Off Vest

Coffee break for Chloe... or rather tummy rub
Coffee break for Chloe... or rather tummy rub

One of my students snapped this picture of Chloe off vest while I was on the floor with her one afternoon.

Off Vest

Our work day on Thursday is a long one. Thankfully, I have a whole hour break between classes at 3 PM. When possible, I take Chloe’s vest off and take her for a quick walk. I chase her around the classroom with a squeaky toy, or “mess with her” a bit. It usually ends up with some Chloe lovin’, and we just chill for a bit before the next class starts.

Ever once in awhile I have a student meeting, or parent/teacher conference. When that happens, Chloe waits patiently by my side but I can tell she knows it’s past 3 PM. Have you ever heard a dog sigh? If I’m close enough, I can hear her heave a big sigh that is just a big exaggerated. It cracks me up actually!

Chloe’s “off vest” time at home means our nightly walk. It only takes about 20-25 minutes and I walk REALLY fast. My husband teases me that it’s practically a sprint. We can only go when it’s not rainy out, b/c I don’t walk when the weather is bad… I weave! (grin) During our walks, Chloe knows she is “off vest”. She sniffs around, walks in “heel” if she feels like it, switches to “place” if she wants. I make her sit in heel and wait when we come to a crossroad. Once we cross the street, I let her know she’s free to sniff around again. This is her time to just be a “dog”.

Off Duty

It’s important that we learn to take some time to be “off duty” each day. Likely, you play many different roles each and every day. You may be an employee, or adviser. Perhaps you are a chaueffer for those who don’t make the car payment in the home (grin). Some of us make the appointments, are the personal shopper, take care of the yard, and scoop the poop. Maybe you are the cook and accountant. You may be the housekeeper and laundress. It is very possible you are someone’s cheerleader. Thank goodness pom-poms are optional…

Even if it’s only for 30 minutes or so, don’t do anything “necessary“. Stop and investigate, sniff around a bit if you like. Literally take the time to smell the roses. If you’ve allergies like me, “smelling the roses” may mean sneezing like crazy later. But I find my own way to “rest and reflect”. It may be with a cup of green tea and a good book on proverbs or “famous quotes”. These brief forays away from “your job that defines you” is very important.

Women are the world’s worst about removing their vest. They think they have to be “Super Mom”, or “Super Woman”. They wear so many hats, these defining headpieces lean precariously off the tilt of their weighted down head. We do so many things, we end up not doing any one thing well. Take the time to unwind.

Breathe deeply.

Meditate and/or pray.

Write in a journal.

Burp if you want too.

(Sorry… I had to throw that in b/c Chloe gets such a rub down and vigorous massage when she’s off vest, she burps in contentment)

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Thanksgiving in a Bathtub


Imagine my husband’s surprise when I asked him to run upstairs and snap a picture of Chloe and I.  Surprised, because as he put it, “Your hair is wet and your make-up is gone“.  Actually he may have said, “Your face is gone (like the transplanted southern boy that he is), but I think the look on my face when I asked him to repeat what he said, made him change what came out of his mouth!

I’m a brave person, aren’t I?  (Brave… or very, very tired)  I like to “capture the moment” when I decide to blog about something.  “Thanksgiving in a Bathtub”.

Don’t you love Thanksgiving?  This year, I tried something new.  Each member of the family had to bring a list to the Thanksgiving table of things they were thankful for… the number equaling their age.  I might should have thought that through before announcing my idea, as hubby and I had to come up with over 40 “thankfuls“.  The reality?  It wasn’t hard.  We were all amused to see that everyone listed FACEBOOK as a “thankful for” item.  But throughout the meal and our discussion, we agreed that really we should be thankful more often.

There is simply no better way to improve your attitude, than by listing your “thankfuls”.  We all decided to find opportunities more frequently, to find “listing moments”.  I found one tonight in the bathtub.

I had been reminding Chloe we were “headed to the tub” for over an hour.  She continued to bump my arm to remind me that we should head there.  I don’t think she’s is really that crazy about seeing me behind a mountain of bubbles (especially if she has a long enough memory to recall that first one), but she is rather fond of “ditching” the 14 month old puppy for awhile.

So with Chloe relaxing without a puppy chewing on her hind foot, and me sunk neck-deep in a mountain of bubbles, I decided to “list my thankfuls” for the day.  Top of my list for today was my wonderful church, DCC, my family, and my patient hound who is also my ears and “steady brace”.  But I found myself adding, “being allowed to pray for someone new”.  Small thing THAT to most of you I reckon!  But do you know something?

When you acquire a disability later in life, there is nothing quite so wonderful as discovering you still MATTER.  That you can make a difference… even in a “small” sort of way!  I asked someone if I could pray for them, and they replied, “yes… absolutely”.  I found myself listing that as a “thankful”.

In not hearing well, it’s not like I can pick up a phone and encourage someone with a “howdy”, “whatcha doin’?” or “yes men are idiots” verbal commiseration.  I can’t run to a local coffee shop in order to “talk about everything and nothing” as it takes a lot of patience to deal with my confused expression and request for a repeat.  I can’t even stand around church after the services, and agree with a fellow mom, “YES!  My teens are giving me gray hair!”  Because… what they really said is, “having tenure is really rare!”  (This really happened… grin.  A teacher was bemoaning how difficult it was… and here I thought she was talking about how difficult TEENS are!  Grimace…)

So imagine the PRIVILEGE, the JOY, to be reminded you can make a difference with a prayer!

I found myself thinking in that tub full of bubbles.  Not just listing “thankfuls” either, nor wondering if in twenty years I’ll resemble the water-wrinkled skin I still idly scrubbed at with my sponge.  What a difference it would make if every person — no matter their disability — could discover one small thing that they could do that MATTERED… to SOMEONE… SOMEWHERE.

Perhaps it’s because I go to a support group once a month of people who no longer hear well… or hear at all.  They want to make a difference.  They know they still can.  One lady can cook so well that she makes Betty Crocker hang her head in shame. She brings mouth-watering, waist-altering goodies to every meeting.  One plays the guitar… beautifully, and she blesses others with her music.  One simply emails the rest of us often as her hearing loss is also coupled with an extreme form of Meniere’s disease.  She doesn’t get out of the house much really.  Yet, her words and encourgement travel more “miles” than any one of us ever attempts by car.

I go to training 3-4 times a month with Chloe at Fidos For Freedom.  She loves the interaction with her trainers and “buddies”, and I love the interaction with people who are clients and therapy dog teams.  I love to see new clients realizing for the first time, the independence their new partner will give them.  Independence to do “normal” life things, in order to help them find ways to make that difference… to SOMEONE… SOMEWHERE.  Chloe has given me confidence in ways that is difficult for others to understand.

I trust her alerts.  I trust her knowing “what I need to hear”.  I trust her steady brace on stairs, and her quick retrieve of dropped items.  I don’t “sweat the small stuff” anymore because she covers all of that for me.  It frees me up to re-discover the emotional high of investing myself in some small way for another.  That’s something I was unable to do prior to my “match”.  Thanksgiving can happen in a bathtub.  Choose to be thankful… even if it isn’t in a mountain of bubbles!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal