Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

The Cost of Transitioning from Silent to Verbal

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 4:51 pm on Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A couple of years ago I challenged the “functionally non-verbal” label placed upon me by medical experts by giving my first ever speech. Since then I have given a few more presentations. My head still bobs for invisible apples, but, for the most part, I have accepted it as another quirk of my cerebral palsy. Some people become a red lobster when they speak publicly; I become a head bobble.

Up until now the content has been prepared ahead of time, so giving my presentation meant hitting a few buttons on my laptop. This weekend I was at a strategic planning session as a Board member for the Social Planning and Research Council for British Columbia (SPARC BC) and had the opportunity to take the next step with my public verbalizing.

For the first exercise, the facilitator had each of us share our top short-term priorities for the organization. Thankfully he wanted us to succinctly phrase our idea in five words, and, thankfully, he started at the other side of the table. Using my new roll-up keyboard plugged into my small Toshiba Libretto, I was able to plunk out my five words by the time it was my turn. Taking a deep breath because I hadn’t used this particular software live before (what NOT to do!), I hit the “speak” button in the NextUp Talker trial version and my words were shared with the group.

We went around the table again and again; each time I was able to keep up and offer my thoughts. Had the group been smaller or had the facilitator wanted a detailed explanation, I may not have been able to type my thoughts fast enough. Thanks to the technology, this was the first time in my life that I was able to offer my own thoughts in this kind of group setting. I did not have to pass this time like I had done every other time, even though ideas and thoughts were no doubt zinging around my head.

But, because this was the first time, I found myself self-censoring a lot. Was that idea good enough? Was that really what the facilitator was looking for? Maybe it was too general or too specific? It is one thing to have the technology to be able to communicate in this fashion, but having the confidence that one’s ideas are good enough to share with a group is something else; something that takes as much practice as learning the technology, something that I’m not sure is realized when individuals are taught how to use augmentative communication devices.

The second exercise was to discuss specific topics in small groups. Once again I was able to contribute a few thoughts in an abbreviated format; I would have liked to offer more expanded thoughts, but it was more than I had been able to offer in the past. It was definitely a step forward.

However, with the small group, timing was much more of a factor. By the time I plunked a response to a thought someone had put forth a moment ago, the rest of the group was already ten thoughts ahead, so my contribution felt rather disjointed and out of sync.

Through this journey of coming out of the silence, I’m seeing how verbal communication is really situation-dependent and there are subtle differences that many people may not even realize. But, going from the written word to the spoken word, I am picking up on these differences and am still figuring out how to mold the technology to fit the situation.

One addition to the technology that would help somewhat is to have the word prediction/completion feature of EZ Keys software that I have on my desktop computer. This feature saves me a bit of typing, and hence, slightly speeds up my output. This means I may be able to type a longer response per contribution.

To have EZ Keys work on my laptop, I would need to move the softkey – the hardware that enables the software to work – from my desktop to my laptop each time I head out with my laptop; a hassle but doable. Another option is to buy another EZ Keys license with the softkey for $695US to use on my laptop in conjunction with NextUp Talker, which is $100US. Alternatively, EZ Keys also has a text-to-speech feature, which I didn’t purchase the first time around because I didn’t envision doing what I am doing now. The complete EZ Keys package with voice is $1395US. I understand this is a business and I definitely don’t want charity, but I feel my voice is being held hostage for a ransom I cannot afford at the moment.

With my husband’s support and insistence that I have the tools that I need, we have purchased the laptop, the speakers, and the roll-up keyboard. Now I need another piece? It’s frustrating that I need something so cumbersome and expensive in order to do what most people take for granted: communicate verbally.

But, I know Darrell and I will find a solution because that is what we are good at. And, in time, I will be giving presentations complete with Q&A sessions, even though my responses may not be as well-thought out or elaborate as they would be had I been using my comfy written word.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Tracking Your Contribution to the Blogosphere

Filed under: Blogging — by at 11:08 am on Monday, November 26, 2007

The blogosphere is all about building relationships. One great way to build those relationships and to contribute back to the blogosphere is to comment on other blogs.

A few weeks ago, I had set a goal for 2008: to comment on ten blogs per week; five comments on blogs I had previously commented on to further strengthen those relationships, and five comments on new-to-me blogs to expand my network by forming new relationships. Reading posts by Tara Kachaturoff and Caroline Middlebrook confirmed my goal was sensible; that spending time commenting on other blogs isn’t another time-waster, it is actual work!

But, I was stumped on how I would easily track where I had commented. The easier and quicker the method, the more likely I will keep it up and reach my goal by year’s end. Tara kindly suggested creating a spreadsheet for tracking the blog names that I comment on.

Excel spreadsheet for tracking your blog comments in 2008

I have created the Excel spreadsheet and offer it here to assist with tracking your blogosphere contributions and reaching your commenting goals for 2008. (Left click on the image to open the spreadsheet or right click to ‘Save As’ to your computer.)

To use, enter the blog’s name (e.g. Do It Myself Blog) or main URL (e.g. and then tally your comments for the week. A running total will be calculated near the bottom of the spreadsheet. In theory, using Excel’s sorting function can determine the number of times you have posted to a particular blog. I have yet to test whether the sorting function works for this particular purpose, so I’d welcome any feedback or tips on using this feature.

This spreadsheet is intended as a starting point. Feel free to tweak or customize as needed, and then share any changes in a comment below in case they may also benefit others.

Blog on!

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Giving Thanks at Readers Café

Filed under: Readers Cafe — by at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, November 21, 2007

(Photo credit: Hernan Herrero)

Hi and welcome to the Readers’ Café – a place to gather and to share. The Buda Restaurant in Puerto Madero, Argentina, is warm and inviting. Come on in.

Please help yourself to food and a warm beverage of your choice and make yourself comfortable. Then sit back, relax and join in the conversation by posting comments below. Don’t be shy.

Hit your internet browser’s REFRESH button to see new comments as others join in the conversation. All that I ask is that you respect others and keep it relatively family-friendly. Also, keep in mind that this is a public space, so share what you feel comfortable sharing publicly.

Today’s conversation starter is:

What are you most thankful for this year? In what ways do you express your gratitude?

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.
~ W.J. Cameron

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

Gift Ideas for Youth with Disabilities

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 9:06 pm on Sunday, November 18, 2007

A beautifully wrapped gift
(Photo credit: Irum Shahid)

A friend’s severely physically disabled daughter received two boxes of Kleenex from her grandma for her Sweet Sixteen birthday. No doubt the grandma dearly loved her granddaughter and had good intentions, but had no clue what to give a young woman who is able to physically do very little. How heartbreaking for both of them.

With the Season of Giving now upon, friends and relatives are now facing the same dilemma: what gifts to give to youth with disabilities? Here are a few suggestions to get ideas percolating; of course, consider youth’s disability, ability and interests when deciding whether a suggestion is suitable:

  1. Clothes. We all wear them! Depending on the child’s abilities and mobility, elasticized waists and zippers or Velcro, rather than buttons or snaps, would be greatly appreciated. Adapted clothes, such as from Kutaways, Mini-Miracles Children’s Clothing, WheelieChix Chix and Easy Does It (more for adults), may foster greater independence in dressing.
  2. Wall posters of their favourite hotties or current interests, whether it be Christina Aguilera or Nick Carter or anyone in between.
  3. Music CDs and, of course, something to play them on; for example, switch-adapted boom box with CD player. How cool is that! Or, even better yet, an iPod speaker system with a remote – forget fumbling with CDs and jewel cases!
  4. Books are great for expanding one’s world. For those with print disabilities, large print, audio books or electronic books may be appreciated.
  5. Make-up and jewelry: a must for all teenaged girl! Great tips for adapting a make-up kit. For the young men with disabilities, shaving kits and related items.

For younger ones with disabilities on your list, here are a few other ideas and resources:

By giving some thought to the individual’s interests and abilities, as well as to the disability, there are many gift ideas that are more exciting to give and to receive than a box of Kleenex! What ideas can you add to the list?

Note: The companies and products mentioned here are offered as suggestions, as a starting point. I have not had any dealings with them. If you have dealt with companies, your comments on their products or on further gift ideas are most welcomed. Happy giving!

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Viva Las Vegas!

Filed under: Blogging,I'll Do It Myself: The Book — by at 7:56 pm on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

City lights, bright lights of Las Vegas – the City of Excess

Wow, what an amazing trip! Las Vegas is indescribable. Everything is humongus, bright, with bells ringing and lights flashing all of the time, and people everywhere. Yet, I felt relatively safe. But, man, the food is salty (and expensive – or, at least, every place we ate was)! I need to detox on Dr. Oz’s green drink for a week!

Even though the flight from Vancouver to Las Vegas was not quite three hours, we were twelve hours getting from home to our hotel. Traveling to a new place, when I don’t know exactly where to go or what to expect around the next corner is somewhat disconcerting and very exhausting. I confess our first night in the city that never sleeps was not a late night!

BlogWorld 07 in Las Vegas

We were up early, again, on Wednesday to take the monorail from our hotel, the Imperial Palace, to the Las Vegas Convention Center, which dwarfs our Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre! I really liked the monorail; I felt much safer than I do on our Skytrain transit system.

The Left Thumb Blogger at work. Serious stuff!

On Wednesday, b5 media put on a bonus day before BlogWorld officially started on Thursday. The sessions were informative and I was glad I had taken my laptop with my brand new full-size roll up keyboard. Many people were blogging while listening to the sessions. I was lucky to keep up with taking notes and manage the occasional tweet. That is why there hasn’t been a new post until today. I figured I went to BlogWorld to learn and to meet real people, not to spend hours at my keyboard!

Thursday at noon, I held my first ever book signing. I had the honour of sharing the table with thee Andy Wibbels, author of Go Blog Wild! His book story is amazing and was one of the things that kept me going while writing I’ll Do It Myself: A publisher happened across his blog, liked what she read and offered Andy a book deal on the spot! Go Blog Wild is now in its third printing and was just released in Poland. That is a writer’s wildest fantasy!

Being serenaded by the King!

I couldn’t go Vegas without one Elvis sighting at the Hilton! Because I was still being weaned off of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers at the time of his death, I hadn’t experienced the Elvis craze while he was alive, although I have enjoyed his music and movies. Being at the Hilton where he had performed 800+ shows over eight years, I felt a connection to rock n roll history.

Since I missed the Elvis era by a few decades, to me, the ultimate Vegas experience would be to see Barry Manilow in concert. I’m not sure I can explain why; it just is. Perhaps its because I feel his passion for what he does coming through his music: “I am music and I write the songs/I write the songs that make the whole world sing/I write the songs of love and special things….” What an awesome life’s purpose! And to be able to live it – that is why I admire him.

Well, since the Hilton was next door to the Convention Centre and since Barry happened to be performing last week (information I happened across before leaving home!), we decided to see if wheelchair seating was still available and how much. Considering one of my life’s goals to live without regrets, Darrell purchased two tickets.

Sitting there in row 19 in a relatively intimate venue in Vegas (I’m not sure if it’s the same venue Elvis performed in), waiting for Barry Manilow to appear, knowing that this was an once in a lifetime opportunity, I found it difficult not to get a little teary. This year has been amazing for me! I’m so thankful I’m here, able to have all of these experiences.

In the photo, the guy in the yellow jacket is Barry Manilow! Honest. (I will soon have the credit card bill to prove it!) He gave a passion-filled performance. I was a little sad when it was over.

Big hugs from Wendy Piersall

In addition to seeing Barry Manilow so close up and personal, the other awesome highlight of the trip was meeting some of my imaginary friends in person, some of which had hosted appearances on my first virtual book tour; to hug and hear the people behind the two-dimensional photos and written words. Wendy Piersall came running when she spotted me.

Hanging out with fellow SOB Liz Strauss! What else do I need to say?

This photo with Chris Brogan is my favourite from the trip. He has a signature pose where he scowls at the other person. Apparently no one has ever scowled back, until this red-head came along! Rather than scowling at one another, we ended up laughing together. Thanks for the laugh, Chris.

Meeting Des Welsh all the way from Australia, after communicating since my Ryze days, was another special moment.

Attending BlogWorld validated for me that blogging is, indeed, real, is an industry, is a profession, and is where I belong. I did not feel alone in the least like I have at other conferences. I now know for sure that I can make a living doing what I love: writing and connecting with people from around the world.

A big thank you to Rick Calvert for his vision for BlogWorld. See you in Vegas next September 18-19th for the second annual BlogWorld!

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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