Thursday, December 28, 2006

Remembering Who Helped You

This morning, while waiting for an email to show up, I did my usual surfing the net for new writers who are deaf and hard of hearing.

I stumbled upon Stephen Hopson's Squidoo Lens: Adversity University. This lead me to his blog which stated: I'm a former award-winning Wall Street stockbroker turned motivational speaker, writer and pilot. In Feb 2006, I became the first deaf pilot in in the world to earn an instrument rating.

I especially enjoyed his article, "Remember Who Helped You Along The Way." There are two itinerant teachers who stand out in my memory: Mrs. Rellis and Mrs. Sweeney. Mrs. Rellis worked with me during my first two years in high school. At first, I did not enjoy our sessions. I didn't like being pulled out of class for "extra help." Mrs. Rellis didn't give up. She quickly learned to make our sessions fun and informative. She taught me a few words in Italian as she related her plans for a trip to Italy. She found ways to talk to me about my feelings and gently made me face the issues I had with being hard of hearing. She connected me to Shawn, another student who also had hearing aids and she became my first friend that I could truly relate to about hearing loss.

I was heartbroken when Mrs. Rellis told me that I was getting a new teacher two years later, but I learned to enjoy Mrs. Sweeney as well. Mrs. Sweeney discovered my love for writing and she encouraged me to write in different ways. During our final session at the end of high school, she took me out to lunch and presented me with a blank journal. That journal is one of my treasured possessions today.

So, as Stephen Hopson suggested, remember who helped you along the way. Do you have a story to share about a special someone?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

We just returned from Michigan and Oak Forest, spending time with both sides of the family. I'm looking forward to having the kids at home for the next two weeks. The house is filled with the usual after-Christmas chaos, half of the stuff here and the other half there and one happy chew-anything dog who is getting into everything. The kids are already clamoring for batteries, screwdrivers and scissors and it's only eight a.m.

I'm crawling back into bed instead.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Working as a Deaf Mentor

When people ask me, "What do you do," I usually reply that I work in early intervention. I work as a Deaf Mentor. The definition, from the Hearing and Vision Connections website is: Deaf Mentors are enrolled under Family Support, but are not credentialed. They are available to go into the home, ideally working in close coordination with a DT(Developmental Therapist)/Hearing provider, to share personal experiences, teach sign language or the family's chosen method of communication, and introduce information about having a hearing loss, the Deaf community and Deaf culture.

I have been doing this for three years, serving about 25 families from birth to age three. I am seeing a major trend: the majority of families with babies with profound hearing loss are choosing implants. In Chicago recently, a seven-month old baby received two cochlear implants . Some of the kids with implants take right off with listening and spoken language. For others, it's a slower process and the results are not as immediate. For some families, the implant does not work for their child.

I really do enjoy working with the variety of families on a weekly or monthly basis but I'm sometimes the resource of last resort. Sometimes I will receive referrals to families when the children are almost three. Some of the families are quite a distance from my home, so I'm often on the road for long periods of time. I'm self-employed, which means that I handle my own billing and take a tax write off on the number of miles I commute.

The most rewarding aspect of the job is seeing the communication and language development that happens with each child and family. I love it when a mom or dad tells me, "My child said/signed 'I love you!'"

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Reflections of a Basketball Game

Steven, my youngest kiddo, had a basketball game on Saturday and we headed over to the gym a few minutes before game time. The night before, he came up to me and said, "I don't want to go to the game, Mom."

So we sat down to talk about it.

Turns out, he becomes extremely nervous before the games. He's an excellent athlete, but the jumbling of nerves gets in the way of his playing skill. "I don't want to play basketball anymore," he declared.

My heart sank. I knew that he really loved to play because he was a totally different kid at the local YMCA, when playing for fun with his family. What was really going on? Could it be, I suspected, the difficulty with understanding what was being said during the game?

Steven has a moderate-to-severe hearing loss. He is able to use his voice well, which leads others to think that he can understand conversation at every level in every situation.

Not so.

Let me share my experience. I teach a class in Conversational Sign Language at the local community college. A few weeks ago, we combined classes with another instructor and showed a video by Peter Cook. During the discussion afterwards, a question about varying types of hearing loss came up. I explained that I was completely deaf without my hearing aids but that my hearing aids gave me access to environmental sounds. I rely almost 100% on lipreading in conversations.

"But how can that be," asked one student. "You speak so well."

So I asked the student to say something to me while I turned around. "Eye Are a oyee ahin ee ah."

Turns out she said, "Hi Karen, thank you for teaching class."

The student had a speechless look on her face. Suddenly, she understood what things sounded like to me and how much information had to be delivered visually for communication.

I hear mostly vowels. Lipreading/speechreading gives me visual clues which I piece together with the sounds coming in and fill in the blanks by understanding the context of what is being said. You can read more about it here: Yo, I'm Deaf!

While Steven hears much better than I ever did while growing up, I suspected that he was losing his ability to discriminate words. I was right; a recent hearing test showed that his ability to understand words by hearing alone dropped to about 38 percent.

It was too late to grab an interpreter for Saturday's game so I talked with the coach. I explained about the drop in Steven's ability to comprehend speech. The coach shared that he was totally deaf in one ear, something that he didn't tell us before. So he took Steven aside and told him and Steven's face lit up. He suddenly had a connection with the coach that he didn't have before and it seemed to put him at ease a bit.

Yet, the jumble of nerves was still there as Steven started the game. I had to sit back and remind myself that he was kid, that perhaps this would be the same thing we'd face even if he had normal hearing. Sometimes it's hard to figure out the difference.

But anyway, let me brag. Steven's team won the game and he made one beautiful, swish shot from near the three-point line.

That's my boy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Karen Meyer-- A Chicago Reporter Who is Deaf

Tune into WLS Channel 7 in the Chicago area on Thursdays and Sundays and you'll find Karen Meyer reporting on people with disabilities.

Karen is deaf and has been doing the news since 1991, producing 104 stories per year. The current news segments can be viewed weekly, with the links to older stories found here: Karen Meyer News Segments.

For more information about Karen: Achieving Dreams Through Persistance.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The BookHands Holiday Pick

On Saturday night, ten of us from the BookHands book club gathered at my house for our annual holiday party.

The book for the night was Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog a beautifully-written story about a loveable yellow lab named Marley. Everyone gave it a thumbs up, including the gals who never had a dog as a pet.

During the discussion, we shared stories of our own pets. One of the gals, Patti, brought in pictures of her dogs. Years ago, she owned a lab named Penny, who was so like Marley that she felt she could have written the same book. She was newly married and her husband wasn't particularly fond of Penny. One day, Penny tugged at some newspaper on the floor and tipped over a can of white paint that was loosely covered. Paint seeped into the wooden floor. Patti cleaned up the paint the best she could, but they ended up refinishing the floor. Her husband wasn't too pleased, but over the years, he learned to accept Penny as part of the family.

If there's one book that you buy for the holidays-- pick up Marley and Me. I enjoyed this book so much that I had to share an Epinion: Marley and Me, Your Heart Will Be Captured.

On another note, this weekend was a weekend of splurging on chocolate and cookies in a major way. Lauren attended a birthday party where the girls made cookies for several hours. Here's what she brought home:

Needless to say, there isn't much left on Monday morning.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Mother-Son Bonding Moment

I had a bonding moment with my 13-year-old son recently. A few weeks ago, I casually mentioned that he might like the Weird Al Yankovic videos and songs. He gave me his customary eye-roll and his "W" sign for Whatever, Mom.

I loved the Weird Al parodies of Michael Jackson's Eat It and Thriller songs when I was a few years (ahem!) younger. Back then, I had to beg a friend to write down lyrics to songs and none of the videos were captioned on MTV.

Then a few days ago, David excitedly motioned me to come into the office. "Look mom, you gotta see this. It's hilarious!" On the computer screen he pulled up Weird Al's White and Nerdy. Being the typical clueless Mom, I had never heard of Ridin' Dirty by Charmillionaire, the song that is parodied by Weird Al. David pulled up the lyrics and started the video.

They see me mowin' my front lawn
I know they're all thinkin' I'm so
White and nerdy

Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Think I'm just too white and nerdy
Can't you see I'm white and nerdy
Look at me I'm white and nerdy

I wanna roll with the gangstas
But so far they all think I'm too
White and nerdy

And there's Weird Al, dressed up quite nerdy, extending his hand out to the gangsters in a convertible, who desperately try to lock the door and peel away quickly.

Hilarious indeed!

We watched the video several times together, laughing so hard that the other kids came in and joined us. We watched Another One Rides The Bus, a parody of "Another One Bites The Dust. "Hey kids," I said, "Do you want to see a video that I used to watch when I was in high school?"

"You mean Weird Al was around back then?" they replied, incredulous.

It was my turn to roll the eyes.

So we watched "Beat It." (The kids were amazed at how normal Michael Jackson looked back then!). Then we roared with laughter at Weird Al's "Eat It."

Yes, it would have been much better if the video was captioned on the internet. I'm just so glad that my kids can instantly look up lyrics. I'm glad that they have the ability to adapt the Ipod for use with their hearing aids.

And I'm very thankful for the incredible bonding moment that Weird Al brought us.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Very Rare Photo-- Wash Hung Up to Dry

Look closely. Yup, your eyes are not deceiving you. Yes, there's snow on the ground. Someone hung the wash outside on a beautiful, sunny, wintery day.

My mom and my sister are down in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri visiting some relatives. Yup, those are the people that hung up that wash. Relatives of ours.

I grew up helping my mom hang out the wash several times a week. We had a working dryer in the basement, yet my mom chose to hang up the wash on sunny days. She had a system: sheets were hung on the outside lines, our unmentionables were hidden on the inside lines. I used to grumble about having to go outside, gather up the dry clothes and help her fold them. Little did I realize that I was getting my daily dose of Vitamin D and fresh air, a combination that does a body good.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Weekend of Fun for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids

What a Saturday! West Suburban Association of the Deaf and Harper College ASL Club hosted a Holiday Party for 110 kids. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus were there and gave out stocking stuffers from the WSAD/ASL clubs and frisbees donated by i711/GoAmerica. The kids had a blast jumping in a castle, making crafts, playing games and hitting pinatas. Hotdogs, pizza, salad and cookies were served non-stop. Judging from the smiles on the kids' faces, everyone was having a good time.

Later that night, the Seven Bridges Ice Arena hosted the Disabled Hockey Games, which included a team from the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. Somewhere in the blur of skaters, you will find Kurt Bernabei, a future Deaf Olympic hockey player. On another rink there was a sled hockey competition for hockey players with mobility disabilities.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I MacGyvered the Snowblower!

This morning, we woke up to several inches of snow. The kids excitedly jumped into their snowsuits at eight in the morning and began shoveling the driveway. When I arrived outside, I was amazed at how much snow covered our cul-de-sac.

The hubby tried to start the snowblower last night to no avail. I figured I would give it a try. The primer button was all cracked, but the electric starter roared to life. The machine just wouldn't start and get going. With no way to prime it, I couldn't get the gas moving through.

"What would MacGyver do?" I muttered to myself. For those of you with no clue, MacGyver was a show in the 1980's that featured Richard Dean Anderson as a special agent who used common objects to fight crime and get himself out of tight situations. Candy bars, paper clips, gum were some of the items he used, often with just seconds to spare before disaster would happen.

So I looked at the primer button and discovered that I needed to create some kind of suction or forced air to get the gas moving. The bicycle pump! I searched all over the garage but couldn't find it. My eyes settled on the leaf blower. Nah, too powerful. I looked at the primer button again. There was a hole as wide as the end of a paper clip. A straw, I thought to myself. I can blow through a straw...

On the way to the kitchen, I suddenly realized that I had the perfect tool to use on the primer: the hearing aid tube blower.

And sure enough, one squeeze of the bulb blower and the snowblower roared to life!