Below was a letter that I helped my husband write on April 4, 2020 when he was emergency managing Zaidy’s, his family run restaurant. We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off delivering Passover seder meals too far and wide during the COVID pandemic. We had beautiful packages prepared by Top Shelf Baskets and amazing food prepared by our Top Chef friend and friends and family pitching in. Our goal was to bring both comfort and celebration to so many different people who were far outside of their comfort zone, including ourselves. It was incredibly stressful. Too stressful, to be perfectly honest, but we were proud that the family’s restaurant was able to spread some goodwill (and I was finally able to make truly good use of my great grandmother’s china plates.) Please don’t tell my mom I donated them for the cause. She’ll kill me.
I was really glad to be a part of this event and really proud of us all. That’s the truth. That’s danish.
“On behalf of the Zaidy’s family, I hope that you and those you love are doing well. We wish you dayenu. I think that the writer Melody Beattie explained dayenu so well when she wrote: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” I like that a lot. It is my deepest wish that the food we have prepared for you will comfort you and fill you up with joy.
We at Zaidy’s feel fortunate to still be able to do what we have been doing for 35 years. Feeding our community is why we are here. Zaidy’s has been rooted in our family recipes and creations and in tradition. We have been blessed to be there for life’s important events. We know a lot of people have grown up with our food. Our food is love and that is our purpose. We intend to remain a center point for the community.
We know that this is a unique time for all of us and, of course, Zaidy’s is no exception. We feel fortunate that our Zaidy’s family continues to grow. During the last few weeks we have welcomed in many new friends. We couldn’t do what we are doing now without opening our arms to one another. Our Zaidy’s family is diverse. We are chefs and bakers, artists, actors, and lawyers, community organizers, teachers, and fellow small business owners. What we all have in common is that we are a bunch of mensches. Everyone has pitched in to help so that we are able to bring Zaidy’s to your home this year. We have poured all of our energy and love into making this Passover special. We are throwing all the goodies in and the kitchen sink. We hope you love it!
Most people who get involved with me know that my life is really like a roller coaster. I’ve always liked roller coasters. I’m not completely sure why. The truth is they actually scare the hell out of me. I think it’s because I like the thrill of life. I’m one of those people who says yes immediately and then gets on and screams the whole time. I think some people think that’s crazy, but I really do like the feeling. It’s a rare bit of excitement and a great release.
A few months ago one of my kids told me that they felt like life is a roller coaster, too. I was momentarily stunned. I knew exactly what that feeling was like and I know it can be terrifying. It seems like it’s either roller coaster or stuck.
The circumstances that my little family have been in the last few years have been challenging, to say the least. At times I feel we have been misunderstood, disregarded, overlooked, attacked. I withdrew into a kind of small protective shell. That’s how I feel most comfortable because it’s scary out there right now.
I’m a truth teller. For me that means that when I speak or write I spit it straight out. Sometimes people describe that as being direct or blunt. I’ve found that people react to my truth in different ways. Sometimes people love it. They think I’m hilarious or inspiring or refreshing. And sometimes people just can’t tolerate it. I guess they think I’m rude or shocking or embarrassing. For whatever the reason, people don’t always appreciate me. What are you gonna do, right?
Sometimes I feel bad because I know that the way I am wired can be polarizing. I’ve experienced a lot of this last year. Life has been really hard. There hasn’t been a whole lot of joy. There has been a tremendous amount of pain. That means my truths are hard and they can expose a lot of difficult feelings. They are called hard truths because they are hard. It’s hard for me to express them and it’s hard for people to receive them. What I know, having gone through hard times before, is that my inner circle can become really small during these times. Not everyone can handle the hard things I’m dealing with. It just is what it is. I am sorry for the family and friends who have fallen away from my inner circle right now. My family and I do need support and I am grateful for those on whom we can depend.
One of the products of my truth telling personality is that when people ask me how I’m doing I have a hard time not just blurting out everything that’s on my mind. I’ve found that the best way for me to answer honestly and still within the social norms that people expect is to simply tell them that I’m okay. I’m okay has been my standard answer out in the world for the last year or so. I am okay. We are okay. Everything is okay.
This last year all three of my kids have been primarily unschooled. I’ve come to love this term unschooled. I’m not sure how my kids actually feel about it, because I try not to dwell on the unschooling and I imagine that they grieve not being able to go to school with their friends. My cousin’s partner recently introduced me to the term unschooling when she used it to describe her own teenage son. Despite anyone’s assumptions or judgments, my kids being unschooled is because we were was left with no reasonable choice. They have been unable to attend school due to various reasons that are all valid. All of those reasons have been related to their health and the schools being unable or unwilling to accommodate their needs. I’ve met dozens and dozens of parents with kids who are being homeschooled for similar reasons. Our school system is unable to serve these kids. Despite working in the public school system all these years, this is not something that I truly understood until now. It is something that I’ve now spent a lot of time coming to terms with firsthand.
I have had to stand up for my kids and for myself in our public school system. This has meant countless hours in exhausting meetings, nearly constant emails and phone calls, and following through with the filing of formal complaints and lawsuits. I’ve had to handle a lot of health issues with my kids who are all working on getting back on track. I am also dealing with my own health issues, which have been triggered after being under control for the last 7 years. Now my health issues are back and I have to figure out how to take good care of myself all over again. Anxiety and depression are something that I am experiencing myself firsthand. It’s not easy.
So that’s where I’ve been. The details aren’t really that important to share here and I am happy to be moving into a new year of life. 48 was so hard, my friends. So hard. I’m trying not to complain about THAT.
We spent last weekend with my cousins. My brother doesn’t have kids, so they don’t have any first cousins on my side . . my cousins’ kids are their cousins. Trying to explain second cousins and once and twice removed? Huh? They’re just cousins. Can we end it at that? I’m confused. Seriously.
Photo I made of the kids and their Aikin cousins at the ice cream counter in Saratoga, Wyoming💌
I talked with a dear friend in New York recently who is going through a painful divorce. Just like I did when my children were young. She was there for me when I went through it. She is a good listener and a great support. She is a good friend. She is smart and wise.
She knows my divorce story and now I am the good friend as she is going through it herself. She will get through it. She is fierce in her love for her kids and in doing what she thinks is right for them. We are alike in that way. But I know how difficult it can still be on the kids. The choices we are faced with are unfair and unreasonable. The kids have no say in what is happening to their family and their life. Kids are so vulnerable. They really deserve to just be kids. Divorce puts a burden on them that is just unfair. It is what it is.
Like me, my friend has twins. That’s something else that binds us closely. At times, I have served as a kind of twins mentor to her. Hers, though, are still just little ones. They’re going into kindergarten this year. They’re five. Mine are now seventeen.
Incredibly, my friend’s divorce case actually went to trial because they cannot agree on money, basically. But it’s really about the kids. When you’re talking about taking responsibility for kids, you may end up talking about money, but it is always about the kids. Why can’t people just keep the kids in focus? I don’t understand. And I do understand. It’s maddening.
Put all your love into them. All of it. These kids are all that really matters. That’s the truth.
I’m standing in a long line at King Soopers. I’m so hungry I am feeling light headed and I am doing everything I can to stay in this line because my instinct is to abandon this cart and instead drive through Starbucks or order something from my husband who has pretty much been my caretaker in all things food for the last several years. I have gotten out of the habit of being the kind of mom I started out as. The kind of mom who shopped and cooked and baked and was truly on top of all the things. THAT kind of mom. I am desperately trying to get back to being THAT kind of mom. I do know why it’s so difficult and I’m not ashamed to name the reasons, but I don’t have time for that anymore. And it won’t help me with the fact that I’m hungry most of the time and I do need some help if I’m to be the kind of mom my kids need me to be. The kind of mom I was so good at before…..my paid job got in the way.
It’s the getting the help that is the most difficult part. People don’t come out of the woodwork to run your errands or make meals or help you clean your house unless they are in it with you. Even friends and family have their OWN lives and professionals need to make a living wage.
And then there’s the lawyers and consultants REQUIRED to help you fight for your child’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education. Private schools are a privilege that a majority of US cannot afford. The whole thing is horrifying.
It is 2019 and I am now 49 years old. When I’ve described to people who know me only as an adult what I looked like in high school I tell them that I looked roughly like a stick figure with boobs. At the time I didn’t really pay too much attention to what my peers thought about me, but I now realize that a lot of people thought I was pretty. I’ve been told enough times now that I have a pretty face that I can even see it myself sometimes. It helps that I can see my own face in my kids’, as well. They all have really beautiful faces.
Despite being pretty, it was not unusual for people who didn’t know me to mistake me for being a boy all the way into my mid twenties. It’s the truth. And I did sense a little discomfort around me at times because of my lack of traditional femininity. My earliest memory I have of this was when I was about five. My mom took me to get my hair cut short for the first time. She had short hair and I wanted to look like her. My mom is pretty. I was so excited and I was really excited to show my dad when he came home from work. I remember my mom painted my nails red that day and I also remember wearing a new yellow summer nightgown. I remember that I felt pretty that day. But when my dad came home I knew he was disappointed. “Why did you cut off her hair, Jane? She looks like a boy.”
Don’t worry. I was fine. I promise. I love my dad. He didn’t hurt my feelings. I sensed that he may have hurt my mom’s feelings is the thing I remember feeling. I knew damn well I looked good. Confidence is one of my gifts.
I know that when I was a kid, I was identified as a tomboy and I was proud to own it. But I don’t know that I ever thought too much about it until I had kids of my own. These kinds of things just never really bothered me. Being mistaken for a boy didn’t embarrass me. I never corrected people. I just kind of noted it and then moved on with my life. I suppose I had a strong enough sense of self not to let it bother me. I really got lucky with my early sense of self.
These days, I wonder a lot what my gender identity would have been if I had been born now instead of 1970. Even today, I’m not the most ladylike person. I’ve worn my hair short for most of my life or in styles that I didn’t have to do anything with it. I prefer to wear comfortable, simple clothing. I’m kind of direct and assertive by nature. I’m built to be athletic and strong. As a child, I played sports, but not the “boys” sports necessarily. I mostly played tennis and soccer. I do wonder if I was growing up now, would I be non-binary? I have no idea. I kind of wish I did know though. It’s fascinating.
One of my kids is non-binary. They describe themself as androgynous. I like that description. They are androgynous. When people ask me what that means, I just say. “You know, like Prince. Like David Bowie. Like a fucking rock star!” It’s the truth. My kid has always seemed androgynous to me. Even if people didn’t recognize it themselves. That’s how I saw it all along. Nothing has changed about my kid. The thing that’s changed is people’s awareness. If you think about it, what kid isn’t androgynous? Children are all just little humans, aren’t we? There are no real gender identifying characteristics visible to others in our youth. Our gender role is assumed based on how we adorn ourselves, choose to wear our hair, what sports we play or interests we have. What talents we have. Whatever the doctor at our birth decides we are at that moment.
They are just words, people! Why do we do that to each other? That pains me.
Badass (4t1t3s). I looked it up. There are a plethora (1s6c7m3sd) of definitions when I search the word on Google (7c7s6s). Personally, I prefer the definition provided by Urban Dictionary, which is “someone who becomes mentally stronger despite having lived through adversity.”
This word has been coming up for me a lot. After a fair amount of consideration I have to say I’m a fan. Please consider my use of it to fall under this definition.
I’m not ashamed to use it. Forgive me if you’re offended. It is what it is.
I wrote the following as testimony on March 24, 2021 in support of HB 21-1014 championed by colleagues working with the Invisible Disabilities Association.
My name is Lisa Weiss and I am the director of advocacy programs for VALIDEAF, a national non-profit with a mission that serves the diverse deaf community. I am a proud native and resident of Colorado who has invisible disabilities myself. I am also a juvenile and disability rights attorney and education policy expert who has worked in public service for the last 22 years. I am writing in support of Colorado HB 21-1014 that will make a difference in helping save lives and raise awareness of people who are deaf or are living with disabilities, particularly those that are invisible or misunderstood.
As a person with invisible disabilities myself, I am concerned about others like me who may at times need accommodations related to physical access even though we may not appear to have a physical limitation to others. Living with a persistent medical condition does not always look like what people assume. It remains an unfortunate myth that all people with physical disabilities require a wheelchair. I have seen this in action when airlines pull up to the gate to assist my deaf colleagues with a wheelchair. I have also seen this in action when my friends with invisible illnesses are harassed for parking in spaces assigned specifically for them when they don’t exit the car with a wheelchair. The truth is that the person themself is in the best position to determine the accommodations and access that they require for their daily living, work, and community needs. Sometimes a person simply needs to park closer to the entrance of our workplace so that person doesn’t exhaust themselves before they start their workday. I worry about all of these people every day.
And as the mother of a young adult who was born Deaf, I cannot tell you how many people still ask me if Deaf people can drive. This is another persistent myth that is based on a cultural misunderstanding that hearing is necessary to be safe. It is not. But there are laws in place to ensure that peace officers take appropriate steps to communicate effectively with deaf people because access is the issue for safety. This obligation does include providing sign language interpreters and auxiliary aids, but beyond this there is a clear need for peace officers (and the general public) to understand how to communicate with members of a diverse deaf community.
This is where it gets tricky and I have found this problem to be twofold. One is based in a general misunderstanding about what it means to be deaf. I have found over the last 16 years as a mother navigating the world with a deaf child that there is a persistent myth that all deaf people only communicate using visual language. This is simply not true. The truth is that some deaf people only communicate with visual language. And these people need access to communication in the visual language that they prefer and are able to understand. The second is due to the lack of awareness about how prevalent deafness really is. I often wonder who in our world doesn’t know someone who is deaf (or going deaf) since I know that EVERYONE is becoming deaf. It is difficult for me to imagine knowing this and knowing that approximately 15% (or 37.5 million) American adults aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing and that one in eight people in the United States (13% or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing exams. I worry about all of these people.
My point is, this bill is intended to promote awareness, to provide training, and to ensure the protection of our community. Not just for a few people, but for most people. It is important that the public servants who are called on to serve our community are able to do so and that means being able to identify needs and provide appropriate accessibility depending on the person, the circumstances, and the setting. I hope that this bill will move forward with due diligence and without undue interruption.
Peace and solidarity always,
Lisa A. Weiss, Esq. Director of ValidADVOCACY Programs
The following is an oral presentation about Cued Speech that I wrote in 2018. Or was it 2019? I can’t recall right now. Life is a blur sometimes. In any case, I was offered an opportunity by Janet DesGeorges, who is the Chairperson of the family advisory committee for the national Early Hearing Detection and Intervention conference to lay out Cued Speech for the group. I remember at the time it felt like a big deal that Cued Speech was being offered a place at a table. Any table. It’s difficult to get people’s attention for this highly valuable mode of communication that is also an extremely effective natural language and literacy building tool that I am blessed to know so well.
I happened upon a hard copy of the “speech” I prepared for the lunch group that day. I want to be sure to give credit to one of my deaf mentors, Benjamin Lachman, who helped me to write and prepare to present the critical facts in my plea for EHDI system support. Please understand that there is a growing list of Cued Speech resources around the world so this writing does not provide a complete list. These were the noteworthy resources that we identified at that time.
Finally, if you want to find me working on Cued Speech related projects in any kind of a “professional” capacity, please come find me and my family and friends doing Colorado cultural digging and game playing. I intern as a private educational interpreter and community activist for our independent Deaf family based School to Work Alliance Program that we named Solid Ground Denver because that’s what we need most right now here.
I believe Cued Speech builds a human bridge. I see the Deaf community as I see every other segment of our population. It is part of the human diaspora where we all belong. I call this the deaf diaspora.
At your service, in our community and in 1m3s (peace) ✌🏼 always,
Lisa A. Weiss, J.D. Cuer, Educational Interpreter Intern , Mediator, Public School Policy Expert, and Activist
EHDI Family Advisory Committee Cued Speech/Cued Language(s) – A Place at the Table
What is Cued Speech?
Cued Speech is the system that constitutes the mode of communication that visually conveys cued American English (and other spoken languages). It was created only five decades ago with the singular purpose of supporting literacy in Deaf and hard of hearing people. Today it has grown into 60+ visual adaptations for other spoken languages around the world and has found multiple benefits beyond the deaf and hard of hearing communities.
What is cued language?
While Cued Speech is the *system* of conveying language, the actual act of cueing a language is often referred to cued language. There’s a small but marked different between Cued American English and Cued British English, for example. We are not saying that cueing is a language, we are saying that a language is being cued. The fundamentals are highly adaptable to phonemic based languages. There are some exceptions but the majority of languages are feasible.
In my experience, the reason Cuers aren’t loud is because we do well. There isn’t a lot of discontent. Many of our kids do well in school and go on to do well in life. We are often invisible because we blend right in. We don’t “appear to be Deaf”. But we really do need this voice. And sometimes we do get angry because sometimes we really do get hurt. It’s when we don’t get the communication access or the recognition that we deserve. It’s the same as those who are loud about ASL. We just don’t have any support. Cued Speech is a redheaded stepchild. Cuers are left on our own to educate and advocate for ourselves. We build our own resources. We do our own research. Outside of our community, Cued Speech is a complete mystery to almost everyone.
There are many myths and false perceptions that have been perpetuated as Cued Speech became stuck in the LSL vs. ASL debate. But the cueing community is not the tiny minority most people think it is. It is difficult to know for certain just how may people are using it, but we are very aware that there are many more of us out there who we don’t even know. It is adaptable. It’s diverse. And it’s growing. The 2017 NCHAM EI Snapshot Report showed that almost half of the survey respondents only use one mode of communication and 12% of those people are cueing (49% LSL only; 3% ASL ONLY). It can be, but is not required to be, a stand-alone strategy. The overall deaf community is diverse and the cueing segment of our community is no different. Cuers span the breadth of it. This is because cueing is what you make of it. It is complementary to both LSL and ASL. By definition, it can and already does work in parallel with Listening and Spoken Langauge as well as in a bilingual program with ASL.
The issues we need to address:
It’s not difficult to learn. Families are able to learn it in their own homes and may never connect with another person who cues. The EI Snapshot showed us that 10%+ of families are choosing to use Cued Speech in their homes. It also showed that families reported fair to poor access to information and resources about it. This is the primary issue we need to address.
The majority of pre-service higher education programs for DHH teachers still don’t include Cued Speech in their coursework, there is indeed a larger segment of DHH educational professionals than people realize in the public education sector which support and have implemented the use of Cued Speech.
There is a prevailing belief in the greater DHH field that Cued Speech has only been used when parents like myself have made an isolated request for it for our children and that there is no data proving its efficacy. This isn’t true. Cued Speech programs are localized with various hot spots, which means the majority of cueing services requests are in school districts that do not have existing programs in place or any knowledge about Cued Speech at all. In addition to the available empirical research about Cued Speech, these programs have actual data; they have years of experience and student performance data proving the efficacy of Cued Speech on English language acquisition and literacy.
School districts are under the impression that it’s difficult to integrate cueing into a mainstream setting. This isn’t true. They just don’t know about it. Many families like my own have to bring cueing into their school district and work with the district to develop services that work for that student and the community. This is a huyge burden on families like my own and the school districts where we live often don’t know where to begin. We couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve heard people say, “we have an oral program and a total communication program here in this district. Choose one of those.”
What do we need?
We need exposure. We need support. And we need inclusion.
We have to address what the EI snapshot report highlighted, which is that “the majority of families are receiving excellent or good quality information about communication options except for Cued Speech.” 76% of famlies reported excellent to good information about LSL and 67% reported excellent to good information about ASL. Only 43% reported excellent to good information about Cued Speech. The Cued Speech community has developed the resources, but we are stretched awfully thin.
Once a child is identified, if a family is interested in cueing, they could start giving their child access to the language of their home as quickly as within a few days of starting to learn to cue. The hope is to offer the infrastructure to do that and the awareness that the infrastructure exists. We are here to serve everyone.
We need families to be provided with consistent and reliable information about Cued Speech along with all of the options for language development. We need to develop a plan to systematically provide training and materials about Cued Speech and the diversity of the cueing community to states’ family based organizations (e.g. states’ Hands and Voices Parent Guides and states’ EHDI networks).
We need parents to have access to free training in Cued Speech on the NCHAM website similar to how parents have access to free training videos in ASL on their website.
We need states supporting efforts to expand current adult Deaf ASL mentor programs for parents to also provide that for cueing.
We need early interventionists to receive instruction and training in Cued Speech. Training for state level EHDI coordinators on how to communicate what Cued Speech is and what its purposes are.
Audiologists and EI providers should at the very least have some working knowledge of what its purposes are.
Audiologists and EI providers should at the very least have some working knowledge of what it is and what its actual purpose is. That information needs to be developed by people who are deeply knowledgeable about Cued Speech.
We have a ton of great resources already. We need support to keep growing and we need them infused into the systems that are supposed to support us all.
National Cued Speech Association CueSign, Inc. – Fully inclusive programming with ASL and Cued Speech Cue College – online platform (cued speech instruction and tutoring services) Daily Cues – free learning resources TECUnit – skills assessment unit INSCert – Instructor workshops and certification Language Matters, Inc. – transliterator training and agency based in North Carolina