Time Lapse

One of my first photos, 1966 with my mother and older brother, Lee.
One of my first photos, 1966 with my mother and older brother, Lee.
My life today...
My life today…

Oh to be able to see a time lapse of your life! Recently, someone I knew from “my old hometown”, posted a video of a rose blooming in a time-lapse segment. Just a little over a minute long, I sat spell-bound as I watched. Here… lemme share a little spell-binding:

So consider yourself bound by a spell!


Moving on…

When I think back over my life, I know that at no point did I foresee who I would be in 2014. I had no plans for a traumatic brain injury at the age of 6. I didn’t put down “late-deafened adult at 25” as a life goal. I never had a hint that I would deal with Meniere’s disease on a daily basis.

There are few things I desire in life. I feel blessed in what I have. However, if I had to explain a “main theme” on my “Bucket List”, I would have to say my heart’s desire is a slow build to real beauty. Just like the rose bush above in that my imagination could not capture what was to come AFTER TIME.

What I think is beautiful today is not at all what I thought was beautiful at 6 years old, 16 years old, or 46 years old. Outer beauty is fleeting and temporary. Outer beauty needs a number of “props” just to pass as beautiful. Things like make-up, proper lighting, staging, and other “props” that are not really a part of the person. Now that I’m 48, beauty is truly an inner kind of spark.

A friend of mine, Deborah, celebrates a birthday today. She is one of those “slow build to beauty” kind of people. The longer I know her, the more her beauty is revealed to me. She has a heart for people and a passion for making a difference.

Just Because You have Broken Parts, Doesn’t Mean You are BROKEN

Years ago when I decided to embrace who I was, life became easier. I stopped trying to hide how I dealt with challenges and decided that being REAL was much more nurturing for my inner Denise.

My ears don’t work without the aid of bionics. My balance causes me to fall – a lot. My most “frequent” view is staring at the sky while I “get a grip”. (Hey! At least this means I get outside a great deal!). I may have broken parts as a person with disabilities, but I am not broken.

Neither are you. Do you live with disability, chronic illness, or life-changing diagnosis? You may have broken parts but you are not broken. Some of the most courageous people I know are folks who live with challenges. If we could look at a time lapse of your life, what would it show?

Sure. We would get some indication of dealing with tough times. We would see wounds. We would also see numerous victories. I’m fairly certain we would see a slow build to beauty, however. It helps to take a step back and look at the big picture from time to time. After all, living with challenges can cause a person to get bogged down in “today” and just surviving. May each of us remember to review our time-lapse life and celebrate the beauty.

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Ingrained Habits

Chloe and Denise at Fidos For Freedom on the training floor…

Being a hearing assistance dog, Chloe has been taught to do automatic retrieves in case I drop something I do not hear. She loves to do directed retrieves as well, but the automatic retrieve is something that is more ingrained for her. It is literally automatic… like 2nd nature, and most definitely an ingrained habit.

This week Chloe and I are testing 3rd graders for CCA with a national standardized test. Want to know something I discovered? Third grade students drop a lot of stuff.



And never notice.

Chloe DOES notice. Even though I am not the one who dropped it, her first impulse is to even break a command like a down/stay and go and get it for me. During the first test, I had to remind her a couple of times to stay put out of harm’s way and let the child get the pencil, paper, or water bottle lid that fell to the floor under the desk.

It was really tough for her. Automatic retrieves are a default setting for her. On the trip home, I thought about my morning and Chloe’s responses. What is MY default setting? What ingrained habits do I have?


Geesh. Don’t you hate reflective moods? (GRIN) It was a 45 minute trip home, so I had nothing better to do. Stuck in traffic on the way into town this morning meant I had already listened to two full hours of Christmas music. I couldn’t take anymore of that! So I decided to reflect!

Ya know? I’m not proud of all of my default settings. Some of them are rather negative.

1. As long as I’ve been a “late-deafened” adult, or hard-of-hearing for those of you who prefer that, you’d think I’d be use to people getting frustrated at having to repeat things for me from time to time. If I get a long-suffering sigh, I’m usually ok. No reaction and I realize it really CAN be tough to have to repeat something so often… especially if we are in a noisy environment. If I get an eye-roll or condescending attitude, however, I want to strangle the life out of someone! And well? Murder is still a crime in the U.S. (sigh). So, yeah! I’ve got to work on that default setting. There is an operational procedure that is much more beneficial to me. Patience, understanding, empathy, and even forgiveness may be some things I need to make sure are activated when someone’s response to repeating themselves is not what I’d hope.

2. When I’m tired, I’m a monster and don’t care. Ask my family. A cranky Denise is a mean, critical and onery Denise. I try so hard not to be, and now that I’m in my 40’s I certainly succeed some. But… ideally? I need to make sure I get enough rest. I plan my sleep schedule like it’s something important. Now… I don’t exactly have it entered on my Google calendar, but folks? I make sure I get plenty of rest. I try to make sure I always get at least eight hours of sleep a night. And you know what? As a person with a hearing loss, I have learned that if I can get nine hours of sleep I am really at my best. Hearing takes work. At the end of a really long day of conversations, meetings, and communication… my brain feels like mush. If I’m not getting enough rest, I get to that “mush” place much earlier in the evening.

3. The sky is NOT falling. I’m a bit of a pessimist. Some who know me well might argue that I’m a wee bit more than a “bit” of a pessimist. I work on that a great deal. I consider it a very poor default setting. When something bad happens, I tend to believe that something else bad is going to happen in addition to that first “chunk of sky that clunked me on the head”. I will likely have to work on changing this default setting the rest of my life. It is THAT ingrained. I have to work on being more optimistic.

4. Agree to disagree. I’ve actually changed in this regard to some degree. In the past, I use to think that two people could agree to disagree, but then I’d have to STOP LIKING THEM! (When this is your spouse… that is not altogether a good thing!)  Sure! I’d think, “Ok… we can’t agree here, so we will just agree to disagree!” But then in my mixed up thinking, because they were WRONG (grin), we weren’t “ok” until they came around to my way of thinking! Whew! At least there has been some major growth in this area. I am actually good friends with numerous people whom I do not see “eye to eye” with on every little thing.

What are your ingrained habits? Especially those that may pertain to an acquired disability? Are they positive or negative? More important, are they things that you can change?

Something else I discovered today: Chloe thinks 3rd grade boys have an amazing speech pattern. After all, they don’t actually use WORDS. They use sounds! For example:

“So… I threw the ball and it went WOOOOOSH, right by my head! It clocked me right in the head, BONK! So I started yelling for mom… “AAAARGH” I could hear her coming down the stairs, CLUMP, CLUMP, CLUMP. I could tell she was mad!”  I think Chloe would like it if I talked a little bit more like a 3rd grade boy!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

What does a “Drum Brush” Sound Like?

drum brush At church on Sunday I watched as the final seconds counted down to designate the start of our services. A timer displayed on the wall allowed everyone to see when the services were expected to begin at Daybreak Community Church. The band members rushed to thier spots and as the last second disappeared, the music director said “Good morning” to everyone present.

The drummer sat down at a single drum and microphone with a tool resembling the one you see pictured here. I had never seen this before as the “norm” for our drummer includes the entire drum set, cymbals, etc. I craned my neck to watch as he used what looked like a “whisk”, on a rectangular drum placed between his knees. I did my best to see if I could hear what sound he was making over there! Unfortunately, I could only hear the keyboard, base guitar and voices around me lifted in praise. It’s NOT that this is usually an unfortunate thing – smile! On the contrary, I am usually extremely pleased to be able to tell where we are as I look at the lyrics displayed on the wall behind the band! But today… I wanted to hear what this “whisk” sounded like!

Drum Brush

Immediately following the final “Amen” and parting song, I rushed up to the drummer with Chloe in “heel”. Because I didn’t even know what it was called, I reached over to his music stand and touched the “whisk”,

“Bobby… what IS that?”

“I call it a drum brush,” he explained while picking it up so that I could see it closer.

“A drum brush? What does it sound like?”

Bobby bent to his drum and “played it” again. I got down on one knee and moved my CI closer to the drum. I strained to listen… and could just barely make out a sound. It was a tiny, fluttery, BRUSH of sound. I smiled and looked up…


Bobby asked, “What does it sound like to YOU?”

Hmmm… I had to ponder that for a brief yet “ponderous” second or two.

“I think it sounds like rustling leaves,” I replied.

“Hmm. I have always thought it sounds much like Jiffy-Pop popcorn,” Bobby grinned in response.

“Yeah! Yes, it does!”

I knew that agreeing also meant that I had instantly aged myself. For “Jiffy Pop” was something that was long before microwave popcorn. (Since Bobby and I are close to the same age, I knew he dared not make a crack about my age… besides you can STILL buy Jiffy Pop!)

Crackling Leaves and Jiffy Pop

If you click on the videos below, those of you with normal hearing or those who “hear again” with the miracle of a cochlear implant, you should be able to hear the sounds.


Memory Makers

Since I have been hearing again for four years now, many times when I re-discover a new sound I equate it to a sound that I still have “stored in my memory banks“. The brain is unique that way. If I am hearing a cat purr, I have a memory of cats purring prior to my becoming deaf. I grew up on a farm in southeastern Colorado. We had many cats and I had stored away what a cat’s purr sounds like. However, if what I am hearing is new to me, I am unable to compare it to the same sound that I was able to hear in my past. The best I can do is compare it to another sound in hopes of being able to describe it and make sense of it as I listen with my cochlear implant.

To me… a drum brush sounds much like the combination of crackling leaves and “Jiffy Pop” popcorn! It is the best comparison that I can think of in my attempts to place a new sound from a new “noise maker”.


Having an acquired disability can “make” or “break” you. I remember when my husband and I first realized that my hearing loss was progressive. I was going to the audiologist about every six months as my hearing was noticeably worse. Holding an audiogram with visible, charted proof that you are losing your hearing is very sobering. It seemed as soon as I adapted to communicating at the current level of loss, I would again lose some more of my hearing. Eventually, I could hear very little in spite of two new BTE hearing aids.

Each time I learned to re-adjust I would try to remember what had worked well for me in the past. Having never been deaf before, I had no comparison. I could only remind myself that I needed to continue to be active and proactive in communication. It worked in my best interest to make my invisible disability – visible. I wore my hair up so that my colorful ear molds could be easily seen. I pointed to my mouth and asked for a repeat if I was having trouble hearing. If I could only make sense of PART of what was said, I would repeat that PART and ask for clarification of what I did not get. If the background noise was extreme, I would ask if we could move to a quieter location to finish the conversation. I tried desperately to remain upbeat and positive. The alternative was scary.

Desperation and Despair

At one point in the process of my becoming a deaf person, I had really lost all hope. I had just moved from North Carolina and was trying hard to not only adjust to a new job, a new level of hearing loss, and a new community, but I had lost every friend that had meant so much to me! My North Carolina friends found excuses not to visit and emails were many times lost in cyber space. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with people at work and church in my new home. I felt alienated and alone. Couple this with a progressive hearing loss that eventually began to even effect how well I could communicate with my family, and you were looking at one WHIPPED puppy!

Instead of adapting and reaching out for help, I isolated myself and became very depressed. Early in 2003, I found that I was actually contemplating how to end my life. How did I get to this point? At what point had I “given up”? When had I decided to no longer attempt living in spite of a disability? I’m not 100% sure of when it all went wrong, but I suspect I knowingly or unintentionally stopped remembering how wonderful life is! My brain had so many wonderful memories of living a successful and abundant life, and yet I seemed incapable of accessing those memories! I’m very glad that God intervened through people in my life who recognized I had given up.

No Alternatives

There are not any alternatives to adaptation. Life can be… and many times IS hard. We must continue to adapt and “roll with the punches”. There are plenty of blessings and wonderful memories as well. Adapting means we deliberately adjust to change. It is a mindset and a choice.

Lose your job?

Work hard at enlisting the help of friends and acquaintances to help you network to find a new position. You will find your friendships strengthened and you may make a friend or two you didn’t know before. Often times God moves us to a new place to live and serve which ends up providing a great deal more happiness than what we enjoyed before. Most people find that they grow and mature as they re-work that old resume, touch base with contacts and put themselves out there to obtain interviews in their seeking employment.My husband recently went through this and even I noticed the growth in his life at the end of the journey. He is now much happier than he was prior to losing his job.

Lose a loved one?

It can be so hard to say goodbye to someone we care about. I cannot write much about this topic, for truthfully I have yet to experience the loss of someone very close to me. I have seen plenty of people in my life go through this even recently, however. Their lives are a testimony to ME whether they realize it or not. It isn’t a matter of “if” I will experience the loss of someone I love. It WILL happen. I am learning how it can affect a person, and observing God’s grace poured out on the lives of those who desperately need it!

I could go on and on about different things that can happen to a person that requires we adapt. However, I would be writing all day if I did that for in truth, life insists we all learn to adapt. There is no healthy alternative!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal