Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sparkplugging--An Emoms At Home Transformation

I've been hanging out at Wendy Piersall's new place--SparkPlugging, and I'm liking the digs very much. Wendy took her personal blog and grew it into a network with 17 other bloggers writing for her. And she has plans to expand her site even more!

Wendy started her blog as "Emoms At Home," and it began to outgrow the name as the audience expanded to fathers and people without children. Wendy began to realize that she needed to re-name and re-brand to showcase the direction that her business was growing in.

Darren Rowse over at Problogger had the honor of unveiling the new name in his interview, Renaming Emoms At Home to Sparkplugging. As I told Wendy, when I first saw the name, my mind immediately flashed to a picture of an autobody shop. But the more I visit the site, the more the name has grown on me. I think Wendy is on to something that's going to re-frame people's minds. There will be a point where people are at a conference and asking, "Do you SparkPlug?" or "Are you SparkPlugging?" and people will know instantly what they're talking about--the work-at-home generation.

For more information and an inside look at Wendy Piersall, Stephen Hopson from Adversity University featured Wendy in his interview series recently:

Adversity University Interviews Wendy Piersall, Part I

Adversity University Interviews Wendy Piersall, Part II

Monday, April 28, 2008

Women's Club, ASL Expo and a Baby Shower

It was one of those weekends with nary a break! On Saturday morning, I headed out to Egg Harbor Cafe to join the gals from my Deaf Women's club for breakfast. Egg Harbor has to be my number one favorite restaurant for breakfast. Their breakfasts are so delicious and their fresh-squeezed orange juice tastes as if they picked the oranges that morning. I'm not much of a breakfast person, either! Do any of you have other favorite places that you dine at for breakfast?

I went over to the ASL Expo to meet another friend there. It was the first time I've attended the ASL Expo which features lots of products centered around American Sign Language. I picked up some ASL t-shirts for the kids and then headed home to watch my youngest son's baseball game. It was so cold at the game, that I felt like I was experiencing a Chicago Bears game while huddled under a heavy blanket.

On Sunday, we had a couple of people over for Stephanie and Walter Lipe's baby shower. You may remember Stephanie when she won the Miss Deaf America title in 1992-1994. Stephanie is pretty as ever and sporting a cute little belly. We all took turns guessing her belly measurements with pieces of pink yarn. Walter was pretty confident that he could figure out the length of yarn but he was off by a few inches. Marianne Jodie and Lenny Kepil had the closest measurements, with Lenny winning the prize.

The hubby jokingly asked me if I'd like to have another kiddo...

I'm not too sure he was really joking though!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Michigan Loses a Friendly Face-- Marlene Phillips

I met Marlene for the first time last summer. She and her husband Dale stopped by my parent's house on Christie Lake to spend the day with us. My sister Linda met Marlene and Dale through the local Deaf Clubs in Michigan and they quickly bonded. Together, they worked the Dingo games and cooked large amounts of food for the gatherings. Linda began spending time with Marlene and Dale and enjoying their friendship and company.

As we took a slow pontoon ride around the lake and chatted with Marlene and Dale that day, I said to myself-- this is a couple I wouldn't mind getting to know better.

Someday, you know?

Someday, when there's more time to sit down and connect.

Marlene and Dale found each other later in life and were married in 2005. It was easy to see that they were happy with one another and they were a couple that enjoyed life. They went on the Deaf Freedom Cruise last year. Before we left, Linda reminded me to find Marlene and Dale on the cruise and we planned to connect with them. Joe ran into them once during the week and we talked about getting together.

With 3,800 people on the ship, we didn't connect with them again.

After a sudden, brief battle with cancer, Marlene passed away yesterday morning.

I guess the moral of this post is something to take with you today--those "somedays" that we promise ourselves may not happen. Each day, each connection, is a gift.

I know that my sister is really grateful for the connection she had with Marlene, for she enjoyed Marlene's humor and friendship.

Marlene will be missed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Everything about Karen Putz

I haven't been doing memes but after being tagged by KW and Moxie Mocha I figured I'd play along. After all, it's all about me, me and me, and you know how much I love talking about me all the time.

What was I doing 10 years ago:

Let's see, ten years ago, I was researching home birth vs. hospital birth and decided to have my third child at home. Instead of renting a water tub to labor in, my husband and I decided to rip out the bathtub, move the toilet and put in a large soaking tub. So there I was, laboring in the tub and trying to get into the zone with hypnobirthing. While I was concentrating on each breath, the hubby was slapping down tile and trying to finish the floor. Needless to say, the homebirth was a memorable one. I ended up writing a chapter in the book, Don't Cut Me Again!

Five Snacks I enjoy:

1. Chocolate
2. Popcorn cooked on the stove
3. Chocolate
4. Guacamole and good chips
5. Oh yeah, did I mention chocolate?

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Donate millions to Hands & Voices
2. Take my entire family and Joe's family on an all-inclusive trip to a beach somewhere.
3. Establish a mentoring program for deaf and hard of hearing kids all over the U.S. so they can dream and be what they want to be and have a mentor by their side.
4. Buy a jet ski and a place on Christie Lake that's big enough to house 200 friends at once.
5. Give more money away--how much money does one really need anyway?

Five jobs that I have had:

1. College Instructor
2. Deaf Services Coordinator
3. Early Intervention provider
4. Printer (I printed train tickets and credit cards!)
5. Cafeteria Slop Server (in college!)

Three of my GOOD habits:

1. Reading something good each day
2. Composting--the worms need to be fed
3. I remember to put my keys on the key holder each day

Five places I have lived:

1. Dolton, Illinois
2. DeKalb, Illinois
3. Hinsdale, Illinois
4. Bolingbrook, Illinois (moved three times within this town)
5. Summers at Christie Lake, Michigan, does that count?

Name your irrational phobias:

I don't really have any phobias unless you count fear of cleaning.

Add one new part:
Name five places you want to see before your final breath:

1. Austria
2. Australia
3. Jasper, Alberta, and Vancouver (I want to go to Whistler!)
4. Hawaii (I'm going next month)
5. Aspen, CO (I want to see the John Denver Sanctuary)

Five People I Want to Get to Know Better:

1. Neil at Deaf Firefighter's Blog

2. LaRonda at Ear of My Heart

3. Karen at Indiana Deaf Mother's Babblings

4 MZ at Mishka Zena

5. Paula at The Hearing Exchange Blog

Monday, April 21, 2008

Advocating for Drive-Thru Access

Come and join me and June Prusak tomorrow night at Chicago Hearing Society. I'll be sharing my experience of being denied service at a Steak 'n Shake restaurant and tips on how to advocate.


Chicago Hearing Society

Victim Assistance Program invites you to

The Victim Rights Awareness Night!

June Prusak: Youth Services Manager, Chicago Hearing Society: “CDI For-For”?

Karen Putz: Deaf Mom Activist: “Advocating for access” on her experience with Steak-n-Shake drive thru.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

5:30-8:30 p.m.

Chicago Hearing Society

3rd Floor Classroom

2001 N. Clybourn Avenue

Chicago, IL 60614




RSVP: By Monday, April 21, 2008


Michele Cunningham, Victim Advocate

VP: 773-248-9106


Chicago Hearing Society is a division of Anixter Center

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Vote for Marlee, Says Her Friends at the Deaf Volleyball Tournament

Yesterday, I spent the day refereeing at the Harper Deaf Volleyball tournament. There were about 300 people there with hands flying everywhere (including a couple of cuers). This tournament brought back a lot of memories, for my first introduction to volleyball was in college, when I played for the NIU deaf team. At that time, the tournament was hosted at Waubonsee College.

I teamed up to referee with Caroline Depcik Smith, my old teammate. Caroline played in the Deaf Olympics (I was an alternate on the Olympic team and foolishly chose not to pursue that) and there were a couple of other Deaf Olympians as referees as well. We played an impromtu volleyball game before the tournament started and boy, did that make me miss playing!

David played for the Hinsdale South team and while they did well in the round robin, they lost to Illinois School for the Deaf in the tournament in the first round of playoffs.

Marlee Matlin's two best friends in the photo above, Wendy Adams and Liz Tannebaum, reminded everyone to "Vote for Marlee" in Dancing with the Stars. Marlee is also on tonight's movie, "Sweet Nothing in My Ear" on CBS. I'll be watching that with my kids tonight.

And here are my thoughts over at Disaboom: Sweet Nothing in my Ear Tackles Cochlear Implants.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Girls Night Out and Awards Week

"I don't want to go to this award thing!" my daughter announced on Thursday morning. Lauren was selected for a STARS award at her middle school and we were heading to the breakfast event. Getting her out the door was like pulling teeth.

Eventually we made it to the school and slipped into the cafeteria chairs. Lauren went up to get her award along with several other students from her team. "Lauren overcame an adversity and proved herslef to be a role model and top student. Fantastic job!" it said on the award.

This was the second award she received this week. On Tuesday, we headed out to the "Advocacy Day" event held by the Lockport Area Special Education Cooperative. Every year, Katie Ward, a teacher and supervisor of deaf students (now retired) gathers together approximately 150 deaf and hard of hearing students from several schools. The students submit essays on how they advocate for themselves on a daily basis and the essays are judged by several teachers. David's friend Aleksey won the Advocate of the Year award and Lauren was a semi-finalist.

After the craziness of several deadlines and the two events, it was nice to kick back with the girls last night. My friend Barb came in from California and we joined three of our neighbors for dinner at a local restaurant. I normally hate going out in groups because conversation is so hard, but these gals are great to hang out with. They know they have to slow down the conversation and they make sure I can lipread them. After hours of lipreading and too much food and wine, my eyes were ready to pop when we finally called it a night. Nothing beats a night of great conversation, great food and great friends!

Now excuse me while I go cry my eyes out-- I miss having Barb as my neighbor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dawn Niles Case--Gary Albert Pleads Innocent

The Southtown Town Star posted an update on the case of Dawn Nile's murder:

Gary Albert Pleads Innocent

Dawn was a deaf student at Hinsdale South High School and she was found murdered in March of 1981.

Gary was held in jail on a one million dollar bond and his family bailed him out to the tune of $100,000.

A hearing is scheduled for May 22nd.

To read all of the news articles: Dawn Niles

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are You Purple? Hands On Welcomes New Customers

I've been purple for a few months now. Before that, I was a dedicated I-711 user and IP Relay and I still am-- except now all of my favorites are rolled into one. The three companies merged and now I'm a purple employee.

Yes, that's right, I work for Hands On.

I love video relay with VCO. What's that, you ask? I pull up VideoSign 2.5 on my computer or HOVRS.TV on my videophone and an interpreter appears on screen. Let's say I want to call my mother-in-law. I type in my mother-in-law's phone number, click on VCO (Voice Carry Over--this lets me use my own voice to talk directly to my mother-in-law) and the interpreter calls me on my phone. The interpreter then connects me to my mother-in-law. I can talk directly to my mother-in-law and the interpreter interprets everything she says. My sister used this system for the first time to call my Dad recently, but she had the interpreter mouth the words as she doesn't know much sign. The advantage over text relay for us is that it is much, much faster and the conversation flows quicker.

However, text relay (where I type to the operator, and the operator voices for me and types what the other person says) has one advantage: it is great for when I want to keep a record of a call and print out the conversation.

We have exciting changes coming up at Hands On-- a completely portable videophone (the MVP) and VideoSign 3.0 (chat with eight buddies at once!).

So, if you'd like to learn more about how you too, can become purple send me an email at: kputz@hovrs.com.

Is it any coincidence that my favorite color is purple and grape Kool-aid is my favorite kiddie drink?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Can Negative PR Result in a Positive Outcome?

Jennifer Laycock tackled the issue of how negative campaigns against competitors rarely serve a positive outcome in her post, Spite is not a Marketing Strategy. Jennifer encourages companies to make themselves stand out from their competitors in a different way, a way that highlights something positive about their company.

In her blog, Jennifer used the example of Steak 'n Shake and Culvers:

Earlier this year, a Steak and Shake landed itself in a firestorm of negative press when it refused service to a deaf woman who was unable to order from the drive through speaker. Smaller chain Culver's received some nice positive press for their innovative drive-thru accommodations for the hearing impaired.

I find Jennifer's post to be a timely one, as this morning, I am heading out to Culver's to film a short documentary about drive-thru access for deaf, hard of hearing and speech-challenged persons. I've embraced the Culver's chain and give them my business, because they truly make me feel welcomed in their drive-thrus as a deaf person.

Steak 'n Shake still has time to turn the negative publicity into a wonderful PR campaign for their company. I am asking the corporation to consider putting in the Order Assist system in their 400 plus restaurants. The cost of putting in Order Assist is cheaper than what they spend on commercials for their restaurants. Imagine the press they will receive in the restaurant business for this decision.

It has been many weeks since the Steak 'n Shake incident unleashed a firestorm of response across the internet, and I'm waiting to hear from the corporation about the direction they plan to go in to make their drive-thrus accessible. I am hoping that they will move toward providing drive-thru access. Later today, Diversity, Inc. will have a video interview about the Steak 'n Shake incident on their website.

Stay tuned.

Update: Diversity, Inc. video interview with Karen Putz

Friday, April 11, 2008

Raising Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids--Here, There and Everywhere

Today was nuts. I went food shopping at 2:45 and picked the youngest kiddo up at 3:30. Together, we put the food away and Steven tossed dinner in the oven while I hopped in the car to pick up Lauren at school. She stayed after school to play volleyball.

As soon as we arrived home, I sent her upstairs to pack a bag for her sleepover. Her friend was on her way home from the Illinois School for the Deaf and we planned to meet her at the bus stop about 40 minutes from our home. We encountered a lot of traffic on the highway and we pulled in the bus stop a half hour late. Fortunately for us, the bus was also late in getting there.

I said goodbye to Lauren and headed back into the traffic to meet my friend Beth at a local restaurant. We grabbed some appetizers at Friday's and took off for the high school to see who our kids were hanging out with. David and Aubrey stayed after school to play volleyball with deaf kids from another high school and they all had a pizza party afterwards.

I ran into my friend Carol, who was coaching the kids from the other high school. Carol and I go way back-- we played volleyball together for many years, traveling to tournaments in different states. It was so good to see her again, but it sure made me realize how the many years have gone by in a flash. I will be refereeing at the tournament that my son is playing in at Harper College next week and it will be good to see a lot of my old teammates there.

Tomorrow is more of the same traveling, except Joe and I will be going in two different directions. He's heading to the high school to drop off David for practice and then up north to pick up Lauren from the sleepover. David has a birthday party to attend tomorrow night and I'm heading to a 50th Anniversary party. On Sunday, we are heading to a meeting to rally for insurance coverage for hearing aids in Illinois.

One year, at a meeting, a seasoned mom was telling a new mom to prepare herself to spend a lot of time in the car-- she wasn't kidding. We have deaf friends scattered all over and it isn't uncommon for us to drive 45 minutes to over an hour each way for get togethers. Now the same thing is happening with our kids and many times we find ourselves juggling driving times into the schedules. We've been fortunate to work it out so that we have a lot of halfway meeting points to transport the kids back and forth.

I've figured out what I want for Christmas--one of those fancy back massagers that you can plug into an AV outlet and get a massage while you drive.

Honey, are you reading this?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Marlee Matlin--Still Dancing!

It's another week and Marlee Matlin is still kicking up her heels each week on Dancing with the Stars. I missed Monday's show as I was on a plane coming home from California. Last night, I spoke to a group of parents up north and came home just in time to see that Marlee and Fabian made it through another week. Just then, the dish went out due to a storm.

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marlee in her spare moment between practices. I asked Marlee a question about facing discrimination and she had this to say:

Face it head on (even with a smile) and show that what you've got goes way beyond the negative thoughts and words that people use to cover their ignorance. And if they put up a wall to block your path, just walk around it any way you can. Remember that the only "handicap" of being Deaf is the one that's in your head and not the one that people think is in your ears.

That's the reason Marlee gets my vote each week along with her amazing dancing talent.

The entire interview can be seen here:

Marlee Matlin Kicks Up Her Heels on Dancing with the Stars

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Insurance Companies Don't Cover Hearing Aids--Let's Change That

Two years ago, my family had hearing aid coverage by our insurance company up to $1,000 per year, thanks to my husband's employer. We now have HMO insurance that doesn't cover hearing aids. I am hoping that my current hearing aids continue to work for several more years.

My cousin recently purchased hearing aids and was so shocked to find out that her insurance company wouldn't fork over a penny and that she would have to foot the bill herself.

That "shock" seems to hit people over and over, as parents write to me and share their dismay of finding out that their insurance company doesn't consider hearing aids a medical device or prosthesis.

So those of you in IL, come and join the rest of us to bring forth some change. We are working with our local senators and representatives to provide hearing aid coverage in Illinois. The time is NOW to make some changes. Tell us your stories of struggling to pay for hearing aids and send it to: parentsofdeafhoh@aol.com (Limit to one page). If you wear hearing aids, or want to purchase them, or know someone who uses hearing aids, join us at this meeting:

Town Hall Meeting
Sunday, April 13th, 2008
1:00 pm to 3:30 pm

Hinsdale South H.S.
7401 Clarendon Hills Rd
Darien, Il 60561

Hearing Aids Insurance Coverage Legislation

What's the latest on HB5598 and HB5600?

What can we do to encourage Illinois Legislators to pass Hearing
Aids Insurance Coverage??

We need to raise awareness of this growing problem of many people
not being able to afford to pay for expensive hearing aid(s). Many
deaf and hard of hearing people have gone without hearing aid(s)
because they cannot afford it. There are some deaf and hard of
hearing people that have gone with cheaper hearing aid(s) that are
not suitable for them. There are many parents that could not afford
to buy hearing aid(s) for their deaf and hard of hearing children.

Local State Representatives and Senators will be there to hear our

Those who wear hearing aids, Parents of deaf and hard of hearing
children, and ALL people who SUPPORT Hearing Aids Insurance Coverage
are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to take the time and attend.

Interpreters and Cart will be provided.

Spread the word to all those who care !!!! The more bodies we have
at the town hall, the STRONGER the message we send to Illinois
Legislators will be !!!

See you all there….

To those who wish to subscribe to HearingAids2008 Yahoogroups
Send an email to this email address, HearingAids2008-

In there, you will see already other people in this group sharing
their stories about financial hardship of paying for expensive
hearing aids, will see Hyperlinks of several articles about hearing
aids insurance coverage legislation. Much to read in there.. Come
on and join us there.. We could use your help !!!!

HearingAids2008 group

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Discovering Autism

When I first started working in early intervention, I didn't really have much exposure to children with autism. I grew up with a friend who was diagnosed with Aspergers as an adult. So today, I'm sharing my journey of discovering Autism as part of the Blogging for Autism Awareness month.
When I received the paperwork for a little girl who was nearly three, my heart sank. I knew I wouldn't have much time to work with the family, as the early intervention program ages kids out when they turn three.

I'll call this little one, Sarah. By the third visit, I knew there was something else going on, not just a diagnosis of hearing and vision loss. My first clue was the fish tank. Most kids love watching a fish tank and show some interest. I brought Sarah over to the colorful fish tank and attempted to introduce some signs. Her mother remarked that Sarah never did look at the tank, or even the family dog.

Sarah often became easily frustrated, banged her head repeatedly and if I took a toy away to move on to another one, she self-soothed herself using the same pattern over and over at each visit. She became fixated on certain toys and her mom mentioned that she could lie quietly in her crib for a long period of time.


The word crept into my mind as the visits went on. The problem is, I knew so little about it. So I contacted Bonnie Sayers, a fellow writer that I knew from another website. I knew she was a mom of two boys with autism and she knew a lot. She runs the Autism Spectrum Disorders website at Bella Online.

Bonnie directed me to a checklist that parents could use to rate behaviors that their child was demonstrating. From the little that I knew, it seemed to me that Sarah ranked high on the scale.

So I found a way to have a conversation with the mom to see what her thoughts were. She explained that Autism crossed her mind and she brought it up with other therapists, but none of them agreed that it could be that. One did suggest that she explore it further.

I told her about the checklist that I learned about and I asked her if she would be interested in looking it over.

She said yes.

So the following week, I brought it over and explained it. I suggested that she sit down with her husband and look it over together and share some thoughts.

The following week, nothing had been completed. I didn't say anything, for it's a hard thing for any parent to seek out answers or explore the possiblity that something different is happening with their child.

But the next week, she opened the door and said simply, "I think she has Autism. She scored high on the checklist for that."

Sarah was eventually diagnosed with Autism. The parents and I explored a nearby classroom together and they transitioned her there.

Here are some links that Bonnie shared:

CDC Growth Checkpoints

Autism Symptoms Checklist

Checklist for Autism in Toddlers

A special thank you to Bonnie for helping me to help that family.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Time to Call it Quits

I've given this a lot of thought lately and this morning, I woke up from a dream and realized what I need to do:

It's time for me to stop blogging and start living.

I haven't seen the bottom of my kitchen sink since I cleaned it as a New Year's resolution last year. The time that I cleaned it for the television reporters doesn't count, as I shoved the dirty dishes into the oven.

I haven't made my bed since I started blogging. Oh wait, I can't blame blogging, because it started when we got our first computer nearly ten years ago.

I've neglected my compost pile--it's time for me to pay some attention to those hard-working worms in my backyard.

Oh, and my kids-- just the other day I noticed that my oldest towers above me. The middle kid has grown into a woman. The youngest kid is now negotiating to stay up until midnight. And the youngest kid needs a haircut-- I can't see into his eyes.

So, my blogging readers, it's time for me to hang up the blogging shingle and go clean my kitchen sink and get to know my kids once again. And oh--the hubby too! Thanks for hanging out here in the last year and half-- it was great getting to know you!