“Hearing Again” Woman #7

FOR TODAY… February 26, 2010

Outside my window…

Oh my! The wind is really strong today! The trees and bushes are whipping about as if in a dance competition. Right now, the bushes are winning hands down.

About 70% of the snow has melted off. Our once spectacular drifts are now mere 2-3 foot pitiful, sloshy, masses of dirty snow. I hate it when all the beautiful “white stuff” no longer IS.

Lots of traffic in the cul-de-sac this morning. Why? It’s a cul-de-sac, not a through street!

I am thinking…

About my little sister and her family. It’s so tough being unemployed. We were there only two short years ago. Other than a health crisis, I’m not sure anything is more stressful on what is normally a solid family unit.

I am hearing…

… the result of all that wind. The trees may be dancing a merry jig in an attempt at “one-upping” the bushes, but the noise they are making sound like bees. Yeah, I know strange. But in trying to discover a way to describe the sound I’m hearing, I can only come up with the very angry noise of bees.

I am thankful for…

… the fact we don’t have a lot of bees around here. I’m allergic. Those epi-pen shots and subsequent ER visit are never very much fun. I think it’s a RIOT how these prompting questions sometimes get me off on a tangent!

Seriously, today I am extra thankful for steady employment for hubby. He pays our bills (barely), and it is steady enjoyable work for him.

I am wearing…

A tan sweatsuit, tennis shoes and a cream-colored turtleneck underneath. It’s cold! I’m also wearing glasses, which for me is WEIRD. I have very itchy eyes, and opted to do without the contacts today. I think the itchy eyes are from the increased usage of our furnace making the air extremely dry. My skin is dry as well… where did I put that Neutrogena Skin care cream?

A Cochlear Implant

… is wonderful when you want to hear the evidence of what your eyes see in that WIND.

I am remembering…

… the fact that 4 years and 9 months ago, I couldn’t hear the sounds coming from things my eyes could see. Not blowing, dancing trees and bushes, nor people’s words coming from their mouths, the clickity-click of my keyboard, the whir of the ceiling fan overhead… and so much more!

I am going…

… to Fidos For Freedom tomorrow and bonus – – Kyersten is off so she can come with me! I really enjoy these trips to and from the training center. She loves helping out there and working “spare dogs”, and it is something I am glad to share with her. She’ll be gone this fall, and I’ll certainly miss this one-on-one time with her. Sniff.

I need to…

Fold a load of towels, remind my son to vacuum, and finish a research paper for my class.

A disability is NOT…

… always easy. Case in point, my Meniere’s disease/rainy weather caught me by surprise this week. After a couple of unexpected falls and resulting bruises, I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself for 5 minutes. I set the timer, wailed, Chloe let me know when the timer went off, wiped my tears and blew my nose… and GOT ON WITH LIFE. Poor Chloe isn’t sure what to do when an alert is suppose to happen but I’m wailing into my pillow. Her normal, eager bump/kisses are a tentative tap with a paw. I look up and she wags her tail cautiously. Poor thing isn’t use to my pity parties even after being with me as long as she has. Maybe that means I don’t have them very often?

I am currently reading…

Still finishing up “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”. It’s a tough read I think. His logic and my logic don’t follow the same course. It’s more than the fact that he’s a man and I’m… not. It’s a good book… just tough to plow through. Terry bought me a surprise book though! That alone is impetus for me to finish up the other book. (For… ya know I cannot read two books at once – just not possible!). He purchased John Ortberg’s “The ME I want to be: Becoming God’s best version of you”. He is my favorite author and I have all of his books. I can’t wait to get started. When I read something he wrote… I change. Morphing into something a little better, finer, and more pleasing to God. I just love his writing style. (FUNNY!)

I am hoping…

… for so many things I can’t list them here. Many are constant prayer requests, some are simple quick wishes like a cup of hot cocoa!

From the kitchen…

Tonight we are having steak, biscuits and asparagus. Kyersten works tonight and is not crazy about red meat. I take advantage of Friday nights to have our red meat each week. The guys feel like they’ll perish without it. (rolls eyes)

Around the house…

… it will look pretty good around here once my son vacuums!

One of my favorite things…

… is Earl Grey tea. I have a pot brewing in the kitchen right now. I can’t wait to get to it!

My husband…

… is not resting well at night. He resembles Darth Vader as it is with his sleep apnea gear on his face at night, but he’s been twitching and scrambling about the bed covers. I’m deaf (without my cochlear implant), but I’m not dead. He practically tossed me out of the bed last night at one point. I smacked his arm and told him to cut it out. I think he is having nightmares. I need to talk to him… BEFORE we turn the lights out tonight.

My daughter…

… doesn’t eat enough to keep a mouse alive. Ok, alright! Perhaps she eats plenty to keep a mouse alive… sigh. Yeah, she eats enough to keep a whole FAMILY of mice alive, but she doesn’t eat enough to satisfy MOM. She’s such a tiny little thing, and doesn’t eat the most healthy choices when she does choose to eat. I may have to start fussing at her again. Her clothes are loose and I’m going bananas sitting across from her at family meals seeing her 1/2 empty plate.

My son…

… is not gonna be happy when MOM comes stomping downstairs with an ultimatum about the vacuuming.

My assistance dog…

… is asleep in a sun patch. She and Tyco (our Norwegian Elkhound family dog) have been growling at the howling wind.

A picture to share from this week…

My new book!

Red Flag

I have little “red flags” in my life… or warning bells if you like! Really, we all need to have them, for they are excellent opportunities for reflection, brain-storming, and goal-setting.

Well a little “red flag” waved like mad right in my line of vision this week. When I stopped to heed my little “self-warning”, I was even able to trace it back to when it started. You see, I was developing a bad attitude! Not a bad attitude about any one person in particular, but towards a group of people. A bias, really! It all started when I went shopping at Wal-mart last Tuesday.

Oh Bruuuuther!

Chloe has a ball in Wal-mart. This is a good thing, for her enthusiasm is contagious and – frankly? Wal-mart is not one of my favorite places to go, so I can use a little infectious enthusiasm about the money-saving, weekly task! You see? There are a LOT of things to pick up off the floor at Wal-mart.

Chloe does an “automatic retrieve”. Granted, sometimes this is a real pain! For example, when you are in a store that is notorious for having things all over the floor, Chloe is stopping every few feet to hand me something! An automatic retrieve is when Chloe sees something that I’ve dropped, she automatically and immediately fetches it and brings it to me. She also does directed retrieves, which means she will fetch things I point at, or identify with words she recognizes. Having Meniere’s disease insures there are days that having to reach all the way to the floor, means I’ll also be sprawled out IN IT. Chloe keeps that from happening. If items are just laying around, Chloe really shouldn’t go and pick it up as it wasn’t something I dropped (automatic retrieve), nor is it something I’ve asked her to do (directed retrieve). However, coupons and bits of plastic have a tendency to “be stirred up, move, and re-land” as a shopping cart goes by. Since Wal-mart has shopping carts… everywhere… Chloe thinks every new thing that lands in front of her is something I need. For awhile I was telling her “phoeey” or “drop it”. This hurt her feelings. (She’s very sensitive). I didn’t want to break her solid retrieve commands, so I play along as she gets such a kick out of it and as it is such good practice.

Last Tuesday we were in the baking section of Wal-mart and I was looking for pancake mixes. A man and woman walked by me from behind. The man said “Oh bruuuuther!” very loudly as he walked by me. I looked up to see what he was talking about, just in time to see him tap his wife’s arm and point to Chloe and again explain, “Oh bruuuuther! Can you believe it? What will they think of next?” The MEANNESS pouring off of him completely shut my mouth. (Rare thing, THAT, believe me!)

I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open. The sarcasm and disdain in his voice were very apparent. My mind raced with what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to explain that for ME, Chloe’s partnership was invaluable. I stood there trying to think of what to say, and how to say it… yet I was angry and hurt. He rolled his eyes and again looked at his wife. She said what I WANTED too… “Just shut-up Chuck!

The entire experience probably took 2-3 minutes of my time. Yet I stood there, rooted to the spot, for at least twice that long.

One Bozo ≠ Everyone Else

I’m not sure why I pondered and perseverated on that as long as I did. Have you ever had something happen before where you spent a great deal of time thinking about what you WISH you would have said or done? Little by little, I could feel my attitude changing.

I have a red flag that I’ve set up in my mind to identify when I get an “us” versus “them” mentality. The “us” is any individual, including myself, who lives with a disability of any kind. The “them” are people who do not have a disability. When I start thinking or saying things like the following… I know I need to stop. That red flag will be




1. Well, you couldn’t understand because you have normal hearing.

2. You don’t know how I feel… you can’t! You don’t fall all day long and run into things!

3. You are a HEARING person. (Like that is a cut-down of some kind!)

4. If you could live one day in my shoes…

Those kind of thought processes tend to foster one major PITY PARTY. I can feel myself start to feel resentful. It can get ugly pretty quickly left unchecked. In this case… I let one BOZO represent everyone else I know. Truthfully, those with extreme prejudices are the exception, not the rule.

Battling a Negative Pattern of Thinking

So other than seeing that red flag, and recognizing my faulty thinking… what can I do? Very likely every person has a way to battle negative thinking that works for THEM. For me, I may do any of the following:

1. Count my blessings with deliberation and certainty.

2. Remind myself why ALL biases are wrong.

3. Make a list of all the people in my life who “get it” and do not have disabilities.

4. Hug and groom my dog, Chloe.

5. Listen to positive, up-beat music.

6. Do something for someone else for no particular reason.

7. If it would be constructive, confront an offender with grace, respect and firmness.

Red Flags are Good Things!

Do you have red flags in your life? These are necessary self-warnings that all of us should have! What are some red flags that you have and pay attention to in your life? Some of my own:

1. Spiritually: Does my walk TALK, louder than my talk, talks? Am I daily checking in with God through prayer and reading my Bible? Do I seek to be a blessing to others? Does that start at HOME?

2. Physically: Have a walked at least 4 days this week? Am I watching what I eat? Am I taking my blood pressure medication each day?

3. Emotionally: What have I done for ME this week to just relax and unwind? Do I need an attitude adjustment? Am I living in peace or allowing anxiety to wreck havoc?

4. Mentally: Am I growing? What am I learning in school? Am I giving my best to my team and individual assignments? Are these things helping me reach my goals?

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Point of View

Black squirrel 2/1/2010

I snapped this picture of one of our black squirrels in between snow storms. Squirrels can be funny sometimes. This pregnant female was eating old bread that I had put out for them, when she paused to look at me as I appeared with the camera. It sometimes makes me wonder who is watching who? For whatever reason, she certainly thought I was interesting!

Look at that animal on the other side of that glass. They live in such a strange cage! What is that thing in its hand that keeps making flashes of light?” Yeah, the squirrel’s point of view would be interesting to know. Unfortunately, I’ve not successfully interviewed any squirrels lately.

Change in Point of View

I had a dog’s eye view of the world this morning. My Meniere’s kicked in with a vicious reminder that I have a balance disorder. I was extremely wobbly and had a couple of tumbles. I ended up sitting on the floor with the dogs for awhile. (Not as far to fall, ya know?) Seeing things from a “dog’s eye view” was something I do not always experience. I sat on the floor enjoying my green tea with Chloe snuggled close. (For ya know? There is only ONE reason I would be on the floor… and that would be to spend one-on-one time with her!). My goofy Norwegian Elkhound was so excited to have me down on his level. He kept running to the family room to grab a dog toy to bring it back to me. He would detour underneath the heavy dining room table to better navigate the chairs that are rarely pushed in as they should be. Since I was sitting there on the floor, I could see up under the table. One long strand of my daughter’s hair hung from one of the bolts. I could see two large oval places in the carpet where the dogs park themselves under the table during meals. (This lent clear evidence to the fact that when my son vacuums on Wednesdays, he does not do underneath the table! GOTCHA!). Everything looks different from about three feet from the floor. My husband came through the room and I had to look up at him to talk. Dogs always have to look up, don’t they?

Of course “point of view” does not literally mean sharing the same VIEW as another physically. The phrase itself means the mental position of considering something such as an opinion, a story, theory, or suggestion of another.

What Shapes Your Point of View?

Rarely will two people have the same point of view on every topic. Your point of view is often shaped by your life experiences. I’m taking Multicultural Psychology right now, and it took my class nearly a week to agree on a definition for culture. It use to be that a person’s culture had to do with your genetics, race and ethnicity. The field of psychology has been forced to re-define what a culture group is as obviously far more influences the development of an individual than their genes, race and ethnic background. Religiosity, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, politics, victimization, education, war, natural disaster and much more will affect a person’s development and evolving point of view.

I think it is important to understand what has shaped your own point of view. For one thing, this introspective activity is bound to make you more aware of how the people in your life have a different point of view because of their culture groups. Some psychologists call this broadened definition of culture a new word… sub-cultures. A family can have a number of sub-cultures even within the same house. My husband and I still have both children living at home right now. Believe me… a 19-year-old boy and a 20-year-old girl have different culture groups than my husband and I do. Their very AGE sets them apart from us and provides unique challenges as we navigate living together peacefully in spite of our differences.

At work, I am the only person who has a disability. Thankfully, after working there for seven years now, no one actually treats me like I have a disability. Because I have Chloe now too, they know that she is helping me. As we maneuver up and down the dangerous staircase each school day, they don’t stand and watch with a catch in their breath waiting to jump in and help. They know Chloe can get me up and down the stairs safely. My students no longer crash into each other trying to reach a paper, pen, eraser, or book that I drop in the classroom. Instead they smile and watch Chloe hop up to go retrieve the item for me. (Although many times they are smiling because Chloe has to stretch/yawn first before jogging over to assist).

I absolutely believe that people with disabilities are their own culture group. You may not even have the same disability as another person, but there is something unique about living a life WORTH LIVING in spite of a disability. People with disabilities have unique ABILITIES. It changes your point of view.

What is unique about YOU? What has helped to shape your point of view? Have you ever identified your culture groups? I think that by fully realizing all your OWN puzzle pieces, it makes it much easier to see the completed picture puzzle of others. It helps to keep us from focusing on one confusing, annoying puzzle piece. All the unique puzzle pieces combined make one beautiful person.

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

What is She… Really?

Chloe weighs 65 pounds, has soft, fine fur. She dries quickly after a bath and rarely has any "doggie" odor. Her teeth are easy to care for, and she has muscular legs and hips.

For an early birthday present, my daughter, Kyersten, purchased a “Wisdom Panel Insights” DNA kit for Chloe. The two most common questions I am asked about Chloe are:

What does she do for you?

What kind of dog is she?

The second question is probably asked more often than the first. Chloe’s trainer, Pat, at Fidos For Freedom believes she is part Vizsla and Retriever because of her color, body style and manner in which she “washes up”. I’ve never thought to ask Chloe’s puppy raiser, Linda, what she thought Chloe’s mix might be, nor have I asked her other trainer, Jolanthe. My daughter thinks she is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and American Foxhound mix, as she has a ridge of hair that stands up along her spine when she is upset as it lays in the opposite direction of the rest of her fur. I think she accounts the Foxhound part because of the way her head and ears are shaped. I’ve never really cared WHAT Chloe is, as she is an intelligent partner to whom I’ve bonded and work along side on a daily basis. Once in awhile we would belly-ache about not knowing for sure what her mix is as we get that second question so often. It would be nice to be able to say, “She is a SUCH-AND-SUCH mix!” You can’t argue with DNA after all. Don’t you watch any crime shows on television? (GRIN).

In three weeks we should know. Want to make a guess yourself? Please feel free to comment. We will see who guesses the best regarding dog breeds!

Wisdom Panel Insights Dog DNA Test
Chloe as a puppy
Chloe as a puppy

Collecting DNA from inside cheek

Chloe has soft "hound" jowls, but does not drool excessively.

Chloe’s head and ears
Chloe's back of body and head
Chloe's profile

Chloe’s faults include “overly friendly” at times, and a high prey drive for small wildlife.

Chloe seems to track well and tastes the air and smells both the air and ground. She will roll in wildlife scents if unsupervised. Chloe is like a long-distance runner. She paces well but does not have a spectacular sprint. She has well-defined leg and thigh muscles, with medium developed chest muscles. She has some excess skin at her neck, and soft jowls that are not really a dominant feature. She drools only occasionally.

Chloe has had a malignant small mole removed from an ear at 4 years old. She has no other health problems and has easy-to-care for teeth. Her fur is soft and she sheds twice a year, but not excessively. She weights 65 pounds, dries quickly after a bath, and rarely has a “doggie smell”.

She loves to retrieve, and loves to work with a strong desire to please. She has a deep bark which is decidedly unfeminine. She will “sing”/howl if she hears another dog howl, but never tries to do so on her own.

What am I… Really?

Wouldn’t it be strange if people stopped to ask me, “What are you anyway?” Oh sure, I am from a German bloodline, but what if that question meant something far DEEPER? Could you look at someone and determine…

“They have a good heart. They are kind and gracious. They are forgiving and teachable. They wag their tails when they are happy and do not drool excessively!”

Yeah. OK, that last part was a bit over the top. But do you stop to consider what YOU are… REALLY? I really want people to look at me and SEE something far deeper. I want them to see a confident person with numerous ABILITIES in spite of a disability. I want them to see a friendly, inquisitive, polite person that would make a good friend. In public, we encounter large numbers of people… at least in my area. You only get one chance at a good FIRST impression. What do people see when they see you?

I think one of the most complimentary things anyone ever said about me was at an assistance dog/service dog conference in Baltimore several years ago. Numerous clients from Fidos For Freedom attended the conference since it was practically “local” for us. In between sessions, we would walk around and talk to numerous other teams from all over the country. I struck up a conversation with a man from California. He was blind and was there with his guide dog. After we had talked for about 10 minutes, he asked,

“You are a person of faith, aren’t you Denise?”

I was a little startled at the change of topic, but readily answered, “Yes… I’m a Christian and my faith is very important to me!”

He responded, “I could tell. It’s pretty evident and I can always tell after talking to someone for awhile”.

Something happened to interrupt our conversation and we went our separate ways. I’ve thought about that moment many times since. Exactly HOW DID HE KNOW? What did he hear and sense that led him to draw that kind of conclusion? More importantly… can I continue to live that way and respond that way so that others see the same?

I certainly don’t condone being hypocritical and not “being who you are”. Most people can spot a fake pretty quickly. Avoid being condescending in your kindness. If it isn’t REAL to you, why? I want to be a positive advocate for people with hearing loss and Meniere’s disease. I can only be that if I’m genuine and positive about what I am able to do in spite of my disabilities.

What about you? What are you… REALLY?

P.S. ADDED 4/28/10:  Read here for the results!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal