Thanksgiving in a Bathtub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

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In Heaven’s Eyes

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What do we look like in Heaven’s eyes?

Many years ago, back in the days I could “hear” and before Sandi Patti’s “fall from grace”, I use to listen to her sing, “In Heaven’s Eyes”.

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SIDE NOTE:  Exactly what IS a “fall from grace”?  One can’t FALL FROM GRACE! (said… with a bit of a screech in my voice).  She only “fell” from a legalistic pedestal erected by bozos who think THEY have never done anything in need of “grace”.  She is as human as the rest of us… living life, making mistakes, saved by GRACE!

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I have “lively” conversations with a culturally Deaf lady from time to time.  “Lively”, because we really do burn calories in signing our own point of view about a topic.  We have “good arguments”.  The kind of arguments that I hope she thinks about (and blogs about?) as much as I do when we go our separate ways.

We ended up talking about deafness as we often do.  She tries very hard not to hold it against me that I chose to get a cochlear implant.  She succeeds in her attempts… MOST of the time.  However, at times it just gets the best of her and we “argue in a good-natured” way.  She is a very self-assured woman who was born Deaf and has lived her entire life deeply involved in the Deaf culture here in our country.  She worries that so many children born Deaf as she was, are being implanted with cochlear implants.  I think she worries about the future of the Deaf.  Her biggest pet peeve is for someone to behave as if she can’t THINK as a result of her not being able to hear.  She doesn’t feel broken.  She doesn’t feel disabled.  She feels very normal.

I know she is a believer and so teased, “Well what are you going to do when you get to Heaven?”

“Not Deaf in Heaven’s eyes,” she replied in sign.  “Not hearing (pointing to me) in Heaven’s eyes.  Same (as she indicated both of us).

I instantly remembered the title of the song by this title, written by Phill McHugh, and sung by Sandi Patti.  I asked her if she’d ever seen the words to the song before.  (You don’t ask a Deaf person if they’ve HEARD a song before – smile).  She had not.

I got us “back on track” in our conversation, and explained that she misunderstood what I meant.  I explained how there will be no deafness, blindness or other disabilities in Heaven.  I perhaps got a little carried away as I often do, in talking about Heaven… it took me a full minute to realize her face was unhappy.

She explained that she knows and has read that there is no sickness in Heaven.  She has heard pastors teach that “the deaf will hear, the blind will see, the lame will walk”. Everyone will have a perfect body in Heaven.

No pain.

No tears, nor sorrow.

No sickness.

No calories.

GLORY! (smile)

I realized that, as she has no problem being Deaf and does not consider her deafness a disability, “whats to fix” when she gets to Heaven?  She even tearfully told me that if she has to “hear in Heaven”, she’s not sure she wants to go.

Woah.

Perhaps that is why when someone develops a disability later in life, their perspective is different.  I’ll probably get some “mail” for saying this, but…

If you’ve never heard before, how can you say you don’t miss sound?

My own study of history and the Bible, convinces me to stand firm in my thinking that in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve could hear perfectly.  I think every part of their bodies worked perfectly.  We were created with ears, the inner parts of which all work together in a wonderful way, allowing us to hear.  It wasn’t until that bite of fruit and disobedience that deafness worked it’s way into our genes. Along with other disabilities, cholesterol, diabetes, birth defects, and

Weight Watchers.

You know you have a real friend, when you can “agree to disagree” and go on from there. It brings me great joy to hear my own young adult children talk about friends they have that don’t believe EXACTLY the way they do. Even better? Rest in the friendship of one who challenges you to discover what you really believe. Hmm.  I’ll save this for another post!

I could tell with startling clarity, my friend and I were at an impasse. Sometimes it’s better to “zip your lips” if you know nothing more can be said in a constructive way.  I guess in this case, I “sat on my hands” versus “zipping”.

Treasuring our friendship, I decided to back up and share the words of that song with her.  She loved the message as well.  This past month, I found out that my Deaf friend is gone.  I only saw her at her place of work, and she lost her job. I need to put on my detective hat and find out where she is now, and see about meeting her for coffee.

I’ll leave “you” with the words to this song as well.  I love it, for it reminds me that Heaven really does view us all the same.  How we look, what we do, where we were born, nor how well our bodies “work”, matters in Heaven’s thinking.  We all need a Savior.

A fervent prayer rose up to heaven,
A fragile soul was losing ground
Sorting through the earthly babble,
Heaven heard the sound.

It was a life of no distinction,
No successes, only tries.
Yet gazing down on this unlovely one,
There was love in Heaven’s Eyes.

The orphaned child, the wayward father,
The homeless traveler in the rain
When life goes by and no one bothers,
Heaven feels the pain.

Looking down, God sees each heartache,
Knows each sorrow, hears each cry,
And looking up, we’ll see compassion’s fire
Ablaze in Heaven’s Eyes.

Refrain:

In Heaven’s Eyes, there are no losers,
In Heaven’s Eyes, no hopeless cause.
Only people like you, with feelings like me
And we’re amazed by the grace we can find
In Heaven’s Eyes.

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

“I’ll take ‘Dead Dogs Can’t’ for $600, Alec”

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(Alec) “For $600, the answer is… a video clip”:

(Denise) bites nails… “Umm, ‘What is ROLL MY OWN BLANKET’?”

(APPLAUSE)

Kyersten and I attended a play at her college yesterday afternoon.  She attends AACC and had one requirement for ‘Fine Arts Survey’, that she hasn’t been particularly excited about completing.  She had to attend one of the performing art productions and then write about it in a two-page paper.  Somehow, I managed to allow myself to be talked into going with her.  ‘Chalk it up’ to wanting to expose Chloe to new things, while attending something I use to enjoy tremendously – a musical.  “Guys and Dolls” was actually very good and I’m glad I attended.

We arrived early in order to find a good place to sit.  I was thankful I chose to do so, as our tickets had me sitting in an aisle where the floor sloped dramatically towards the stage.  Since I didn’t want Chloe to slide down through the audience during the show, I quickly found a manager and asked permission to change our seats to a section where the floor was level.

We settled into our seats and waited as the opening act was still about 10 minutes away.  A couple scooted around behind us and passed Chloe and I on the left.  The woman jumped a little bit, and slapped a hand to her chest as she looked down at Chloe.  Chloe looked up from a perfect down/stay (perfect because she had already drifted off – smile)

The woman exclaimed, “Oh my… I thought she was DEAD!”

I looked at her with rather bewildered astonishment, and said, “I’m sorry?  What?(I said this while signing “sorry”.  It’s hysterical to me that even when I hear, I start signing if I don’t understand.  Like that clears it up for me?)

She repeated, “Oh, I thought SHE WAS DEAD!

Her husband took her elbow and they moved on down the aisle. Perhaps he wanted to take her to a more private location to HAVE HER HEAD EXAMINED!  I looked over at Kyersten with my eyebrows raised, while Chloe laid her head back down and continued her imitation of a dead dog.  Kyersten has a flair for the understated “duh“.

“Yes,” she snorted rather unladylike, “we carried a dead dog in here and laid it down on a blanket!”  She said it under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear.  (What this lady said must have bothered Kyersten too, as she later whispered, “I think she was just so startled to see a dog, that she said the first thing that POPPED into her head!” She rationalizes well, don’t you think?)

We giggled about it for a few minutes.

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SIDE NOTE: I have a very weird sense of humor and my thought process is rather… erm… unique.  I just talked to a trainer at the “Ask the Trainer” booth for the 10th annual Stroll ‘n Roll, “how do you get your dog to fetch something new?”

Tracy B., talked to me about how to teach Chloe to fetch my cane.  (Santa is bringing me one for Christmas because I’ve been a ‘good little girl’)  You start with simply clicking and treating when she TOUCHES what you want her to notice.

So I pictured:

“Chloe… touch the silly lady…”  (Chloe gets up and pushes her nose on the hand of the lady who thought she was dead) Good touch Chloe! (Click… treat…)

Yeah.  Like I said… I have a strange sense of humor…

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The performance was nicely done, and I was rather proud of how much I heard AND understood with the help of my cochlear implant.  As musicals have much of the story line put to “song”, it’s rather important to be able to not only hear the spoken lines, but the ones that are belted out to music as well.

Chloe did great too.  She slept through the whole thing with the exception of one scene where a police officer blew a whistle while chasing after the gangsters involved in “Crap games”.  She sat straight up and peered over the heads of those in front of us and watched the chase.  I threw my arms around her neck to talk to her quietly and to insure I could feel any bark getting ready to erupt from her chest.  Fidos For Freedom Inc., does such a great job preparing these dogs for new experiences even from the puppy stage! Chloe simply settled back down immediately after being given the assurance that “all is well”. (Plus the acknowledgment that she wasn’t invited to participate in the chase!)

Sometimes people with disabilities give up on even trying to participate in things they once enjoyed.  They don’t believe that they can make a difference.  They can easily get caught in a vicious cycle of thinking they ‘can’t do anything’ and therefore think ‘everyone should do things for them’.  Don’t get me wrong – there are things people cannot do if they have a hearing loss and have a cochlear implant.  I can’t deep-sea dive, nor hear really well in places with a tremendous amount of background noise.  I can’t fit in a size 4 dress either… although that may be a bit off-topic.

People who hear VERY well, have things they cannot do.  No one in my family has a hearing loss but me, yet they can’t deep-sea dive either!  (OK, I might should clarify that the fact of the matter is, no one in my family can swim!)

But every individual is capable of “something”.  Every person can make a difference.  You know that scary stairwell I talked about here?  In the very corner of the picture, you can see the edge of a wheelchair.  This wheelchair belongs to one of my students.  She was born with a disability that makes things like walking – – difficult.  Yet, she

comes to classes,

leaves her chair at the top of the stairwell,

with assistance goes down the steps,

and then cheerfully grabs her walker and heads to her classes in the basement area.

She doesn’t walk well… but to know her is to love her. She always smiles, and is graceful and beautiful in her performance of music in sign.

I’ve met a number of bloggers through the internet who also have disabilities.  Each and every one of them make a difference,

somewhere,

to someone.

… and you can too!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

“Take a Deep Breath… and Trust Your Dog”

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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.

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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

A Disability May Keep You From WANTING to Come… but I NEED YOU TO COME!

Kyersten (18-years-old) is a contributor to Hearing Elmo. She has only known her mother as a person with hearing loss. Recognizing, supporting, and loving a parent with hearing loss and balance problems, does not mean that sometimes it is acknowledged that the disability GETS IN THE WAY.

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On October 25th, 2008, my Dad, Mom, and I woke up at “4 something” in the morning. The horror! The earli-ness! With bleary eyes and a lot of yawns, we stumbled to the car in order to drive about three hours to visit Waynesburg University.  Waynesburg is the first on my list of colleges to visit. I am currently trying to decide where to transfer, and my parents are supporting me in my quest for the Perfect Fit.

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The trip was uneventful, but rainy and foggy. We were rather glad to finally arrive.

We arrived a bit later than we had hoped, so Dad dropped mom and I off and went to park. Mom and I stood patiently (okay… impatiently) urging Chloe to “hurry up” (go to the bathroom). It was very wet and she was stubborn, so we went inside.  We were greeted by a very sweet “student ambassador” and I was given a packet of information.

Mom and I then went to “hurry up” ourselves.  Next, we walked into the main room, with Dad, who had arrived rather “wet”. A lady gestured us toward some seats and we sat down, only to stand up ten minutes later (having missed most of the introduction remarks).

Mom went outside to encourage Chloe to “hurry up”, as she still had not yet gone. She went ahead of us, so Dad and I lost track of where she was. I told Dad to go look for her, and continued on with the group. I felt a little awkward being the only student in the tour group without parents, but, I told myself I was learning to be independent.

Dad texted me and soon found me with the group. He was by himself. Mom had stayed in the van with Chloe.

So, Dad and I continued on the tour. I got a text from my mom. Her texts always make me smile; they are full of the shortened words associated with someone wanting to get a message to someone in as little time as possible, “Do not worry about me. chloe and me r hangn at van. tell dad 2 stay with u. am dizzy nyway!” I didn’t know until later that she had cried for a good twenty minutes as she texted that.

Dad and I continued the tour, which was very interesting. I really loved the small, yet beautiful, friendly college. Despite the rain, you could see the beauty of the architecture of the buildings, as well as the small-town charm of the city surrounding it.

After the tour, my Dad and I walked quickly back to the van to fetch Mom. She was surprised to see us and a little hesitant, but she “dressed” Chloe in her vest and accompanied us as the rain had stopped. We went to find the classroom where our meeting with a psychology professor was being held.  (My chosen major is psychology). The building was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Mom wasn’t sure she could make it, and hesitated. A helpful woman saw us and showed us to another floor, from where we took the elevator down to the floor where our meeting was located. After that meeting, we made our way to the bookstore.

Mom and I had a small argument about colleges on our way to the bookstore. Frustrated, I went to search for a sweatshirt. Mom came into the store.

“Hey, want to help me find a good color?” I asked.

“I’m really dizzy, I am going to stand here,” she answered. I clenched my teeth and continued shopping. I felt selfish for being aggravated at mom for not coming to help me.

We then made our way to the cafeteria, everyone’s tempers now on edge. A woman stopped us as we tried to go into the cafeteria.

“Is that a seeing eye dog?” she asked suspiciously.

Mom looked surprised and offended, “I am not blind,” she said quickly. She then launched into her speech about what Chloe did and the law that allows Chloe to accompany Mom anywhere. Mom then offered to give the lady literature. The woman refused, saying she”just hadn’t seen something like Chloe before”.

We went to find a table. Dad went to go get his and mom’s food as it was a buffet-type of cafeteria.  Handling an assistance dog at a buffet is NOT easy business!

“Do you think I should give the lady literature about assistance dogs on our way out?” Mom asked.

“No, she said she didn’t want it,” I answered.

Mom and I are A LOT alike in many areas, but when it comes to conflict, we handle it differently. Admittedly, mine is probably a worse way to handle it. I withdraw and avoid conflict. Mom isn’t scared of it, and wanted to make sure the woman didn’t bother other assistance teams in the future.

She said as much.

“I just shouldn’t have come; I’m obviously not doing any good. I wish to God y’all had left me in the car,” Mom said.

I started crying.

Now ANYONE who knows me knows that… a) I am not a crier  b) I dislike crying, and c) I never, EVER cry in public.

The meal went downhill from there. I refused to eat, so Mom refused to eat. Dad had a concerned look on his face, but it didn’t stop him from eating his plate of food and Mom’s. Such a man.

I went to the car to get away from everything, Mom following behind, Dad finishing the meal and then coming after us.

We worked it out. That’s what a family does after all; you HAVE to live with each other, so HAVE to resolve issues.

Mom was upset because she felt like I was purposefully disagreeing with everything she said.

I was upset because I felt like she didn’t want to be involved anymore.

I know my mom has a disability, two actually, if you count her balance. I know that there are some things she can’t do. Dad and I mentioned a couple of times on the tour that it was good she didn’t come. With the slippery sidewalks, lots of stairs, and a tour guide he and I couldn’t even hear sometimes, she would not have enjoyed it. However, I want her to be as involved in my hunt for the Perfect Fit as much as she can. She’s my mom.

She and I are a lot alike. And she knows me better than anyone. Dad’s advice I greatly appreciate and value. However, he has more of a Type A, competitive personality, whereas I have a quieter personality. His idea of the Perfect Fit would probably not be the same as mine.

To me, this is one of the last things in my life that I will need my parent’s involvement. It’s a huge step into the world of adulthood and responsibility.

I don’t want Mom to let her disability keep her from being my Mom. I realize she may not be able to do everything or may have to have special accommodations to be able to do some things. But the extra work to allow her to come along is worth it, because she is my mom. I need her… just the way she is.

Kyersten Portis

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Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

When One Makes a Plan to Quit Church…

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God has a wonderful sense of humor I believe.  I’m quite certain that I make Him laugh out loud on occasion, as I can be funny even without trying. (I’m NEVER funny when I DO try!)  I also imagine that He has rolled His eyes, chuckled with minor annoyance, and wished He could THUMP me on the head at times as well.

This past week I had a couple of serious discussions with my husband about church.  I had a “plan” about when I would no longer be attending church.

I’m getting ahead of myself, however, so let me explain how all this began. I had begun consciously thinking about what I would no longer do once my kids were gone from home.  What started all this (dangerous) thinking was my epiphany of how different fixing supper each night would be after it became “just Terry and I”.  I have a “soon to be 18-year-old” son, who eats like most 18-year-old boys.  He actually eats very healthy… but he eats a LOT.  So while fixing supper one evening, I realized that I would go from baking six chicken breasts to baking just two chicken breasts in only a couple of years!

Well we all know how one “thing”, or one “thought”, can lead to another.  Before I knew it, I realized that I was thinking about how I was going to have to explain to Terry why I wouldn’t go to church with him anymore.  I hated to have that conversation, for I didn’t have a plan to stop going as a result of my losing my faith, anger at God, or a back-slidden spiritual condition.  I felt badly for Terry, because he would have to go alone.  And yet, it never entered my thinking that he shouldn’t be going alone.  It’s as if the decision had already been made.

I really love our church, and our pastor is a phenomenal pastor/teacher.  The couple of things I’ve discussed with him about people with hearing loss were always met with approval and a very genuine desire to help.  Churches are exempt from the Federal law (ADA) mandating that assistance dogs be allowed to accompany their partner with a disability. Chloe has always been welcome at my church. But…

I am invisible at our church.  I come in and a couple of people say “hello”.  I then go to sit down, make Chloe comfortable, sing/sign with the congregation, listen attentively, pray, sit around and wait for my family to finish their “clean-up”tasks, and then we go home.  I’ve actually written and then deleted a couple of paragraphs here explaining the different ministries in our church and why I can’t participate (or how I “tried” and it failed… believe me there were numerous attempts!)  I’ve chosen to not add that in this post because, 1) I don’t want anyone to think I’m being critical. I feel harbor no ill feelings towards any ministry or individual, and 2) the purpose of this post is to explain God’s intervention and how He’s made it clear I cannot deliberate whether or not I should attend church.

So in order to keep this from being “novel length”, let me cut to the chase.  I walked into church Sunday and went to my “spot” in order to sit invisible.  God sent three different people over to me that did more than say “hello”.  They asked how I was doing, what was going on in my life… He even allowed me to offer prayer and encouragement to someone needing to know that someone would honestly “pray without ceasing” for her.

I went from sitting “invisible“, to sitting “surprised”. Chloe kept looking at me funny, so for all I know my mouth was even hung ajar in shock. Yes.  At times God chooses to reach down and “thump” His younguns on the head.

In preparing to write this post, I was reminded that one thing many late-deafened people have in common is the trap of a self-imposed isolation. I’ve been to conventions, conferences, and support group meetings.  I’ve even spoken in workshops, research symposiums, and on Capital Hill. I should know better. Yet… I am just as much in danger of allowing myself to simply “drop out”, as someone new to hearing loss.  Why?

Perhaps it’s because “all of this gets really old”.  Or maybe we wonder if we are making a difference to anyone? My messed up thinking had me convinced that I go to church now because my kids care if I do. I didn’t have to twist my own arm or anything to convince myself that after THEY are gone… no one will notice ME gone.

I say all of this in order to remind all of us, that God can use anyone.  He can use the deaf, the blind, and those with mobility challenges.  He can use the hyperactive, the extremely shy introvert, and those who do not have “traditional” spiritual gifts or talents.  In the meantime, my involvement remains at  simply being able to faithfully pray. It’s very likely something I do better than most. I disconnect my cochlear implant, and instantly eliminate all background noise and distractions.

I think the late-deafened get bogged down in what they “use to be able to do”.  When I could hear I was in the choir, taught 2nd grade boys Sunday School, led two women’s Bible studies, worked in the Deaf Ministry (how ironic!) and acted as a secretary for the Children’s church.  I can’t let what I use to be able to do, keep me from finding joy in what I can do now. If the bulk of what I do happens to be ministries outside the church, it doesn’t mean that I should no longer go.

Don’t allow yourself to believe “church” won’t miss you. In the end, that’s not the point of “church” is it?

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Harpers Ferry Sees a lot of US

Denise and Chloe at Jefferson Rock in Harpers Ferry State Park, October 2008

We go to Harpers Ferry a great deal.  For one thing it is within “spittin’ distance” of our home.  Secondly, the view and park is simply breath-taking.  No matter what time of year we go, it’s beautiful.  I keep telling Terry that when we retire one day, I want to live in the historic section of Harpers Ferry.  (I think he thinks I’m teasing!)

Going to Harpers Ferry is much more fun than it use to be.  For one thing, I love hearing the trains thanks to the miracle of “hearing again“.  For another, I don’t have near the number of falling or stumbling accidents that I use too “pre – Chloe”.  Having a hearing assistance dog who also helps with a great number of balance related tasks makes me much more independent.  There is one flight of stone steps that I literally CRAWLED up prior to having her counter-balance on the left!  I “see more” of Harpers Ferry than I use too!  Grin!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal