Learning 20 Signs

16. Learn 20 signs.
I’ve always been fascinated by sign language so I would love to improve my vocabulary.

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Sign language has interested me since I was a child. I didn’t personally know any deaf people so it’s not because I was exposed to it but for some reason the language always interested me more than any other language. ASL and other forms of Sign Language are so different from any other language so that might be what drew me to it. Or maybe it’s just because I loved the story of Helen Keller in the Miracle Worker.

I took an ASL computer course when I was in high school but there’s only so much you can learn that way. I wanted to increase my ASL vocabulary and so I included it on my 20Before21 list. I only had to learn 20 signs which wasn’t to hard and I definitely won’t be able to hold a conversation with a deaf person anytime soon but between my limited vocabulary and finger spelling I should be able to figure out their name, their Aunt’s name, and where the bathroom is.

I was surprised to find while researching ASL that Rochester, NY (a city near me) has the largest deaf population per capita of any city in the USA. This is due to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf being one of the nine colleges that make up RIT. Maybe there is an opportunity to practice ASL right in my backyard.

• Here’s an interesting NYT article about deaf culture in Rochester.

• How cool is this? NTID is soon putting on a signed/spoken version of the Broadway show Hairspray.

This is possibly one of the most important phrases I learned.

This is a helpful channel if you want to learn some basic signs.

Penmanship + Proverbs + Perfectionism

13. Handwrite the book of Proverbs.


I’ve finally crossed “Handwrite the Book of Proverbs” off of my 20Before21 list. I went into this expecting to really enjoy it. I bought a moleskin notebook (unlined to up the intimidation factor) and imagined it filled with proverbs, handwritten, in beautiful penmanship or perfectly formed word art. From the very first chapter it didn’t live up to my expectations. My handwriting was just as inconsistent as every and my talent for beautiful typography was nonexistent. By chapter 3 my patient was wearing thin and my penmanship was going downhill, literally.

Then my perfectionistic tendency kicked in and I reasoned that if it can’t be perfect why do it? I will wait until someday when I have time to make it a work of art. The black, unlined notebook got stuffed in my desk drawer and was soon forgotten about. Almost an entire year passed. 300 days. My time to complete my list was running out and I knew it was time to face the blank pages of my notebook and get to work. Handwriting the book of Proverbs takes time even if you aren’t going for neat and orderly penmanship. I wrote, and scribbled, and scrawled verses throughout several evenings. You can almost tell if I was tired, rushed, or relaxed based on the writing style. All in all it was not perfect.

As an artist I appreciate perfectionism. It tends to get a bad rap in our society and is seen as a bad personality trait. But like any personality trait it can be used for good and bad. In many cases perfectionism is necessary (i.e. the Sistine Chapel + brain surgery).

Yet I realized that perfectionism shouldn’t always be the ideal.

Sometimes what is more important is the fact that you stuck with something and completed it even when nothing in you wanted to do it.

I finished writing the last verse today. Call me conceited but I’m going to claim it as my verse today and give myself a little honor (and maybe a celebratory iced coffee).

Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
– Proverbs 31:31

Christmas in Northeast India

18. Shoot and edit a video.

A small white video camera was the first camera I used to shoot videos. I was 12 at the time. The camera was one my dad had picked up at a sportsman show. It was intended to use in filming hunts but I’m sure it never lived up to it’s potential because me and my siblings got ahold of it. My siblings, cousins and I would get together and within an evening we would have morphed into scriptwriters, directors, producers editors, actors, and, in our minds, Academy Award winners. The camera took a beating and by the time we outgrew our movie making stage it was barely usable anymore and had to be constantly plugged in in order to work. I still have the videos we shot and maybe will one day share them with the internet.

I hadn’t filmed or made any movies in years but I recently took an interest in it again and decided to give it a try. The video I made is a vignette of my trip to Northeast India 4 months ago. Though my equipment has improved since the days of my little white camera and Windows Movie Maker, I still find filming life and editing it together into a watchable story is just as thrilling and joyful to me as when I was 12.

I’m sorry about the shaky footage and random out of focus shots. My camera was brand new and I was still trying to figure out how to use it.