Celebrating Five Years

With the cool evening air wafting in through the screen door, along with golden birdsong and the smoke of summer fires, I am swept into years past, happy childhood years, filled with summer evenings of s’mores and sparklers. Today has been a day of reflecting on memories. That’s because today marks 15 states, 4 countries, 5 languages, five years, and countless memories since Oleta, my beautiful guide dog, and I became a team.
Contrary to many people’s assumptions, I don’t NEED a guide dog to travel independently. I can (and do upon occasion) use a white cane to travel just as effectively. I don’t NEED a guide dog to pursue my professional goals. I know lots of blind professionals who are strictly white cane users. I chose to work with a guide dog because I loved dogs, I imagined working a guide dog to be infinitely more pleasurable than using a cane, and it was, after all, my dream to have a guide dog from the age of eight.
Those reasons still stand. Working a guide dog is, in my opinion, infinitely more pleasurable than using a cane. A guide dog allows one to walk much more fluidly and quickly without having to stop every 20 feet to unstick one’s stubborn cane from the side walk, or the grass, or some unidentifiable metal thing in the middle of the path, or, heaven forbid, someone’s legs, or to recover from getting one’s cane stuck in one of these various and sundry obstacles, not stopping fast enough, and promptly being rewarded with a sharp jab to the stomach. Yep, don’t miss those days. Having a guide dog also means that I didn’t get hit by that one insane bus driver who suddenly decided to drive on the side walk right where I was standing, it’s a heck of a lot easier to find doors, stairs, curbs, escalators (Oleta LOVES escalators), benches, etc, and sometimes even one of my best friends. Yes, these, among others, are all awesome benefits of having a guide dog, but now a days, the reason I work a guide dog is because of Oleta.
Oleta, who loves unconditionally as easily as she licks, who takes work breaks to wriggle on her back in the grass and the snow and the sand just for the pure joy of it, who actually whines when she sees children on playgrounds because she wants to play with them, who lives out the meaning of her name “Little one with wings” every time we find ourselves flying alone along some sidewalk or other.
Dear Oleta, I love how you love life, and I love living life with you. Happy five years of memories made! I look forward to many more together.

A Second Journey: Update on Oleta

Many of you have asked where Oleta will be staying and what she will be doing during my absence.  I was hoping to get something directly from her and post it here, but I’m afraid she does not have access to a computer or phone and so I will have to do the updating I’m afraid. 🙂

For the first few days, Oleta stayed with my Dad.  She was actually able to go into work with him, and made quite a few new acquaintances during her time in the office.  Over the weekend, she visited with her friend Dozer, a family friend’s chocolate lab, though Dad did say that even that get together didn’t cheer her up, she’s been missing me so much.  That makes me so sad, because I can’t phone her and tell her that I will be back soon, and that she doesn’t have to worry, but then again, I can’t even seem to convince myself of that so I guess it’s a lost cause anyway.  It’s also comforting in a way, to know that she is missing me as much as I am missing her.  I’m not really alone in this, even though it feels like it sometimes.

Monday, my Mom took her for a walk and then met up with a puppy raiser from Guiding Eyes, who was driving one of her puppies up to New York.  With a little coaxing from Mom, Oleta jumped into the crate in the back of the puppy raisers van, next to her travel buddy Hendrix, a five month old German Shepherd pup.  Later, Mom got a call from Guiding Eyes, assuring her that Oleta will be spoiled rotten at the GEB kennels.  She has a roommate, goes out to play with the other dogs multiple times a day, will get a thorough check up from the vet there, and will be worked several times a week by the trainers.

I hate to think of her there, worrying that I abandoned her, but I am glad that Guiding Eyes is so willing to go above and beyond to care for my sweet guide and dearest companion.  I’m sure the work with the trainers will do her good; getting into harness is something she wouldn’t be able to do if she were staying with my family, so I’m very pleased that she will have that opportunity.  Work is always a great distraction, and this way Oleta and I will both have plenty to keep us occupied.

I am still aching for her, but I am glad that she is safe and in good hands and paws.  I hope that this can somehow prove to be a regenerative period for both Oleta and I, and that our bond can only grow stronger during our separation.  I love you Oleta.

A Second Journey: Edinburgh Distribution

Later this week, the Edinburgh church will be holding three evening services that very simply discuss some of the basic teachings of the Bible.  Last year, the services focussed on identity.  This year, they will center around the story of the Prodigal Son.

Today, we continued distributing leaflets to spread the word about these meetings in the area surrounding the school where the church gathers.  Peter, the wonderful pastor of the Edinburgh church, picked the team up at about 9:30 this morning, and we were out on the streets, leaflets in hand an hour or so later.

It has been a quite chilly late May and June so far, even for Scotland, and there was a buffeting wind all day that legitimately nearly knocked me over a couple of times.  Still, I did eventually have to take off my outer jacket, hot from walking and climbing sets of stairs in flats.  We did manage to get through quite a few leaflets, and it was a blessing to speak to several people personally who seemed to be interested in the meetings, and even said they may attend!  I know, exciting, and surprising, considering one of them I had just frightened half to death when she opened her door to find me stooping to slip a flier through it.  I had also been rather frightened when she opened the door, and we laughed for about a minute as we both recovered from the shock.  Funny moment… I hope to see her again at one of the meetings!

At 1:00 Pm, we took a lunch break, then continued our distribution until about 6:00 Pm.  We were pretty exhausted by then, and had a lovely dinner at an Edinburgh buffet.  Four different types of meat to choose from and unlimited sides.  Pretty tasty!

I fell asleep in the van on the way home, lulled by the food, conversation, and sunshine through the window.  I am beyond tired now and we have another day of distribution tomorrow, so I’d best get some rest.  Cheers!

A Second Journey: The Last Several Days

To bring you up to speed, this is a brief recap of the last several days.

Thursday:

1. Traveled independently through Glasgow airport, found Beth, caught up on the drive to Airdrie.  So surreal, probably partly due to jet lag, partly to Oleta’s absence, and partly just the joy of seeing Beth again, and the knowledge that I was really back in Scotland!

2. Walked into the church during my team’s worship session in the morning. Put down my things and joined in their discussion of Hebrews.

3. Discussed our drama for primary schools and testimonies for secondary school presentations.

4. Getting to know the team, personalities, voices, things to tease each of them about, etc.

5. Went to bed with my four lovely roommates and strangely had trouble sleeping.  If you can’t sleep with severe jet lag when can you sleep?

Friday:

1. Traveled to Edinburgh for leaflet distribution. I got to pet two fluffy puppies and it was almost more than I could handle! Also, there was thunder, which is super weird in Scotland! It’s happened multiple times over the last couple of days too, and is currently thundering outside now.  What even?!

2. Had dinner at a local Airdrie restaurant. They ran out of fish so we forgot fish and chips and went for the ribs. Delicious.

3. Spent that evening relaxing and staying up much too late.

Saturday (a day off):

1. Went to Stirling for a visit to Stirling castle and a walk through the town.

2. Lots of stone steps, echoey hallways, tapestries, and cobble stone.  Really beautiful and full of rich history.

3. Pasties and sausage rolls for lunch. Fantastic and only like a pound to eat! So cheap!

4. Trampoline park in the evening with the youth group. Super fun!

Sunday:

1. Sunday school, prayer meeting, and morning and evening service in Airdrie.  So wonderful to see so many people again and talk with them.

2. Incredible meal at Beth’s with the rest of the mission team and another visitor from London.

Today:

1. Gave testimonies in Edinburgh at secondary school (ages 11-18). Went quite well.  Lots of good questions.  Hoping to see them at the church meetings later this week.

2. Continued leaflet distribution in Edinburgh to spread the word about said meetings.

3. Awesome drive home from Edinburgh with one of their congregation, singing Irish tunes and listening to celtic music.

4. The most enjoyable evening yet spent at Beth’s laughing and teasing up a storm, plus ice cream, raspberries, and The Princess Bride.

We’ll be more detailed next time, but there you are for now.  So many blessings to be thankful for!

Adventures in Fund Raising: THe Concert

Among many other things, missions work is teaching me how to be a bit more organized.  I am not naturally so, especially when it comes to planning, especially especially when I am planning something that has no real deadline and no grade.  If life had a syllabus, I’d be set.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t, at least, not one that contains a list of specific goals, required readings, and scheduled due dates, so I took on this particular fund raising effort with no idea what I was doing, no clue where I was going, and very little in between.  Nonetheless, my half-thought out, mid-midterm brain child came to fruition last Saturday, in the form of a (very casual) afternoon of music in our back yard.  It was a concert, of sorts, one with only a week’s preparation music-wise, little time to advertise, and two extremely allergy-affected singers, but it happened, and it went much better, all things considered, than I imagined it would.  I was expecting about 3 audience members, but we had at least 17, and our donations, all totaled, amounted to over 350 dollars.

Wow!!!  I cannot express how grateful I am for your attendance and gracious gifts!!!  Y’all are amazing!  Thank you!

Yet another opportunity that God has used to exceed my expectations in every possible way.  Thank you Lord for that, and thank you that my lack of organization skills doesn’t keep you from accomplishing your will!