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Below are the 50 most recent journal entries recorded in Kathy Nimmer's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
11:59 am
Recording of My Speech at the Chippewa Valley Book Festival
This is a link to the approximately hour-long speech I gave on 10/18/2012 in Eau Claire, WI, as a featured author at the Chippewa Valley Book Festival. The recording is in MP3 format and you can download it or just play it. https://www.box.com/s/tp9s4aemy1j806gamka1
Saturday, July 16th, 2011
7:50 pm
Sorry for the silence
Wow, a month since I posted! I apologize. Medical issues have been consuming an remain so. I will say that Elias has shown great flexibility in working less on days when I'm down, then working more vigorously on days when I'm better. He did a great job at a specialist's office in Indy on Thursday, just going with the flow even though everything was foreign to us and I was somewhat tense. The heat is going to build badly this coming week, so that will combine with my ailments to keep us rather mellow I imagine, but life doesn't have to be a constant rat race with tick-tick-tick of things checked off on a to-do list; I'm learning that lesson. Stay cool and content, and I'll try to post more consistently.

Current Mood: exhausted
Monday, June 13th, 2011
9:02 am
I will celebrate the mornings:
Clean air that is easy to breathe.
Rushing water from the fountain in the pond behind my house.
Birds singing their welcome to the sunrise.
Coolness that is untainted by the burn of summer heat.
Coffee brewing with the promise of a mid-morning break.
Energy that is renewed.
Smooth sheets pressed against smooth skin.
Snores of a guide dog who has few concerns in this world.
A to-do list that gives purpose instead of need.
A book so good that it refuses to be put down.
Things to anticipate in the week ahead, but not too many to clutter the scene.
An ability to forget or outright reject how the morning bliss won't last.
The knowledge that tomorrow, God willing, will hold another sunrise.
I will celebrate the mornings.

Current Mood: optimistic
Monday, May 30th, 2011
8:28 pm
You never know
Funny how we think we are immune from change, chaos, even tragedy, simply by living a good life and doing what we think is right,, at least more often than not.
Funny how that all can shift in an instant.
Funny how we don't see life-changing moments coming but then remember them in agonizing detail once they have unfolded, even when we wish we'd forget.
Funny how identity is so tied to what we do instead of who we are, then when doing is not an option, we aren't left with much to hold on to.
Funny how taking for granted the little things is such a cliche, but when those little things are threatened, the cliche aspect goes out the door and reality is that those little things should never be devalued or overlooked.
Funny how when something simple becomes urgent and coveted, that we can't let go of it, like keeping the window opened to smell and feel and hear the fresh air, even when it is hot outside or when the rain is falling.
Funny how listening to God's nudging is so much more central once we realize how we ignored it the first time.
Funny how second chances, deep breaths, sunrises, and next steps deserve bells and whistles and standing ovations, though they get none ... or maybe not quite "none" anymore.
Funny how you just never know. You just never know.

Current Mood: confused
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
8:45 am
I'm writing tonight with a wrist splint on my right hand. A few years ago, I started
getting severe pain in my right forearm as I practiced piano. I got through the Christmas performance and stopped playing. The pain retreated and then flared now an then when I would do excessive typing or brailling. Last summer, I did a slow piano piece for church and got through but with pain. In the last three months, it has risen again. I've now had pain with typing, brailling, grooming Elias, doing certain workouts at the gym, and even picking up somethings with my right hand. I finally decided that enough was enough. Hands are just too important to blind people. I saw my GP yesterday, and he strongly suspects at least Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. It might be something additional too as the nerve on the exterior of my forearm was a mess too, not just the inner one that is typical for carpel. I have a nerve conductivity test on May 17, a follow-up appointment with my GP after that, and a likely referral to a hand surgeon after that. The surgery is relatively easy, though the recovery is a real bear from what I've read and heard from those who have had it. I'm
okay with whatever this turns out to be. As I said to my GP, my hands are not negotiable. They must be okay, and if it takes surgery to get them like that, then that's what I'll do. The splint is not too bad. I have to wear it as often as I can and definitely sleep with it. So, there is my latest interesting happening! I have three and a half weeks left of school, and I should have a diagnosis on this hand right about when school lets out.

Current Mood: sore
Friday, April 22nd, 2011
3:30 pm
This week's swimming insights, a q/a format
Question- When is hitting your head, wrist, or forearm twenty-four times on the end of the pool a good thing?
Answer- When you only did it six times last week, so the strength of your strokes and kicks is improving enough that you are getting from one end of the pool to the other with fewer strokes now.
Question- What is the most convincing sign that you are a crooked swimmer?
Answer- When your arm hits the lane rope, but it is the arm farthest away from the rope instead of the one right next to it!
Question- What lesson did an old blind swimming English teacher learn this week while at the pool?
Answer- White canes don't float!!!!!

Current Mood: amused
Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
6:59 pm
Watery musings
While swimming on Friday, I had a barrage of revelations tied to water, living, faith, and all kinds of other things. Ironically, when I got home after the swim, the fountain was already back in the pond behind my house, quite early compared to last year but a seeming underlining of the watery musings that had been filling my mind as I stroked my fifty lengths. Here is my attempt to recapture those thoughts:
1. I often dread the water before starting a swim, but I always feel better afterward. It is starting that is essential when we face a difficult task. If we can simply turn off that resistance button, we will find that the second and third step (or stroke) are far easier than that first one.
2. The water feels cold and debilitating at first, but no matter the initial chill, I warm up quickly with movement. Inertia is perhaps the most dangerous and uncomfortable choice, though it may seem the easiest often. Moving forward is rarely as painful as staying in one place and feeling our will or resolve turn to ice.
3. Water coats the outside of us but somehow doesn't penetrate to our core. God made our skin in a way that protects us from the full absorption of the water. While we don't think about protection very often, other layers of protection are around us in equally as unnoticed ways. How lovely to think that God has other ways He protects us, barriers we may never realize are there but are as substantial as our skin in the water.
4. While doing the back stroke, my ears are completely in the water, so I hear only a muffled bubbly swish. I can choose to keep hearing that or shift so that my head rises above the water. However, if I choose to keep swimming, I am blocked from the screams and screeches and echoes and blasting music in the pool area. I can choose to surround myself with a single-minded focus in my life too, if I want. That can be prayer or staying away from negative influences or seeking serenity. I only need to decide what I want to hear the most.
5. I was thinking of the dolphins I swam with in 1998 when I did my dolphin assisted therapy study and writing. Above the water, we hear nothing from them unless they too are above the water. Below the water, though, they are gifted with the ability to communicate with each other nonstop. Their clicks and squeaks are constant under water, though we don't hear it above the water. God's directing in our lives is constant too, even when we don't hear it or feel it. He speaks to us in ways we don't immediately recognize. Maybe those moments of going below the water in 1998 and hearing the constant chatter of the dolphins are like those moments of perfect communion we occasionally have with God. I myself wish those moments were more plentiful and lasting, but perhaps as we strive for that, it is enough to know that He is always there, and we must cherish the times when we can hear Him clearly.
6. I swim quite crookedly as I count strokes that ideally keep me from hitting the end of the pool with my head or wrist. However, the crooked swimming leads to plenty of encounters with the side wall or the lane rope. I feel embarrassed and frustrated for these interruptions, but perhaps they are necessary for me to appreciate the times when I somehow swim straight and acquire no new bruises. Those good times wouldn't be half as good without the bad times to contrast them. If I can look for the purpose and meaning of both the swift coasting along as well as the crashing, I can remember the balance of both and know that my particular swimming and living journey will contain both. Therefore, I should cherish the smooth and also know that the rough times are not permanent.
7. I stop before the end of the pool and take a step or two to the very end before I resume swimming, to keep from hitting the end. I used to feel guilty about those few seconds of a break. Do they invalidate my huge cardio burn from this draining exercise? No. They are what I need in order to complete the task, just as retreats and long walks with Elias and saying no to excessive commitments are needed for me to be okay. It is all part of the journey.
8. When a wave washes over me, I will not drown. Right after a wave is a non-wave, a gulp of air that I can breathe. I should not panic when that unexpected wave comes. I need to trust my strokes and my purpose. All is well.
9. I go even more crooked when I tense up if someone wants to share the lane with me, even though I fairly warn them of my blindness and my crooked swimming. I cling to one edge of the lane and always am more erratic than other times, even though their sighted perspective leaves all of the responsibility of preventing a crash on their shoulders. Instead of shrinking into a fluttering, flapping mess of a swimmer who feels like I don't have a right to be there, I should stroke strong and true, keeping my mind on my destination and knowing I am worthy to be there. I am not worse or lesser or in the way because of my disability. I am who I was created to be, and I shall keep moving ahead. I am the child of God, and I will claim that privilege.
10. When I come out of the water after fifty lengths, I feel sleek and strong and renewed. Yes, my limbs are like jelly, but somehow, the exercise and water make me feel something like an aquatic goddess when I step back onto the dry land! For that moment when I transition between worlds, I forget all of my physical and emotional and mental and social faults. I, who am my own worst critic, feel for that moment how God must see me: beautiful. No other moment in my week is like that one, and even if fleeting, it is a sparkling moment.
11. My muscles often cramp either near the end of the swim or right after I get out of the water. I do not flinch from the pain, though, for it is a sign of a job well done. Those cramps are my battle scars. They are evidence that I did something mighty. They remind me I'm alive.
12. At the end of a long swim, I go to the whirlpool and steam room for heat. The whirlpool feels so warm at first, but my body adjusts to it eventually so I don't feel the warmth as the minutes pass. That is the signal to move onward. The steam room is so suffocatingly hot that I think for a moment that I can't take it anymore and must leave, but then the steamy furnace stops and I breathe deeply of the wet heat that fills my lungs and causes me to sweat. The hot water of the whirlpool and the sweat from my own body are different waters than in the swimming pool, but they are part of my journey. They are respectively like God's caress and God's cleansing for me. They are as much a part of my swim time as the lengthier time in the pool. They are part of the cycle called life, and that cycle blessedly goes on and on, like the water in the fountain right outside the window where I type right now, pulled up and thrown into the air to land again in the pond and eventually be pulled up again. If that fountain sound goes on forever, I won't complain. If these watery musings go on forever, I can't lose.

Current Mood: accomplished
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
6:49 pm
The showman!
So, I teach as a primary profession, but I do a ton of public speaking too. March held a guide dog presentation at a college dorm, another for sixty 4-h kids, and the children's sermon at church. April will hold a humorous speech at a sorority, a book-oriented speech to Purdue staff members, a book signing, and a chapel presentation followed by classroom visits about guide dogs at a local Christian school. Elias is often terrific at these speaking outings, but this last one for 4-h kids was exceptional for him. The little goofball was on stage like I've never seen him! He wagged so hard when I was demonstrating the position I take next to him that his tail was hitting the back of both of my legs! When I took the harness off to show how it works, he stuck his head through the opening and kissed me right on the lips! When I demonstrated a correction so the kids would know it wasn't abuse, he leaned so hard on my leg while wagging that I staggered to keep my balance! And, when I forgave him for the invisible misdeed that caused the sample correction, he jumped on me and kissed me! When I let the kids file by and pet him off-harness at the end, he rolled onto his back! Of course, he also guided perfectly and then went on an absolute tear when we got home, running circles around my house and being supremely crazed! What a showman!

Current Mood: amused
Saturday, March 12th, 2011
7:09 pm
Strong people know how to keep their lives in order. Even with tears in their eyes, they still manage to say, "I'm okay," with a smile. Even when they're tired of being strong people, they keep putting one foot in front of the other. God is good. Change is coming.
Elias's puppy raiser e-mailed me that message this week. I don't think she saw my last blog post, but she sent the message anyway, and it was an encouragement. Thank you, Miriam. As to the last post, Elias and I tackled that new wing last Monday on our own after counsel from some students, and it was easy. We've done it every day since. On Friday when my own brain blip sent us to another part of the school I'd never explored, Elias showed his stuff by getting me back to the English wing without any commands. I will hold Miriam's words and Elias's patience with me close as I duck my head and prepare for yet another week where strength will hopefully shine as a comforting companion.

Current Mood: contemplative
Sunday, March 6th, 2011
4:22 pm
Not lost, just stuck!
The new wing of my school is for the hallowed teachers of hallowed upper level subjects, so I'll likely never be stationed out there, but I wanted to get my bearings anyway. Plus, there is a mega conference room With Donald Trump chairs, and it is where technology training is happening, and we have several of those these days as we learn to use our new Eno Boards (don't assk as I'm clueless!). So, on Tuesday, I had a student hurriedly show me how to get to the conference room. I was thrilled that my beloved boy got me back to my room after a five minute exposure to where this wing was. On Thursday, I had a colleague give me the real tour of this wing. Understand that it is about as far from the English wing as you can get, plus it is not directly connected from anywhere, more or less slapped onto the back of the building. My colleague showed me a shorter way to get there through a different entry. I was impressed with the facility and had Elias take the lead back the way the colleague had shown me. So, on Friday, I decided to do it myself with Elias and see if we could get around on our own. I got there beautifully. I walked through it beautifully. I also got stuck beautifully! For whatever dumb reason I do the dumb stuff that I do, I tried to mix the entrances when I should have done all one entry or all the other for our first try: dumb! I tried to go in the way my colleague showed me, and that worked. I tried to go out the way the student had showed me on Tuesday, and Elias and I got in an overriding match! He tried to take me to the other entry, and I tried to direct him to where I thought the first entrance was. I didn't try very hard, though, as some teachers teach with their doors opened, and I didn't want to land up in someone's classroom!! Long and short of it was that I confused myself and Elias so much that we had to ask for student help to get out of there. I didn't let the passing student guide me out, just direct me verbally. At least I managed to save that much of my dignity! And, after a well-intended colleague held a door open for me at one point after I said I was looking for the door, I didn't 100% freak when I found myself outside instead of trotting down the next connecting hallway!! Thankfully, the colleague hadn't completely left, so he let me back in or I would have been locked outside of a building wing I had no clue how to get around outside at all! By the time I got back to my room, my heart was in my throat and I was shaking. I reassured Elias who got messed up because of me. Boy, what we do to these dogs, or what I do to this dog anyway! Once I calmed down, I wanted to go back and try again, so my fighting spirit isn't totally dead, just humbled. I'm going again tomorrow, after talking it through with a student and my afternoon ride. We shall overcome! But, until you are blind, you probably don't know how it feels to be aware of exactly where you are and have no clue how to get out of there!

Current Mood: dorky
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
9:01 pm
A Snoring Dog's Prayer
In a follow-up to my previous entry, I wanted to post the picture I entered of Elias in a cute pet photo contest. It is a perfect match to my ponderings in the last post. I also want to include my answer to a friend's query about what I indeed do imagine that Elias knows when he is snoring away while I am stressing away. Here it is, a wise prayer or perhaps a statement of purpose that I hope I will know just as well one day.
"Life is good. It has ups and downs, but it is good. I won't stay awake to ponder the ups, but I also won't stay awake to ponder the downs. I will rest because there is no need to worry about what awaits when I awake. I am safe, warm, well-fed, and loved. I carry nothing with me as I rest my head upon this pillow except the knowledge that life is good. I am not perfect, nor do I ever truly wish to be so. That role is not realistic, nor is it desirable since so much of life's excitement comes from the imperfect things, the challenges or sudden turns that can't be anticipated. So, I'll just close my eyes, knowing that this world will be there when I open them again, and nothing I took with me to this sleep will be any different than it was before I drifted off. It is well."

Current Mood: mellow
Saturday, February 19th, 2011
8:34 am
A dog's snores
So, what does he know that I do not? He snores while I type. He snores while I teach sometimes well and sometimes just in survival mode. He snores while I grade paper after paper after paper. He snores while I become anxious about book-related appearances and concerns. He snores while I feel unwell and pulled too many directions. He snores while I wonder if my efforts to reach out to others with unexpected gifts and notes to lift their spirits have made the difference I pray they do. He snores while I contemplate the first 100% free day I have had in months and months and months, perhaps a couple of years, since before I started the book project.
So, what does he NOT know that I know? He snores while I wonder about my lesson plans for next week. He snores while I wait for headache meds to kick in so I can be headache-free for my day off. He snores while I pray for two dear friends who have cancer as a companion in their lives. He snores while I reflect on the very good teaching moments I had this past week for sophomores and creative writers, making me feel momentarily like Teacher of the Year in all classes. He snores while I contemplate just how I'll ever match up to my own distorted expectations that are just so much higher than those I set for others...which are actually realistic. He snores while I push aside my frustration that a friend thought I'd be on book tours and in six digit figures from book sales of a great book that yields me very little profit and only the promotion and speaking opportunities that I fall into by God's hand, not through a small publisher that offers not a single cent toward any support of the project now that it is out, making me wonder if others have the same distorted view of my role in what I consider a service project and a service for God rather than a way to climb some unknown and unrealistic ladder toward a spotlight I don't crave at all. He snores while I fall short too of my own full and trusting commitment to God and let worry and sadness in far too often.
So, what does he know or NOT know that I don't or do? I would ask him, but he is still sleeping. I would ask him, but when he is awake, he is too busy living in a relaxed state of just being. I would ask him, but even when he is tense, he is too busy looking and sniffing around with the wonder of being alive, even when things aren't ideal. I would ask him, but I think I already know.

Current Mood: contemplative
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
8:47 am
The wonders of winter
So, today is my third consecutive snow day as the winter storm that hit the majority of the country did wonders for us too. We had six intense inches of sleet accompanied by huge winds up to fifty miles per hour. Then, the day after, we had two inches of snow that were blown about by winds up to forty miles per hour. The result? The thickest, meanest ice you could imagine on everything, plus drifts of the fluffy snow on top of the cement-hard ice. I am thinking we'll get back to school tomorrow, but there is no promise of that with the county roads where every one of our nineteen schools in the corporation are located. I've had time to finish up some grading, clean my closet, read two books, send off a surprise package to some friends on the East Coast (well, the package is ready anyway, but we'll just be able to get to the Post Office today), and be more peaceful than I've been for a while. Elias has done well, though the below freezing temps this morning froze his paws just like has happened in the past, causing him to dart to the door before doing his business. He is a poky pottier anyway, and the frigid weather has before been too much for his paws in extreme conditions. So, I broke out the dog boots that Guiding Eyes provided. I put them on him while he was lying down, and he didn't want to stand up! I played with him and teased him into rising, but he stood there humiliated until I dragged him outside. Once he realized that they protected him from the horrible snowy and icy tundra, he went about his business. We'll have to repeat the performance in a bit to get the other "job" out of the way, but maybe he won't fight the idea of boots so much this time since they sure helped him. I have entered a photo of him in a cute pet contest. In the next entry, I'll share it here. It is pretty incredibly awesome, so I hope we win. The prize is one free night at the super bed-and-breakfast I discovered last summer, so I'd love that! Anyway, I am ready for spring, but I see two more chances for snow in the next week's forecast. Such is the Midwest existence!

Current Mood: cold
Monday, January 17th, 2011
5:12 pm
A random collection of thoughts this Monday, following my quick trip to Orlando last weekend to present my book at a dog conference.
1. Flying is not for me, but I did figure out three ways to make it easier and to minimize my fear. Accept the help of airport personnel who know what's what and can cut through the intimmidation of the security process quite well, savor the rare times when empty seats surround you on the plane or when you are upgraded to first class as a complementary way to give your guide dog more floor space, and stop listening to every new buzz or bang and assuming that they mean the plane is going down! With the combination of those factors, I did better on my two flights than I ever did before on planes. I have a hunch I'd get more comfortable with the flying thing if I did it more often, as would Elias who handled the flights well after an initial twenty minutes or so of being wiggly, but I doubt I'll ever make a practice of it as long as teaching is my main profession and being an author and speaker are secondary. However, that first class upgrade could be a persuasive temptation: ooooo those seats are big!!!
2. Whenever you gather over 100 dogs in a small space, training is good, but dog behaviors are going to rise up in spite of training! Whether it was sniffing or distractability or even the barking from two dogs during my banquet speech, these dogs showed they are not machines. They were largely quite behaved, but their dogginess was actually an acceptable reminder that they aren't perfect either, which is a good thing since we humans are awfully skilled at that not-perfect thing ourselves!
3. Old friends are not replaceable, and true friendship picks right up where it left off, even after a long gap. My delight in seeing my retired colleague Jim and his wife Jean was second to none. How we packed so many good moments in our rushed hours together is quite impressive! I cherish their friendship and pledge to embrace other friendships with more passion in light of my great time with them.
4. While the writing of the book almost tore me into shreds at times over the last two years, I now see it as a task that God empowered me to do. By His grace, I put forth a collection of stories and poems that needed to be shared. Now, as I gradually spread the word and find opportunities to speak publiclly about the book's message, I feel how I am guessing a mother feels when a child takes his first steps. I can't take credit for it, but I can bask in the pride of knowing I had something to do with it, some part in a process bigger than me. As Two Plus Four Equals One is embraced, I step back into the shadows and smile to myself, saying, "Good job, my child. Go forward with your own momentum. I'm behind you all the way, but it is now your turn to shine."

Current Mood: contemplative
Sunday, January 2nd, 2011
8:44 am
A cheap date!
I'm not bothering with expensive and destructible dog toys for Elias anymore. While in my garage getting a box of books, I discovered how to entertain my very interesting guide dog! He has always liked the garage, probably from his puppy days when I picture him following his puppy raiser Dick out to his garage to accomplish all of the tasks that males find so fascinating in that manly domain! Well, Elias spotted the recycling bin I have out there, and that was it. He grabbed the empty gallon milk jug in the bin, and he was off to the races! I should perhaps reference a different sport other than races that imply only running. He did run, but he also kicked, threw, nudged, and pounced upon the poor milk jug for five continuous minutes of noisy bliss. It was rather a hybrid of hockey, soccer, polo, football, and volleyball I think. He was in doggy heaven! It was insanely amusing. When he was finished, the jug was crushed and battered, but the dog was proud and satisfied. I wonder what the recycling folks will think when they see the jug? Oh my, Elias! You turn five in about a week, but I doubt you'll ever outgrow some of these nutso things that give you such character. Bravo, my boy! You are the champion!

Current Mood: amused
Sunday, December 19th, 2010
2:29 pm
Funny list of designer dogs!
A friend sent me this crazy list of designer dogs and what they would be like. You know how they give a new name to a breed with two parts, like a lab and poodle cross is a labradoodle? Well, get these funny combos! Thanks for sharing, Suzanne!
1. Collie + Lhasa Apso = Collapso: A dog that folds up for easy transport.
2. Spits + Chow Chow = Spits Chow: A dog that throws up a lot.
3. Newfoundland + Basset hound = Newfound Asset Hound: a dog for financial advisors.
4. Great Pyreness + Dachshund = Pyradachs: a puzzling breed.
5. Pekingese + Lhasa Apso = Peekaso: an abstract dog.
6. Labrador Retriever + Curly Coated Retriever = Lab Coat Retriever: the choice of research scientists.
7. Terrier + Bulldog = Terribull: not a good dog.
8. Bloodhound + Labrador =Blabador: a dog that barks incessantly.
9. Malamute + Pointer = Moot Point: A dog that... oh well it doesn't really matter.
10. Collie + Malamute = Commute: a dog that travels to work.
11. Deerhound + Terrier = Derriere: a dog that is true to the end.
12. Finally, Pointer + Setter = Poinsetter: the traditional Christmas Pet.

Current Mood: amused
Monday, December 13th, 2010
8:50 am
Okay, God, I hear You!
So, I get the message to slow down! In a sequence following the launching of my new book, here is my health record:
1. A terrible cold immediately following the launch party, complete with lost voice and incredibly bad array of other cold symptoms.
2. A lingering cough that persists even today.
3. Four days of spiking high fevers two weekends ago.
4. A back strain sustained yesterday at the gym, so bad that I had a hard time sleeping and couldn't lean down to tie the laces on the boots I had to wear to take Elias out in the snow that has caused us to have a day off of school today.
I think the message is pretty clear, wouldn't you say? I need to slow down, or I'm falling apart piece by piece, or both! I'm listening, God, so please hold whatever #5 is for some other oblivious person who isn't getting a message You are trying to convey! Off to try to find a comfortable position for this aching back.

Current Mood: sore
Thursday, November 25th, 2010
3:31 pm
Thankful for so much
This Thanksgiving Day brings me to much reflection. I am blessed in so many ways and challenged in so many ways. I wonder if the challenges are actually blessings too. I am convinced they are likely the gateways to the greatest blessings. After all, it is not very fulfilling to be set gently down upon a mountain top, as compared to climbing up through toil and exhaustion and danger and despair to finally get to that place. So, as Two Plus Four Equals One spreads its wings and I step back into a role of gentle serenity, may I be at peace in knowing this climb was both loved and hated, but this mountain top is real, and even when the valleys ahead make it difficult to see this summit, I can be grateful to know that this one and others are there, are real, and are blessings, each one of them, whether I can see them or not. Perhaps that is what faith is. Perhaps that is my next expedition: to learn and love serenity and faith as deeply as I was engrossed in this book project. Yes, may it be.

Current Mood: thankful
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
5:12 am
Sunday, October 24th, 2010
8:17 pm
Seven little puppies!
So, Elias is enjoying grandfatherhood! Actually, he is oblivious, seeing as he never even understood that he had puppy children, let alone now puppy grandchildren! Elias's daughter who was chosen for the breeding program at Guiding Eyes gave birth to a litter of seven squirming, adorable black lab pups this past week. May they be healthy and happy, ready to grow into guide dogs like their grandpa, breeding stock like their mom, or delectable pets who will cherish and be cherished by their human companions. Here's to you, my Mag Seven! I'll snuggle your grandpa tonight in your honor!

Current Mood: pleased
Sunday, October 10th, 2010
7:56 pm
Wisdom from a Ninety-Year-Old
My principal came across this recently and shared with us these words of wisdom from ninety-year-old Regina Brett, who continues to live near Cleveland. Maybe because of where I am in life with school, the book, and many other stressers, these pieces of advice just hit me right where it counts.
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save fore retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
13. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
14. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
15. Get rid of anything that isn't useful., beautiful, or joyful.
16. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
17. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
18. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
19. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
20. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
21. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
22. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
23. Forgive everyone everything.

Current Mood: contemplative
Thursday, September 30th, 2010
4:32 pm
Chicago! Chicago! Chicago!
We're off to Chicago in the coming days where my old college will name me Alumna of the Year for 2010. More than that wonderful honor is a chance to reunite with fellow alumni and the professors and staff who made my college time so integral in me becoming the person I am now. I'll see some old friends from the area too and eat true Chicago style pizza, so much different from the chain pizzas that dominate in my area. And, to top it off, Elias and I will do several parts of the journey solo, so it will be a nice test of his abilities and my nerves that always get rattled when it comes to logistical matters. I will come back to the last stretch leading to the book's publication, so hold on tight, Ms. Me, it is about to get very interesting around here!

Current Mood: rushed
Saturday, September 18th, 2010
9:00 pm
Book Project
I owe Lilly a summary document on September 30 to outline the progress/status of TWO PLUS FOUR EQUALS ONE, my anthology of true stories by and about people with disabilities and the working dogs who make their lives easier. I just finished the summary document about ten minutes ago, pending format review from my dad. What is the progress/status? The book is due out in November, ideally November 1. It will be available in print for sure and audio MP3 format hopefully, perhaps in Daisy as well, which is an accessible format for blind readers. We are selecting photos for the book right now, one of the last steps before it goes to print. What is my personal progress/status from this endeavor? Hugely mixed: many awesome times, people, and memories that have helped me grow, along with some times, people, and memories I wouldn't classify as awesome but that still made me grow. I've experienced no higher highs and no lower lows than I have seen in this year and a half working on the book. However, the long and short of it is that I am proud and humbled by the end result, a book that honors people and dogs, that has international and personal appeal, that is the very absolute best I could do. And, when it comes down to it, what else is there to ask from anything? There is my summary of the progress/status of the biggest project I have undertaken...ever. Almost, almost, almost...amen.

Current Mood: contemplative
Saturday, September 11th, 2010
2:22 pm
The cure for grading research papers!
So, when the brain turns to mush and the typing fingers turn to jello and the concentration ability heads straight south and the shoulders turn to knotted up ridges and the rear end turns tingly from sitting too long in the computer chair and you realize that in the chaos of grading 132 research papers you have forgotten to do laundry, change your sheets, go to the gym, order medicines, stock up on food, walk your dog, return e-mails, and even eat, what do you do for a cure to return your life to semi-normal? I don't know what you do, but what I do is revel in the scent of new perfume! Surprised you, right? Not! Ah, my first ever fragrance from Chanel, a wonderful gift from a wonderful friend! Soooo incredible, one of the most glorious smells I have ever had! Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day! I've got a beautiful fragrance! Everything better go my way! If research papers only smelled like this, I'd volunteer to grade even more...maybe!

Current Mood: ecstatic
Saturday, August 28th, 2010
9:23 pm
Boat Potatoes!
I just read the most awesome book: IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER, YOU'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT, by John Ortberg. I was touched every single chapter, but the lasting phrase that still makes me smile is "boat potato." It is similar to a "couch potato," but it plays into the Bible story about trusting Jesus enough to get out of the boat and walk on water to Him. A "boat potato" is someone whose fear is too strong to let her take risks, even when the call of Jesus is super clear. Geesh, I'm not a boat potato in many dramatic categories. I've gone mountain climbing, distance bicycled across three states, traveled to Russia for a five-week exchange, gone swimming with dolphins, and taught sighted teens in a public high school going on my nineteenth year. I am, however, a boat potato in the things that would seem to be of lesser potato-tempting quality. I fear crowds, being in unfamiliar situations, making mistakes, having my dog make mistakes, flying, being less than slim and toned, and doing something stupid, among other things. For a girl who can step off the side of a cliff or confront a teen with multiple tattoos and piercings, my boat potato-ness is startling when it comes to the execution of daily things, making me wonder why I can trust God in the bigger things but struggle more with the smaller stuff. I adore the catchy term Ortberg used in the book and vow to lean into trusting more than ever before. So, are you a boat potato too?

Current Mood: contemplative
Friday, August 13th, 2010
9:36 am
Ten Birthday Wishes
On Tuesday, August 17, I will have a birthday. It is also the first day of school, as it was the very first day I taught in 1992. I thought it would make a fine opportunity to create a birthday wish list for myself:
1. That the year of teaching ahead will be one of successful overcoming of challenges instead of one of succumbing to the tension of reduced staff, increased class sizes, and funding cuts for everything.
2. That the release of my book will be smooth and gentle, reaching those who it needs to reach without sending me into a spin of stress and worry about any and all details.
3. That Elias's work and health will continue to be strong as I continue to accept him for the things he does well and the things that make him imperfect like me.
4. That my faith may grow and spread to be my default anchor in times of joy and sorrow.
5. That my family and friends will be well and happy as they live the lives given them to lead, touching mine in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.
6. That this lovely house of mine will never lose its serene beauty for me, nestled on the shore of a lake whose bubbling fountain and abundant water birds bless me with the sound of peace.
7. That my workouts will continue to be rewarding ventures, even if aging has made softness have more staying power than it ever did before.
8. That worldly pleasures like perfume, good mysteries, following gymnastics, wind chimes, bracelets, soft things, coffee, and tea may be the balm I need when the bumps and bruises of this life feel a little too painful to leave untouched.
9. That I may never lose the wonder of fresh air, long walks, beautiful music, laughter, and sunrises.
10. That the year ahead will be a blessing in all ways, not just for me but for everyone, unveiling itself as a magnificent tapestry of so much, all to God's glory.

Current Mood: hopeful
Saturday, August 7th, 2010
10:57 am
Consider helping Guiding Eyes for the Blind
This is an easy and wonderful way to help the school that trained Elias to be such a great guide dog. GEB is in the running for $250,000! Amazingly, the entire decision about whether they will be one of the organizations to get this incredible amount of money for their programs is based on how many people vote for them in the month of August. The money is slated to go to their autism dog program, but funding for that program will free other funds for their guide dogs, so the entire school will benefit. In these hard times when donations to all charities are down, please consider taking a few minutes each day to vote for GEB throughout this month.
I'll paste in the link. You need to click on JOIN the first time you go to the site. It is a short and simple process to register. Then, once you are in and you hear the complementary sound effects, just click on VOTE FOR THIS IDEA. It will give you a funny message when your vote goes in, like COOL or AWESOME or BRAVO. You can leave a comment on the page about GEB too if you wish. After you register for the first time, you will just need to SIGN IN when you go back the next day to vote again.
A few things to consider. It indicates you have ten votes a day, but that means ten for ten different organizations, only one for GEB. You'll see many different grant levels. Only the organizations also going for $250,000 are direct competitors for GEB. You can get in a second daily vote for GEB by texting from your phone if you wish. You will see in the comments that many other organizations are supporting GEB with the hope of GEB supporters voting for them too. Again, only those in the same financial level are direct competitors, so votes for those supporting groups are a nice idea. Remember that you have to SIGN IN each day before your vote counts, and the successful sign-in has occurred if you hear the sound effect of pouring soda.
If you have questions or trouble figuring this out (not really the most user-friendly site, but not too bad), let me know. I appreciate you considering doing this. It will take a few minutes to JOIN the first time and less than a minute a day to vote by SIGNING IN and VOTING. Here is the link; Elias says thank you:

Current Mood: hopeful
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
6:44 pm
I'm broken,
In pieces,
Not whole anymore,
In pain,
In disarray,
Suddenly changed,
In one crystalized moment,
What was one
Is no longer one,
Not meant to be,
Split from the ideal,
Aware with every step
That I'm so not okay,
Held together by adhesives
That don't touch the inside,
That don't promote healing,
That Only cover the outside
And only trumpet my brokenness,
Just as pain sounds a similar note,
Whistling through my awareness
And telling me that life
Won't be quite the same for now,
Slower and harder,
Brokenness does that,
And there isn't a quick cure,
For two to become one ...
This darned broken toe I got this morning must heal!!!

Current Mood: distressed
Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
7:28 pm
The most incredible quote
I know I've written about wonderful quotes here before and truly still savor the beauty of all of them I've shared. Here is another, just as beautiful and poignant as can be:
"In life as in the dance, grace glides on blistered feet." Alice Abrams.
I love this soooo much. I love the comparison of life to a dance. I love wondering about "the dance," not just "a dance" or even just "dance." I contemplat what "the dance" is, and my imagination flies. I love the alliteration of "grace glides," and those two words are gorgeous-sounding anyway with "glides" being an especially strong verb. "Grace" makes me think of the grace of God tied to forgiveness and mercy as well as the grace of gymnasts and figure skaters in two of my favorite sports. "Blistered" is so harsh, but I know from experience that those painful tears come after pressure and time spent in uncomfortable places. Blisters on the feet suggest long difficult walks or energy-sapping runs. And yet, grace still glides on feet that scream with pain. It encourages me to walk with grace, both meanings of it, even though I have blisters that rip at my heart. Oh, I love this quote!

Current Mood: indescribable
Sunday, July 11th, 2010
8:42 pm
Elias thinks they are evil! A good three or four houses before a sprinkler spreads water across yard and sidewalk, Elias puts on the "no way" attitude and stops dead in his tracks! It takes coaxing to get him up closer before I allow him to take me onto the street and around the dreadful water monsters! This morning, he tried to take me up onto the grass and around, but when he saw that wouldn't work, we had to backtrack to the safe street! Of course, this is neighborhood travel that is easy and free from traffic, but his insistence is pretty firm: "We ain't going to get nowhere near them there horrid wet things, and everyone is gonna think I'm keeping you dry like a noble guide dog, but it's all about me really, and I ain't gonna get wet no way no how!" Thus, the old lady who watched us dodge a sprinkler tonight complimented Elias up and down while I smiled and thought to myself, "You deceitful wimpy baby dog!"

Current Mood: amused
Thursday, July 1st, 2010
5:11 pm
The Amish way of life
I just returned from three days in a part of the state where Amish families still farm, dress, cook, worship, and get around in the simplicity of the past with a focus on living for God without technology, electricity, and modern society. It is an intriguing lifestyle, and it certainly makes one contemplate what matters when you simplify this complicated world. If I stripped off this and that and this and that, I wonder how my personality and commitments would change. I wonder how my faith would respond. I wonder what would be left underneath all these layers of existance that shape my world these days. It goes right back to that "doing" versus "being" issue I pondered a few posts back. The Amish certainly "do" plenty, at a very young age too, with siblings caring for youngsters, running errands via bike transport, and completing countless chores on the farms. But they have a pretty good grasp on "being" too, with pleasant demeanors and an apparent satisfaction with family, faith, friendship, and imagination rather than the clutter that I embrace, including the computer on which I type right now. Yet, that uncluttered state is a little daunting to me.I think I'm a little intimmidated about meeting the "me" underneath all of that clutter, but this little vacation to Amish country has certainly made me wonder what is necessary and what is decore only. Definitely a concept to ponder.

Current Mood: pensive
Saturday, June 19th, 2010
12:14 pm
My book has a publisher! Deadlines are now not just my own, and it feels good! My assistant and I are cranking out the productivity in an incredible way, and by November 1 if all goes well, we'll be holding a finished book in our hands, along with many other people I hope! The heartbeats that give me excitement in that prospect have sped up and slowed down in mountain-top and valley moments in this journey, but they are steady and hopeful right now. So, to celebrate, I'm going to book a spot on that river bank...right after I meet my first deadline at the end of this coming week!

Current Mood: excited
Saturday, June 5th, 2010
7:58 pm
First Walk
A friend got a new guide dog this week and is in the midst of the three-week training class at the school she chose. I myself am well into my career with Elias, but we had a first walk of our own this week. Following my medical timeout due to major surgery, Elias and I teamed up once more. Today marked my first solo walk with him since May 11. It felt good. Well, it felt tiring and mildly painful, but it still felt good to have our partnership still there. It will still take some time for me to build up my strength. The walk today was definitely short. However, it is a step, and I love taking steps by Elias's side.

Current Mood: accomplished
Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
8:56 am
More on the river bank
I've been home from the hospital for a week now and am still settling into my river bank, as referenced in the last entry. However, I'm figuring out some things about myself. One realization is that I base a good deal of my worth as a human being on what I do versus who I am, what matters to me, and why I do what I do. Now that the "what I do" has been temporarily put out of reach as I recover in relative solitude, I've struggled to be content and feel Like I matter very much at all. I am finding some reconfiguring happening, though, and while it isn't in stone or as easy or pain-free as I'd wish, I am quietly excited about some new ways of looking at things that are kindling in my river bank experience post-surgery. Elias, on the other hand, still sprints to the front door whenever anyone goes out, hopeful to feel the harness on his back once more. However, if I am honest, he still treasures just "being" pretty well. He greeted a visitor yesterday and then left the room to spill himself across his dog bed and snooze the morning away. That he does leap to action when presented an opportunity to go somewhere doesn't discount his mastery of relaxing and leaning into his ability to be still. So, I can learn from him too, and without doubt, I certainly will. After all, there is time to learn much on this river bank.

Current Mood: calm
Sunday, May 9th, 2010
2:39 pm
The bank of the river
This week will see me do something I don't do often or well. I will slow down. Medical circumstances will force it, but I am preparing this afternoon to embrace the quiet time. Elias too will have a slowing down segment in his work as my faithful guide dog since I will be unable to work him for probably a month or so while I recover from a serious surgical procedure. Rather than contemplate the difficulty of my coming days and weeks and the pain that will accompany them, I am choosing at this moment to lean into the fact that I will let go of the many stresses and deadlines of a life that is often hectic rather than serene. It shouldn't take a major medical happening to make me appreciate a life of quiet, but it seems that it may be just that, pulling me out of the fast lane and letting me be still. I found a terrific quote by an unknown author. "The mark of a successful man is one who has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it." My river bank awaits. Come Wednesday, I will begin my entire day on the bank of a river, with many more similar days following that. May this be a time of rest and renewal, and may I learn more than I know now about serenity and stillness.

Current Mood: mellow
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
7:41 pm
So, he has enough toys to destroy systematically for hours, enough bones to chew aggressively for hours, and enough adoration from me and others to revel in shamelessly for a lifetime of hours, but Elias still enjoys grabbing my ancient slippers from the back door and running around like a toddler on Christmas morning, not chewing them to shreds but parading his illegal catch for all the world to see! You'd think he'd be more subtle when doing something he is not allowed to do, like nabbing my footwear, but he is as obvious as an elephant in the living room when he has a slipper! It always makes me laugh and come charging in to mock scold him while I chase him around a bit before he unprotestingly drops the contraband at my feet and wiggles with pride over his antics. Hmmm, maybe he is that obvious for a reason, to get me away from my mountain of work and to get me to laugh and to get me to play. Hmmm, I think my dog is smarter than I am!!!

Current Mood: amused
Friday, April 9th, 2010
7:41 pm
Mother Teresa Quote
I am in the busy season at school: April and May where everything that can be considered a partner to chaos comes in and layers itself like a super-sized sandwich in two short months! One way I stay sane amid projects, midterms, tests, preparing final exams, awards nights, banquets, speeches, recommendation letters, end-of-the-year concerts, inventories, parties, book project deadlines, and a myriad of other things is to knock things off of my to-do list whenever I have the time, even if the things aren't high immediate priorities. One task I had on my large list was to prepare gifts for a couple of my favorite seniors who are graduating. I will save the description of my favorite graduation gift for later, but I do always share one quote with my special graduates. It is from Mother Teresa and is simply one of my favorite quotes ever. It is long, but the words are something I myself must clutch closer to my heart daily, and they are definitely something that graduates should take with them, of perhaps more value than even that diploma. Here is the quote:
People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you;
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight;
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten;
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
- - -
Isn't that awesome! It gets down to what motivates us, who we are trying to please. I had that quote handwritten into the gift packages of my seniors, and I pray it can be engraved in my own heart today, as well as onto yours.

Current Mood: thoughtful
Thursday, April 1st, 2010
7:42 pm
Duck or Goose
My lovely home backs right up to a pond that will have a fountain in it soon, but for now, it is just a large patch of calm water that is somewhat attractive to water birds, such as ducks and geese. Three nights ago while I slept, at least one duck and at least one goose decided that the pond wasn't big enough for all of them! I awoke to a very verbal goose or geese yelling at a very vehement duck or ducks. The argument, which was literally back and forth like a human tiff, lasted for at least fifteen minutes! Seeing as my bed's head board butts up against the windows that overlook the lake and that will soon allow the gorgeous sound of running water to help my nights fill up with sleep, the feathered argument was not something I could tune out! Elias's crate butts up to the same wall, and even Prince I-Can-Sleep-Through-Everything-Even-Your-
Really-Loud-Teaching woke up! Finally, I heard the goose or geese do something I didn't know geese could do: raise the pitch of the raucous squawks that are not super appealing anyway, to an octave or two above normal pitch, all the while increasing the rate of the squawks, kind of like a jittery tea pot that reached boiling and wanted the world to know it! It was all quickly followed by the flap-flap of a large bird or two rising up from the pond and flying away. Then, there was silence. I went back to sleep. The next day, my parents said only a pair of ducks were swimming serenely on the pond. In the battle of the winged ones that night, the gabby goose or geese were downed by the defiant duck or ducks! Geesh, I feel like I should be telling this story while circling a ring of children and patting their heads while using a sing-song voice to celebrate the beaked bruisers who so rudely interrupted my sleep!

Current Mood: dorky
Sunday, March 21st, 2010
9:00 pm
Lifting the load
My Monday night cycling class at the gym was canceled. While I could join the same class on a different night, I am choosing for now to go it alone, using the spinning bike myself once a week and relying on the techniques I learned from two instructors in the five weeks during which I did the class. After all, there is only so much you can do on a bike, and I feel that I know what that is now. Plus, I'm highly disciplined, and I'd sure rather listen to my own music than the rocky selections that dominated the class. With that in mind, I hit the bike yesterday at the gym, along with my ear buds pumping in an old praise and worship CD that I adore. It was awesome, sweat and calories pouring all over the place! As I approached the last song, I felt accomplished. I'd rotated from staying seated and varying my speed during the even songs, and standing on the pedals and varying my grip on the odd songs. The last was an odd song, so up I went. My grip was very low with me leaned over, almost parallel to the ground with my chest. This, of course, lifted my rump up into the air in a less-than-glorious position! I didn't care, until the last song started playing. I practically laughed out loud -- and would have if I'd had enough breath left to do so! The song, done in incredible harmony by a barber-shop-style male group of singers singing along to a snappy beat? "Your load will be much lighter, when Jesus lifts your load!" Okay, I laughed out loud now as I typed this! Yepper, I was waving my derriere in the air while I listened to Jesus lifting my load! The song went on to say that my heart will be rejoicing and that we'll shout alleluia when Jesus lifts the load! The catchy counter-phrase sung in a majestic bass tone? "When Jesus lifts your HEAVY load!" I didn't know Jesus had an opinion about my physical shape! Hahaha! Love it so much that I can't wait to do it again next Saturday, to the same CD on the same up-down rotation! We'll see how long it takes my "heavy" load to get lighter!

Current Mood: amused
Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
8:37 pm
When I walked with Elias today, I smelled spring. It might be squashed by a cold and rainy weekend coming up in a couple days, but it is still here and will rise up, even after a squashing. Maybe that is why I like perfumes so much. I know that when one day goes badly and I was wearing a particular fragrance, I can always change to another one the next day, to match my mood and my hope and my expectation. Yesterday in creative writing, we did a smell activity that I always do in my poetry unit with them. I brought six of my most different perfumes in to school. I also brought six of my socks, all different in texture and color. I sprayed one perfume onto the toe of each sock. My students sniffed the fragrances and wrote down both adjectives that described the scents and also memories or images that were triggered by the scents. Yes, the image in the classroom was teenagers methodically sniffing a teacher's socks! Funny stuff! But, their reactions were classic, always the same, lasting, just like the scent of spring and like my own supply of too many perfume bottles. Scents matter. They matter to me. They reflect creativity, mood, and personal expression. I am even now wondering which scent I could choose for tomorrow to lift me up. I wonder if and/or how long I'll hold out until I buy another bottle. It is like an eternal hope. The next scent will be it, the one to keep me holding onto joy and physical wellness and possibility. It will keep me from squashing those things like the chilly weekend that signals the start of a week-long break will do to spring. Oh, scents, come do your magic!

Current Mood: drained
Monday, March 8th, 2010
9:15 pm
This Sunday at church, I read Isaiah 55: 1-9. I'd wanted to memorize it the way I did the first time I did the Bible reading at church, but the events of the week left no possibility of that. My thoughts were filled with the triumph of the Purdue event going well but also and more powerfully the tragedy of over 150 teachers in my corporation receiving notices that their jobs very well might not be theirs next year. This included at least 35 in my own school and 6 in my own department. As I stood at the front of the church, after Elias guided me flawlessly up the stairs to the altar, my fingers glided over the dots, my voice heavy with the tension and sorrow of the events at school. I have always loved the book of Isaiah, ever since several passages found their permanent way into my heart in college when my vision took a major dive. This Sunday, I let another piece of Isaiah into my heart: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." I paused there and pondered. I paused there and blinked away a tear of gratitude. It is wonderful that God already knows the answers to turmoil and uncertainty. It is wonderful that He has purposes that we can trust, even if we never understand them here on earth. I wonder if we'll understand in heaven, or if it just won't matter anymore. Thank goodness that His ways are not our ways: hurting each other, devaluing each other, criticizing each other, pointing fingers at each other. Thank goodness our God's ways are different than that! Also, His thoughts are different than ours. Mine right now? I'm exhausted, shaky, battered from a cruel e-mail in response to a guest column I wrote for the local paper to explain where my colleagues were in all of this strife, unsure about what next year will look like, partly guilty for being grateful my job is being spared while younger teachers with babies and little savings will likely be jobless. Those are my thoughts, but Isaiah is tapping at my heart's door again as Elias sighs and whimpers in his sleep. Isaiah reminds me whose thoughts and ways are higher: mine or the Lord's. No comparison there, so I hit "submit" and go lay myself down to rest for another day on this earth.

Current Mood: sad
Sunday, February 28th, 2010
7:23 pm
Obligations, Faith, and Gold Dust
As the week unfolds, I hold these things on my rather crowded plate: the publishing of the school newsletter I write four times a school year, the last five days of the report card grading period, one more TALE OF TWO CITIES quiz to grade before report cards, the last short story to grade for creative writing before report cards, a very important speech at Purdue on Tuesday, Sub notes for my absence on Tuesday, mild anxiety about how Elias will handle the immense crowds at Purdue and the other service dogs at the event, cycling class tomorrow night at the gym, continued work on my book project, continued work on a piano song I'm learning for church, supporting a friend who retired her guide dog tonight for medical reasons before the dog turned eight years old, the horrid anticipation of RIF letters for many of my colleagues at school as budget cuts destroy the morale of our school and corporation, the continued waiting to see if the local paper prints the guest column I submitted about the budget cuts, rejoicing with another friend who feels the calling to serve a medical mission in Uganda in the coming months, suffering with yet another friend whose many stressers include a possible breast cancer diagnosis, and a multitude of other things I won't mention here. I also ponder a lesson I read in a book this past week, that we often need to just get out of God's way when we are trying to impose our will on everything, blocking the way for His will to enable us to face all He wants us to face. I came across this magnificent quote from Helen Keller that I will use in the close of the speech at Purdue: "True, I cannot see the stars scattered like gold dust in the heavens, but other stars, just as bright, shine in my soul." So, how do I put this all together? The many obligations, the desire to do God's will, and the preservation of the stars that shine in my soul? I think it all only meshes with a deep breath, a prayer, and a recognition that God already knows exactly where He wants me to be one day from now, one week from now, one month from now, one year from now, and one lifetime from now. I need only to focus on Him. Then, all will be well.

Current Mood: anxious
Friday, February 19th, 2010
7:50 pm
One year ago this weekend, I opened my mailbox to find a thick envelope from the Lilly Foundation. I was named one of only nine recipients of a fellowship that would allow me to follow a dream. My dream was to write and edit the first ever full-length anthology of stories about people with disabilities and the working dogs trained to make their lives easier. Could I have known the journey that this project would involve, I am not sure I'd have had the courage to accept the fellowship. The book will be published later this year, God willing. That, in a sense, will be the easy part. I won't try to list the many things I have done for the first time this past year in relation to the project, but a few highlights include extensive media coverage to promote the project, creation of the web site for the project, drafting of all kinds of materials to send to hundreds of schools and organizations to get support and submissions, sorting through over 300 submissions from around the world, conducting countless interviews and writing even more countless pieces about those individuals and their dogs, welcoming and then seeing the departure of an assistant for the project, creating a judging panel of people to help select writings, writing a sixty-nine page book proposal (with more layers than the surface of the earth, studying the process to obtain an agent or publisher, sending to at least two agents or publishers every week, notifying those whose writings were selected for the book, and making a plan for edits and revisions for the book in coming months. There is much ahead, things I won't elaborate on as they make my stomach tight with anxiety about how much of this journey remains. However, it isn't really the list above that has me mark this last year as one of the most challenging and remarkable of my life. Through this process as I handled more work and stress and pressure than I've ever confronted, I started to learn about myself and my God. Again, elaboration isn't necessary here, but suffice it to say that the vision I have of what I think I should be and be able to do is not a mirror image of the vision God has for me and what He has made me specially suited to do in His world. I think in my life before, the forceful power of my intense competitive nature, my intelligence, and my drive have pretty much compensated when my vision for my life didn't match God's, and I didn't get the message about basing my existence on His picture for me instead of mine. This past year, those innate factors of competitiveness, intelligence, and drive weren't enough to make up the difference between my vision and God's vision for me. The deficit was devastating. The realization that God's vision for me is good was lifesaving. I don't remember the lesson every day, but when I do, the realization that God created me with exactly the abilities to do what He wants me to do is magnificent. The fact that He didn't create me always for what I want to do is less impactful when I know that He knows much more than I do. In essence, this Lilly project will yield a book that will change lives. The book will be the tool of change. The process itself has been the tool for my change. As I continue to lean into the truth of this revelation, continue to mourn the loss of what I thought I knew about myself and my potential, and continue to imprint the comforting realities of God's purposes for me upon my heart, I can only imagine the moment when I hold the first copy of this book in my hand. Maybe for me, it won't be binding and paper and printed words and adorable photos of outstanding people and dogs. Maybe it will be a picture of myself, this time satisfied with learning what God created me to be and do. Maybe that is the gift you offered me, Lilly Foundation. Maybe that will be the true reward. If so, Lilly, I thank you.

Current Mood: contemplative
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
3:31 pm
Snow Days
Two of them in a row! Not as bad a storm as anticipated, but enough to keep us home yesterday and then leave us there today with wicked wind blowing the snow everywhere. I dread the thought of dealing with the ice and drifts tomorrow at school when I take Elias out for relief. At least at home, I have familiar reference points, even though my home is new and is still not old-hat to my sense of layout. However, I enjoy teaching. I enjoyed time not to be teaching too, so I could work on the newsletter, read, rest, start learning a new song on the piano for Easter, and play with my little labby boy. It helps me not to think about stressers like the project and the school board meeting tonight when cuts in programs and personnel will be announced. It is impossible to think in concrete terms when snowflakes are spinning in every direction. So, snow days are just fine. At least we don't have feet of snow like other places. And, it all gets me in the spirit for the Olympics that start in two days. What a wandering post! It is the snow day mentality, the absence of structure removing any practical patterning in thought and writing too, apparently. I'll sign off and go crawl under a fuzzy blanket now, letting everything spin spin spin. Be safe, and try the wandering path yourself sometime. It isn't a bad thing, when you don't have anywhere to go!

Current Mood: lazy
Monday, February 1st, 2010
8:53 pm
Cycling away
This evening, I completed my first ever cycling class at the gym. Working independently on the machines or swimming in the enclosed lane have been my tickets the last few years since I joined the gym to get in shape. But, I was hankering for something new to inject into my workout routine. Cycling, or spinning as some people call it, was the only option for a class that a blind person could do well. I was nervous, but it worked quite well. A friendly student, a friendly parent of a former student, and a friendly fellow teacher brought smiles to my face. The teacher and the class instructor stayed near and gave me extra cues when I missed an instruction. I completed the whole class with plenty of sweat but also plenty of pride. For a while there, I was back in 1995 when I was young and a part of the Christian cycling group that I joined for three states of their cross-country endeavor. I was on a tandem bike there, feeling the rush of fresh air as we did up to the crazy 120 miles in one day that will forever be my biggest single-day physical output. Tonight, I was in an echoing gym with rock music playing and an instructor shouting out commands. Still, the freedom was there. I was less blind tonight than usual, as I pictured the rolling hills of upper Michigan that were part of my 1995 adventure. Though tonight's bicycle didn't go anywhere, I still feel I reached my destination anyway. The journey continues.

Current Mood: pleased
Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
8:51 pm
About as unwelcome as wind, ice is a personal enemy. As I type, wind whips and ice falls! Guess who is staying inside? We were not supposed to have much if any freezing rain. We have plenty. Probably, it will be gone by the morning, so school won't be affected, but the wind and ice make me glad to have four solid walls around me and heat to keep me warm. Since dogs see most ice as similar to puddles, Elias isn't superb about avoiding the slippery stuff, though he does slow way down. Here's hoping we won't have anything to worry about in the morning. And, if I want to have a bit of lightness this evening instead of anxiety about the weather outside, I need only remember what one of my creative writing students said today when we talked about creating a fantasy world where what we consider "normal" is not their "normal." He suggested a world where rain was blobs of orange Jello instead of water! Can you imagine? We might see little kids begging to go out for recess in the rain and standing around with their heads tilted back and mouths open, catching the Jello on their eager tongues! I wonder what freezing rain would be in my student's make-believe world: orange sherbet?

Current Mood: anxious
Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
7:00 am
Elias Turns 4!
Elias celebrates the big "4" on January 12! He is a champ, good at most everything: guiding, chewing bones, sleeping, destroying toys, running, slobbering water all over the place when he drinks, grunting, drive-by sniffings! I love him, and he even still loves me sometimes! He hasn't even thrown in the towel after I forced him into the picture below for a photo contest that raised funds for GEB. Guess what? Our birthday boy was the only active guide dog to win a prize in the photo contest! What was the honor? His photo was named "Most Out There!" I think I'm proud of that! I might have shared this photo before, but it is still the finest illustration of how tolerant and flexible he is. Can't get every dog to keep his birthday butt on a beach chair for ten minutes!! Anyway, celebrate this yellow guy's special day with me, and give an extra hug to those furry people in your lives. They should be most grateful that they didn't have to wear snorkeling goggles for some stupid photo!

Birthday Boy is Ready for the Beach!
Birthday Boy is Ready for the Beach!

Current Mood: chipper
Thursday, January 7th, 2010
6:15 pm
1. Yesterday was three years since I had to say goodbye to Raffles, my first guide dog. Hard to believe that much time has passed. A story about his last day was the single writing about my own dogs that I have definitely placed in the manuscript of my book about working dogs who help people with disabilities. I miss him still, but that story will help him live on when the book is published hopefully later this year.
2. We are in the middle of a pretty bad snow storm. Early release from school today and already a two-hour delay for tomorrow morning, with a likely cancellation to follow, in my opinion. Elias is loving the snow and is being as silly as a child when he goes out! Thankfully since I am still staying with my parents, he can go out without me as they can watch him in their yard while I stay warm and dry!
3. Sadly, today brought news to the Kate Mcray family that her brain tumor remains, even after vigorous treatment. She is the little girl who was at the center of the Christmas gift drive I posted about some weeks back. Her family needs continued prayers. Their site is
4. I have lots of students this new semester, including some from Germany, Russia, and Japan. It looks like a fun semester, though grading will be gigantic with 52 creative writers, doubling the most I've ever had in one semester!
5. In my devotions last night, I read about how Jesus didn't go around proclaiming His position and His role. He lived a life of reaching others, answering the tough questions when confronted but using His daily life as a testament to His purpose. I am claiming that as my daily charge to make a difference at school and beyond. When my words can't be direct statements of faith, my actions can be. I knew that before, but I feel even more aware of it now. I hope to feel this intense a connection to that truth always.

Current Mood: lethargic
Sunday, January 3rd, 2010
6:32 pm
I was standing in a very crowded Cracker Barrel restaurant on Friday, feeling the frigid wind from the door freeze the back of my legs each time someone came in. When the door closed, it was a huge relief, and I felt warm, even though the temp couldn't have been heated enough to officially be "warm" that quickly after the opening/closing door had let in the single-digit wind. It got me wondering if "warmth" is simply the absence of "cold." Is it that basic, that to feel warm, all one needs is the removal of outright cold? My philosophical mind danced down the path further. Are these things then true?
Happiness is the absence of sorrow.
Confidence is the absence of insecurity.
Love is the absence of hate.
Courage is the absence of fear.
Energy is the absence of exhaustion.
Success is the absence of failure.
Faith is the absence of doubt.
Peace is the absence of strife.
Hope is the absence of discouragement.
Satisfaction is the absence of regret.
I am a good teacher when I don't do something badly.
Elias is a good guide dog when he doesn't screw up.
My book project will be beneficial if it doesn't hurt anyone or anything.
I can be an influence for good in this world if I do nothing to harm it.
This list seems very off to me, many of these things being untrue, at least for me. On the upbeat note, it tells me to be content in the mellow, medium times when nothing hugely negative is there, even if nothing hugely positive is there either. Rejoice in the daily, mundane things without needing the mountain top experiences. But, it also suggests that the positive thing is only true when the negative thing isn't present, at all. To me, the positive is more positive because of the negative element being real and sometimes very, very powerful. I was grateful for the warmth when the door closed in Cracker Barrel, and I was grateful to be reminded of it. But, I wouldn't have had a single thought about the warmth if the cold wasn't there, constantly looming and promising a revisit to me regularly. Deep thoughts for this January evening before a new semester starts tomorrow. I march on, reminded by this very post that I am not a surface liver, that I simply lack the skills to skim along without these kinds of thoughts. Ah, such is the construction of this mind! Onward to the next ponderings, whatever they may be.

Current Mood: contemplative
Sunday, December 27th, 2009
6:42 pm
... And the glory shone around, the glory of the Lord. Reference the previous post for context. My fingers were perfect in praise today, and I was very glad. Hope you enjoyed my song, Lindy.

Current Mood: grateful
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