Thankful for Burnt Rolls | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 4

I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to host a big celebration, like Thanks Giving or Christmas.  It sounds like so much work, and I couldn’t imagine how I could ever prepare for that many people with that much food to make and that many dishes to clean up afterward… and yet, it seems like it would be fulfilling… to know how much you contributed to the success of an event that brought loved ones together when they might not have otherwise been together, and formed memories that might not otherwise have been formed.

My suite mates and I got a small taste of what that might be like this weekend.  We hosted “Friends Giving”, my roommates tradition with a couple college friends.  Here’s what I learned from the whole experience.

1. Very little goes as planned.

A: Turns out most grocery stores don’t have thanks giving turkeys until a bit closer to thanks giving, so we settled on mixed rotisserie turkey and chicken.

B: I made one batch of rolls that turned out wonderfully, then put the next batch in only to come back 10 minutes later with them burnt to a crisp.  My buds didn’t realize that if you turn the oven knob one way, it turns on the oven, and if you turn it the other way, it turns on the broiler.  Whoops.

C. We planned to eat at 6:00 Pm.  I think we sat down around 7:30.  Hahaha.

2. Decorations are Worth it!

One of our friends brought pumpkins, gourds, and pretty fall leaves to brighten our dinner table.  I grew up in a family that wasn’t too fussed about getting out decorations of any kind, except for the tree and lights at Christmas and the occasional wreath, so it’s kind of a novel idea to me to decorate for Thanks Giving, but I love it and have decided to adopt the tradition.

3. It’s fun to cook with other people.

If I were doing all the cooking on my own, there’s no doubt prepping a holiday feast would be enormously overwhelming, but having the opportunity to prepare a meal as a group effort was so wholesome and satisfying.  Sure, it was crowded, loud, hot, and all of us were tripping over dogs who had appointed themselves cleanup crew for the kitchen floor, but we were also talking, laughing, singing along to country music, helping each other when we needed an extra hand or spice or tool that someone else had been using, and every bit of that added to the flavor of the food we sat down to hours later.  I think, in a very dim and modern way, it reflected the way the pilgrims and Indians must have felt in feasting together after so much hard work at that New England meal hundreds of years ago.

So, today, I am thankful for burnt rolls, and crowded kitchens, and a delicious meal with friends and food aplenty.

Thankful for Tools | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 2

In my kitchen, we have a table with four chairs.  It’s quite an ordinary table… not especially fancy, not especially ratchet (surprising for an apartment full of jobless graduates and students), but there is one ratchet chair amongst the four which I always avoid.  Every time I sit on it, it tilts, and I look down to find one leg at an alarmingly awkward angle.

The first time I noticed this, I alerted my roommates, and rushed to my zebra-print tool kit, which randomly appeared in my closet a few months ago, to search for a wrench, but was unsuccessful.  Thus, the chair has remained lame for weeks upon weeks, and somehow, by the grace of God, neither me nor any of my three roommates have gone tumbling to the laminate with the sudden collapse of the untended limb.

Finally, though, I decided enough was enough.  I was sure I had pliers, and reasoned that a pair of pliers would be more adept than my fingers at re-screwing the wanton bolts into place.  Of course, the moment I overturned the chair and began the operation, my blind roommate appeared in the doorway, in search of her coffee and bagel on the table.  As the way was currently blocked, I hurriedly called out a warning to stop, before my patient was injured further and I would need something more than pliers to repair the damage to both furniture and roommate.  I handed her the  sought food items, then returned to my work.  A brief examination revealed that, actually, two of the legs had loose bolts, so I attended to both, and after a good deal of growling and difficulty, the task was complete.

My ratchet chair now stands unevenly, but with all four legs firmly in place, and I am very thankful that my toolkit had pliers, and that they can serve, at lease semi-successfully, as a makeshift wrench.  Three cheers for tools, and three cheers for chairs that won’t give way at any moment.

Emotional Support Animals are Not Service Dogs: Why You Should Leave Your ESA At Home

There are currently four guide dog teams on my university’s campus.  Three black labradors and one yellow, all highly trained, well-socialized, well-behaved, and pretty darn good at their jobs.  All four of we handlers attended a 14 to 26 day intensive to train with, and learn how to care properly for these amazing animals.

And they are amazing.  Here are just a few examples of the tasks Oleta does every day to make my life a little easier.

  • Obstacle Avoidance

She is trained to walk in a straight line, but if there are obstacles in our path (trash cans, strollers, people) she can take us around them to continue on our line of travel.  I feel her movements through the harness and harness handle and am able to follow.

  • Object/Landmark Identification

She can locate stairs, curbs, doors, empty chairs, trash cans, pianos, and even one of my best friends by name if they are in the vicinity.

  • Intelligent Disobedience

This isn’t so much a task as it is a decision making process, or, an anti-task.  If I give Oleta a command that would be unsafe for her to perform, she will refuse.  For example, if there is a car coming that for some reason I do not hear, and I tell her to proceed forward into the street, she will refuse the command.

Other service dogs perform tasks like bracing for people with balance issues, alerting to various health related episodes, such as a drop in blood sugar or an oncoming seizure, object retrieval for people with limited mobility, as well as grounding, behavior interruption, reminders, guide work, etc for people (especially veterans) diagnosed with PTSD.

So, what do all these dogs have in common?

They are all trained to perform a task, or, as in most situations, a series of different tasks to aid their handicapped human handler.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, that is the definition of a service dog.

An emotional support animal DOES NOT fall under this category, and is not protected under the ADA to access all public areas.

Why is it, then, that I have met at least five animals on campus recently, inside of buildings, at least three of which I know are proclaimed “Emotional support animals”, and the other two I suspect may be the same.

One of these animals is an emotional support cat.  You should know that cats are not considered service animals in any context, and an emotional support cat is no more legally protected to enter most public accommodations than is an emotional support dog or turkey.

But the other four are dogs, and, if they are not service dogs trained to perform a task or tasks to mitigate their owners disability, they do not belong inside our campus buildings any more than the cat.

Why Do I Care?

  • Unruly behavior (especially gone unchecked) reflects badly on service dog teams.

If an emotional support animal behaves badly in public due to their lack of training and socialization, it casts a shadow upon highly trained service dogs, and may make it more difficult for service dog teams to access public areas in the future.

  • My dog may be distracted.

My dog is, to an extent, responsible for my safety.  I’m depending on her to find stairs, keep me away from the edge of platforms and stages, move me out of the way of obstacles, as well as oncoming people or doors that open into our path, not to mention finding doors or other landmarks that I may be looking for.  All of those things can be easily interrupted by the presence of another dog.  Of course, we have techniques for dealing with distractions, but   it only takes a second for my dog to lose focus at the wrong time, and for me to lose my balance on the edge of a stage or staircase.  Beyond that, I would just rather not deal with dog distractions at all if I do not have to, and an ESA that shouldn’t be there in the first place is one of those distractions that I (and other service dog users) could do without.

  • My dog may be in danger.

My dog has been specially bred and socialized all her life to be friendly with other dogs.  That may not be the case with an emotional support animal.  Even if your ESA is friendly with other dogs at dog parks or in your back yard, it does not follow that they will behave the same way in a stressful environment such as a crowded college coffee shop, hallway, or elevator.

  • ESA’s are not legally protected in most public areas.

It is simply disrespectful, both to service dog users and business owners, to take advantage of people’s ignorance of state and federal laws concerning service animals and ESAs… and if you think you can get around it by putting a service dog vest on your ESA, don’t.  There’s a little word for that… fraud—an act which in some states is considered a crime and punishable by law.

So what am I saying?

All that said, I am not writing this article to belittle those with emotional support animals or even the idea of having one.  I do wish to highlight some of the practical issues that arise when a person chooses to bring their emotional support animal into a public area where they are not generally permitted.  I have an incredible bond with my guide dog, and certainly understand the emotional benefits (and drawbacks) of having an animal, but for a service dog user, it’s about more than emotions.  Whether it be to alert us to a seizure, guide us to safety in the midst of a disorienting episode of PTSD, or keep us from walking off the edge of a stage, we are putting our very lives in our dogs paws.  Please don’t put us or our rights at stake merely because you want to bring your dog/ESA everywhere with you.

Thanks for reading, and a happy new year to all our two-footed and four-legged friends.

Adventures in Fund Raising: THe Concert

Among many other things, missions work is teaching me how to be a bit more organized.  I am not naturally so, especially when it comes to planning, especially especially when I am planning something that has no real deadline and no grade.  If life had a syllabus, I’d be set.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t, at least, not one that contains a list of specific goals, required readings, and scheduled due dates, so I took on this particular fund raising effort with no idea what I was doing, no clue where I was going, and very little in between.  Nonetheless, my half-thought out, mid-midterm brain child came to fruition last Saturday, in the form of a (very casual) afternoon of music in our back yard.  It was a concert, of sorts, one with only a week’s preparation music-wise, little time to advertise, and two extremely allergy-affected singers, but it happened, and it went much better, all things considered, than I imagined it would.  I was expecting about 3 audience members, but we had at least 17, and our donations, all totaled, amounted to over 350 dollars.

Wow!!!  I cannot express how grateful I am for your attendance and gracious gifts!!!  Y’all are amazing!  Thank you!

Yet another opportunity that God has used to exceed my expectations in every possible way.  Thank you Lord for that, and thank you that my lack of organization skills doesn’t keep you from accomplishing your will!

A Second Journey

Well, here we are again… it’s the end of the semester, in the middle of countless assignments, projects, research papers, concerts, seminar performances, juries, finals, and not enough hours to study for them, and in spite of all that, what am I doing now?  Writing a blog post.  Why?  Because it’s about time I let you know that Oleta and I will, God willing, return to Scotland this summer to serve as missions workers!!!

I am thrilled to be able to take this opportunity a second time and cannot wait to discover what new experiences await us in Scotland this year.  We covet your prayers in this venture, especially concerning Oleta’s paperwork, and my charity workers visa, that I will be granted one and it will arrive in time for my departure.  Please pray for our team, that God would prepare all of our hearts to serve together in Scotland in the best way we can.  Please also pray that I would trust him in all these things, especially with our financial needs.

As with last year, the cost of the trip is over 2000 dollars, and we have a great deal of fund raising left to do.  If you would like to donate, please go to this link:

http://rpmissions.org/donate

Don’t forget to check the “Responding to a specific need” checkbox, and write my name, “Shea” and my trip location “Airdrie, Scotland” in the text field.

We would greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide financially and even more so prayerfully.  We are so thankful that we have you as a support system and look forward to sharing this second journey with you.

Scotland Trip: T-6 hours, I am SOOOO Nervous

Oh my, I didn’t realize I was going to be this nervous.  Now that my arrival in Scotland, and beginning of my mission trip is only 12 hours away, I am shaking in my boots… or, socks, at the moment.  I am praying that everything goes well with travel, and that I can somehow be useful to someone during this trip.  I’m afraid people might be disappointed in me, or my abilities.  What if, instead of lifting people’s burdens, I become a burden?  What on Earth can I teach the people of the Airdrie church, or anyone else anyway?  I’m just a college student, a music major of all things, with no job, and little experience, and I can’t even keep track of paperwork!

But I know that’s not true.  If God sent me on this mission, which he did, he has a purpose, and will work through me, and others, as he has planned.  And it all goes back to trust.

God, this, is, terrifying, but I trust you.

Packing is nearly finished, and we are about to get on the road for the airport.  Here’s a bit of Scottish music to send us on the way!  It is a pipe and drums corps I recorded at a celtic festival.  Enjoy!  See you in Scotland!

[audio

http://vocaroo.com/i/s07hUOHYWSkV%5D

 

Scotland Trip: FInger printing, Paperwork, and the Nonexistent Quantum Vacuum

Preparing for the Mission Trip and What I’ve Learned So Far

“I need you to stand right over here.” the lady said, guiding me to the proper spot with a gloved hand on my arm. I smiled at her and complied, finding the tall desk with the machine atop it in front of me.
“Left hand please.”
I felt the cool, soggy touch of a paper towel as she wiped off my thumb. She lifted my hand and pressed the digit against the warm glass of the machine, and was rewarded with a business-like, “beep”.
Yes, this was me getting finger printed, and no, not for the reason you are thinking. I am NOT a blind-supremacist criminal. The blind protection agency has turned over a new leaf—I promise.
No, my finger prints were necessary for my charity workers visa, which I need in order to participate in my mission trip to Scotland with RP Missions.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about opportunity, it’s that it’s not always easy. In fact, more often than not, it takes a great deal of preparation, and committed care to carry out. When I felt God calling me to missions back in October, I didn’t really think about all of the pre-cursory work that would need to be done before we entered the field. I was too wrapped up in financial considerations to think much about travel plans, team instruction, or spiritual development. That is, I knew they were all part of the process, but I underestimated the way they would affect my second semester as a whole.
It all began in late December, as I filled out the online application, wrote the required essays, and secured recommendation letters. I had already decided that the calling I had felt to missions work was legitimate, but actually submitting the application made the whole thing real to me. Suddenly, I felt rather like I was jumping off an airplane, without quite knowing how to release the parachute. This particular leap of faith was going to take more faith than I had realized.
The next weeks were crowded with activities, as I returned to Nashville and resumed my many collegiate pursuits: attending class, studying, practicing, performing, studying, occasionally cleaning, and practicing (Did I mention practicing?). Soon, it was late February, and readying for our mission trips began in
earnest. We received emails instructing us about how to handle fund raising, how to go about making travel plans, and the paperwork we would need in order to travel overseas. We also began attending weekly, online training sessions, led by RP Missions’ wonderful director Mat Filbert, where we learn about various topics related to missions, from discussing the very purpose of missionary work, to exploring some of the challenges we might encounter during our time there and how we might overcome them. Our sessions have been useful too, in that they have in many ways informed my personal preparation time. Not only were the missionary handbook and reading list they provided helpful, but their suggestion to go through the book of Acts has been instrumental for me. I don’t know why, but it never previously occurred to me that studying the way Jesus’ earliest followers handled missions might be a good way to figure out how to do it myself. (Don’t judge me, I’m a blonde)
Of course, the problem I ran into was: all of these things take time! research, Training sessions, bible study, fund raising, phone calls, flight plans, and paperwork didn’t get finished in some sort of quantum vacuum. I was happy to be doing them, but they were minutes I would have otherwise spent… you guessed it—studying or practicing. However, it did teach me an important lesson; my relationship with Christ IS something I have to (and should want to) MAKE time for, not an assignment I can push off until midnight. Umm, hello Shea! We are talking “God of the Universe, King of All Creation wants to have a personal relationship with you” here, not music theory homework!
It also gave me a new sense of purpose. I have a responsibility to the people I will serve in Scotland, to be as well-equipped as I can possibly be. That means my relationship with Christ and my knowledge about His Kingdom has to be the priority, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of others. Maybe that’s not how it should be, but it motivates me for the moment.
So (to conclude this outrageously long entry) hurray! Most of the practical preparation (paperwork, flights, etc) has been completed, and I am free to concentrate fully on the spiritual side of things. As my sweet, former-roommate would say, “Rejoice!”