Rolling with the Pottery Wheel

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to be a counselor for one of our overnight 5 day camps with teens with visual impairments or physical disabilities. One of our activities included going to a beautiful pottery studio where we all got to make small pinch pots and help make one large pot on the pottery wheel. I was super intrigued by the process of making things on the pottery wheel and our wonderful instructor invited me back to work one-on-one on the wheel! I was super excited for the opportunity and had the chance to have my first lesson this past week!

I had an absolute blast! It was so much fun to learn the strokes and methods involved in creating different things. It felt so good to be able to work on something and not have to use my vision. I was actually much more effective without sight!

I cannot thank my lovely teacher enough for her generosity and enthusiasm in teaching me! She was so wonderful in helping me to learn the process and I thoroughly enjoyed just spending time with her. We got to create some awesome pieces that I will be bringing to school with me! I definitely have the perfect ice cream bowl now! I will try to post pictures of the completed products!
Maybe I’ll have to make this another one of my many hobbies!

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Springboard Milestone

With one week left here in Utah, my NAC internship is coming to a close. So much has happened this summer and I have grown leaps and bounds from all that I have experienced. As I begin packing to go home, I realize that I am at a sort of springboard milestone in my journey. I need to decide whether to jump head first into embracing independence or shy away from the endless opportunities in front of me.
It has been about two weeks since I returned my beloved Retha to Guide Dogs. I still feel very confident in my decision but the emotions are just now hitting me. It is profoundly strange not having her by my side 24/7 and I still catch myself making mental slips in thinking “oh it’s time to feed Retha” or “Retha probably has to go potty.” But just in the past few days, I am terribly lonely. I miss her presence and the comfort of being able to reach down and pet her whenever I wanted to. I miss listening to her sleepy breathing at night and the silly things she did that made me smile. In all honesty, I just don’t feel complete without a guide dog. I know she is where she’s supposed to be in every way and I can’t wait to hear where she’ll be going next. That is the important part that I try to focus on. Meanwhile, I only have a few steps left in my application for another guide and have been told that it shouldn’t be too long until I am partnered with a dog. I am praying constantly for God to bring that special dog into my life soon. Everything happens in God’s timing but I confess I am selfishly impatient.
Just a couple days ago I was feeling especially sad and lonely but God so purely and bluntly showed his face to me through one of the most profound “God moments” I’ve ever had. I began to cry and pray that God would bring me comfort and bring a new partner in my life. Right away, my room mate’s cat, Bob, jumped up on my lap, put his paws on my chest and rubbed his face against my cheek. It was such a precious moment and I really felt God’s presence with me. Bob has never been so boldly affectionate toward me which made the moment even more special. Immediately afterward, I accidentally hit the play button for the music on my phone. Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” started to play and was followed by Jason Castro’s version of “hallelujah.” Both of these songs have always given me strength and peace in difficult times. I firmly believe that God collaborated with Apple to organize that exact shuffle of songs!!!
Although I am stuck using a cane (which I despise for many reasons) I am trying my best to use this time as an opportunity to grow in confidence. I need to be comfortable using my cane for travel in situations where a guide dog is unavailable. And I also need to be ok with making mistakes and having to “look more blind” in travel. It is a humbling time to say the least but this needs to happen so I can be prepared for anything in the future. I can still connect with people if I’m caning it but it takes more effort than having the natural public attraction to the dog.
In addition to these personal changes, I am slowly getting ready to begin a new year at SPU with exciting commitments and opportunities. One of my goals as Arnett/Emerson Hall Senator is to incorporate tactile art into Arnett Hall,, our brand new residence hall. I am making slow progress on this project and have begun to network with tactile artists and educators. Even if we just get one piece up this year, I see that as a major accomplishment in creating opportunities for inclusion and awareness of our residents’ unique abilities and characteristics. I hope to also begin brainstorming for a new Environmental Stewardship club on campus. It is in the very beginning stages but I’m really excited to work with some incredible people and hopefully get some cool things going on campus.
On the subject of education, I have a pretty exciting opportunity ahead. I’ve decided to enroll in the Northwest School of Animal Massage’s Large Animal Massage Certification Course. The course is taught long distance and concludes with a five day practicum at their facility on Vashon Island in WA. There are no official deadlines for the distance learning piece so I would be able to complete assignments at my own pace. It will take some time to figure out disability services and accommodations I’ll need but I am super excited to start the process!! My hope is to have certification to perform maintenance massage by next summer. And then if that happens, I want to come back to the NAC next summer to work on our therapy horses. Eventually, I hope to be able to have equine massage as a supplemental form of income as I get through school.

With all of this change on the horizon, I know I need to be diligent about embracing all that comes my way and not running from challenges. I have to be engaged with whatever comes in life. I’m determined to live life to the fullest. I would please ask you for your prayers as I go through this time of change. Please be praying that God brings the perfect dog into my life and keeps His faithful hand over me through all of this. I am so beyond grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life who offer so much support and encouragement. I am one blessed lady!! Now its time to get excited and jump in to new adventures!!! Let the games begin!!

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A Heart-Tugging Decision

I like to give my readers a heads-up with my posts if I expect them to be considerably long or different from the usual somehow. I strongly believe that each of my posts (regardless of content) is a reflection of where I am spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I don’t mean that in a mystical way like my words are an expression of my inner-most being influenced by Buddha and The Wizard of Oz or anything like that. But I do try hard to put my heart out there and share my journey with all of it’s successes and struggles despite feeling slightly vulnerable in being so honest. I have faith that God is able to use my story for His purpose. With that said, I am preparing you now that this post will be unexpected for most and you will not fully understand everything but that’s ok. I don’t understand all of it either but God knows every aspect and that is what I’m leaning on right now. Ok, I won’t continue dragging this on into a more suspenseful prelude any longer.

With a heavy heart, I have decided that it is time for Retha to retire as a guide dog.

From the start, Retha has never really been an easy partner to work with but I always thought that was just her sassy and energetic personality. Earlier this year, I began to notice that our guiding was extremely inconsistent. We went back to basics for a few weeks just to reestablish boundaries and expectations and things did improve a bit but we continued to be inconsistent in guiding. Toward the end of May, I reached out to our Guide Dogs for the Blind field service manager and scheduled a time for him to come out and observe our guidework. In the weeks leading up to his visit, I started to realize that Retha may just need to be done as a guide dog. I became more confident in considering her retirement and felt a tugging on my heart that this was the right decision. I have no doubt that God was planting the seed that just needed more time to come to fruition.

When we met with our field service manager, I was fully prepared to retire Retha and begin the process of getting her back to GDB. Our field service manager didn’t see major problems in our guidework but respected my decision to begin the retirement process for Retha. Directly after the meeting, I went straight to my room with Retha and absolutely lost it. Sobbing, I called my wonderful mother for support. She lovingly listened to my blubbering emotions and helped me to think more clearly. At one point, I was sitting on the floor with Retha in front of me as I unloaded my bucket of feelings on my mom. Retha sat down, put her ears back in a worried expression and leaned forward to lick the tears from my cheeks. At that moment, I knew I was not ready to give my baby girl up. I wanted to keep trying. I immediately called our field service manager back and expressed my change of heart. He helped me to come up with a plan of action. We decided to see how the summer went with my internship in Utah and if we needed to revisit the subject then we would.

The summer started out well. Retha could get me to our Dial A Ride stop relatively smoothly and I began to think my earlier thought of retirement was misled. But even with stricter boundaries and an increased workload, our guidework was still inconsistent at best. It was not one specific problem area but more of a lack of reliability. Through discussing the idea of retirement again with an important mentor in my life and with Retha’s puppy raising momma, I have come to the decision that guiding is just not the right job for Retha. She does not excel in guiding and I am not benefiting fully from this relationship. Although there are times where Retha is excited and focused, ultimately she is not happy with this life. Her wellbeing means more to me than anything else and because of that I know she needs a change. And with so many new exciting opportunities on the horizon, I need a partner that is reliable and focused, enabling me to grow in independence rather than create exhaustion with the relationship.

I have had another conversation with our field service manager and he agrees with my decision especially after we gave it a second shot to get on track. Because I feel so strongly now with this choice, I think it is best that we get Retha back to the GDB campus as soon as possible. Both of us need emotional closure and I do not want Retha to feel at any point like she has done something wrong. So I will be bringing Retha back to the Boring, OR campus within the next few days. It is a 26 hour and 1200 mile drive roundtrip from here in Park City, UT but my incredible friend and mentor from the NAC has so graciously offered to drive me there and back. She has even reached out to her own contacts in the area to arrange a place for us to stay so we can break up the drive just a bit. I cannot even begin to explain how grateful and humbled I am to have such support from her. It is the definition of a God given blessing.

Emotionally I am doing better than expected with my decision. I love Retha as a mother would love a child so I feel confident that this needs to happen for her sake more than mine. I believe Retha could have a future career as a drug detection dog or simply be a beautiful addition to an active and engaged family or individual. Having that hope for a better future for her is what drives me to put these wheels in motion (literally!) as soon as possible. I want her to go in for evaluation and move on to a happier life than what she has now. I will miss her dearly and I am sure the tears will flow when it comes to saying goodbye (slightly teary eyed writing that). But not only does God have his hand over me, He has it over the beautiful soul that is Retha too. I am learning to let go and trustingly place her in His hand. She has taught me so much and will bring such light to whoever her new person will be. My initial heart-tugging earlier this year was indeed God’s guiding hand and I am at peace knowing He is in control.

I know you must be wondering what the plan is now as far as getting another guide dog. I have reapplied for training to be paired with another guide. I hope to meet my new partner as soon as possible however I am willing to wait for the right dog to come my way. I know now that I need a very mellow and steady guide and strongly prefer to have a male. My hope would be to have another dog by October or a bit after but as I said, I am willing to wait. God has the right match out there for me and I have absolutely no doubt that it will come through in His timing.

In the meantime, I admit that I will enjoy a bit less responsibility. It will be extremely strange and lonely without Retha but I aim to spend some time focusing on myself both spiritually and physically. I want to be ready whenever the next dog comes.

I promise, this post is almost over!! With all of this happening, I would humbly ask for prayers as we hit the road to OR and Retha and I begin our journeys apart from each other. I trust in God and I trust in the power of prayer.

Thank you so much for reading and for the endless support and encouragement. I appreciate it more than you know. I will have some pictures of Retha and I this summer to follow this post. We have so many happy memories to hold on to.

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Fulfilling, Empowering Summer

Blog Post: NAC

I am seriously having the best summer ever and as promised I will share a bit about my adventures. I apologize if this post is super long! I tend to write a lot more when I’m super excited!

Earlier this year, I applied for an internship at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah. The NAC is a nonprofit organization that provides sports and recreation activities for kids and adults of all abilities. Our programs include, cycling, aquatics, water sports, Challenge course (adapted high and low ropes course), rock climbing, archery, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding and my personal favorite equestrian (adaptive horseback riding). We have many summer camps for kids with all kinds of disabilities where they can participate in all our programs and we also work with groups such as the Wounded Warriors Project.So after submitting a resume and participating in a phone interview, I was told that I had been chosen to be one of the NAC’s Coach Interns. The Coach Internship is specifically for young adults with disabilities and preference is given to applicants with visual impairments. After talking to my supervisor, we were able to create a modified internship experience so I could focus primarily on the NAC’s equestrian program.

So, the directly after moving out of my SPU dorm room, I repacked and hopped on a plane for a three month adventure in the great state of Utah!! I found housing at the last possible second and could not be more happy with my living situation here in Park City. I have the sweetest, most hard working, compassionate and truly beautiful room mate ever. Our apartment is perfect in every way and has everything I needed in a home away from home. It is a ten minute drive to the NAC and is about a mile from a Dial-A-Ride stop which has been my main form of transportation. My lovely momma flew with me when I first got here and I must admit that part of the reasoning behind that decision was because I could use her two free checked bags since we were flying Southwest. It was such a huge blessing to have her here to help me get settled in and organized for the summer. I am eternally grateful for her in every way.

Working in the Barn
Now there is a bit of back story to my connection to the NAC’s equestrian program. The current equestrian program manager was my riding instructor for over six years when I rode at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville,, WA. She was the main contributor to the strong riding foundation I received from riding at Little Bit. Not only is she a major role model for me but she is a dear friend of my family’s and is a second mother/big sister/cool aunt figure in my life. In addition, the lead instructor in the equestrian program was also at Little Bit for a time and taught my class many times. She is such a light in the barn and always makes me smile with her wit and positivity. With these two phenomenal women in the barn, the initial anxiety surrounding working in a new place was lessened dramatically. It was like a little piece of home had followed me to UT.

Working in the barn is fulfilling, educational and empowering and I love every second of it. I am able to help in our camps for kids with disabilities and contribute to the general function of lessons/sessions. The equestrian program has three different activities offered. Adaptive riding is designed to teach people of all abilities to successfully ride and learn to control a horse. Hippotherapy is occupational, physical and speech therapy on horseback where the horse is used as a therapy tool and the patient is not learning riding skills. Equine Facilitated Learning is an unmounted activity where a group of horses is in the arena without any equipment and an individual or group learns to use teamwork, communication and problem solving to move the horse. EFL creates an environment where a person’s internal energy and body language is reflected in the behavior of a horse, providing a unique experience of self reflection. I have had the opportunity to work in all of these activities but have to say that hippotherapy is my favorite. It is such an intimate and fun experience to work with great horses and staff while witnessing the joy and progress of the patients. Hippotherapy is the highlight of my week!

Personally, I feel that working in the equestrian program has really enabled me to realize what I am capable of. Too often, I often feel useless in contributing to a project or cause just because the environment is usually not one that can be easily adapted for me to work the same as others. But here at the NAC, working with horses, I am able to recognize that my efforts are actually making a difference. I can create a positive experience for our participants or assist in helping things run smoothly which allows other staff to focus more on their riders. It is an incredibly empowering experience that I didn’t even realize I needed in my own personal and professional development.

In addition to working in the barn, I had the opportunity to be a camp counselor for our overnight camp for teenagers with visual impairments and/or physical disabilities. We participated in many different programs and I even had the opportunity to participate a little as well. I stayed overnight for the week in the NAC lodge. The campers are some of the funnest, most interesting and determined individuals and I am blessed to have shared that week with them. In getting to know them, laughing with them and sharing in their joy we made some pretty awesome memories. I am grateful to call them my friends and know we will stay in touch.

As I near my flight home on September 9, I am trying to soak in every moment here and make as many memories as possible. I definitely miss home but have had such a meaningful and fun summer so far that it will be very sad to leave. I know the relationships I have formed here will last longer than just the summer and I am seriously blessed beyond belief to have had such wonderful people to work with, making this experience that much better. Do you think I could say anymore about how awesome this internship has been??? I think I could but those stories will come later!! I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be back here someday in some capacity. God’s work is being done here and I’m thankful to be apart of it.

For more info about the National Ability Center visit http://www.discovernac.org

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Enduring Spirit of SPU

I don’t exactly know where to start. So much has happened since my last post. I apologize for the extensive absence of my blog. I want to make it a personal goal to post more regularly. In my almost year long silence from here, I have grown up a lot, gained confidence in myself and realized that God’s purpose for my life is bigger than I expected. The details of my freshman year of college at SPU and the many adventures it contained will come as I begin to post consistently again. Just a warning to the readers of this post; this will be long but I will try to be as concise as possible. I want to thank all of my readers for your patience and endless support. I am seriously in awe of the kindness and encouragement of all of you. It is truly a blessing to be able to share my journey with every one of you.

SPU
I seriously could not have asked for a better first year at SPU. Living on a floor of girls was definitely… a unique experience but I am so grateful for my wonderful, beautiful floor-mates and the fantastic PA who became my friend, momma, confidant and inspiration. I bonded especially with the girls I shared a nook with. A nook is a small lounge common area with two rooms and a bathroom on each side. I was able to grow closer to Sarah S, my lifelong best friend who happened to live just a few rooms down from me this year. I grew especially close to Ali (name and personality twin! seriously a remarkable person), Annalise (our fabulous fashionista with a laugh that brightens everyone’s day!), Sarah M (the crazy smart, hardworking big sister influence who I shared many study dates with), Marcie (my suite-mate with a beautiful loud personality and a heart full of compassion that blows my mind) and Stefanie (the rower with physical endurance of a mountain goat who always knows what to say to make me laugh). These girls are those who I lived closely with but the whole floor was filled with girls who continue to amaze me with their strength, conviction and positivity. In addition to my crazy girls, I am blessed with meeting and getting to know the one and only Kodi who lived on our brother floor and was adopted by our nook especially. His endless wit, wisdom, perspective and support were such a light.
On an academic level, I learned so much about economics, faith and the God given purpose of business. SPU’s School of Business and Economics is founded on the philosophy that there is “another way of doing business.” This perspective speaks life into the often passionless, cold world that business is often known for. I learned that business is not a forgotten avenue to do God’s work but is more the foundation of all work that can be done in our Lord’s name. Business is in everything and because of this, has one of the most powerful presences in the world. In my opinion, business is service and has the ability to touch countless lives. With being exposed to this novel way of thinking, my personal passion for business has grown monumentally. I know that no matter what I end up doing, business will be part of it.
Also, SPU’s core curriculum includes classes meant to enable students to experience the Christian message and learn about the foundation of the Christian belief. With these classes, I had the opportunity to learn from absolutely incredible professors about the faith that I call my home. I feel so much more educated about the fundamental beliefs that are my faith. I also had the experience of confronting my convictions through literature and film. I am so much more “on fire” for Jesus and have an increased desire to know Him more.
In terms of accommodations and disability support services, I am blown away with the resources extended to me. I was able to complete work through braille, electronic documents, audiobooks and personal scribes for exams and projects. My needs are met here in every way and I am so thankful to work with the awesome team I have at SPU.
For my sophomore year, I will be living in a brand new residence hall called Arnett Hall. Additionally, I will be serving on hall council as a senator for the new dorm and the dorm I lived in this year. Arnett and Emerson will work in joint government for this first year of Arnett’s existence on campus. My main girl Ali and the amazing Kodi will be serving on Arnett/Emerson hall council as well. As a team of nine members, we are motivated to create a foundation of acceptance and positivity for the new dorm while continuing to build the identity of Emerson. I am thrilled for this opportunity to make a difference on campus and strive to pave the way for students with disabilities in Arnett hall while providing a listening ear for every resident. My ideas include tactile art for Arnett, braille labeling for all appliances, set service dog relieving areas, dorm documents in a variety of accessible formats and events promoting awareness of all that makes us unique as individuals. We are going to do great things and I am so excited for next year!!

The Day the Earth Stood Still
June 5, 2014 is a day I will never ever forget. At about 3:30 PM, a young man armed with a gun entered Otto Miller Hall on SPU’s campus. He opened fire on a lobby full of students seriously wounding one and taking the life of another. While the shooter stopped to unload, a brave and heroic student, John, took action and subdued the shooter long enough for police to arrive, preventing harm to any other students. Our community is unbelievably grateful for John and his selfless actions. But we are also heart broken by the loss of Paul Lee, the young freshman whose life was cut much too short by an act of such senseless violence.
Before and during the shooting, I was in a meeting in my dorm with my team of hall council members for next year. We heard the sirens racing by us toward the science building and joked about the police being after one of us before we were informed via other students that something much more evil had happened. Quickly, the whole campus went into lock down, alerting students via text, email and phone calls. We were told to lock the door and get away from the giant window in front of us that faced the building where the shooting occurred. Rumors circulated sending all of us into shocked, confused, saddened, angry, prayerful silence. Occasionally new pieces of information reached us and we began to create a bigger picture of what had happened on our beloved SPU campus. Listening to the phone calls to family of my fellow hall council members and then hearing my mom and brother sobbing with relief as I called to inform them of my safety, made the reality hit hard. It wasn’t until later that evening, when the lockdown was lifted, that we all learned the identities of those affected. It all happened too quickly. Our world was flipped upside down. A heaviness fell on our campus. I had friends who were in the building when it all happened. Their accounts and the scenes they witnessed still leave me stunned. But the loss of Paul, a freshman from a spirited floor on campus; a fellow classmate; an adored son; a roommate; a young man with hopes and dreams… all I can say is that he will be so dearly missed. I did not personally know Paul but watching as my friends who sat next to him in class earlier that day or had him in other classes, grieved so deeply, broke my heart.
But SPU will not be broken. We are a community of faith and hope and we will love each other through this. Although we are hurting, Jesus is on this campus. Even in the hours after the shooting, God’s loving presence was evident in every student. A prayer service was quickly organized for that night and the attendance was so great that they had to open live streaming locations on campus for people to attend. In subsequent prayer services, the response was only greater. Prayer circles were scattered on every lawn, candle light vigils were organized by students, flowers blanketed the entrance to Otto Miller Hall, love consumed this place. Love not only for the victims, but love for the shooter and his family. I saw no sign of bitterness but only extended compassion and support for the man who sought to hurt and destroy. That is Jesus in every way. That is what it means to be a follower of Christ. And that is the enduring spirit of Seattle Pacific University.

Attached to this post is our faithful SpU President’s heartfelt reaction to the shooting. Affectionately known by students as “D Money,” Dr. Daniel Martin is an example of raw faith and compassion. His unfailing leadership is that of a sincere Christian man. Throughout the year, Dr Martin was present at all campus-wide functions and played an active roll in our campus culture and community. This tragedy was no different. He grieved and continues to heal alongside us. This university is immeasurably blessed to have his strength, care and humility as a guiding light through this process of grief and healing. This is true leadership in every way. As Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, “we will overcome.”

Please stay tuned for a following post about my summer adventure at the National Ability Center.SPU President Dr Daniel Martin’s Sincere Message After Campus Shooting

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Back Home

My week in Utah has come to a close. I have had the time of my life and have learned so much. Not just about therapeutic riding but about being self sufficient and taking risks where I may make mistakes. I’m proud of myself for working hard to push outside my comfort zone but still making sure I receive what I need. I am really sad to leave. I feel like I’ve made some great connections and I really feel at home at the National Ability Center. I am considering an internship at the NAC, specifically in the  equestrian program for next summer. I feel like I would really benefit.

This trip really was the perfect opportunity to realize my confidence to be independent before SPU. Going into the fall, I feel really ready to take on whatever life throws at me. I’ve really felt God’s presence with me this week. When I was insecure and uncomfortable he gave me the strength to keep trying and not shut down which, would be my instinct.

All in all, the best graduation present to myself ever!!! Retha and I are on our way to Seattle!

Back to Sea town!!!

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Update Utah

Another update from UT! I am getting really comfortable with my environment and am honestly surprised with my independence for only being here a few days. Retha is helping a ton too and has learned the different routes around the NAC campus.

Today I had the honor of riding in a lesson of instructors taught by my amazing mentor Marci. It felt so wonderful to be riding with her again. I rode a horse who goes a lot like Watchman so I was able to learn a lot. It took a bit to get used to things but I was able to put the pieces together for a great ride in the end. I know one of the biggest things I need to work on in my riding career is learning to adapt to different horses and  environments. It’s so crucial to be a well-rounded rider and to be able to ride any horse I’m on, effectively and confidently. Environments at horse shows are constantly different and I need to find stability and confidence in a place that is naturally uncomfortable and stressful.

I still continue to learn a ton from Marci and would really love to intern for her next summer or at some point in the future  It would just be details of finances and finding a place to stay. I know if it’s in God’s plan for me then somehow it will come together.

Looking forward to working with some new trial horses in the program today. And of course soaking up as much time as possible with my wonderful boyfriend.

Signing out!!!

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