Monday, November 27, 2006

Are Restaurants Your Second Home?

I recently discovered and it is a great site to get gift certificates for local restaurants at deep discounts. No gimmicks-- simply purchase a $25 gift certificate for $10 and head out to any of the many restaurants listed on the site. Click the link above for details on restaurants covered by this program.

Joe and I like to eat out often and this is a great way for us to sample different restaurants without paying full price.

Fortunately, Domo 77 is not one of the restaurants listed-- because I certainly won't be going back there: What Are We, Chopped Liver?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Deaf Doc is In!

It's that time of the year when we get hit with the usual alphabet soup of winter ills: bronchitis, colds, flu and more. Dr. Carolyn Stern has a brand new medical website, DeafDOC, filled with information on a variety of health topics. Dr. Stern is a board certified family physician who practices in Rochester, New York. The unique aspect of this website: the information is given in American Sign Language as well as voiced and captioned.

I first met Dr. Stern when she practiced at Lutheran General in the Chicago area several years ago. I was filled with a lot of questions, such as how to hear a heartbeat (she uses an amplified stethoscope) and how to measure blood pressure (it can also be measured manually through the hands). At that time, I was learning how to become a doula and had the opportunity to attend several births, including a home waterbirth. I was toying with the idea of a career in the birthing field. Dr. Stern was an inspiration, as she was catching babies and serving entire families with her practice. As it turned out, I pursued early intervention instead and got involved with Hands & Voices.

Dr. Stern has a section on her website where you can Ask the Doc and get some feedback on your health concerns. She is also available as a speaker and a consultant.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Midwest Center for Law and the Deaf Fundraising Bash

On Thursday, November 22, the annual Midwest Center for Law and the Deaf fundraiser was held at Prairie Rock restaurant in Schaumburg. The Midwest Center for Law and the Deaf, or MCLD as it is known among Chicagoans, was created by Chicago attorney Howard Rosenblum. The non-profit organization:

--Trains and recruits attorneys to serve the unique needs of deaf and hard of hearing clients
--Educates deaf and hard of hearing people on their rights
--Trains interpreters on how to deal with the unique challenges of working within a courtroom or other legal settings
--Provides resources to families and friends of deaf and hard of hearing people
--Prepares law enforcement officers to effectively communicate with deaf and hard of hearing people
--Aids courts in ensuring full access to the justice system by deaf and hard of hearing parties, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and spectators.

The annual fundraiser covers the cost of a part-time staff person and services offered by MCLD. Howard works tirelessly year after year to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing persons have access to legal representation. And, as Howard jokes, "so that deaf people can sue other deaf people."

So this year, if you're looking for a charitable contribution, the Midwest Center for Law and the Deaf is an organization worthy of donations.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mom's Night Inn-- What a Blast!

The 2006 Mom's Night Inn hosted by Illinois Hands & Voices was held on Friday, November 17th and Saturday, November 18th. Thirty four moms of deaf and hard of hearing kids gathered together for a night of connecting, sharing and laughing.

We started off with introductions and then jumped right into an interactive presentation, "Taking a Trip Down Guilty Lane, How to Arrive in Paradise Instead." Motherhood and guilt, they go hand-in-hand. To ease any guilt that remained, we finished off the evening with massages, manicures, crafts and food.

After Saturday morning's breakfast, we sat back to listen to a group of panelist share their life's experiences. Ben Lachman, Erika Lohmiller, Tony Abou Ezzi and Carol Nemecek answered question after question from the moms and gave some great advice. The panelists had a varied background: Cued Speech, American Sign Language, spoken language and simultaneous communication.

The feedback from the moms echoed the same sentiment over and over: "It was so wonderful to connect with other moms of deaf and hard of hearing children."

And of course, everyone enjoyed the huge wicker basket filled with chocolate that we served non-stop throughout the event.

Check out the experience of Juliet Martinez, one of the moms who attended: I Just Needed a Slumber Party!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Lions Club

This week, I was invited to attend a Batavia Lions Club meeting and introduce Illinois Hands & Voices to their members. The Lions provided a delicious dinner and an interpreter.

There were thirteen Lions in attendance, with the majority of them over the age of sixty. The Lions president, Todd McPencow, however was a young guy who fit right in and seemed very comfortable with his ability to lead. As I sat there watching the proceedings, I was struck by a sense of honor and commitment from the men in the room. The Lions Clubs are known for their fundraisers and support for people with vision and hearing loss. It is considered an high honor to be invited to join as a member of the Lions.

Each local Lions Club sends funds to the Lions of Illinois Foundation which runs the Camp Lions in three locations in Illinois. This year, Camp Lions of Illinois will be celebrating their 50th year of camp. With 700 Lions Clubs around Illinois, the fundraising covers the cost of camp for every camper; each camper is required to bring just $15 to spend at the camp store and cover the cost of a camp group picture.

I worked as a camp counselor back in my college days and I have fond memories of camp. My kids have attended Camp Lions for two years in a row, and it continues to be one of the activities that they talk about the most throughout the year. At Camp Lions, it doesn't matter whether you sign, speak or cue-- the most important thing is fun.

The Lions have always been a generous group, including the Bolingbrook Lions Club which provided hearing aids for my family one year and a laptop for our local deaf club, West Suburban Association of the Deaf.

After I shared information about Illinois Hands & Voices and Hands & Voices National, the Batavia Lions concluded the meeting with a very generous donation.

To all of the Lions who work tirelessly to help the communities they serve, thank you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Chicago Hearing Society Celebrates 90 Years

Chicago Hearing Society hosted a 90th Anniversary celebration on November 9, 2006. Chicago Hearing Society has a special place in my heart because I did my graduate internship in the Social Services and Counseling department almost twenty years ago. It was there that I met Ed Hudson and we had lunch together nearly every day. Ed died in a plane crash several years ago, but when I look back at my time at CHS-- I always remember Ed.

I. King Jordan was scheduled as the keynote speaker, but due to the events at Gallaudet, he was not able to attend. Instead, Bill Graham, one of the founders of the Association for Late-Deafened Adults filled in. I first met Bill back in the early 90's, when I attended one of the first ALDA conventions in Chicago. I've always enjoyed his wry humor and his wonderful way with words.

Chicago Hearing Society put together a slide show covering 90 years of its history. The early pictures showed a group of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing persons gathered in a room. The vision back then was simple: to provide a social connection and a goal of working together to improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing persons. That goal is still alive today, with CHS providing a variety of services to every segment of the deaf and hard of hearing population.

One person who simply doesn't get enough KUDOs is June Prusak. June is the Youth Coordinator at CHS and she has tirelessly planned events for deaf and hard of hearing kids all over Chicagoland. Someday, the kids she serves will be pushing her wheelchair and June will still be leading them with a smile.

Howard Rosenblum-- Chicago's famous deaf attorney

Karen and Bill Graham

CHS Volunteers

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lowell Myers-- A Lawyer Who Inspired Another

Lowell Myers, a deaf attorney who practiced in the Chicago area for years, has passed away. Myers was known for handling a case for Donald Lang, a deaf man with minimal language skills who was accused of murder. The case was later chronicled in the 1979 made-for-TV movie titled, "Dummy."

His obituary can be accessed here: Lowell J. Myers.
Chicago is home to another deaf attorney, Howard Rosenblum, who credits Myers as his inspiration to become a lawyer as well.

"Lowell Myers was a pioneer," says Howard. "He became an accountant AND a lawyer at a time when many deaf people were unable to overcome barriers to education. Mr. Myers just did not see barriers, only opportunities. Even when the Dean of John Marshall Law School told him that he could not be a lawyer because of his deafness, he did not see a barrier. Mr. Myers simply convinced the Dean to give him a chance. Not only did he graduate from law school, but he did so well that he was among the top students in the school. He did this without interpreters or any other kind of accommodation. He worked as a lawyer for many years without the benefit of the ADA or other disability rights laws. Mr. Myers just did not let such barriers stop him.

Mr. Myers also helped others see opportunities. When he came to speak about his experiences as a lawyer at an event in 1978, a twelve-year-old deaf boy saw the same opportunity that Mr. Myers saw for himself. That boy was me, and thanks to Mr. Myers, I became a lawyer 14 years later. Lowell Myers, wherever you are now, thank you for being an inspiration."

Howard works for Equip for Equality in Chicago and runs the Midwest Center for Law and the Deaf.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

When the Kids Grab the Camera...

I was going through the photo files this morning in an effort to weed out some bad photos and back everything up with a new external hard drive we recently purchased. After wading through a couple of thousand photographs, I discovered that the kids had grabbed the camera and played around with it.

It's a little late for Halloween, but they came up with some good ones:

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ten Hearing Aids-- Never a Dull Moment


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Invest in a battery company.

In my household, we have to keep track of ten hearing aids. The hubby and I have four, and the three kids have six hearing aids. We have an entire kitchen drawer that is devoted to packs of batteries and extra tubes. The drawers are littered with the little orange tabs that are stuck to each battery. Try as I might, I haven't been able to successfully train my kids to walk over to the garbage can (which is right across from the very kitchen drawer I spoke of) and dispose of the sticky orange tab. Instead, the drawer organizer and the cardboard packages are decorated in a random orange pattern.

One day, I took the hubby's car and on my way to a presentation, a battery went out. I changed the battery and stuck the little orange tab on the front of the steering wheel, intending to toss it when I arrived home. I promptly forgot about it until the next time I got in the car a few days later. The bright orange tab was still stuck to the middle of the steering wheel. Apparently the entire family suffers from "Orange Tab Disorder."

Despite their inability to locate garbage cans, the kids have managed to keep track of their hearing aids pretty well. Occasionally, we do have to play "Hunt for the Hearing Aid" around our house. My husband is especially good at initiating this game, for he frequently takes off one hearing aid and forgets just where he put it. This wouldn't be a problem if I kept an immaculate house, but I tend to favor piles of books and papers in random places, so we're often sifting through things around the house to try and locate a hearing aid.

With the addition of our puppy in January, we've had to be more vigilant about keeping hearing aids out of Kaycie's reach. This past summer, I was giving David a haircut outside and he placed his hearing aids on the patio steps. He went inside to take a shower and came out looking for his hearing aids. I had let Kaycie outside, not knowing that his hearing aids were out there. You guessed it-- we found Kaycie outside munching on an earmold. The hearing aids were nowhere to be seen. We located both earmolds, torn to shreds. After hauling everyone outside to join in the hunting game, we located both hearing aids. Despite a nice bite mark on one of them, they both were in working condition. This is the same kid who jumped into the lake with one hearing aid on during the previous summer. The hubby also had a lake adventure with his hearing aid: he had placed his hearing aid on a towel in the boat and accidently flung it overboard. I was able to locate the hearing aid with a scuba mask a few hours later. Today's hearing aids seem to have nine lives, as we were able to bring them all back with a Dry-Aid kit.

With ten hearing aids to keep track of, it's a miracle that we've only lost one of them. My daughter Lauren was at the library one day (this was when she was 9) and her battery went out. She didn't have a back-up battery with her, so she took off her hearing aid and put it in her sweatshirt pocket. While she was waiting for Daddy to check out the books, she decided to do some gymnastic maneuvers on the floor. When she arrived home, the hearing aid was gone. We scoured the library and the parking lot, but the hearing aid with the bright blue earmold, was never found.

When David was three, I noticed that his hearing aid was missing. We were playing outside, so we figured the hearing aid had to be out in the backyard. Joe and I started searching through the grass. We must have looked pretty comical pacing up and down the backyard trying to locate a tiny hearing aid with a tiny earmold. Soon, the neighbors joined in and we covered every inch of the yard, continuing the search into the night with flashlights. We finally gave up the search two days later and had to order another aid. Many months later, we discovered the hearing aid in the bottom of a wicker toy hamper that had never been emptied.

Five people, ten hearing aids and an earmold-loving dog-- never a dull moment in this household.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Are You a Bluffer?

Have you ever been caught in a conversation where you weren't sure what was going on yet you nodded along, laughed along or excused yourself to head to the bathroom?

Social bluffing. Everyone does it, my neighbors with hearing in the normal range have shared with me. "I'll be at a party," says my neighbor Denise, "and I'll miss something that's being said or my mind is elsewhere and I'll just nod along with the conversation."

Social bluffing is pretending to hear or understand something that is being said, and behaving in a way that shows you understand, even when you have little or no clue as to what is being said. I grew up hard of hearing and it was physically impossible for me to participate in group conversations with school friends, so I learned quickly to bluff my way through conversations just to get through the day.

I can remember this skill emerging back in second grade, when a group of us gathered around the teacher to read about "Curious George." The teacher called on me, but I was so enthralled with the pictures of the monkey and the man in the yellow hat, that I had no idea of the monkey's name or just what the story was about. So I nodded along with the teacher's question and apparently it satisfied her because she kept on reading and calling on others.

I continued to bluff my way through school and in high school, I met another student who also had hearing aids. Shawn and I became fast friends in high school. During our senior year, the high school newspaper published a story on us. More than one student came up to us that day and said, "I didn't know you guys had a hearing loss!" We had bluffed our way through so many situations that others around us didn't realize how much we actually missed.

When I transferred to Northern Illinios University in college, I had become deaf just a few weeks before. As I gradually learned to sign, I found myself using the same bluffing skills in an effort to fit in. I nodded along, pretending to understand someone's signing while desperately trying to soak up the meanings of all the signs. It didn't take me long to figure out that I couldn't bluff with my deaf and hard of hearing friends, and I didn't have to. Once I became proficient, for the first time in my life, I was able to experience full access to a group conversation. Parties took on a whole new meaning. In high school, I would avoid parties and group gatherings, but with my new deaf and hard of hearing friends, I couldn't wait for the next one.

It took a long time to acknowledge a lifetime of bluffing and change the way I access communication. As Lenny Kepil says, "It's a survival skill." I often employ communication strategies and occasionally ask people to write things down. Communication is a two-way street and today, I'm much more assertive in making sure that communication happens the way I need it to.