My little brother

There really aren’t enough good things I could say about my brother. He’s brilliant for one. I mean really. Check out his blog, but make sure you have a dictionary and some form of a legal stimulant next to you. He’s that smart.

As one of only two Hefner children, and the younger at that, Curtis has been forced to be my partner in crime for almost 21 years. Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, he’s good at it. (The double surprise 40th birthday party we pulled off at the ages of 14 and 12 is proof) But somewhere in that time Curtis stopped being the sidekick and became the mastermind, the frontrunner, the talent show emcee, the drumline leader, the engineering major, the UT junior. It is no secret to those that know me that I admire my little brother. He’s done everything I was too scared to try and succeeded.

All that to say that I really enjoyed my time with my little brother this week.

…and that he’s not very little anymore.


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Six word Sunday

Sometimes my life feels off balance.

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Simple pleasures

•a steaming cup of coffee in my hands and the aroma saturating my car

•a peaceful morning walk across the parking lot

•the smiles and giggles of the ladies in the front office

•knowing I have only five days left here

•the feeling that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be missed

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A letter of thanks

I’m not sure when barbequing in the back yard became the official way to celebrate you on this day. I doubt that when you were overseas you thought “I sure hope someday people remember our sacrifice over a burger and a couple of cold ones.” Truth is, as we lounge in our lawn chairs with our speakers blasting the country music top 40 and our mouths full of cheetos we’ll probably find a way to complain about the mosquitos, the heat, and how much we’re dreading our return to work the next day. Truth is, we might use this day to prop our own feet up and tell ourselves “good job” for making it to another summer. The truth is… we might not think of you at all.

Well, on this Memorial Day 2009 I’m choosing not to let that happen.

Thank you Yeoman Raymond Hefner. I’m proud to tell the stories of your service in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, but even more proud to call you Grandaddy.

Thank you Sergeant Robert Gerald Vaught. You left a legacy and a mystery that I can’t wait to share with your grandkids someday.

Thank you Machinist Mate 2nd Class Richard Hefner for being one of the few enlisted men in Vietnam. Your courage is not forgotten.

Thank you Sergeant David McMillan for your years of service. While I don’t know many details of your military career, I know it was grueling just the same. Thank you for defending us.

Thank you Lance Corporal Patrick Hefner for serving in the marines and beginning a family legacy.

Thank you Sergeant Robert Gregory Vaught for serving our country in a very confusing and controversial time. The courage it must have taken to sit in a cargo bed on your way to an unknown location to do some unknown duty is one I’ll not soon understand but already admire.

Thank you Specialist Joshua Besong for packing up YOUR family and moving to an unfamiliar country to aide in keeping MY family safe.

Thank you Private Shawn Hefner for your service. You may have followed your father’s footsteps into the marines, but your deployment to Afghanistan shows an altogether different kind of courage.

Thank you Senior Airman David Morris for up and enlisting at the age of eighteen only to be shipped off to the coldest and most isolated state in our country. We hope to have you back on the mainland soon.

One last time, thank you. You are respected. You are admired. And you are not forgotten.


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Describe your life in six words

I can’t take credit for this idea, I read it on this blog. She does this thing called six word Saturdays and while I realize I’m a day late, I liked the idea. Here goes nothing.

•Easy Saturdays make life worth living•

What’s your six word status?

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the Joy Spreader

Sitting on the livingroom floor of my parents’ first house, my anticipation building as I opened each present, I remember feeling so proud to finally be six and so excited to open that one big gift.  I saved it for last, sure it would be fantastic.  I thanked my parents for the Little Mermaid pencil case and the pretty ring my mother had picked out and gradually began to tear the paper.  In slow motion I saw the scotch tape pull the glossy pink paper until it ripped the tiniest bit.  At that moment, as I reverently moved to the next place I could tear, my brother’s tiny almost-four-year-old body just could not contain his excitement any longer.  To the utter horror of my parents, miniature Curtis shreiked  “IT’S A BEAUTY AND THE BEAST SLEEPING BAG!!!”  And it was.  To this day, he has never lived that down.

Every time the home movie comes out, my parents and I rag on poor Curtis mercilessly (in love of course).  While it IS fun to give him a hard time, I know the real reason he did it.  Curtis has always and will always love to spread joy.  As a little kid he told jokes that made no sense at all, but he told them just because he knew they’d make us laugh.  As a middle school student, Curtis performed in the school play the part of an Elvis impersonator of sorts wherein the only words to his song were “Oh Baby, b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-baby”.  In high school, he donned blue spandex (yes, you read that correctly) and a spiderman mask to kill time between talent show performances.  Anything for a laugh.

My brother has an intellect that will make Mensa members feel stupid and a wit that rivals Conan O’Brian.  He has a heart for Christ, a love for people, and self-confidence a millionaire would envy.  

When I grow up, I want to be like Curtis Hefner.

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a day in the life of a high school teacher, part 4

I stroll into 4th period every day unsure of what lies in wait for me.  Ms. Fourth Period tries very hard to be accommodating, but is still unconvinced that I know more about deaf students’ instructional needs than she does.  During the last week of April every student in Texas will take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (better known as the TAKS test) therefore the ENTIRE MONTH must be devoted to reviewing for this sacred test.  I hate the TAKS test because it is not an accurate assessment of what a deaf student knows. 

—In case I haven’t voiced it yet, let me explain that the main issue with deaf students’ education is their language development.  

Imagine if as a child you had never overheard your parents talking about something adult. Think about all the big words you heard on TV and attempted (unsuccessfully) to use in conversation to your family’s amusement.  How many times in school did you hear a classmate ask your teacher the same question you had and eavesdrop on the answer your teacher gave them?  A very large portion of our language and vocabulary development comes from overhearing, so when you never overhear anything it’s very difficult to build your knowledge base.  Basically, if they haven’t experienced it themselves, they don’t know of it.  

In addition, think about how difficult it would be to learn to read if you couldn’t “sound out” the words!  

As if all that isn’t enough, most signers do not sign in English (let alone in exact English) so reading and writing is English is very difficult.  The average person doesn’t realize that ASL is completely different from English.  An ASL sentence might read “Store I go” or “Drink you want?”.  There are no words like “the” or “it” because that’s implied in the direction you sign.  There is no sign for “very” or “really” because emphasis is shown in your facial expression and how big or fast or hard you sign it (I’ve had numerous “signing injuries” due to that fact).  Even if they could SIGN English, that doesn’t mean they could READ or WRITE English (think of all the illitarate people in our world today).

Take all of that into account and it’s clear that the reason the average deaf high schooler graduates with a 4th grade reading level is not because they are any less intelligent, they just have more in their way.—

Today as I enter the room I am greeted by the sound of Ms. Fourth Period shouting at C to sit down and take his vocabulary quiz. —Let me emphasize one more quick thing right here- Deaf people can’t hear you!  EVEN IF YOU SHOUT!— I tell C to sit down and quickly skim over the page that I assume he is supposed to have started on already.  I stare in disbelief at page full of vocabulary words we have not gone over this year that are supposed to be matched with definitions.  Seriously?!?  As I hurriedly stride over to Ms. Fourth Period she sees me coming as has her defense ready before I can even ask her why she didn’t let me modify this or even tell me she’d be giving it.   “They’re going to have to know this stuff on TAKS,” she states.  With clenched fists I reply “That’s why they don’t do well on TAKS!” with a little more volume than I probably should have.  For today’s quiz there is nothing I can do so I ask for the quizzes she’ll be giving tomorrow and the next day.  She sighs and hands me the papers.  I sigh and remind myself that there are 40 school days left in the year.

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