Saturday, May 21, 2011

Don't Miss Me Too Much ;)

Mom and I sat down last night and wrote our schedule for the next week. There are a lot of details we still have to take care of in the coming days, so I decided to warn you that I may not be back until after the wedding. I'll try to read your blogs when I have some down time, but may not have time to comment. If I get a chance, I'll try to write an update or two, but judging by our "to do" list I may not have enough time to even eat. :)
Have a great long weekend fellow Canadians and to you lovely Americans next weekend as well. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun Fact Friday: Wedding Details

Since our wedding is eight days away, I thought this would be a good time to tell you a bit more about it. :)

Fifteen Fun Facts About Mine and Mr. K's Wedding

1. The ceremony is going to take place in a historical chapel. It was built in the 1800's and the outside is Sand Stone from the St. Mary's River that runs through our town.
2. The reception is going to be at The Portuguese hall. My mom came to Canada when she was three and the hall seemed like the natural choice-plus, their prices are more than reasonable. :)
3. Our menu consists of:
-a traditional Portuguese soup (kind of like a vegetable),
-roasted chicken
-roasted potatoes
-green beans
-chocolate mousse for dessert
5. Our colours are African violet and tangerine. Sounds weird right? Looks very cool.
6. I'm not wearing a veil...a tiara will do nicely thank you. :)
7. There   are three groom's men/bride's maids, a maid of honour and best man, a flower girl and a ring bearer standing up for us.
8. Since Mr. K and I are already legally married, one of his friends is going to officiate the wedding ceremony.
9. The girls' jewelry, including mine, was hand made by Tenie's aunt who is a pretty known artist in the Toronto area. It's beautiful.
10. My shoes were bought for me as a gift by friends in SC and they are know that saying "something borrowed, blue, new, old..." or however it goes? LOL They are the same shoes that Big proposed to Kerri with on the Sex in the City movie. I'm not much of a fashion professional, but they are very nice shoes...and probably cost more than the whole wedding. LOL I have been wearing them in the house and practising because I have never worn five inch heels before-this should be interesting.
11. Mr. K and I are having a sand pouring ceremony instead of a Unity candle for practical reasons...two blind people with fire in a historical chapel does not seem quite right. ;) I will be pouring purple sand and Mr. K will have orange.
12. Roscoe and Glacier are going to be wearing bow ties. Glacier's will be purple and Roscoe's will be orange.
13. Our friends are performing the music for the ceremony. One will play the keyboard while the other sings. The girls will walk in to "What a Wonderful World," I will walk in to "At Last" and the recessional song will be "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." Not very traditional...just the way we like it. LOL
14. Nothing about this wedding is traditional...Mr. K is going to have a purple mohawk, the guys are wearing Chuck Taylors (Mr. K's are going to be orange) and both of my parents will be walking me down the aisle.
15. We have people coming from:
-Vancouver BC
-South Carolina
-Toronto area
-all over Michigan

I think this Fun Fact Friday needed more than 15 Facts. I could have kept writing. LOL I hope you enjoyed my wedding Fun Fact Friday and I will definitely be posting pictures. :)
Happy Friday

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Glacier Update

With most of my posts and life focusing on wedding details or triathlon training, I haven't sat down and given you a really good "Glacier" update. It's not entirely because I've been crazy busy and doing  what seems like, a million different things, but I wanted to give us some time to work on the things we had learned at
Leader Dogs for the Blind
during our retraining.
Glacier and I were placed together on September 24 2008 and struggled through the first two years and a half of our working relationship. We were having some serious communication issues and I wasn't even sure if he wanted to work anymore. With our move to Scotland looming, I knew things had to change. Either Glacier and I needed to re-bond or he would have to retire. Thankfully LDB took us back for twelve days of intensive training and I learned a lot about myself, Glacier and the way we were/weren't working together.
Glacier and I have been home just shy of a month and I am thrilled to report that we are doing fabulously. It's like I got a brand new dog without some of the problems that come with a new dog. His personality has really started to show again and he follows me everywhere. Even if I go to the bathroom he head butts the door to get in and wait for me. His recall in the house is fantastic (before we left, it was practically non-existent) and gets super excited when I pull his harness out.
Just today I was talking to Mr. K on the phone and had him talk to Glacier. Mr. G leaned his head into the phone and tilted his chin towards the ceiling. After listening to Mr. K talk for a few minutes, Glacier let out a little grunt noise and looked at me as if to say,
"well, I hear him. Shouldn't you get him out of there-that has got to be too small for him in there."
Mr. K and I laughed. It was so nice to see Glacier do something like that: it proves that my big, goofy yellow fellow is back.
Not only is his personality shining, but his work improves every day. He still gets a bit distracted, but he is much easier to re-direct with "kissy" noises and a gentle verbal "leave it." Mom, Glacier, Jetta and I took an hour walk Tuesday night along a bike trail that eventually opened up on to a residential area. I did not have to collar correct him once even though we passed other dogs, kids, cyclists and joggers. His curb work was flawless, stopping perfectly at each "down curb" and crossing each street cleanly. There was one oddly shaped curb that required him to make a half circle in order to cross safely. Mom told me to have him go left, but instead of giving him a direction I asked him to "forward" and he eventually maneuvered us to the safe crossing. I was so impressed. He didn't need me to tell him to find the curb. I think sometimes our problem is me giving him too much information. I sometimes forget that these dogs are taught to make decisions too. We are in a partnership, not an master/minion relationship. :)
In stores I will still put his Newtricks on from time to time because he can be a bit too sniffy. This head harness allows me to have control of his sniffing without getting out those leash corrections which, I must add, I am getting much better about not using.
I do make mistakes and correct him, but it's almost become second nature NOT to rely on them. The majority of the time I won't even instinctively reach for the leash. If I do, on the rare occasion I can usually stop myself. I have snapped he leash once in a while and sucked in a deep breath knowing I shouldn't have done that. What is interesting though, if I have had to use them for excessive sniffing or if I accidentally use one where a "kissy" noise would have worked just fine, Glacier doesn't shut down on me anymore. He just carries on, wiggling the tip of his tail and guiding me carefully along. I am very happy with the progress we have both made. As long as I continue to use the tools LDB gave me, Glacier and I will have a very long, healthy and happy working relationship. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"What's This?" Wednesday

Hello everyone, :)
Here is this week's "What's This?" Wednesday photo.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Touring Tuesday: Our Dog Park

Remember a few posts back I explained that our dog park isn't really a dog park? It's just sort of a place that leashless dogs and their respective owners go and enjoy themselves. There is a group working very hard to kick the off leash dogs and handlers out, but the dog lovers in this city are fighting just hard to make sure that doesn't happen. The group wants the dogs and owners to occupy a small, fenced area located behind our local Humane Society. On today's "Touring Tuesday" I want to show you why we are not giving up without a good fight. :)


Photo Descriptions
1. People and dogs enjoying the dog park.
2. Sailboat marina that can be seen from the dog park.
3. Jetta (retired Leader dog) posing for the camera.
4. Glacier getting a treat for good recall and Jetta waiting for hers.
5. Canadian flag flying on a windy day.
6. Glacier walking along the path at the dog park.
7. Sailboats tied in the marina that do not have sails yet.
8. Jetta emerging from the beach where the dogs can go swimming.
9. Jetta and Baloo investigating  a very interesting spot together.
10. Glacier playing with his new husky friend.
11. Beautiful Great Dane enjoying the dog park.
12. Glacier and Jetta with an old piece of farming equipment over grown by trees.
13. More dog park Goers.
14. Glacier and Jetta off to make friends.
15. Golden Retriever puppy sitting on Lindsay's feet.
16. Ducks swimming in the river.

Bride's Bothersome Thoughts

So, I am wide awake...again. Normally I have no problems sleeping and I know I am extremely blessed in this, but in the last five days or so, sleep has been evading me.
It is eleven days from mine and Mr. K's wedding and I lie awake in bed thinking of things that need to be done. The thing is, it's silly because none of these things can be accomplished at three in the morning, nor can they be accomplished properly if I am sleep deprived. My logical brain knows this, but my Worry Wart brain missed the memo. I have actually been quite productive in my waking hours and always come home tired from a crazy day of planning and scratching one job one at a time off of my list,  but when it is bed time I am suddenly awake again.
A lot of the big things are done and now it's just the finishing touches that we are working on. Some things, like decorating the Portuguese hall and the chapel, cannot be done until next week. My dress has been taken in for steaming, Mom bought her shoes today and Dad finally found a tuxedo-cutting it a bit close aren't we Dad? :) We all know that I've scraped the deck clean, and managed to get a dead tree cut down without me knowing. I am giving the bride's maids shoes as their gift and those arrived last night after having to be rerouted. I nearly had a panic attack when the shoes didn't show up on Friday as originally scheduled and a note was sent to Mom's in-box saying that the shoes could not be sent to a PO box.
Another thing we had to deal with last week was the discovery that the keyboard that we thought our friend was going to play for our ceremony was bolted to a wall and would not be able to be moved. Wait...what? Who bolts a keyboard to the wall in the first place and secondly, why the crap did the guy decide to wait until last Wednesday to tell me this? Now we're in a scramble looking for an 88 key keyboard, complete with foot pedal. We may have found one, but I would rather that tat particular loose end gets tied up very quickly.
Dad and one of my uncle's have started replacing the railings and some of the boards on the back deck. It still needs to be finished and stained. We're having the rehearsal dinner here at my parents' which is another area of stress for me. I keep thinking of how much food my parents need to make and whether or not we will be able to get it all done. It's not like we can start making the food this week though because it would be nasty by next Friday.
I have one bride's maid who still does not have the alterations done on her dress; a friend who won't reply to emails who is supposed to be driving our friends up to sing/play during our ceremony; this same friend is also supposed to be bringing the bridal bouquets with her as it is a gift to us from her and her parents; Mom doesn't like how her dress fits; Mr. K had to rush around trying to find a Groom's man stand in; the pew bows are not made yet...*takes deep breath*.
That said, we have gotten a lot done in the last little while:
-Tinkerbell charms were purchased and sewn on to my garters
-my dress has been taken in for steaming (and strap replacement). Apparently the straps that I had put on in SC were dress is ivory. We discovered this today and thankfully the seamstress was there and ready and willing to put the proper straps on the dress. *Takes another deep breath*. Being a blind bride is not easy some days! :)
-Decorations are coming together
-our cake flavours have been selected (chocolate cake with chocolate  cream and a vanilla cake with lemon cream),
-Hair appointments were made,
-Bride's maids' shoes did reach their ultimate destination,
-Cards being placed on the table stating that a donation was made in the guests' honour to Leader Dogs for the Blind in leu of favours were mailed out to my parents' house last week,
-the "do" and "do not" play lists were given to our new DJ,
-New DJ was paid in full amount today...
After writing all of that I thought I'd feel better, but I really don't. LOL I still feel like a dog spinning in pointless circles chasing my tail, but there is no reason for this feeling. Things are and will continue to fall into place. I'm enjoying the planning and doing, but I feel like I'm forgetting to do something. However, tomorrow will come-or rather it has already come-and I will get up, eat a good breakfast, get some of my frustrations out on the elliptical, drink a bucket of coffee and
-pick a cake cutting song and email it to the DJ,
-go across the "river" (AKA, across the Canadian/American border), to get the girls' shoes,
-stop at Big and Lot (or whatever it is called) and pick up four more glowing dragonfly thingies,
-get my cake topper to the fantastic woman making our cake (another thoughtful and wonderful gift)...
and whatever else I need to, or can do tomorrow. But first, I need some sleep.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A "Blind" Moment

Back in high school, Lindsay and I coined the phrase "blind moment." This phrase refers to a situation that occurs due to my blindness that leads to inevitable hysterical laughter and stories that last for years to come.
The first time a "blind moment" was recognised as happening, we were at a music performance somewhere in Michigan and I was frantically searching for my socks. It was early in the morning and I was sitting on my bottom bunk under Lindsay, throwing blankets, pillows and whatever I could feel off of the bed. After some crazy flailing, Lindsay finally asked me what was going on. I explained to her that I knew I had pulled my socks out of my suitcase, but they were nowhere to be found. Lindsay being the fabulous friend that she is, hung from her waist off of the top bunk only to report that my socks were lying in my lap. Thus, the "blind moment" was born.
Now, considering that I am still blind and probably will be forever, blind moments happen on a semi-frequent basis, but some are more noteworthy than others. Today would be a good example of this.
Early this morning, after consuming breakfast and a bucket of coffee, I dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, brought Jetta and Glacier out on to the deck with me so that I could scrape the gunk that had accumulated there over the winter out. This is not a fun job and is quite tedious. In fact, it was one I had started earlier this week, but only got the gumption back this morning to complete.
While I was seasawing the butter knife through the compacted dog fur, dirt, leaves and whatever else the seasons had decided to deposit between the boards of the deck, I noticed a neighbour using a chainsaw in his backyard that is connected to my parents'. I just assumed he was chopping down a tree and continued scraping. At one point, Glacier and Jetta went down the deck's stairs and I heard,
"good morning neighbour."
I replied Mr. Chainsaw asked me if I wanted some firewood. I said yes, thinking that he would chop up the tree he was cutting down and leave it by my parents' firepit. It took me three and a half hours to finish the deck and the neighbour and  his chainsaw were long gone.
When Mom got home from work this afternoon, I told her that our neighbour had given us some firewood. She said that was nice and we went out for a few hours. Upon returning, we sat down to eat at the kitchen table which looks out on to the backyard.
"Where did the pine tree go?" Mom asked.
There was a long pause as the realisation that our neighbour had cut down the dead, woodpecker hole riddled pine tree for us.
If that's not a blind moment, I don't know what is. I was out there the whole time and didn't even know he cut down a tree. So, for future reference, if I am ever over visiting, don't let me tell your neighbour that firewood would be nice because you may just end up one tree less. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Oh, The Irony...

Yesterday morning I spoke at a Health and Wellness day that was being held for some of the local elementary and high school students. I had been asked about a month back if I would be willing to be the guest speaker that started the whole day off. I was pretty excited and a little nervous too of course. I had not spoken in front of a crowd in  a few years, but knew that I had enough time to come up with something.
When I was still swimming and living more permanently in this area, I spoke to a lot of different groups and really enjoyed it. I love telling people of my adventures as an athlete and where life has taken me, but not because they're my stories or anything like that. I enjoy it because I hope that with each speech someone's life can be changed and someone out there can take strength from what I have told them and they can make the changes in their lives that they have been wanting to.
Yesterday's speech was no exception. I outlined five things that I think are necessary for a successful life and really tried to drive home that one person's version of success is not the same as another's. I also tried to convey to them that age should not play a factor in following your dreams. I was talking as much to the teachers as I was to the students.
The speech went very well I thought despite starting late and giving me less time to talk. That said, one of the teachers had made a beautiful slide show of my various accomplishments and I had to admit that I got a little choked up. All I could think was,
"dude, I did that!"
Here I was talking to people about dreaming and setting goals and I was reminded of everything I had accomplished not that long ago, by a slide show. This speech was also timed quite well as I've been slowly investing myself into training for a triathlon-as I'm sure you remember. Seeing that slide show and hearing the video clips of the Paralympics lit that fire in my belly. It's been a little spark slowly growing, but that display of excellence-not just mine, but other Paralympic athletes-fanned the spark into something bigger.
Last night at the gym, I pushed hard thinking about what I have done in the past and what I am capable of in the future. When Lindsay and I first arrived at the gym, I wasn't really feeling it. We had just taken the dogs for a run and my brain was in Puppy Play mode instead of Athlete Training mode. After hopping on to the elliptical for a warm up though, my brain started shifting gears and I was able to sink into my workout and get a lot of work done. Are you looking for the irony here? I'm getting to it. :)
It's ironic how things come up in life that make you step back and evaluate your situation right when you need it. Yesterday's speech was supposed to motivate young people to take control of their lives and be productive members of society. In my home town there is a very high rate of drug and alcohol abuse, especially amongst young people, and so the Health and Wellness Day was designed to show some kids that there are alternatives to ward off the boredom that they attribute the abuse to. I may have motivated students and/or teachers, I probably will never know, but in doing so I motivated myself.
The other ironic thing is that originally I was going to write this post complaining of the irony of my "thank you" gift being a pen, pad of paper and a candle. Given to a blind person by a high school dedicated to Special Needs students, but instead my post took on a life of its own and reaffirmed the positive that came out of yesterday.
And yet, just think of this...
Blind girl + pen + pad of paper = What the crap do I do with that?
Blind girl + candle = burning the house down? ;)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"What's This?" Wednesday: We're Back

So, it's been quite a while since we've had a "What's This Wednesday" photo. Are you guys ready for one? :)
Just for any of you that may be new readers, or as a reminder for everyone else since it has been a while, I put up a photo and you guess what it may be. Since I can't see, I have no idea what the picture is and I'll use your guesses/descriptions to figure it out. I usually post the answer the next day in the "comments" section. I've also been known to have prizes now and again. :)
Happy guessing/describing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Touring Tuesday: Outdoor Adventure

A few weekends ago Mom, Glacier, Jetta and I headed out for a walk along a beautiful trail. We took a few pictures of the local area and I'd like to share them with you.

                                           Glacier trying to be a beaver
                                          Snack break
                                               Glacier and his prized branch
                                             Glacier wading-I think he thinks he's a fisherman.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Really Blogger?

All right. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am not ignoring  you...Blogger keeps telling me that I'm not "following" anyone. I am quite certain I am as he Blogs I am following show up on my profile page. :P
So, I am reading; it just takes me way longer to get to everyone.
Happy Monday ;)

Massage Monday: Pregnancy

In light of yesterday being Mother's Day, I thought I would cover the benefits of massage therapy for pregnant women. I will address some of the precautions that must be considered as well.  The program that I graduated from had a brief but informative section of class devoted to the proper techniques of massage with relation to pregnancy and what sorts of health conditions to be aware of. Some massage therapists enroll in a completely separate course that focuses entirely on pregnancy. I believe the course is a weekend long intensive hands on and book learning course.  Pregnant women are asked to come into the course in order to be "bodies" for the learning massage therapists. If you or someone you know is pregnant, massage could be an excellent way  to relieve some of the physical symptoms that may be experienced. If massage is the route you choose, feel free to ask your potential massage therapist whether or not he/she have taken the pregnancy course. If he/she has not, don't hesitate to ask for a referral to someone who does if that is what makes you most comfortable. Also, don't be offended if he/she refers you to one without you asking. The therapist may feel uncomfortable treating pregnancy as he/she may not have very much experience in this area. Often when a therapist refers a client it is because the therapist has the client's best interest at heart. So, how does massage help?
In the first trimester, a massage therapist will stay away from performing deep massage over the low back or near the abdomen. This is because first trimester pregnancies are so touch and go the therapist does not want to do anything that may compromise the pregnancy. That said, women who are in their first trimester can lie on their stomachs during the massage and light-VERY light-massage can be performed on the low back. Other than these two areas during the first trimester, massage can continue as usual. In the second and third trimesters deeper pressure can be applied to the low back and most women who are pregnant will probably need this work done. With the centre of gravity moving to where the baby is, the back and legs become over worked. Massage therapists should not perform any aggressive joint mobilisations during pregnancy due to the hormone relaxin being released, preparing the body for the baby's delivery.
Relaxin causes all of the muscles/ligaments/tendons to loosen or "relax" so that the body can change shape. This in itself is kind of amazing, but if joint mobilisations are performed during this time, joint capsuls-or where the joints fit together-can be over stretched or misshapen and the likelihood of these joints returning to normal is lowered. I personally would not send a client to a chiropractor during pregnancy, but that is my opinion and other professionals may disagree with me. My position is based on the explanation above. However, if an emergency occurred where only a chiropractor's work would be effective, then I would explain the situation to the client and let her make her own decision.  After pregnancy a visit to a chiropractor is probably needed, but the release of that hormone has decreased and the risk of creating loose fitting joints is decreased.
During the last trimester the positioning on the massage table may change in order to make the expectant mother as comfortable as possible. So, instead of lying on your tummy and being sore, the therapist can have you lie on your side propped up by a bunch of strategically placed pillows. If a client needs to lie on her back during the second and third trimesters, a pillow will be placed under the right side to prevent the baby from squishing an important artery. At first, this pillowing feels strange, but eventually it becomes more comfortable. In class we had to practice our positioning and also had to experience it so that we knew what we were putting our clients through. As said before though, if you are not comfortable, tell your therapist and he/she can reposition you. The massage is always about your comfort.
A few things to keep in mind when talking with your therapist about your pregnancy are:
-how far along are you (This information makes it possible for your therapist to treat you properly and safely).
-whether or not you have the onset of pregnancy induced high blood pressure (Massage increases circulation and so may increase high blood pressure if the proper techniques are not used. Massage can be modified for high blood pressure, so don't stop going if you develop high blood pressure).
-what positions are most comfortable for you (This will allow the massage therapist to ensure he/she puts you in a comfortable position, which is imperative for a successful massage).
-If you are not showing, make sure to tell your massage therapist. (Again this allows the therapist to make the necessary adjustments to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy. I.E. If your therapist is certified in Aroma Therapy and he/she usually administers a treatment with essential oils, it is important to tell him/her about your pregnancy as some essential oils can induce labor).
Massage can reduce stress and in turn that can  decrease high blood pressure, headaches and other physical manifestations of stress. As a pregnant woman, you will more than likely  be stressed. So don't forget to take a few minutes for yourself and relax. Massage will help with this.
A technique called "lymphatic drainage" can assist with water retention issues. The technique is incredibly light and is quite relaxing. The feather-light strokings moves the lymphatic fluid along and can help with some of that trapped fluid. This technique may increase your need to pee, so please don't feel embarrassed to tell your therapist that you have to go. He/she should stop the treatment as many times as you need so that you may relieve yourself.
Massage can also help with your low back pain. When your centre of gravity shifts with the growth of the baby, the backs of your legs-or your hamstrings-become over extended with the forward tilting of your pelvis. Your therapist should work on your low back, depending on which stage of pregnancy you are in, and then stimulate your hamstrings. This stimulation technique causes the hamstrings to contract and it should help them shorten a bit again. The therapist should address the fronts of your thighs-or your quads-as these will have done the opposite to your hamstrings and shortened. They need to be lengthened to relieve some of your low back pain. If you enjoy heat, then heat can be applied to your quads to assist them to  loosen up. A caution that must be taken into consideration though is that a deep heat is not placed over the abdomen-we don't want to cook the baby. Heat should not be placed   over the low back during the first trimester as this is a sensitive stage of pregnancy.
Massage is excellent for women who are pregnant. I know a lot of women who have received a great deal of relief from massage during pregnancy. There are definitely things to be taken into consideration when receiving massage therapy during pregnancy, but I illustrated these precautions so that you would understand better why massage therapists do the things he/she does when you are pregnant. I believe that people should have  power over his/her own bodies and knowledge is power. A lot of pregnant women have expressed to me that as soon as her "bump" starts showing her body no longer belongs to her as it is the baby's and complete strangers feel he/she have the right to "pet" it. Nobody knows your body better than you do, especially a pregnant body. The more information you have the better equipped you will be to make decisions about it. So, enjoy your pregnancy and remember to take time for yourself. :)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!!! :)

Happy Mother's Day to all of you wonderful moms out there. Whether your children have two legs or four, celebrate today and know that your sacrifices and everything you have done for your children is amazing and is appreciated. If I take a moment and think about the things that my mom has done for me, it is humbling and I know that I am not aware of everything she has done for me. With  that in mind, this post is not about me, but about the very influential  woman in my life who taught me to be thoughtful, kind and respectful.
My mom had me when she was 25. I know her and my dad tried a few times to have children and finally were able to have me. I was born a healthy baby, weighing in around 8 pounds, but was diagnosed at two with Retinalblastoma (or Cancer of the retina). I can't even imagine how a 27 year old felt or even coped with that. I keep thinking that I'm the same age my mom was when her only child was diagnosed with a very serious disease. I obviously don't remember a lot about back then, but I know my mom gave more to me in that short time than most people give someone in a life time. She would take me to my appointments nine hours away and looked after me through my treatments. This love and dedication never stopped.
My mom and dad both fought hard with the public school  system to have me enrolled and supported me through Kindergarten, elementary school, high school and post secondary education. Mom was always there when I needed someone to chat with and was my biggest fan when I was having a hard time with kids at school being cruel.
When I made the decision to be a competitive swimmer, my mom made it possible for me to become as good as I did. Without her help and support, I never would have been able to travel the world and participate in a sport that I loved. She made sure I was up for practices at 5 in the morning and would drive me, despite working. She always made sure I had more than enough food to fuel my unsatisfiable appetite. She traveled to many competitions and week long training camps as my guide/tapper. (A tapper is someone who stands at the end of the pool and whacks me on the head/between the shoulder blades so I know when the end of the pool is coming). Those early mornings weren't for her own good, but she did them anyway. :)
Mom always made sure I knew what the world around me looked like by getting me to touch everything and anything she could. Once while in Arizona on a three week  training camp, she showed me some form of plant life unaware that there thin, hair-like thorns hiding in the beautiful flower's interior. She was the one to pull them out too. :) I made a deal with her that if I had to touch any more vegetation, she had to touch it first.
I think the thing that I am most thankful for is that my mom never told me that I couldn't do anything. I would come home with these huge dreams and she never me that I wouldn't be able to accomplish them. She let me try and succeed or fail on my own and I think that is important. That said, she was always there whether in celebration or to tell me to just try again. I've learned from my mom that failures aren't failures as long as you learn from them.
My mom has taught me the value of dependability and that is a trait that I cherish in all of the people I surround myself with. No matter what, whether it was being in the stands to cheer me on at my second Paralympics or making sure I have somewhere warm and clean to sleep when I come to visit, I know that my mom will be there for me and so it is to her, and the other wonderful moms (or motherly figures out there), that I dedicate this post.
Thanks Mom. :) Words cannot illustrate how much you mean to me and how much I appreciate what you have done and what you continue to do for me. :)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Dog Manners

As mentioned earlier, Lindsay, Glacier, Balloo, Jetta and I headed to our local dog park. Actually, it hasn't been officially designated a dog park and there is a group working very hard to kick the off leash dogs and their owners out, but that is for another time. It was a gorgeous evening here; a balmy 15 degrees C  and people and their four legged friends were out in full force. Where the dogs run is a really cool little part of a bigger park. Here the land juts out into a bay and the dogs can play in the forest, run through a field or swim to their hearts' content.
When we first arrived Glacier was pulling like crazy, so I put him in a "sit stay" a few times to get him refocused. I didn't make him guide me as we had such a good work session this morning, but next time I may resort to that as it establishes a good pattern. When we reached the little secluded field, Lindsay and I put our dogs into a "sit stay" and unsnapped the leashes. Jetta and Baloo were off, but I made Glacier wait with his leash unclipped until I released him. Once I said "all right" quietly, he too sprinted across the field toward the circle of dog owners and frolicking pups.
There was a large variety of dogs-a few labs, an Irish Wolf Hound, Great Danes,  Husky crosses of some sort, a Standard Poodle, Basset Hound and a few more mixed breeds. There were quite a few young puppies as well, ranging from five months up to a year. Glacier immediately took to a mixed five month old puppy and played with him. Lindsay accidentally called him a "her" at one point and was corrected sharply by the owner,
"first of all, he's a boy..." Woops.
Jetta did her own thing as she often does. She sniffed through the  forest, rolled in the dirt and every once in a while a dog would catch her fancy and she decided to play a quick game of chase. These games never lasted long as she's still quite fast at ten and a half and also because she marches to her own tune and doesn't want anyone interrupting. I thought the group out there was a really good group. Everyone played really nicely with each other. Let me amend that statement: they all played well, but Glacier was having a "mounting" issue.
I can't tell you how embarrassing it is when your dog wants to constantly hump a dog. He left most of the dogs alone, but there was this one in particular he took a liking to and wouldn't leave it alone. He also thought some other dogs were good as well, but he kept going back to this one dog. The problem is, I don't know how to stop it. If I knew he was doing it, I said "off" and he stopped, but the problem is knowing when he was doing it. As a blind handler, I rely on others to keep an eye on my dog and even though I ask them where "Glacier" or "Jetta" are, it's not enough to catch him in the act. I put him in time out a few times when I actually caught him, but twenty minutes or so later he was back at it. The worst part is that I think the owners were getting mad. I can't blame them. Glacier is a pretty big dog and they were worried he would hurt their dogs. One was even convinced that he wasn't fixed. I tried to explain that he is a service dog and therefore must be fixed by law, but she wasn't listening.
Part of me doesn't want him to do this. I know it's a dominance behavior and so it should not be encouraged. Plus, it is slightly unbecoming and it makes people angry with me. On the other hand, Glacier is such a passive dog that I was glad to see him assert himself. I would never encourage him to engage in this behavior though and tried to catch him and put him in a time out. That is easier said than done. I can't call him to me and then make him sit and stay because then I am punishing him for coming to me. If I make him sit and stay too long after the behavior he will have no idea what he is sitting out for. The other thing is I rely on someone else to grab him so that I can get him to sit. This in itself doesn't always work and often Glacier doesn't know who is giving out the punishment.
I know dogs will be dogs, but part of me wants  my dog to be above that. He's a guide dog! Shouldn't he be beyond such primitive behavior? My realistic self tells me that he is not. He works hard and stays focused for so long, I like giving him the opportunity to blow off some steam, but perhaps with other dogs is not the place for him. But then that begs the question, where should I take him to run?
This has been a lesson in humility. I am quite certain one person was not happy with my response to Glacier's behavior and are probably griping about it. We've all done it; pass judgment on other dog owners for their dogs' unwanted behavior, but how often have we stepped back to assess the situation and realise that perhaps we aren't getting the entire picture? Some people there didn't even know I was blind. How would they know that my lack of action was due to the fact that I just didn't know the exact location of my dog? Is there a time for us humans to step  back and let our dogs sort themselves out? Should we suppress  natural behaviors and the ways our animals communicate with each other? I feel really badly that he was mounting those dogs and I guess the answer would have just been to leave, but that doesn't prevent the problem from happening in the future. He has done such excellent work all week long that I wanted to provide him with an opportunity to be a dog, but where do we draw the line? When is being a dog rude?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Still Going

Last night was another successful trip to the gym. Glacier, Lindsay and I did get bombarded in the change room by a woman with an intellectual disability. She was concerned about a dog being in the gym, but after I explained his job to her and answered a few of her questions, she was satisfied. She had us all laughing and I really appreciated that when things were explained logically to her, she accepted it and moved on. At one point she made to pet Glacier, but when I told her that he'd forget his job and walk me into things, she said,
"Oh right," as if that was the most true thing she had ever heard in her life and then went back to getting ready for her shower. Upon leaving the gym, her mom stopped by my treadmill where Lindsay was lining my phone up with the "up and down" buttons so I knew where they were and said,
"Thanks for the lesson. Now we have to go home and research guide dogs on the internet." I laughed so hard I almost fell off the treadmill.
Speaking of treadmills, I was reminded of why I would have a difficult time attending a public gym on my own unless some machines were labeled for me. First thing is first, remember those new pants I bought? Well, apparently they're too big because while I was running on the treadmill, they kept sliding down and I had to keep grabbing them and pulling them back up. I told Lindsay when she checked in after the first round of her circuit and she managed to rustle up a safety pin that she got from the front desk. After pinning my pants, I was able to finish my workout without fearing that I would moon the whole gym. That said, my pants were the least of my problems.
The flat screen of the treadmill posed a problem. I had originally wanted to go for a half an hour with 2 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking. In doing that I would have to adjust the treadmill by myself so Lindsay placed my cell phone just beneath the "up button. That worked for me to go from a walk to a run, but I couldn't find the "down" button after my 2 minutes were up. I slid the phone over and began jamming my finger frantically into the landmark free screen and nothing happened. Eventually I gave up and figured I would just run until Lindsay came back from her circuit. Those were the longest six minutes of my life. :) I was running for longer than intended and I didn't think I was in good enough shape to keep going. I needed water and my pants kept falling down. Every once in a while I would attack the screen again with my index finger in the hopes of slowing the machine down, but no beep came and so I kept running; grabbing my pants every twenty seconds or so. The thought crossed my mind at one point to push the "emergency" stop button, but that would have been so embarrassing. I knew Lindsay wouldn't be too much longer, so I kept running, drooping pants and all. LOL Finally, Lindsay came and rescued me: she slowed the treadmill down and pinned my pants. With my pants securely fastened on, I started the machine again and had Lindsay line the phone up beside the buttons. That way I would be able to find the "down" much easier; or so I thought.
The eight minutes of running had taught me that I was stronger than I thought. So, with that in mind I thought I'd run for five and walk for two to finish out the workout. Again, the elusive "down" button managed to escape my jabbing finger. It shouldn't have been that hard. Lindsay had done a fabulous job lining the phone up as a guide, but all of the bouncing of my running made it impossible to punch the button. So, on I ran again. After another five minutes, which I know went because my phone talks and tells me the time, I tried punching the screen with my finger again. My thighs were screaming and I needed to cool down before Lindsay was done her second round of the circuit. I fumbled for a couple of more minutes and somehow managed to nudge the "down" arrow once. Just once! The treadmill speed dropped by one and I was still running. Again, I thought about the "emergency" stop button, but I was worried if I hit it, I wouldn't be able to start again and cool down. I would have to wait for Lindsay to get back and by then my muscles would have become cold and cramped up. No, I had to slow the thing down by myself.
I fumbled around some more and by some miracle, I found the button and stayed on it. I slowed the treadmill down and walked at a comfortable pace, pouring water down my throat. All the while, Glacier laid calmly by the side of my treadmill, oblivious to my plight.
After the treadmill incident, I decided sticking to Lindsay like glue for the rest of the night was a good idea. I wasn't prepared to have any more "run away" machines. She wanted  to cycle for a bit and even though my quads were begging for relief, I complied. I have to get into better shape and she's trying to get fit as well, so I hopped on the bike. We pedaled for only 10 minutes, but that was enough for me. We moved on into the "stretching" room and we got out the ball again, but when I tried my first sit-up I knew something was wrong.
I had pushed so hard the day before with the core exercises that I hardly could use my muscles to lean myself back. They hurt so bad. I spotted her on the ball and then opted to do crunches, and variations of crunches, on a mat, but not before Glacier managed to taste another gym goer.
I had been describing a core exercise I used to love to do because it was challenging, but wasn't sure if that gym was equipped for it. Lindsay took me over to a machine that she thought would serve my purpose and I didn't realise that there was a guy on a machine beside me. Just as I was about to bring Glacier into a "heel" Lindsay and I both heard giggling and Lindsay exclaimed,
"He's licking someone!"
"Glacier no!" I managed to mumble as I corrected him. "That is rude!" I continued to reprimand  him, but the guy was laughing and there didn't seem to be any damage. I will just have to be more aware next time because that could have caused problems if the guy had been allergic to dogs or afraid of them.
We went back to our mat and I started my core workout. Glacier thought I was in distress,  so he placed his enormous, heavy head on my abs again. I burst out laughing and he began licking my face in concern, which made me laugh even harder. Then he plunked his paw down on my chest as if to hold me in place. Every time I moved it, he put it back. I finally managed to convince him that it was okay and he lay still watching me. When I took a break, he shoved his nose up against my neck, tucked his paw over my arm and settled in for a snuggle. Oh Glacier-you gotta love him. :) Needless to say, our workout was productive, but it sure wasn't without incident. There is never a dull moment and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)
Tonight we're taking the dogs for a run before we head to the gym. Glacier will stay home tonight as I would like to use the sauna and I obviously can't take him in there and I am worried people would have opportunity to interact with him while I'm in there. So, we got some good working in this morning and the run will make him sleepy, which will make watching him a breeze for my dad.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Just A Little Sweat

The last two days have been big days in my short-term goal of gaining more information about Para Triathlon and rebuilding my fitness levels. Yesterday Lindsay and I headed to a Good Life Fitness, where she has a membership, and threw ourselves into our respective workouts. Before leaving the house I debated whether or not to bring Glacier, but upon reasoning that it would be well after 9 PM and thus the gym would be sparsely populated, I loaded him up in my mom's SUV.
We stopped along the way so that I could buy some workout clothes. I had accidentally left my Yoga pants at LDB and they still have not made their way back to me. After purchasing black pants, a pink shirt and a black and pink sports bra and having a quick chat with Tenie's family who we happened to run into in the store, we were set. Glacier was quite happy to be free of shopping for the time being and trotted eagerly through the gym's parking lot and through the front door.
As I got changed, I mentally prepared myself for the fact that I would probably have to tell someone to stop petting my dog. I really hoped that not  too many people would take an interest in him and that I would be able to get through my workout with limited interruption. I usually don't mind explaining why he can't be interacted with when he is working, as I am acutely aware of the lack of information about guide dogs available to the public, but when one is running on a treadmill or racing their heart out on an elliptical and sweat is running down your face and you can hardly breathe, talking to someone about the dog tied to your machine is the last thing you want to do. As I said, I knew bringing Glacier into that environment would leave me open for questions, so I fortified myself against it before exiting the women's change room.
Lindsay was fantastic. She set me up on an elliptical and got the machine started for me. She set the tension and the timer and I was away. Well, as away as you can be running on a stationary object. She headed off to make her way around a circuit of weight machines she had been shown during her orientation. She told me she'd check back in when her first round was done and she would join me on the ellipticals. I was satisfied  with that and focused on the task  at hand.
I am very appreciative of the details Lindsay gives me because as soon as she leaves, I'm on my own; trying to figure out the sounds around me. Working out at a gym as a blind person can be intimidating. I know it can be intimidating to sighted people for other reasons, but if it is an environment you aren't used to, you can feel self conscious and also a little secluded. I can't see the people around me. I don't know what they are doing, wearing or how they are reacting to the exercises they are performing. Luckily for me, I've been frequenting public gyms for a long time as my swimming required I did "dry land" training (AKA cross training), and so I don't even notice anymore. I just tune into the music being played and start sinking into my body and how it feels. That is, until a screechy female voice brings me back to my surroundings.
It wasn't even ten minutes into my round on the elliptical when a woman came over to talk to me about Glacier. She stood right  beside my right shoulder speaking loudly about how lovely the dog was. I just said "yes" and smiled nicely, even though my cells were screaming for water and oxygen and sweat was beginning to trickle out from under my bangs. Then I heard the voice move forward and knew she had stepped closer to Glacier. I knew this move on her part would mean that Glacier would be up in no time, releasing himself  from the beautiful "down stay" he had been holding for over ten minutes. She started cooing and clucking at him. She asked me his name, but I pretended not to notice. The last thing this woman was needed was his name. I told Glacier to "down" sharply, but the woman wasn't getting the hint. I said it again and then addressed her, still trying to keep my cool.
"You can't talk to him. He's working. It's dangerous for him to be moving around." She kind of giggled, cooed at him again and then-as I later found out-hopped on an elliptical across from me. Lindsay told me on our ride home that she had seen her, but I had managed to get rid of her before Lindsay could get over to me. Thankfully, besides Miss Screechy, only one other person approached me about Glacier while I was pedaling my little heart out on a Spinning bike. He was part of the cleaning staff and asked if he could pet Glacier. At least he had the consideration to address me and ask instead of just squawking away at him in baby talk. I patiently explained that he was working when he was wearing his harness, even if he was just lying down. The man was very nice and understood. He moved on without incident.
Lindsay and I finished  our workout by doing some sit-ups on a Pilates ball. She stood on my feet so that I couldn't lift them off the floor and assist my screaming core muscles. Glacier was very concerned and came over and laid his gigantic head on my abs. His concern acted as more of an extra workout as we both laughed and the added pressure on my stomach made me have to work hard. What a dog. :)
Showering proved an interesting affair as we had to figure out where to put Glacier so that he didn't get wet and also to ensure no one interacted with him. After a failed attempt to attach him to my shower staul, we returned him to our locker and I hooked his leash on to the spot where the lock goes through. I was a bit worried, but when we got back, he was in the same position, waiting patiently. Some people just wouldn't bring their dogs to the gym and that is their decision. Some, as I did, would. Either way, there is a lot of weighing of pros and cons whether or not to bring your service dog to the gym.
On another note, Glacier may have to get used to these settings. I realised last night that I had a lot of work to do, but it didn't discourage me. In fact, it was very exciting. I also talked to the woman who founded Won with 1 and she is a fabulous person. I think she is going to do everything she can to help me find what I need in order to be successful as a Para triathlete. She has already started looking for guides for me in Scotland. It's a long process as they provide the guides with sighted guiding training (just for walking around), empathy training (anyone who wants to be a guide because they feel sorry for para triathletes are not accepted because that is not the attitude of these athletes) and tandem cycling piloting (basically driving a tandem bike), guide running and swimming training as well. The running and swimming can be as foreign to an able-bodied athlete as piloting a tandem bike because they are tied to their athlete at all times during the race. For some athletes they are attached by the wrist during the run, for others it is the waist. In the water, you are basically tied together by your bums. The line had been posing a problem for the swimmers to finish their strokes on the side that the tether was on. So, Won with 1 got creative and somehow runs the tether from the athletes' behinds. Hey, whatever gets me to the finish line faster. :)
Won With 1 also works with incredible sponsors to get gear cheap or for free for their athletes. Costs for a blind athlete, in most sports, are doubled because they have to pay for an extra person-their guide. When I was swimming I had to pay for my guide's flights, hotel accommodations, meals and even some pool deck gear. Not cheap! Won With 1 is a non-profit organisation that tries to absorb some of those costs and make things easier for the athletes so they can focus on competing. They have even managed to make a deal with a cycling company to decrease the cost of a high performance, road tandem bike. Nowhere can you find a tandem bike for under 2000 dollars, but this particular company has agreed to sell it to blind athletes for less than that and to ship it for free. That is just amazing.
Of course the costs of this sport is going to prove difficult for Mr. K and I as we will be moving to a new country and we're both students. So, owning my own tandem bike of that quality in the near future is highly improbable.  Financial responsibilities we have just to live will have to come first, so my dream of competing in a triathlon will probably be even slower moving. But as one of my fantastic readers said,
"where there's a will there's a way." :)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Interesting...Very Interesting

I'm sure if you have been following my blog for a while now you will know that I have this fascination with competitive triathlons. It was something I attempted to do last summer, but lacked the resources and support I needed in order to really go for it. I trained on a bike attached to a mount that kept it stationary and used a friend's treadmill, but after a few months of training indoors without any prospective guides in sight and no pool time, I began to think that completing a triathlon was out of the question. It was an idea that I never laid to rest though. I have a background in competitive swimming and really miss the physical/mental challenges and of course I miss the competition. Last summer, there was speculation that the Triathlon would be added to the Paralympics by 2016, but I never heard anything more about it; that is until a friend and I were sending emails back and forth and he told me the good news.
Triathlon has been added to the roster of 21 other sports available to disabled athletes at the 2016 Paralympic Games, scheduled to be held in Brazil. I was so excited that my hands shook when I emailed him back. This is what I have been waiting for. What was even better was that he gave me the contact information of a woman who has founded and runs a program dedicated to getting blind and visually impaired athletes involved in Triathlon, whether competitively or recreationally. I emailed her right away and we arranged a time to chat over the phone this Wednesday about what my needs may be and whether or not
Won With 1
will be able to assist me.
I was up front with this person and told her that I was moving to Scotland. The program works with Canadian athletes across Canada, but they have two guides in the United States and she thought that "with some digging," she may be able to find me a guide in Scotland. I can't say that I won't get too excited, because I already am, but as Mr. K and I discussed, I will have smaller goals-like becoming more fit-before I dive in and start training hard core.
We'll be moving to a new place and with that comes life responsibilities, like learning my way around and making sure Glacier is settling in. I will also have school duties and we are not entirely sure how intense my studies will be. Not to mention, I am still a wife who likes her husband and wants to spend time with him. So, with all of this in mind, I will have to move slower on this endeavor than I normally would, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I feel like I've waited long enough, since this was something I have been mulling over even before I retired from swimming, but if I take my time and enjoy the experience and make sure I can commit to it, then I am more likely to be successful.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

ww1: Robbie and Chris Take on Boston

ww1: Robbie and Chris Take on Boston: "Here's a great 'Believe and Achieve.' article written by Won with One guide, Chris Barnes about his experience with Robbie in the Boston Mar..."

A Little Flare

Glacier and I have had a pretty busy but enjoyable weekend. Friday night my mom and I headed across to Michigan and had a very good supper. Then we went to Joanne's Fabrics in order to buy pew bows and to find something to make them a bit more appealing. White, fluffy bows are neither mine nor Mr. K's idea of interesting, so Mom and I were on a mission to find something to add a bit of flare. Interestingly enough, this task proved a bit more difficult than we anticipated.
At first, we thought we'd get beads, I'd string them together and we'd add them to the bows. The selection of beads was a bit lacking and the one bead that I did fall in love with only had two left. They were these really cool Terra Cotta,   orange suns that we were going to dangle from a strand of pearls into the centre of the bow. We looked at a few different styles of beads, but nothing suited our fancy.
Mom and I visited the ribbon section to see what they had, but were not inspired. There were rolls and rolls of various ribbons, some with sequins others with fake pearls and still others with rhinestones, but we were just not feeling it. We even pulled one of the pew bows out of the box and placed the different strands beside it, but it was a no go. What's interesting to me, is that until we went to a florist to discuss decorating the chapel, I had no idea that people even used pew bows. I didn't even know what one looked like until Mom pulled it out of the box in the store. Being a blind bride has been very interesting  let me tell you. :)
After we vetoed the beads and ribbon, we stopped in a section where they had little glittery bits that you can add to scrap books or sew on to clothing. It didn't take much searching for us to come away with two packages of pastel dragonflies, orange Gerber Daisies and a few packages of purple Irises. The dragonflies are quite small whereas the flowers have different sizes in the packages. We thought we could arrange three dragonflies on one pew bow, or combine a dragonfly or two with a larger flower. Some of the Irises are quite small as well, so a few of those would go quite nicely with a larger Gerber Daisy. I am very satisfied with our new plan for the pew bows. I think these sparkly  accents will be perfect for a spring wedding.
Other than our pew bow excursion, we haven't done much more with regards to wedding planning. Today I am going to sit down and send an email to our new DJ with songs that we must absolutely hear at the reception and songs that may not be played under any circumstance. Mr. K and I have the majority of the special songs picked out. For example, my bouquet toss is probably going to be "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen and Mr. K's garter toss song is "Legs" by ZZTop. With less than a month to go, things are definitely coming together, despite running into a small glitch where a Groom'sman got a new job and is now not able to come. Mr. K was disappointed, and rightfully so, but we're hoping another of Mr. K's friends is able to step in.
That's all for now. Have a Happy Sunday. :)