Insecure Foundation?

Kyersten and Chloe at the "Candle Barn" in Bird-in-Hand, PA

Spring Break! My entire family was on “Spring Break” last week with the exception of ME. As this was Kyersten’s last Spring at home for awhile she was determined to do something “fun” everyday. Friday, she and her daddy had planned to go to Lancaster County. Since I DID have Friday off, I invited myself along.

Two of our favorite places to go in Lancaster County are Bird-in-Hand, PA and Intercourse, PA. (At the latter, my daughter always tries to talk me into a t-shirt that says, “I love INTERCOURSE!” Let me think for a moment. Umm. NO!!)

We enjoy walking around the shops, and my husband was thrilled because on Fridays the Farmer’s market is open as well! Next to and ABOVE the area where the main Farmer’s market is located, are some neat local shops and antiques. Chloe and I found a rickety, old staircase to the top floor and carefully made our way UP.

When we made it to the top, I noticed that Chloe was lagging (walking behind what is a proper heel) which is something she just NEVER does. Her problem is “forging ahead” on a normal day! So I looked back to remind her to heel and noticed something. Her legs were shaking so badly, I could see the hair on her legs and stomach trembling. (What in the world?) Something had her spooked, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I patted her on the head, and asked her to heel again. As soon as I took a step I knew what had her rattled. (Now that I was paying attention… that helps! GRIN) The old, creaky, wooden floors had a lot of “give” and groaned and moved under our weight. I’m sure she could hear it AND feel it! I thought for a second and then decided to stand next to her and shuffle around, tap dance and “hop” standing next to her. At first she dropped like she’d been shot and lay trembling on the ground. I kept talking to her softly and continued to ermACT LIKE AN IDIOT. I’m sure anyone downstairs probably thought the world was coming to an end! Five minutes and 150 calories later, Chloe sat up and watched me with a tentative tail flop. Ten minutes more, with a more normal volume and another 150 calories burned, I found her standing next to me with tail wagging like crazy – simply thrilled that  I was inviting her to dance.

Chloe was afraid. The foundation beneath her had to much “give” and groaned and complained at our movement and weight. She wanted to STAY PUT. It took a more confident friend to convince her that all was OK.

Feeling Insecure?

At some point you are going to be either the trembling pup, hugging the floor with nails dug in and eyes wide as saucers, or you will the confident friend who gently persuades you to “get on livin’ it”.

I can’t think of a time when I felt more unnerved than when I felt as if my very foundation was wobbly. You count on your foundation to “HOLD”. It is from a solid foundation that one can build and grow. What do you do when your very foundation is creaking and groaning? How do you “shore up”?

I’ve not made it a secret that I am a person of faith. I believe that God created everything and remains very “HANDS ON” with His creation. I believe that we BLEW IT. Because we are all sinners and in need of a Savior, God sent His one and only Son. Jesus died for you whether you wanted Him to or not! Salvation only comes through believing and accepting that free gift. Any other foundation is going to fail you.

People screw up. They are going to disappoint you.

Careers are temporary. Someone younger, smarter, better looking, and who will work for LESS is going to come along.

Community service is great! Volunteering and making a difference in the life of someone else proves you are someone who LIVES what they BELIEVE. But you aren’t going to be recognized each and every time. “Man” or “Woman of the Year” is only a plaque that gathers dust.

You may be healthy. Yet that can all change in a day. Disabilities, disease, and suffering are something all of us will experience is one form or another.

Life can be very hard. Life can also be very… VERY good. But what happens to YOU when life is hard? What does your foundation feel like? Will it hold?

When I am FLAT ON THE FLOOR terrified to continue, I often turn to prayer and scripture reading. Sometimes God sends along a friend who will tap dance, hop and gently persuade me that all will be OK. Perhaps they’ve lived the same thing and came out … better.

You know? Chloe left that upstairs shop a different assistance dog. She was confident about that next step we were going to take. (Denise danced and hopped and didn’t fall through the floor!) We made our way back to the Farmer’s market to find something yummy to eat. I’d burned 300 calories ya know…

Scared to go on? Perhaps you need to rest awhile. Rejuvenate. Maybe you need to do some introspective reflection. Does your foundation need some repair?

Found someone hugging the floor? Don’t preach at them. Don’t ignore them either. Pray for them. Let them know you are there. Share your story. Tap dance.

After all, the Amish are outstanding carpenters. That floor is going to hold.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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The Me I Want to Be

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

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

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

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

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

here I am.

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

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

who I have become.

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

Should I go on to get my doctorate?

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

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

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

When Worry Becomes SIN

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

and tired.

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

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

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

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

My dreams (now public knowledge)…

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

I want to write a book.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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


A Little TOO Helpful!

Chloe and I can be found in Wal-mart on most Tuesday mornings. A friend from my home church in North Carolina (thanks Kim!) told me that the best time to go to Wal-mart was on Tuesday mornings. As I rarely stand in line to wait AT ALL, and as the aisles are usually clear of shoppers, she was exactly right. I save a lot of money at Wal-mart, so it is worth my while to even get my groceries there as one of the two Wal-marts in Frederick is a “super” Wal-mart.

This morning the weather was gorgeous! Not a cloud in sight, so I didn’t even bother bringing my cane. Not only was I not wobbly today, but I had a spring in my step! (Well… a spring for ME!) We hadn’t been shopping very long when we approached an elderly lady pushing her cart and shopping. She asked me if she could help me find something.

I took a good look at her and noted that she wasn’t a Wal-mart employee.

“Erm… No thank you!” I replied. “I’m finding everything I need”.

What do you need dear, let me help you!” she insisted.

She even turned her cart around so that she was now headed in the SAME direction as I was. I stammered, “Well … umm… I’m looking for golden raisens. They come in a big yellow box”. She spotted them for me and placed them in my cart.

“What else do you need, dear?” she asked nicely but firmly.

“Really, I’m fine. I appreciate your help,” I said a little nervous now. I moved on down the aisle and the little lady stayed right beside me with her own cart.

I’m really not a DUMB person, but it took me until the third aisle of us shopping side-by-side that I finally realized something. She had just handed my list back to me after noting something I needed and bringing it to where I was. She thought I had vision difficulties! I quickly put together that having Chloe by my side meant she thought that Chloe was my seeing eye dog!

Now hiding a big smile, I finally tapped her and said, “Ma’am? I’m not blind. I have a hearing loss! I’m a late-deafened adult and this is my hearing assistance/balance assist dog”, I said as I pointed to Chloe’s vest.

She paused a moment, read the vest more carefully, and then looked at me with a big beaming smile and said, “Oh! I can’t hear either!”

Too helpful?

This little lady certainly didn’t mean to be a “pain”, but I had tried to explain that I didn’t need her help a couple of times. Without being almost rude… I didn’t know how to get rid of her!

She really DID mean well. She was trying to help. She thought I was a young woman (compared to HER) who couldn’t see well and was trying to shop on my own. She was being helpful. It wasn’t until I realized what she thought my limitations were, that I was able to explain exactly what I could and could NOT do.

Many times a person with a disability may feel frustration building up inside because of how HELPFUL everyone is! It is important to find out exactly what it is that a person with a disability may need from you – if anything. I attend Fidos For Freedom a couple of times a month with Chloe for training. I work side-by-side with people who have many different kinds of disabilities. Everyone is different. Even those of us with hearing loss vary in how our disability impacts our lives. I am more likely to need you to offer me a steady hand when getting up off the floor, than I am for you to repeat something that I missed. Our training floor is looped, and I hear really well in spite of the huge training floor. Other hard-of-hearing people or late-deafened people may not hear as well as I do, but are more steady on their feet. Chloe actually helps me with balance-related tasks almost as much as she helps me with sounds I cannot hear or “place directionally”.

Some of the clients use walkers, wheelchairs, or power scooters. Some have canes that they use all the time – not part-time like I do! Yet, each of them have varying degrees of ability. After being matched at Fidos For Freedom, the trainers work hard to have YOUR dog learn specific tasks that will help YOU. So I have learned to not “help” unless I have already established a relationship with someone and I know exactly how I might best help them.

One thing I have learned about people with disabilities… they don’t want to be treated like they are disabled. They usually try to maximize their ABILITIES so that they can live a good life in spite of a disability.

How Can I Help?

Having two young adult kids is another good reason to learn to ASK how one might help. Try not to assume what someone else needs. Simply ask. If they want or need your help, they are given the chance to take control of their own needs by requesting specific help for specific tasks. My son? Yeah, he’ll let me do his laundry until he leaves home. Because I LOVE doing laundry (I realize I’m strange), I don’t mind doing this. However, I have learned to ASK if one of my kids needs my assistance. Because I respect them and have shown them that I trust them to let me know if they need something, they have learned to ask for help when they need it.

We should take care about not being to prideful to ask for assistance when needed too. That can be harder for some than others!

What type of things do people try to help you with even though you may not need it?

What types of things do you have trouble ASKING for help with doing?

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Try Something New

An Elmo Application for the iPod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Least Try

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

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

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

Trying Something New

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should we be willing to try new things?

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

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

3. We may meet some really incredible people!

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

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

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

What have you tried “new” lately?

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

But it’s Sunny TODAY!

Have you ever found yourself slightly anxious and a bit unsettled, simply because you were not able to focus on today? Lately, I have experienced insomnia in part, because I have been focusing on two things while trying to go to sleep:

1. The PAST. I keep trying to think of a way to get even with someone who hurt a person I really care about, only murder requires prison time and doing so would only re-open old wounds. Why is it so hard for me to leave this with God? He can take care of it better than I can, yet I continue to brain storm about ways I might be able to “help”. (rolls eyes at own stupidity).

2. The FUTURE. I will be very close to being finished with my MS at the end of this year. Then what? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Because… I mean – that HAS TO BE DECIDED TONIGHT! (rolls eyes at my own stupidity).

I’ve been trying to learn to re-focus on TODAY. So much can be missed in today, can’t it? Sure… it is important to learn from your past and to make plans for the future. Yet, I seem to really get bogged down in this mental exercise instead of actually accomplishing something good. In the process I lose… TODAY.

Last night, after kicking the 427,698 th sheep to the curb…

(Hey! I started out counting and patting the head of each that went by… but after an hour, I GET CRANKY!)

…I was reminded of a conversation I had with Sean at a TBI summer camp in 1999.

Today

I was an active member of the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina for a number of years, and my family and I enjoyed helping out at the TBI camp outside of Mayodan each summer. I had my first hearing aid and was already experiencing fairly severe vertigo with balance problems. I had not yet been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, and I had not yet put together that for ME… rain made my symptoms worse. All I really understood was that when it was rainy, the “ringing in my head” (tinnitus) would get worse and I seemed to fall a great deal. I hated the rain. I was sitting in one of the shelters near the craft hut talking to Sean. Sean was in his early 20’s and had suffered a TBI in a pedestrian vs. car accident. Perhaps I felt some camaraderie with this young man as I had experienced the same kind of accident as a child. However, while I had almost fully recovered from my own accident, Sean was in a wheelchair and had only limited use of his arms and hands. Sean lacked the fine motor skills to participate in some of activities at camp, and because he hated those feelings of frustration and helplessness, chose instead to “talk the ears off anyone who would listen”. I was often that set of ears, (which if you think about my worsening hearing – this was a bit of a hoot!). However, I had learned already to pay attention and carefully ask questions if I did miss something.

Sean reached out and playfully punched my arm to get my attention. (Waving in my line of sight would topple him from his wheelchair, so we had agreed this worked better!) “It is a beautiful, sunny day today!”

I looked up at the cloudless sky and countered, “Yeah, but it is suppose to rain tomorrow. I think it is suppose to rain the next day too! I hate rain!”

Sean looked puzzled and repeated, “It’s suppose to rain tomorrow?”

I’m sure I looked particularly glum as I replied, “Yup! I’ll be falling all over the place! I don’t understand what it is about the rain… I hate it!”

We sat there a few minutes and I could tell that Sean was distracted by my response. I waited for him to gather his thoughts in order to reply.

Finally he said, “But… it is a beautiful, sunny day TODAY!”

I realized with sudden clarity what he was trying to explain. So what if it is suppose to rain TOMORROW! It is a beautiful, sunny day, TODAY.

Don’t Lose… TODAY

I really believe we can get so caught up in things that have already happened, that we fail to move on in our lives. I also think we can become so worried and anxious about tomorrow that we fail to live… today.

I am trying to remember that I only have today one time. My children are 19 and 20 years old, and my oldest is transferring to a four-year college this Fall. What opportunities am I missing each day to interact with them because I’m not focused on today?

How often do I pass a co-worker who looks like they could use a hug? How easy is it to ignore an opportunity to respond to a classmate’s venting about their problems and “get down to business” instead? A funny thing can happen when you become “TODAY focused”. You notice the cashier who needs a smile and small talk at the super Wal-mart. You stop to chat for a moment with the “old timer” that you always meet on your evening walk. You email the person you promised to pray for to see how things are going. You take the 15 seconds required to comment on a FaceBook friend’s wall. You call your significant other during the day, “just because”. You jot a friendly note to your landlord when you pay your rent… on time.

Today is gone so soon. Yet it is 24 hours of opportunities afforded to you alone. Those moments in time and opportunities to make a difference are yours. Yeah… the forecast may be pretty dismal. But it’s sunny TODAY.

Matthew 6:25-32

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O, you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal