Brownsville The Herald (Newspaper) - December 6, 1998, Brownsville, Texas
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^Grampi It's 0K to be happy
1just don't let everyone know
Bill Janscha/The Associated Press
Pam Johnson, founder of the Secret Society of Happy People, holds a shirt with the group's logo at an office building in Dallas. The society promotes the idea that it's OK to be happy, despite the lack of positive responsiveness from others.
Magazine offers help to deaf, hearing impaired
By ROBERT Q.WIELAND The Associatasd Press
DALLAS — If you're happy and you know it — shhh!
There's a spot for you in the Secret Society of Happy People.
"If you're happy but don't admit it because other people don't want to hear it, then we're the society for you," says founder Pam Johnson.
The society, founded in August in the Dallas suburb of Irving, promotes the idea that it's OK to be happy, despite the lack of positive response from others.
That's especially true at Christmas, Ms. Johnson says, challenging advice columnist Ann Landers on the subject of family news letters enclosed with holiday cards.
"Spare us the details of the Ivy League schools your children are attending and the honors and awards they have received during the year ... Just let us know in a handwritten note that your family is well and doing something useful," said a recent letter signed "Your Cousins in Illinois."
Ann Landers responded: "Dear
Cousins: Thank you for expressing sentiments that are sure to be. shared (and appreciated) by millions of readers. Including me."
In a Utter to Ms. Landers, Ms. Johnson demanded an apology "to the millions of people you made feel bad for wanting to share their happy news."
Happiness is about recognizing the happy moments of your life, not about competing with others, Ms. Johnson wrote.
"Happy moments are good things that need to be shared more — not less," she said.
Ms. Landers' editor in Los Angeles, Katherine Searcy, said she would pass along Ms. Johnson's letter and request a reply from the columnist.
Ms. Johnson said Americans waste a lot of time discussing topics like: "My girlfriend/boyfriend is a jerk," "I don't like my job," "I need to lose 30 pounds," "If I only had more money," and "I need to buy something."
The society does not suggest that people should pretend they are content or ignore real problems, but urges people to stop
grousing and answer the question: "Are you happier than you admit you are?"
"Most people think about it for a moment and they reply, 'You know, I am,'" Ms. Johnson said.
According to Ms. Johnson, the society has about 60-plus secretly happy members and recruits mainly through its Internet site: www.sohp.com.
A member who signed herself "Beth," posted a personal testimonial to happiness.
"I work with people with disabilities who have suffered injuries from car accidents, falls, etc. They constantly inspire me by showing up at therapy in the morning with a smile on their facc and a kind greeting for everyone — perhaps because they recognize how lucky they are to be alive!" she wrote.
"When things get crazy and busy, we forget about how lucky we are and how good our lives really are! Think about the many things and people in your life that bring happiness to you, and don't forget to tell loved ones how happy you arc that they arc in your life!" Beth wrote.
By MADELINE BARO The Associated Press
INGLESIDE — Paula Bonillas is keeping hearing-impaired people on the cutting edge.
Ms. Bonillas publishes Hearing Health, a magazine that aims to keep deaf and hearing-impaired people up to date on the latest devices available to them. She lost her hearing in 1992, but today can hear with the help of a cochlear implant.
"It's pretty amazing," she said. "I can drive down the street talking on the cell phone because of technolo-
Ms. Bonillas, a wife and mother of two, also gets help from captioning on television programs, a telephone adapter and flashing alerts, but says "I have a family, so if something rings, I'll know.
"There's a wealth of devices, but a lot of people will leave the (hearing) professional's office with new hearing aids knowing nothing about the support they can get from these other devices," she said.
The Stamford native has been hard of hearing her whole life — a condition that worsened with time. Her hearing loss began interfering with her job 15 years ago when she was teaching junior high school math in Irving.
"The difficulties had escalated to the point where I needed a lot more than just hearing aids," Ms. Bonillas said.
She couldn't make phone calls to parents while she was in school because she needed an amplifier for the phone. At the time, employers were not required to accommodate employees with disabilities, so Ms. Bonillas found herself going home to make phone calls.
Finally, someone told her about a portable amplifier she could use. It changed her life. She was surprised to learn about the number of devices that exist to help the hear-ing-impaired.
"I quit my job and started the magazine," Ms. Bonillas said. "I decided it would be my mission to get the information out to others like myself who needed more than hearing aids."
Although she'd decided on a mission, she didn't realize what she'd gotten herself into and didn't know the first thing about running a magazine.
"I was very optimistic," she said. At first, she wrote articles for the magazine herself, using her name in a variety of ways. She said although the magazine has survived for 15
years through jumps and starts, she was fortunate to have the right people come along to help her.
At one point, she couldn't pay her printer and was going to close up shop, but an advertiser bailed her out.
llie magazine, which comes out six times a year and sells for $2.75 apiece and $18 for a one-year subscription, prints 20,000 copies per issue. Reader surveys show, however, about 50,000 people actually read each issue, Ms. Bonillas said.
The magazine is available at newsstands and is shipped to professionals who work with the deaf and hearing-impaired. Ms. Bonillas said she's received letters from readers as far away as Bangkok.
Although her magazine's been through tough times, Ms. Bonillas believes the service it provides is invaluable.
"If I'd continued in teaching I'd be much wealthier, even in Tbxas," she sajd. "I just feel that Hearing Health Alls a need. It can make a real difference in one little article for some people."
Ibpics range from legislation to humorous anecdotes. The July/August issue included articles on coping with a post-lingual hearing loss and treatments for chronic tinnitus, a ringing, roaring or hissing sound in the ears.
"I am very pleased with your educational magazine," one reader gushed in a letter to the publication. "Where have you been all my life?"
A reader from England who suffers from tinnitus wrote that an article on the ailment was useful. The mother of a 10-year-old girl with an inner ear disorder known as Meniere's disease praised the magazine for including information on the condition.
The products advertised in the magazine include an infrared listening system to amplify television sound and a device that dries and sanitizes kids' hearing aids which sweat or a dip in a swimming pool could damage.
AVR Communications, an Israel-based company that markets hearing aids and other hearing assistive devices, is one of Hearing Health's advertisers.
Joel Skoog, spokesman for the company's North American division in Eden Prairie, Minn., said an obstacle in marketing such devices is people's notions based on clunky hearing contraptions of the past.
"I think there are a lot of people who know they exist but there's a lot of misinformation," he said.
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Lawsuit against utility thrown out
HOUSTON (AP) — A judge has thrown out a big part of a $523 million lawsuit 50 Tfexas cities filed against Houston Lighting & Power Co.
.Plaintiffs claim the utility evades aying proper franchise fees. M£t Tbxas utilities face similar in suits,' but state District ,hn Wooldridge's decision a disturbing precedent for\
The-iasue boils down to a 1957 state law that allows cities to charge utility companies a "franchise fee"
for the right to operate within city limits. The fee cap equals 2 percent of the utilities' nonresidential sales revenue within a city.
HL&P and other utilities, howev-$r, pay up to 4 percent because cities. have put up bondi to boost iaffif HLAf pay» **> mfflfoft 1 annually in franchise foes, including
EI6S nflUoQto HirtM, «om-;> ittonpy Hank Roper told the mpuvnick.
That law failed to take into account state and local sales taws, which didn't exist in 1957.
VALLEY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
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