“Hearing Again” Woman – #4

FOR TODAY… January 29, 2010

Outside my window…

It’s already 5:15 and the sun is going down. Everything looks like it is “bracing” for the winter storm on its way!

I am thinking…

… about my daughter Kyersten and the tough six months she has had. I’m so glad her God is better equipped to help her than even I! I don’t always say or do what I need to, but I’m glad she seeks Him out first when things are tough.

I am hearing…

… my son moving around the kitchen warming up a snack in the microwave. At least he eats healthy…

I am thankful for…

… for my church. It’s small, but it’s a great place. Love the pastor and our church family.

I am wearing…

… tan sweatsuit, tennis shoes and very warm socks!

A Cochlear Implant…

… is cold when you first put it on in the morning. My “Dry ‘n Store” has long cycled through by the time I wake up in the morning. That cold magnet connecting to other can be a real ZINGER of an eye-opener in the morning! Talk about a bit of a RUSH.

I am remembering…

… my friend Rick this evening. His father passed away this afternoon. Makes me remember and think of my own Dad. Wish he didn’t live so far away.

I am going…

… to do a bit of necessary shopping tomorrow morning with my daughter. I look forward to some “girl time”. If the snow holds off… I’ll go see a friend tomorrow afternoon who has been recovering from heart surgery.

I need to…

… finish up the laundry. Only one load left in the dryer! Yahoo!

A disability is NOT…

… an excuse. I see so many who use it like that. You may have to do things differently, but you can still DO. I love how Fidos For Freedom puts it… it is a disABILITY.

I am currently reading…

… Still reading, “Our Sacred Honor” by William J. Bennett. Just finished reading a letter from Abigail Adams to her eleven-year-old son, John Quincy Adams. She was taking him to task for some things. In it she penned, “Great Learning and superior abilities, should you ever possess them, will be of little value and small Estimation, unless Virtue, Honour, Truth and integrity are added to them. Adhere to those religious Sentiments and principals which were early instilled into your mind and remember that you are accountable to your Maker for all your words and actions.”

I am hoping…

… for some changes, but only if they are God’s will. Tough distinction.

From the kitchen…

… we are having leftovers tonight. Kyersten is at work, and Chris, Terry and I will delve into the refrigerator and see what we can find. There are plenty of things to choose from this past week. I come from a family of 6, and I tell ya what! I’ve yet to learn how to cook for only 4 people! It was worse before the kids came along! Terry and I were up to our eyeballs in food.

Around the house…

… I’m going to get out the light bulb to the front porch. As a matter of fact… I’m going to go out back before it gets REALLY dark and grab the ladder. If hubby sees it in the entry-way…IN the way… he is more likely to remember we need that bulb changed. I worry about Kyersten coming home so late from work and no light save the headlights from her car. I’ve asked for several weeks… but hubby is home when it is already dark! Hopefully my “gentle reminders” will help him get it done during daylight hours this weekend. (Aren’t I a stinker?)

One of my favorite things…

Oikos yogurt. Am I strange, or what? I love the plain Oikos Greek-style yogurt. I put about a teaspoon of honey with it, and can eat a whole cup of it at a time. To me it is better than chocolate. (Kyersten, who thinks chocolate is actually one of the 5 love languages, would disagree).

My husband…

… IM’d me today just to say hello. I love it when he does that. I know he’s busy, and to get a window pop up with his “hey, whatcha doin’?” really means a lot!

My daughter…

… is grieving for the loss of her ancient Pomeranian. We had to take her to the vet yesterday to have her put to sleep. I came home from school to find her in her crate covered in blood. I’ll save you the entire description, but we knew it was time. I cleaned her up and sat with her quietly while we waited for Kyersten to get home as soon as she could so that she could say goodbye.

My son…

… is enjoying both speech and English this semester. He is taking Geometry from home using “Math-U-See”. The Geometry he can live without. (sigh)

My assistance dog…

… adores the Schwan man. He came today with our order, and she just thinks he’s “the living end”. She is all a-wag, and greets him like a long-lost pack member.

A picture to share from this week…

Ebony

Rescued in 2003, and given 3 months to live. Lived until January 28, 2010. We will miss you little Foo Foo!

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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

“Hearing Again” Woman #3

FOR TODAY… January 22, 2010

Outside my window…

Icy rain falling, and slushy ice particles all over the ground and driveway. Hope everyone is careful out there today!

I am thinking…

… about the numerous families in our church that are hurting. Disease, sickness, unemployment and divorce are taking their toll on the families are our small church. So many hurting people! I don’t feel comfortable calling someone on the phone because of my hearing loss unless I know their voice very well. Instead, I try to send message of encouragement, but it seems woefully inadequate. I’m thinking and pondering if it even makes a difference? How can a note of “I love you” even begin to help heal the hurt in the life of a broken-hearted individual?

I am hearing…

… very little, but only because it’s quiet! My kids are still in bed, and hubby has left for work. The two “big dogs” are the only conscious beings with me right now! They are laying very quietly after wearing themselves out while outside this morning. Tyco is panting (because the heat is on inside obviously), and Chloe is stretched out at my feet. I can hear the clickity-clack of the ceiling fan above me, and a slight humming sound from the heat vent.

I am thankful for…

… my husband’s steady job. I know so many who are worried about current contracts, or are unemployed. It is a scary economy right now. I try not to let a day go by without telling God “thank you” for my husband’s current position!

I am wearing…

… blue jeans, gray sweatshirt, thick socks and hiking boots. Oh! And a gray turtleneck underneath my sweatshirt!

A Cochlear Implant…

… can be really fun to “dress up”. I call it “CI BLING”, and enjoy changing the colors out every month. It will be February soon, which means I’ll be changing my blue and silver for pink and red. Being very visible about my hearing loss has only served to be in my best interests!

I am remembering…

… my great-grandmother Webster. I came across an ASL video quiz that I made a couple of years ago which was for my “level 3” class. The video quiz was about my great-grandmother. A sweet centenarian, she was fairly active all the way up until she broke her hip that last time. I miss her. She was a no-nonsense, practical Christian.

I am going…

… to our homeschool co-op’s bi-monthly “Hang Time” tonight. The teens enjoy these get-togethers just hanging out, eating junk food and playing games. Since Chris is a senior, this is my last year to do these!

I need to…

… finish up the laundry. I only got about 1/2 of it done yesterday before work.

A disability is NOT…

… an end to life as you know it. I am able to do most of the things I use to enjoy. Those things I cannot do, I have learned to enjoy other things to take their place. Having a disability does not mean you aren’t “able”!

I am currently reading…

… “Our Sacred Honor” by William J. Bennett.

I am hoping…

… for snow believe it or not. Hey! If it’s going to be THIS cold (25 degrees), there should be snow to show for it!

From the kitchen…

… we are having chicken tacos tonight (soft-shell). I have chicken thawing out, and of course a can of refried beans for the picky-eater in our family. At least she fixes those beans by herself so that I can concentrate on the chicken!

Around the house…

… I need to remind Terry to take care of the sump pump. A plumber came out to look at it and said it just needed the pit cleaned. He “Googled” it wouldn’t you know, and needs to buy some “stuff” in order to follow the directions and take care of it. If I don’t keep reminding him, these “honey do” things tend to get forgotten.

One of my favorite things…

… is a bubble bath. The only thing is? I NEVER take one anymore. I mean? Who has time? I shower at night in order to avoid the rush in the morning with those who have to in the A.M., and by the time I get to the shower… I am TIRED. I just want to get it, shampoo, get clean, get dry and go to bed!

My husband…

… is like a little boy when it comes to “24”. He mentions lines from the last episode all week. I tolerate watch the show simply to humor him. Truth? Half the time I have no idea what is going on!

My daughter…

… has dived right into school. She seems to really enjoy her classes so far. She got her first “B” last semester, and is determined it not happen again. Me? I was happy with the occasional “C” for some of my classes!

My son…

… is such a social butterfly. He certainly enjoys being with people. He’s always been this way… even as a little squirt. Now he’s a 6′ 3″ “big squirt” and still loves being around people. Homeschooled first through twelfth grades, some may think he was isolated and alone. On the contrary, his life has always been full of people and activities.

My assistance dog…

… needs her vest washed. It takes awhile to dry, so I have to do it on a day we aren’t doing anything else. Maybe I can get to that after church on Sunday! (crosses fingers)

A picture to share from this week…

(My January CI BLING)

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Could the Common Thread Be… ADVERSITY?

Yeah... they love each other!

Chloe woke me up this past Saturday morning at 1 AM. I was reasonably sure I hadn’t set my alarm for 1 in the morning, so I grouchily sweetly sat up and turned on the light to face the hound dog on my chest licking me anxiously.

“What’s up, Chloe? What’s wrong?”

I looked over to the other side of our bed and noticed my husband was missing. I don’t believe in partial raptures, so was a little bit worried as he had food poisoning the afternoon and evening before. He was one sick… erm… PUPPY. I again asked Chloe what was wrong. She quickly made a bee-line right for Terry. He was passed out cold in the floor!

There was a big bruise on his head and items were all over the floor. It was pretty obvious he had hit his head on the way down. Long story … shorter… he is fine and only has a small bruise on his forehead to show for all the excitement.

Chloe was never trained to alert me to falling husbands. I’m 100% sure that wasn’t on our skills test. Yet, she has been trained to let me know if something isn’t right – if something is out of the ordinary. I was amazed at her calm and immediate behavior in spite of never having any training for this specific task. I have heard many amazing “dog stories” of dog heroes who went above and beyond what was ever expected of them. Many of us know the stories of Balto, Rin-Tin-Tin, Hachiko, Old Yeller, Lassie and more! Dogs seem to have this uncanny ability to perform and succeed when it really matters. When a difference really NEEDS to be made, dogs seem to be able to make that difference. And yet…

Life’s Pressure Cooker

Doesn’t it seem like the same is true of people? Below is a quick list of stories that are examples of this. If you thought very long, you’d be able to come up with your own:

1. A lady I know with advanced Lymes disease is an encouragement to all she meets. She has become an expert on supplements and nutrition, helping others with Lymes and making a difference in her community. Even when she has a flare-up she is positive, upbeat and pushes through until she is in remission again.

2. My cousin, who has already seen her share of trials in her young life, was diagnosed with breast cancer last month. She had a mastectomy last week. She loves God, loves her family, and loves people. She is making a difference even as she faces this cancer, writing and blogging about her experience. I expect her blog to reveal “the good, the bad and the ugly”, while serving to encourage others going through the same.

3. My daughter had a very difficult 2009. It was the kind of year that totally changes a life. Slowly yet with very real determination, I see a young woman stepping out of the ruins “that was” and emerging as a resilient, courageous and influential woman who is going to make a difference in her world. I know this because she already is…

4. One of my peers in Chieftain Christian Academy successfully made it through surgery after being diagnosed with cancer. Throughout the entire ordeal she was positive and significant in her interactions with others. She continues to deal with numerous post-operative difficulties with grace and very real “class”.

5. I know so many people with hearing loss, cochlear implants and Meniere’s disease who make an incredible difference that I’m unable to list every story here. They took a devastating acquired disability and made it work for them as they advocate, encourage and help others.

We don’t exactly prepare for life’s pressures and hardships ahead of time. When we are born, we don’t come with a “how to” manual. We never plan for cancer, brain injury, disabilities, divorce, or the loss of loved ones. We don’t intentionally prepare for bankruptcy, unemployment or victimization. We aren’t trained to respond well in emergencies that are out of the ordinary. We don’t write chapters in our “life’s manuscript” that include all of these hardships… these trials. What is a common thread to all of the above success stories? Adversity. Something none of us hope to experience; but I’ll share some bad news with you. You are going to experience it. Everyone does. It will come.

It doesn’t make you a loser to “lose it” from time to time when you are going through it. That’s normal. You may belly-ache, get angry, lash out or hide. Those reactions are ALL normal. But don’t stay there… there isn’t a single “bad experience” that can sideline someone from life permanently. If it does it was a choice you made. We are resilient. My own “short list” of heroes would tell you a couple of key things, however!

1. God isn’t the enemy, He’s the only reason you get through.

2. Reach out to others. They want to help. Let them.

3. Look for others you can help along the way.

4. Prepare yourself for a long-term commitment in helping others when they experience what you made it through.

5. Be real. Heroes aren’t made overnight. You are going to shed plenty of tears.

6. Tell others. Blog, write, speak, and attend support groups. Share your story.

Yeah… adversity sucks. So isn’t it strange that it alone brings about this incredible transformation in a person’s life? Suddenly you completely “GET” what is really important. Life looks, sounds, smells and tastes different. More than ever before… life – and YOUR LIFE… matters.

Denise Portis

©2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

“Hearing Again” Woman #2

FOR TODAY… January 16, 2010

Outside my window…

It is dark. It is already 6:30 PM so I can’t see anything outside my window. Imagine that!

I am thinking…

The kids just left to go to a movie and I am thinking about how glad I am that they can “stand each other”. Oh sure, they argue sometimes but they also tend to get along pretty well. It’s nice they can go to a movie and just hang out if they want. It also makes me kinda miss my own siblings though!

I am hearing…

I can hear the hubby downstairs talking to his dad on the phone. This still amazes me. That I can hear someone in another room talking, recognize their voice, and even know who it is that they are talking too! I just love my cochlear implant. (Hubby talks VERY southern when he is talking to his daddy, so I know he has to be talkin’ to him right now! GRIN).

I am thankful for…

… my assistance dog. She woke me up around 1:00 AM this morning which is highly unusual. I turned on the light and asked her what the problem was. She took me to my husband who was passed out cold on the floor! She must have heard him hit! (He has a bruise on his head, so we think he hit his head on the way down). She was never trained for this and I am always amazed when she does something instinctive like this. Luckily he is fine… he had food poisoning yesterday and for whatever reason ended up passing out. I’m glad the bruise seems to be all that is evidence of his last 12 hours!

I am wearing…

Blue jeans, gray sweatshirt with black turtleneck underneath… and hiking boots.

A Cochlear Implant…

… always goes “dead” and need its batteries changed at the most inopportune time! I suppose that means that at ANY given moment of the day everything we are hearing “again” and experiencing are “important moments”. I have never heard my “warning” beep to change my batteries at a time that was convenient!

I am remembering…

… my cousin Candi tonight. I just got off perusing her Facebook and am just amazed at the distinct and genuine evidence of Christ in her life. She was just diagnosed with breast cancer and is just an amazing young mother. She has a new blog at: My Favorite Things

I am going…

… no place else today! GRIN! It’s dark and I don’t see well at night, so I’m “in for the night”. I plan to curl up with a book and read.

I need to…

Go find my NLT version of the Bible. I read something in my new ESV study Bible this morning that made me think (Proverbs 21). I wanted to see what another version said.

A disability is NOT…

… and excuse to put away your dreams. You can still have goals and dreams and find a way to reach them!

I am currently reading…

I just started Joyce Meyer’s “Managing Your Emotions”. Yeah… that’s right! I’m an emotional creature.

I am hoping…

… my mom calls me this weekend. She and Dad both had doctor appointments this week I believe. I’m anxious to see how things went.

From the kitchen…

I am going to slap a couple of sandwiches together for hubby and I. Aren’t I industrious?

Around the house…

… I need to get the clothes out of the dryer and fold them. I also need to put the “Haystacks” in an airtight ziplock bag for the kid’s college get-together tomorrow night. If there are broken pieces, I get to eat them with ZERO calories to add! Yup! Broken pieces of candy have no calories. Didn’t you know that?

One of my favorite things…

Warm clothes out of the dryer… yup! I can’t wait to go down and get those clothes! (Aren’t I strange?)

My husband…

… has been enjoying the playoffs today. I just don’t get football season or the playoffs. In the end, the only game that matters is the Super Bowl. Why not watch other things all year, and just tune into the Super Bowl each year? That just seems incredibly logical to ME!

My daughter…

… is looking forward to school starting. This is her first long winter break as she has always taken a class during the break in the past. All this free time has actually made her anxious for classes to start back. You go girl!

My son…

… is not looking forward to school starting. He seems to “relax and enjoy” better than his sister does.

My assistance dog…

… is resting quietly by my side. I’m rather surprised actually! It’s past her supper time! She usually REMINDS me by now!

A picture to share from this week…

In honor of my cousin Candi… May God bless your writing and chronicle of this new journey!


My Story

Hearing Elmo welcomes contributions by guest writers! Thank you to Tywanna for her contribution today!

By guest writer Tywanna

My Story….

I was the first born in a family of three children. As a child and later a teenager, I attended “mainstream” schools. I did what all kids do – play, get in trouble, argue with siblings, visit grandparents, take part in church activities, etc.

I first noticed the decline of my hearing while attending college. People would call my name and I wouldn’t hear them. Early on I thought it was because they were calling me from far away. At some point, I began to turn the television up louder. Again, I thought it was someone/something else. Maybe the television program was being broadcasted at a low volume.

I now wonder if people around me noticed my hearing loss before I did.

While shopping with a college roommate, I took a hearing test while in the mall. The conclusion was I had some hearing loss. I don’t recall asking to what degree or which ear. Maybe I was unwilling to accept the results. Hearing loss? Isn’t that for the elderly? What young adult asks for hearing aids? Could I start a new fashion statement on campus? Were hearing aids the “in” thing?

I must have placed the results of the hearing test in the back of my mind. Similar to placing the skillet on the back burner while the remainder of your dinner is cooking. We often place items on the back burner or in the back of the closet until we’re ready to retrieve them.

While attending college, I worked part-time and also found time to enjoy activities around campus. I made it through college just fine. I attended classes, studied hard and was successful. Maybe that one hearing test was wrong? Maybe my hearing loss wasn’t that bad. Who knows what I was thinking. I was a young adult enjoying life and having a good time.

After college I began working full-time. I was still young. I had my own apartment, my own car, and money in my pocket. What more could I ask for? Life was good.

As the years went by the hearing loss became progressively worse. I sought the help of a few more doctors and the results were the same – you’re losing your hearing. The doctors would say let’s explore hearing aids. My mind would think – WHAT? Here they go again talking about hearing loss at such a young age. I was not ready to explore that option. I wanted to know why I was losing my hearing. There must be an answer. Maybe there’s a cure. Things just don’t happen for any reason. If advances in science and technology can send a man to the moon, there must be an answer for hearing loss.

While I was searching for an answer, my hearing and understanding did not improve.

I the late 1990’s I located a doctor who tested my hearing again. This time I was open to talk about hearing aids. The audiologist showed me various models and discussed which of those would be better for me. She suggested a behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid for both ears. Again I was thinking – WHAT? At least this time the entrance door to my mind was unlocked and open for business. I recall asking could I get small hearing aids that go in the canal. She politely explained due to the severity of my lost, those would not benefit me.

I soon began experiencing life with my first set of hearing aids. They were brown and BTE. They came with a small discreet pouch and with a remote. Wow! I wore them on an as needed basis. I still felt in some situations I was doing pretty good. Little did I know I was learning to adapt. Survival is based on adaptability. My first set of hearing aids lasted for about 5 (five) years.

I went a few years without hearing aids. I was working full-time and had completed my Master’s degree. I began traveling for work and I felt I was communicating with people fairly well. I was able to watch and understand television. I was an avid moviegoer. I spent time chatting with family and friends on the telephone.

At some point my hearing took another decline. I could no longer understand people without visual cues. Television was just noise. I had to use closed caption to understand what was being said. I slowly began to stray away from the telephone. My life as I had previously known it was changing.

Their came a time when I realized that I needed another set of hearing aids. A BTE set can cost up to $5,000, and they are not covered under the medical insurance plan. I located a great doctor who performed a thorough evaluation. After many tests – MRI, CAT Scan, needle poking, etc. There was still no answer. All these years of medical advancements and no answer! What’s happening to all the funding that goes toward medical research? The doctor’s best guess was genetics. How can this be genetic if I’m the only person in the family with hearing loss? The ENT explained that I was almost deaf. I did not expect this. The tears began to flow like a stream. I couldn’t help but think why me?

Many days and nights my heart was heavy with sadness. My eyes were sore due to regular crying. My head ached due to constant thinking of hearing loss. Was I a walking medical mystery?

When I received my second set of hearing aids, I wore them faithfully. I had many consultations with the audiologist. Each time our conversation would go something like this. Me – “Is this a good brand? They don’t seem to be working very well.” Audiologist – “Yes, you have one of the best. Just give them time.”

After two years and half years of the same conversation, I had had enough. I was angry and frustrated. I expressed my feelings to the ENT and audiologist. The ENT referred me to another specialist. He stated he referred his complex cases to this other doctor. I felt somewhat relieved.

With my new doctor and audiologist, I began another chapter in life. My cochlear implant journey…..

Self-Actualization

I had to make a choice. I could continue to be sad or I could continue living. I chose the later.

After reading so many stories of others, my heart began to lighten. Who was I to complain? I saw others who were worse off than myself. There were people without food and shelter. There were people who had overcome adversity in spite of multiple disabilities. There were people who lives were turned upside down. And there were people who experienced grief beyond imaginable.

The tears that used to run freely began to dry up. Who was I to question God? The medical answer I searched for was not forthcoming. I began to realize God made me this way for a reason. There is no such thing as chance or luck. Everything is designed according to his well-orchestrated plan. God does not make mistakes. I may not have a medical answer in this lifetime, but I was determined to keep moving forward.

I no longer cared what others thought; if they did not want to be my friend, who cares. I surely didn’t. It was their lost and not mine. If they were staring at my listening devices, that means they’re curious. Curiosity can be a good thing because it can imply a change in current thinking.

I’m beginning to learn one of my purposes in life – to share and educate others. I began to speak to others about hearing loss. The door to newfound friendships opened. I was beginning to meet people like me. The shyness of my disability that used to exist was fading. The woe is me complex disappeared. I learned to become proud and comfortable with the way God made me. I’m unique, different, head strong, and I’m me!

Some days I’m happy. We’re happy when things are going right. We’re happy when things are going our way. Happiness is based on circumstance. Most of the time I’m joyous. I have joy in spite of my circumstances. Joy is finding peace in the midst of thunderstorms. Joy is finding peace in the midst of trials and tribulations. Joy is living with a calm heart.

While growing up I recall a song the choir used to sing. “I don’t feel no ways tired. I’ve come to far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me.” I now have a greater appreciation for those words. Where is it written that life would be easy?

I have a testimony – one of faith, the ability to bounce back, and a testimony of God’s grace and mercy. All these testimonies would not be possible if it wasn’t for a TEST. In order to testify as to the goodness of the Lord, our faith must be first be tested.

I have a hearing loss. I’m a disabled person. I’m deaf..as opposed to Deaf. When the right times comes, I pray I’m able to hear the Lord say, “well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

Tywanna

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