No Interview on 7-7

I was asked by several different people why I didn’t talk on WIBC radio this week. I told them that there was just too much happening in the world for me to even fit in the normal Tuesday morning time slot. Blessed boss of WIBC Tom Sevarino lost his battle with cancer. The “gloved one” Michael Jackson’s memorial service planned in California had all of the police and media in a tizzy. How could a small town gal with a rare disorder that is unknown by even much of the medical community compete with that? LOL. Nah, the radio producer even was kind enough to call to apologize, but I totally understand. News was happening.

It was funny, because one of my friends tweeted me fearing that she had missed the time slot of the report. She usually is driving into work at that time and finds the topics we discuss interesting. It has been eye-opening to see how very many people are familiar with Eastside Ellen’s foreign accent syndrome story. They all tell me that it is fascinating, which it is. I’ve run into people at the grocery store, church, the bank and recently the hospital who ask if I am Eastide Ellen. All of them smile!! Yes! They are also so kind as to show true empathy. These people are not just listening into a report, but are identifying with it. What would they do if this happened to them? That’s part of what I love about growing up and living in central Indiana; people really care about their neighbors.

At this point I am unsure as to whether I will continue to report at WIBC on Tuesday mornings. Perhaps the story is no longer newsworthy. I don’t know how programming decisions are made. All I do know is that I am going through something that is so very rare that even mainstream medical doctors don’t know how to handle it. There is an opportunity for pioneering medical research to be made, and I am the kind of person that will share it all. I totally believe that God remains in control of every detail. I trust that there is an ultimate good that will be realized as a result of this trial and the events that are happening even now. I derive great joy in knowing that there are people who are standing beside me in both “good thoughts” and prayers, who are as perplexed as I am. and who are as fascinated and dumbfounded as even the local medical community.  We may not know the answers yet, but it is comforting to know that Hoosiers join together in an attempt to help each other.

It is for just such a reason that being on WIBC 93.1 FM “the News and Talk of Indiana” has been a great source of comfort, inspiration, intrigue and humor in a time that otherwise could threaten to undo a person. I am so very proud to call myself a Hoosier — albeit one that sounds like some kind of foreigner.  I am still a farmer’s daughter, even though my voice may stand out a bit more when calling in the cows : D

What’s That Sound?

While at a local Sams Club this last week, I heard some woman talking almost identically to my foreign accented voice. “What is that sound?” I knew that accent, yet I was not speaking, so I had to find out more about this. I sought out the source and came upon a woman who appeared to be in her seventies that was speaking with anyone around as she tried to locate a particular item in the store.

I went up to offer a suggestion on where she might look and offered to walk her there. As we walked, I decided to be brave enough to ask the question that I get asked so often since this foreign accent came upon me. “Where are you from?”

She said that she had been born in Chezlovakia, raised in Germany and spoke a total of five different languages. That is why she sounded familiar to me. It was not one particular accent that I was detecting, but several. Then the funny thing happened, she asked me where I was from. Then came the disbelief that I had not travelled outside of the areas closest to the United States. She was intrigues by the aspects of Foreign Accent Syndrome. She said that she heard accents of some of the languages she spoke in my speech. But when I sang for her and I had my true Hoosier, all-American “real” voice, she had an open mouth of astonishment. Ha! the amazement continues.

We talked a bit about perception of others of our accents. Why is it that we Americans try to place a person’s speech into a cubbyhole by assuming that a person is from a certain area? I discussed with this lady named Marguerite, that I believe it is because we strive to relate with other people. When we hear a different sound… I think there is a part of us trying to figure out why that difference exists.  When a person speaks shouldn’t they sound “normal” like us? If they do not, then it must mean they are from somewhere else, right? That must mean that they are a “foreigner”.

As this week has ticked by I am now at my seventh week with this foreign voice. I am a bit discouraged by the fact that I still sound “different,” because I miss my “real” voice. It makes me sad to realize that when my Sweetheart husband of nearly 25 years calls me on the phone during the day, I get to hear the same voice of the man I fell in love with all those years ago. However, when I return the conversation, he is hearing the tone and sounds of a voice that he has only heard for seven weeks.

Regardless, it was not because of my voice that we fell in love and have stayed together all these years. It is despite the unforseen calamities and trials, that our loving relationship endures. It is as we place our trust in the fact that God remains in control, even and especially when we are not in control, that is what keeps us pressing on.

How Do You Say It?

languagesThe weekend was full of activities, and a lot of it was spent with family and friends of family that I had not seen in years. All these relatives and friends were at two different big celebrations held over in both Michigan and Northern Indiana.

All but one set of relatives have never heard me speaking with the foreign accent that had suddenly came upon me on May 12th.
So imagine for a moment if you were me; how would you handle the attempted explanation of the inevitable questions “what happened to your voice?” “Why are you talking that way,” and from the less familiar relatives and friends “where are you from?”

There is no easy way to explain it. There is a rare disorder called Foreign Accent Syndrome and it causes me to speak with a foreign accent. I did manage to tell groups at a time while we sat together after eating. Although that helped cut down on the number of repeated explanations, I still became very tired of explaining something that is so hard to explain.

It all boils down to the fact that we don’t know exactly why it happened, or if I will get my regular voice back. However, in the meantime we are pressing on with investigations and tests to try to gain a better scientific understanding of how the brain works in relation to speech.

Still, it is fascinating and the listeners dropped their jaws when I sang a little bit for them in my regular voice. Then we had a good conversation about our bodies being fearfully and wonderfully made. What about attitude? We talked about how we don’t gain anything by worrying or fretting about something that we do not have any control over. Then I was able to talk about my faith in knowing that God remains in control of it all. That is how I truthfully am able to do as well emotionally as I have been.

I explained that I can have “joy” even in the midst of a trial. While I may not be “happy” about it, I can have times of laughter with others as we note the funny pronunciations of American English. Some mispronunciations make a normal saying sound even more funny. We can laugh together! I have been told by many people that it is the laughter that allows them to ask me more questions without feeling uncomfortable about it.

That brings me back to the conversation with them about what to say when I am asked so many times a day, “Where are you from?” I always answer, “where do you think? I seriously would like to know, because we are taking a poll.” Most people then apologize and express they are afraid to guess wrong. I tell them they cannot guess wrong, and that I will explain it after they guess. Then the people are more at ease and will play the game.

Here is how the poll is going this week:
1) English/Australian
2) Swedish
3) French
4) Some form of Slovick
5) And this week I have been getting repeated “South African” and even a specific “Rhodesia” and 6) one Portuguese.

Although there hasn’t been a clear winner as to which accent I am speaking, it is clear that it is a foreign one. The easiest way to describe it is the sound of a foreign born European coming to the United States and trying to speak English.