Christmas Letter 2005

2005 Christmas Letter
Saturday, December 10, 2005
2:41 PM

When I look back over the last year the word that I think about is opportunities.” I hear some people complain that one day is just like the next. They just try to make it through to the next vacation, or even retirement down the road. I am thankful that God has given me a life where each day is unique; each week is filled with so many opportunities.
The quality of life our family enjoys in Maryland is so wonderful. Growing
up in the South, I never thought too much about Maryland. Our small suburb of Washington is just large enough to have a nice library, shopping and restaurants without feeling too crowded.

Besides being able to go into Washington, we also have been able to get to know West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In West Virginia we have grown fond of Harper’s Ferry, and in Pennsylvania we have come to love Hershey and the beautiful areas around Amish country in Lancaster County.

As executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, I have many opportunities to get to know people from all over the country. Whether I have been in Los Angeles or Philadelphia this year, I have been able to meet new friends.

Denise’s new hearing through her cochlear implant has been a miracle in 2005. Of course she will never have normal hearing again, but this technology allows her to hear voices and things we take for granted like water running or wind chimes.

I finally got the entire family to join me at Frederick Athletic Club. We are all members now and enjoy basketball, weights, and the many exercise machines. Now that I have turned 40 it is important for me not to let atrophy set in too quickly!

I have also enjoyed the opportunity to teach a psychology class for Chieftain Institute again this year. The students have shown so much interest and been a pleasure to teach.

I hope everyone who reads this has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!

Terry

It’s that time of year again! Time to nag the family to participate in the Christmas letter that we send out! Actually, I rarely have to twist arms. Everyone in our family seems to enjoy writing.

I’m teaching three classes this year at Chieftain Institute. It’s amazing how much more work three classes is than two. However, I love teaching and it keeps me busy in a good way. I also continue to homeschool our kids, and they continue to excel in their studies and tests each year. Chieftain Institute has been a blessing, as the kids can take foreign language classes there, as well as other classes that I am not as comfortable attempting to teach. This also gives them the opportunity to be under other wonderful teachers, and also to be with other students in a classroom setting. We do school from 7:00 AM until about 4:30 or 5:00 PM each day. That may seem like a long day, but our kids don’t have homework. Smile! They are involved in a great number of community projects and volunteer a great deal as well.

We still have a great number of pets. I am not as keenly aware of it as I use to be since I do not take care of any of them except for my dog, Max. The kid’s are very self-sufficient when it comes to taking care of their “critters”, and even pay for their food, vet bills, etc., or do extra chores to earn towards this extra expense. The kids still foster “pocket pets” for Small Angels, a non-profit in Frederick that helps to find homes for unwanted guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, chinchillas, etc. For some reason, our family has become one of the “rat expert” families. This is not necessarily a title I’m really keen about, but the kids really enjoy it. We also started 4-H this year so they are working in all this extra care for their pets in this program as well.

I was implanted with a cochlear implant on April 6th of this year, and was activated on May 13th. We video taped everything from the point of us leaving for the hospital, all the way up through the activation. Even though it was ME, I still get goose bumps watching it, and cannot really get over the miracle of not hearing one moment, and hearing so well the next. The family really teases me good naturedly about the stunned look on my face on the video when I am switched “on” in my doctor’s office. I “heard” seconds before she actually said, “Denise, can you hear me?” Who would have thought air conditioners, doors slamming in the distance, footsteps outside in the hall, my son wiggling in his chair, etc., could all make this incredible combination of sound! I journal a great deal, and write about all the different things I am hearing. Hearing, is certainly not something I take for granted. My hearing is not perfect, but I am hearing so much more than I ever thought that I would. To say this year has been an unforgettable one, is an understatement.

Terry continues to work as Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association (the name changed in November of this year). He is gone for 12 hours a day (part of that commute time), but he comes home a happy kind of tired. He expends a great deal of energy in his job, but it’s because he loves people with hearing loss. When he is home he’s a great dad, and attentive husband, but when he’s at work he certainly works tirelessly towards making a difference. We have had a few opportunities to speak at some meetings together this year, and I have certainly enjoyed traveling with him. I’m a bit amazed at the different opportunities my deafness has afforded me to speak to others about hearing loss. I was very blessed to be able to speak at the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus in July. The Congressional staffers also asked to see part of my activation video, and I was surprised to see tears on many faces. My hearing loss has become such a part of me, that I had forgotten those with normal hearing are stunned by evidence of the miracle of “hearing again”, and what hearing means to an individual. I also love speaking at local chapters of the Hearing Loss Association, and have met so many wonderful people.

My dad had a heart attack on October 13th of this year. He actually died at the activity center of the retirement community my parents live at in Florida. A retired EMT and some retired nurses brought him back with a defibulator that the center had just purchased. He had 4-way bi-pass surgery on October 17th. I was able to go and spend a couple of weeks at my parents to help out and also get in the way. I was so glad to be able to go. Dad is doing great now, and mom is breathing more normally now that the immediate danger is past. He is certainly a walking miracle. I was able to see my two brothers for a few days while they were there for my dad’s surgery. I haven’t seen them in awhile, so that was a big thrill for me.

I have continued corresponding and posting online in different hearing loss forums. It’s amazing what the internet has done for those with hearing loss, by providing a community through email and message boards. It’s so nice to be able to talk to others who have experienced hearing loss. I have “met” so many wonderful people and have been encouraged by so many individuals. I also have been able to correspond with others who are new to hearing loss. Statistics show that the number of Americans with hearing loss will surge in the next decade. I expect the internet to continue being the place many go to find help. If you have internet access, you will have to check out http://www.hearingloss.org (the Hearing Loss Association’s website).

Our own family has a website as well. We try to keep it updated. http://www.lightkeepers.net

This Christmas has certainly been exciting, as I’m hearing things I haven’t in over a decade. The meaning of Christmas hasn’t changed at all though! I am forever grateful for Christ’s birth, and I certainly try to remember that HE is the reason for this season. May God bless you and yours,
Denise

Merry Christmas everyone! This is Kyersten and my mom asked me to include a part in the Christmas letter. Being the procrastinator that I am, I waited until the day of mom’s “deadline” to do it. I am, unfortunately, quite a procrastinator, which gets me into trouble sometimes. I even have a shirt that says, “I’ll stop procrastinating – tomorrow” or something like that. Ha, not only am I a procrastinator, I am also random. I’m pretty sure mom didn’t want me to spend the whole time talking about procrastinating.

The most exciting news of this year is that my mom received a cochlear implant! We were all so excited. She went to John’s Hopkins for the surgery. She is hearing a lot better now! And the really cool thing is that you can stick magnetic stuff to her head, but you are not supposed to.

This year in school, I am in 10th grade. I’ll hopefully be starting Driver’s Ed soon! I am taking three classes at Chieftain this year: Sign Language 3 (taught by my mom), Spanish 2 (taught by Mrs. Richardson), and Psychology (taught by my dad). It is funny to have two of my parents as my teachers because their teaching styles are so different. My favorite subject in school this year other than my Chieftain classes is probably Total Language Plus. You read a book and from that book you get spelling and vocabulary words and stuff. My least favorite is still math. This year I am doing Algebra 2.

This summer the SHHH convention (by the way, Self Help for the Hard of Hearing has recently been changed to the Hearing Loss Association) was in Washington D.C. We didn’t have very far to travel! It was a very nice hotel and we had fun.

Our family still has a lot of pets. Just by myself, I own one dog, two cats, three rats, and one fish. My dog, Ebony, is still alive (much to our vet’s astonishment) and very happy. My two cats, Mandie and Kiki, are as fat and quirky as ever. My three rats are Mercy (a very old, very fat rat), Zoe (a young curious rat), and Milky Way (a very mean rat, but I love him anyway!) My fish is a Black Fantail Goldfish and loves to eat.

We have had a very nice year and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year! I would love to hear from all of you all year ‘round! Email me at sign4godteen@lightkeepers.net.
Sincerely,
Kyersten

Hey Guys! Mom wanted me to tell you about my “interesting” year. Right now, I am going to something called Chieftain Institute. Chieftain Institute is a place where homeschoolers can go to earn high school credit by taking classes taught by professionals on a certain subject. In CI, I am taking Debate Club, Debate Class, and Sign Language 1. Sign Language 1 is taught by Denise Portis (I think she is the BEST teacher) and we learn about how to communicate to deaf and hard of hearing people by making certain gestures with our hands. (That’s why it’s called “Sign” Language) In this class we learn three different songs, make a five-minute presentation in front of the whole class (I need to start working on it), and the whole class has to chose one of the songs to sign in front of everybody at CI at the end of the year. Debate Class is taught by Mrs. Smith, and is where beginning debaters learn how to, well… debate. Debate Club is where we have practice rounds, help each other with their cases, and go to tournaments. So far I have lost one round and won one round. The one round I lost I was trying to prove that health courts would fix the system, and the one round I won I was trying to disprove that health courts would fix the system. (Ironic huh?)

Well, Jr. High Youth group is pretty much the same. Jr. High Youth Group is a program on Sunday night where we play a messy game, have someone give their testimony, and have a lesson from our devotions in the past week. Jr. High gives out a magazine every month called “Youth Walk” that has daily devotionals we are suppose to do each day. Then, the lesson in the following week is on the devotionals that we just did. The messy game usually involves pickles, onions, chocolate dipped pretzels, or something else like that, but just recently we didn’t have a “messy game.” (Apparently, Mr. Cook, our game leader, is starting to run low on ideas.) We all got in a big circle and played “monkey in the middle,” or, as I call it, EXTREME monkey in the middle. Our most athletic person (I prefer not to call him by name because this letter is probably going to Matthew Reeping) tends to stay in the middle the longest. (Another ironic thing!) Also, I would like to mention my youth group leaders who made this all possible. Mrs. Guy, Mr. Neff, Mr. Cook, Ms. Becky, and Mrs. Sphere. There was someone else I was supposed to mention that I forgot last year but I can’t think of his name. I know he gave me a hard time about it. I know he is the one who tells really bad jokes but I still can’t think of his name. I guess I will have to move on.

Also this year in youth group, we went on a weekend retreat. The subject was called “Maximum Exposure” and we were taught with three different lessons, “choose your lighting, choose your focus, and change your filter.” Each of these lessons had to do with a camera and taught us how to do different things in our daily lives. Other than that, it was a pretty crazy weekend. From the bathroom toilets being clogged (which everyone thought was me) and a teddy bear being held ransom. (Which everyone thought was me again. I really had nothing to do with these things!)
Recently, my Mom got a cochlear implant. I won’t go into detail since my Mom will probably go into the little “technical” details in her part of the letter. A cochlear implant is a device that lets my mom hear better than she ever would have with a hearing aid and was a big thing for my Mom to have the privilege to get. Her doctor at Johns Hopkins was one of the best doctors she could have gotten for the surgery. Anyway, it is great, and kind of funny, about the new things my Mom can hear. (And maybe doesn’t want to hear)

Well, that is my part of the letter so have a Merry Christmas!
Chris

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