Not an Exact Science…

Just because I can zero in and concentrate, doesn't mean I'll always get it right!
Just because I can zero in and concentrate, doesn't mean I'll always get it right!

Having a hearing assistance dog has its advantages when I do not hear “surround sound”. I have trouble with directionality as I only have one cochlear implant (and due to my balance problems very likely will not ever have a second). I have learned to pay attention to where Chloe is looking in order to figure out from what direction a sound is coming. The only problem is… sometimes I don’t pay attention.

Today our sweet cat, Kiki, found herself stuck due to my inability to hear and failure to take note of WHY Chloe was parked on the stairs instead of next to me. Kiki decided to squeeze between the door and the glass storm door in order to better partake of the sunlight and “view”. I did not know she was there, and closed the door because of the draft as I walked by. Thankfully, my husband came home about 10 minutes later and saw “cat on glass” as Kiki was smushed like a sardine between the storm door and metal door. We retrieved her amongst a chorus of “poor kitty”, and “I can’t believe I did that” while Kiki just purred and basked in all the attention. yellowchairkiki Having a hearing assistance dog is not an exact science when it comes to utilizing her amazing ears if I don’t pay attention to where she is fixated! I really have to pay attention to why she is parked and pointedly looking in one direction!

Reading Lips/Speech Reading

Some people believe that everyone with hearing loss read lips well. Actually, they call it speech reading now, as really you are trying to discern what someone says solely by what you see on their mouth as they speak. Speech reading is not an exact science. As a matter of fact, mistakes are often made by even the best of speech readers. Now that I hear as well as I do with my cochlear implant, I have lost the ability to speech read to some degree as I may once again rely on what I am hearing to understand in many situations. I do still rely on speech reading in noisy environments, and I will always be a big fan of closed captions. Several friends (God bless ’em) have started posting video links in Facebook that have the lyrics attached as well. This only enables me to hear BEST, so I am always thankful for what I see in addition to what I hear.

A couple of nights ago, my daughter was talking to her boyfriend on Skype. They go to separate colleges and during the school year have a “long-distance” relationship. My husband and I graduated from different colleges as well, but our only hope of contact was through a weekly letter (through good ol’ fashioned snail mail) and the occasional phone call. I was still able to use the phone well at the time, and waited by the pay phone at the end of the hall every Friday night. Technology has changed “long distance relationships”. My daughter actually has “candlelight dinner dates” with her boyfriend via Skype. They talk almost daily either “face-to-face” with Skype and webcam, or a minimum of numerous texts sent immediately through the easy access of cell phones. I popped my head in the other night and found them “talking”. My daughter “muted” the long-distance boyfriend so that she could ask me what I wanted. (Another interpretation, “Can’t you see I’m busy? Hurry up!”) Her boyfriend was still talking, so I told her what he was saying. She quickly typed (as you can both speak and type thru Skype) and asked him if what I said he asked was what was actually said. I was right on the button! She unmuted BK (the boyfriend) and both were amazed at my ability. I immediately chalked it up to “luck” and reminded them both that it isn’t a cheap parlor trick! It takes work and concentration to really be good at speech reading. I simply got lucky!

Think About What Looks Alike

I picked up a good HoH (hard of hearing) habit from a friend in California in 2006. She coached me to learn to repeat to people what I thought I heard even if I knew it could not be right. By doing so it did several positive things:

1. It allowed the person with normal hearing to only have to repeat what I got wrong, saving them the time and possible exasperration of repeating everything verbatim.

2. It allows the person with normal hearing to begin to understand what things sound like to ME… a person who hears with a cochlear implant. They learn to be experts at rephrasing things and finding synonyms to explain the same comment.

3. It allows both parties to see the “funny” in trying to make sense of what I hear. I both SEE in speech reading and hear with a cochlear implant.

4. It allows the HoH person to learn to extend grace and to accept that mistakes are made and most people are eager to help clear up the confusion. It creates a positive communication environment.

Stop for a moment and think about what looks the same on the mouth when words are enunciated. Some mistakes I’ve made:

1. I thought someone walked towards me with an admiring glance and said… “Sweeeeet…. heart”!

Really they were looking beyond me and saw a red corvette… they were saying “Sweeeeet Car!

2. The words six and set look the same as SEX. (yikes!)

3. Mom I’m knitting hard!

Which was really, “Mom, I need the car!”

4. Mrs. Portis, I forgot my paper. Canons get formica? (I was really scratching my head in confusion on this one)

Mrs. Portis I forgot my paper, can I run get it from my car?

Learning to speech read more accurately, can however, help a HoH person communicate better. My local chapter of HLAA has plans to do a 2 hour “speech reading tips” class in the next couple of months. Some great resources that we will be utilizing, come from CHHA (Canadian Hard of Hearing Association), and include:

“Sound Ideas: Managing your Hearing Loss” manual and video

“Lip Reading Naturally” by Frances Mezei and Shirlee Smith

Think It Looks Easy?

I have a challenge for you. Mute your television and see if you can figure out what is being said. You might be surprised at how well… or how poorly you do!

Some additional resources:





Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Yup! Wind in the Trees!

Who would have thought even five years later I am still picking up sounds that I hadn’t heard the year before? I have had my cochlear implant for close to five years. I am only mapped once a year now at Johns Hopkins. Whatever my audiologist did this past May enabled me to hear the wind in the trees like never before.

I grew up in Baca County Colorado and we had PLENTY of wind… but not so many trees really. Where there were trees, it meant there was a house there. A bunch of trees in one place, meant there was a town. Many folks think Colorado is all mountains, but a good part of it is grasslands and plains. Yup. I grew up on “Little House on the Prairie”.

When we first moved to Maryland in 2002, I could not hear without the help of two powerful BTE hearing aids. Over the next two years I would lose what remained of my hearing. People with normal hearing do not stop to think about what it means to lose your hearing gradually over time. You don’t even realize sounds “go missing”. I can’t put my finger on when I stopped hearing the phone ring… I only know it was when my kids were little and I lived in NC. I can’t remember when I stopped hearing cats purr, the wind in the trees, or the sounds of a vehicle.

One of my friends who is bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants heard a strange noise in the motor of her car this week. She went by the mechanics and explained that she uses cochlear implants to hear and “I’m not sure if it’s a new sound or just new to ME”. She was so tickled to have been RIGHT about the sound, and very glad to catch something early that ended up being a simple “fix”. Had she not been able to hear it, eventually it may have been a more expensive and difficult “fix” for the mechanic. I was practically jumping up and down for her… understanding what it is like to realize you can hear something! I think especially to adults who are able to recognize something new and understand it’s the result of being able to hear again… these new sounds are special!

With wind it is a little tricky. You don’t actually see the wind, you see what the wind can do to objects both in nature and man-made. I have memories of the sound of a windmill on the ranch I grew up on in Colorado. I’d love to “hear it again” some time! I realized I was really hearing the wind when I parked myself in the yard in a place where the fence acted as a windbreak. If I closed my eyes (so that my brain wouldn’t SEE the wind and influence what my cochlear implant was hearing), I could hear the wind. In the trees. WOWSIE.

So yup! It’s only the wind in the trees. But to me? I’m hearing something I haven’t heard in over a decade I know! I just love my Nucleus Freedom!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Random Contemplations

istock_woman_thinking.70184934 I was trying to fall asleep last night and decided to brainstorm about what I could write about this week. It’s been an “uneventful” week, which is really a good thing! I don’t mind uneventful weeks.

As I tried to think of something that might interest YOU, I realized that my brain was busy with random contemplations. Some were serious. Some were… erm –


1. Why is it that now I am over 40 I get these stray hairs on my CHIN? And why must these hairs have roots that stretch all the way to your big toe? It’s the only reason I can think of that when you pull one with the tweezers your big toe curls as you scream.

2. Why is it that I enjoy hearing with my cochlear implant so much, and yet there is a certain relief to remove it at night before bed? Perhaps it is just the knowledge that I always know I’ll sleep well (unless I’m brainstorming). Perhaps it’s because there is a difference between hearing and hearing WELL? It takes work in the form of attentiveness, concentration and perseverance to communicate in this noisy world. I’m not complaining… I’m just sayin’! Relief!

3. Why do dogs turn around three times before they lay down? Why do three of our dogs turn in “one direction” before they lay down, and one of the dogs always turns in the other? Is he “left-handed”?

4. Why is it so difficult to find plain sweettarts in a roll? Who carries those now? I can’t find them anywhere!

5. Why does my cochlear implant always give me a warning “beep” that the batteries are low when I’m driving in the car? Why can’t it happen at home before I leave? How DOES IT KNOW? Sigh.

6. Why do young adult kids in college sigh and roll their eyes if you knock on their door to bother them while they are doing homework, yet will pop into my office to bother me while I’m doing homework of my own now? Why doesn’t it matter to me? I drop everything and give them my undivided attention and sit and contemplate how special they are after they leave. I’m pretty sure they don’t do that when I leave THEIR room!

7. Why am I the only one that can close the bread properly? I don’t even eat a lot of bread! How hard is it to twist the excess plastic at the end, and twist a “twistie-tie” around it? It apparently requires a college degree.

8. Why does God always send me “something” just when I need it most? Whether it be a verse, or an email/post from a friend who cares, or a song? I had forgotten how much a song can do for the soul, and try to “tune in” now that I can hear again. Sometimes? I don’t even realize how much I need something from God until He sends something my way.

9. How did I let blackberry season come and go and not get out somewhere to pick some? What will I do this winter without blackberries to eat? I’m going to have to corner friends next year and beg them to go with me.

10. Why does it seem like we don’t have time to send someone a “real” card (not an e-card)? It isn’t until I get one in the mail myself that reminds me why it is so nice to see the real hand-writing from someone who cares.

11. Why does Chloe bark at horses if she’s in the car, causing my cochlear implant to stop (ADRO program) because her bark is too loud, but when she sees a horse face-to-face and outside the car she tries to hide behind my legs?

12. Why do people say men are from Mars and women are from Venus? Cripes, people… we are all living on EARTH. Get over it! Yeah we act different, but that makes life interesting.

13. How does Chloe know when I turn my alarm off the night before I know I can sleep in? She must have an internal alarm clock, because she gets me up at the same time regardless. If my alarm is SET and goes off, the licks my arm or hand and bumps my face. If my alarm is NOT set, she jumps on the bed and tackles me?

14. Why do I love bananas, but cannot stand banana pudding, popsicles, taffy or moon pies? Sorry… can’t add much to this one.

15. Why is that I felt like my mom was a know-it-all growing up, and now that I don’t live with her I realize she really did? I miss my mom…

16. Why can’t the Denver Broncos have a winning team? I mean… I miss the Orange Crush. I even (gulp) miss Elway. Somebody shoot me…

17. How hard can it be to find the LOTR trilogy in DVD? I can’t find it ANYWHERE because they are coming out with Blue Ray soon. What about those of us who still use regular ol’ DVD players?

18. Why is it that I have a college degree and am in grad school and can’t work a remote? I can’t even turn ON our television. There is one remote that turns it on, one that runs the TIVO, and one that runs the volume. My kids can do it, and I cannot.

19. Why are solitary walks (with perhaps just a dog by your side) one of the most peaceful things a person can do? Why don’t I deliberately and habitually make time to do something that brings me so much peace?

20. What’s not to love about Facebook? I love to look at … faces.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Get My Attention First

Denise and Chloe at the Aquarium in Baltimore Aug. 23, 2009
Denise and Chloe at the Aquarium in Baltimore Aug. 23, 2009

Dog Training 101

When I first began training at Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, Maryland, I learned from trainer Tracy B. that it is very important to use your dog’s name. This was especially important on the training floor where there were numerous dogs present all of which were being given obedience commands by their human partner. Calling the dog’s name gets their attention first. Follow that with a command about what you what them to do, and then lavish praise.

Even though I only attend the trainings on average twice a month now, I still make it a habit to use Chloe‘s name first. We have another dog that is never far from Chloe when she is home. Tyco is our family dog and is a two-year-old Norwegian Elkhound. He’s a “dog’s dog”. Oh sure… he loves us, but he idolizes Chloe. So where Chloe is, Tyco is there as well.

My husband was running into a road block on the stairs when he first arrived home from work. Both dogs would park on the stairs – entire bodies all “a-wag” waiting for him to acknowledge them.

I have finally taught Terry actual obedience commands (you CAN teach an old dog new tricks) so instead of saying, “Would you please MOVE?” he will say “move” with some authority in his voice instead of a question. The only problem was that he failed to use either dog’s name. I had to remind my “old dog” that he needed to use their name first. Now when he arrives home he will say, “Chloe move” (and she does), and “Tyco move” (and he does only because he follows Chloe – GRIN).

When he gets to the top of the stairs, he can put his things down and greet the dogs “proper-like”.

Hearing with a CI

When you have a hearing loss for twelve years and then receive a cochlear implant, you still do not hear perfectly. In spite of the fact that CI’s are bionics, you will also discover that you are not Jamie Sommers who can hear BETTER than folks with normal hearing. As a matter of fact, hearing takes WORK. Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE what I’m hearing and am so thankful for this technology! In a quiet room with few distractions, I can usually carry on a conversation without even having to look at you!

Let’s face it… the world is not a quiet place and the times I find that I’m trying to have a conversation in a quiet room are few and far between. Instead there is normally background noise. It can be noises like the television, stereo, pets, restaurant noise, crowd noise, etc. So the majority of the time I am trying to hear ONLY your voice amidst all the sounds my CI picks up for me. I have special programs (Smartsound NOISE or FOCUS) that allow me to pull only what I’m looking at closer; a type of directional microphone really! However, it is NOT a perfect solution. The background noise never stays at a constant level. It can get louder or softer. Hearing will never again be something that just “happens” for me.

It takes work.

I must concentrate.

It’s a shame I don’t burn calories!

Is it any wonder why late-deafened folks are so exhausted at the end of the day? I require 8-9 hours of sleep each night. If I don’t get it, I do not function at 100% the next day. I’ve had days where a sick teen or ill service dog have kept me up most of the night. I rarely even attempt wearing my “ears” (cochlear implant and hearing aid) the next day as I know I will hear little since I cannot concentrate.

Use My Name Please

It is very helpful to first use the name of someone you are conversing with that has a hearing loss. Hearing with a CI, I learned pretty quickly that in a crowd of noise it is in my best interest to work at tuning out all the sound. I recognize my name very easily, even among the buzz of voices around me. I’ve always been very thankful my name starts with a harsh consonant! Hearing my name first allows me to identify who is addressing me. I can turn and face them and begin concentrating in earnest.

Unless we are having a face-to-face conversation, I may look away from you after we have visited a bit to see if Chloe is doing as I asked (normally a down/stay or stand/stay). Or, I may smile at people across the room, wave, etc. If I am not looking at you, it is VERY helpful to say my name again to let me know you are talking to me again. It gets my attention. My CI zeros in on the voice. I’ve even been able to discern my name coming from the mouth of someone across the room! I think the most difficult listening situation is to be in a small group of people who are talking in a larger room with other small groups talking. You find that you are “part of the group” and attempt following the conversation as different speakers say different things. It can be exhausting!

Look at Me Please

I find it amusing that people with hearing loss are often the worst communicators. At my local HLAA (Hearing Loss Assoc. of America) meeting recently, I attempted to have a conversation with someone after the meeting. People were talking and standing around; some were busy tearing things down. There was a LOT of noise. The person I was trying to talk to spoke to their feet. Granted… they had the nicest brown sandals I have seen in awhile. Out of habit I looked to see what they were looking at while they spoke. I had to apologize several times and ask them to repeat something. At one point, this person’s attention was snagged by the activity of another member who was cleaning up the snacks. The person I was talking to turned to see what this other member was doing. I could tell they were still talking, but it became a buzz of sound as soon as they turned their back to me.

I said, “Pardon me? I missed that part after you said what you did about the recent rains”.

They looked at me exasperated and said, “Even though you have a cochlear implant now you don’t hear any better than I do!”

I decided to walk away (as I didn’t think I could speak “kindly”). They were on their way to grab a snack before they all disappeared anyway.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

I have learned a few things in the four years I have been “hearing again”. It is OK to stand next to someone who WAS talking to you and wait until you are spoken to again. A touch on my arm, or using my name alerts me to the fact that you wish to speak to me again. When I was first activated, I would attempt to not look as if I were ESCAPING after someone finished talking to me. I’d go and find a quiet place and look with wide eyes at the different groups of people standing around talking. If someone waved and then started toward me, I would “brace myself” for the difficulty in conversing with them.

Now I can stand in a crowd of people and wait to be acknowledged. If no one gets my attention, I am at ease. I find that I am even brave enough to start a conversation on my own. After all, I pursued a cochlear implant so that I could continue talking to the people in my life.

This week my schoolwork was interrupted by an “incoming IM” from my daughter. She was in between classes and wrote, “Hey mom! Do you have your ears in? Can I call you?”

Seconds later I was talking to her on the phone. Perhaps this isn’t a big deal to those of you who hear normally. But I haven’t been using the phone for very long. Even after receiving a cochlear implant, it took a lot of practice and courage to start using the phone.

… and here I was in the middle of the day

… talking to my daughter

… on the phone.

I cried.

But they were happy tears!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

B.L.I.N.G and Invisible Disabilities

B asically L iving I nvisible is N ot G ood
B asically L iving I nvisible is N ot G ood

My 19-year-old daughter came up with the witty acronym of B.L.I.N.G. (B asically L iving I nvisible is N ot G ood). It can be tied to a variety of life lessons.

Cochlear implant “bling” and Assistance Dogs

I am a late-deafened adult and I also have Meniere’s disease. Being “late-deafened” is a fancy way of saying that I lost my hearing after I learned oral language. Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. Although all levels of hearing loss affect the way in which a person freely communicates, a person obviously has more serious problems the more severe their hearing loss is. I think part of the reason that HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America), ALDA (Association of Late-Deafened Adults), and other non-profit organizations for people with hearing loss have trouble attracting new members is that for most people, hearing loss is a nuisance and not a life-changing disability.

According to NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics), there are 37 million Americans who have trouble hearing (NCHS, 2006). A study done by Gallaudet in 2001 reveals that 8 million Americans have difficulty hearing even with the use of a hearing aid (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2007). This leaves approximately 29 million Americans who communicate effectively in spite of a hearing loss. This vast majority of people with hearing loss enjoy the invisibility of their disability as they function well “in spite of”. They “look” like everyone else. They do not have a need for support groups, advocacy or a connection to a non-profit organization because they have no need to identify with the hearing loss group. (I discussed why some people choose to not seek help when they DO have a significant loss here.)

When it became obvious that my own hearing loss was progressive, I began to realize how difficult it is to have an invisible disability. Prior to my cochlear implant in 2005, you would never know I had a disability unless I opened my mouth to speak to you. My speech was beginning to deteriorate just a little bit due to the fact I had not heard my own voice in a number of years. I may have interrupted conversations, not realizing someone else was speaking. I had trouble balancing the volume of my voice and more often spoke to softly than to loudly! Meniere’s disease kindly bestows noticeable symptoms for me when it’s a rainy or overcast day. You would never know it, however, unless I tried to walk a straight line or go up or down steps!

Being surgically implanted with a cochlear implant felt a little bit like a miracle. I could hear my own voice again in most environments and my speech improved dramatically over the period of only a couple of months! Having a cochlear implant does not mean I hear perfectly, however. There are some situations with a lot of background noise or poor acoustical environments that I may have to ask for a “repeat”. I may have trouble following conversations if I’m extremely fatigued. Prior to my implant, I had already adopted bright colored ear molds for my hearing aids and wore my hair up. I found out through a great deal of “trial and error” that it was in my best interests for people to know that I have difficulty hearing. After I received a cochlear implant, I didn’t see the need to change my adopted visibility. I wear “bling” on my CI, and it does draw attention to the fact that I hear but not in a normal way. It allows people to quickly identify that they may need to be sure to face me when they talk, or be aware that if I ask for a repeat it is not because I’m not paying attention. I really believe my “bling” helps other people as much as it helps me.

Having a hearing assistance dog who also does balance related tasks for me, brings attention to my disability as well. If you’ve ever thought about having an assistance dog, but do not like to field questions or have people notice you, then you may want to reconsider. Chloe comes from Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, Maryland. It’s not her bright red vest that gets attention. What makes people notice is simply the fact that she is a DOG! It’s not very often you see a dog in a store, restaurant or even church!

B asically L iving I nvisible is N ot G ood

Recently, God allowed a very mean person to be a part of my life for a short time. I say that GOD allowed this person, because it actually served to remind me that there are bigoted mean people who not only do not understand disabilities, but choose not to understand. Through FaceBook, I ended up “accepting a friend invite” because they were involved with someone I trusted. It didn’t take very long for this person’s true colors to be revealed. Comments left on my uploaded photos or “Notes” and eventually conversations between this person and myself and my husband through “instant messaging”, all revealed how there are still people who don’t “get it”. We received over 45 comments and messages from people astonished that there were still people like this out there! Some people do not realize that disabilities are often invisible. They do not understand that there are good reasons to make an invisible disability… visible! Some people do not understand that disabilities are not chosen. There are some that do not understand that disabilities may not only be life changing, they can be terminal. Many diseases and disabilities are those that shorten a life. God used this person in my life to remind me that some people are not only uneducated about disabilities, but they may willfully choose to believe the worst about those who have them. (It’s a great relief to not have to put up with this person anymore, but I do thank God that it was used to open my eyes!)

For me… basically living invisible is not good. There may be other people with Meniere’s disease or deafness who choose to live another way. I respect that! “Bling” works for me. It reminds even those I know well that in spite of my speaking perfect English (with the exception of a southern accent), I do not hear normally. It reminds them that if I repeat part of what I heard and wait for a repeat of what I didn’t… that it isn’t because I chose to stop paying attention. If I say, “whoa” under my breath and touch the wall in order to snap my visual field back into focus, they are reminded why I have a dog who picks up things for me and “braces”.

“Bling” and an assistance dog both serve to allow me to live with some independence. I don’t have to have family members with me now just to go to the post office or a store.

Invisible Awareness Week   0e1c199b505195ca9883a3faad5994b4

There are others who know what it is like to have an invisible illness or disability. September 14-20 is “Invisible Awareness Week“. If you or someone you know have an invisible illness, I encourage you to check out this site!

If you do not have an invisible disability, chances are you know someone who does. Do you know some of the strongest advocates for people with disabilities are those who do not have one? Think about it… who will get further with a person who misunderstands the needs, reactions, or communications from a person with an invisible illness or disability? Certainly people who live with invisible illnesses or disabilities should learn to advocate in a positive way. Their ability to do so helps us all! However, if you take a person aside and teach them… explain to them a little bit about another person’s disability or illness, it may mean even more! Every person can be a strong advocate for others.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Plague of Small Things

sadI’m not sure where I first heard the phrase, “When it rains, it pours…” Perhaps from my mother who seems to be full of sage advice and quick with witty and appropriate tidbits of philosophical opinion.

It does seem that trouble comes in waves, breaking against my legs and threatening to topple me caboose first in the white foam of an incoming tide. I’m currently CHOOSING TO PARTICIPATE in great number of small worries. Why I seem so eager to engage in shouldering every care , I have no idea! I’m prone to do this and have to place some checks and balances in my life so that I don’t become truly handicapped!

Series on Job

My church recently finished a series of studies on the book of Job. How that man endured the loss he experienced in one day is beyond me! The Bible tells us that one messenger of bad news followed on the heel of another. “While he was yet speaking, there came another and said,” repeats four times in chapter one. I picture Job sitting there with a stunned look on his face while one messenger after another came to tell him his oxen and donkeys were stolen and servants killed, fire from heaven destroyed his sheep and servants, his camels were stolen and servants killed, and finally a natural disaster… a great wind… collapsed the house where all of his children and their families were feasting. No one survived! It always makes my own problems seem so minor!

And yet… it does seem that at times our worries, problems, stresses and cares come all at once. It can make us feel overwhelmed. They don’t even have to be BIG things, although at times they are! I think of friends who are facing cancer, advanced Lyme, depression and the loss of a home. Many of us experience a bunch of small problems all at once… a plague of small things. It is surprising how HEAVY these small burdens can be when shouldered all at the same time.

A Strange Song

A very strange, rather corny song has been going through my head this morning. I have so many things I have to accomplish this weekend I’m a wee bit overwhelmed. Chloe is even feeling my stress and does her best to cajole me into at least a snuggle moment or two! After my morning tea I found myself humming a song that I couldn’t place the name too. I even started singing the parts I remembered out loud in an attempt to trigger my memory of where I’ve heard it before! I’m fairly sure I was singing in tune too as I have my CI on! (smile) Chloe cocked her head and looked at me like I had lost it when I started deliberately placing my feet one in front of the other! Then it hit me! “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”! Now if you were born after 1980, you may have never even seen the cartoon. However it use to be one of my favorite!

Kris Kringle just befriended the Winter Warlock, whose icy heart had never known true friendship or love. Kris gave him a gift and it melted that hard, cold heart! However, Winter Warlock despaired of being able to change! After all, he’d lived his entire existence as a burdened, angry cold-hearted grump! He worried out loud to Kris,

“But will it last?” and “… it is so difficult to REALLY change!”  His concern was that this change of heart would continue. Would he revert to his old ways? Could he truly release his cares?

Kringle replied, “Difficult? Why look here, change from bad to good is as easy as taking your first step!”

He then bursts into song… “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”.They shuffled side-by-side as Kringle taught Winter Warlock how to take ONE step at a time.

I had to look up the lyrics so that I could entertain the dogs with more than just the chorus. Oh that we would all learn to release one care at a time! Change occurs one determined moment at a time. Releasing stress happens one deep breath at a time. Parking your semi loaded with burdens in the driveway of a Heavenly Father who CAN handle it, happens one trip at a time!

I leave you with the lyrics, which explains a wonderful mindset far better than I can!

Song Lyrics

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule be the exception
A good way to start is to stand

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If I want to change the reflection
I see in the mirror each morn
You mean that it’s just my election
To vote for a chance to be reborn

(repeat chorus twice)

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

“Take a Deep Breath… and Trust Your Dog”


Thursday was a particularly nasty, rainy day, and I dreaded “the walk down the stairs” more than usual.  Funny thing about Meniere’s disease – rain and other types of weather systems can really make a difference in how steady I walk.  I finally remembered my camera too, and I can’t tell you how many tries it took me to STAND AT THE TOP OF THESE STAIRS, on a RAINY DAY and TAKE A PICTURE!  Grin!

The school I teach at is on the campus of a beautiful Nazarene church.  It’s a “new campus” for us this year.  I remember at the first teacher’s meeting hearing everyone laugh and remark on “Moses and the Red Sea” on the stairs.  Me?  I’m thinkin’, “You can look at a MURAL while going down the STAIRS?”

When I arrived at school on Thursday, I stuck my head in the door of the director’s office to grab some paper for the copier.  She grimaced slightly and said, “Oh boy, is this rain affecting you today?”  Actually, I made light of it and explained to her that really… this is just sort of a new kind of “normal” for me.  I don’t really get up in the morning and think, “wow I’m really wobbly today”.  This is my “normal”!

Meniere’s disease symptoms that fluctuate with weather systems, also usually produce worsened tinnitus.  Meniere’s disease folks always have a hearing loss, but when tinnitus really kicks into “high gear”, those who are simply “hard of hearing” often hear very little when the tinnitus is in a full-out ROAR.  I’m actually very blessed, because I hear through the miracle of a cochlear implant.  My cochlear implant masks tinnitus, and so even on days my vertigo is worse, I hear just fine!

I showed my husband this picture of “the dreaded staircase”, and we laughed about how some of my “fears” have certainly morphed through the years.  When we first got married 22 years ago, I had a very irrational fear of spiders (even little ones).  Now I fear staircases, but I argue it’s completely rational!  Smile!

I have to tell you though, it’s a very powerful emotion that burns through me when I take that first step down this flight of stairs.  On “good days” it takes me about 2 minutes.  On “bad days” it takes me about 5 minutes.  Chloe is very intuitive.  I don’t think she walks outside and sees the rain and puts that together with … “oh my we are going to be taking the stairs slowly today”. However, on “bad days” she patiently takes me all the way to the bottom, even if I have to stop and wait for the stairwell to stop spinning.  (I even had to sit rather suddenly once, and she just sat there next to me looking around as if this was perfectly acceptable to her!)

I’ll never forget when we were first matched, I spent a great deal of one-on-one time with my trainer.  Admitting to her that I was scared of stairs, insured that we spent some time at a local mall at the foot of a very tall flight of stairs! I remember turning to her with Chloe in “heel”, admitting with a quivering smile, “I’m going to have to do this slow!”

My trainer is a runner.  She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Denise, this isn’t a sprint. If you need to take it slow, then take it slow.”  So I did… and on that staircase came the realization that I really could trust my dog. If I were going slow, she would too.  My trainer had me take the stairs at the mall, in the closed stairwell at the training center, and in her home.  She never helped me look for a way around those stairs. Because of her, I go down stairs.  I take a deep breath… and I godownthe stairs.  Why?

Because I can.


Chloe?  Well she’s not real happy when the rain interferes with her “W – A – L – K ” at lunch hour.  The van is boring.

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal