Friday, May 22, 2009

Voice Acting--the stuff of life!

Today is the stuff life is made of. I volunteer weekly (when health permits, anyway) at the local state school for Deaf kids, helping out during after school electives. This term I was thrilled to get to work with the elementary drama group. I love acting, I love that age of kids, and I love signing…how much better does it get? (one more better, but I’ll get to that!)

Sometimes it was a little challenging because most of the kids only had a line or two in the skit, meaning at any given time during rehearsal there were about 12 bored little kids waiting for their turn, LOL. But that gave us volunteers something to do (help keep them out of trouble).

Young kids can be a challenge to understand in any language, and many deaf kids get no access to language until they arrive at school--putting them behind. Of course, it’s my second language, so that adds to the challenge. I started volunteering there (off and on) three years ago. It’s exciting to see my progress in receptive skills since then. Now I can understand pretty much everything going on, even overheard conversations (oh my, the little six-year-olds’ are sooo adorable, even when they are mad, haha. ASL is such an expressive language and they take full advantage of it! “If you do that, I’ll cry and cry! I’ll cry a roomfull of tears and drown in them!”).

The grand performance was tonight. On Tuesday near the end of practice we suddenly discovered that, contrary to what we assumed, there would be no voice interpreter for the play. Some of the audience doesn’t know sign, and the students really wanted their hearing guests to be able to understand the play they’d worked so hard on. Guess who got called on? You guessed it--me! Of course, I can’t technically interpret yet, but because we’re working with a script and get to practice with the actors it’s considered “voice acting” instead of interpreting.

I’ve loved reading out loud or doing dramatic readings with all the voices for as long as I can remember, and voice acting for real live people instead of fictional written characters is even better! I’ve had the opportunity to voice act for plays at the school before, and loved it. Though that time I actually got to prep and practice a bunch ahead of time, ha. This time we had a total of one afternoon of rehearsal. I asked a classmate to help me, so we could do the back-and-forth dialog. Of course, I’d seen the play (in bit and pieces) as they’d been learning it, but my classmate hadn’t seen any of it and wasn’t familiar with the kids.

The afternoon rehearsal today was pretty important. Yeah. Well. Both of us ended up stuck in freeway traffic. For almost an hour and a half. Meaning: we completely missed the rehearsal. Boo for forgetting it was Memorial weekend and realizing that meant everyone and their fifteenth cousin would be on the freeway.

Allrighty then. Thank God for a laidback group of people. We were able to at least talk over the script with the assistant director and introduce my classmate to the students and their roles. Then, right before the performance started, the kids went through the play one last time out on the back patio. Phew. We voiced it and worked out a few kinks and were ready to go!

It went marvelously. Of course there were mistakes, mostly things like voicing a line for the king with a high-pitched voice and the queen with a low voice--oops--but overall it went quite well. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as being rewarded with a ripple of laughter from the audience for a line well-acted and well-voiced. The kids did a great job of ad libbing and knowing that "the show must go on" when prop problems showed up, even when the princess (from Princess and the Pea) tumbled right off the tall bed with the air mattresses and covers crashing down on top of her! It rather added to the comic effect of the play.

After our elementary kids’ skit, the high school students did a play (without a voice interpreter). Wow. They did an incredible job with acting and props. It was beautiful.

[OK, survey--and I honestly want to know. I sat down to write a brief post about my day, and it turned into a page-long novel. Do you guys like reading my accounts with lots of details like this, or would you rather have a brief account with just the main info and a few funny anecdotes?]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hold on Tight--life's a wild ride!

Life is certainly never boring around here. Let’s see, last blog post I was waiting to hear back from my echo on my heart, right? Thankfully it turned out normal. Most all my symptoms can be explained by Postural Tachycardia, which is annoying but not serious, and more related to the circulatory system then the heart itself.

As I’d hoped, my health started getting a little better this term, now that my school schedule is more sane. I finally got a sleep aid that helped, also (before that, if I was sleeping at all, I was waking up as often as every fifteen minutes). I finished up the study I was doing on the new Fibro med. I’m hoping to be able to stay off a pain med and just have the sleep med. I really don’t like to be on prescription meds at all if I can help it. So, I had about two weeks of things going pretty well.

Then the next thing hit.

I started having a lot of nausea and abdominal pain, different and longer-lasting than what I normally have with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome--goes along with my Fibro). It didn’t feel like a virus or bug to me, so after several days I saw a doctor who decided it seemed to be a bad flare of IBS and gave me a med, with warnings to watch for appendicitis symptoms.

On Wednesday I was feeling sick and out of it with Fibro Fog, but went to school anyway. At least the cognitive problems provide good humor relief, if you let them! To give the rest of us practice interpreting in K-12 classrooms, a classmate was pretending to teach a 1st grade class, teaching shapes. Those who weren’t interpreting were pretending to be the 1st grade students. Some students pretended to answer questions wrong. As for me, haha, I didn’t have to pretend at all! The “teacher” passed out cardboard shapes and asked a question about road sign shapes. I held up a triangle and announced that yield signs were that shape--rectangles! Then when asked to find two squares, the “teacher” looked at what I was holding up and said, “Um, good try, Amy. You’re almost right!” LOL

I was finally feeling better last Thursday morning. I was excited because my Deaf interpreting tutor, James, had time free during my Mock Interpreting class for the first time all school year. (Mock is where a partner and I go to a real college class and interpret, but with only an imaginary Deaf client). I’m loving the class we’re interpreting in, though it’s a challenge, and I like having a real person to interpret for, so I was looking forward to having James be there. My Mock partner is a classmate, sister in Christ, and dear friend, Holly.

Thankfully I got through the class just fine and was headed to lunch with Holly before we met the tutor again to get feedback. We were almost to the cafeteria when pain hit. Bad. Like a knife ripping straight down from my belly button to my groin. For the next hour it hit me every few minutes. Sitting and laying down just made it worse.

I decided I better call my doctor. I knew they’d want to know if I had a fever, so I asked the college librarian if there was a nurse on campus. By that time I was shaking violently and pale and sweating from the pain. She quickly called security (1st aid response). He was cute. I told him I had Fibromyalgia and he looked blank for a minute and then brightened. “Oh, that’s a liver disease, right?” Um, yeah, not so much. I would have giggled if I hadn’t been so sick.

By then it was time to meet James. The stabs were coming a little less frequently, so stubborn me decided I would try to just push through the hour tutoring time so we could get feedback from James while it was still fresh in his mind. James watched me for a minute and then just got up and left. He’s like, “I’m leaving. Holly is driving you to the doctor.”

It’s so cool how I can see God’s hand in even things like this. Besides the timing of being able to finish the Mock class, it “just happened” that Holly was driving to a place a few blocks from my doctor’s office. She lives 45 minutes away in the opposite direction. That doctor looked at me and sent me straight to the ER (Mom came and picked me up).

I wish I could have the ER doctor for my primary care doctor. He actually talked to both mom and I (instead of ignoring one of us like many do) and explained the options and his opinion but let us have the final say without being pushy. They did blood and urine work and then did an ultrasound of my lower abdomen. Thankfully by then I wasn’t in too much pain. I can’t imagine having to go through an ultrasound if pressure caused pain. As it was, it was a little uncomfortable but mostly just interesting. I could see the pictures on a monitor over the gurney. Much of it wasn’t recognizable, but I was able to pick out my appendix and ovaries. The pictures are so curious…it isn’t a clear picture, but looks more like looking at something that has a thin piece of rubber stretched over it. The harder they push on the ultrasound wand, the tighter the rubber is pressed, making the outline of the organ a little more distinct. The pictures suddenly struck me funny and I got the giggles right in the middle of the ultrasound. Twice! I felt so bad because the poor tech lady couldn’t exactly do her job when the abdomen in question was shaking violently from giggles. Certainly that’s one of the few times in my life when I was saying to myself, “Think sad thoughts. Think sad thoughts.” LOL!

The ultrasounds looked normal. Five hours after arriving at the ER and eight hours after the bad pain first hit, I was sent home with only answers of what it wasn’t… The ER doctor said about 50% of the time they never do figure out what causes that kind of pain.

I’m still feeling a bit odd and achy in my lower right abdomen, but thankfully haven’t had any more severe pain. I have a follow up appointment next week. Unfortunately, I picked up a bad cold, probably compliments of the ER, and now have a bad cough. Just in time for mid-terms.
Ah well, such is life. I’m staying in pretty good spirits despite everything. School itself is going okay, other than the health stuff getting in the way. We have three extra interpreting tutors this term, two Deaf and two hearing interpreters, so we’re getting a variety of perspectives. It’s awesome and they are all so helpful and encouraging.

Last week Debbie Roome of Take Root and Write published an interview of me talking about life with an invisible disability. She writes the column “Daring to Love the Disabled.” The interview is here. I’m thankful for the opportunity to help spread awareness. I also have an article coming out soon in HopeNotes, a Christian magazine for people with chronic illnesses, and an interview being published in a book for teens who have Fibro. I’m thankful that God uses my trials to be able to reach out and help others.