Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Face Behind The Blog--More Stuff About Me

I've been given a gentle nudge by Phil Gerbyshak to share the "other side of me."

The Face Behind The Blog meme was started by David Airey, who urged bloggers to show a personal side with photographs. Photographs allow the reader to get to know the blog author in a new light.

So the other day, while browsing through several photographs on the computer, my son stopped me at the photo below:

"Oh neat, Mom!" my son exclaimed. "Is that one of those photos where your head is on someone else's body?"

After the stabbing pain in my heart subsided, I informed my firstborn that yes, indeed, that was his mom's body twenty years ago. His eyes grew wide.

So while we're examining the past, the photo below shows me on top of my first pyramid, rounding a bend in the lake and hanging on for dear life:

That's me on the upper left and my friend Jenny Oehl on the right. Bobby Kruso and Brent Greenwood are on the bottom left-- but I can't remember who the guy on the right is. I'm sure his aching back has recovered.

Fast forward many years and many pounds later:

I'm with my brother Dennis and my father. They just finished chopping down three pine trees and I'm hauling them off to a field on the four-wheeler.

Now that I'm older, I'm usually found behind the wheel of the boat, dragging my kids around the lake. Here's my youngest son on the tube, the other two have been flung off after hitting a wave.

When I'm not blogging here, I'm usually meeting families at my early intervention job or at my staff writing job for an internet company. Every once in a while, I go out and do presentations for Hands & Voices (seen here with Jane Holtz, another mom and IL Hands & Voices board member):

I'm married to a great guy (most of the time!) and I have three kids who occasionally pick up after themselves. I dream of having a chef, a maid and a personal shopper to take over the stuff I hate to do.

Heck, what I need is a wife of my own!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hawaii--On My List of Places to Visit

My sister-in-law has her 50th birthday all planned out:

She's heading to Hawaii.

So I've found a neat website where one can rent out places on Hawaii: Hawaii Beachfront Cottages. One three bedroom home can be rented for $200 per night. Keep in mind that some of the homes require a 30-day rental. Hawaii certainly isn't cheap, but heck, for the sunset below-- I'd stay 30 days myself!

Check out this four-bedroom house that sleeps eight: Big Island House--at $1,200 per night--four couples could share a vacation together with memories to last a lifetime.

The same site even has a blog about Hawaii: Hawaiian Beach Rental Blog.
Now all I have to do is write a couple of bestsellers so I can join my sis-in-law next year!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Another Deaf Author Discovered--Connie Briscoe

A couple of weeks ago, during a search for authors who are deaf or hard of hearing, I stumbled upon Connie Briscoe. In the mid 1990's, Connie rocketed to the bestseller list with her first novel, Sisters and Lovers. Connie is deaf and the former editor of the American Annals of the Deaf.

You can read more about Connie in a Gallaudet interview and in Jamie Burke's interview.

Connie's newest book is Jewels, a collection of fifty stories about African American women over the age of fifty. Connie includes her own personal story in this book. I plan to order this photographic book using the gift certificates that I've earned from My Points--Earn Rewards at MyPoints.

Yesterday, I headed over the library and found two of her books: P. G. County and Can't Get Enough.

I'm on chapter three of P.G. County and fascinated by the way Connie introduces characters. I have a feeling I'm going to like her books. On page seven, they've already gotten into some hot, steamy action.

I'm off to read more.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ten Things About Me--Aren't You Thrilled?

I've been tagged by Christy at Christy's Coffee Break to share "Ten Interesting Things About Me."

So here goes:

1) My favorite color is purple. Oddly enough, I don't have much purple in my house, but my college roommate and I once won a decorating contest for the "Best Dorm Room." It was covered in purple, of course.

2) I love books. I belong to BookHands, a bookclub where everyone is deaf. We converse using sign language.

3) Toxic people drive me nuts. I'm on a mission to eliminate the toxic people in my life. Life is too short for people who have a negative view of life.

4) I once surprised my husband by driving off with a friend's motorcycle. He had no clue that I knew how to ride one. A special thanks goes to Tim Brown, who taught me to ride his dirt bike one summer.

5) Speaking of fast things, I'm on a mission to get a jet ski by next summer. It's a harmless way to handle a mid-life crisis. Hmm... should I start a "Jet Ski For Karen" fund?

6) I love steak. More specifically, I love steak from Outback. Nothing puts a smile on my face quicker than a gift card from Outback. The hubby knows just how to score on Mother's Day, Christmas and my birthday.

7) I'm stone deaf when my hearing aids come out. Don't bother arguing with me--I have a magical "off" switch on my hearing aids.

8) My ultimate favorite organization is Hands & Voices. I've met a lot of neat people there.

9) I hate housework. My mom loves it. She is so disappointed that the "clean" gene somehow skipped me. Fortunately, when my mom visits, the fridge gets cleaned out, the cabinets get wiped down and the blinds get vacuumed. I'm trying to convince my mom to visit more often.

10) Enough about me-- tell me something about YOU. You're next!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Deaf Swimmer Makes a Splash

Will Landgren is in the pool for two hours each day, swimming laps and practicing his turns six days a week. In August, Will be competing in the World Deaf Swimming Championships in Taiwan.

"Baseball is my favorite sport," says Will, "But swimming is a close second."

During the summer, Will has practice each day, two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

Will is profoundly deaf and cannot hear the starting gun. "I use a light strobe," Will explains. "I have an interpreter at practice so I can talk to my teammates and find out what the coach is saying. Sometimes I talk to the other swimmers myself with my voice."

Each swimmer has to raise funds for the trip to Taiwan. To support Will at the competition, his local team has set up an online fundraiser to help Will gather the six thousand dollars he will need to participate. To donate funds for Will, visit: Palatine Park District Tigersharks Swim Team.

My Final Class and a Ripple In The Pond

On a perfectly calm night, you can toss a stone into Christie Lake and watch the ripples build up. One ripple causes the next ripple, which sets the motion for yet another one...

Tonight will mark my final "Conversational Sign Language" class at Joliet Junior College. I have been teaching at JJC since the early 90's and now I'm passing the baton on to Chris Laskowski, a physical education teacher who is deaf.

I've had my share of memorable students over the years. The youngest student was three years old and the oldest was 82. One student had suffered a stroke and was learning to communicate again. Several couples have taken the class to communicate with each other after losing their hearing. I have had classes as large as sixty students and some as small as six. I've had two students who have taken my class two times in a row and they've gone on to take the next level class two times as well.

Families with deaf and hard of hearing children frequently take my class and often bring the grandparents and sometimes the kids. One mom of a deaf child went on to become an interpreter. She once interpreted for me at a meeting at a local intervention agency. This mom also teaches sign classes at her local park district. Another student went on to graduate from Columbia College and now works as a full-time freelance interpreter. I recently had the honor of having her interpret for me during a meeting downtown.

I've also ran into former students in many different places. Several times I have gone into restaurants and discovered that the server has taken a class. I've found students at the post office, conferences and bookstores. It is difficult to remember all of the students after years of teaching but it's always special to come across them years down the road.

Back in the early 90's, I hosted a "Silent Day" in my hometown at a local church. I had forgotten all about that day until I received a phone call from Shirley Armstrong, one of the ladies who attended that event. She invited me to a breakfast as a thank you for the teaching I had done in my community years ago.

On Saturday, I had the honor and pleasure of having breakfast with a group of women from the Jubilee Baptist Church. Shirley in the picture on the far left) introduced me to the ladies from the church who continued to study American Sign Language year after year.

It's amazing how a ripple in the pond can continue many years later.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Psst, Come Here--Wanna See My Curtains?

About three years ago, we moved down the street to a larger house. For three years, our living room remained decorated with flat white paint and the builder's thirteen dollar, gold-plated light arrangements.

I am not known for my decorating skills, but I do have a knack for accepting other people's stuff--which is how my sis-in-law's curtains ended up decorating the family room windows, my aunt's lamp on a table and my mother in-law's kitchen table ended up in the dining room.

So one day, the hubby and I looked at each other and had the same thought--let's paint the living room. We were avoiding it for a long time because of the soaring ceilings. When inspiration hits, we roll with it. Our problem is, we often run out of inspiration in the middle of a home job and leave things halfway done.

Or we run out of money.

But this time, we got the job done and sat back to admire the soft yellow walls. We admired the new lights that we put up over the hand-me-down table.

Yet, the room still looked bare and unfinished. We knew we needed curtains, so we set out to find some. Due to the high ceilings, we quickly learned that we would have to either make them or have them custom made.

Either way, it wasn't going to be cheap.

One day, I was at my neighbor's house picking up the youngest kiddo and I noticed that she had some nice white curtains hanging up. We have the same soaring ceilings. "Nice curtains," I commented. "Where did you get them?"

"Oh, those are tablecloths!" she replied. "From Linens and Things!"

I was flabbergasted.

So I ran over to Linens and Things and found a beautiful gold color tablecloth in the perfect length.

For eighteen bucks each!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SOBCon-- A Learning Experience

My eyes have recovered.

After seven hours of absorbing information second-hand from two interpreters, I have recovered from the SOBCon that was held in Rosemont on Saturday.

When I first arrived, I was greeted by Phil Gerbyshak, the "Relationship Geek." I had just discovered his blog a few days before the event but I recognized him after a few seconds and confirmed it with a glance at his name tag. Phil has an exuberant personality and he urges his readers to "Make it Great!" Phil spoke later on about the importance of being authentic and being yourself in your blog.

I met Liz Strauss in front of the registration desk and thanked her for providing the interpreters for the event. It was wonderful to meet her in person after reading her blog and learning from it for the last few weeks. Just as I settled in my seat, Terry Starbucker and Wendy Piersall came bounding up and offered big hugs. Phil, Liz, Terry and Wendy-- what a nice welcome to receive!

I really enjoyed the small group discussion but I found myself suddenly shy and quiet. A couple of times I wanted to throw in suggestions but I couldn't make myself speak up. Anyone who knows me usually can find me yakking away, so I left the conference feeling like I needed another day to get to know everyone. Perhaps if I had been able to attend on Friday night, I might have felt more comfortable at speaking out.

I learned a few things about blogging at this conference and I'm making my way through the blogs from the list of attendees. Terry Starbucker was the perfect MC and his winning personality (not to mention his singing, which the interpreters said was pretty good!) added a special touch to the day.

To top it off, the lunch was absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

An IEP Meeting Ends Well

Back in March, we had an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting with our school district that did not end well. The hubby and I had requested a change of schools for our son David. David is deaf and attends our local school with a sign language interpreter. We wanted to send him to Hinsdale South, a school that has nearly 70 deaf students. You can read about the previous meeting here.

After that disappointing meeting, we contacted a few lawyers and Equip for Equality. Leeanne Seaver, the director of Hands & Voices reminded me to get everything in writing and hand-deliver a letter to the IEP team. I sat down to write a three-page letter and delivered it to the team and included the superintendent and principal. I followed up with a phone call and I reminded everyone of the outcome that we desired.

So today, we had David's placement meeting and it went rather well. Beth (the mom of the 12 pound baby) attended as our advocate. Only one teacher voiced a bit of opposition this time but we were able to work through that. This teacher had children of her own in special education and was a big supporter of inclusion. We were fortunate that a social worker with a background in deaf education spoke in support as well as David's itinerant teacher. We ended up with the placement at Hinsdale South.

David is looking forward to attending the same school that his father went to. His friend Aubrey (Beth's daughter)is also going. The two of them have been friends since they were babies and they are excited about finally going to school together.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Deaf Freedom Cruise 2007

At the end of October, the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas will set sail with over 4,000 passengers. For the first time in history, the cruise will consist of deaf and hard of hearing passengers.

On the entire ship.

That's right, the Deaf Freedom Cruise will be the first time an entire cruise ship is devoted to deaf and hard of hearing passengers. This cruise was made possible by the hard work and dedication of the staff of Passages Deaf Travel.

Passages Deaf Travel is owned by Tabitha and Max Partlow, a husband and wife team. Tabitha first became involved with the Deaf community when she went to college to become an interpreter. The idea of creating a travel business devoted to deaf and hard of hearing persons came about when they attended a cruise with twenty-two other deaf passengers. Despite being promised interpreters and room kits, the deaf passengers boarded the ship only to find out there were none.
"It was at that point that Mac and I realized the need for travel agents to specialize in deaf travel" said Tabitha.

Last year, the team hosted Adventure Cruise 2006 with a group of 350 deaf and hard of hearing travelers aboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. "We had such a wonderful response to that cruise that I wondered if enough people would be interested enough to fill an entire ship," said Tabitha.

"When we had this idea," she continued, "I went to many different cruise companies to see who wanted to do this. Some cruise companies turned me down. Royal Caribbean and Carnival wanted to do it. Royal Caribbean really stepped up and decided to provide the interpreters and room kits at no additional cost to our clients." Real-time captioning will also be provided.

The staff of Royal Caribbean also convinced Tabitha that she could fill up the newest and biggest ship, Freedom of the Seas. "I wasn't thinking about the biggest cruise ship at the time... but Royal Caribbean talked us into it," she said. "Now I am thrilled, it is the best ship!"

Over 3,800 people have booked their rooms and the ship is nearly at capacity. Fully booked, it will hold 4,100 people. Royal Caribbean plans to take pictures of all of the passengers together, but will have to divide it up into four pictures. "Perhaps we can put all four pictures together to make big one!" Tabitha chuckled.
Current sponsors of the trip include Hands On VRS, Worldvuer, DeafNation and Crown Jewelers and more. Entertainment will be provided by some well-known performers, including John Maucere, Bernard Bragg, Keith Wann and CJ Jones. "Keith Wann will have a morning talk show that will air on TV in each cabin, every morning!" said Tabitha. "Keith will talk about the events happening that day, weather, dinner, and other things. Each day, he will interview someone from the ship."

This cruise is the accumulation of a dream for Tabitha. "We feel that the travel industry should provide more access for deaf people" said Tabitha.

"Maybe once they see how successful Deaf Freedom Cruise is... maybe they will come around."

View the DeafNation video of Freedom of the Seas

Friday, May 04, 2007

$65 Million Dollars for a pair of pants-- Absurd!

What would you do if the local dry cleaning establishment lost your favorite pair of pants?

Like most people, you would get a little upset. You might become tremendously pissed off and make the establishment refund you for the cost of the dry cleaning and the pants. At worse, you'd haul them off to small claims court and let a judge settle the case.

Then you'd go out and buy another pair of pants and go off to work.

Like most people.

Apparently, Roy Pearson isn't like most people. He's a judge from Washington, D.C. who decided to take his own case to court and sue the local dry cleaners to the tune of $65 million dollars.

For losing his pants.

The Chungs, who own the dry cleaning establishment, have done everything they can to remedy the issue without going to court. They've offered plenty of money to replace the suit and settle the matter. An offer of twelve grand did nothing to satisfy Mr. Pearson.

He's still dragging them to court and asking for $65 million dollars for the inconvenience of having to rent a car and drive across town to use another dry cleaners.

To top it off, the Chungs claim that they have found his pants.

Let's hope a more level-headed judge will throw this case out and make Pearson pay for this absurd use of our legal system.

And to help this case out, I've got a perfectly good suit sitting in my husband's closet-- Pearson, do you want it?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Deaf Characters in Books--All In One Place

For as long as I can remember, I have always had my nose buried in a book. My mom used to complain when I brought a book to the dinner table. Recently, while doing some surfing on the internet, I came across a compilation of books that have deaf or hard of hearing characters in them on My Shelf.

Brenda, the website owner, has a personal interest in books with deaf characters. Her 24-year-old son is deaf. One day in 1998, she decided to put together a list of fiction books. Today, you will find books on American Sign Language and other non-fiction topics as well. Brenda has read many of the books herself, and provides a summary of each as well as personal notes on some of them.

Check it out: My Shelf-- Deaf Characters

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Disabled, Schmabled--Blogging Against Disablism

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007

Over at Diary of a Goldfish, they're Blogging About Disablism. Simply put, Disablism is right up there with a long line of "isms," which boils down to a simple word: discrimination. I also call it a reality based on fear or discomfort.

As many of you know, the hubby and I are deaf and we're raising three deaf and hard of hearing kids. At first glance, we don't look any different from the hundreds of families in our neighborhood. We're just another family in the typical American tract home, driving three kids in two cars to three different activities on the same day.

Glance at us a second time, and you'll find hearing aids in each of our ears. Our youngest son sports red, white and blue earmolds. We've gone through quite a few color combinations throughout the years, including the blue and white swirls in honor of their school colors. Your eyes might catch us signing or tapping each other on the shoulder.

Invite us to a party and you find that we might be a bit quiet at times. Joining in on group conversations is nearly impossible for us. Our eyes simply can't play ping pong with conversations. As soon as we've lipread one conversation and turn to lipread a response from someone else, the conversation moves yet again. That's why we love people who are willing to understand the logistics of group conversation and slow down until we've made eye contact and take turns speaking. Unfortunately, it's a rare occasion when this happens. That's why we like our activities with a group of deaf and hard of hearing friends-- conversation flows and the communication barriers fall to the wayside. I get riled up when people tell me that we need to be "in the real world with hearing people." Believe me, we're in the real world everyday. I just like my world accessible.

We have a couple of people in our lives that have that "deer in the headlights" look whenever they're around us. They're quite uncomfortable making conversation and they offer a few sentences and then dart away. There's no real deep meaningful dialogue because they're so afraid of having to repeat themselves and the tension runs too high. Sometimes we joke about slipping a few anti-anxiety pills in their coffee.

Making a phone call to us can be a bit tricky but it is improving with technology all the time. We now have a regular number that people can call without us having to explain what a relay service is. In years past, we would have to give out an 800 number and our home phone number and people would often give up before attempting to call us. We still have kinks to work out with people who hang up when they get an operator instead of us directly.

The invention that I personally love right now is the videophone. I use a wireless phone to talk to people directly and I have an interpreter on a screen in front of me who signs everything that is being said. Most of the time, conversation flows pretty easily with this method.

Around the internet, I identify myself as "Deaf Mom." It's me, it's who I am, it's a part of me 24/7. Being deaf is so much a part of me that if you can't see beyond the lack of hearing stuff, then you've got a disability of your own.