I was born with normal hearing and began to lose my hearing when I was in elementary school. I received a hearing aid when I was nine, but I rarely wore it. I managed to get through life by using my eyes more than my ears.
I took up barefoot water skiing as a teen and I was absolutely crazy about the sport. I spent my summer days skimming across the water as the only female barefooter on my lake. I had dreams of someday running off to Cypress Gardens and skiing in the ski show there.
Everything changed one day. I turned to cross the wake and caught a toe. I slammed into the water and cartwheeled over. When I climbed into the boat, I couldn't hear my friends talking. Their lips moved, but I couldn't hear the usual sounds that accompanied their words. I figured that I had water in my ears.
I didn't realize it at the time, but in an instant, I had become deaf.
Denial is a nice, comfortable place to be in. I continued to hold out hope that I would go back to being able to hear people's voices again. Reality came at the end of that summer. The car was packed and I was getting ready to head out to Northern Illinois University. I walked back into the house to get my purse and I suddenly had a thought: What if my hearing never comes back?
I started to cry and my Mom said to me, "You don't have to go to college-- you can stay home and find a job here."
I knew that if I didn't walk out of the door, I would not be facing life head on. I dried the tears and we drove off. When I arrived at the dorm, I discovered that I had been placed on a floor with other deaf and hard of hearing students. I didn't want any part of that-- I wanted to be in a "regular" dorm. "Go into this with an open mind," my Mom said. "You may make some good friends here."
I was immersed in a world where American Sign Language flew back and forth amid a flurry of flying hands and I didn't understand a word of it. During the day, I struggled in classes-- trying to lipread professors who paced across a stage. During the night, I cried myself to sleep and fought the urge to head back home.
One morning, I had an epiphany: I could spent my days continuing to struggle-- or I could accept this new path and become the very best deaf person I could possibly be. I got out of bed with a new resolve. I put my hair up in a pony tail, slapped on my hearing aid and marched myself to the disability office where I returned the useless FM equipment and requested sign language interpreters for all of my classes. It was the first time in my life that I wore my hearing aid in public, visible for anyone to see.
I learned American Sign Language, graduated with a Master's degree and got married. I traveled with a deaf volleyball team for twelve years. I became a mom to three deaf and hard of hearing children. I worked as a service coordinator, early intervention specialist, college instructor, sales manager and writer. I founded a non-profit organization that serves families with deaf and hard of hearing children. I also became a doula and had the honor of attending several births.
As you can see, life blossomed after becoming deaf.
But there was still something missing. On my 44th birthday, I was reflecting back at some of the happy times in my life. I missed the passion of barefoot water skiing. I weighed over 200 pounds at that point and I had given up most of my physical activities. In short, I figured that I was too old and too fat to take up the sport again.
My husband sent me a link to a Today Show segment featuring Judy Myers, a 66-year-old woman who learned to barefoot water ski at the age of 53. As I watched the video, I felt the old feelings of excitement stirring inside of me. In the video, Judy was heavy-set-- but there she was-- skimming across the water on her feet!
I got in touch with Judy via Facebook and she invited me to come to Florida and learn to barefoot again with the two-time World Barefoot Champion, Keith St. Onge. The moment that I put my feet on the water again, the passion returned.
It is now one year later, and I accomplished something that I thought was impossible in my teen years: I learned to barefoot water ski-- backwards.
Deaf and hard of hearing children -- Barefoot water skiing -- unwrapping your passion for life.
How do you know what the limits are, unless you push past them? --Karen Putz
We are capable of so much more than we can often realize. Visualization is a powerful tool that has propelled me past the limits. When I set up a goal, I visualize myself taking each step that gets me closer to the goal. I also visualize myself doing what I want to accomplish. If you do it over and over in your mind, it becomes second nature, and soon you're accomplishing it!
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