I was so glad to see the sunshine today. I read the weather forecast last night and tried to tamp down the anticipation and excitement in my heart. We’ve had such rainy, humid weather. I’m just a “mess” for lack of a better word when we have periods of days like that. Meniere’s disease is a burden I do not gladly bear. I’ve yet to be able to “find thanks” for it, though I have learned to do so is the best way to come to a place of full acceptance.

So when I saw the forecast I was optimistic but influenced by the realist within me… you know, the one who has seen the poor forecast predictions for the last week? We don’t get “full sun” today, but I am embracing the “partly cloudy” let me tell you!

Humidity is not really the “friend” of a person with hearing loss without Meniere’s disease as well. Veterans will tell you that faithful use of a desiccant brick (I use “Dry ‘n Store” myself) will prolong and improve the use of hearing technology such as hearing aids, cochlear implants and more!

We’ve no control over the weather. We can try to keep these devices dry, but “weather happens”. I do try to be careful and have an umbrella in every car, near the door, and in my rolling cart that comes into every classroom with me. I faithfully attend to the weather forecast so as to be better prepared for the day ahead.

Sometimes humidity and moisture problems occur in addition to weather-related incidents. Here are some I’ve dealt with myself:

1. Stepping into the shower, “hearing”. You’d think since I cannot hear the shower run anymore as I walk into the bathroom “deaf”, if I can actually hear the water running it would clue me in to the fact that I forgot to remove my “ears”. A couple of times a year I will still step into the shower not quite as “naked” as I should be. Thankfully, realization hits quickly. I shriek, streak to the bedroom, dry them off, tuck them into the Dry ‘n Store, and pray they dry quickly. Bedtime RITUAL is what has helped me avoid any of these wet OOPS lately. Having a routine before doing things like showering may help!

There is a cochlear implant by Advanced Bionics that can be completely submersed in water. My Nucleus Freedom by Cochlear is water resistant. For me this means I can have some of those OOPS episodes and not have to worry about damaging my CI!

2. Sometimes I sweat. Yeah, I know. Not very feminine or attractive. I crack up reading labels in the deodorant aisles at stores. Men’s products claim to control sweat. Women’s products boast of smelling pretty, not leaving white marks, and control perspiration. <snort>

I’ve found a great product though, and highly recommend EAR GEAR. They claim to be hearing instrument ARMOR. I love their products. They have products for BAHA, hearing aids, and cochlear implants. Ear Gear protects our devices from moisture and dirt. They also happen to be very comfortable. I have very small ears and the products actually help my devices “slip” less as well. Click HERE to check them out. They have some cool colors too, which is always a perk in my opinion as I sport my “bling” proudly!

I’m not an athlete, but I know some late-deafened folks who are. There are various companies that sell products that help devices not only stay dry but also help them STAY PUT. Megan at Hearing Sparks discusses seven great products that are of special interest to those who need hearing technology protection that are ACTIVE. You can access this post HERE.

I’m going to cut this post short. I’ve some sunshine to go embrace…

Denise Portis

©2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

We’ll Never Be the Same

“observe a leaf falling from on high…listen to the sounds it makes as it touches branches on the the way down…then the sound of landing. I didn’t realize until today that I can do that. I cried. Good thing no one was there. 🙂

A friend of mine penned the above words in her “status message” on Facebook, yesterday. Honestly? When I read the words, goosebumps erupted on my arms and neck and I felt an overwhelming emotion well up in my chest. I sat at my desk and “cried like a baby” if you must know. Deep, wrenching sobs that shook my entire body and caused my assistance dog to lay her head on my knee and look imploring up at me … asking to “help” as best she could.


Unless you’ve lost something and regained it through surgery, rehab, hard work, and perseverance you could never understand completely. When an individual chooses to be surgically implanted with cochlear bionics, they can only do so after their “natural hearing” has reached a point that other assistive devices provide little help. Many resign themselves to not ever hearing again “this side of Heaven”. To regain that and as an added benefit, the ability to interact and communicate with others, strengthening old relationships or forging new ones, repairing self-confidence and esteem, all “sweeten the deal” and make the decision even more lifechanging. For some, aural rehab goes very quickly, while for others that first year can be frustrating and challenging. In the end, we’ll never be the same. We will never take for granted our hearing and the ability to listen to the sounds around us. One becomes a part of a “family” of other folks who are “hearing again” as well. We get it. We understand. We’ll never be the same.

The Internet has changed our world, but there are some unheralded benefits of having the Internet. It has provided a connection for people with disabilities, health concerns, or chronic illness. Support groups and message boards exist for every type of health issue.

Those with the invisible illness/disability of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome are connected to others who live with the knowledge that today things might be pretty good – but tomorrow you may be bedridden. Those with chronic, hard-to-explain pain disorders can communicate with others who live the same life and share the burdens and triumphs of living with a disease that WILL NOT squelch their inner spirit.

Those who have a loved one that has survived a traumatic brain injury can find others who “miss the person they once loved” and are “learning to love the person left behind”. They can share successes and set-backs, fashioning relationships with other parents, spouses and loved ones who understand because they LIVE IT.

Individuals who live with mental illness can connect with others who understand the stigma and prejudices. They can connect with others who are SURVIVORS.

People (finally) diagnosed with the new epidemic of Lyme disease can find a community of people who have learned how to talk to their doctors, discuss holistic practices that provide relief, discover medications and lifestyle changes that can make a difference in the number of recurring flares, and how to remain positive and proactive in living with the illness.

I have a cousin in the latter stages of treatment for breast cancer. Her “voice” has changed throughout this process and I can tell by reading her penned words that she has a new fascination, anticipation and appreciation for life. She will never be the same.

I think we are slow to recognize how hardship, tragedy, trials, and adversity can provide the surprising and unexpected benefit of a permanent change in hearts, minds, and bodies. For many of us our very foundation has been rocked and rebuilt. Life is different. Sweeter.

We’ll never be the same.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Let Go – Let God

Kyersten standing in front of her new dorm at Liberty University.

This past weekend my husband, firstborn and I headed to “Summer Orientation” at the college my daughter is transferring to this fall. She will be transferring in as a junior and we came to complete the remainder of her check-in requirements and participate in some on-campus meetings.

I’ve been deliberately and methodically choosing not to think about this fall and the impending separation from my firstborn. I’ve always been pretty good at that and it keeps me from perseverating about unpleasant events. However, attending meetings about “how to let go” and how to encourage independence, forces the issue to the front of my mind.

Because of the forced concentration on this coming fall, I came to a startling discovery. I’m actually going to be OK! Kyersten is confident and excited. She received fantastic scholarships and is lined up for Work Study. One of Kyersten’s roommates is a young lady who graduated high school with her. Elise will be transferring in as a junior as well. I have easy access to email, SKYPE, Facebook, cell phone, and texting. I may shed a few tears after dropping her off this fall, but truthfully I am more excited than devastated about our family beginning a new chapter. We’ve prepared for this and we are ready. I have faith that God will keep her in the palm of His hand. I can let go – and let God.

Kyersten overlooking her "new city", Lynchburg, VA

I’m not as good at that about all things, however. Some things I find it more difficult to…  “let God”?

1. Finances: My husband works full-time and also works part-time as an adjunct professor. I work “very” part-time as a teacher at a private school. I currently only work one day a week, and only during the school year. I will not be finished with my Master’s degree until the end of this year, and even then I will probably have to wait until the following school year to work a truly “part-time” schedule. This means that things are tight financially. Really tight! I try not to complain or worry because I know so many who are unemployed or struggling with more difficult financial issues than we are. Our car needs fixed. We have debt. It’s really hard for me to release some of these worries to God. I want to “fix” things… stay in control. I believe God equips us to make decisions to work through financial problems, but at some point you have to have faith too! I struggle with having that faith…

2. Hearing: I am truly blessed to have bionic hearing and experience daily the miracle of “hearing again”. Each morning when I slip my coil magnet into place, I am reminded of the miracle of hearing again. A confession? I always fear “how long will this last”. Perhaps it’s because I experienced profound deafness for a couple of years prior to implantation. I know what it means to not be able to hear and communicate well. It had such a devastating effect, it left invisible scars on my heart and mind. I am implanted with the “most reliable” cochlear implant on the market. Yet because of FEAR, I always get a hitch in my breath right before I connect the magnet each morning. I have trouble letting go of this fear… and letting God give me the confidence that He is in control.

Do you have trouble letting go – and letting God? I believe it is because there is a small part of us that wants to control our own destiny. In some ways, if we are the only ones in charge of our destiny then we are the only one responsible for the outcome. But is that true?

Reality check: Decisions OTHER PEOPLE make often impact our lives and our future. Natural disasters can have an influence. A devastating health diagnosis can impact our future – our very life. Stock markets crash, wars continue, the housing market may plummet. Someone we love may be killed by a drunk driver. People may be robbed, raped or murdered. Nothing like painting a rosy picture for you, huh? GRIN.

The good news? God is in control. John Ortberg said, “Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat”. I don’t think we can truly “let go – and let God”, if we aren’t in the habit of daily interacting with the God who loves us. You cannot think about God part-time and expect His peace full-time.

I love studying and using the names of God in my daily interactions with Him.

Jehovah-Rophe or Jehovah-Rapha: The Lord God heals

Jehovah-Sabaoth: The Commander to the Angelic Host and the Armies of God

Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord will provide

El Shaddai: God all sufficient

Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our Peace

The names of God remind us of all the things He IS. These reminders make it possible for us to “let go – and let God” with confidence.

I encourage you to make a list of things you have trouble letting go of and discussing them with the One who really cares. I still have two big issues that I have trouble letting go of… yet learning to release these worries daily create a confidence that I can feel is growing. My hope is that I will one day realize I have truly “let go”.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Do Not Put it Off!

This week marked the end of my son’s life as a high school student. In a couple of weeks, my parents will be here to celebrate at his graduation ceremonies for Chieftain Christian Academy. Although Chris did most of his senior year at a local community college (since he goes free thanks to “Dad” working there), he still did a couple of classes at home. I’ve been more “hands off” in his education this year, but still had the opportunity to make sure he was logging hours for that 1/2 credit of Bible he needed. I was still his “teacher” for Geometry, something we put off far too long! I was still busy grading papers, generating paperwork for our co-op, and preparing lesson plans for the kid.

Now the “kid” is done, and I find myself asking, “What do I… want to be when I grow up?” My life has pretty much been on hold for twenty years, in spite of working part-time as a teacher throughout. Every school year revolved around the kids, as did every activity, field trip, book purchase, and support group meeting. Now we are “done” with this chapter in our lives and I once feared I would be left feeling deflated.

But… I have a plan of action. That is part of the reason I have been going to school part-time. I’ve been taking 6-9 hours a semester of graduate level courses in Psychology. I’m set up to complete a Master’s program at the end of 2010.

Looking Back

In spite of all of these years of concentrating on my family, I really didn’t think there would ever be a day I could look to my own dreams. It’s hard to believe that it has been almost twenty years since I first began to notice a dramatic change in my hearing. In the beginning it was so hard! Even my own parents and siblings had difficulty believing I was really losing my hearing. After all, when I was being raised at home, I only had a mild hearing loss in one ear. It didn’t make sense to them that ten years could make that much difference in my hearing. I remember one of my kids coming home from Colorado after visiting family, visibly upset because someone had told them that my hearing loss must be “put on”… that it wasn’t real. They had no idea how to respond to the lack of belief in acquired disabilities. They knew I couldn’t “hear” in the dark (since I speech read). They knew how frustrated I was when my hearing aid battery would die. They knew how terrified I was of the phone and how I was slowly dropping out of activities at church since I couldn’t hear. I remember talking to my little sister on the telephone prior to my cochlear implant surgery.

She wanted to know why I would consider surgery and take that risk. I remember staring at the phone incredulous at her question. Here I was reading captions from a Cap-tel phone, in order to even know what she said… and THAT wasn’t 100%. I explained how minimal the risks were to cochlear implant surgery and tried to explain how desperately I WANTED MY LIFE BACK.

Looking Ahead

I didn’t let their reservations stand in my way. Thankfully, my immediate family understood the struggles I faced each and every day and were so supportive! Other late-deafened adults were encouraging and enthusiastic about my surgery. Getting a cochlear implant allowed me to dream again. Because I can hear as well as I do, I look forward to giving back in some way… of doing something outside the home. Don’t get me wrong… I have loved being a keeper of the home and the opportunity to spend so much time with my kids. However, I really thought that at the end of this time I’d be facing an empty nest and feeling unnecessary. Once I could “hear again”, everything changed. I’m at the end of this journey and at the beginning of a new one! I’m feeling rather hopeful, excited and NECESSARY.

I suppose if the posting this week had a POINT, it would be this:

Do you have a hearing loss? Do hearing aids and other assistive devices no longer help you very much? Have you been evaluated and been told that you qualify for a cochlear implant?


The risks are minimal, the pay-off is HUGE. It has been five years since I was activated (May 13, 2005). I have no regrets other than I waited as long as I did. I qualified for a cochlear implant three years before I finally went through with the surgery! I’m dreaming again. I’m excited about the future. I have plans, goals, and am slowly but surely “getting there”. I can hear with this bionic ear of mine!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

5 Year Mapping at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Today I went to Johns Hopkins for my 5 year mapping. It always feels surreal when I go, for five years is simply not enough time to pass that I have already forgotten what it felt like not to hear. As I go in the parking garage, I can clearly hear the ticket machine ask me to take my ticket with me so that I can pay before exiting. When I approach the hospital, I can hear the revolving door “clicking” as it slowly rotates inward. I clearly hear the “ding” of the elevator as I wait for one to come to the first floor. None of these things were discernible to me 5 years ago. I guess you could say my ears became “reborn” on May 13, 2005.

Below is my audiogram 5 months before my surgery. It shows I had a 90 dB loss in my right ear and a 98 dB loss in my left. My left ear is the one I decided to implant.

Audiogram 11-4-2004

Below is the audiogram from today. My audiologist is one of my favorite people. She’s very easy to talk too, and VERY good at what she does. She created a new program in my “P3” slot that I’m going to work with to see if I can hear my son’s voice any better with in comparison to my normal program. In the sound booth… I actually tested “best” with the lower tones, so it could be that I’m going to have to start fussing at my son to project a little better with that deep voice of his! (Look up when you talk… don’t have your face buried in your laptop).

She doesn’t test my right ear anymore, but you’ll note that my left ear (once a 98 dB loss) is now testing at 15dB loss. Better yet, check out the bottom where it has my words/Phonemes and HINT sentences testing in quiet/noise!

Audiogram 5-7-2010

My audi is never “pushy” but she reminded me that should I ever wish to consult with Dr. Niparko about getting a 2nd CI, that I can just call and make an appointment. Right now with my balance issues, I just do not feel the need to pursue that as I’m “hearing” so well. Maybe… SOME DAY.

Check out my May “bling”. Remind you of anyone?

May "Chloe" bling

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

It’s a Shame You Don’t Burn Calories

Darn, but his voice is changing YET AGAIN!

Geesh, I’ve had a tough week. I hate to complain because I am aware that my frustrations in no way compare to what some folks are going through right now.

I mean, everyone in my family is relatively healthy; we’re employed; doing well in school; have connections with people we care about… but let’s face it –

We can still have a tough week in spite of how well things may be going generally.

Part of the reason I enjoy connecting with people through their blogs, Facebook, email and SKYPE is because it can serve as a sobering reminder just how well I have it!

Hearing Loss Can “Suck”

I do hate to admit when a “bad week” is because of the fact that I have a hearing loss. After all, I make a great effort each and every day to live my life as a positive role model, proactive advocate, and enthusiastic recipient of a cochlear implant. But ya know? Sometimes I’m going to have a bad week because of problems I encounter as the result of being deaf.

1. My son’s voice is changing – – AGAIN. Like it could get any deeper? I noticed this last week that it has become more difficult for me to understand my son’s voice again simply because it is so much deeper. I have a mapping appointment at Johns Hopkins Listening Center in May. Do I drag the kiddo with me so that my programs can be tweaked to hear him better? Or, because I’m “so darn independent”, simply tell my audiologist that I’m having difficulty with deeper voices and let her “tweak” based on what the computer tells her to do?

Honestly I inwardly “grimace” when I’m trying to have a conversation with him. I have to actually be face-to-face in order to lip read some as that voice of his just DISAPPEARS in some lower octave that I’m unable to hear. You’d think I’d burn calories as I must intently concentrate and fixate on the conversation.

2. My wonderful husband is having allergy problems like many in the mid-Atlantic states are having this year. It seems pollen is at an all-time high, breaking records across the state. (How exactly does one measure pollen I wonder?) I do know that our cars and porch are always covered in a coat of fine particle yellow dust! For some reason, this year it has really “done a number” on my husband’s voice. Some days (especially in the morning) he actually HAS no voice! It can be very frustrating trying to talk to someone whose voice cuts in and out! Normally, I can be in a different room and carry on a conversation with the man! (Thanks to the Nucleus Freedom!) But this week, I can be looking right at him and some of the words just sort of disappear into space. How can something SO HARD – intently concentrating and trying to understand conversation – be so exhausting? Honestly I’ve been going to bed with a mushy brain.

So yeah… most days I embrace the fact that because of invisible disabilities I live life a little differently, but certainly with an attitude of gratitude. This week? Not so much.

That’s OK, too ya know! We are not always going to be accepting or appreciative of having to do things a little differently. A short list of hearing loss belly-aches?

1. Having to PUT your “ears” on each and every day before being able to hear that first sound of the morning.

2. Having to change batteries to “hear again”… and they never die at an opportune moment!

3. Having to fumble and juggle THREE Size 13 batteries to start with!

4. Not being able to hear myself sing in the shower. As memory serves I am pretty darn good at it!

5. Not being able to run out in the rain and splash and play while HEARING.

But ya know? My list of jaw-dropping, heart-warming, deeply perceptive acknowledgments of what I CAN hear is much longer!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

The Me I Want to Be

Here lately I’ve been living my life like… well? Like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve had insomnia, which is something I have very little experience with actually. Having a hearing loss and Meniere’s disease usually means that when I go to bed at night I have reached my “EXHAUSTED” mode. I take my cochlear implant off, brush my teeth, climb into bed and am normally asleep within ten minutes!

For the past month, however, I have not only had difficulty going to sleep, but I’ve had trouble STAYING asleep. There is far too much going through my mind, and I’ll just be honest with you… I’m worrying.

Now I hear others say from time to time that worrying is sin. I actually don’t hold to that. I don’t think it is a sin to worry, because we are all prone to do so. What is wrong is when we let that worry wreck our lives, or sidetrack us from why we are here. I don’t believe worry is sin unless we allow it to produce something negative in us. Worrying has to change to BELIEVING.

I’m in this period of life I like to think of as “pre-EMPTY NEST“. My daughter heads to Liberty University this fall as a transfer student. My son is graduating from high school this coming June. For the first time… I HAVE time. My kids are young adults and I certainly realize that there will be times when they still need MOM. Heck! I’m 43-years-old and there are times I still need MY mom! But for the first time, my short term goals don’t include doing anything on behalf of one of my kids. What were once my long-term goals, are now my short-term goals and I’m having to re-focus and make decisions about what I want to do … when I grow up. Cuz it’s here now…

I think part of the reason I have allowed “worry” to produce such a negative effect, is because I never thought I’d be who I am. Two decades ago I first began to think about    “someday”. I never thought I’d hear and communicate only because of the miracle of a cochlear implant. Being a “bionic woman” was not part of the plan, you see… and yet

here I am.

I never envisioned that when weather systems moved into the area I would have trouble walking. I never thought I’d have an assistance dog to help me find the direction of sounds and alert me to sounds I still don’t hear well. It wasn’t in “the plan” to have to ask my dog to pick up things that I drop.

Don’t get me wrong! I have a very positive self-image and like who I am

who I have become.

But I’d be lying if I said that this was what I imagined. I’m a 43-year-old woman with a couple of disabilities. I didn’t plan for it to be this way. There was a “me I want to be“. So I’ve been laying in bed at night worrying…

Should I go on to get my doctorate?

Will I be able to do what I want to do even though I have a hearing loss?

Will others believe in me and see my abilities, or be sidetracked by the disabilities?

Am I even capable of doing what I dream of doing, or should I change my dreams?

When Worry Becomes SIN

So it doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to figure out that this period of worrying for ME… has turned into sin. I’m not sleeping. I’m tossing and turning and fretting. So yeah! The worrying hasn’t produced anything positive nor been the impetus for a purposeful change. Instead I’ve been miserable

and tired.

Have you ever been afraid to dream for fear that God would say “no”? Maybe you don’t even want to voice what your goals and dreams are to Him because you are pretty sure He’ll say, “Nope! That isn’t My plan for you!

I believe that God gifts us and equips us to reach our goals. I think our dreams are simply little seeds that we are born with that grow as the result of our utilizing our God-given skills, talents, and strengths. In each of us there is the potential to realize our dreams. Excessive worrying can side-track us from taking those steps towards our dreams.

I’ve also decided to quit silently worrying and just go public with what I hope for! How else are others able to pray for me, and encourage me? For quite awhile I’ve been afraid to voice what my dreams are for fear of people rolling their eyes. I know it isn’t going to be easy. I also know that it will take time to get there. The “me I want to be” is the me God has equipped me to be after all! Sure… sometimes we make poor choices and the “getting there” may end up being a more indirect route. Or perhaps “life happens” and you end up with a life-changing, daily challenge in your life. It doesn’t make your dreams unattainable.

So… pray for me if God brings me to mind, won’t you? This working towards “the me I want to be” is scary sometimes. I’ll promise to pray for you too… just shoot me an email and let me know how I may do that on your behalf!

My dreams (now public knowledge)…

I want to teach MORE than I am now, and would like to teach in a community college.

I want to write a book.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

P.S. An incredible book I am enjoying… “The Me I Want to Be” by John Ortberg. Click the book to find out more!

Try Something New

An Elmo Application for the iPod

My husband called me into his office last night and checked out the “side of my head” to see if I still had my cochlear implant and hearing aid on to hear. I kind of grin to myself when he does this, for after all… I’d not hear him call me into his office if I didn’t have my cochlear implant on my head!

He said, “Can you put headphones on over your implant and hear?

I looked to see what headphones he was talking about and noted that it was his nice “noise canceling” headphones and not the ear buds. “I’m sure I can,” I responded, “but I’ve not tried!

Now I’m likely one of the few Americans that does not own an iPod. I also do not have an MP3 player (although I think those aren’t as popular now!). It may have something to do with the fact that I have a hearing loss. Prior to the cochlear implant, I had become accustomed to living without music. (Kinda of sad if you think about it…) My CI has some fancy attachments that I can use so that I can actually use an iPod if I want. However, usually I sit at my computer and listen to iTunes. I make a special time to do that, and enjoy the music better if I’m not busy doing something else that requires my concentration.

My husband has an iPod touch. He is a very techie/gadget kind of guy. I’ve heard him dreaming out loud in his sleep about the new iPad. (I’m fibbing of course… I’m deaf at night!). He held out the headphones to me and motioned for me to put them on my head.

I adjusted them to where I could comfortably place them over the processor (the headphones were HUGE and covered my entire ear!). He handed me his iPod touch. I stared at him blankly. “Ummm. I haven’t a clue as to what to do you know!” I grimaced. (Hubby and I are blissfully married because ‘opposites attract’ as I do not have any techie/gadget cells in my body).

He motioned with his finger, and showed me how to “touch” the screen. My breath caught in my throat as Elmo trotted onto the screen. As only Elmo can, he described how I could make my own monster friend. I listened to the instructions, and made my very own monster with Elmo’s help (see above). Elmo showed me how to make my monster friend dance, exercise, and more. My eyes were wide and my grin infectious… I thought.

One look at hubby and I could tell he was afraid he’d never see his iPod touch again. “No worries, honey!” I explained. “I don’t want your iPod!

Trying not to look obviously relieved, he motioned for me to remove the headphones. “I can buy you one, you know!

Naw! This is a cute application, but I’ll stick to what I know best. Thanks for sharing that!” I replied.

At Least Try

Now I might fall in love with the iPod, if I sat and used it for a longer period of time. I tried it and it worked well for me. However, I really like my iTunes! In spite of how cute that Elmo application was, I wasn’t ready to invest my money on something I may not use much. I am happy with what I have. What if I told my family members (desperately looking for birthday gift ideas) that I did not want an iPod even though I had never tried one? My tone and words might convince them I was serious, but how believable am I if I’ve never tried it?

I remember when my kids were little how difficult it was to get them to try new foods. They weren’t allowed to wrinkle their noses and say “no thank you” to something they’d never tried before! I encouraged them to always “at least try” new foods.

Sometimes we don’t try new things because we are afraid we’ll fail. I could have taken one look at the iPod laying in one of my husband’s hands, and the headphones in the other and said, “Ermm… no thank you dear!” How would I have ever known if I could use the headphones that way? I would have missed seeing Elmo dance across a screen. I would have missed the opportunity to prove to myself that the tiny, slim, techno-intimidating iPod wouldn’t blow up if I touched the screen wrong. I had to at least try!

Trying Something New

Why don’t people like trying new things? Hopefully, I have modeled good behavior for my kids that they should be willing to try new things before deciding on a different route. Obviously I’m not talking about drugs, alcohol, sex or other self-destructive behaviors! I sat down and tried to come up with a list of why people do not like trying something new:

1. Fear of failure. What if I blow it? What if I am not able to complete an 8 km race? What if I don’t reach my weight goal?

2. Old habits. I’ve always done it this way. Why should I try something new? The way I do things now work well for me. There is no reason to start something new.

3. It might cost me. I don’t have the time or money to start something new. What if I have to give up something else in order to do this “new thing”. I enjoy reading books, and that 1/2 hour walk will eat into my “me time”!

What are other reasons we may not try something new? I’ll never forget the first time my assistance dog was asked to do something new that she did not want to do AT ALL. You can read about it here. It took a lot of encouragement from people she trusted for Chloe to descend that staircase at Harper’s Ferry. The staircase seemed to lead “no where”. Does having a group of cheerleaders help you when you are trying to muster the courage to do something new? Maybe you don’t do well with a whole PEP SQUAD behind you, cheering you on! But the quiet encouragement from a trusted friend or two has shown to help you step out in faith – to try something new?

Trying new things is good for us. It gave my assistance dog new-found confidence and strengthened our bond. When I try new things I feel as if I’m exercising my mind and body. I’m growing.

Why should we be willing to try new things?

1. We may find a better way to do something! The “new way” may save time and money!

2. We may discover a new skill or exercise a talent in a new way.

3. We may meet some really incredible people!

4. We may find ways to minister/serve others in our “new hobby”.

5. You may come to the conclusion that the “old way” works just fine! (I really am perfectly happy with iTunes on my computer!)

Being willing to try new things also helps us to learn to put a little faith in others, which for some can be a difficult thing to do! Trying new things may also force us to have faith in what God has for us too! Some folks have an easier time trusting others than they do God. This should not ever be the case. (But I’ll leave that topic for another post!)

What have you tried “new” lately?

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

My Own Backyard

Tin Woodsman, “What have you learned, Dorothy?”

Dorothy, “Well, I – I think that it… it wasn’t enough to just want to SEE Uncle Henry and Auntie Em – and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because… if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?”

In 1990, I took a leave of absence from Vandalia Christian School in order to raise my “miracle babies”. I was told I would never have children, so when I had Kyersten in February of 1990, and her brother Chris 11 months later in 1991, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom until they were old enough to go to school. My plan was to return to teaching. I loved teaching, and loved my “big backyard” in the investment I made in the lives and hearts of teenagers. I couldn’t wait to get back to teaching, even though I enjoyed every minute of staying at home with my children. I looked forward to speaking on behalf of BIANC (the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina), and enjoyed serving at camps and attending support groups in the area. My dream included reaching out to others, teaching, speaking, and making a difference in a very big backyard. That was my heart’s desire. I had big dreams.

However, after the birth of my son I began to lose my hearing. I experienced a slow and steady decline for the next ten years until I had a profound loss, and was really deaf! I began to experience problems with vertigo and my balance and was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. I saw “my own backyard” become smaller and smaller. I woke up one day and realized my community… and those I had influence over were my own young elementary-aged children. Through a series of traumatic public school experiences, I ended up doing what I never thought I could do… homeschooling my children. I vowed to do it “only one more year” until we could afford to put them in a private school. One year led to still another year, and the kids were thriving in numerous activities, cooperative programs, and were testing well above the national norms. During this time, we moved to the DC area and I did begin teaching part-time at Chieftain Institute. Unbelievably, I homeschooled the kids all the way through high school. (Chris is a senior this year but attending community college a year early). Both made the Dean’s list and/or Honor Roll and are leaders in their Bible study group on campus.

I am proud of the kids… yet… sometimes I am left looking at my tiny backyard and am reminded of all those dreams I had as a young adult. Now that I am “hearing again” with the Nucleus Freedom, I am back in school pursuing my Master’s and still teaching part-time. But… my life is so different than what I imagined at 25-years-old. Chloe helps to make me independent of even my family. It’s not that I resented being dependent on them, but I needed them to know I would be OK… especially the kids. I DO WANT THEM TO LEAVE HOME! I wanted them to know I would be OK without their assistance. Chloe has given me that independence. However, when I look in my “small backyard” it hardly resembles the backyard I imagined. Although I work very hard to not allow it to do so, my disability isolates me in many ways. I can’t drive safely at night, I can’t use the telephone without a great deal of effort, and on rainy days like today? I walk with serious and meticulous care to insure I don’t “fall down and go boom”. In spite of all of this, I frequently ask myself, “When I look in ‘my backyard’, is my heart’s desire there?

Desires of the Heart do not CHANGE

In January of 2008, I sat down and had a real “think session” about my goals, dreams and heart’s desire. My husband was just asked to resign as Executive Director of HLAA so that they could hire someone fresh and young with new ideas and energy. He found a job right away in higher education (which is where I always knew God would have him end up as he is so gifted in administration and teaching). It was a time of new beginnings for the whole family. I may be a “hearing again” woman, with much about my life changed as the result of an acquired disability… but my dreams do not have to be shelved and only looked at with regret and sadness.

The magic… the blessing even, is not in the size of our backyard. That inner peace and satisfaction comes from being active in living within the focus of our heart’s desire. I am teaching. I am still making a difference, although it is in many small ways. I am active in a local chapter of HLAA, I faithfully pray for a great number of people each and every day, I reach out as I’m able, using whatever skills and gifts that I have.

Many people stress about what God’s will is for their lives. They sit around worrying that they will miss this magic window of opportunity for God’s best. They may desperately try to mold their heart’s desire to be a Polaroid of  God’s will for their life. Truthfully? Our heart’s desire stems from natural gifts and skills that we were born with and our spiritual gifts are often those traits that occur naturally as part of our personality. There is no “magic” involved in finding God’s will for your life. There is no ‘hocus pocus’ in discovering your heart’s desire.

I was sipping my green tea this morning, looking out on the small lake that is my backyard. Everything I want is here. I try to make a difference in the life of one person each day. That’s my goal. That one person may even be a family member. Why do we neglect them? Why are they not important enough to invest ourselves in each day? If your immediate realm of influence only includes a spouse, sibling, or children, take the time to INVEST yourself. Are those whom you are able to influence and reach out to co-workers? Members of your church? A lonely neighbor? We so often look over the heads of those most important in order to try to lock eyes and invest ourselves in someone “worthy” or in a way that others will notice. Drop your gaze and lock eyes with those closest to you. There are hurting people everywhere… people in whom a small investment of time goes a very long way.

Certainly God gives some of us a wider scope of influence. That’s terrific, but tend to your own backyard. There are people, some perhaps very close to you, who could use your attention. My own soggy backyard is small and consists of family members, contacts from HLAA and Fidos For Freedom, small classes at Chieftain Institute, and peers in my grad classes. My heart’s desire is here. My goal is to make a difference to ONE each day.

Your life is no less influential. Who lives with you? Who lives next door? Who do you work with and attend church with each week? Do you see the same cashiers at your favorite grocery store each week? Tend to your backyard. It may be a shared courtyard, or private small “space”. It may have been neglected. You may need to mow, and pick up bundles of branches left behind after a life’s storm. Your heart’s desire is there, and each is lovely and unique. Our lives and homes are our own opportunity for significance.

Click your ruby-red heels together and repeat after me, “There’s no place like home”.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Operation Christmas Child and Thankfulness

Chloe and I went shopping for items to put into our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes on Saturday. Armed with the following list, Chloe and I marched into the retail world:


small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch®, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky®, etc.

pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.

toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc.

Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)

As a family, we had agreed to do one shoebox for a girl, and one shoebox for a boy. This year we chose to do items for two children ages 10-14 years old. At some point in the shopping trip, I realized how sobering it was to realize that for some children a pad of paper, pencils, and stickers were considered a luxury item. When I purchased some toothbrushes and toothpaste, the idea really came to settle in my heart and mind. We are so blessed here in the United States. Many items to us are necessities and common staples of our every day life. To children in other countries, those same items may be considered true luxuries and priceless gifts.

For the boy package, we purchased stickers, pads of paper, pencils, crayons, small slinky, small book, pencil sharpener, kaleidoscope, kazoo, skipper jump rope, ball, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand puppet of a triceratops, and some other odds and ends.

For the girl package, we purchased much of the same, but instead of a kazoo we included a set of bells and the puppet was a ladybug.

Perhaps it is because this is the week of Thanksgiving, that I am particular thankful for things I normally take for granted. I’ve often thought about how blessed I am that I live where I do in regards to my hearing loss and Meniere’s disease. I live within “spitting distance” of the Listening Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and my cochlear implant surgeon was one of the best in the country. I can easily purchase batteries for my CI, and have access to other assistive listening devices. I live within 65 miles of Fidos For Freedom, who only match assistance dogs with people within a certain radius of their organization. It is one of their commitments to provide follow-up training and support for the life of the dog. Trainers are all volunteers and live locally, so to participate and become matched with one of their special dogs one must live within a certain “workable distance”.

If you are having difficulty finding a way to be thankful this year due to life’s stresses, problems and trials… pack a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child! I think it will quickly help you discover things you are truly grateful for in the end! Plus… you will make a difference to a child who may never know the true meaning of Christmas if not for you! Check out the link and find out where the nearest drop-off location is for YOU!

Operation Christmas Child Link

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal