April Showers

This is a story I wrote down a year ago that I never got the chance to post. I figured since it’s April again, it would be an appropriate springy thing to share.

 

I can’t drive, and I don’t have buckets of money to pay for Lyfts everywhere I go, so generally whatever the weather is, my guide dog and I are out in it, getting where we need to go.  That is why, one April Saturday, Prim and I ventured out into the pouring rain to head to a friend’s recital at my old university.  Neither of us were excessively pleased about the damp; I shivered, and Prim did her best to avoid puddles as we set out on the mile walk.

We were standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change.  I was listening to the traffic on my right to know when it was safe to cross when, suddenly, a car approached quickly from my left and a massive wave of water struck us.  I squeaked and leapt back, shocked by the cold and completely soaked waist down.  Prim shook it off and we stepped back up to the curb to wait once more.

Not thirty seconds later, a truck came barreling through the intersection.  Before I could react, I was engulfed from head to toe in a six foot high tsunami of street water.  The frigid liquid left me breathless, and poor Prim was completely disgruntled.  I laughed ruefully and turned to go home, blinking away the water dripping into my eyes.  There was absolutely no way I could walk into a recital looking like I’d just fallen into a pool.

“Ma’am!” a voice called from a car at the gas station behind me.  I paused, glancing in his direction.

“Ma’am do you need help? I have a towel.” He approached and pushed a towel into my hands.

“Thank you.” I said, surprised.  I took the towel and mopped my face.  I was just going to believe it was a clean towel, and not something this friendly samaritan had just used to clean greasy hands after working on his engine or something.  I vainly tried to dry my clothes with the towel too, but only semi-successfully.  I was at least grateful to have dry face and arms.  As per my request, the man kindly helped me across the street.  I’ve probably asked someone to do that a grand total of two or three times in my life.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t normally need help to cross the street, dog or no dog, but I was not in the mood to be hit by yet a third surge of rainwater.

Upon reaching the other side of the street, I expressed my appreciation to my benefactor, then was promptly dragged by my indignant dog to the nearest door.  I was planning on walking the rest of the way to the recital, but clearly Prim had other ideas, and she wasn’t afraid to tell me.  She absolutely refused to leave the shelter of the overhang in front of the business.  I was trying to reason with her when another voice called from a car in the street.

“Shea!”

It was a friend from college.  He offered a ride to our destination, and Prim and I gladly accepted.  We arrived just in time for the performance.  I sat through the whole thing shaking in my soaked clothes, and winced at the strong smell of wet dog radiating from my poor unhappy pup, but man am I glad we made it, and honestly, it was kind of an exhilarating experience.  Who says Nashville doesn’t have a good waterpark?

Songs with Significance — Winter 2018/19

In the fall, I decided to start a 

seasonal series on the significant songs in my life. This is the list I have compiled for winter 2018/19.

Lost Sparks (Canyon City)

Firework (Canyon City)

I know all the words to this song.

Agape (Bear’s Den)

Above the Clouds of Pompeii (Bear’s Den)

Isaac (Bear’s Den)

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

My favorite Christmas song this last Christmas season and one I had the opportunity to sing at our candle-lit service.

Be Alright (Dean Lewis)

Because unrequited love is a bear.

Ocean Side (the Decemberists)

Because requited love means you need songs to listen to while you are separated over the holiday break.

The Upswing (Bel X1)

We got to see them in concert with the strings in February and it was a great show!

Some Surprise (Lisa Hannigan and Paul Noonan)

I’m still somewhat surprised.

When You Were Sweet Sixteen (The Fureys)

This song will forever remind me of my clients at my first music therapy placement.

Oh Love that Will Not Let Me Go

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

This has been a refrain for me in so many prayers over the last few months, and I think will continue to be.

As before, it is so profound to listen to all these songs in the same sitting, and relive some of the  experiences they are attached to. Some of it is painful to relive, some joyous, some simply peaceful. It’s amazing how music can evoke so much, even just in the listening. I look forward to doing it again in the Spring!

 

A Safety-Conscious Canine

A little story I wrote for a blog I contributed to. The blog is no longer running so I decided to republish it here. Enjoy.

Prim has consistently been rather stubborn about going to church. When I asked my trainer about it, she suggested that perhaps Prim simply wasn’t religious. I laughed at that, but it wasn’t a sufficient explanation, especially when I realized that Prim was somewhat unwilling to walk the route from church, as well as to church. Today I figured out why. 

Our walk to church includes traversing several sets of steps, the top level of a parking garage, and a long, side-walkless driveway, one that is consistently populated by church-goers’ vehicles leaving and entering our parking lot. Because there is no sidewalk, we are forced to stick as close as we can to the edge of the road. Prim is trained to do this. It’s a technique called “shore-lining”, but she is still not satisfied. She often stops in the parking lot or veers to the grass when she sees an idoling car, as I think she recognizes it as a threat. Well, one day on our way out of church, Prim decided to take matters into her own paws. Despite my direction to walk straight, across the parking lot and along the driveway, Prim insisted upon turning left. Curious, I trusted her and followed.

“Let’s go home.” 

I said, hopefully, even though I didn’t actually know whether we could get back to our appartment this way. She led me along a brief strip of parkinglot, then pulled me strongly to the right to step onto a sidewalk. I couldn’t help but laugh. We stuck to the sidewalk, made a right, then walked another good distance, until Prim pulled right again and I recognized the slant of our leasing office parking lot beneath my feet, and a minute later reached out to feel the gate that would take us into our complex. 

We had never walked that route before, but somehow Prim knew we could get home that way, and knew it was safer with side walks. She won’t let us walk any other way now. I love my safety conscious canine.

Reflections After a Month in Ireland — Our Newest Adventure, Part 4

This is a continuation in a series about my transition after moving to Ireland. You can find the first post

here.

Monday October 1, 2018 

I can’t believe I’ve been here a whole month already. It’s still a process of getting to know names, getting to know people beyond just a hey I met you once level, forming deeper friendships, but I’m really starting to feel comfortable here and like I have a community. It’s kind of crazy really, how quickly one can start feeling at home in a new place. I still have a fair amount to learn about the physical area itself, and occasionally get lost, but nothing compares to that first week of wandering without any idea where I was going. At this stage, I have a very good grip on the routes I take most frequently, and am gradually adding more to my mental map as I get time to explore further.

God is providing in every situation, saying something considering I completely ignored him last week. I was sick, and did a tiny bit of scripture reading and prayer time, but mostly spent my week distracted by Facebook. I felt very convicted last night at our communion service at church. It’s hard, I guess because of my pride for me to admit that I am going to continue to not desire him the way I want to, but he is gracious, and he is faithful. He will sanctify me, as long and arduous as the process may be. 

I am also trying to find a balance between work and play. Last week I had a lot of fun — played a session with a friend, attended a birthday dinner, took a few long walks, went to both church services and a party for one of the children in our congregation… you get the idea… but I have a few assignment deadlines approaching so will have to buckle down. Part of this is because I was so tired the first few weeks of being here, I did not have the energy to socialize, so feel like I’m playing catch-up a little bit in the realm of community building. That’s a problem for an extravert. Piece by piece, though, things are falling into place, and I’m thankful to be here.

Reflections on the Transition, but Really Actually Just Prim –Our Newest Adventure, Part 3

This is a continuation of a series on our transition after our move to Ireland. Read part one here, or part 2 here.

 

Wednesday September 12, 2018

 

Sometimes I look about me here and I can’t believe where I am, or what I’m doing. It is so surreal, but so fantastic. It’s definitely been an adjustment, and there have been hard moments, but the wonderful moments far outweigh the hard ones, and I am thankful for that. 

Prim has been pretty darn amazing, all things considered, throughout this whole transition. There have been times when we have both been stressed and our communication has broken down somewhat, but seriously, she has been so solid for the most part, and it has made the whole experience so much more enjoyable. She wants to work, and wants to be where I am. She isn’t particularly interested in meeting all the new random people, which is kind of helpful honestly, because they all want to meet her, and I’m glad she’s not particularly distracted by them. She’s eager as ever, especially when I meet her where she is and give her the trust and the confidence to succeed.

Today I took her for a long line leasure walk aalong the gravel path outside of my dorm building. She very much enjoyed sniffing along the path and prancing in the grass as we went. At first when we got outside, she was so thrilled to be free she took off at full speed, with no heed to the end of the line… so of course I went flying. Two joints of my cane came apart, and I tumbled into the grass, hardly managing to cling onto the leash handle. Prim immediately realized what had happened and rushed over to me, snorting and nudging me in concern. Dazed, I struggled to sit up. She sat in front of me and stared at me with worried eyes, placing an appologetic paw in my hand for comfort. She refused to move until she knew that I was okay, and let her know. Literally the sweetest moment ever.

I think she realizth that she was the cause of my fall. She is so attentive and empathetic in that way. Any time I fall Prim is immediately right on top of me making sure I’m all right. I’ll never forget that first time I slipped in my heels in the rain on the way to the Nashville symphony, not too long after Prim and I had gotten home. My shoe just went out from under me and I landed in the wet. She twisted around to bounce in my lap, lick my face, paw at me, and generally ensure that I was responsive. It was definitely a strengthening moment for our bond. I love this little girl so, so much, and I am so glad to have her as I settle in a new country.

The Symbiosis of the Guide Dog Team

I am often asked questions about the nature of my relationship with my guide dog.  A topic we frequently touch on is the interdependence of it.  I like to point this out to people, because no one is surprised that I depend on my guide dog.  After all, she is my eyes, in a sense… but they usually don’t think  about the fact that my dog depends on me, too.

My guide dog does have a lot of responsibility, especially for a dog.  Prim protects me.  She keeps me from walking into traffic, or stepping off the edge of a platform or stage.  She navigates me smoothly around things in our path, and shows me when there is an obstacle like a parked car or construction barrier obstructing our way entirely.  Prim provides for me.  She helps me find landmarks like doors, steps, trashcans, and chairs, and is a source of ever-present laughter and comfort besides.

But like with any other dog, I have a great deal of responsibility as Prim’s partner and handler.  I protect Prim.  I make intelligent decisions about when to cross the street, and think about Prim’s physical and emotional safety in any given environment.  There are some places I simply do not take my guide dog due to risk of injury or discomfort.  Crowded bars and loud concerts are just two examples of places where paws could be too easily trampled and ears too easily overwhelmed.  There have also been situations where I had to physically protect my guide dog when she was in danger of being attacked by another canine.  I provide for Prim.  I feed her, groom her, take her outside, take her to the vet for medical care, and of course have the enormous pleasure of being her primary playmate and cuddle buddy.

It’s a relationship of giving, not 50/50, but 100/100.  Of course, we both fail, but the beauty is that not only do we both provide and protect, but we also persevere.  There are days I am convinced I have a two-year-old child on a leash, and there are days that Prim is convinced she will starve to death because we get home late and I forgot to throw her dinner in my backpack, but I keep loving her even after she throws tantrums about not being able to eat the cat, and she keeps loving me after I feed her an hour or two later than our schedule dictates.  In that way, it is undoubtedly a symbiosis of sorts, but not a symbiosis of chance, rather one of choice.  Primie, I’m so glad I get to choose you.

Staying Still for Colin

It’s my little brother’s birthday today.  I cannot believe how old and tall he is!  Isn’t it a funny moment when your cute little brother suddenly becomes your very hansom, tall brother?  Seriously, he’s like a foot taller than me now… maybe more.

Anyway, these are my reflections on memories from 20 years ago when my baby brother was born.  I miss and love you lots, Colin!  Happy birthday!

I’m wearing my favorite dress… well, one of them.  It’s the button up, with the pockets and the wide collar that looks like a slice of watermelon.  I am glad I’m dressed up, because I’m a big sister now.  I’m going to see my little brother.  Being a big sister is an important job, and I want to look the part… especially because I want Mom to let me hold him.  Only big, responsible girls get to hold baby brothers.

Grandmother says that we’re almost there.  I see huge buildings and a parking lot filled with cars.  There’s an apple on the seat next to me… the one my big brother refused to eat.  He doesn’t like apples.  I wonder if my little brother will like apples… he probably won’t be able to eat them until he’s three like me though.

We walk down a long hallway.  It’s white tile and bright lights, and there are windows to our right.  I see babies through the windows, in little boxes.  Is he in there?  I peer through the windows as we pass.  There’s a dark-skinned baby… Is that him?  I see a baby that looks a lot more like me, blonde and white-skinned, but then we’re turning into a room, and there’s my brother.

He’s curled in my Mom’s arms, wrapped in blankets.  All I can see is his little pink face.  Mom smiles at us.  My big brother and I run to her bedside.  Mom takes my hand and lets me touch his head, urging me to “be gentle.’

I am… I can’t imagine being anything else.  My fingers brush over feathery baby fuzz, and I can’t believe he’s real.  He’s just like my baby doll, Elizabeth, only warm, and breathing, and a boy.

I’m jumping up and down and asking if I can hold him.  I can’t help it.  I’ve been waiting for this moment forever!  Mom says if I sit on the bed next to her and stay very still, I can hold him.  I clamber on the bed and sit very still on top of the blankets.  He’s in my arms, warm and heavy and full of sleep.

I’m a big sister, and I can’t stop smiling.