touch, which I really am, and would skulk away knowing their answer. I’d chuckle and my daughter would thank me.

After my implants, I could understand him, but I still gave him the same answer. Oh, how hearing and understanding his whispers made my heart happy.

Most sounds still make me happy — definitely my grandchildren’s voices.

The noise of this world is increasing exponentially. Many will join the thousands with hearing loss sooner than might have happened by aging alone, if they don’t quiet life down.

Some people say to me, “I wish I could to do that,” meaning shut out the noise in life. I know they mean well, but I don’t recommend wishing for such things that I, for one, know can happen.

The stars are there, whether we can see them or not, and time can be sweet if we slow down enough to listen for God whispering and telling us to look up. I suggest refilling the candy dish.

 

Priority lists…

Day by day

Priority lists good for life as well as chores

by Liz Thompson
THISWEEKNEWS.COM
Tuesday January 21, 2014

Each new day is a gift. As years pass, seemingly faster every year, I become more aware of this reality. I try to start my days with a prayer that I’ll use my time wisely.

In the 1980s, I took a time management class at my workplace. My most valuable takeaway was to make daily to-do lists and prioritize them. The goal was to end our day with a lot of the tasks crossed off.

Years passed and I became a true list maker: grocery, daily to-do, what to pack for a trip, Christmas cards and gifts, and even books I’d read. Sometimes when the day is through and I read my list(s), I add accomplishments completed I hadn’t planned on and cross them off, too.

The last 10 days of December, my daily devotional book was about priorities. The author took each letter of the word, discussing what should be foremost in our lives. I realized that I don’t often list my life’s priorities; they are in my head and heart. This is not the popular bucket list or New Year’s resolutions I speak of, but what uses my time and talents and what fills my heart and mind. The order shifts with life circumstance, with many being constant.

Recently, I was reminded of a visual illustration. You have an empty jar — any size, you choose. You fill it with various small marbles or pea gravel. The jar is mostly full. Then you realize you still have some larger stones you need to put in the jar, but they won’t fit.

Start over and put the larger stones in the jar first. Then sprinkle the small gravel on top; these stones shift around and settle into the cracks and crevices. Some empty spaces remain. The jar represents our day, or life, and the large stones are our first priorities; the smaller stones are minor events. If those don’t all fit in our jar, or life, we’ve only missed out on something of lesser consequence.

Keep in mind that the small joys are no less important.

I asked some friends what their priorities are at this point in their lives. The answers have a common thread, partly because my friends and I are of a certain age.

Don Huiner, of Columbus, wants to become a better, active listener and talk less. “You know me well enough to know that’s not going to be a walk in the park for me,” he said.

Irveline, from Columbus, says her priority for this year is to teach her grandchildren, ages 2 to 20, Dutch and Welsh, which is their ancestors’ mother tongue.

“My priority for the year will be to say it like it is,” says Linda Sturm of Gahanna. “Procrastinator is a pretty word for sloth. I’m not procrastinating when I put something off; I’m being a sloth. By being honest with myself, dropping the window dressing, I hope to be more productive.”

Clay Cormany of Worthington says, “For me the ‘t’ in priorities stands out with t standing for time and a wiser, more productive and less self-centered use of it. That means more time spent playing with my grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes; more time spent showing my love and devotion to my wife; more time visiting my 90-year-old aunt, who’s my last living link to my parents’ generation; and less time playing computer word games.”

“I want to spend as much time as possible with my grandchildren while they’re young, and my children,” says Judy Hannigan of Grove City. She hopes to start visiting people in assisted living and spend time with shut-ins, like she used to, because they may not see others very often.

My daughter, Mary, wants to be more like the biblical Mary and less of a Martha. See Luke 10:38-42 for the story about Mary listening attentively when Jesus was their guest while her sister, Martha, was busy working.

Elizabeth, my granddaughter, wants to make God’s purpose for her life her highest priority.

If we put these and similar long-term priorities in our jar first — and probably keep them there to remind us — we’ll have room for the small surprises. We’ll still have empty spaces of time open for contemplation, recreation and rest.

No matter what we place in our jars, Zig Ziglar sums up time management well: “Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will say either, ‘I wish I had,’ or ‘I’m glad I did.’ “