A Common Dust Speck

To others it was just a common dust speck. To Horton, it housed an entire world in need of assistance, with hundreds of lives at stake on the brink of being (gulp) boiled. “Common” is subjective, for what is commonplace and boring to one individual may be exactly opposite to another.

Losing to Learn to Appreciate

Having an acquired disability like hearing loss and a balance disorder often teaches me to be appreciative of things I once took for granted. Activated merely eight days before, what blended into the background as a normal, ordinary, and mediocre sound to my husband, was the astonishing, spine-tingling gurgle of sound to me! It took me 15 minutes to finally pinpoint the sound of the electric coffee-maker in his office.

“How could you not hear THAT! What a wonderful sound! It is so distracting! It fills the entire room!” I exclaimed.

“Honey, it is such a commonplace sound it doesn’t even register for me!” he replied.

I was stumped! This gurgle-burp, sigh of steam… commonplace? Doesn’t register? No way!

Subtle cues

If you’ve never had any experience with a hearing assistance/balance assist dog, there are cues that are subtle… even invisible to someone other than their partner. My husband is constantly amazed that I am able to scoot the cart out of the way of a “mother of two in a hurry” at a store when I only have one cochlear implant. Finding the direction of sound is quite a challenge. However, Terry isn’t watching what I’m paying attention to while we shop. If Chloe turns her head and pricks her ears up, I automatically look in the direction her nose is pointing. To me this subtle cue shouts, “Well! Would you look at THAT, Denise!”

When air pressure and bad weather create a vestibular nightmare for me, it is the subtle cues that Chloe and I communicate most effectively. On a “normal day”, I’ll drop something and can slowly bend to retrieve the object. However, on a “bad day”, I only need to look at the object I dropped and intercept Chloe’s gaze… for she has most certainly already noticed the dropped item too. Sometimes I only smile and she cheerfully retrieves the object! Other times I may point and ask her to specifically fetch something. (You don’t ALWAYS want your dog to retrieve dropped items. For example, my husband Terry dropped a large candle from the top of the closet this weekend. I did not want Chloe to retrieve any of the glass scattered over the carpet and had to “shoo” her away!)

Chloe may go through a day and only alert me to the kitchen timer a couple of times, my cell phone, and retrieve my garden gloves from the yard. Those tasks may seem very ordinary and commonplace. Yet without those alerts, my tea kettle would have boiled empty and the chicken defrosting in the microwave may have sat in there all day! I would have missed the call from my husband reminding me that he was working late. I would have had to retrieve those garden gloves myself in the middle of a yard with nothing nearby with which to pull myself back up! So common and subtle cues are subjective. They may be very important alerts that enable me to live more independently.

Just Help

I know people who do things to help others who are never noticed. They don’t want the attention. It can be something as simple as paying a military person’s meal for them when you see them in a restaurant.

Perhaps you help a mother get her stroller up on the curb, or take a shopping cart to the “cart corral” for a customer in a hurry.

Don’t ever underestimate any help you are prompted to give. We are called to serve… to make a difference. Even people with disabilities can help others. I know someone who is blind and deaf who emails “10 Blessings” a day to various people. As I’m the occasional recipient, I can tell you those blessings come on days I need them most.

You don’t have to have money to help. Most acts of service are free.

You don’t have to have a lot of time to help. Most opportunities take seconds.

Don’t ever look at a day as a “common” one. If you really set out to do so, you can make a difference in someone’s life.

If you listen really carefully, you may even hear…

“We are here, we are Here, we are HERE”

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


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!

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.


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

“Hearing Again” Woman #7

FOR TODAY… February 26, 2010

Outside my window…

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

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

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

I am thinking…

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

I am hearing…

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

I am thankful for…

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

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

I am wearing…

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

A Cochlear Implant

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

I am remembering…

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

I am going…

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

I need to…

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

A disability is NOT…

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

I am currently reading…

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

I am hoping…

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

From the kitchen…

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

Around the house…

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

One of my favorite things…

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

My husband…

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

My daughter…

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

My son…

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

My assistance dog…

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

A picture to share from this week…

My new book!

Red Flag

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

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

Oh Bruuuuther!

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

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

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

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

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

One Bozo ≠ Everyone Else

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

Battling a Negative Pattern of Thinking

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

1. Count my blessings with deliberation and certainty.

2. Remind myself why ALL biases are wrong.

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

4. Hug and groom my dog, Chloe.

5. Listen to positive, up-beat music.

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

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

Red Flags are Good Things!

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

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

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

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

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

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Turning Off An Alert

No worries... this is a staged picture. The tea kettle is cold, and a treat is on the stove to award a "Paws up" command.
No worries... this is a staged picture. The tea kettle is cold, and a treat is on the stove to award a "Paws up" command.

One of the things I really love about Fidos For Freedom, is that even when you have completed your training you receive follow-up support “for life”. I see Chloe’s trainer about 3 times a month and so when I decided I wanted Chloe to learn a new alert, I contacted Pat.

I was putting the tea kettle on the stove to boil and walking away to check my email in the mornings. It would “whistle” like crazy after I obviously forgot about it after walking away. (You’d think I could wait patiently for all of 2 minutes!) My kids are sleeping in this summer on days they don’t work… at least, they are if the tea kettle doesn’t whistle them awake after it has been boiling for ten minutes or so! They BEGGED me to stop leaving the tea kettle without watching it. Well, I knew one other hearing assistance dog at Fidos who alerted to the tea kettle for her partner. I asked Pat how this was done, and she gave me a step-by-step plan of how to train this alert.

It worked like a charm! In a matter of a week, Chloe was alerting to the whistling tea kettle. The only problem is that I found I now had to turn that alert OFF.

Chloe bumps things with her nose to let me know what is making the sound. If a kitchen timer goes off or my cell phone rings, Chloe bumps them with her nose. When I taught her to alert to the tea kettle, I was finally able to “just forget about it” because she understood that this was now a part of her job. She’d race to get me and then make sure I was following her into the kitchen. Before I could stop her she tried bumping the hot tea kettle with her nose. I screeched and scared her to death ‘mid-bump’!

I thought, “well maybe it is all in the timing…” I attempted to follow her much more closely when she came to get me to let me know the tea kettle was whistling. That worked on days my balance wasn’t giving me fits. However on rainy days when Meniere’s disease caused me to have difficulty walking fast, she would beat me to the kitchen every time! I had to screech at her again!

She started being really anxious to alert to the tea kettle! (Wouldn’t you?) Everytime she did her job, I ended up having to screech at her. For now, I am hanging out in the kitchen for the 2 minutes or so it takes for the tea kettle to whistle. I think I’ll time how long it takes to be “almost whistling” and set the kitchen timer instead. The tea kettle would be an important alert (especially if you ask my sleepyhead kids), but it isn’t worth a burn on Chloe’s nose or paw. It is time to re-think how I want to do this. For now, the alert needs turned off.


When I first began losing my hearing, a subtle yet negative pattern began to take place in the way I interacted with others. If there was a communication blunder, faux pas or misunderstanding, it was always the hearing person’s fault. They not only didn’t understand what I was going through, but they didn’t care! Or so I had convinced myself…

The reality is that my disability is MY problem. It’s not YOUR problem! I had to learn to be proactive – not REactive. It can be very frustrating to tell someone to please face me when they talk – AGAIN. But the truth of the matter is, I make as many or MORE mistakes than the hearing people in my life. I start conversations with someone in my family from another room almost on a daily basis. I can hear them responding, and have to quickly hustle into the other room to at least catch the tail end of what they said. If I cannot understand, I sheepishly have to ask for a repeat (Baa – BAAA)

After I joined HLAA and began to learn from my peers a better way to communicate and advocate, I realized I desperately needed to be re-conditioned. Through the beginning years of my hearing loss I had conditioned myself to believe and react in such a way that hearing people were out to get me and that I needed to harshly and sternly educate in bullheaded opposition in order to gain their cooperation. I desperately needed to turn off this “alert”.

As the result of having established a bad habit in the way I choose to handle conflict regarding communication, I had begun alienating people round me. Worse… my behaving in such a way only insured that the next hard-of-hearing or late-deafened person this “idiot hearing person” dealt with would receive a defensive response. Not only was I hurting myself, but others with hearing loss as well.

Once in awhile I meet someone “new” that has hearing loss and a chip on their shoulder. I want to take them aside and explain my own history and need to turn off an “alert” It’s not always the right time or place, but I have had the opportunity to do so a few times. Sharing my own story seems to mean more than fussing at them about what they are doing. Explaining how to communicate with me best is an important “alert” or task. But to do so the wrong way is not worth “burning” someone else. I was taught and encouraged to re-think how I wanted to convey this information. I had to turn off an old “alert”.

It is very likely that all of us have something we should change… a bad reaction we have towards others. Maybe it’s one person that really gets under your skin. You hear their name and your blood pressure goes up! It may be time to recondition a negative response. You may not even realize it, but you may be hurting your reputation by the way you choose to respond to even the mistakes of others. Your own reputation or testimony may not be all that is at stake. Perhaps you are making all Democrats or Republicans look bad. Maybe you are making all Christians appear holier-than-thou or judgemental. Maybe the way you behave affects the way others look at all people with hearing loss. If you recognize this, you can turn the alert off and recondition the way you respond. If I can do it, anyone can!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Major tail wag... guess who isn't normally allowed up here?
Major tail wag... guess who isn't normally allowed up here?
What's a dog to do when YOU are down THERE?

Limited by YOUR Barriers

I’ve gone “round and round” about even sharing this with you, as I’ve already caught a lot of GRIEF from my beloved family. I decided to go ahead and post about it, however, because I did learn some things about myself and limitations.

About a week and a half ago, I got what SEEMED like a wonderful idea. I was sitting on my deck drinking my morning tea in the brisk air. Not a cloud in the sky, which meant I was going to have a “good balance day“. Chloe was dozing at my feet. The kids were still in bed. I had a great night’s sleep.

For the past several weeks I had noticed a dead vine hanging on the corner of my house. I also noticed that it was level with the deck in my backyard. Being the intelligent woman that I am (clears throat) I ALSO noticed that it was within arm’s reach of my deck if one was but to “lean a little”. When I first noticed it, my thought was that “I need to get Terry to remove that vine. It bugs me”.

Well sitting there on my deck and feeling particularly FINE, I decided that I would reach around the corner of the deck and grab the vine and jerk it off. Eyesore gone… and I didn’t even have to bother Terry!

Now our deck has a barricade at the staircase, because the stairs are dangerously steep. We plan to replace our deck in the next year, and my biggest “plan of action” is to make a more gradual staircase to the yard below. For now it is barricaded so dogs do not injure themselves going 100 mph down the stairs. (It also keeps ME from thinking I can descend it safely!)

I told Chloe, “Chloe STAY. I’m going to just step over here and grab this vine.

As soon as I put my leg over the rail of the deck she SHOT out of her sit/stay and looked at me with “fear and trembling“. If she could have said, “What the HECK are ya doin’?” she would have!

I perched on the rail and pointed my finger at her and said, “Chloe! Sit! Down! STAY!” She lay there with her forehead all wrinkled up and eyes wide as I slipped my other leg over the rail. I remember thinking, “She is really a piece of WORK! I mean this is easy, it’ll take me 10 seconds!”

That’s the last thought I had.

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

If a person with hearing loss has a balance disorder as well, it just isn’t smart to do things… UP. High. On. Purpose.


I’m not sure how long I was out. When I came too, I could see Chloe barking from the deck above me. She was no longer in a down/stay. (Obviously, I didn’t fuss at her).

I lay there a minute to evaluate “where it hurt“. It only took a second to realize that it was my leg. A stick was poking out of my calf near my ankle and it certainly hurt!

Here’s a picture of:




My ankle 10 days following STUPID
My ankle 10 days following STUPID

Chloe couldn’t get to me, and was barking like crazy. I couldn’t have been out very long, because I’m sure her barking would have eventually woke up one of my kids. She has a really loud hound bark, (not at ALL feminine!).

Barriers Put Up by ME

As I sat there pulling the stick out of my leg I began to talk to Chloe. As I talked, she stopped barking and just sat there looking down at me with a look of panic on her face.

The real dilemma? All the doors were locked! I was going to have to get to the staircase across the yard, get up the steps and over the semi-permanent barrier we had erected “for safety’s sake”. The door from the deck to the house was the only one unlocked. I could have knocked, but the metal security door under the deck to our laundry room is solid and doesn’t produce a very loud knock.

To make a very long … somewhat boring story – SHORTER (grin), I made it inside. It took me awhile, and I had to find my cochlear implant before even starting on the “trip”! Chloe whined her encouragement the entire way.

My kids were pretty surprised to come upstairs for breakfast to find me with my foot in the air with ice on it. Ok… actually I’m stretching the truth here. My kids know me. They weren’t at ALL surprised to come upstairs to find me with my foot in the air and ice on it.

They DID call dibs on who got to call “Dad” and tell him what happened.

Barriers Can be Good

I put up that barrier for a reason. It should have been a reminder to me just how high off the ground I was. The barrier was to serve as a preventative for descending to the yard below from the deck. By-passing the stairs all together was just a little bit STUPID. That barrier should have served as a reminder AND a preventative.

Sometimes we put up barriers in our lives to protect ourselves. Maybe you’ve learned the hard way to avoid critical people. You put up a block… a barrier to not allow people like that close to you. The barrier can keep people who aren’t “safe” for you emotionally, at a distance that is healthier for YOU.

But why do we sometimes slip a leg over the railing to by-pass the barrier? Why do we seem to embrace people who have a history of causing us emotional duress? Perhaps someone with an expression like Chloe’s, looks on in concern and asks carefully, “do you know what it is you are doing?” Ignoring the possibility that they may be right, you slip your leg over the rail anyway and think, “Gee! They are a piece of WORK!”

Friends? The only work is that long walk “home” after falling on your butt. It may take years even to get back to a healthy place. Almost “home“, and you step over a familiar looking barrier that you had up as a warning and preventative prior to being duped again.

Safe People

Surround yourself with “safe people“. These folks are individuals who bring out the best in you. They love you warts and all. They are an encouragement to you, and cheer lead you to reach for your dreams.

What’s tough is when some of those people who aren’t safe are related to you. There are times you have to interact, but you can learn to do so in a way that they don’t breach even the barriers you put up for them.

I am not encouraging an unforgiving heart either. If someone is truly repentant (meaning they have made a CHANGE) and want to be a friend to you again, you should be willing to trust they mean it. If their efforts fail, however, and they still are a “toxic person”, at least you have the experience and “supplies handy” to put that barrier right back up.


You know the BOOGER of it?

That. Vine. Is. Still. There.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal