Opening Night! (And other recent happenings).

Things are happening over here at the Brooks and I have had hardly any time to truly just sit down and catch you all up, lately. I’m striving to be better at this! Here’s my attempt to catch up you all up.

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We officially opened on Broadway September 27th (with like, 25 Broadway debuts in the cast!). We had our normal two-show Sunday schedule that day and it was crazy. I didn’t even make it out to the Broadway Flea Market that morning because I was on a hunt for better heels (an actual, serious concern) for my Opening Night outfit and I was curling my hair in Stage Management during the matinee with no shame. It was hectic and exciting and happening for everybody at the Brooks. Celebs were arriving, press was setting up their cameras for the step-and-repeat (the thing that celebs do when they walk the red carpet and have to be interviewed) and the after-party next door was already in preparations for later that night.

The energy in the theatre for our official opening performance was so electric and contagious. I don’t think I’ll soon forget that feeling. We had so many important people come out for the night and I only actually saw a handful of them at our afterparty at Copacabana later. Nicole was my plus one and I’m so glad I had her to navigate that party with! (All of the actors had at least an hour of press/interviews post-show, so they didn’t come out until much much later.) Open bar, unlimited buffet with pastas on pastas, stellar music DJ-ed by these two quirky guys in matching hipster nerd outfits (They played several Prince songs, j’approve – as well as MMMBop and Jesus Christ Superstar. I’m ACTUALLY obsessed with Broadway afterparties, now.) Nicole found Nyle DiMarco at the bar and brought him back to our table so I could interpret for her/meet him also. That was wild. I also was able to spot Ben Splatt, Hamilton cast members, some OBC Spring Awakening actors and the voice of Bee-Bop from Inside Out (he mistook Nicole for Krysta Rodriquez, our Ilse, and started congratulating her on the performance. Haha!). I was told Taran Killam, T.R. Knight, and Jon Groff were there, also – but they were hidden in the massive sea of people. Things I learned about myself that night: when I get drunk in the presence of Deaf people, I will start signing song lyrics in their entirety while dancing. Also, the more drinks I have, the higher my voice becomes. Yiiiiiikes. Woo girl to the extreme! The party was over shortly after 2 AM – and we all were just getting started, it felt like – so we all headed out to a bar and stayed out until about 4 AM. My sleep schedule has been so thrown off since I’ve arrived here, ha!

Opening Night photobooth with Nicole, Amelia and Sandra!
Opening Night photobooth with Nicole, Amelia and Sandra!

One thing I’ve been learning at the Lottery and Stage Door is how… interesting fan interactions are. While they are absolutely exciting, contagious and encouraging – you have to be so careful. For me a person, I’ve always strived to be honest and truthful in all my interactions – I don’t like being anything but authentic. I’m always so game to answer questions about sign language, Deaf Culture, and the show itself – but the conversations almost always quickly turn into “give me information about the actors” and then I get uncomfortable. I’ve been learning how to create a healthy yet firm boundary when these conversations get weird like this – but man! This was definitely unexpected.

Also, watching all these fan conversations at Stage Door have been eye-opening. (This coming from a girl that used to stage door back home, mind you.) Some fans actually scream when the actors come out, some try so hard to be memorable in the hopes of being real friends, some fans actually bring huge things of bagels, cookies, candy to the Stage Door for the actors, lots of beautiful drawings (actually the sweetest thing), but I think the most important thing I like to focus on is how many of them are learning sign language to communicate with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing actors! Josh (Ernst) taught some phrases on Andy’s Vlog of Purple Summer on Broadway.com (you should watch if you haven’t been, you might see me – and it’s fully captioned!) and I see so many of the fans use them! “Do you mind if we take a picture?” “Can you sign my program?” “Great show!” and the occasional “Are you single?”, haha. Some fans are also very nervous to try to sign and I just want to hug them and tell them that any attempt to try is deeply appreciated – they’re not expecting perfection! The weirdest thing I’ve interpreted so far would have to be a fan asking Josh if he could propose to him when he was ready, lol.

Russell brings his dog to the show with him and I'm a little obsessed.
Russell brings his dog to the show with him and I’m a little obsessed.
Well wishes from other shows on Broadway!
Well wishes from other shows on Broadway!

We’ve been getting some AMAZING reviews, particularly the New York Times review. We’ve actually posted the entire review outside our theatre, instead of just taking some memorable quotes from it. That’s pretty bomb to see. People are still leaving the theatre just in awe of what just happened on our stage and TRUST ME, I’m still pinching myself. I get to see this incredible moment in time, I get to contribute to the accessibility of it all and I’m thankful a hundred times over. I always had a gut feeling I’d make my way out here, and to realize that I’m truly in the middle of a dream of mine coming true is rad as hell.

Dear reader: PLEASE FOLLOW YOUR DREAM. I don’t care how crazy it is, how far away it feels, how insane it sounds when you say it out loud – follow that small and steady yearning for something more. You are capable of so much more than you realize and not just created to live an easy life. Just DO IT! (insert Shia LaBeouf here). For example, I can vividly remember the summer of 2011 and the time I spent on Project in South Carolina and these two specific moments. The first one was when a guy I knew from Bethel was talking really loudly about ASL and how it “wasn’t useful anymore” (LOL). My friends immediately looked to me and were anxious to see what I would respond with and I prepared to drop some truth on him. “ASL is absolutely useful” I said, and he spun around to me and responded with “Prove it” – to which I then said “My parents are Deaf” and I WISH I could have taken a picture of his face. He immediately backed off and tried to apologize. Whatever. Then like, a week later – we were out on a room/group date, I think (#projectproblems) and a guy asked me what I wanted to do after college. I was kind of annoyed with the small talk, so I just boldly said that I wanted to work on Broadway and he then responded by laughing at me. Whatever! My point is, it doesn’t matter what people choose to say to you about what is and isn’t important – you do you. Do the things you feel passionately about, the things that come naturally and authentically to you. I’ve always loved the concept of how our true calling in the world is where our skills and passion line up with what the world needs.

And with that tangent, I must bid you farewell. If you guys want any specific insight on anything in particular – let me know! I’m picking up on a great deal of the business side of theater just because I’m in the Company Management/Stage Management room so much. It might be fun to have some themes to write about instead of just gushing to you all of my unfiltered thoughts. Who knows.

Hope you all are doing well!

Love,

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WEEK ONE @ the Brooks

WEEK ONE @ the Brooks

We have nearly finished our first week of previews for Spring Awakening and oh my goodness, what a ride it’s already been! I know I promised some of you updates while I’m out here in New York, and I will do my absolute best to keep you in the loop with what’s going on over here via blogging.

So! We started previews last Tuesday, which means that we get to open up the doors to the Brooks Atkinson to excited audiences each and every night, while we still are technically in rehearsal mode. Cast & crew are called every day during the week to work on parts that need to be reworked, restaged, or need slight adjustments – and then they perform in the evenings. Honestly, it’s a pretty taxing schedule – but super vital, because once we officially open Spring Awakening on September 27, the show is frozen exactly how it is from that night to the end of the run! It’s been fun to continue to notice small changes here and there – and yes, I’ve been watching the show every night since Tuesday (woo!). We have roughly two more weeks of previews left before OPENING NIGHT ON BROADWAY!

In all seriousness, this show is the most painstakingly authentic, emotional, and inspiring journey I have ever been treated to in the theater (and I don’t say this lightly). I’ve closely followed this production since hearing the buzz about the initial workshop in L.A. over a year ago. It is not only so incredible to have seen this show triumphantly make it’s way to Broadway, but to also somehow have been given this chance to join in and contribute what I have, my interpreting and my passion for accessibility to this journey! My Children’s Theatre co-workers can absolutely validate how badly I wanted to find a way to contribute to Spring Awakening’s success because I would not, could not stop talking about it all summer (sorry not sorry). It also didn’t help that our Senior Intensive camp for our high school students this summer WAS Spring Awakening. It was everywhere. I sought out every single opportunity to somehow get connected with Deaf West, and I’m weirdly proud of myself for believing in myself this much (I almost didn’t send the last email I did to Deaf West – which finally lead to the conversation about this Interpreting Internship). It feels really amazing to be here and I get this feeling that there is something bigger yet to come. I am consistently humbled to be part of this deeply loving and genuine family that is making such BEAUTIFUL work, inviting so many hearing audiences in to consider and learn more about Deaf Culture, while also making incredible statements about #DeafTalent in the theater community around the world.

When TJ, our Stage Manager makes his pre-show and post-show calls, he also types it up for our Deaf actors to see on their monitors. Love this.
When TJ, our Stage Manager makes his pre-show and post-show calls, he also types it up for our Deaf actors to see on their monitors. Love this.
Necessary affirmation when walking up to the SM room.
Necessary affirmation when walking up to the SM room.

What exactly have I been doing since I’ve been here? Well! Your girl gets to assist Alice, our Associate Producer (she won the scholarship and I adore her) run our ASL/Spoken English Lottery (first ever in Broadway history!) before each and every performance. We have stellar volunteers from the Sign Language Center here in Manhattan come and teach mini-ASL lessons while people wait and I absolutely adore these volunteers! They are so full of life and so SPUNKY. The lottery hopefuls really enjoy learning from them and it is so fun to see baby signers in action. I may end up going to take a class or two at SLC on one of my days off. :) Then, during the show – I can either hang upstairs in the Stage Management room (aka the treehouse, because we’re allllll the way at the top of like, four flights of stairs) or snag a seat in the house and watch the show. I still am taking in all of the sign language translations, so I’m still incredibly eager to continue to watch the performances – but we’ll see how I feel about it come November. Ha! After each performance, the actors then can go greet the fans waiting outside by the stage door for autographs, pictures and affirmation. I try my best to float amongst our six Deaf actors Daniel, Sandra, Miles, Josh, Amelia, and Treshelle and make sure that I can jump in and help interpret if a fan is wanting to share more than just a “Thank you!” and “You were incredible!” It’s also been REALLY amazing to see how many fans have taken it upon themselves to learn sign ahead of time and it sincerely means so much to the actors to see that effort. I see it in their faces and it’s just really beautiful to witness that second-hand. :)

Someone also thought Daniel Durant and I were siblings and we laughed and were like “Nope”, but then both followed up with “But we’re from Minnesota!”. For those who took Doug Bahl’s Deaf Studies at Saint Paul College, remember the “Famous Deaf People” presentation Doug shared with us towards the end of the semester? I told Daniel about it and so wish I had brought my notes with me – Doug was so proud of Daniel for being a MSAD alum and then doing Switched at Birth – and this was pre-Spring Awakening, too! Gah. I’ll have to search for those notes when I’m back home because I do find it funny that I legitimately took notes on him and now we’re friends.

As exciting as all of this new journey is for me – I wouldn’t be completely honest if I told you that it all came super easy at first. The first few days of officially being an intern at Spring Awakening made me absolutely feel like a transfer student coming in at the middle of a semester and having zero friends. Almost everyone in the cast has been together for over a year now, so they are such a tight-knit family. My main contact for my internship is DJ Kurs, the Artistic Director of Deaf West, and he has been in and out of the theatre constantly – so when I’m not directly doing something related to interpreting, I’m pretty much on my own. Friday night, actually – I was watching the show and feeling so conflicted because I was still wanting to just make friends with everyone and just hang out and get to know them. I’ve realized that I really thrive on living in community, and my first few days in NYC were essentially just me doing things on my own all-day long. When Friday came, I really started to resign to the fact that this may just be what Broadway was going to be like, and started to really miss my Minnesota theatre community – then Josh Castille (Ernst) caught my attention after Stage Door duties were done and just straight up said “Do you have a Facebook?” and my whole heart just burst. He is the sweetest! This may absolutely seem kind of trivial, but I was really trying hard to keep my focus as an interpreting intern be as professional as possible, and let the actors start to let me into their world before I bombarded them with OMG LET’S HANG OUT feelings. We got to go out for drinks after our crazy two-show Sunday & Guilty Ones fan-club meet and greet with 200+ fans (omg) and I loved loved loved it. Josh also led a “we want to know all about our interpreters when they work with us, so you have to tell us all about yourself” moment and I laughed hard. They’ve been really fantastic to me so far. I really dig these actors and I am so overjoyed to see them get recognition in New York and to be able to show the world that they CAN play roles that were not specifically written as Deaf roles. They are beyond capable, they are so humble, and they are MESMERIZING (honestly). They so deserve this!

What else do I want to leave you guys with? Bitch of Living, Mirror Blue Night, Totally Fucked, and Song of Purple Summer are absolutely incredible. The sound system here is INSANE for a reason and I’m really digging that. Lights are so mesmerizing, especially during Totally Fucked. I just want you all to see this.

Oh, and surprise – this Spring Awakening revival was the very first Broadway show I’ve ever seen. Shocking, right? I kind of have felt like a musical theatre fraud for most of my life, until now. I like that this is my first show, though! Michael Arden’s genius is setting the bar so high. Off to another two-show preview day! Missing you all so much. COME TO NEW YORK!

All my love,

Rachel

Nightly Stage Door views.
Nightly Stage Door views.

Song Stories – Hanson Day 2015

Song Stories – Hanson Day 2015
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Me in the hot seat, chatting with Taylor. (Photo credit: Zac Hanson, @hansonmusic.)

Alright, alright, alright! So, this year’s journey down to Tulsa, Oklahoma for Hanson Day 2015 was certainly one for the books. I’ve been asked to share this story quite a few times by now, so I thought maybe maybe I should just blog about it. I am such a sporadic blogger and it’s one of my goals to become more consistent. So, here’s another attempt!

Those who know me well: you are well aware of the fact that Hanson is my all-time favorite, do-anything-for bands. I only have one – and I proudly and excitedly see them every single time they’re in Minneapolis and it’s a great time. When they don’t come through town during the year, I then can totally justify making plans to trek down to Tulsa (their hometown) for their annual Hanson Day /Hop Jam weekend. (It just so happens that I also have part of my Mom’s side of the family in Tulsa, so driving 10 hours to Oklahoma so doesn’t faze me anymore.) Tulsa has always felt like home to me, in a way – so I really really look forward to it! For the record, Hanson does fan appreciation SO WELL. I have not heard of any other artist or band who willingly hosts hundreds of fans in their hometown and wants to hang out with them for more than just an evening of music. This entire experience has quickly become one of my favorite traditions to do with some of my very best friends.

One of the unique parts about the Hanson Day weekend experience is that we get to interact with the band in a way so vastly different than the typical concert experience would let us. Lectures, for example, are one of the weekend’s highlights – and they are by far, one of my personal favorite moments. Each brother takes the stage and walks us through different behind-the-scene looks into their musical expertise. This year, Isaac showed us rare, stripped down elements from their second studio album, This Time Around. Zac recorded a brand-new song in its entirety, inspired by questions he polled us on online. And finally, Taylor asked for fans to send in stories of Hanson songs that inspired their life the most – while also sharing with us how those songs came to be. Halfway through reading the description for Taylor’s lecture, I already knew what song I would write about. Here’s my submission below. (The 300-word limit was so restricting!)

Middle of Nowhere was the first CD I ever owned. It literally lived in my Walkman for the entirety of 1st grade. MON was also my introduction to the music world. I grew up with Deaf parents and happened to be the first of three hearing kids in our family. I never grew up listening to oldies, or inherited any real sense of music appreciation. All I knew about music came straight from Disney, until MMMBop. (Later on I learned that we lived right down the street from Prince’s Paisley Park studios – another life changing musical experience in its own.)

On MON, With You In Your Dreams always struck me as one of the most heartfelt songs. While at six, I had yet to learn the devastating pain of loss – there was a part of me that understood that loss was inevitable, that this song would one day relate. At 22, this song ended up being the only song that I could let myself listen to after my Dad lost his battle with Multiple Myeloma cancer. All other songs about loss had wrecked me so much, that I started to avoid them all together. However, WYIYD felt different because the lyrics so beautifully addressed that never-ending question of “What would my loved one want me to know right now, while this loss is overwhelming me?” It speaks from the narrative of the one who has passed and is paired so wisely with such an uplifting, driving rhythm. And the gospel! “I’m not sleeping an endless sleep” is such a brilliant line. It is exactly what one needs to remember while riding out the sadness. I am honored to have Hanson be my introduction to music and to have learned from you just how healing music can be. Thank you!

So! I submitted that brief story a month before we headed down to Tulsa, and we actually arrived that Friday right before lectures started. (We chose to forego the Meet & Greet line to see the Bonnie & Clyde Hideout Apartment in Joplin, the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, and a very necessary photo op with the Blue Whale in Catoosa. #worthit).

We arrived at the lectures and we already were starting to get a little bit hangry (we totally forgot to eat lunch). Taylor’s lecture ended up being the first of the three, so I forced myself to not think hungry thoughts and focus on possibly going onstage, remaining composed and normal, etc. Ha! Taylor started to call people up to share their stories and before I knew it – we were already about halfway through the lecture. I then started to joke with Katie and Kallie that this whole waiting-to-hear-who-was-next process was good practice for my Tony Nominee face – politely smiling, clapping, and keeping your cool – and as I was excessively gesturing all of this to them, Taylor announced my name. I immediately yelled something unintelligible, and then somehow started to make my way to the stage. (All the while, Katie and Kallie are totally freaking out behind me. Please imagine what Katie’s voice would sound like right now, because it was the most hilarious thing and I can’t recreate it.) I got about halfway to the stage, then realized Zac was crouched down on the floor, taking pictures on his phone, and I forced myself to be like “oh cool okay hi you’re there taking photos that’s not at all something that would arise any kind of reaction from me wait actually this is a really bad angle please no pictures sir byeeeee” and then made my way up this ramp with actually the most absurd incline I’ve ever seen, to the stage. Taylor gave everybody hugs when they got onstage because he’s great, and then we began the most high-profile interview of my 24 years. Ha!

Taylor asked me to introduce myself, where I was from – and he told us that Minneapolis was home to some of their loudest crowds (hey-oh!). We then got right into talking about With You In Your Dreams. I tried to glance over to my story that he had printed out, then realized that so much of it was bolded (!) and I tried to quick gauge what he wanted me to cover. Ha! Honestly – I don’t remember all that I shared onstage because a) I was really working hard to be calm, cool, and collected b) remember the points I made in my story c) I WAS HANGRY! d) Taylor’s face was really close to me. I am not used to that.

I shared how I first heard the song when I was about six or seven, and how it ended up truly impacting my life when I was 22, when I was struggling to be okay with the loss of my Dad. There are really very few things I remember from being six years old, and the emotional impact of this song is absolutely one of them. It would take 16 years for me to understand why this song impacted me in this profound way – but I always seemed to have this understanding as a child that I was going to understand deep loss, and that, I don’t know – these words Hanson put to music might help. The phrase “I’m not sleeping an endless sleep” is probably the most profound lyric in the entire song, and I got to share that with Taylor. I didn’t really feel like coming right out and saying “Hey! I’m a Christian, too! Heaven! Jesus! That’s why I love this song!” so sharing it in that way felt a little more subtle. I also really tried to be intentional in acknowledging that I was absolutely not the only person in the room who understood loss, and I wanted everyone else to feel included in the conversation. There were easily 500+ people in Cain’s at that moment – I felt a little intimidated by 500+ perceptions of what I was talking about, and wanted to make sure that I recognized all other memories of loss, as well.

Oh, and I also kept unintentionally making Hanson puns while I was talking (“This time around?” HONESTLY RACHEL? I’m not even a pun person!) so that was unexpected. Kallie pointed out that Taylor segued into talking about Dad being Deaf so flawlessly and I have to agree. “Was music something that you and your Dad bonded over?” Ha! I got to talk a little bit about how Hanson was my first independent music choice I made and how they became the foundation for my musical appreciation. Taylor shared a little bit of the perspective behind why and how they wrote this song (they wrote it for their Grandmother), and he told us that he wrote it when he was only 11 years old, and actually woke up in the middle of the night and just knew that he needed to write what would later become this song. Wow.

A few more stories were shared after mine, and THEN a keyboard was being brought out for Taylor and he joked about how this wouldn’t be complete without a performance. I recognized With You In Your Dreams from the first chord and just got to watch Taylor play the song from onstage. (I kept trying to decide what to do with myself: clap my hands? Sing along? Sway back and forth? Not cry?! Don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry.) Taylor looked over towards my direction during my favorite lyric, and BAM – my entire weekend was made.

While I somehow managed to get through that entire experience smoothly – I later realized that I completely forgot to verbalize why the words in WYIYD were so profound to me now. Gosh! I really do this all the time – just because I acknowledge something in my head, does not always mean that I have said it out loud and that people get it, too. Or maybe I was unintentionally protecting myself from getting too emotional onstage? Who knows! The reason why these lyrics brought so much peace to me at 22, after my Dad had passed away during the summer of 2013, was because I never actually had a conversation with my Dad about how I was to rebuild my life after we lost him. I felt lost for a long time last year over this.

The doctors gave us a final prediction of two months left of Dad’s life, back in May of 2013. We had time to plan a Celebration of Life gathering, and had weeks of Dad’s continual presence to enjoy – so that seemed to be all we did. We never sat down as a family to talk about how to live in the months following his passing, because all we could focus on was the fact that Dad was so happy, so absolutely full of life – I don’t think that we wanted to interrupt a single moment of it by talking about the end. His steroids were giving him incredible stamina and energy, he was going for bike rides, still going to work every day – everything seemed to be “okay”. Then in what now feels like the blink of an eye, his health began to plummet. I ended up making the call of bringing him in to the E.R. for the last time towards the end of July and that was actually really emotional because everything changed from there. At that point, he could hardly communicate about his pain level. Signing was laborious. We ended up only being able to make sense of his emotional expressions, very brief fingerspelling or direct commands for his comfort. It was hard for him to stay alert longer than it would take for us to check-in about how he was feeling, so that became all we really had time to talk about and had no choice but to learn to be okay with the unanswered questions as we transitioned into hospice care. He passed very peacefully in the early morning, while we were all sleeping – so  the lyric “If I’m gone when you wake up, please don’t cry” holds great significance for me, as well.

My friends reading this are familiar with my Dad’s journey, but for the Hanson fans and others who aren’t – this period of my life was hell for more than the obvious reason. Dad was Deaf and we struggled a lot in the hospital with appropriate care for terminally ill Deaf patients. I had to translate the final message from my Dad’s doctor, look him in the eyes and tell him he was dying, because we couldn’t track down an interpreter fast enough. I think we all worked hard to protect him as much as we could during this last phase in his life, while forgetting to think about what we would do after this was past. The pain that still trips me up is the pain I have from not having the chance to know what Dad would have told me to do at this point in my life.

The last thing Dad and I ever signed to each other was the I Love You sign. It’s forever engrained in my mind. But for all the unanswered questions I had left in my head, mainly “how am I supposed to move past the emptiness you leave behind?” – this 1997 Hanson song ended up being the exact comfort that I was so desperately searching for. I needed to hear something from the perspective of the one I lost. (None of that Coldplay “Fix You” crap. That song wrecks me.) Relating to this song from my childhood felt like coming home in more ways than just one. Here’s a clip of them performing it in 2003 (oh my gosh -13 years ago). I’ll include lyrics below for Deaf/HH.

If I’m gone when you wake up
Please don’t cry
And if I’m gone when you wake up
It’s not goodbye
Don’t look back at this time as a time
Of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
‘Cause I’ll be with you in your dreams
Oh I’ll be with you, oh oh

But If I’m gone when you wake up
Please don’t cry
And if I’m gone when you wake up
Don’t ask why
Don’t look back at this time
As a time of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
‘Cause I’ll be with you in your dreams

Oh oh

Don’t cry, I’m with you
Don’t cry, I’m by your side
Don’t cry, I’m with you
Don’t cry, I’m by your side

And though my flesh is gone, whoa
I’ll still be with you at all times
And although my body’s gone, oh
I’ll be there to comfort you at all times

Oh oh

But If I’m gone when you wake up
Please don’t cry
And if I’m gone when you wake up
Don’t ask why
Don’t look back at this time
As a time of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
‘Cause I’ll be with you
I’ll be with you in your dreams

Oh, I’ll be with you
Oh
I’ll be with you in your dreams
I’ll be with you
I’ll be with you

I don’t want you to cry and weep, oh
I want you to go on living your life
I’m not sleeping an endless sleep, oh
‘Cause in your heart
You have all of our good times
Oh, all of our good times
Oh oh you have

And if I’m gone when you wake up
Don’t ask why
Don’t look back at this time
As a time of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
‘Cause I’ll be with you in your dreams

Oh
I’ll be with you in your dreams
I’ll be with you
Oh
I’ll be with you
I’ll be with you in your dreams
I’ll be with you in your dreams…

So, yeah. That’s my Song Story! Later that night at our hotel, a fellow fan called me a “Hanson Celebrity” (lol, I wish). In the Hanson Store, they even had a t-shirt with the WYIYD lyrics on it, and by the time I managed to drag Katie & Kallie there stop by – they only had my size left in stock. What! I was pretty over the moon about that! Gosh. These guys!

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I am fully aware that not everyone gets the chance to share with their all-time favorite artist how something they created impacted their life. The awe of it all probably won’t ever wear off, but man! I am so lucky to have had this band with me all this time, to have found healing through their music, and to have had them turn out to be the very conscious and grateful artists that they are now.

I’m always going to remain a little tripped up over never really having the conversation I wished I could have had with my Dad – that’s never going to go away. But at least I’ve started to create a way to redirect those feelings of despair and regret and reflect back on what I know to be truth: he is forever safe and secure and the absolute farthest away from pain. He is not sleeping an endless sleep, and he is always with me. These lyrics really help me remember.

Thank you, Hanson. You are the real deal – but I’ve always known this. Thank you for the outlet, thank you for the musical comfort, and thank you for the opportunity to share something like this with you and the rest of the Hanson community.

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On losing Dads

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I know this is straying a bit from my typical Deaf culture blogging, but this particular issue has been tugging on my heart for months and months now. I wanted to find a way to articulate it properly and delicately, and I wanted to put it somewhere intentional, but I think here will do just fine. I write best on here, anyways.

New Years Eve marked five whole months of being here without Dad. I almost feel like it should feel longer than that, because those five months have truly taken their toll on the four of us. It’s been a long journey. Being the oldest, I’ve had to step in so much more than I had initially realized I would have to – and while I do my best to step in where I can, it’s become quite tiresome, juggling my family life at home, and trying to keep up with my young adult life, as well. Dad was a massive, massive part of our family – he played so many roles in our home, it’s been almost impossible to try and fill in his shoes. There are still so many things that I don’t know how to do (like fix cars or file for taxes), but I’m doing my best. Finding my way through this (immense) sadness is never-ending. I’m very tired, yet still finding myself thankful for all that God continues to show me and bless me with, despite the mounting pain that I’ve come to realize, will never find a way out of my heart. So much of this excruciating pain, I face on my own, with just the quiet and steady promise of the Lord by my side. I have seen so much and I feel like I have aged at least ten years these past five months. I’m very much so a different girl than I was before, when I had both parents.

But what I’ve been finding myself hurting the most over lately, is the lack of acknowledgement that I get from the friends around me. (Side-note: Friends currently reading this – I obviously still love you all very very much, and am very thankful for your continual presence in my life. This is just my reaction to a very normal and expected part of grief and loss, and I hope this can help show you where I’m at.) Over these past months of post-Dad life, I’ve seen many of my friends in various social settings, and while it’s been great to see and connect with those I love, I’m getting real exhausted with the continual lack of acknowledgment for what I’m currently living though. People don’t ask me how I am doing with losing my Dad. They treat me as if nothing had ever happened, while I feel like I visibly walk around with half of my heart. And for lack of a better phrase, it really, really sucks.

For example, last week I was out with some friends of mine; one in particular was a face we hadn’t seen in a long while, so we had lots to catch up about. While I was eager to hear all that she had been up to, it became increasingly apparent that I was just there to listen. So I listened. Story after story after story, and I tried to keep the smile on my face as pleasant as I could. I only was able to bring up my past semester at school as a piggyback comment of someone else’s story, and lo and behold, not a single word was uttered about my Dad. This certainly is not the first time that my pain has been so blatantly ignored, but I’m getting to the point where I just don’t care to invest in these kind of surface level friendships anymore. What good is it to have friends who won’t meet you in the ugly and painful places, as well?

I understand that it’s hard to try to figure out if bringing up sad situations would make things harder or better for a person – I totally get that, and I’m sure I’ve not always handled those situations well in the past with other people. However, avoiding it all together is not the best solution. And I would hope my friends would know me well enough to know that I am very much so an open book (I seriously do not have a problem answering anything and everything someone would want to know about me.) If I ever do start to feel uncomfortable, I’ll let you know! I really think it’s best to risk feeling “uncomfortable” for a few seconds to check in on a certain area of someone’s life. I am a verbal processor, so it is immensely helpful for me to be able to talk things out, hear words of affirmation, and just be heard by someone.

There’s a scene from Grey’s Anatomy that I have probably watched a hundred times by now, that beautifully captures this alternate reality I’ve been living in lately. George’s line makes me cry every time. I’ll provide a transcript for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, below.

Cristina: There’s a club. The dead dad’s club, and you can’t be in it until you’re in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize, but until you feel that loss… My dad died when I was nine. George, I’m really sorry you had to join the club.

George: I, I don’t know how to exist in a world where my Dad doesn’t.

Cristina: Yeah. That really never changes.

So, yeah. I understand that not many people can understand my reality, not until they truly experience the loss of a parent themselves. There really is a Dead Dad’s Club and you really can’t be in it until you’re in it. And it’s the club that you really don’t ever want to wish upon someone else. I’m writing this post because I just wanted a way to let people know that the silence hurts, and that despite what may be a considerate and polite gesture on your end, really does not do much to help me feel understood in my pain, my confusion, and my journey. You may not yet fully understand how I feel, but someday you will. And you’ll want to be understood, too.

I’m getting faster at realizing who does genuinely care about what my life has looked like these past few months, and those who were only there to say “I’m sorry” and nothing more. I can honestly say I’ve felt so much more feeling these past five months than in my entire 22 years of existence. And it hurts. It hurts because these people mean something to me, but I can’t keep choosing to invest in them, if I feel ten times more empty when I’m around them. It is very much a two-way street, and perhaps the reason that I keep seeing this happen in my life is a sign that I need to find a better way to address this. That I should stop worrying about interrupting fun, upbeat reunions with friends, and just be willing to let people know that I want to talk about it. That it is cathartic for me to talk about what I’ve lost, the new responsibilities I have been taking on, and what I’m still scared about. This is a start. I also hope that this can offer help or understanding to those who may be walking similar paths to mine. I so get how you feel, and you are not alone in this. It’s a weird balance of finding what works best for you in reconstructing your life. Right now, I’m really just wanting more people to ask me how I am doing without my Dad. That’s all. I don’t need magic words to make the pain go away – I am not afraid of the pain. Just tell me that you want to hear about it from time to time.

Mary’s “Aha” Moment

“Mary started a non-profit to teach other Deaf people the skills and confidence they need so they can pursue their dreams.”

I was watching TV awhile back while wasting time on Facebook/Pinterest/etc and realized that the TV had gone completely silent. At first, I thought there must have been some sort of glitch, but when I looked up, I noticed she was signing! It’s short and simple, but man does it pack a whole lotta meaning in there.

Hi, I’m Rachel, and I’m a CODA.

*CODA = child of Deaf adults.

I decided to start writing, mainly because I couldn’t quite find a blog post or article that articulated my exact thoughts on the matter. So I’m writing my own, and I can already tell it’s going to spiral into something bigger. Oops. (But for those of you who know me, are you at all surprised?).

If you’re reading this and you consider yourself one of my friends, then I’m quite sure you already knew this about me – that I grew up with Deaf parents. But I’m not quite sure many of you really understand (or want to understand) the great divide between the hearing world and the Deaf world today. It’s a real thing. It’s an ugly thing. You may have seen it first-hand, and you might have been completely oblivious to it. Either way, I urge you to learn about it. As of late, I have been finding myself getting (really) riled up about the things I grew up seeing, still see, and will continue to see (and hear) about the Deaf community. I got so riled up once, that I seriously considered marching into a gas station, demanding to know why they weren’t making their overhead announcements accessible to those who couldn’t hear, after my Dad had been having trouble using his card at the gas pump. The world we live in is such a hearing dominated world, with some to little consideration given to making all places, events, programs, services accessible for all people. Having grown up listening for three people, I began to see the injustice at an early age. And once you start seeing it, you can’t stop seeing it. This kind of injustice ranges from some pretty minor occurrences (having the waiter assume Mom & Dad are hearing and immediately rambling off the daily specials on the menu) to some pretty offensive situations (assuming a terminally ill Deaf patient in chronic cancer pain will be able to communicate just fine with the overnight hearing nurses in a hospital). I’ve grown up seeing these injustices left and right, and I was most definitely given the heart to seek them out and right it. They’ve been a part of me for as long as I can remember, but as I sit in my first semester of Interpreting school, I’ve been able to solidify how I really feel about them.

I’m the oldest of three hearing children. American Sign Language was my first language, followed by English soon after. I had no issues with learning how to speak, and actually advanced in reading a lot faster than peers my age. Contrary to popular belief, ASL is not signed English. It is it’s own language, with it’s own grammar, rules, and order. Apart from the fact that they cannot use their ears to hear sound, Deaf people function like completely normal people. They use videophones or old-school TTY’s to communicate on the phone, they text, they read, they write, they watch television with Closed Captioning, they work, they learn, and they DO whatever it is they want to do. Unfortunately, I was the first family member to have been able to communicate with my parents in sign. Neither Mom nor Dad had family members who learned how to sign for them. While my parents somewhat accepted it in their lives, it completely shatters my heart. I understand that there were some controversial educational theories during the time that my parents grew up (oral methods of teaching Deaf children vs. Deaf schools), but still. I cannot understand why there wasn’t a single person on either side that didn’t want to learn for my Mom and for my Dad. Instead, they were expected to learn how to communicate on the terms of the Hearing world, in some cases – as well as other hearing people.

I grew up being the designated (and often over-used) interpreter for Mom & Dad. Although there were definitely times that I complained (because there most certainly were days I did), I now cherish the fact that I can. That I have the skill and ability to do so. Now, at 22, I’m finding it hard to transition out of this full-time position. My adult life is taking off! I just recently led my Dad through his final days of needing interpretation at an age much younger than I would have ever guessed, and I was completely floored at how uneducated a hospital in 2013 was about Deaf patients. It led me to the point of refusing to leave him alone overnight, because I knew he wouldn’t have complete access to communication, which was very upsetting. I’m actually drafting up a (polite) letter to this same hospital, because what we experienced should not be considered okay and should not be allowed to keep happening. I’ll touch more of this in a future blog post, because it is just so extensive, emotionally exhausting, and upsetting.

So now, I’m listening for two. All I have left to focus my designated, first-born CODA interpreting on is my Mom. This is all I have known for the past 22 years – to be that set of ears and that set of hands. And yes, I do still have younger siblings at home, who are more than capable – but it’s still confusing and challenging to partially step down from this full-time position. There are times where I get scared about my mom living alone without her permanent interpreter. And it’s because I feel the world still doesn’t quite get what being Deaf is. So, I’m making it my mission to educate, to get the conversation going, and to spark change – starting with those around me, and then spreading it out as far beyond as I can get.

Join the conversation? All questions and comments are fair-game.