Finding the words to start this letter has been difficult for me, much like my difficulty sharing myself with you while living through what has been a heavy and painful stretch of time. Words are one of the many things that have become complicated in my world. One reason is that my heart is held by the three beautiful young human beings I live with who sometimes appear to be world class linguists. They perceive words more literally and specifically than I. They are also perfectionists, something I now realize I have dealt with myself for my whole life. I’ve learned a lot from them about these things. Sometimes my difficulty with words and my perfectionism makes it difficult for me to express myself. It is other people’s sensitivities that has caused me to choose my words more carefully and to remain mindful of my intentions when I express myself. It doesn’t always work for me, but I’m practicing. It is also the reason that I have not been as connected to people who are important to me. My words are sometimes misconstrued or perceived differently than I intend them and I am aware that some people have been hurt and may be uncomfortable or even angry. I am truly sorry to anyone I may have hurt or made uncomfortable. That is never my intention.
Today I am choosing a word that I learned this morning from one of my 16 year olds, Mackenzie. Asephah (אֲסֵפָה) is a word that means community in Hebrew and it works just fine for my intention today. For I want to express my appreciation to you, my asephah. You are my community of friends, family, colleagues, helpers, supporters, partners, mentors, teachers, leaders, and healers who have given me and my family your support and love in countless ways. I am grateful for you.
I also want to offer this as my prayer. I have been thinking a lot about prayer and what that means. This last week I wrote a piece that is to be included in a book about advocacy stories by my friends at Hands and Voices, an organization I have been involved with since moving back to Colorado in 2008. Like me, Hands and Voices understands the power of storytelling. It is telling our stories that softens hearts and opens minds, which is what helps to connect people with one another. It is that connection that helps us to feel a sense of belonging. I am grateful that I was asked to write my advocacy story. One reason I am grateful is that writing it helped me to better understand what prayer means for me.
I have never considered myself to be a particularly religious person. I think this is mostly because of how other people perceive me. I am not always very observant of the traditions of the religion. I tend to say that I am Jewish, but not very observant. I am Jewish because I was born into a family that is Jewish and because I was raised with the traditions of the religion, as well. Some aspects are comforting to me, especially the community it offers. I recently heard Oprah Winfrey explain something on one of her podcasts about her perspective about religion that really resonated with me. She explained that she is a Christian (I think) and also that she is open-minded. I realized that I’ve never felt the need to explain that I am open-minded after telling someone that I am Jewish. I think that’s because my experience has always just been as an open-minded person. It never occurred to me there was any other way to be Jewish. It’s just interesting to me, I guess. But what I really want you to know is that I have realized that as I offer myself more and more to you, I am also opening myself more and more to receiving from you. I realize that this is what prayer means to me. This is what I have been learning throughout this difficult time.
I wrote my Hands and Voices piece in the form of a letter, which is often what I write when I need to express something. I started my letter with “Dear Oprah” because I want people to know my experience so badly and, for me, sharing my story with Oprah Winfrey is very much a prayer. You see, I am in a difficult place in many ways and sharing my story feels bold. It feels risky. But I’ve been doing it anyway because I feel it is my obligation to bring light to the problems I am facing as a mother and as a human being. Anyway, it is actually what happened after I sent off my advocacy story to my friend that I realized the power of my prayer. No, Oprah Winfrey has not called me yet. But something has happened and I am hopeful that at least one of the challenges I have been facing will soon be resolved and that my family and I will soon move on from some of the pain that we have endured. It is something that has surely affected us all and, by extension, all of you. That’s just how people work. That is something else that I’ve learned.
Regardless, please know that I am here. My family is here. We have a lot to be grateful for and we share much love. I am grateful for Jason. He keeps our family grounded. He is always there for me and for all of us. Doing anything and everything we need him to do. We still have much we are working through. One thing is that two of our kids, Cole and Heath, have challenging and complicated health issues. We welcome your support and your friendship. If you want to spend time with us, please don’t hesitate to invite us. If you want to connect with us, please reach out in some way. I also want you to know that I am here for you and I have much to give. My home, my time, my friendship. Jason. I have learned through this difficult time just how deep my well of resources truly is and I am here to share it with you, my community. I realized today that I have never described myself this way, but in reality I am in public relations or community relations or whatever other word or label makes sense to you. The point is that if you need something, please reach out. I want to share.
I am writing this from my cabin in Fairplay (also known as South Park). This cabin has provided my kids and me with security and stability since 2010, especially as we have surfed our many waves of change. Four years ago we finally settled in our house in Denver and that is also a secure and stable place for us now, but this cabin is really special to me. It is sacred. It is my temple. It is where I keep things I treasure. It is my retreat. It is where I bring my loved ones when I want us to be together without the distractions of our everyday lives. It’s where we reconnect with one another. It’s where I find peace and quiet. It’s a place where I know I can find solitude and a place for reflection, even when there is chaos is my life. It’s a place we play and rest and recharge. It sustains us. It is also a place that I want to share with you. Jason and I have started welcoming others to the cabin through AirBnb and it has been an amazing experience. The people we have hosted care about this cabin as if it is their home, as well. I am grateful for these people. I am also grateful for Jason’s help. Without him, this is something I could not have accomplished. Please know that this cabin is also here for you. In my mind it is a community place. It can be your retreat. It can provide your family reconnection and respite from your everyday lives. It can be your place to think and create with your people. Buzzsaw Lane
I also want you to know about the things I am involved with because they are my offerings to you, as well. I am learning a lot about POTS syndrome, depression, anxiety, giftedness, autism, twice exceptionality, the LGBTQ community, sign interpreters, and how addiction affects families. I also work with several organizations because they serve my family and they are also here to serve you, because you are my community. These days I am most involved with Hands and Voices, CueSign, Inc., and the Rocky Mountain Cued Speech Association, which is an affiliate of the NCSA. You can learn more about me, my family, and these organizations by checking out their websites. As you will see, these organizations are certainly related to families and communities that include deaf or hard of hearing people. I hope you understand that this community includes you because you are part of my community and we all belong to one another.
If you are interested in learning Cued Speech or in meeting other people who cue, sign, or do both, I definitely want you to and so does my family. I can help you. There is an inexpensive self-paced online Cued Speech class now through Cue College. Please check it out here LEARN CUED SPEECH HERE if you are curious or at all inclined to learn or brush up on your skills. It is important to me and to our family and it could be important to someone else you know and love. Please share these resources and direct people to me so I can help.
If you want to spend time with me and my family in a really meaningful way, we will be spending time at a family camp, as we often have since 2005. Certainly some of you have come along with us on these adventures and they are memories that we all cherish. This summer we will be at a camp in Illinois with CueSign. We would love to see you there and you will be able to get more information by checking out the CueSign, Inc. website.
I am grateful to have you all in my life and I am here to support you as you have supported me. In the end, we all belong to one another.
With much peace and love,