Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Future

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the future of my blog.  What I want to talk about, how often I should be writing...  I have a slew of half-written posts, some that I may look at in the future, but most of which will probably never see the light of day.

The truth is, that I've been out living.  I'm working full-time; Owen and I are at school most times 10+ hours a day.  I'm using the weekends to rest, but I'm not crashing like I used to.  My body is tired, but not exhausted.  I'm not tied to my computer on the couch all day, I've taken on a lot of DIY projects.  Most Saturdays I can be found in sweats and an old t-shirt, staining and painting and sanding away.  I am planning what I want to put in my apartment to make it seem more like a home, instead of the sparse apartment I used to live in (I'm also wishing to move into a rented house sooner rather than later... if wishes were horses...) ;)

My teaching job consumes so much of my energy; planning lessons, trying to work my schedule around everyone else, and trying to teach to both IEP goals and district curriculum.  It's a lot to juggle, and just as I think I've got it figured out, another curve ball gets thrown my way.  I am so fortunate to have an amazing partner teacher who never seems to get frustrated with my endless questions and to have a very supportive team and administration.  I try hard to not bring work home, I'd rather stay at school until 7 at night than take it home.  Most nights when I get home, I can barely cook dinner before crashing on the couch.  It's exhausting, and in some ways I feel like we should be much further than the 50-something-th day of school, but a lot of days I can't believe it's almost the holidays and I worry that I've wasted time with my kids.

I've been mildly irritated by many things lately, causing me to step farther away from the internet world.  In September I stepped away from the Tourrette's facebook pages because I couldn't stand the things that were being posted.  I've spoken about it before - the overwhelming majority of parents to adults with Tourette's, the hatred towards schools, the lack of understanding of disability culture, the endless searching for a cure as opposed to raising awareness - and my biggest pet peeve, persons without a disability fighting my fight for me.  I'll be the first person to write about things I find offensive, but I try to do so in a calm, rational manner.  When people pick fights over things that are [at best] mildly offensive, and they do so with vulgar language and let their emotions overrule their message, it puts people all people with Tourette's in a bad light, even if we aren't the ones making the comments.

I'm sick of seeing posts online of people bringing dogs out into public who have no business being there.  It's not "cool" to have a disability, but apparently it's cool to bring dogs out into public pretending that you have a service dog.  People who feed their pet dogs at restaurants, who allow their dogs to greet people, who carry their dogs or put them into grocery store carts, placing them well above the level of most food give service dogs a bad image - even if they aren't a service dog.  It makes people question all service dogs in public, especially those whose handlers have invisible disabilities.  I'm sick of being yelled at in public, of children screaming about the dog in the store, of people thinking that my service dog means I want to talk to strangers about intimate details of my life, of employees getting down on all fours calling out to my dog, of somehow scaring people when my 80-pound Labrador manages to "sneak up" on them...  It makes going out incredibly frustrating at times.

My solution has been to have Owen accompany me most of the time, but not all.  He goes with me to work all day every day.  Some days he stays in my room all day while I go out and run around.  Most days he's with me about 50 - 70% of my day.  There are places I go at school that are just not reasonable for Owen to go with me, like PE with 70 1st graders.  There are times where I'm called at my room to go get a kiddo because of behaviors, and I have to leave quickly - Owen stays those times.  There are days where Owen is noticeably tired and when he pouts about having to leave my room - so if I'm feeling good enough to leave him, he can stay.  Owen goes with me to the chiropractor and the grocery store for quick after-school runs.  He doesn't go with me to get my nails done or to do my weekly grocery shopping run.  A lot of thought went into that decision, but what it came down to was that it was taking over an hour and a half to go shopping at the giant store 5 mins up the road.  I had to bring Owen with me because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to shop, but with Owen there, navigating the store was a nightmare.  Now, I drive about 20 mins into Houston to go to Trader Joe's, which is such a small, easy-to-navigate store, that I don't bring Owen.

Now that Owen and I have been partnered up almost a year, I am understanding why the one year mark is typically a tough time for teams to get through.  The director of our program identified two months, six months, and a year as troublesome times for teams - and teams who work with the program now must do followups at those points in time.  Owen and I worked through the first two rough patches pretty well on our own.  At about two months I finally stopped feeling panicked every minute of the day and started asserting myself more in our partnership, working more to having Owen actually assist me instead of just following me around.  At the six month mark, Owen started testing the water, trying to see how far he could push the boundaries (this is who Owen is, and I love him for it).  At each point in time, it was tough going for a while, and then it would get better.  Looking back on it, I could see that we were at a new point in our partnership and were having to figure things out.  I know the first year is the toughest, I just hope I'm not placing too much stock in this "one year" mark...

Unfortunately, the things I dislike about having a service dog aren't going to miraculously change on December 20th.  I love Owen, he has given me back my independence and has allowed me to do things I had only dreamed of previously.  But if you told me tomorrow I could trade him in for a healthy brain, I would.

I guess I'm lucky nobody is forcing me to make that choice.

While I love working full time (and finally earning a paycheck I can actually live on with minimal family support), I am more than ready for the holidays.  I am looking forward to seeing my family for the first time in months, and I am looking forward to getting a small break from the daily craziness.  Owen and I will be flying for the first time since May to visit my parents over Thanksgiving - and I am trying very hard not to get worked up about flying.  Before Owen, I was so anxious over flying that I had to be medicated just to get on an airplane.  After getting Owen, we traveled so frequently that I never really had time to get stressed out about it because we were constantly on the move.  I've enjoyed not flying and traveling, but I wish we were a bit more in-practice.  Luckily, my dad has upgraded Owen and I on both our Thanksgiving and winter holiday flights, so I don't have to worry about having enough room for Owen.  And we are flying United the entire time; they are great about Owen and the only problem I've ever had with them was Owen not fitting on a small plane (and the attendants were great about it and helped move passengers around so we fit).

I have also not been talking about my weight loss journey.  It's not because I have bad news; it's because I have no news.  My weight has fluctuated between 245 and 247 since I started teaching.  Considering I have not been active except for the [very] occasional walk, and I have not had the best eating habits since the school year started, I'm happy with my weight staying right where it is.  Over the holidays I'm going to work on getting my medication dosage (for insulin resistance) back where it is supposed to be (the pills make me very sick initially, so I stopped taking them during school hours - which is bad, I know).  Next semester, I want to focus on becoming more active - even if it just means a walk once or twice a week after school with Owen.  With those things combined, and keeping an eye on my carb intake, I'm not too concerned about my weight.  Obviously, I wish it were better - but I keep reminding myself that I used to weigh 274 pounds, and wear a size 22...  And then I feel a little better about not having gained any weight this year.

For the future of my blog, I am going to try and focus on one post a week.  I know there will be weeks I don't post at all, but I do not want to let months go by without posts anymore.  I am considering a series of posts about service dog etiquette as well as terminology (like the difference between a service dog, a therapy dog, and an emotional support animal) as well as addressing the growing problem of fake/untrained service dogs and "certification".  I also want to write about disability; my thoughts on the Tourette's culture and community and how it impacts my daily life (as well as how disability has impacted my personality, opinions, and life choices).

And of course, I will be continuing to write about my partner-in-crime and our adventures together.  Now to begin planning how we will celebrate our one-year partnership!