Do You Ever Get to Quit TRYING?

Denise with “baby” of the family, Chris (16 years old)

Do you know that I’ve been trying to lose my “baby weight” since 1991? The fact that my “baby” is now 16 years old, means nothing! The “battle of the bulge” is a war I’ve fought since I myself was 16 years old. I’m comfortable with my weight now, but I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds. I’m trying to concentrate more on “getting healthy”. My trainer at Fidos For Freedom has been encouraging me to lift weights to “strengthen my core”, more by her own example than any coaxing she gives verbally. She’s one of those women who run local races, lifts weights, eats right and is an annoying “Spark” person. (Well, she’s not really annoying, but the fact she makes it look easy is!) But ya know something? There are times I stand in front of that open refrigerator door and long to choose a big bowl of ice cream instead of humus and whole wheat toast. I’ve asked myself… “Do You Ever Get to Quit TRYING?”

My mother lives in a “closed gate” community (meaning no one under 50 years old is allowed in unless you are there to visit… mow someone’s lawn… or deliver the mail) in central Florida. I guess she actually lives there with my dad too, but they do a number of things “without the other” and TOPS is one of those things. My mother is actually a TOPS leader (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) and has lost over 50 pounds since retiring. If anyone can be an example of “getting healthy” it’s my mom. But sometimes I groan inwardly… “you mean I’ll be 65 years old and STILL be trying to eat healthy? Even then, I won’t “Get to Quit TRYING?”

But you know at 41 years old, I’ve finally figured something out. Things worthwhile take time, and being “healthy” is a lifestyle not a 3 month diet plan. I’ve even discovered this to be true of my hearing loss.

If you would have asked me at 24 if I thought I’d have a disability at 41, I would answered “of course not”! I simply would not have understood the magnitude of a progressive hearing loss… a downward spiral of loss that would eventually result in a full-blown disability.

I’ve had a number of people tell me what a great attitude I have about my hearing loss and deafness. What they don’t realize, is that I have to get up every morning and determine to have a good attitude about it! Nothing about hearing loss is easy. It affects every relationship I have.

I’ll be honest with you… at times I just want to quit trying. I get tired of asking for repeats. I am tired of having to be in the same location as another person to have a conversation! (I long to talk to my son over the 6 foot privacy fence to let him know he better get his tail back in the BACKYARD because he missed several places with the lawnmower!) I get tired of my food growing cold, because my husband wants to “talk” while eating at a restaurant. I’m simply incapable of eating and talking at the same time. I get really weary of the entire globe spinning like a top, causing me to walk like I’m intoxicated because a storm front has moved into the area. I get really tired of facing a flight of stairs with “fear and trembling” as my vertigo makes stairwells the single most dangerous place for me to be. It gets really old to not hear a single thing in the morning until I walk over to my Dry N’ Store container and put my cochlear implant on. Sometimes I just want to “Quit TRYING“.

But what is the alternative?

Regarding our health… we’d all be obese and have heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. No one would live past 50 years old. (My mom and dad’s retirement community would be empty).

Regarding hearing loss… I’d be in a self-imposed isolated world. A very SMALL world. I’d be bitter, angry and deaf. I choose to be accepting, happy, and coping with deafness.

So… I don’t “Get to Quit TRYING“. And neither should you!

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

Horton Hears a Who, Wouldn’t We ALL if We Learned to BE STILL?

In March of 2008, one of my favorite books will be made into a movie that will air in theaters. The following info can be found about the upcoming movie:

A new CG animated feature film from 20th Century Fox Animation, the makers of the “Ice Age” films, based on the beloved book, first published in 1954, by Ted Geisel, who wrote under the pen name Dr. Seuss. Seuss books are among the defining works of family literature, have sold over 200 million copies, and have been translated into 15 languages. The “Horton” series (“Horton Hears a Who”, “Horton Hatches the Egg”) are consistently among the top selling of all Seuss titles – generation after generation. HORTON HEARS A WHO is about an imaginative elephant who hears a cry for help coming from a tiny speck of dust floating through the air. Suspecting that there may be life on that speck and despite a surrounding community which thinks he has lost his mind, Horton is determined to help. The movie trailer can be seen at:

Does one have to have ears as big as an elephant to hear a “Who”? Obviously Horton recognizes that there are living beings on that dust speck, due to the fact he has incredible hearing because of the size of his ears. But Horton was also in a very quiet, secluded place and was “still”. How often are we truly “still” and in a quiet place?

On the rare occasion I am actually home alone, with 4 dogs and 3 cats I still end up having company. On the even rarer occasion that the pets are all napping WHILE I’m home alone, I normally have the t.v. on, or am playing music on my computer. During “non sleeping” hours, are we ever really quiet and still?

I’m trying to BE STILL more often. You’d think it would be easy since I’m deaf, but it is not. A lot of wonderful things happen when you are still and quiet. I’m going to see how many times I can over the next week.

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

We Make Do Somehow!

You know? When I find myself sitting around “counting my blessings”, it’s usually because I’m at a low point. Now a low point for me can simply be the result of a lack of sleep!

I was amazed at the results of an impromptu survey I took at the Omaha National HLAA convention several years ago. Ninety percent of those with hearing loss answered that they do not get enough sleep. Most admitted that they need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep a night in order to communicate well. If you think about it… those with hearing loss must be an active participant in “listening”. For most people, hearing and listening is a passive function of one of our main senses. Because I have a significant hearing loss, I know for a fact I burn calories trying to hear! Why doesn’t the scale show that proof? (smile!)

I have, however, had a hearing loss long enough to know that I have learned to “hear” in other ways… learned to “make do”. Oh sure! My cochlear implant, hearing aid, and assistive listening devices help a great deal! But I have also learned to use my eyes to hear better. Now before you think that means that I can speech read… think again. Speech reading is not an exact science! It use to be called “lip reading”, but the politically correct phrase is now speech reading. I use to love to watch the PAX television show about Sue Thomas, FBEye. The real Sue Thomas has the extraordinary ability to accurately speech read. She does so well as a matter of fact, the FBI hired her! But in reality, speech reading is not exact. It certainly HELPS... and combined with other things like technology, listening environment, attitude, etc., it can certainly help one with hearing loss “hear” better!

I do use my eyes to hear better, but it’s not necessarily to speech read. I “make do” somehow! I use my eyes to attempt to discern emotions, intent and attitude by carefully watching the facial expression and body language of others. I happen to have two individuals in my immediate family who can “tease” with a perfectly straight face! I fuss at them all the time! I search their expression to know whether or not something was meant in jest and to “hear” them better.

My assistance dog was sick the past couple of days. Chloe is not my “kid”, but I do love her a great deal! I’m very thankful that my hearing was still “manageable” when my kids were very small. For now that I am deaf… it was really difficult having Chloe sick and not being able to “hear” her. For two nights in a row, she bumped me and woke me in time to only comfort her while she got really sick! So by the third night, I went to bed with a flashlight. Now Chloe is better! Imagine how perplexed she must have been to have a flashlight shining in her eyes every 30 minutes or so! The poor thing hardly got any sleep for two nights… and the third night Denise is on pins and needles shining the light in her face every few minutes! At night I am completely deaf… no sound at all. Normally this means I sleep very well! But if I’m tense because I’m afraid I will NOT hearing something, the lack of hearing anything at night is not a positive! I needed to reassure myself that Chloe wasn’t going to be sick again. I needed my eyesight – with the aid of a flashlight – to “make do”.

Needless to say, I have always been in awe of two friends of mine who live in New Port Richey, Florida. They both have vision AND hearing loss. Yet… they have learned to “make do” too. It would take me 10 paragraphs to adequately explain all the things they do in order to live full and productive lives in spite of a disability X 2! They “make do” very well! (Their guide dogs are spectacular too!)

At Fidos For Freedom, Inc., in Laurel, where I train with Chloe, the clients all have various disabilities. Yet all “make do”. They train hard, and lead productive lives due in part from the assistance they now have from a canine partner. I love that one of Fidos numerous community service programs is called dAp. It stands for disAbility Awareness Program. The program’s intent is to educate others about disabilities, explain what it is like to be a person with a disability, and to increase acceptance of people who may be “different”. I really do believe that even people with disabilities can be very “ABLE”. It is right to capitalize that “A”! We “make do” somehow!

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

20 Things I Learned from My Hearing Assistance Dog

(Denise, Chloe and Kyersten at “Water’s Edge Putt-Putt in Lancaster County PA)

This past month, I typed up a quick list to turn in with my monthly report for Chloe. I didn’t realize I “learned” so much about her each month!

20 Things I Learned About Chloe

1. Never pour water out of a water bottle you were drinking out of into Chloe’s dish, unless you are willing to drink after her. She’s convinced it tastes better to lap up while it is pouring!

2. Hiding the timer under a couch cushion you are sitting on never works out to your advantage. To find it, and get the special “alert” treat, results in an unladylike, sprawled pile on the floor!

3. If I don’t put Chloe is a sit/stay when putting the wet clothes from the washer into the dryer, she’s convinced she’s suppose to help.

4. Don’t ever dump a gigantic bag of Eukanuba dog food into the storage container without someone other than Chloe to “spot you”. She will not yell out a warning that the bag is pouring dog food on the floor.

5. Always say, “here it goes” right before switching on the garbage disposal. Otherwise Chloe has to jump up to see what is making all the racket in the sink. (Chloe thinks the garbage disposal is called “here it goes”.)

6. Don’t turn to a slowpoke daughter behind you on a walk who is working and teaching a puppy to heel and say, “Would you HURRY UP?” Chloe will pee right where she stands!

7. Always close the piano lid or Chloe will play it when you leave the room.

8. Always put the cat gate up as soon as you open the cat room in the morning. Chloe knows right away when you forget it!

9. Do not reward Chloe with a tiny piece of canned chicken from the fridge if you have a bag of apples tucked under your arm. The open REFRIGERATED container of canned chicken slops right out in the floor when you are juggling apples, chicken and Chloe.

10. Do not ask Chloe to retrieve the toilet paper that rolled out of your reach when you are going to the bathroom and notice the toilet paper needs changed. She picks up the END of the toilet paper and trots over to you, not the whole roll!

11. Do not step on Chloe’s tail when you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. She screeches like a hyena and trips you up onto the floor. Needless to say you don’t have to go to bathroom anymore.

12. When arising from a sitting position on the floor WITHOUT Chloe’s help, do not raise your butt up first with your hands on the floor to steady yourself. Chloe reads this as a “classic butt in the air” let’s PLAY with each other dog language stance.

13. Do not reach down to absentmindedly pet Chloe when she has just turned to sniff one of your cat’s hind ends. The cat scratches YOU and not her.

14. Do not tell Chloe “settle” when you are trying to get her to return to work after playing, unless YOU have stopped laughing. If there is a smile in your voice, “settle” isn’t for real.

15. When in a public bathroom in a stall with Chloe, do NOT ask her “what is it?” if she cocks her head at a noise. She will try to dart under the stall to SHOW you what IT IS!

16. Do not scream DANG IT if you push your glass under the button on the fridge for water, and ice comes out instead. Chloe will come running and will “chase” ice cubes all over the kitchen floor.

17. When helping your daughter epi-lady her Chinese Crested puppy, do not turn to Chloe and say, “YOU’RE NEXT”. She’s difficult to coax out from under the bed.

18. If Chloe looks at you very…VERY still…like she’s waiting for a volcano to erupt out of the full load of laundry you are getting ready to pick up and take upstairs… always dig to find the cat that is hiding under the clothes!

19. Do not say “Hup” to Chloe when sitting in front of your brand new web camera when you call your mom for the first time using it. All your mom will see will be your legs sticking up in the air and Chloe sitting in the chair you just vacated.

20. Always check to see if it’s raining and storming BEFORE you ask Chloe “Do you want to go on a WALK?” If you are deaf and can’t hear the thunder, it’s a poor excuse to not go walking in Chloe’s thinking.

Denise Portis
©2007 Hearing Loss Diary