Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hunger Games Holiday Spoof Song

by Carolee Dean

G             Em                      Bm7  
Rabbits roasting on an open fire.
G             Em                     C    D
Tributes shooting from the rear.
G          Bm7            Em               D                                           
Mockingjays singing songs like a choir.
Bm7               C          D
Kids dressed up in combat gear. 
                   G                  Em                      Bm7      
Everybody knows some arrows and a few berries,
       G               Em                     C     
are what you need to win this fight.
    G             Bm7                  Em         D
But Mutant mutts with their eyes all aglow,
C                       Bm7  G
make it hard to sleep tonight.

                            F                                      G
You hope that medicine and soup is on its way,
                F                                                    G
and that Haymitch didn't drink the sponsors pay.
                 Bm7              C                               G
Though probably he's passed out now and sleeping,
              A                                               D
This happens every time that there’s a reaping

        G         Em               Bm7      
And so I'm offering this simple tale,
                            Em                      C         
about a bunch of kids with bad behavior.
                           Bm7          Em               D
Though its been said many times many ways,
                  C                       D     G
“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

I was cleaning out some old files and found this spoof on the young adult novel, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins that I wrote, complete with guitar chords) for a SCBWI (Society of Chidren's Book Writers and Illustrators) holiday party a few years back. We held the  party at Alamosa Books in Albuquerque, NM. It's one of my all time favorite independent bookstores. It has closed since then but the song brings back fond memories of all of my dear SCBWI-New Mexico friends. Does anyone remember being there? Stay tuned next week for more holiday spoofs.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

HELP WITH HEARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS: 7 Tips for Being a Better Listener

In last week’s post, I talked about Tips for Communicating with your Hard of Hearing Relatives and Friendsbut what if YOU are the one who is hard of hearing (at least some of the time)?

If you are over 18 years of age, there is a 15% chance that you have some degree of difficulty with your hearing according to The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDOCD). The risk of suffering “disabling hearing loss” increases as you age. The prevalence is 2% for ages 45-54, 8.5% for 55-64, 25% for 65-74 and 50% for 75 and older. However, in the age group of 20-69, only 16% of people who might benefit from hearing aids have ever used them at all. 

With those statistics in mind, my first suggestions for being a better listener is to get your hearing tested.

TIP #1 - Get Your Hearing Tested by an ASHA Certified Audiologist 

If you suspect that you might have a hearing loss, get your hearing tested as soon as possible. A study conducted by John Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging showed that the brain naturally tends to shrink with age, but those with hearing loss appear to suffer more brain shrinkage and also more dementia. The “impoverished” auditory center may be shrinking due to lack of stimulation. Because of this, Frank Lin, MD, Ph.D, advocates for getting your hearing tested early.  “You want to do it sooner rather than later. If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we're seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place."

An audiologist can do more than just test your hearing. Many offer Aural Rehabilitation Strategies. These will help you make the most of your hearing whether you use hearing aids or not. I have outlined a few of these strategies below but you may find more at the ASHA page for Adult Aural/Audiologic Rehabilitation.

Note - I'm a speech-language pathologist, not an audiologist. This post contains tips from ASHA but also my personal observations. If you have concerns about your hearing, contact ASHA to find a certified audiologist near you.

TIP #2 - Learn to Watch Faces for Visual Cues

Formal speechreading training teaches you how the lips form speech sounds but you can learn a lot by simply watching people’s lips and becoming more aware of the difference between words like cat/cab, pit/pig, ham/hand. Facial expression and gestures also help us know if someone is “mad” or “glad.”

TIP #3 - Tell People What You Need and Be Specific

Simply telling someone that you can’t hear them may not help them be a better communicator. They will probably just talk louder or even yell. Being specific gives them a productive strategy to focus on. My husband frequently reminds me, “If you can’t see me, I can’t hear you,” because I have a tendency to start conversations from another room or with my back turned. “Could you slow down? I don’t want to miss what you’re saying,” is something else you could say. You may want to talk with your friends and family members about a catch phrase that will help “gently” remind them of your hearing difficulties. 

TIP #4 - Ask the Speaker to REPHRASE vs. Repeat

If you have asked someone to repeat themselves and you still don’t understand them, ask instead, “Could you say that a different way,” or “Could you rephrase that?” There are many reasons why rephrasing may be better than repeating which I discussed at length in last week’s post.

In addition, it helps the speaker if you let them know specifically what you missed. Having spent many years in classrooms, I know how frustrating it is for a teacher to give ten minutes of directions and then have a student say, “What?” or “Huh?” The student may have actually heard most of the instructions and really only needs one small part repeated. “What page did you say the assignment was on?” or “What book did you say we are reading next week?” Likewise, in a conversation with family or friends, instead of asking them to repeat everything, try to get them to fill in the blanks. “Who did you say was in the hospital?” or “What was it you wanted me to bring for dinner?”

Be especially cautious about contractions, words like “can’t, don’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.” Many people soften the final /t/ sound so much that it can’t be heard. Clarify with questions like, “Did you say you can watch my dog or you can NOT watch my dog?” or “Did you say I should try Aunt Rita’s cheese casserole or I should NOT?” These small distinctions may save you from getting food poisoning or missing Christmas dinner altogether because you did NOT get a dog sitter and DID miss your flight to Texas.

TIP #5 - Watch Where You Sit

In your own home you can rearrange the furniture and the lighting to better see the faces of those you are talking to, but if you are in someone else’s home, you may want to ask to sit at the end of the table so you don’t have conversation coming at you from every direction. When you are eating out,  you may want to ask for a quiet table in a corner or ask to sit with a wall behind you. Carpet also tends to absorb background noise, so if you have a choice of rooms or restaurants, consider that as well.

TIP #6 - Educate Your Friends and Family

Be open about your hearing difficulties. Share my post from last week with friends and family by emailing the link or posting on Facebook. This may help you open up an honest conversation about your frustration and theirs. Talk about strategies that will help you hear them better. Tell them that you will be giving them gentle reminders about what is helpful to you because your relationship is important and you value what they have to say. Some audiologist provide recordings that simulate hearing loss. Sharing these with family and friends can be an eye opener as well as a conversation starter.

TIP #7- Be Kind to One Another

Above all, remember that communication breakdowns are difficult on everyone involved, not just the speaker...not just the listener. We are all bound to make mistakes in this area, but love covers a multitude of these errors.

Your family members may seem insensitive to your challenges and perhaps even uncaring, but if you assume good will, your remarks will come off as gentle reminders instead of rebukes. You are helping to educate them about your difficulties, not shame them for being a poor speaker (even if they are). Phrases like, “Why does everyone your age have to mumble?” are probably not going to help them know how to speak to you more effectively, but gentle and specific suggestions made with a smile will go a long way.

As for one additional tip for the SPEAKER, someone with a hearing impairment made a suggestion on last week’s post that I think is worth sharing. 

“Please try to be patient, although I understand that it's annoying to deal with someone who isn't all together tuned in. And please don't ask with that edge in your voice, DO YOU HAVE YOUR HEARING AIDS IN??? This question sounds/feels more of an accusation than a genuine query.” 

Patience and kindness go a log way. Communication is about Connection!