Wednesday, January 18, 2006

First Day of School

From left: Diana, Laura, Me, and Melody.We are posing outside of the SCCC cafeteria on January 3rd (our first day of class which is for an hour every morning). Missing in action but present in class: Alison (our meetup organizer) and Lindsey (the Bellevue Community College ASL club 'Silent Voices' president).
Photo provided by Diana Rodgers. Photographer - some student from class

Here are 4 of us out of the 6 in our ASL meetup group. We are pictured at Seattle Central Community College and are taking ASL 202 which is level 5. We all went to Bellevue Community College at some point and then transfered to SCCC because it is the only public college in the Seattle area which offers ASL 4, 5, and 6.

I met Melody in the spring of 2004 when I took a refresher course of ASL level 1 at the HSDC (Hearing Speech and Deafness Center) with Harley, KC & Dianne (now married), Lisa (one of my captioners from the UW), and Nicole (a former classmate and cohort of the master in teaching program at the UW). Our teacher at the HSDC was my friend Karen Chreist (now Stueland compliments of "Sam the man").

I knew Lindsey from attending some BCC Silent Voices ASL events (primarily the 3rd friday of the month coffee social in Bellevue). Back in February (yes nearly a year ago already!), I ran into Melody again and was surprised to learn that she lived very close to us. At that time I met Laura who was a friend of hers and was also at the coffee night. I told them about the cool meetup group I had found on the computer. I think they knew about it and happened to go before I went. LOL

And that brings us to how I met Alsion and Diana. I first met Alison over the computer when looking for ASL events in my area. ASL is just one of the many languages Alsion knows. Diana (now our assistant organizer), I met when I actually started going to the meetups (thanks to Melody and Laura who gave me rides when I could not drive much due to vision problems associated with the tumors causing my optic nerves to swell).

So that is our story and here we are. LOL Thanks to these wonderful friends I have people to communicate with and help me learn ASL. Among us there are three carpools to and from school so I don't have to drive to downtown Seattle. THANK YOU EVERYONE! :o)

Class keeps us busy, it is challening, and there is lots of homework. However, we truly enjoy our instructor Stephan Kennedy and we are having fun being in class together and seeing each other everyday.

Oh yeah, we all live on the east side (Melody and Laura in Redmond, Diana in Woodinville, Alison and Lindsey in north Bellevue near Microsoft). I am so fortunate!!!! The majority of the Deaf community lives in Seattle which is far from my home. It is nice having a group to sign with on the east side and to go to events with together. They are all hearing but we do have a couple deaf friends who sometimes join us at gatherings (George, Frank, and Paul).

The Letter - Keep the Faith

Please note that the author of this artwork is unknown. I have included the image as it has been circulating around the net.
The following is an email letter I wrote to my husband Harley yesterday evening. He enjoyed it so much that he suggested I share it with you all on my blog.

All day yesterday I felt overwhelmed, in a state of melancholy, and wondered what the future will hold for me. I would say that I did try to put on a smile but inside I was full of questions. At school I was saddened to see other people freely run down the stairs while I struggled and grasped the handrail firmly with each step. I wondered how long I would be able to walk, how long I would live, or if I would ever find a place in the world where I fit in, communicate and could contribute to my full potential.

The same emotional numbness carried with me when I returned home. I noticed another bruise on my body (the elbow this time) as it felt sore but I vaguely had recollection of how I received it. I thought about the couple times I slipped trying to hurry down the stairs in our house or nonchalantly gallop down them like I used to. With less padding to protect myself I now get large bumps and bruises on my keister. I wondered how long my body can take this without breaking something (afterall I am only 34!). It saddened me to think that a day may come that I could no longer use stairs and would have to move from the beautiful refuge of the home I love.

Before leaving for my walk with the dogs, I checked my email to discover the photo you see above. Seeing as it was a forward, I almost deleted without opening it. For some reason I did open the email and I was so immensely captivated by the picture that I saved it in my computer files. The image comforted me . I thought of the many times I have sat in the same serene pose while pondering life and talking to God. The letter below will fill in the rest:

"Today it stopped raining after I went to the post office and the sun started to come out. Our walk was fantastic! The field in the first part of the trail was very green and reminded me of when we drove past all the vineyards in Italy when it was slightly raining. As we walked the sun peered out more and it was so beautiful. It was slightly sprinkling but the colors of everything were amazing! The water in the creek is very high and you can no longer see the beaver dam. It was rushing really fast and the sun was pouring through the clouds. When we were to the field across from the pond I looked west and the sun was shining brightly in full grandeur. It was still raining and I could see the drops glistening in the sun. I thought to myself that surely there must be a rainbow somewhere. I looked over my right shoulder to the east and noticed the black silhouette of a bird soaring high overhead. As I gazed at the bird, I spotted an entire rainbow beginning to brilliantly splash out in the sky beyond. As my view came into focus, as if looking at a picture of an optical illusion, I noticed a second rainbow faintly making its appearance.

I wanted to walk the whole length of the pond in the sun with the hope that we would see the elegant great blue heron who frequents a spot camouflaged by the cattails in the shore along the road. As we reached the half way point, there he was standing triumphantly on a log in the center of the pond. He was magnificent and it was if he was awaiting our arrival so that we would see him. We stopped for a few seconds and he gracefully raised his majestic blue wings and rose into the air only high enough to come to rest at his usual spot.

We continued to the sign just past the entire distance of the pond before turning around. On the way back we enjoyed the remainder of the rainbow, the heron on his perch, and some wood ducks gently gliding along the mirrored surface of the water. At one point we stopped 3/4 of the way back to admire the glorious panoramic of white tufted clouds jutting out from the pale yellow sunset and baby blue sky beyond. Just gazing at the sky reminded me of one of my wide angle photographs I shot while attempting my highest climb on Mt. Rainier with my sister in 2003.

I have to tell you that before my walk I was in a sour mood because as soon as I got ready a big cloud moved overhead and it started to rain. I questioned why God would allow this to happen and if I should have gone to the flooded dog park in Redmond. But I had to pick up the mail at the post office in Carnation. For some reason God allowed me to wake up from my nap at just that time and go for a walk.

I pondered this and thought there must be a reason he is guiding me out here but I do not know why. I thought perhaps there would be a rainbow after I turn the corner before the Nestle farm. But alas there was none and only rain. I searched for a reason that I would be guided out there. I thought maybe I am going to run into somebody important at the post office. I was very saddened thinking of many things. In fact I was in a melancholy since yesterday evening and was starting to feel sorry for myself again.

Then as I exited the post office the rain started the lighten up. The sun was fighting to peer through the gloom. As we started our walk, a feeling of comfort overcame me as everything seemed fresh and renewed. I could feel the birth of spring starting and my spirits lifting. As I took each step, I recalled how long it has been since I took the dogs for a walk or that we have walked on that section of the trail. It felt good to be with them and they were overjoyed to go for this walk rain or shine. With each step we took the sun came out more and more as if it were a sign of things to come.

A strange thing occurred before I went for my walk. Somebody had sent me a forward which I was going to delete without opening it. Then out of curiosity or just happenstance, I decided to open it. Of course there was some message to forward on to people or whatever. I did not see those words. Instead it was the image in the email that caught my eye and the caption underneath it. The title of the image was "Be Still and Know".

Here is the message underneath:
God still sits on the throne.

Each and every one of us are going through tough times right now but God is getting ready to bless you in a way that only He can. Keep the faith."

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Garden of Light

"The Pond" My favorite light display at the Garden d'Lights in Belluvue, WA this year.
Photo by Pat De Grand
For more of Pat's photos please visit our photo album at the following link:

Click the post title above to see the website of the Bellevue Botanical Garden and see their photo gallery of the lights from this year and previous years.

Nutcracker March Dec 26th

Becky and "From Russia with Love" nutcracker

Harley and Becky with the "Penguin King" nutcracker

These images were taken by my father Pat De Grand. To see more photos please view our yahoo photo album at the following link:
To view the actual website and to see all 50 nutcrackers click on the title of this post. There is a map on the site which shows where each nutcracker was placed. Like a scavengar hunt, we used the map to find as many nutcrackers as we could during our limited 2 hours parking alottment. We focused our search around Seatte's main shopping hub and holiday festivities in the Westlake Center. There we found Macy's all decked out with a huge star hung on the side of the building, a carousel, a gigantic Christmas tree with lights, horse drawn carriages, lights galore and much more! It was absolutely beautiful!

The life size nutcrackers were painted by Seattle artists and sold in a silent auction. The fundraiser benefited the NW Center which serves disabled children and adults. The event itself was sponsored by the Pacific NW Ballet.

On a side note.....a little bit about me you may not have known. When I was a very young girl I dreamed of being a ballerina. I have always loved ballet and was in ballet and dance lessons when I was 8. Unfortunately I was so shy that when my friend decided not to take dance the following year I was too afraid to take it by myself.

I have seen the nutcracker ballet in Seattle back in 1998 (before I began to lose my hearing or knew about NF2). Funny thing is when we went out for some food after the show I was asked by the restaurant to be in a tv commercial. Hehe. All I did was stand there and pretend to be very enthralled and cheering on this guy (who I think was the owner or marketing person) playing a pin ball machine. I never did see the commercial.

I absolutely LOVE the music of the Nutcracker Ballet. In fact I actually had the CD and played "Dance of the Sugar Fairies" when our bridesmaids and groomsmen marched down the isle of our wedding. We also played the rest of the CD as interlude music before the wedding started.

Try This On For Size

Getting into my suit is kind of a challenge. Before, it fit a little too snuggly as I was about 10 or 15 pounds over the custom made dimensions of my suit. Now I am a smaller size than the measurements I had made back in 1996. Thus my undergarment is kind of huge and keeps bunching up in the legs when I try to pull the shell over it. My balance is also kind of shot so I have to sit down. I tried this several times until I discovered I had to put a pair of socks on OVER the strap at the feet (the strap kept falling off my foot and traveling up my calves with the rest of the undergarment). Ahh! Success finally!

Happy New Year!

A day or so before the new year we decided to try on our drysuits to see how they fit (too tight, too lose, or just right). We had so much fun that we decided to take pictures! (By the way, drysuits are what we wear while scuba diving to keep us dry and warm.)

I hope to get back into the water again within the next month or two. I am at the phase of reorienting myself to my equipment. I have not been diving since March or April of 2004 but was given the ok to do so after my last MRI and visit with the opthamalogist. So basically I am starting over fresh (a new diver with an old diver's knowledge). This time I hope to keep better record of my dives. If all goes well I have plans to submit my logs to DAN (Diver's Alert Network).

Harley has a trip planned to dive on some shipwrecks in Nanaimo, Canada in February. He spent today cleaning and maintaining all of our underwater photo equipment. I am not sure if I will get back into underwater video just yet. For now, I am just going to concentrate on my skills and handling myself in the water. How exciting! I hope all goes well as this is diving (scuba) is one of my greatest passions.