Saturday, March 31, 2007

Passing on some "Success Secrets"

I've been tagged by Stephen at Adversity University to share some daily success habits. The Daily Success Secrets started over at Today Is The Day. The idea is to list five or ten "success" habits that you follow on a frequent basis.

Wake up grateful.This is a relatively new habit of mine. On most days, I tend to wake up with a mental list of things to do for the day. I am learning to replace this with thoughts of gratitude.

Do something nice for someone else. My mom taught me this one-- she often helped neighbors, baked something for someone or lent an ear when someone needed to talk. Spread some good stuff, and the good stuff will come back to you.

Maintain a balance. Life gets crazy at times. It becomes tough to maintain a balance in all areas of life. However, when things are out of balance, then the success of other habits begins to shift. I've learned to let go of some things or create new habits to maintain balance.

Enjoy life. If you're not having fun, laughing, loving someone or enjoying life-- then what is it all for? Every day, every moment, is a gift.

And the ultimate recipe for success:

Follow the Happiness motto. Back in high school, an itinerant teacher gave me a small plaque that said: "The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."

I'm tagging my friend Groovy next!

Goovy's Ruminations

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Quick Vacation and Back to Reality

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity. On Friday night, David's friend Aubrey stayed overnight and I drove the two of them to a local junior high to meet up with their dodgeball teammates for the day. June Prusak, the youth director at Chicago Hearing Society was driving the team up north. Fourteen deaf and hard of hearing kids were entered in a tournament at the Schaumburg Park District.

The kids had a blast at the tournament and David headed home with another friend for a sleepover. I was busy packing up a suitcase for our trip to the Dells. My neighbor Barb came over with her kids and we ordered some lunch.

On Sunday morning, we picked up David and took off for Wisconsin. The trip is an annual tradition for me and my friend Sue and our families. Sue and I met at Northern Illinois University. We became roommates and close friends, sharing pregnancies together and raising deaf and hard of hearing kids. Our kids are close friends as well. Sue has five kids (two step-children) and all of the kids get along great.

This year, we headed out to the Wilderness Resort. I was surprised to see how much the resort expanded from our first visit years ago. The place now has three waterparks with a variety of water rides. The adults spent time in the indoor/outdoor hot tub (with grown up drinks) while the kids roamed. This was the first year we could really kick back and let the kids take off. Such a bittersweet feeling-- to enjoy the freedom on one hand but also realize how our kids have sprouted wings too soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Through Deaf Eyes," And Through My Own

Yesterday was one of those crazy days. My parents and sister came in from Michigan and my cousins came in from Maryland and Missouri. My brother and his family joined us for dinner. All of us are deaf or hard of hearing with the exception of a few. We had a great dinner of my mom's famous lasagna and Red Velvet cake aferwards.

After dinner, a friend of mine and another guy installed a new videophone system in my office. I am starting a new job and wanted to make sure that I had several videophone options to rely on. If you're not familiar with a videophone--it is a webcam that is hooked up to a tv or monitor and an interpreter shows up on the display. I use a phone to talk directly to the person I'm calling (or who is calling me) and the interpreter interprets/signs what is being said. The conversation is almost seamless for me with very little lag time.

When 9:15 p.m. rolled around, I suddenly realized that the PBS Special, "Through Deaf Eyes" had already started. My mom and one of my cousins joined me in watching the show. It was definitely an "eye opener" for them.

While watching the documentary, I found myself taking a few trips back in time. When I graduated from college (just yesterday, ahem!), I started a deaf senior citizens group and often spent time with older deaf persons who shared what their life was like while growing up. They shared stories of traveling great distances to see their friends, only to find out that no one was home. An older woman shared the same thing on the PBS show. When they showed the early TTYs,(early phones for deaf people), which were big Western Union teletype machines, I thought back to the calls I made on the last few teletype machines that were still working less than twenty years ago. Today, my TTY machine is collecting dust on my kitchen counter. I now use a captioned phone and video phone to make my phone calls.

The documentary also featured the National Theatre of the Deaf and that took me back to my college years when I attended a show for the first time. I knew very little sign language back then and could not understand any of the theatrical American Sign Language that was flying across the stage. I remember leaving that play feeling quite lost and empty-- I was still dealing with becoming profoundly deaf and learning a new language. The same thing happened when a band called "Foxfire" performed-- I couldn't follow any of the music or the signing. I've since learned that for me to enjoy any musicals or plays with ASL, I have to turn off my hearing aid and immerse myself in the ASL. Otherwise, if I attend a concert, I obtain an interpreter who can interpret with an emphasis on English so I can match the sounds going in my ear.

I was happy to see the variety of communication modes on the show because there's truly a diverse population of deaf and hard of hearing persons. I was surprised however, not to see an interview with an adult or family using Cued Speech as several of the families that I know use this method of communication.

My cousin is heading home today and plans to enroll in an ASL class. I look forward to teaching her all the naughty words in sign.

Monday, March 19, 2007

AG Bell Retreat At Local School

On Friday, I headed out to Child's Voice after a Deaf Mentor session in the morning. This was the first time I had joined an AG Bell event. The retreat was for deaf and hard of hearing adults.

The morning session consisted of observing a child in a one-on-one session with a teacher. We then gathered in the main gym and had an "Advocacy" session with about twenty deaf and hard of hearing children from kindergarten to first grade. Many of the children had one or two cochlear implants and several of them had hearing aids. A teacher lead the discussion and began with questions about ways the children and adults could advocate when communication breaks down. The kids eagerly raised their hands to answer questions and share their advocacy tips. The teacher repeated or summarized each answer. I found that it was quite a feat to make sure that I could understand everyone and I had to get up and move around to make sure that I had access to the conversations. At one point, I missed an answer to a question and made sure that I demonstrated my own advocacy skills to get it repeated.

After a delicious lunch, the adults met with the parents from Child's Voice and four deaf adults shared their experiences during a panel discussion. One was a lawyer from San Diego, a student in a business college, a doctoral student in Audiology and a school psychologist from Indiana School for the Deaf. We all sat in a circle and everything was captioned on a large screen. I was grateful for the captioning because I was able to lip read the deaf participants and then glance at the screen for anything that was missed.

On the drive home, I was thinking about a comment that one of the panelists shared. She mentioned that her parents attended every AG Bell convention since she was a little girl. It was during these conventions that she met other deaf and hard of hearing people and realized, "I am not alone, there are other people out there who are just like me."

I thought it was the most important message of the day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tinnitus-- The Roaring in my Head

It's back.

One can only liken it to Chinese Water Torture-- the incessant roaring, screeching sound that exists in my head. Much like a steady drip of water, it is a constant sound that occasionally fades to the background but comes roaring back at a moment's notice.


As a kid, I had no idea what the roaring sound was in my head. I can remember many nights of tossing and turning on a school night, trying to get some sleep and wishing that I could crawl out of my head and get away from the sound. For a long time after becoming profoundly deaf in college, I was blessed with peaceful nights of sleep. In the last few years, I've had a few episodes of tinnitus that fortunately, do not last long.

There are lots of Resources on Tinnitus including some interesting pills made of botanicals that one can take to reduce it.

Most of the time, hearing aids help mask the ringing sounds, but this most recent bout won't go away even with my hearing aids in. I usually resort to hypnotherapy (something that I used when I birthed my son at home) to quiet my mind and take the focus off of the sounds. Another thing that helps is to listen to my son's music on his Ipod.

One blast of Weird Al Yankovich and the sounds are gone.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Advertise Free Food--And You've Got an Event!

On Saturday night, I donned my polo shirt and headed off to the new Video Relay center in Schaumburg where was hosting an open house for the community. Robyn Girad, the Community Marketing Manager for GoAmerica which operates i711, gave a power point presentation explaining the new services. If you're not familiar with relay services, it is a service that uses a hearing operator to "relay" calls from a deaf/hard of hearing person to a hearing caller. I can make relay calls using AOL instant messenger to call my doctor, neighbor, etc. and I can also use a video relay operator to make calls also. More information is available here: Relay and Beyond.

We had so many people crowded into the new call center that there wasn't enough room to fit everyone in. Before we knew it, the food disappeared:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Disappointing IEP Meeting

Yesterday's IEP meeting for my oldest son was a doozie. For those of you who are not familiar with IEP meetings, these are legal meetings with school personnel that outline an Individual Education Plan for students with disabilities or in special education.

Yesterday's meeting was an Annual Review, but the hubby and I brought up a change of placement for our son. We live in a district that has a strong inclusion policy in their approach for education for children in special education. This means that our deaf and hard of hearing kids attend regular classes with accommodations such as sign language interpreters and FM systems that amplify what is spoken in the classroom. We asked for a change in schools to allow our son to attend a high school with nearly seventy other deaf kids. He would still attend classes with other hearing students, but have access to his deaf peers during lunch and other activities. He would also have the option of taking several classes that are team taught by a teacher of the deaf and classes with deaf students. This is something that is currently missing from his middle school in our district. He meets with three other hard of hearing students three times a month in a group run by the school social worker and itinerant teacher.

The district team was very mixed in their response to our request. The Special Education person running the meeting was not supportive and indicated that our request was not the Least Restrictive Environment for our son and the district couldn't justify this placement. He's been doing just fine in middle school, they said. Frankly, keeping our son in a high school where he is the only deaf student is indeed quite restrictive for his social/emotional development. Academically, he will do fine at either high school, but he won't have peers that he can communicate freely with in group situations at the district high school. I actually broke down crying at this IEP meeting.

The district has decided to gather more information from us and our son via the school's social worker and determine placement on the outcome of that report. Then the team meets again to decide which high school is the appropriate placement. We'll be bringing an advocate with us and looking into legal counsel. Sadly, the outcome lies with the district and their interpretation of the law. I'm not sure how much our input will have an effect.

So at this moment, I have no clue as to where my son will attend high school in the fall or what our plans will be if they don't agree with our request.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Come On Over to the Party!

It's party time! Five Minutes for Mom is hosting the ultimate blog party this week.

Today, you're invited to mine! Yesterday, my daughter and I spent the day making one of my favorite treats from the Taste of Home Magazine, Pecan Delights. If you like Fannie May Pixie candy, then you're going to fall in love with these. So grab a bite and kick back.

So those of you who are new here, welcome! I'm Karen from the state of Chicago, er um, Chicago, Illinois. I'm actually from Bolingbrook but unless I tell people that we're right next to Naperville, (the number two city ranked as the "Best Place to Live" in Money magazine) they often have no clue about my town. I'm a deaf mom with three deaf and hard of hearing kids and a deaf husband too. You can hear the music blasting from our house clear across town.

Today, I've got a sick kiddo at home and an IEP meeting this morning. Thank goodness for neighbors who step in when needed.

That doesn't stop me from crashing a couple of parties this week. Of course, I have to stop over at Groovy's house, she's throwing a game party. Groovy and I met on a writer's board and she's got a wicked sense of humor. A couple of weeks ago, she did a Google search for images under her name and my photo popped up. Groovy recently made it into the Reader's Digest and now I tease her that the more famous she becomes, the more my photo will come up. Go, Groovy, go!

Rocks in my Dryer is hosting a unique writing challenge: write yourself a letter going back in time and reflect on some knowledge that you've gained.

Jenny, from Home is Where You Start From writes about homeschooling in sunny California. That's where I wish I was right now...

I expected some desserts on Dessert Diva but I found a fellow photographer after my own heart: she's got my favorite Robert Frost poem on her site, "The Road Not Taken."

Another writer and another Karen shares about life on Write From Karen.

So tonight, I'm planning to kick back with the Pecan Delights that are left over and read more!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Howie Seago Teaches Deaf People to Sing!

Howie Seago provided entertainment on Friday night at the Illinois Teachers for Deaf and Hard of Hearing conference. Howie Seago is a deaf actor who has done many plays, television shows (Star Trek, The Next Generation, Hunter and The Equalizer) and a movie, Beyond Silence.

During his comedy routine, Howie called up three deaf individuals to the stage: Chicago locals Gary Etkie and Terry Kourt, and Mark Bella from California. Howie announced that the skit was called "The Three Tenors" and he would be teaching them to sing a song titled, O Sole Mio. The three guys gave Howie an incredulous look; how were they going to convert their deaf voices into song?

So one by one they began to sing O Sole Mio, with Howie directing each word and wrapping their hands to keep them from signing. By the third round of singing, the audience was in stitches. June Prusak from Chicago Hearing Society was laughing so hard that Howie stopped the show momentarily so that she could regain her composure and view the rest of the show. The audience used a show of hands to judge the singing ability of each and Howie awarded them with a bottle of water for their efforts.

The next day, Jane Holtz and I did a presentation on "Hands & Voices, Supporting Families Without Bias" for the teachers. Despite being in the last time slot of the conference, we had a nice turnout.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Marlee Matlin in "Working Mother" Magazine

Yesterday, I went to get a haircut and saw the February/March issue of Working Mother sitting on a display stand. I glanced through it and saw the familiar face of Marlee Matlin.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, you have to admire Marlee for her continued success as a working mom and actress. A lot of peole figured she was a "one shot wonder" when she won the Academy Award as the youngest actress. Here she is today, a mom of four and still performing. She's involved in various charities, published two children's books and continues to be a regular Hollywood icon.

My guess is that this mom of four has a lot more dreams and accomplishments planned and we'll be seeing her around for many more years.

Personalized Children's Books