Adapting to my ever changing life

My last post was in November of last year. Now we are three quarters through the year and I have much to report.

Love Life

Yes, I have one now! My biggest event on Christmas was for my friend, Kurt, to become my boyfriend, Kurt. He’s a paraplegic, so he’s on wheels, too, and learning to walk again. He happens to be my neighbor, which is how we met. He’s a veteran, fought in Iraq, and so between his issues and mine, it’s been interesting and rough, but I think getting the hard stuff over with first is maybe a blessing in disguise.  I cannot tell you how much I love him. Like the old song says, he’s in my heart, he’s in my soul. I am madly, crazily, in love with him, and he keeps asking me why. I tell him, “Because I do.” Truly, life would not be the same without him, and I pray he’s the one.

Yesterday was his daughter’s 18th birthday. So we went down to Morgantown, IN, for her party. The plan was that he would spend a few days with her, but as plans change, she came home with us. So Duke and I are kicking it in my apartment this weekend, letting them have some one on one time.

It was neat meeting his daughter. She is such a sweet girl. We’ve spoken on the phone before and I love her so much already.

I really pray that the PowerBall ticket I bought is the jackpot winner. I would love to buy an accessible house for myself, with two master bedrooms (since sometimes our various health problems make it impossible to sleep in the same bed), and at least two guest bedrooms, one of which would be for his daughter. It would have an awesome accessible kitchen that he and I could work in with ease, and various other purposed rooms.

His ex and he talked about him moving down there and that there are low income apartments in that area. She said we could see about getting me a place down there, too. I would love that.

Speaking of daughters…

Tami and I are communicating again! This is a relatively new development.  I have yet to see her, but we have spoken on the phone and Facebook messaged back and forth. I can only hope and pray that this relationship blossoms. I can’t take back the past, and neither can she, but we can start a fresh relationship as two grown women, which would be wonderful.

Duke

I know, everyone wants an update on Duke. He is doing wonderfully. Despite being around two people in wheelchairs, he still knows who his partner is and performs admirably. Often I don’t have to even give the command and he does it. I love him so much. Life would not be the same without him either.

Computer

My computer decided to quit working this summer. Thankfully, a friend from church came to the rescue and did it as a tithe to the church and all is well. One day soon I hope to get a laptop so I have a portable computer as well.

State of mind

As you can see, I am largely happy. And with Kurt’s guidance I’m becoming a lot more organized, which helps me feel a lot better.  I am blessed to have good doctors that actually come to the apartment and am on pain management now. Most people don’t realize that there is a lot of physical pain that comes with conditions such as Kurt’s and mine. Taking away most of the pain takes a whole lot of weight off of my mind. We are trying to get Medicaid to approve a change of antidepressant. I’ll have to call Monday to see if the pharmacy got the approval.

Birthday Season

Yes, it’s arrived. I know what I am getting my granddaughter, Akane. Her birthday is on the 25th. I do not know what to do for Robert and Tami’s birthdays on the 9th and 11th of next month, but I am sure something will come to mind.

Mine comes on November 14th. I’ve been updating my Amazon Wishlist as there’s a lot of stuff that needs removed as it’s no longer pertinent and makes the whole thing a major cluster.

In Conclusion

Right now I have a sweet face leaning on my arm, so that’s Duke’s sign that it’s time for a trip outside for a break.

Hopefully I will post much more often. I’d like to have a real blog that I can do more with, including having an Amazon store and such. If anyone knows about how to go about this as cheaply as possible, please let me know. Thanks!

A Whole Lot of Awesome!

Folks have helped me raise $111.00 so far toward making me legally Morgan.  I cannot thank you all enough for helping make yet another dream come true.

I was going to wait until my birthday to get things started, but things were going so well this week that I called Legal Aid yesterday and they said they could see me today! So I went in and met with Mr. Sage (wonderful name for a lawyer!) and paid him the court costs and the publication fee for the public notice, which came to $250, $260 counting the $10 to get in the door and get this handled, I have to call them in a week and a half to see where things are. And I was told it would take about 3-4 months all told, though it could be faster. I’m betting I’ll have my new and proper name by the New Year.

So that is my first bit of awesome. And I tell you what, I came out of that Legal Aid office today feeling like a 100 pound weight was lifted from my spirit. This has been something I’ve wanted for over 20 years now, and it became more important the last few years as I realized how much I’ve grown and and changed to the point that I am no longer the same person as the woman who raised my kids. So I really want not for vanity, but because it signifies the change within me.

The second, speaking of children, is that I have been inspired to write a children’s book about Duke and service dogs. I spoke to a friend of mine who is already a self-published children’s book author and illustrator, among other hats he wears, and asked him if he would be willing to illustrate it, and he not only agreed to do so, he agreed to publish it for me!

I love it when a plan comes together!

We are working out the details, and once I have some numbers (and do some fact research and start writing that puppy!), I’ll set up a Kickstarter to that end. I’ll let you all know more as things develop.

I cannot express how excited I am about this project. I have always wanted to be an author. I love writing, and actually express myself better in writing than I do verbally. And to be able to use my experience to help others is another passion of mine. So, I guess that’s two great gifts that go great together.

I still feel a lot of awesome in the air, and I am so grateful.

How does it get any better than this?

Well, it’s been a couple months since I got my service dog, Duke, and I have been negligent in posting about him. He is everything I wanted and more. At home, he is great. And riding the bus or out in the general public, he is fantastic. But the one problem I do run into is dealing with people when it comes to Duke. So I’d like to share my take on this. I know most of these are common sense, but that seems people forget common sense when they see an animal.

  • A service dog is not a pet. Let me repeat, once more with feeling, A service dog is not a pet! If you forget any other of the rules in this post, remember that and let that be your guide as to how you behave around it. Legally, a service dog is a tool, just like my wheelchair, my braces, and my crutches. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my service dog. In some ways I love him more than if he were my pet, because he does things for me. But just like you wouldn’t just grab my wheelchair or any other assistive device I may be using, you shouldn’t just approach and interact with my dog either. As a friend pointed out to me, denying me or interfering with the use of any assistive device I have would be cruel, inhumane, and illegal: the same goes for my dog.
  • If you see a dog with a vest on, it’s a service dog, not a pet. Yes, I know there are people who will buy vests to pass off their pets as service dogs. That’s illegal, by the way, to misrepresent your pet in that way and makes it even harder on those of us with a legitimate service dog . But, nevertheless always assume the dog with the vest is a service dog, it just makes things easier. Believe me, on a hot summer day he’d rather not be wearing his vest. And, he isn’t even required by law to wear the vest, but it does make our lives a whole lot easier when he is wearing it when people take note of it and heed it. His is not hard to see, it’s a bright blue vest and it has Working Service Dog stitched on it in white letters and the logo of the assistance dog organization he came from on the side.
  • Never feed an assistance dog. There are many reasons for this. Again, my dog is not a pet, and he is fed a most strict diet both in terms of calories and content. Even his treats are high quality.  That seemingly innocent doggie biscuit from the grocery store or piece of hotdog that you may want to give him are not healthy for him.Also, only the dog’s handler should give the dog food and treats. If other do so, it disrupts the relationship. If you have acceptable treats for my dog, give them to me and I will give it to him.
  • Never interact with an assistance dog without permission of the handler. You see the cute dog and you want to say hi to it or pet it, or make noises at it. But you shouldn’t.  Even if it is just walking with it’s handler, it is working and talking to it is distracting it from it’s job. The dog is on call at all times, thus working, and is supposed to be paying attention to the handler at all times. If the dog is paying attention to you, it’s not paying attention to it’s handler and the commands and needs of the handler.  He’s not there to be company for me, but to help me and obey my commands. Imagine what it would be like to be a parent with an adorable child about 2 or 3 years of age, and you are trying to do your grocery shopping, or even just go from point A to point B in a given room, with this child in tow; but every few steps someone is grabbing your child to give it a hug or is talking to your child without your permission. How do you think that would impact you, your child, and your progress in what you are trying to accomplish? It is the same thing with my dog.
  • Try to refrain from even asking to pet or talk to the dog.  Better still, just ignore my dog. Mentally acknowledge it’s existence and give it the space and courtesy needed, but otherwise talk to me and act as if he’s not there.
  • Never give commands or instructions to my dog. That is my job as the handler. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, so I might miss a misbehavior, as happened this week when Duke and I were loading onto the bus, Duke behind my chair, and he gave a passing sniff to a lady’s grocery bags, and she was not a dog lover evidently. What she should have done instead of making shooing motions with her hands in his face and telling him to “Go away! Get” was to ask me to call him away. I got him to come lay by me and leave it, but he was confused by the whole interaction so it took longer.
  • Which brings me to, It’s my right to have my dog in public. If you don’t like dogs, are afraid of dogs, or are allergic to dogs, move to a different spot: especially on the bus, where there are only two locations where I can sit, and both are at the front of the bus and across the aisle from each other. If you are a store or restaurant employee and you don’t like, are allergic to, or are afraid of dogs, find another employee to wait on us. If you are a patron in a public place such as a restaurant or a theater, your right is to have your location moved if you are uncomfortable near my dog. Never ask for the people with the assistance dogs to move! That would not only be rude, it is highly illegal and if the establishment would do that, it could get them in a whole lot of hot water.

Doggie Update!

Earlier in the month I called Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence (ADAI) to ask about the likelihood of there being a dog for me in August. I was told there were mostly walking dogs in this class, so it wouldn’t be very likely.

But, never say never!

Yesterday I got a call from Jenny Barlos, the Client Services Director at ADAI, and she asked if I was available to come meet with her next week.

“Does this mean you have a dog for me?” I blurted with all the subtlety and excitement of a child who senses they are about to receive a gift.

“Yes, it does!” She went on to explain that they wanted me to come meet the dog, who she feels would be a good match, and see how we do together. And, if it’s a match made in heaven, then I get to go back to Toledo in August to train with my dog for two weeks.

So, I will be taking a bus on Tuesday morning out to Toledo and staying the night at Jim’s place. Then Wednesday I have a 10:00 AM meeting with Jenny and I’ll be taking the bus back home on Wednesday afternoon.

I’m pondering my options for lodging during the training, and the more I consider it, the more I think that we would be best off staying in like a Red Roof Inn or Extended Stay America for the two weeks. Jim has a bird, a big parrot, and there are concerns about the bird and the dog together since the bird is having some behavior issues. Another option is his ex, who has dogs. But I am concerned that will be a distraction for my dog.

When I set the goal of $1000, I was looking at it with the plan of staying with Jim, so ever so I’m grateful for the donations I’ve gotten on my YouCaring.com page. Even with a cheap motel, that’s still around $600-$700 for lodging for 2 weeks.

I’m running the numbers now, figuring on the high end of prices to cover all bases…

Dog   $500
Hotel   $800
Bus Ticket   $160
    TOTAL $1460

That leaves about $800 for food, local travel within Toledo (taxis, most likely), and various other expenses( like laundry) while I’m there, so help is still welcome and appreciated.

I am amazed at how fast this is happening. When I got accepted in January, the letter said the average waiting list is 2 years for a dog. I feel very blessed that this is happening the way it is and how generous everyone has been. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.

And Friday I get to meet with my Voc. Rehab. counselor about changing my goal to college. My intention is to get a Bachelors in Social Work so I can work in disability advocacy in one form or another.

Yes, my life is changing. My depression that kept me from posting in so long has lifted, I have finally found what I want to do with my life, and soon I’ll have my assistance dog. I am so unbelievably joyful and grateful right now!

Thank you, God! How does it get better than this?

When I wrote this morning’s post, Full Circle, I sent it to Q with a note, “This is for you.”

What happened afterward is nothing short of amazing. He responded, telling me how I had made his day. He then sent me a link to an autism center, saying “You will like this.” Indeed I did.

Q then started asking me for particulars about my assistance dog fundraising, which I was more than happy to share.

I was the next one to be in tears. Happy tears, as I got notified of a rather sizable donation. In no way was I asking for, or expecting this. I really don’t understand what I did to deserve this.

My mind went back round to the autism center, and my friends who have an autistic son. My thoughts tend to be rather non-linear more often than not.  I mentioned that I would have to share that with a friend of mine, whose son is autistic.

He then told me to have my friend call the center and ask for a specific person, and to tell that person that their friend (me) was a good friend of Q, the founder of the organization, and that she was calling for help.

Founder? Now the connection, above and beyond it being an organization of common interest to us, was there for me to see. How beautiful that this man had so turned his life to good that he even founded an autism center.

I was flabbergasted, and in tears once more. So grateful at his generosity, and much good had come from this. For him, for the children his organization serves, and for my good friends and their son who will be helped as well.

Thank you, Q. You are too kind. And thank God!

I feel blessed beyond measure.

On the surface, it doesn’t sound good. I have a disability, I live in HUD housing and get just over $700 a month in SSI to live on each month since, due to my choice to be a stay at home wife and mother, I am not eligible for Social Security Disablity. 

Believe me, where I live I hear a lot of complaints about the place (which, while there’s room for improvement, there are far worse places to live), people complaining about their health, and their relationships, and their finances. 

But the key word is, decidedly. I look back from where I came, and I’m so grateful for what I’ve got now.

2006 I was diagnosed with a disability that would slowly take away my balance and coordination, and my husband left me for another woman a year later. And it was the end of my world.

But, that was a blessing, because in that world I was rarely happy, and that mindset set the stage for my life. When I lost everything, I had no choice but to rebuild.

Thankfully, I had the support of my son and of online friends, for at the time I had precious few friends I knew in the flesh. One of those online friends, Orenthal, sent me a gift of inspirational and self help books for my birthday in November, 2007, and that was a literal lifesaver to me. I read them and grew spiritually and emotionally, and my attitude started to change as I started affirming and putting much of the stuff into practice. 

As I recovered and my confidence grew, I started branching out – not easy for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, but I knew I had to connect with people – I wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons again, so I checked out the Meet Ups, and I reached out on one of the groups and posted that I’d like to play, but I don’t have transportation (and at the time, in 2008, had a broken leg to boot!) A nice young man named Brian said, “I run a group near you, I’ll come pick you up.” From that decision to reach out, I ended up finding friends with the same interest.

As I further grew spiritually, I eventually found a church of people with like mind, Unity of Indianapolis, I decided to reach out again, and they responded by arranging a ride for me. 

A year ago I left my home of 20 years to move into HUD housing. It was a trailer beyond repair and a decision I should have made years ago, but change can be difficult. It was a good decision.

I now have heat and hot water, two things that were constantly breaking down at my old trailer. There is a service coordinator here that brings in various medical personnel, like the Nurse Practitioner that is here every other week and the chiropractor that comes every Wednesday. It still needs to be paid for by insurance, but I’ve got Medicaid. 

Last summer when I went to GenCon I went to Geek’s Dream Girl‘s Speed Dating event. It wasn’t something I planned on, I just did it for a lark, but I made a new friend there, Jim, who is from Toledo. Checking into the Toledo area and starting with their center for independent living, The Ability Center of Greater Toledo, I discovered that they are partnered with an amazing assistance dog organization, Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence, which looked to be a more viable option for me to get an assistance dog than the organization here locally, and it felt right so I decided to apply.

Happily, Jim and I, while we are not romantically involved, are good friends and I am on the waiting list now to get an assistance dog. 

Yes, life is decidedly good right now, and it’s getting better all the time. 

Even before I had Cerebellar Ataxia, I was disabled. I don’t mention it a lot, but I am on the autistic spectrum, with a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome. We didn’t know what it was when I was little, just that I was “different”. 

As such, I was bullied. A lot. 

So last month when I decided to raise funds for my assistance dog, it was with a bit of hesitance that I posted the link on my High School class’ Facebook group. The results were nothing short of amazing. Classmates stepped up and chipped in, and acquaintances from school are now friendships. 

But the bigger surprise came when I got up two days after posting and saw a private message, sent the night before, from a name I hadn’t seen in a long time. To protect the privacy of this brave individual, I’ll just call him by a random initial (not even his real initial), Q. 

Q was one of the bullies in my life since the 7th grade. So to see a note from him in my Facebook messages was not anything I would have expected 30-some years after high school. What would this guy have to say to me after all this time?

It was an apology.

To say I was blown away, that would be an understatement. 

As I read on, I learned that for over 30 years, Q has regretted the way he treated me, And that now he has a child with autism and he spends a lot of time volunteering to help others.

I felt no hesitation as I wrote back that all had been long forgiven, and I offered Q my friendship. As I did so, this sense of relief washed over me. In typing my forgiveness to Q, it was as if I was not just forgiving him, but all the other malcontents who made my life challenging.

There are no accidents in this life, I believe that and now I am even more certain of it. I cried tears of joy as I read this. What a blessing, that we could be a part of each other’s life paths in that way, and that we could come full circle.

Thank you, Q,

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