Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Glenda Watson Hyatt Roars In

After sending my daughter off to her first day in middle school and my son to his elementary school, I sat down to wait for Glenda Watson Hyatt to head over from Washington D.C. where she visited Susan from Case Notes on her virtual book tour.

In case you've never met Glenda via her blog, she's a fiery redhead who has cerebral palsy and has published a book, I'll Do It Myself.

Glenda roars up in a red Ferrari and I hop in. We head over to my friend Beth's house, which was built with visitability standards for people with disabilities. We settle down with some Krispy Kreme doughnuts and proceed to chat. I have a unique knack for lipreading Glenda-ese, thanks to my first job with a boss and a co-worker with cerebral palsy. When we get stuck-- we use the laptop sitting in front of us. Of course, Glenda uses her left thumb to type!

We chat about her book, which Glenda wrote to inspire others and share her "can do" attitude. We discovered that we read the same books in our childhood days: Ice Castles, The Other Side of the Mountain and Joni. All three books have a character with a disability as the main character.

I ask Glenda about the toughest chapter in her book. It turns out to be "Country Life," a period when cracks began to show in her parent's marriage and home life was tense. "At that time," says Glenda "We were living in the country. I was stuck at home and was quiet isolated. Deciding what to write and what to exclude was tough. It meant revisiting that period in my life, which was not pleasant."

Glenda is currently writing full-time from home. "Typically, I spend too much of my day at my computer: writing, emailing, blogging and networking," says Glenda. When she takes a break, she tackles household chores. Of course, she chuckles, "more breaks are obviously needed! I am trying to exercise more now that I have my brace."

Glenda is married to Darrell, whom she met at a pre-employment program. "At the end of the program," Glenda shares, "I wasn't ready to leave; I sensed I was in the midst of a personal growth spurt, which would be stunted if I left. Hence, I volunteered to be the teaching assistant for the next group."

"The first day of class," she continues, "in wheels a guy in a power chair and wearing a suit. Several weeks later the room was spinning while I was talking with him. Darrell and I have been together ever since. We celebrated our ninth anniversary earlier this month."

Glenda and Darrell find that challenges crop up daily. "Because many things take us longer to do, trying to fit all the must-do's, should-do's and wanna-do's into a day is challenging. Looking around, many things, like housework, don't get done! It comes down to juggling priorities and doing what is most important or urgent in the moment."

Through our conversation, Glenda and I discover that we encounter similar feelings when we're with groups of people. Glenda's speech can be difficult for some people to understand. "I can feel so alone in a roomful of people," Glenda shares. "That is probably when I feel the loneliest. Its not the not walking or limited that gets me down, it's the communication barrier that is a pain." We both find the internet to be a wonderful place where the playing field is level and we can express ourselves and communicate with others on equal ground. I do find that barriers exist in the cyberworld in the form of podcasts and non-captioned videos and Glenda finds that it takes her longer than others to type out responses on interactive forums.

We've finally reached the point where we can't handle another Krispy Kreme and Glenda drops me off at home. Before she takes off, she leaves me with her favorite quote from Walt Disney:

"If you can dream it, you can do it!"

Vote for Glenda in the "Blog for a Year" Contest here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fantasy Football Season Begins--Time to Don Black

It's that time of the year again.

Yesterday was the annual Draft Day for the Windy City Pigskin League. This deaf fantasy football league was started by Kent Gardner, my husband's college roommate sixteen years ago when he moved here from California. Kent and Joe recruited a bunch of guys from deaf softball teams and put together a draft on a weeknight, writing the players and teams by hand. Yesterday's draft was a bit more sophisticated with pre-printed player labels and some of the guys using laptops. The league now includes Lisa Maloney, the lone gal who knows more about football than some of the guys combined. While other fantasy teams have switched to online drafts and auctions, the Windy City guys prefer their annual party complete with beer and food.

When Joe first started, we would watch the football games together and I learned the names of more players than I care to remember. Along came the kids, and I became less involved. A few years ago, Joe made our oldest son one of his partners and he's slowly pulling in our youngest son as well. Lauren and I have learned to busy ourselves on weekends as the guys go over statistics, analyze players and dive into game after game.

This year, the guys are so excited because we've switched cable providers and our new provider includes an NFL channel in the basics. Lauren and I have already decided that our weekends will consist of shopping and lunches out.

Now all I need is for my guys to win the championship so I can afford the shopping!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Glenda Watson Hyatt, Blogger and Author Coming to Bolingbrook!

Glenda Watson Hyatt, author of "I'll Do It Myself!" is coming to Bolingbrook in a gleaming red Ferrari. She's scheduled to arrive on Monday for a virtual book tour via this blog.

Glenda is heading for fourth place in the Blog For a Year contest and I'm personally rooting for her to head to first place. Here's a bit about Glenda:

"Why should you get paid to blog for a year?"
Since I was young, I have dreamt of having a regular column (then a newspaper column, now a blogging job) in which I share my experiences as a person living with a disability to show that I am more than my cerebral palsy; to show that I am capable of having a career, running a business, being married and owning a home, that I am interested in politics, global warming, and, heaven forbid, even sex, and that I have “normal” every day problems too. My reason for wanting to write this kind of column/blog is to alleviate people’s fears of those with disabilities in a non-confrontional and humorous way. Being paid to blog about this would be a dream come true and would fullfil what I believe is my life’s purpose.

Vote for Glenda here:

Speed Glenda to First Place!

Be sure to check back here on Monday as Glenda roars in!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Oldest Goes off to High School

Yesterday was a bittersweet day. My oldest child went off to high school.

If you recall from a previous post, we had to advocate for David to attend a high school with 70 other deaf and hard of hearing kids.

I had a pang in my heart when I watched him drive off, wondering where did the years go? How did I get to this point in life so fast?

I also had a great feeling in my heart because David was finally going to school with a life-long friend.

When David was four months old, I made a decision to quit work and stay home. I was on my last appointment of the day to see a family with a six-month-old deaf baby. I almost blew off the appointment because I knew I was ending my job and didn't want to start services with a family only to disappoint them. The family lived in the same town as I did.

What the heck, I thought. I'll just stop in and give them some information.

As it turned out, I ended up with a best friend that day and my son and her daughter grew up together. Beth and I have shared births together and many conversations about raising deaf kids.

David and Aubrey are now attending high school together. Beth and I are hoping that our families will be connected legally some day but the kids just roll their eyes at us. Even if they don't tie the knot together, I'm betting they'll have a connection forever.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Virgin Mobile--Progress Made!

Well the good news first-- my son's phone is finally activated!

After filing a complaint with the FCC and requesting assistance from the National Association of the Deaf, I decided to try and contact someone at Virgin Mobile to let them know what was going on.

I received a quick response:

Ms. Putz,

I have received your email and read your blog. First, I want to apologize for the experience you had last night. Virgin Mobile prides itself on our customer service, but it definitely failed you last night.

I would like to credit your account since you should have never been charged. It appears that good judgment and active listening skills were not used as I would have hoped.

Our Care agents should have helped you immediately and should have waived the fee given the fact your DSL was out of service. I will be working with our Customer Care Center Directors to ensure no one has a similar situation.

Can you please send me the Virgin Mobile cell number that was incorrectly charged?

Again, my apologies for this situation and thank you for bringing it to my attention so I can make the necessary process improvements.

I look forward to your response.



Mary Glodis

Virgin Mobile USA

Customer Care

(908) 607-4841

Kudos to Virgin for taking this seriously and being willing to provide training to their employees about providing accommodations. In another email, Mary stated:

In addition, Virgin Mobile does place a heavy emphasis on ensuring our advisors handle all people – customers and non customers with the utmost respect. I have and will ensure continued training on how to serve customers with disabilities is held in each of our centers. The behavior demonstrated to you will not be tolerated.

Should you have any further issues, please don’t hesitate to contact myself directly.

After experiencing difficulty in activating the phone online (unbelievably, we received a message saying, contact a live advisor!), Mary took it in her own hands and helped to activate the phone this morning. She also issued a $20 credit to the account.

I have to admit that Virgin's prompt response and their willingness to provide training to employees is the reason I didn't drive back to Best Buy and return the phone.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Need an Accommodation? Virgin Mobile will Hang Up!

Last night, I called the Virgin Mobile center to activate my son's phone. In the past, I had activated previous phones online. Our internet was down, so I used my captioned phone to make the call.

I got as far as the request for a V-key number when I had to stop a moment to ask my son what his V-key number was. Since the captioned phone was already a bit delayed, the Virgin Mobile automated system transferred me to a live representative before I could go further.

Hmmmm, I thought to myself, it might be easier to let the live rep help me through this activation. Dawn, the Virgin Mobile live rep, came on the phone and explained that there would be a ten dollar charge to activate the phone with a live person.

So I explained my dilemna and mentioned that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, I should be able to get some assistance without having to pay the fee. After all, if I had normal hearing, it wouldn't be a problem activating the phone.

"Oh no, we charge everyone ten dollars, regardless of the situation," was the reply. "You can activate it online." Again, I explained that my DSL line was not working. I couldn't even call by videophone.

It was late at night, I had no other option. The libraries were closed and it was too late to bother a neighbor for online access.

I asked for a manager. Tory, the manager came online. The response was the same: No, we will not accommodate your needs, we will have to charge you ten dollars.

I was tired, I was cranky and I was already on the phone for nearly forty minutes trying to make the staff at Virgin Mobile aware of how they could be a bit more accommodating to people with disabilities. I explained that if they were unwilling to help, that I would file a complaint with the Department of Justice. What happened next floored me.

They hung up.

So today, I made another phone call. The same thing happened-- the captioned phone could not keep up and I was again transferred to a live rep. Again, I tried to explain and ask for a manager. I explained to the manager and got the same response: No exceptions made-- if you want assistance we have to charge you ten bucks.

This time, I hung up.

I ditched the captioned phone and decided to use the text relay on my mobile phone. Making a call using text relay via thumb typing requires a large amount of time. I desperately needed to activate my son's phone because I was leaving the house later in the day and had to communicate with him. The same thing happened with the relay operater--we were transferred to a live rep before we could finish activating the phone.

I didn't even make it half way through my explanation of why I needed assistance in activating the phone and wanting the fee waived--

They hung up on me.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Virgin War.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Lighting Website I Wish I Knew About:

Two years ago, the hubby and I went shopping for new lights for our downtstairs bathroom. We went to several lighting places around town and a couple of places in other towns. We found one light for our bathroom and purchased it. Came home and put it together and discovered it wasn't the right fit for our bathroom.

I recently discovered a neat place online for lights and ceiling fans: Farreys. A quick search for bathroom lighting revealed over 15,000 results on this site.

I want to eventually replace the ceiling fans in my kids' rooms and the collection that Farreys has is incredible. This Hunter Baseball fan is only $77 and I'm debating on adding that to the boy's room.

The hubby and I are also looking at outdoor lighting--we can't stand the builder's choice selection that came with the house. Farreys has a huge collection of outdoor lighting, including landscape lighting.

Now all I need is money!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Twists and Turns: Journeys with Implants Now Online

Twists and Turns: Journeys with Implants is now online:

Twists and Turns: Journeys with Implants.

Update on Abby in the article: Abby went for surgery this summer and is now in the process of re-learning sounds with her new implant.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Summer Days

We are finally in a temporary lull of summer--baseball is over and we have a few days before school begins. I took the kids up to Christie Lake to spend a few days with my parents and sister and my cousin, her kids and her mom from Missouri.

The lake was unbelievably empty. Twenty years ago, the lake was so busy that one had to weave a path through the boats and the skiers. There were several of us who skied a couple times a day. Today, it seems as if families are so busy that they only spend a few weekends at the lake. I recall entire summers spent at the lake with a group of friends--we swam and skied all day and always managed to find things to do.

My cousin and I bobbed in the lake for over an hour while the sun was going down. The kids jumped from the pontoon and swam around us. Every now and then, the pontoon would drift away and one of the kids would drive it back. It was one of those rare summer days where one could sit back and appreciate the down time.

I remind my kids every summer how fortunate they are to have those lazy days at the lake.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Meet Dawn Colclasure--A Deaf Mom and Writer

Sometime last year, I did a search for authors who are deaf or hard of hearing. I came across Dawn Colclasure and her book, Burning The Midnight Oil: How We Survive As Writing Parents. A quick visit to her website, Books By Dawn Colclasure, and I found her email address. On a whim, I emailed her, asking her how she got started with her writing. We began emailing back and forth as I started my forage into publishing some of my own works.

That initial email turned into an online friendship. Dawn and I often chat several times a week via instant messaging. Author of five books, Dawn is hard at work writing a few more. "My first book was a novel called NOVEMBER'S CHILD. At the time I wrote it, I thought it would be a suspense or mystery book, but the publishing company made it a horror novel, which I wasn't really convinced it was," said Dawn.

One of Dawn's popular books is 365 Tips for Writers. Her love for writing came at a young age. "I've been writing for as long as I can remember," said Dawn. "I started writing poetry and then moved on to short stories, then longer stories and plays. It was never a matter of deciding to write; I just started doing it and kept doing it since."

Rejection and frustration are a part of every writer's life, but Dawn encourages other writers to keep trying. "It's easy to get frustrated by rejections, writer's block and competition from your peers. The hard part is trying to get published, writing your book, and getting yourself out there."

"Once you reach those goals," Dawn continued, "Once you look those frustrations in the eye and say 'you will NEVER crush me!' that's when you'll know that you're on your way to making your writing dreams come true. Write what you want, when you want and be what you want with your writing. There's no limit to how far you can go as a writer!"

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bat Woman Saves the Day

After a full day of workshops at the Hands & Voices Leadership Conference last Friday, I headed over to the director's cabin to kick back. We played a rousing game of "Truth or Lie," where each person stated one truth and one lie about themselves and we had to guess which was which. It was a great way to get to know everyone else in a casual atmosphere.

I decided to hop into the hot tub in the back of the cabin with Stephanie, another deaf mom. I was hoping that the hot water would provide some relief from the pain in the my leg. We noticed a bird fluttering around the ceiling but we shrugged as we hopped into the tub.

A short time later, the bird settled on the window blinds. We took one look at the bird, one look at each other--and we both began to scream.

It was a bat.

Several people came running from the living room to find out what we were screaming about. Fortunately, Laura Godfrey from Minnesota was one of the moms who came in. She works at a zoo. Without batting an eye (sorry, I couldn't resist!), she took off her jacket and wrapped it around the bat--releasing it outside. The bat wasn't too happy and deposited a little smelly stuff on her jacket.

Thanks, Bat Woman--you saved the day!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wordless Wednesday--Woof, Woof!

Created by my 11-year-old daughter--need I say more?

Brought to you by: Wordless Wednesday.