"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Inviting Change and Accepting the Responsibility that Comes With It

I have applied to receive a hearing service dog from Susquehanna Service Dogs. They have an impressive program. When I went to the interview to meet the people behind the scenes, Kelly Blair, Patty and her demonstration service dog Steel, we left the appointment wondering how in the world did I even get along without one of these remarkable furry companions all these years.

Each dog is matched with a potential person by personality traits of both the dog and the person, then the dog is trained according to your specific help needs. It is amazing what a difference they can make. I learned that the dog will be trained to let me know when a timer goes off, the phone ring, someone is at the door, when I drop something, a tea kettle whistling, an alarm (how often I want to take a nap during the day but I can't because I'm afraid I'll sleep through and not be at the school  in time to pick up Little Fellow). These may seem like small things to a normal hearing person, but they are important when you are no longer able to hear well. Also, the dog will alert me to when someone is speaking to me. They are even teaching one dog to nudge someone when an emergency vehicle with a siren is nearby! How cool is that? I've had a vehicle behind me before and didn't notice right away. I looked up in my rear view mirror and saw the lights. How long had it been there, and how long had I been in their way, I wondered.

It would be so much easier on my family, too, having the extra help. Just today I told my son I wish he had let me know when the water was boiling over. My husband has had to come into the room from the other part of the house just to tell me the tea kettle was whistling. I had a friend waiting on my doorstep recently because no one answered the doorbell. I came out when I saw her vehicle outside.

My only concern is that taking care of the creature is a huge responsibility and I know nothing about the care and maintenance. I mentioned this to my friend Cathy the other day when we were at lunch. She put it so aptly direct, "You can either sit at home on your a** the rest of your life, or you can take the responsibility and get that dog and get out and live.  You have only one shot at this life and it's short."

That's a good friend, someone who puts it into perspective and tells you how it is. I thanked her. I knew exactly what I needed to do that moment.

I came home and filled out all the extensive paperwork, personality evaluation and answered all the essay questions. My references have gone out to everyone except my doctor. I have an appointment with her this coming week. Then it's time to wait.

It can take up to a couple of years to find the right match between the human and the dog, and then both go through rigorous training. This is a service dog I'm applying for, not a companion. I need a service dog that will accompany me everywhere I go to help me "hear". This means they will be trained for public transportation, to behave in restaurants, appointments, at the school where I volunteer, etc. Speaking of appointments, I'll never worry about sitting in a waiting room wondering if they called my name and I didn't hear them or see them call me. Though I inform the receptionist I'm hearing impaired and need to be sure I see them when they call my name, sometimes they forget.

I'm so excited about this, but I still worry about being a good caretaker for the furry creature. I know so little. Fabulous Husband has had dogs, and his last one lived a long and healthy happy life. That is reassuring to me, knowing that I'll have someone to help, but the brunt of the responsibility is on me because we are to have a working bond and in order for that to work, I have to be the one that does all the care and tending. It was explained that it will be like having a baby, everywhere I go, the dog must go, such as fitting rooms, public restrooms, etc. I will never be alone. That's an odd thing for someone who has spent a lot of her life alone. With babies, they grow and then they go off to school eventually. With the service dog, they are a constant presence. With that, comes a sense of peace, not having to worry about missing a call or visitor or the alarm and so many other things I once took for granted when I had better hearing.

Life is full of interesting changes. I'm looking forward to the changes a furry friend will bring to our lives.

Check out Susquehanna Service Dogs here: http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/ssd/ssd.php

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rebuilding Confidence

I love Twitter. I love all the information and conversations flying around in phrases written in 140 characters or less. If you're open to a lot of different people and ideas,  and  you're willing "follow" them, you're going to be learning about things you never heard of before, maybe even try a few new things along the way.

I started following Stephanie over a year ago. We had never met. I added her when I signed up for twitter because she showed up in a "local" search. I was looking for new people and friends. Being fairly new to PA, it seemed like a good plan at the time. It proved to be an excellent plan in the end.

A number of months ago, she started tweeting about a new class she and her husband had been attending. At first, I thought it had something to do with yoga. I was interested because I used to practice Power Yoga daily before moving to PA. The class had an odd name, one I couldn't remember, but I rather envisioned it was the new yoga trend where people are doing difficult yoga positions in a very hot room. Then came the tweet she mentioned the practice that day left her with a fat lip. Somehow, yoga and a fat lip were beyond my imagination, but I didn't think to look any further into it until the invitation.

It wasn't a private invitation, but an open tweet to "anyone interested in trying a free class" kind of invitation. I thought to myself, why not? I love yoga, would love to get back into it and back into shape and I would also love to meet the lovely person behind all the interesting tweets.

Yoga, it was not. The class she and her husband are taking is self defense specialized hand to hand combat Marine Corp Martial Arts of the most intense degree. It was fascinating. Once the class began, they were doing exercises around the mats, running, pulling life sized dummies back and forth, and at one point, pummeling the snot out of them. I was impressed. Shortly after all that, she comes over and informs me this is just the warm up exercises.

After warming up, we then head to the next room where the instructions on actual self defense holds and moves are taught. I couldn't hear the training, but I saw enough to know I wanted to learn how to do this myself, especially when I saw Stephanie throw a man twice her size and weight to the floor like a rag doll.

Empowerment. That was the word Stephanie used when she came over shortly after this and explained I could learn to do this, too, and how she felt empowered. While watching all of this, I realized how these skills would allow me to be self sufficient if a potentially violent situation came up. I would be able to take care of myself. I would regain some of the confidence that disappeared when my hearing started fading.

I came home and told Fabulous Husband all about the classes, how the young woman could hold her own, and how the fellows in the class didn't give her an easy time of it, but they didn't make it beyond her capabilities to perform, either. As she said, it was a "safe" place to learn, and everyone was serious about what they were learning, but having fun and challenging each other as well. I'm signing up for the women's only self defense class.

The class Stephanie and her husband take is Krav Maga.
You can read what Stephanie wrote about her experience at Direct Action Tactical in this newsletter here: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/June-Newsletter-from--Direct-Action-Tactical.html?soid=1103795792944&aid=ZHCuBdUzxI4

And their website is located here: http://www.directactiontactical.com/

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day: It's Not Just for Mothers

Not all women are mothers in the sense of the common definition, but many have a "Mother's Heart". Though the woman I am blessed and privileged to call "Mom" didn't give birth to me (I was adopted), she is in all rights and manners my mother. She loved me because I was her child, regardless. She once told me, "Though I didn't carry you under my breast, I carried you in my heart". That's what being a mother is. Loving and carrying others in your heart.

Today, I not only appreciate "birth mothers", but all women who carry that love for others in their hearts, whether you have children or not. Happy Mother's Day to you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Deaf Family

This is a pilot that I would love to see as a series. It is 9 minutes in length, and if you find it informative and want to see more, please sign the petition for the Network to pick it up. Marlee Matlin came up with some great ideas for this one. I like that many issues will be brought up that need to be addressed, and perhaps bridge the gap between the cultures of our society.