Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Social Bluffing--Revisited

Back in February of last year, I posted a question on a listserv about "social bluffing" a term that I came up with to describe the practice of pretending to understand conversation. I had googled the term and found nothing on it in reference to deaf and hard of hearing people so I came up with a definition.

"Social bluffing," as I said in my article, " 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."

As a result of the discussion that I initiated, someone mentioned that they were going to write an article about it. I was already in the midst of my own article on social bluffing which was printed in the Hands & Voices Communicator (Summer, 2006):

Calling Our Bluff: Using Communication Strategies in Social Situations.

Kathy Allen's Communication Strategies Sidebar

I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery because the article "Bluffing...The (Not So) Social Truth" by Jay Wyant appeared in the January/February issue of Voices, a publication by the Alexander Graham Bell organization. They also included a sidebar of "Tips and Strategies."

But hey, a little credit would have been appreciated.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Chicago Parent Magazine--Wanting to be Heard

This month's issue of Chicago Parent magazine has several articles on parenting deaf and hard of hearing children:

Wanting To Be Heard.

I would have liked to see Illinois Hands & Voices included as a resource in this article. Looks like we'll need more publicity so that every parent in Illinois can know about us.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Magazines and more Magazines-- for Parents

I love magazines. Correction, the hubby and I love magazines. We have piles and piles of magazines in our house and I've actually cut back on the subscriptions that we used to get.

It just dawned on me that I no longer read parenting magazines anymore. When my first child was born, I subscribed to Parents and American Baby. By the time the third child came along (born at home), I was digging into Mothering magazine instead.

Last week, while waiting for my teenager to get his hair trimmed, I thumbed through a couple of different parenting magazines. I remembered the days of trying to get some sleep throughout the night, the huge diaper bag filled with everything under the sun and the countless days of playing "Hunt for the Binky." I can remember turning to my parenting magazines to help me get through the ups and downs of motherhood.

I find myself on "the other side" as I guide some of my friends through their mothering days with their first babies. These are the gals who have finally become mothers late in life. And just as I did years ago, I see the same parenting magazines lying on their coffee tables.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sound and Fury, Six Years Later-- Purchasing Information

Note: This is a re-post which includes information on how to purchase the film, Sound and Fury, Six Years Later.

When Sound and Fury was released in October, 2000, the movie spurred discussions about cochlear implants all around the nation. The movie covered the story of two brothers who had deaf children. One chose to obtain a cochlear implant for his son, the other decided not to choose that for his daughter.

I saw the movie in Chicago at a film festival with a friend. Never before had I experience a movie that was so raw and up close about the decisions that parents make when raising deaf and hard of hearing children.

Sound and Fury often stayed on my mind, so about a year ago, I decided to get in touch with both families and find out how they were doing. I learned that all of the deaf members of the Artinian family had obtained a cochlear implant, with the exception of Peter. You can read the article here: Sound & Fury: A Family Comes Together Again.
Josh Aronson, the director of the film, has now released a new film: Sound & Fury, Six Years Later. Heather Artinian obtained an implant at the age of nine and the film chronicles her life as a teen. For more information on how to obtain the film, contact Mr. Aronson at:

On another note, the youngest child to receive an implant is three months old: Music to the Ears.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the film, contact Josh Aronson at: For schools and libraries, contact: or

United States Marines-- The Few, The Proud

Sixty five years ago, on January 23, 1944, my father arrived in the Pacific and began his journey as a United States Marine in World War II. He fought in Guam and Okinawa and then the Occupation of China. He was overseas for two years.

As a child, I used to look through my mother's hope chest and finger the rough wool of his Marine jacket. It wasn't until many years later, that he would share stories about the war. He told of trudging through fields and being so hungry that when they came across a potato field, the guys feasted on the raw potatoes. He recalled the time that he sneaked out to the PX to purchase an ice cream bar, only to hear his commandeer hollering his name. He quickly hid the ice cream bar in his pants pocket only to have to dig out a melted mess a few minutes later.

Many of the war memories were rough ones, and it was difficult for him to share the horror of what he endured.

One summer, the power went out during a storm while my parents were on a trip. They came home and had to clean out a freezer full of meat. The stench, said my dad, reminded him of the war.

Today, my father is in his eighties and has been retired for several years. My oldest brother is also a Marine and he served in Vietnam. The two of them have a special bond--Marine buddies who have shared a piece of history.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ellen Roth's Article in Oprah Magazine

Ellen Roth, a Chicago area resident, had her story published in the Oprah magazine. Ellen obtained a cochlear implant and shared the new sounds that she experienced with it. Jayne Dough put the story on her blog (scroll down to the January 20th entry): Ellen Roth, My Story.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Waterskiing Memories

A few nights ago, the hubby was flipping through channels and he came across Stunt Junkies, a program on the Discovery channel. The episode featured Scott Ellis, who was attempting to break a waterskiing jump record by jumping over more than fourteen boats.

As I watched Scott break the record by jumping over a total of nineteen boats, I started thinking back to my own waterskiing days on Christie Lake. I had always dreamed of skiing in shows such as the ones held at Tommy Barlett's or Cypress Gardens but I didn't have the guts to follow the dreams.

The summer that I turned sixteen, I decided that I would learn how to barefoot--to waterski on my own bare feet. At first, I tried using a waterski and kicking off the ski, but I found myself hitting the water face first. After too many face slams, I decided there had to be a better way. So thumbed through the pages of a barefooting book and learned about the "kneeboard start." I dragged my mom to a local boat shop and we purchased a kneeboard.

After a couple of days of trying, I finally planted my feet in the water and stood up. The kneeboard fell away and I suddenly found myself barefooting. I didn't get very far, perhaps a few hundred feet. As I climbed into the boat, I learned that my friend Michele had the throttle wide open and the boat was moving at 39 mph instead of the 33 mph that we were aiming for. No wonder my feet were burning on such a short run.

For the next three years after that, I waterskied and barefooted every chance that I could. I often barefooted with the other guys on the lake, competing to see who could make it all the way around the lake. One of the guys taught me to do a deepwater start which involved wrapping my feet around the rope, gliding on my back and then getting up on my bare feet.

I have to thank my parents for all the gas they bought-- some days we skied up to eight times a day.

I'm now in my early forties and I haven't barefooted in several years. My only consolation is that no other girl/woman on Christie Lake has successfully barefooted, so I still hold the title of the sole woman barefooter. My goal is to get back into barefooting-- especially after seeing Scott Ellis jump a couple of boats. He's got the same amount of gray hair that I do.

But for some real inspiration, check out Banana George--he's 91 years old and still footin!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Are You On The Fence?

Mark Drolsbaugh, author of Deaf Again and Anything But Silent has written a new book: On The Fence: The Hidden World of the Hard of Hearing.

The stories (I have contributed mine in this book) and poems contributed by thirty-seven writers show a variety of experiences including what it is like to be "on the fence"--between people who are cuturally Deaf and people with normal hearing.

"Living with even just a little hearing loss," writes Mark in the book, "is without a doubt one of the most invisible, forgotten, isolating, and misunderstood life experiences which humans can go through. It is as if life slams a glass door in the face of hard of hearing people, putting them in a situation where they can see life happening around them but have little chance to participate."

I experienced my own "on the fence" period when I first transferred to Northern Illinois University. I grew up hard of hearing, with no knowledge of American Sign Language or contact with the deaf community. The summer before I transferred, I became profoundly deaf. At Northern, I was surrounded by many students who were deaf and hard of hearing and began to learn ASL. So for a while there, I tried to figure out who I was and where I fit in.

Today, some people percieve me as being "on the fence" as a hard of hearing person. Some say I'm deaf, others say I'm Deaf. It's a matter of perspective and where the person is coming from.

The way I see it, everyone without hearing in the normal range is in this together. Diversity is a good thing.

So grab your copy of On The Fence here and check out the variety of perspectives and stories.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Flylady Would Be So Proud

It's a new year and with every new year, I'm always determined to make some positive changes. I always have the same vows: I will take control of the messes in my house, learn to effectively use my time and sculpt my body in the likeness of Christie Brinkley's.

The same resolutions keep popping up year after year. I guess I'm not very effective at accomplishing them. However, the Putz household experienced a rare phenomenon recently. Take a look:

Yes, I managed to discover the bottom of the sink. It was a startling sight to see it empty. One of the tips at is to accomplish this very feat each day. The idea is that you will clean your sink, go to bed with a sense of accomplishment and wake up the next morning with a shining sink.

Ah, but I overlooked some very critical information in her Babysteps suggestion about the sink: you have to train everyone else in the household to embrace shiny sinks.

I forgot to notify everyone else in the Putz household of the importance of shiny sinks. Silly me.

So I woke up to half of the contents of my kitchen cabinets piled in the sink, courtesy of five kids and a 22-year old niece.

And it's only 8:30 a.m.

Let the training begin.

Friday, January 12, 2007

An Encounter With A Rude Customer

My friend Lisa works at Jewel Food Stores as a cashier. She was born profoundly deaf but was able to benefit from hearing aids while growing up. Two years ago, her ability to use her hearing aids suddenly stopped and she obtained a cochlear implant. She is slowly learning to use the phone again but the majority of her communication understanding comes via lipreading/speechreading.

She started at Jewel bagging groceries and within a short time, she was promoted to cashier. She wears a nameplate that lets customers know that they must face her when speaking.

One day, she had a tall customer with white hair who looked remarkably like Cruella, the mean lady from 101 Dalmations. The customer asked for cash back in the amount of just a dollar. "I thought that was odd," said Lisa. "Usually people ask for ten or twenty dollar amounts."

As she finished ringing up the sale, the customer looked at Lisa and demanded her book of stamps.

Lisa apologized for missing her request, explaining that she was deaf and didn't hear her.

"Then why are you working here?" the customer said loudly.

Lisa stared at her in shock, but quickly recovered.

"Excuse me, lady!" she shot back. "That's discrimination! I worked my way up and I deserve this job!"

After "Cruella" took off, the customer behind her remarked, "I can't believe there are still some people like that!"

Needless to say, "Cruella" no longer gets in Lisa's line when she does her weekly shopping.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Want Some Bingo Tickets?

Twice in the last several weeks, I have volunteered my time at the local Bingo hall. In exchange for my time selling tickets, I received a discount on my daughter's volleyball team fee.

There were about sixty people in attendance and from 5:30 to 9 p.m., my job was to walk around the room and sell tickets for various games and raffles. Many of the people who were at my first session were also at the second session, several weeks apart. Apparently Bingo is quite entertaining to these folks.

The tickets were simple enough at first. Each ticket sold for a dollar. As I walked around the room, people would either ask, "I'd like some tickets" or they would motion for me to come over. What I wasn't aware of, was that each ticket had different strategies for winning. For example, a "B row" ticket had to turn up the numbers seven and eleven to win. "Treasure Island" required a two in the first number to win. Apparently this was explained while I was hanging up my coat and putting on my Bingo apron.

I quickly learned that I was missing some information the first time someone asked, "What's the numbers?" Since I had no clue what was being asked, I didn't understand the question and asked the person to repeat it, explaining that I was deaf. "What numbers am I looking for to win?" she grumbled. I had to quickly scramble to gather the information and figure out what I was supposed to know.

Bingo is serious business. A large amount of money is spent among just a few participants. Many of the regulars brought in colored Bingo bottles to stamp their cards with, often carried in a round Bingo bag with a slot for each bottle. One lady actually had a small bag on wheels. A few patrons display lucky charms to increase their luck. Some of the older folks brought in their dinner and read the newspaper in between games. One couple played cards while simultaneously stamping their Bingo cards-- talk about multi-tasking!

It was interesting dealing with so many different people. Most of time, selling the tickets went without incident as I was able to lipread the majority of the requests. If I didn't understand the amount, I would look at the amount of money being tossed over and then confirm the number of tickets verbally. There were a few people who automatically took me down a few IQ notches when I would explain that I was deaf and needed a question repeated. They would become impatient and avoid buying tickets from me. Others adapted by holding up their fingers to show the amount they wanted whenever I would come near. One guy seemed to feel sorry for me, he responded with a sad-looking "Oh..." when I explained that I was deaf.

And he probably bought more tickets than he wanted to.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Friendship Cut Short

Time as I've known it
Doesn't take much time to pass by me
Minutes into days
Turn into months
Turn into years
They hurry by me

I was cleaning out a drawer full of pictures and I came across an envelope with several pictures inside. The pictures were of Tod Morris and my husband, just a few weeks before Tod's life ended.

As I gazed at the pictures, I started getting some flashbacks of memories. Tod was my husband's buddy, a big guy with a huge smile and a distinctive laugh. As deaf as we were, we could pick out Tod's laugh in a room full of people. He had a gutteral laugh, a series of "heh, heh, heh, heh" that would make you chuckle in response. Whenever someone would describe Tod to another person, they never failed to imitate his laugh using signs and facial expressions.

I met Tod when I was just learning to sign. I had just become profoundly deaf the summer before and was easily intimidated by my husband's friends that first year. My husband's friend Mike, also a buddy of Tod's, was a speed demon with his mouth as well as his signing. Occasionally, Joe and Tod would interpret what Mike was saying/signing so that I could keep up.

Every Christmas break, Tod would hang out at Joe's house and we would watch movies together. An athlete who was always in motion, Tod would poke at my stomach and berate me to do sit-ups. "Don't you want to have a flat stomach like my girlfriend?" he would tease. I would just roll my eyes at him and suck in my stomach.

One year, we had gotten a video camera for Christmas. Kent, another friend of my husband's was in town and the three of them started clowning around for the camera. We ended up with an impromptu "Don't Do Drugs" commercial, with Tod providing the hilarious laughs.

As the years sailed by, we shared weddings and new additions to our families. Tod lived in St. Louis and we occasionally spent time together whenever they would travel to Michigan and Illinois to see his family.

Dreams full of promises
Hopes for the future
I've had many

Dreams I can't remember now
Hopes that I've forgotten
Faded memories

Then one day, we received a message from Cathy, his wife. "Tod has cancer. He only has a couple of months to live."

Tod had felt a lump in his neck early that summer. He was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2001. So early in 2002, we started making plans to head down to St. Louis to spend some time with Tod. His sister flew in from California and a bunch of us drove down. It was a magical weekend of memories and enjoying the time together. We played poker and reminisced about good times. Around midnight, we stood around looking outside. The snow had fallen and the moon was out. The trees glistened and everything had a surreal glow.

(From left to right: Tod's sister, Kristy, Mark, Joe, Mike, Ron and Tod)

Still I love to see the sun go down
And the world go around
I love to see the morning as it steals across the sky
I love to remember
And I love to wonder why

The next morning, we all went for breakfast at the local Denny's with a couple of St. Louis locals. We laughed, we chatted and connected. Little did we know that time was truly running out.

The next day, Tod went into the hospital. He received some terrible news.

He had just a month left.

We had talked about going to Disney World together, but we dashed those plans. Tod was too sick. Joe and I drove down for a final day with Tod at the end of February. It was a heartbreaking visit. On March 4, 2002 Tod passed away, just a few days shy of his birthday. His daughter Emily was three and his son Jason was just a few months old.

Today, Cathy, Emily and Jason are doing well and still living in St. Louis.

Tod Morris Memorial

(The quoted song is "Around and Around" by John Denver. The above picture was taken by one of Tod's friends. Tod loved to be on the water and he loved to fish.)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Home Depot CEO Walks Off With 210 Million

I'm sure Bob Nardelli is laughing all the way to the bank. The Home Depot CEO was given the boot after six years of keeping Home Depot stores in their messy state. As a nice going-away present, the board gave Nardelli some parting money to the tune of 210 million bucks.

Why should I care?

Last year, Home Depot took up a large chunk of my time. A simple refund in the form of a store credit turned into weeks of store visits, which lead to this Epinion: No More Home Depot for Us! The final straw was a rude encounter with a manager who refused to give us the sale price on a product that was deceptively advertised as being on sale.

In the area where I live, Home Depot was the nearest home improvement store for several years. It was the default store that we ran to when we needed supplies to finish our basement. We learned to navigate the messy aisles in the same way we navigated around our home: by stepping over piles and squeezing around aisle displays to reach products.

As a result of our weeks of returning to the store to haggle for our refund, we were able to chat with employees and learned that the morale among employees was low. They pointed fingers at the CEO, who apparently came in cracking a whip and expecting performance with low reward. Someone forgot to tell Nardelli that the real problem is customer service and the inability to find a product in the store. Make your customers happy and they'll keep returning.

Nardelli's dismissal has come too late for our family.

We now shop at Lowes and Menards.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Alone In The Mainstream" Makes an Impact

"After I wrote yesterday's entry," says Sarah, in her blog, The 8th Nerve, "I ended up on the bathroom floor in a fetal position. That is the only position we are capable of when a lifetime of pain is finally allowed to pour through the body in a few moments. This is the beginning, after 28 years, of my acceptance of my hearing loss. Acceptance of the fact that I truly have a loss that can never be changed. In retrospect, it is unbelievable to me that I never emotionally processed any of this before."

I found Sarah's blog through a comment that she left on mine. She had Googled "Alone In The Mainstream A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School" and found my review of Gina Oliva's book.

As I read through Sarah's blog, my heart went out to her as she shared the beginning of her journey of acceptance-- after 28 years, she was just now examining her life as a solitaire, a term that Gina Oliva uses to describe those who grew up having little or no contact with others who are deaf and hard of hearing. But an important point to note is that working through the pain paves the way for new explorations on the road to acceptance. Perhaps this will be a turning point for her and a chance to meet others that she can connect with.

Gina's book also made an impact here: What's That You Said?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

And a New Year Begins

Good gosh, today is January 2nd. Already.

This year is flying by too fast.

On Sunday night, we had a couple of friends over to ring in the new year. It was one of those last minute affairs, with an email sent out a few days before. With the lack of babysitters, the logical solution was to just get together and bring all the kids. Everyone brought something to share and there was plenty of food to go around.

Food and friends, you can't beat that combination.

As I was running around tossing buffalo wings into the oven and the other gals were filling up bowls and platters, I briefly thought back through the years to another New Year's Eve party that I attended in high school. Everyone at this 1981 party had normal hearing. Most of the people there were from my swim team, including a guy that I absolutely adored. I was relatively comfortable with them, but the noisy environment and fast-flowing conversations meant that I couldn't follow conversations. So I found myself social bluffing my way through conversations. Of course, with all the under-aged drinking going on, it was easy for everyone to simply assume that I had too much to drink and was just spacing out instead of talking. I felt like the "real" me was hidden because I wasn't able to speak my mind or contribute to the group conversations.

I left that party wishing I had normal hearing.

Fast forward to Sunday's party. Despite the shrieking of a dozen kids, the blaring of the tv and some loud voices, I'm able to have a conversation with everyone there. Everyone's deaf, hard of hearing or a child of deaf/hard of hearing adults. We're a mish-mash of communication modes, but everyone signs. There's a comfort I can't explain, but it must be the same ease that people with normal hearing have when they gather in groups as well; they're not straining to "hear" or follow conversation. They're not limiting their involvement in group conversation because of a physical inability to converse.

So on Sunday, I was able to argue the merits of investing in retail stock, discuss new recipes and debate the future without missing a word or straining to understand a conversation. Quite a long way from the high school party where I left feeling like a large chunk of my life was missing.

So here's to 2007. If anyone reading this is feeling the same way that I did back in 1981-- here's to some new friendships and hoping that you will find a group of friends to connect with that will have you saying, "Ah, life is good."