Image Credits: Amazon
When Amanda McDonough was four, she was diagnosed with mild hearing loss. Her hearing loss didn’t require any special treatment – yet and Amanda made it clear to her parents that she did not want to be treated any differently. Furthermore, Amanda begged her parents to keep her hearing loss a secret.
As Amanda grew older, her hearing loss continued to gradually decline, making conversations more and more difficult for her to hear and her secret harder to keep. By the time Amanda was seven her hearing loss required her to use hearing aids, but that didn’t stop Amanda from trying to keep her hearing loss a secret. Amanda would wear her hearing aids to please her parents, but the minute she arrived at school she would toss her hearing aids in her backpack, ashamed that they would reveal her diagnosis to her friends and other classmates. She tried her best to get by in the hearing world, the only world she knew at the time, with her hearing loss. She did not yet know that Deaf culture and American Sign Language was an alternative option.
When Amanda was in her early 20’s, after contracting an illness she woke up from a deep sleep to the realization that she was now profoundly deaf. All her life she had feared becoming deaf, but when she finally did become deaf, she felt a sense of relief. McDonough stated, “At first, I panicked. I tried knocking loudly on things. I tried yelling. I tried hearing anything. But it was all gone. I sat down at the edge of my bed, staring at my reflection in my full-length mirror as the sun came up in the window behind me, and to my surprise, the young woman looking back at me smiled. I suddenly was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of relief. I was deaf, and I was relieved.”
It was at this moment that Amanda claims to have accepted her deafness, yet she still strived to operate in the hearing world that she has always known. This is why a few years later she opted for cochlear implant surgery in hopes or regaining some of her hearing back. While the cochlear implants helped her to be aware of her surroundings and worked as a tool for her to navigate the world of sound, it still wasn’t the cure for deafness that she had hoped for it to be. Amanda still found herself struggling to get by in the hearing world, so she turned to Deaf culture hoping that she’d be able to better fit in there.
Up until this point Amanda’s only exposure to Deaf culture was through working as a background actor on the set of Switched at Birth. She had taken some American Sign Language courses in high school and observed some of the other castmates signing, but she was nowhere near fluent. She wasn’t a perfect match for the Deaf community either. By the end of the novel Amanda seems to have accepted that she will always be in between both worlds. Instead of striving to be a perfect match for the hearing world or a perfect match for Deaf culture, she lets her guard down and focuses on simply being herself and striving to use her voice to make life better for those with hearing loss no matter which world they belong to — the hearing one or the Deaf one.
Amanda McDonough has a captivating story; there aren’t many memoirs out there about deaf women, let alone deaf actresses. I was initially drawn to her story since I saw so much of myself in her. While I am not, have not, nor ever will be an actress, I still am a bilateral cochlear implant recipient and I’ve faced many of the same struggles and challenges in life that Amanda has faced. However, despite having this knowledge and knowing that I should relate to her story, I had a difficult time connecting and engaging with it.
Ready to Be Heard was self-published through Balboa Press. Amanda did an amazing job designing the cover and marketing her book to make it appear professional and credible, but unfortunately the poor writing gives away the fact that the book has been self-published. From the beginning of the book with the opening scenes focusing on Amanda’s birth readers know they will be in for a long ride. Amanda had an interesting story to tell, but she muddles it with unnecessary details including these very scenes. She continues this trend throughout the book by telling readers about every boy she’s ever dated (most of which she never gives names to), and every small and at times completely insignificant detail about her life in a linear fashion from birth to her present day. The result is a story that drags in many places and becomes slow to read, despite it only coming to a total of 232 pages.
Furthermore, Amanda positions herself as a distant narrator by using no dialogue throughout the novel and little to no scenes. She becomes the annoying friend who never seems to come up for air as she tells us everything about her life, without ever actually painting a picture for us to see the action taking place. For example, we are told that she struggled to hear her friends and to maintain her friendships in grade school once her mild hearing loss began to gradually decline. However, we are never actually shown what this looks like. We don’t get to watch Amanda struggle to hear her teachers and friends or to see her being left out from clubs or activities. We as readers are left to do the guest work on our own, which makes it difficult for us to truly get inside Amanda’s head and to feel any kind of sympathy for her.
As a fellow cochlear implant recipient, I also had a hard time believing everything that Amanda said, specifically in relations to her cochlear implants. I got the impression that Amanda was retelling information that was told to her, but that she never actually took the time to fact check. One of the biggest mistakes that Amanda makes in telling her story is explaining to readers that her internal cochlear implant was implanted into her skull. This information is not only untrue, but something I found to be widely offensive to anyone who has a cochlear implant. Often times audiologists will lie to patients who may be considering cochlear implants by telling them that the procedure is dangerous and involves brain surgery. This is a lie that I was told for most of my life and one of the main reasons why I held off from getting cochlear implants for so long. Once I got older and was told the truth I realized that I had been lied to for most of my life. The internal piece is never inserted in the skull; it’s placed under the skin behind the ear. The reason why audiologists lie about this is because they don’t want their patients to get implanted, they want their patients to continue to wear and purchase hearing aids so that they can make money off of them. Telling patients that cochlear implants are placed in the skull is a scare tactic that they use to discourage them from getting the procedure. After reading this false information I found it difficult to trust or like Amanda as a narrator; her inaccuracies caused me to shut down as a reader.
Yet, despite all of the flaws with Ready to be Heard, I still see potential. I think that the biggest issue now is that Amanda was so excited to tell her story that perhaps she rushed to publish it before it was ready. My biggest piece of advice to Amanda would be to hire an editor and do a full revision and then republish it as an updated (and improved) new edition. The things that Amanda should focus on the most in her next version are creating scenes (showing readers things rather than just telling them what happens), cutting unnecessary details (we don’t need to know about every single man she’s ever dated on how her parents decided to name her Amanda), adding in dialogue (this may require Amanda to do more research and interview people including her parents, former teachers, and former doctors), and working to clean up some of her California slang so that the book reads more naturally and smoothly.
As it is, Ready to Be Heard is a good story that simply hasn’t been told well. I would give it 2 out of 5 stars with hopes that one day it will be republished and all of the writing flaws corrected.
Hey guys! Happy Monday! So I haven’t had time to write in a couple of days (big shock there…). My sister’s birthday was on Saturday so I’ve been pretty tied up with that. I left off on day 12 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge and it’s a fun one! For day 12 I’m instructed to write about two words/phrases that make me laugh and why.
The first two words that come to mind are “squeak” and “honeydew”.
Now, these seem like two completely different words. “Squeak” is a noise that a rubber duck makes (and precisely how I discovered I am kind of obsessed with that sound…more on that in a sec). Honeydew is a fruit. However, when applied to my life, these two different words have way more in common than you’d think.
I’ll start first with “squeak”. I never had an opinion of this word until right after receiving my first cochlear implant in December of 2014. If you follow my other blog, Confessions of a Def Deaf Girl, you might remember that one of the first places I went with my cochlear implant after being activated was Smithville with my boyfriend at the time, Larry. When we went there, we got these crazy rubber ducks out of a machine. When I squeezed it and heard it the first time I thought it sounded hilarious and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was a sound I never heard before and it brought me such child-like wonder, amazement, and above all else, amusement. The only thing that was more amusing to me than hearing the actual rubber ducks “squeak” was hearing the word “squeak”. “SQUEAKKKKKKKK”. I like to say this word VERY loudly and stretch out each and every syllable. When I do this, I usually end up dying of laughter and everyone looks at me really weird. I know that it probably doesn’t make much sense to most people and most people won’t understand what’s so funny about this word. You have to be deaf to get it, and deaf in a certain frequency (high frequency) at that. “Squeak” is a high-frequency sounding word. I never heard it the way it’s supposed to sound until after I got activated and it sounded funny to me and it was so much fun to say. “SQUEAKKKKKKKKKKKKK”. Yup, still hilarious. Still fun to say.
The other word that I’m kind of obsessed with is “honeydew”. This is a newer word obsession, although I’ve been obsessed with the fruit for a long time and when it’s in season, I typically eat a whole honeydew or two myself per week. I didn’t realize this until I went bilateral, but honeydew is a funny word, too. I love the way those syllables roll of my tongue and the sounds they all make together. Honeydew! I think it might have something to do with the “eeee” sound in honey and then the “ewww” or maybe the w” in “dew”. “EEEE” is high frequency and likely not a sound I heard fully in the past. I noticed as I worked to train my right ear after going bilateral that “W” sounds are a challenge to me. I think I’ve gotten much better with them (which would explain why this is a recent discovery for me), but it’s something I couldn’t hear right in the past. Now that I can hear “honeydew” correctly, it sounds funny to me. It sounds strange. Imagine all of the common everyday words in your life. Now try to imagine hearing those words for the very first time — some of them probably sound strange, right? That’s exactly how it is for me. It’s like when a baby hears a sound for the first time they might laugh and smile in amusement by it. That’s exactly how it is for me, too. I’m in wonder and awe at these new sounds. Also, “honeydew” sounds a lot like “how you do?”. I tried to make a joke based on this. It went something like:
Q: What’s a melon’s favorite greeting?
I’m the only one (other than my sister who will laugh at anything) that understood the joke or found it funny (let alone, hilarious), but oh well. I’ll amuse myself if no one else haha.
For me, words are funny because of the way they sound because many of these words I’ve been familiar with and have read or known of my entire life, but are just now hearing and discovering the sounds of for the very first times. I have been amazed almost every single day of my life since having my first cochlear implant activated by the sounds of words. I have always loved words and been an avid reader and writer. There are many words I’ve discovered from reading and writing, but never hear them. I have my own ideas on how to pronounce them or how they should sound, and then when I hear them for the first time it ends up being totally different and it just blows my mind and makes me laugh. Many times I argue that “my way is better so I’m just going to keep pronouncing it wrong!”.
“Squeak” and “honeydew” are my current word obsessions, but I’m sure that as I continue to progress with my cochlear implants and make more word discoveries, there will be many, many more to add onto that ever-growing list.
So…writing about pineapples was pretty fun yesterday. Today’s topic? Much less than fun, though I’m betting I’ll have a better click through rate (CTR) on it. People apparently don’t care to read that much about my hatred of pineapples (their loss!), but always seem to be interested in relationship drama, or the lack thereof because ‘Merica.
For Day 11 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge I’m supposed to write about my relationship status, or lack thereof.
I’ve been single since October, so it looks like I’ll be discussing why.
I broke up with my boyfriend of 13 months in the middle of October, the night before we were supposed to go away for a weekend to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, something we had planned pretty much since we first got together. Needless to say, that trip never happened.
He probably thinks I broke up with him because he was sick and wasn’t sure if he was going to make it for our anniversary trip. Sure, it didn’t help at all. It was the final straw for me, really. But I’m not that heartless. Of course I didn’t just break up with him because he was sick. There was so so so much more to it than that.
I loved him very much, and the decision to walk away from our relationship was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also something that was very necessary.
I thought he loved me for the longest time. Our relationship meant the world to me. I would have done anything for him, and in many ways, I think I did. A year ago I swore we were going to get married. I thought that by now I’d be engaged, or almost engaged to him. I was so sure he was the one. But well, obviously I was wrong about that.
For awhile, the longer we were together, the closer we were going to get. I was a trucker girlfriend, and for awhile, the distance while very hard, was making us stronger. We, or especially myself, would get so excited to see each other because it happened so infrequently. If we saw each other more than twice a month it was unheard of.
I began to really identify as a trucker girlfriend at this time. That was my main identity and I was proud of it. I knew what I was doing was hard. What girl wants to be with a guy that she never ever gets to see? But I kept told myself it was worth it…I had a great boyfriend and we loved each other very much and it wasn’t always going to be this way.
Some days being a trucker girlfriend were harder than others. I would sometimes cry a lot because I missed him so much and I’d worry about him constantly. Sometimes it just got so lonely. I had a great boyfriend that I loved to death and who was my best friend. I wanted to do and share everything with him, but it oftentimes wasn’t a possibility because he always had to work and go out on the road.
Our relationship was becoming more and more serious. We even spent a week in Disney together! It was such a great time. I got to spend like 18 hours at a time with my best friend who I swore was the love of my life for an entire week. That was practically the equivalent of every day we’ve ever been together since we first started dating. It was so hard to go home and say goodbye to him after that.
I think Disney strengthened our relationship for awhile, but it didn’t last…
I think that some of the ways we viewed each other began to change after that. We began to realize we weren’t as similar as we thought we were, and even if we had a lot in common, our families did not.
Realizing this began to put a real strain on our relationship. Our parents never met, but if they did, I don’t think it would’ve went over well at all. We came from very different backgrounds. But we loved each other and that’s all that mattered, right?
But here’s the thing, when you’re raised a certain way you usually believe that is the “right” way and all other ways are wrong. It’s not intentional, it’s just how it is.
I was raised to value education and to work to have a nice home and a nice car and things like that and to take pride in myself and my things. Vacations weren’t a priority — they never really took place. We all worked, studied, and enjoyed our home instead. We weren’t overly luxurious people by any means, but we had nice, expensive things that we worked hard for. It was more important for us to use money on our home and car and education and things like that than it was to have a cheap home and car and go on vacation.
His family was the opposite of that. They “just wanted to have fun”. They did work hard – but it often seemed like for all of the wrong reasons. They were sometimes obsessed with having money, but they were greedy with it. It was spent on things like vacations — and they weren’t educational or what I’d consider “traveling” – they were amusement parks and always the same ones multiple times throughout the year every year — it seemed kind of unnecessary. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it just seemed a little weird because I wasn’t raised that way.
I think family had different meanings for both of us too. We were both close to our families but in different ways. Maybe we were in different parts of life. I wanted independence, but I wanted it with him. I was more than willing to be tied down to him. I wanted marriage and kids and a life of my own with my husband. He wanted to go on vacation with his parents and he did all the time. He’d choose that over spending time with me — and he’d choose it all the time. I wouldn’t have done it. I didn’t see him much. If it came between seeing my boyfriend more or going on vacation without him, I’d choose the option of seeing him more even if it meant giving up a family vacation or 2 (or like, 7).
As our relationship progressed, we learned more about each other and I thought more and more about our future and what it would be like to be married and raise a family together. But I stopped hearing the wedding bells. I didn’t see the love filled bliss anymore.
It was horrifying.
I saw a messy “home” in a run down trailer park in the middle of nowhere.
I saw old,broken, run down cars.
I saw my son who never saw his father and was always hurt and missing him.
I saw myself, a stay-at-home mother struggling to make ends meet and trying to explain to my children why daddy was never home.
I saw a garbage bin full of my hopes and dreams.
I began to question if this is what I wanted, and the answer was no.
That was not by any means the future I had imagined for myself or what I wanted. I wanted to go to New York. I wanted to finish my novel and be a bestselling author. I had a possible opportunity in California I wanted to explore. I wanted to go to grad school. I was considering getting my second cochlear implant since the first one was so successful.
I wanted to know that my boyfriend loved me as much as I loved him — something I was beginning to question.
I wanted a husband and a loyal father. I didn’t want to have to worry about daddy being home, where daddy was, what he was doing, whether or not he was safe, and when he’d be home.
I didn’t want to have to think of what to tell my children for why daddy missed yet another baseball game, another holiday, another birthday.
I didn’t want to live in a trailer park in the middle of nowhere.
I wanted a big house with a beautiful garden and nice lawn in a nice neighborhood. I wanted to know my neighbors and for their kids to be friends with my kids.
I didn’t want to be just a trucker wife that let her husband do whatever he wanted why she stayed home and waited for him.
I. WAS. SO. SICK. OF. WAITING.
I spent all of last summer doing nothing more than waiting. Waiting for him to call, waiting for him to text, waiting for him to come home, waiting for him to pick me up. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
And I was putting my life on the backburner. I was putting off my hopes and dreams and keeping myself from being who God destined me to be. I was a trucker girlfriend and that’s all I was. And it seemed like soon, that identity would be ripped away from me, too.
We were falling apart. We could no longer ignore our huge differences and our upbringings and who we were and what we wanted from life. Our future was becoming messy and muddled. The time away was getting to us. We were getting lonely. We were fighting. He was talking to other girls and cheating on me. I was getting mistrustful and paranoid.
I got kicked out of the trucker girlfriend groups. I never really knew why. But that’s when it felt like I really lost it all — because at the time, that’s all I had.
It felt like getting kicked in the face at first. I was already down and now the people who were supposed to be the only ones that could understand me, were kicking me further to the ground. But maybe, that’s exactly what I needed.
I needed to get angry. I needed to break. I needed to say “Screw this lifestyle. I’m not a trucker girlfriend…I’m so much more.”
After that I began to see myself as more than just a trucker girlfriend. I was a person with my own identity and my own hopes and my own dreams. I supported him and his career and his hopes and dreams so much…the least he could do was support mine, right?
I was unhappy at work. I needed a new job. But there was one thing I had going for me — awesome health insurance. I needed to take advantage of that and get my second cochlear implant while I could. I never understood why, but he was less than supportive. He was very pessimistic. He didn’t think insurance would cover it. He was so supportive with my first surgery, it was weird that he was the opposite with the second. But I was only just considering it — I didn’t know if I’d go through with it yet, so I tried to ignore it.
I was writing more and more, too. My memoir was about half finished. I intended to finish it during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I was very serious about it. But that wasn’t enough. I wanted to get it published and I knew the perfect way to go about it — to go back to school and get my MA in Writing at Rowan. He didn’t support that either. He thought it was too expensive and I was already so far in debt. He wanted to help me. He would help me financially, I just had to wait for him to build up his career. I dismissed this, too, and tried to ignore it. He has a point, he was right. He said he’d help me. But I didn’t realize how I didn’t need his help at all. His money and his opinion didn’t matter at all.
Then there was California — which I couldn’t really ignore. I had a HUGE amazing opportunity that was about to come to light — but it would be in California. It was exciting, but also terrifying. It was all the way across the country. But it was the perfect opportunity for me. He drove and was on the road and never home anyway, so surely this wouldn’t mater that much, right? We’d just do a long distance relationship until we got married which would only be a little harder than what we were doing. But he didn’t see it that way. He wanted me to do what would make me happy whether it be California or staying with him. But I couldn’t have both. One or the other.
I’m sorry, but if he loved me, he wouldn’t have made me choose. He’d want to do anything to keep me, even if it meant moving to California (or at the very least, allowing me to go there) to be with me.This was a huge game changer and eye opener for me in my relationship.
I would’ve done it for him without thinking. I waited for him all the time. I compromised. I gave up so much of me and my life for him, but he wouldn’t for me. And it wasn’t all work, either. Sometimes I couldn’t see him because he chose his family over me. He’d rather go on vacation with them then see me. And I knew it and accepted it, as much as it hurt.
And I mentioned that to him then, too. You love your family more than you love me. I said. He admitted it. He said yes.
And it crushed me. Family is important — but I wanted to be more so. We’ve been dating for a year at that point. I wanted to BE his family. I wanted to be his wife, but I was realizing, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.
I thought about everything. My hopes, my dreams, my love. I prayed a lot. I cried a lot. I went on a lot of walks to parks and random areas to sit and cry. At times I wanted to die. Other times, I felt like I was already dead. I had choices to make and it was terrifying. Where did I go? Did I take risks and try to follow my overly ambitious dreams? Did I give up my boyfriend — who might have been the love of my life and “the one” to do it? Or did I marry him and keep my mouth shut and settle down with a life that’s a bit less than what I hoped it would be?
It wasn’t an easy decision to make and it wasn’t something that was made over night. But after I read Thrive by Mark Hall from Casting Crowns, I knew my answer.
I have been surviving. Barely. More like struggling. Breathing through a clogged straw. Settling.
God didn’t make me to suffer. He didn’t make me to suffocate. He didn’t make me to settle. This is NOT how he wanted me to live my life.
I was made to THRIVE.
God didn’t want me to throw away my dreams for some boy. If he was really “the one” he would’ve supported me and my dreams and brought out the best of me. He wouldn’t have made me choose.
God wanted me to follow my dreams.
I gave him one chance. One more chance to prove he loved me that he could support me that this could work and that maybe he was the one. One more chance.
He blew it. We never went on our anniversary trip. Instead, we had a huge argument on the phone. I hung up. He never called back. I never bothered to apologize or forgive him for hurting me. It was the end of an era.
On that night, I decided I wasn’t going to be a trucker girlfriend anymore.
I was so much more than that.
I choose my dreams.
I have now been single for about 7 months. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I still really miss him. I still get mad that he never called me back. I still wonder what could have been. But I know this: my life got so much better when I stopped trying to be someone I wasn’t (a trucker girlfriend) and chased after my dreams and became the best possible version of myself.
I’m working a wonderful job now where I’m much happier. It’s not in California, but it doesn’t need to be. In the Fall, I will not only be a graduate student at Rowan, but I’ll be a college professor teaching first year writing, too! The first draft of my novel is complete and the second draft is about 90% complete. I’ll be focusing on this and trying to get it published through my career as a graduate student. I’ve gotten right with Christ and have even recently been baptized.
I’m not a trucker wife.
I’m a dreamer.
I’m a doer…doing BIG things.
And this is just the beginning.
I’m not opposed to the idea of being in a relationship. I could meet the right guy and end up in a relationship tomorrow (not likely, but you never know). If the right guy comes along I’d be more than happy to go out on a date and take it from there. But I’m really content with being single right now.
I know one thing, too. I will never put myself, my hopes, my dreams, and/or the person that I am on hold for a man. Never again.
Relationships are a two way street. Not one person supporting, loving, and doing everything for the other. For now on, I will always choose my dreams. And, the right person will be part of that dream. They will be for me and my dreams, not someone that will make me choose. Because when it comes down to “love” or my dreams, my dreams will win every time.