Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Connected to One Another

At the Hands & Voices Leadership Conference, we joined in on an icebreaker activity that consisted of tossing a huge ball of colorful yarn around the room. Once you placed your finger on your share of the yarn, you had to share a bit about yourself or your deaf/hard of hearing child. If you landed on blue--you shared a recent success--yellow, a phobia--green, a struggle you encountered, and so on.

As I was reflecting about the conference, I was thinking about all the wonderful people I've been blessed to encounter through the years via Hands & Voices. My own journey of raising three deaf and hard of hearing kids has had some twists and turns while dealing with their education and I've learned so much in four short years of being with Hands & Voices.

I wanted to share an article written by Holly Thomas-Mowery which was a presentation at the 2004 Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EDHI) conference in Washington, D.C.:

Honoring Each Family

I think article sums up beautifully the icebreaker activity--we're all connected and we need each of us (parents, professionals, deaf and hard of hearing adults) so that every deaf and hard of hearing child can reach their fullest potential.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hands & Voices Leadership Conference

I spent four days at Peaceful Valley Ranch for the annual Hands & Voices board meeting and Leadership Conference. The photo above was taken from a bridge right outside the dining room. The area is incredibly rustic and simply beautiful.

Four full days of workshops and connecting with parents, professionals, deaf and hard of hearing adults from all over left me quite exhausted, yet uplifted. Just four years ago, Hands & Voices had only three chapters. Today, 36 states are involved and committed to "What works for your child is what makes the choice right."

Every year, we show a short, but very powerful video, "The Time is Now," which is a collection of individuals sharing a message: Now is the time to make changes for every deaf and hard of hearing child.

After the video, Leeanne Seaver, the executive director, asked each of us to stand up and give the names of the individuals that we are working together for.

One by one we stated them: "This is for Dane, Maddie, Sara, David, Lauren, Steven, Joshua, Danielle, Elizabeth..." and around the room we went until we were all standing together--

"And for every deaf and hard of hearing child in this world."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Muscle Spasms, Tendonitis or Whatever the Heck is Wrong

Last week, I was having some intermittent leg pain. I complained to the hubby and he tried to get me to go to the doctor. I decided to wait it out, because I've had various pains in the past that go away after some time.

On Friday night, after my son's baseball game, we were heading to the van to go back to the in-law's house and my leg started to really hurt. By the time we reached the van, I was limping.

A few hours later, the pain was pretty bad. My mother-in-law had some Darvocet left over from a dental visit. Neither of us is into medicine and we rarely have any in the house. "Give it to me," I told her. The pain was intense at that point and I was ready to down a bottle of tequila.

I went to bed and tried to do some hypno-breathing to work through the pain. I figured it was a charley horse of some type and would subside soon.

It didn't. The pain became worse, a sharp searing pain. I couldn't bend to get out of bed. My leg was numb from the hip down to the knee and knotted in pain. I'm no wimp when it comes to pain-- heck, I birthed my youngest kid at home and that pain was nothing like this. I crawled to the van and we headed off to the hospital.

Joe and I debated whether or not to get an interpreter. I was in so much pain and I figured if we asked for one, they would delay treatment until the interpreter arrived. So we decided not to. The staff at Palos hospital was really indifferent to providing pain relief. X-rays and an ultrasound ruled out thrombosis and clots. It took hours to be seen by a doctor, who gave me all of two minutes and proclaimed it a muscle spasm.

While in the bathroom, I tried to get up and fell to the floor. I was doubled over in so much pain and couldn't get up. I hit the nurse call button and waited. And waited. And waited. No one came. I finally hollered out, "Can someone please help me!" and then the door opened. Several nurses helped me up.

I ended up with a shot, Vicodin, Motrin and Valium and was still in pain. "There's nothing more we can do for you" they said as they gave me crutches and wheeled me out the door. On the way out, I tried to explain that I was extremely thirsty and quite dehydrated. Maybe an IV with fluids would help, I inquired? They rolled a finger over the veins in my hand and said, "No, you're fine."

So for two days, I took three different pills and didn't get much relief.

At home, looking up "muscle spasms" I discovered that they can indeed be triggered by dehydration as well as low calcium and potassium levels. A follow up visit to my regular doctor had him guessing tendonitis and admitting that he really didn't know what was wrong. He prescribed more powerful pain meds. My purse now looks like a hypochondriac's collection of orange bottles.

I jokingly told my husband that I should have stuck to the idea of hitting the tequila instead.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gallaudet Teacher Shares Her Love of Books

Back in May, 2007, I came across a compilation of books with deaf and hard of hearing characters on Myshelf.com

Now there's more:

Sharon Pajka-West, Ph.D., loves books with deaf and hard of hearing characters in them. She provides extensive reviews on her blog: Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature. An instructor at Gallaudet in the Department of Applied Literacy, Sharon was diagnosed with Meneier's Disease at the age of fifteen. A doctor told her she would be deaf by the time she was 30.

In her twenties, Sharon's hearing began fluctuating so she and her mom enrolled in American Sign Language class together. Her instructor urged her to consider a career in Deaf Education.

"I never wanted to be a teacher," says Sharon. "My first ASL teacher, a graduate of Gallaudet, convinced me to go to graduate school there."

Sharon taught for eight years, first at The Learning Center in Boston and at The Virginia School for the Deaf in Staunton, then a year in a mainstream school. "I like teenage kids, they're fun!"

Sharon tries to instill a love for books with the students she teaches. "Many of my students hated English... which I could understand because I wasn't a big fan until middle school when I discovered the Sweet Valley Twins series. Before that I was a struggling reader."

On her blog, Sharon has a variety of information, including interviews with authors, book reviews and a newsletter for teachers. She keeps an extensive list of over one hundred books of Adolescent Literature Books with Deaf Characters.

When asked about her favorite books, Sharon shares, "From the hearing authors, I really like Jean Ferris' Of Sound Mind. And from the deaf authors, I really enjoyed Nobody's Perfect(Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney-- who is hearing).

Sharon has a seven hour commute to her job, four days a week. "It may seem crazy," she says, "but I do take the train."

"Lots of time to read!" she says, with a wink.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Waiting On the World to Change--A Quote out of Context

There's a new music video out with the song, "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer visually communicated using American Sign Language. There's a little girl in there who is completely adorable as she signs "waiting for the world to change."

It is not captioned, so here are the lyrics:
Me and all my friends
We're all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There's no way we ever could
Now we see everything is going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
Its hard to beat the system
When we're standing at a distance
So we keep waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would've never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
When you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cuz when they own the information ooohhh,
They can bend it all they want

So while we're waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
It's not that we don't care
We just know that the fight ain't fair
So we keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change

We're still waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population

So we keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
No, we keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
Waiting on the world to change
Waiting on the world to change
Waiting on the world to change.

I did write to the creators and asked them to add the lyrics to the video so that it would be accessible to those who are not familiar with American Sign Language.

One part that greatly saddened me was to see my friend Mary Koch quoted in a way that was taken completely out of context. Mary is a strong supporter of families with deaf and hard of hearing children and she works with all communication modes. Here's what Mary had to say:

“I saw the beautiful video 'Waiting for the World to Change.' It is awesome. However, I was shocked and saddened to see a quote with my name associated with it: "We think the deaf need to be fixed." I know where the quote came from, and it is accurately quoted. I was, at the time, working on a cochlear implant team at Johns Hopkins. I was, however, describing to a reporter the controversy between the medical and the cultural perspectives toward deafness. As an employee of Hopkins, I began my statement with the word 'we' instead of 'the medical community.' I am forever sorry that that quote is associated with me, and not with its proper context in the medical community.

As a Gallaudet graduate (masters in deaf education), I have spent my entire 30+ year career advocating for CONNECTION--any way we can, as human beings deaf AND hearing. I have fought for children's rights to sign. I resigned from a job (as sole supporter of my family) because I was told I could not sign with a child. I served on the NAD committee to rewrite their position paper on cochlear implants. I have stood in the middle of the battlefield, and taken many shots from both sides--I, too, am waiting for the world to change.

The quote is everything that I am not. The video is beautiful and should be viewed by millions. However, I am so very, very sad that my mission in life will be so misrepresented in the process."


The staff from D-Pan removed Mary Koch's quote from the video.

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RealTravel--A Great Travel Resource!

In the middle of dreaming about next year's vacation, I stumbled upon RealTravel--a travel blog site where others can blog about their trips around the world.

I spent a good hour reading about other people's trips. The travel pictures on this site are just beautiful. The site is addictive. For example, I clicked on Go_Girl's entry about her trip to Potosi, Bolivia and I was transported to a city that I had never heard about. Go_Girl shared her day in Potosi with a few recommendations tossed in. She ended her journal entry with a Spanglish slip of the tongue:

Spanglish spoonerism/Freudian slip of the day (by the tour guide at the mint as she described the Spaniards conversion of the locals):
Catholicollision (instead of Catholicism)"

RealTravel.com also has a section featuring deals scouted by their travel editors:

RealTravel Deals

There's also a section that gives advice on "Things to Do" and a forum where you can ask specific questions to other travelers.

However, the search engine on the site leaves a bit to be desired. While doing a search for Wisconsin Dells, it tossed in some irrelevant sites and didn't narrow down the search as I had hoped. You'll certainly stumble on even more travel articles using the search feature!

And finally, check out this couple that took a one year journey around the world: 365 Days Around the World.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Deaf Freedom Cruise--Just a Few Cabins Left!

The Deaf Freedom Cruise 2007 is nearly full. That's right, the ship has just 45 cabins left to fill.

My brother and his wife took the same cruise last week and they said it was absolutely wonderful. They're no strangers to cruises--this was their eighth cruise. Even with 4,000 people aboard, they said the ship didn't feel crowded at all. They especially enjoyed the ice show which was simply spectacular. Each morning, my brother sipped his coffee in the hot tub that extends over the ocean. Yeah, coffee in a hot tub!

So if you'd like to join this cruise, you've got to hurry and grab your spot!

To sign up and reserve today: Passages Deaf Travel.

A detailed review of the ship: Frommer's Review of the Freedom.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's Award Day!

Last week, I spent a wonderful week in Michigan with my parents and some cousins from Missouri. My cousins have a big garden and some chickens and they brought up a bountiful harvest. We spent the entire week cooking up different dishes and biting into fresh tomatoes. There's just nothing like a home-grown tomato.

There's no internet access at my parent's and the library is still on dial up. It's one of those old towns with a single main street and a handful of mom-and-pop stores. It wasn't until I arrived home that I realized the entire week was quite stress free.

It certainly wasn't quiet on the internet front. Ev Nucci from My Life Is Murphy's Law has handed over the Bloggers for Positive Global Change Award. This one encourages blogging with a purpose: to change the world we live in for the better. That was the mission of my favorite singer, John Denver. He worked tirelessly to make this world a better place and to ensure that we protected the resources of our earth.

I'm passing this award on to:

Environmental Graffiti

Simply Green

Christy from Writers Review has created the Courageous Blogger Award and has kindly made me one of the first recipients. Christy says, "It was my hope to create an award series that would give unique, caring, brave, and positive bloggers the recognition they deserve." In turn, I'm passing this award on to:

Stephen from Adversity University

Glenda from Do It Myself

Dawn from Palms to Pines

Thank you Ev and Christy--I very much appreciate it and I'm honored! You both rock!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday--Killing Weeds Around my Dog

Rocks in My Dryer hosts "Works for Me Wednesdays" where everyone shares helpful tips that make life easier.

Last year, our brick patio was invaded by hundreds of weeds. The hubby and I don't like to use weed killer, so last year, we boiled water and annihilated the weeds with that method. It was a pain in the butt to boil the water and walk outside holding a pot with heavy-duty oven mitts. I'm sure the neighbors were amused at the sight.

This year, I was doing some research online and discovered that vinegar is a natural weedkiller. Why isn't this simple remedy proclaimed all over? I took a three dollar jug of white vinegar and poured it on the patio. A few hours later, the weeds were no longer a bright green.

The best part of all, I didn't have to worry about the dog licking at the weed killer!

Here's another mom who found this tip helpful:
It Works!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Saying Goodbye, When it's Not Really Goodbye

Yesterday I said goodbye to Barb, my friend and neighbor. Barb and I met through another neighbor, Denise. Our backyards faced each other and one evening, Denise introduced us. Barb and I were pregnant--she with twin boys and me with my youngest son Steven.

We had our babies, and over the years, all of the kids played together. Between the three of us, we had nine kids (make that ten--my niece joined us for two years). Seven of them were close in age and Denise had two older boys. We had many evenings of sitting in our backyards exhausted as we watched the kids run circles around us. Most often than not, we ended up in my backyard with the kids bouncing in the trampoline and swimming in an inflatible pool. We would occasionally order pizza or toss some hot dogs on the grill. On a few summer nights, we ladies filled our glasses with wine and the husbands joined us.

We moved just two blocks over and our sense of community shifted. Suddenly, it wasn't as easy to get together and play dates had to be arranged to make sure one was home. Gone were the days of opening the sliding door and sending the kids down the backyard. We still gathered the kids together for pizza nights but it definitely was harder as the kids got older and were involved in various activities. I still stopped at Barb's and Denise's houses after dropping the kids off at school and we would have our morning chats.

So it was hard to say goodbye to Barb yesterday as she prepared to head out to her new life in California. They are moving out west for a new job and to be closer to her husband's family. I'm going to miss the weekly chats and lunches out.

This goodbye certainly isn't final, thankfully today we have email and videocameras.

And there certainly is a bright spot: Denise and I have figured that we have a great place to stay when we need a weekend away!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Glass Half Full--and a Life Fully Lived

Terry Starbucker over at A Glass Half Full has invited me to participate in a little "future dreaming." This meme was started by April Groves who wrote:

I introduce to you, the “Opi.” Comes from the Greek word “opiso.” Now, I am no Greek scholar so I maybe way off…but I searched for “future you” in a greek dictionary, this word popped up and I liked it, so I used it. It refers to the hereafter. The Opi is to be written of the future you in the present tense.

So here I am, ten years later:

I'm sitting in the swing on my backyard patio watching the sunset. My oldest son is 24 and has just graduated from college with his degree in chemical engineering. My middle child is visiting her best friend in Texas during her summer break from college. My thoughts turn to my youngest son-- he is now almost twenty. Where have the years gone?

I've accomplished more than I thought I would in ten short years. I'm now on my third book and the book tours have been an enjoyable means of seeing the world. Hands & Voices has grown to a large organization that is now found in several countries. Everyone involved in the organization has recognized the value of each and every deaf and hard of hearing child and the communication methodolgy wars are a thing of the past. We've broken through the reading barrier and the average deaf child now reads at grade level.

The hubby and I are celebrating over thirty years of togetherness. We've been married 28 years and have grown to love each other with a comforting deepness. In the past years, he has learned to curb his habit of making me wait for him every time we need to leave the house. He no longer leaves the newspaper piled up for weeks. His provides daily massages and has become a skilled chef. My days are now filled with relaxed muscles and incredible meals. He has hired a crew for weekly house cleaning and I haven't touched the vacuum nor mop in years. (Hey, I'm really liking this dream stuff.)

The sun is waning in the sky and I take a sip of my frozen margarita. The last ten years of life have indeed been very good.

I look forward to the next ten.

Bite into a Starburst--And Sue!

This must be the week of crazy lawsuits--we now have a Michigan woman suing the makers of Starburst candy because--are you ready for this...

The candy is too chewy.

Apparently the gal bit into a lemon Starburst and after three chews, the candy stuck to her teeth and locked her jaw. She now suffers from Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction. She declined any offers from the candy company to pay for her jaw rehabilitation.

As the company lawyer said, you think maybe one could get a clue from the packaging--it does say "Fruit Chews."