Mindfulness: And the Skies Opened Up


I apologize for how long it has been since I have posted anything. I am one week from finishing all my coursework towards my Ph.D. and have been busy working, going to school, and finalizing my dissertation committee. To say I’m exhausted is an understatement. I try to be serious and mindful about how much rest I am getting. I was thinking last week when I turned the big 5-0, that I have now lived longer as a person with disABILITY and chronic illness than I lived without those challenges. It influences what I have chosen to study and what I am passionate about. When you are ABD (All But Dead — just kidding: all but dissertation), you tend to think about your dissertation each and every day. This means that everything I am reading and researching for the literature review of my own work is on my mind each and every day. I even dream about it! “Predictors of Posttraumatic Growth in Persons with Acquired Disability” takes up much of my brain power.

These past few days I have been “chasing a rabbit” (like my retired service dog, Chloe)  and reading published articles on mindfulness as it incorporates one of the major domains of posttraumatic growth. I suppose “mindfulness” started out as a Buddhist tradition; however, in the last 8-9 years, the field of psychology has come to recognize it as a means to treat numerous physical and psychological disorders. In my short personal history of 25+ years, I have learned that folks with acquired physical challenges–whether the result of illness, accident, or genes–also experience comorbid anxiety or mood disorders (Carson, Ringbauer, MacKenzie, Warlow, and Sharpe, 2000; Siegert & Abernathy, 2005; Weintraub, Moberg, Duda, Katz, and Stern, 2004). You do not have to convert to Buddhism to practice mindfulness. Kozlowski (2013), explains that mindfulness has been Westernized by psychology and “it is purposefully devoid of spiritual or religious connotations and focuses simply on the act of awareness. And if you want to take it to a level that we can all relate to and understand, at its core is stress reduction” (para. 5).

You’d think as someone who has worked so hard to hear again, I would rarely purposely “go deaf”. Yet, I have discovered that if I want to do some deep thinking, praying, and just spend some time being aware of all the “stuff” in my life, I have to reach up and click my cochlear implant off. I need the quiet to take the time to be mindful of what is currently stressing me (and how to de-stress), what my priorities are, and how I can make a difference TODAY in the life of someone – ANYONE. My bionic hearing is wonderful, but I cannot focus when my processor is busy – processing. So I “go deaf” – on purpose. I need to reduce distractions. For me that means being alone with my thoughts and perhaps a pad of paper nearby so I can jot things down as I think of them.

Mindfullness & Preparation

Learning to be mindful, meant that I learned to change how I view disABILITY and illness. I learned not just to experience my “new normal”, but to own it. With that acceptance came the understanding that I am able to make a difference in such a way that I would not have been able to had my “normal” not changed. I likely wouldn’t know the people I know. I would not have been drawn to studies about posttraumatic growth. I wouldn’t have chosen to invest my time in student populations of individuals with visible and invisible conditions. My life – that I embrace and love – would not be what it is today.

Learning to be mindful also taught me to prepare. I knew before this ten-day deluge of rain that I was going to have a much tougher time with my balance. I deliberately scheduled an additional hour of sleep each night, made sure I had my cane and service dog equipment ready to go each morning, placed my umbrella and rain boots by the back door, planned where to park to eliminate having to by-pass major puddles of standing water, deliberately stayed where I could see outside to determine when the rain had let up enough to take the service dog out or to make a quick trip to the campus testing center or copy center, and made sure that I allowed extra time to get to where I needed to go each day because I knew my mobility issues would require I traverse slowly and methodically. Even though the sun sets much later now that it is the month of May, I made sure that I had someone to drive me for evening obligations as I knew my vertigo would be worse by day’s end. Being mindful about the forecast and likely changes in my symptoms, meant that I could “hope for the best and prepare for the worst“. A nice little “perk” of Meniere’s disease is that if you learn to recognize the changes, you discover that you are a living, breathing, and walking barometer. (I’m likely more exact that local forecasters).

So… when the skies opened up, and delivered mist & sprinkles, steady, significant amounts of rain, and at times-torrential downpours, I was as ready as I could be! I suppose some folks might think that being so mindful and preparing for worsening symptoms, is the equivalent of being self-centered. I have learned the hard way, however, that if I do not take care of myself, it is impossible for me to take care of anyone else. I MUST take deliberate steps to insure I am prepared for long periods of rain, for example. If I do not, I will be nearly useless to anyone else. I’m not trying to avoid or escape the worsening symptoms I know are to come with a long bout of rainy weather. It is a type of cognitive-restructuring (from the psychologist’s point of view). As a person of faith, I work at being “mindful” of His promises. It helps me to remember He is mindful of me (Psalm 8:4, Psalm 111:5, Psalm 115:12, Romans 8:5-7, Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 2: 9-12, 16, Colossians 3:1, and 2 Peter 3:2).

A Long-Term Benefit of Being Mindful

In closing out this post (and greeting a day where the sun has finally breached the dark clouds), I want to share something I’ve learned simply because I really HAVE been at “this” a long time now. When you are mindful, purposefully focus your thoughts, prepare, and live deliberately, you will find that some good habits develop. On about “Day 6” of our recent monsoon-like weather, I came into my 8 AM class and… honestly? I wanted to go sit down and cry. I was tired of the vertigo, tired of the nausea, tired of the wobbling, and tired of the balance corrections. My head hurt and I was cranky. Darn — if it wasn’t only 8 in the morning! After booting up the computer, turning on the projector, and fishing out my lesson plans, I looked up to greet the class a few minutes before “launch”. I always try to ask students by name how things are going for them. I try to really get to know them and let them know I care. I noticed on changing my visual perspective an empty chair of a student who just buried her father. I caught in my peripheral, the quiet entrance of a young man making his usual unobtrusive way to his seat in the back. This young man just found out his cancer has returned for the fourth time. I saw the sleepy, single mamas and the students who took two early morning classes (including mine) before going to work for eight hours. I saw and waved to the student who attends classes, works four hours, and then goes to sit with her husband in a hospice center before staggering to bed each night. All the very temporary “woe is me” disappeared,




Mindfulness doesn’t mean I do not have “bad days”. Being mindful, doesn’t mean I will always be in a super, good mood. However, being mindful gives me a better perspective and deeper appreciation for what really matters. I can more quickly rebound from self-pity and look for opportunities to make a difference – even in a sometimes “broken” body and weary mind. Being mindful allows me to wake up to a Milo-bear (service dog) alarm-clock with an attitude of “BRING IT ON“. For me… it makes a difference.

L. Denise Portis

© 2016 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Carson, A. J., Ringbauer, B., MacKenzie, L., Warlow, C., Sharpe, M. (2000). Neurological disease, emotional disorder, and disability: They are related: A study of 300 consecutive new referrals to a neurology outpatient department. J. Neural Neurosurg Psychiatry, 68:201-206.

Kozlowski, E. (2013). Can Christians Practice Mindfulness? Huffpost Healthy Living. Retrieved May 6, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eden-kozlowski/mindfulness-and-religion_b_3224505.html

Siegert, R. J., Abernethy, D. A. (2005). Depression in multiple sclerosis: A review. J. Neural Neurosurg Psychiatry 76:469-475.

Weintraub, D., Moberg, P., Duda, J., Katz, I., & Stern, M. (2004). Effect of psychiatric and other nonmotor symptoms on disability in Parkinson’s disease. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society52(5), 784-788 5p. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2004.52219.x


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

“I See Him as a Friend”

Hearing Elmo welcomes guest writers! (I figure you get tired of only hearing my point of view!) Today I welcome a distant cousin, Ted. Ted and I “met” on Facebook, connecting with family and friends in a way only Facebook seems able to do. It is great fun to talk to him because we grew up in the same small town, “middle of nowhere”, farming community. Ted works with a non-profit called “Aids – Out of Africa” (http://www.facebook.com/pages/AIDS-Out-of-Africa/109654919088134) and is also active in his community, helping to dispel myths about people with disabilities. How? By being their friend…

Hope to hear more from Ted in the future!


When my cousin was asking for stories for the web site about disabilities I was a little confused.   But I walk around in a state of confusion anyway so it didn’t bother me.  I did however start thinking.  Disability is all around us every day.  Sure we recognize the Disabled Vet in the wheelchair or the blind with the service animal, but we miss many of the other truly disabled.  Disability comes to many in all forms.

Having been associated with the Veterans Hospital for the past 30 some years, I have become accustom seeing “Disabilities” and don’t stop to stare or wonder the why’s or what’s of this concentrated elite group of America’s often forgotten service men and women.  Some are missing arms or legs, some are blinded, some in wheelchairs.  But many have hidden  “Problems” that we don’t see.  They are legally blind but do not require a service animal or the typically white cane.  Some are deaf but with the miracles of new hearing devices are able to communicate without being obvious.  When I walk into the audiology clinic, the receptionist, Peggy, greets every patient looking directly at them, speaking clearly, just a touch of volume, and a little slower.  Suddenly I realize that she cares.  That means a lot.  And when scheduled for the optometry clinic the doctor personally called my home to reschedule an appointment because she was being transferred and wanted to personally follow up on a surgery.  I take that kind of service very serious.  I appreciate those who care to go that little extra distance.

Now for the purpose of this writing and the  personal note.  Charlie is a friend, I call him a friend because he always takes the time to come over and speak to my wife and I every Monday at the weekly auction we seem to always attend.  He jokes with us and tells us what has happened during the past week.  If Mary is not with me, he will ask about her and the same if I am not in attendance.  He pats me on the back and makes me happy.  I see him on occasion at different locations all over town.   He is the kind of friend that never complains about his personal problems.  If his personal transportation broke down, I would help him replace or repair as necessary.  However he has a disability that many shy away from.   Charlie is limited mentally.  His appearance also makes many uncomfortable.  His teeth were not taken care of but that is in a stage of repair now.  Most people see him as a nuisance or embarrassment.  I see him as a friend.  I have asked myself what is there about Charlie that makes me proud to be his friend?  It is because his “Disability” only exist in the minds of the “Normal” people around him.  Charlie is seen all over town because although he is not allowed to drive, rides his bike pulling a trailer, around to selected locations to do odd jobs.  He is at the auction because he helps load items for buyers for whatever “Tip” they might give him.  During the night he sometimes shows me how much money he has taken in from his work that night.  In his mind he is not “Disabled”.  He is however truly challenged.   He lives alone, and pays his rent.  He wears clean clothes, and is showered and shaved.  I cannot compare him to all the people that thinks the world owes them a living because he makes his own lemonade out of the lemons that nature has dealt him.

So as we walk past people at Wal-Mart, or set beside them on a bus, we don’t really understand the limits of their “Disabilities”….. Perhaps better yet we do not understand their unlimited  “Abilities”.  Maybe the person just needs a friend.  I don’t think the word “Disabilities” is a true description.  I think that the word Challenged is better.  But neither fits my friend Charlie for in his mind he is not challenged nor disabled,  he is making a living the only way he knows how.  If he receives a little help along the way, that’s great.  But he would rather be accepted as is, where is.  So when you are asked to repeat a statement because the person could not hear or more likely not understand you, don’t get angry or say, “Forget it” for they can’t forget.  Try to be more like Peggy, louder, slower and facing them.    If the vision impaired need a little assistance, offer to help.  Just a, “Need some help with that?”, can make a person’s day.   It might even make your day.  An older person might be struggling to reach an item off the shelve.  When you hand it to them, there is a moment where you feel like you have really done something great and you have.

Ted C. Burhenn.

Frost Heave

picture from blog post at: Herding Grasshoppers

I recently read a post from one of my favorite bloggers. I love Herding Grasshoppers and NOT just because her son is hard-of-hearing. She is witty, adventurous and “real”. I rarely walk away form reading one of her posts without a smile on my face.

She recently posted about “Needle Ice” and frost heave. I was very intrigued. I’ve seen frost heave when walking trails before, but wasn’t really aware of what it was I was looking at. After reading her post I immediately went to look for more information about this phenomena. Frost heave occurs when moisture-retaining soils freeze in cold temperatures. As moisture sinks into the ground the freezing temperatures cause the water to freeze into ice. When water freezes… it expands and creates pressure. The soil presses up and may expose the roots of plants and has been also known to bring rocks and pebbles to the surface. Take a close look at the picture. The ice crystals have actually brought small rocks and pebbles to the surface. Once this thaws, the rocks and pebbles are left on top of the ground. One would almost think someone had “planted rocks” in an area that may have once been clear of them!

What “Heaves” out of you?

I have given a lot of thought recently about what kind of thoughts and actions are seen in my own life when the going gets “rough“? When my life becomes saturated with a seemingly endless bombardment of trials, problems, set-backs, health problems, and struggles, I am often left pleading with God “PLEASE! Not ONE more thing!” But ya know something? God must know my limits better than I do. Because there have been some difficult times that I have prayed and pleaded “not one more thing – thanks so much“, only to have a blast of cold air on top of my already “saturated life”. Exhaustion, pain, fear, depression and plain ol’ “bad attitudes” may have HEAVED to the surface of my life. These things are usually hidden. Some of the heaving exposes some thoughts and actions that just aren’t pretty. Some of it is just “junk” and “rocks”. The “heave” may expose “roots” as well and leave areas of my life vulnerable.

This past summer, I was having a pretty difficult time. I was doing my best to stave off depression as it is an unwelcome visitor that worms its way into my life at inopportune times. I was to the point of pleading, “Not ONE more thing God – please! Hello? Are you listening?” The next day Chloe was hurt in the park. For whatever reason (as we often will not understand this side of  Heaven), God allowed ONE MORE THING. Chloe’s foot took a really long time to heal and I even had fears she would ever be able to work again. Yes, she is special to me because she is my hound dog and  “doggie friend”, but she really enables me to be more independent too! What would I do if her foot would not heal? During the months (yes you read that right) that followed a lot of “stuff” heaved out of that pressure and into full view – especially to my family. It wasn’t all pretty. I was cantankerous (a nice way of saying PAIN IN THE BUTT) and aloof. I knuckled down and did the things I HAD to, but did not exert myself to do anything else. I had a major pity party several months long.

But not everything that HEAVES out of our saturation point is bad. Sometimes we discover that in spite of disability – we are very ABLE. You learn pretty early on what you CAN do, and end up doing it really, REALLY well. My saturation points have received an extra dose of FREEZE and heaved up compassion for others, patience, encouragement, and determination. I may stand and look around at the defrosted ground and spy a rock here and there. But sometimes? Sometimes I see beautiful geodes or prisms. I’ve not discovered a diamond yet – but heck. I’m only 44. I’m certain I’ve a great number of frost heaves in my future. Diamonds come with maturity. (If you ask my family – I’m not exactly THERE yet).

Have you experienced difficult times? Things that have happened in a life that already seemed completely saturated with problems and struggles? Don’t fear the weather forecast of overnight “freezing temperatures”. Meteorologists are RARELY accurate! If they happen to actually nail it one time? Welcome the heaving frost crystals to the surface and determine to unearth GOOD THINGS. Prepare your heart in advance to showcase determination, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, and love.

Experience enough frost heave and you’ll find that the soil of your heart and life is well aerated and primed for Spring.

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Does Hearing Loss Change or Affect Your Personality?

Dr. Terry Portis a counseling psychologist with 20 years of experience as an educator, education and non-profit executive, speaker and writer. His interests include history, leadership, technology, disabilities, family and faith. His wife Denise has a profound hearing loss and has a cochlear implant. They have two teenage children and have lived in Maryland for six years. They moved to Maryland from North Carolina, and Terry is still a huge UNC basketball fan, even when they are having a bad year (which almost never happens). He is a co-writes for Hearing Elmo, but has his own blog as well.

Terry with our ancient Pom, Ebony at Harpers Ferry 10/19/08

Does Hearing Loss Affect or Change Your Personality?

There are many ways to describe personality and to use the study of personality to help us understand people’s tendencies when faced with opportunities and challenges. Each person is a unique individual, and we must be cautious not to put people into neat little boxes. However, understanding how people tend to operate in comfort zones will help us understand ourselves and the people around us. In fact, personality assessment and skills assessment are the two primary ways businesses and organizations are organizing work teams and project leaders. So, personality theory is again on the cutting edge of management and human resources.

One of the most basic and easy to understand models of personality identifies 4 major personality types. Almost everyone has a “primary” personality type, but most people are a “blend.” If a person has questions about their own personality type, a short survey of family and friends usually provides the needed information.

The Choleric personality is an extrovert, “the doer”, and optimistic. They feel like they must correct wrongs and injustices, and also have a compulsive need for change. Their strengths include: goal oriented, sees the whole picture, organizes well (in a big picture sense, not details), thrives on opposition, excels in emergencies, and focuses on productivity. Their potential problem areas: can be compulsive workers who can’t relax, has an inner need to be in control, may run over people to get the job done, frequently pressures other people who are not moving at a “full-steam ahead” pace, and sometimes look down on others who are not choleric or who have different leadership styles.

When hearing loss occurs, the Choleric will “attack” the problem and will go to get help right away. However, once fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, they may never interact with other hard of hearing people again. To them, the challenge has been addressed, and the various tasks of this “project” have been completed. Those who DO get involved with hearing loss issues, usually become major advocates and leaders. Hearing loss does not usually affect the choleric unless it negatively affects their job. This will damage their ego and self-esteem, and they may retreat and give up. For most Cholerics, their “job” and vocation is WHO they are. If hearing loss affects their ability to do their job, they can be extremely traumatized.

The Phlegmatic personality is an introvert, “the watcher”, and pessimistic. They want peace at any price. They love stability, and people have trouble finding something bad to say about them. Why? They hate conflict and rarely “cross swords” with anyone else! Their strengths are: competent and steady, peaceable and agreeable, mediates problems, avoids conflicts, good under pressure, and finds the easy way. Their potential problem areas: can be resistant to change, may have a problem with procrastination, do not like to communicate their feelings, often have difficulty making decisions, and may appear lazy or unmotivated.

When a Phlegmatic has a hearing loss, they may “bluff” for some time. “I don’t have a hearing loss”, they may say. When the hearing loss gets to where they cannot “bluff” any longer, then well-meaning family members or friends can finally talk them into going to get help. They may attend meetings and advocacy groups, but usually because family members with a different personality type want them too! To avoid conflict, they get involved in these groups to keep the peace. They will eventually be involved in many “behind the scenes” activities. They will more quickly recognize another phlegmatic with hearing difficulties. A phlegmatic without support during their hearing loss crisis, may be the most prone to isolate themselves. They may quit their jobs, church, social groups and LIFE.

The Sanguine personality is an extrovert, “the talker”, and optimistic. Their relationships are more important than any of the other personalities. Even at work, their co-workers are more important than the work itself. They are usually curious and expressive. Their strengths include: ready to volunteer, love to think up new activities, look great on the surface, creative and colorful, energetic and enthusiastic, can inspire others to join in, and they can be very charming. The potential problem areas: can talk too much, are sometimes good at starting things, but weak in finishing them, avoid negative situations even if they should work through it, can barge ahead without counting the costs, and are quick to give simplistic answers to every question.

When hearing loss occurs in a Sanguine personality, they will usually get help right away because they cannot communicate well with people. Communication and relationship are everything to them! They many times will be involved with hearing loss issues and groups because they love to interact. They can be negatively affected by hearing loss if it seems to hurt their relationships… divorce or loss of a partner who cannot accept the hearing loss, or children and/or parents who give negative feedback about their new communication “issues”. This can devastate a Sanguine and send them into depression, which rarely happens to this personality type.

The Melancholic personality is an introvert, “the thinker”, and pessimistic. They are content to stay in the background, love orderliness and organization, and are analytical. Their strengths are: detail conscious, schedule oriented, persistent and thorough, economical, likes charts, graphs and lists. Their potential problem areas are: can spend too much time planning, expect perfection from themselves and others, often have low self-esteem, can be gloomy, and may be prone to look for trouble.

When a Melancholic experiences hearing loss they are the most likely to be depressed and extremely emotional about it. If friends and family members can “rally” them out of their “blues”, they will usually seek help and then become very compassionate advocates for hearing loss issues. They also enjoy behind the scenes work and are great “listeners” to someone new to hearing loss.

Hearing loss does affect all personalities differently. Although equally traumatic, different personalities may adjust more quickly and readily to coping mechanisms and technology. Personalities do not change, but strengths that may not have been utilized before hearing loss may manifest themselves. Also, weaknesses that may not have been as apparent and more in control before hearing loss, may become real problem areas for the person after hearing loss. It was also noted that adjustments can be made, but then additional hearing loss might occur. Some personality types might simply adjust AGAIN, while others may have a much tougher time “rallying”.

Dr. Terry D. Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

But I’m afraid…

But I’m afraid…

This morning my assistance dog, Chloe, was out on the porch barking her head off.  I’ve never appreciated how she looks without a head, so I found myself hustling outside to see what all the fuss was about.  At first, I couldn’t figure out what she was barking at, but it was very clear that Chloe was afraid.  Each muscle in her 4 legs were trembling with fear and tension, her forehead was wrinkled, and she whined in between high pitch barks!  I had to step closer in order to finally see what she was fixated on… a tiny bird feather.

Now I’m the first to brag that my working dog is a very smart canine!  She loves to learn, loves to work, and loves to train!  But sometimes… her fear keeps her from putting all the pieces together.  Sometimes… she needs help to look past her fear and approach things a little more logically.  I continued to reassure her that everything was fine.  I wanted her to investigate it a little closer with a little more, erm… backbone!  Grin!

Me: “Chloe… it’s OK girl!  It’s just a feather, and it won’t hurt you.  Show me!  What is it?”

Chloe: (Looks at me like, “Don’t you SEE?  Oh my gosh!  LOOK!  Show you?  But I’m afraid…“)

It seems that feathers have a smell… at least they do if you are a dog.  Chloe could smell a recent “alive kind of smell“.  When she would get close enough to sniff the feather, her sniff would MOVE the feather… and much to her dismay TOWARDS HER!!  Therefore, Chloe was convinced it was alive!  What does a hound dog do when they think something is alive?  They bark!  When Chloe would bark at the feather, it would move even MORE, but away from her!  Feathers are so light that they tend to want to follow the natural rules that feathers follow when applying physics… a hound dog’s hot air.

Even holding the feather in my hand, had her cowering in fear!  I sat on the porch and talked to her, all the while holding the feather out towards her.  Finally, she crept up behind me and with head on my shoulder sniffed and huffed at the feather in my hand.  I could feel her trembling, with her fearful “self” pressed up behind me!  Eventually a good, stiff, Maryland-September breeze picked the feather up and flew it up over the railing and out into the yard.

Chloe cocked her head to the side and looked at me like, “Well! What did you do THAT for?”

She was afraid of the feather, but wanted the feather.

But I’m afraid…

Last night I attended our school’s kick-off meeting.  All the teachers were present, and I knew I would face supper, entertainment, games, dessert, announcements and fellowship.  I have to admit it was something I had to make myself attend.  The night before I had even cried all over my husband, trying to find a way to get out of having to go!

When you have a hearing loss, there is just something incredibly intimidating about going to a group function that reverberates with the background noise of a large number of excited and “pumped” teachers!  I planned in advance, and made sure my cochlear implant batteries were fresh so that I wouldn’t “go dead” in the middle of a conversation.  I brought some assistive listening devices that work in conjunction with my t-coils on both my CI and my hearing aid.  Due to some recent rains, I knew I was wobbly enough to need Chloe’s special collar.  I was prepared.  I wanted to go.  I needed to go.  But I was afraid…

I talked to my director via email prior to going.  I’ll admit that I was trying to see if it was something I did indeed have to attend.  I did… and my director knew I needed to for more than the information we received as teachers.  She knew I needed to go in order face my fear.

My fellow teachers are very nice people.  I WANT to get to know them better… to even gain the treasure of a friend or two.  But in year’s past I’ve seen the look of panic when I put a microphone nearer their face in order to hear them better in a crowd.  I’ve seen their faces as they inwardly castigate themselves as they said something behind their napkin and I had to ask, “Pardon?”  (I’m a transplanted Southern gal, what can I say?)  I’m 100% sure that if these teachers knew how afraid I was of them, they would be devastated!

In my HEAD, I know that I have nothing to fear.  And yet, when I go to these things I find myself saying, “But I’m afraid… ”

My consolation, is that it is getting better.  The more functions I attend like this, the more comfortable I become.  The “feather moves”, and I’m a little jumpy about it; however, I’m learning it’s just a “feather”.

I’m thankful I do not seem to have the same illogical fears towards my students.  Young people seem so incredibly natural towards me.  If I have to ask a student for a repeat… seven different times… they cheerfully do so without any visible qualms at all.  Perhaps it’s because my classes are “electives”, (although many take them as alternative foreign language).  I know they CHOOSE to be there, and it doesn’t bother them that their teacher has a hearing loss.  I do not feel disabled around them.

With my peers it is different.  I hope it isn’t always so.

I want to attend meetings like these, but am afraid of meetings like these.

At least with fellow teachers, I am becoming stronger and more confident.  Perhaps I need a good, stiff, Maryland-September breeze to convince myself I’m in a “safe place”.  At least with every one I go to, I’m less “trembly”… and heck!  I quit barking months ago!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Psalm 56:3: “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.

I Can’t HANDLE IT!!!

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I’ll be OK! God promises to not give me anything that I can’t handle!” Or maybe you’ve heard, “You’ll be ok! Don’t worry! You have to trust that God will never give you something you can’t handle!” (It’s even worse when someone preaches that verse at YOU when you are going through something difficult!)

I suppose that this verse from the Bible – when mis-interpreted, and pulled out of context – is one of my biggest pet peeves. The verse is found in the book of First Corinthians, chapter ten, verse 13. The people who mis-use this verse the most cannot even tell you where it’s found!

Let me paste it here in case you are unfamiliar with what the verse says:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Paul was writing a letter to the church in Corinth. Many had refused to take responsibility for their poor decisions, or actions which led to sin. Paul pointed out that God always provides a way for you NOT to make poor choices. He allows an opportunity for you to do the right thing.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard folks (with the BEST intentions) mis-interpret this verse, I’d be very rich in … umm… nickels!

The truth of the matter is, that sometimes things can happen that I cannot handle. At times, I picture myself with hair standing straight up, clothes rumpled and torn, dirt from head to toe (basically looking as if I’ve just stepped out of a war zone), with megaphone in hand shouting to the Heavens… “Hello God? Umm… what in the heck are Ya doin’?” Yup. From time to time, I can’t HANDLE IT.

God has never promised anyone… anywhere… that He will not allow things to happen in your life that you can’t handle. We’re human. Much of what life has to offer, we cannot handle. Think of the holocaust, AIDS, Somalia, earthquakes, wars, cancer… these things are simply “life happening”. God doesn’t allow terrible things to individuals because they can “handle it”.

One of the most difficult things about having a disability that is considered “acquired”… one that develops later in life… is that you are not the person you WERE. It’s tough on relationships to have to learn to communicate differently, or learn to accept a working dog within four feet of a person you once knew that lived life without one!

I have times where I just can’t HANDLE IT. I usually drag myself out of my self-made “pity party” simply because what I live with is nothing compared to what some must HANDLE on a daily basis. I’m coping. I’m learning and growing.

Thankfully, I don’t go through tough times alone. I have discovered a great number of people just like me; people who can’t handle it from time to time. It helps to find others coping with the same problems.

Of course… when I’m really at my wits end, God reaches down and takes the megaphone from me. (After all, HE hears just fine!) He says, “You can’t handle it, Denise, but I can. I’m not goin’ anywhere. I’ll go through this with you. Your deafness? Not a problem. You don’t need ears to “hear” Me. The dog? Not a problem. I love dogs!”

Accept that there will be times in your life that you can’t handle it. I hope those times drag you into the presence of the One who can.

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

Facing Our Fears


I wrote about a “red horse” that Chloe took a dis-liking too. The post can be accessed if you click here. As time has passed over the last couple of months, her discontent at seeing the red horse has become WORSE — not better! With a new driver in the van in the form of my 17-year-old son, Chris, I decided that perhaps a trip to the restaurant was in order so that she could see the horses up close – and personal. I wanted her to face her fears not only for her own good, but also so that my inexperienced new driver could continue to learn to drive safely!

There are three horses actually. One horse is in a tiny street level “corral”, the second one is on top of the restaurant sign, and a third is on top of the motel associated with the restaurant.

red-horse-005.jpg I was actually a “wee bit” nervous as I wasn’t sure how she would respond. Chloe understands commands and the tone of a voice. But I couldn’t exactly “reason” with her as we exited the van to face her fears. I was surprised that she practically drug me to the first red horse. I didn’t want her to “freak out” as I was in my Fidos For Freedom gear, having just returned from a DEMO to a brownie troupe. I certainly didn’t want Chloe and I to be poor representatives of my favorite organization!

I was a little bewildered that she didn’t even growl at the horse! She has such a fit in the van, I just knew the hair on her back would stand straight up as she barked her head off! As she doesn’t look nearly as cute without a head, I was glad to see her under such control. red-horse-008.jpg

Towards the end, she actually started wagging her tail. I was very glad to see her so calmly approach, study, and relax around something that has been upsetting her for months.

What made Chloe so calm around something she’s been so disturbed about for so long?

Perhaps facing her fears along side of someone she trusts helped.

I thought about how true this is of my own life as well.

Facing my fears, is much easier to do and much more successful when I have someone I trust beside me. Obviously, my biggest fear is that of my deafness. I am blessed to have a wonderful cochlear implant that maximizes my hearing, various technologies that improve how well I hear in different environments… yet I will always be a “deaf person”. I don’t hear “normally”, but I do hear. Having Chloe gives me confidence… but her partnership doesn’t give me my hearing back. I trust Chloe’s ears, and she is always beside me. So she helps me face my fears, just by her presence… which in my case is being able to hear the world around me in such a way that I stay “safe” and “aware”.

It’s also important to find people who can come along side you when you are fearful. I think that is why many people search out support when they acquire a disability. The internet is a GREAT thing. One can research, search, and FIND people who are facing the same thing they find themselves now living. There are numerous support groups, organizations, clubs and message boards for those with hearing loss.

Sharing your fears, worries and challenges with like-minded people, allow most individuals to face their fears with a little more determination, a little more courage, a little more optimism, and a little more success.

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary