Day 11: Just Dessert

There aren’t many treats I love more than funnel cake. It turns out, my husband is the same way. We discovered this when we started dating. No matter where we went, we always looked for that sugary treat. It became something of a delicious scavenger hunt.

We found our first funnel cake in Delaware. We had driven up for a fun beach day with friends in September of 2017. Nestled within the row of food stands sat the delicious reward to a 9 month search. Up until then, we hadn’t been able to find it, even when we attended events where it should’ve been present.

Later that year, we attended a fall festival in Nebraska, and found some more. We found other funnel cakes around DC throughout 2018. One of the best surprises I received was the delicious funnel cake my friends and husband surprised me with right after he proposed at an escape room. Below, I invite you to share in our joy with some pics of us enjoying our favorite dessert. What is your favorite? Comment below.

Day 10: Your Kiss is on My List

Good evening readers.

Today, we were asked to create top 10 lists. Instead, I’m going to make a list of the things I’m most grateful for in these uncertain times.

  • I’m grateful for the quality time I get to spend with my husband. We’ve been married for 6 months, and we didn’t take a long honeymoon. It has been great having him here with me.
  • I’m grateful to be working. So many people are struggling, and I don’t take my ability to have my life financially uninterrupted for granted.
  • I’m grateful that my husband can go to the store for me. Blind people don’t social distance well. The fact that he can and does drive to the store and brings us supplies can’t be appreciated enough.
  • I’m grateful for the increased connection with my friends, both locally and across the country. Zoom and Jackbox Games are companies I’m glad to financially support.
  • Finally, I’m grateful to the essential workers, from medical professionals to grocery store employees. They allow me to plant myself on my couch and stay safe, and their contributions should be recognized and celebrated.

What about you? What are you grateful for today? Let me know in the comments.

Day 9: Traveling Toward a New Mindset

Hello readers.

Today’s prompt invited us to talk about where we want to travel. Honestly, there aren’t a bunch of places on my bucket list, and I don’t feel like me writing a post about wanting to go back to England to see my family, or wanting to lounge on a beach next to the ocean is worth anyone’s time.

What I do want to talk about today is

how you might try to guide your mindset

down a different path using

an example from my life.

My Safe Place

There aren’t many things I like more than cooking for people. There is something relaxing about cooking. I like to look at recipes as suggestions and figure out how to make them better. The other day, my husband and I tried a new bean burrito soup recipe. I looked at the ingredients, the steps, the method of cooking the soup, and thought, “I can make this better.” I added chicken, doubled the recipe, decided what vegetables to add / subtract, and converted it into an Instant Pot meal rather than a stovetop dish. I felt safe taking these actions because I am confident in the kitchen. I know what spices go with each dish I make, and I think of these dishes as my foundations when I try new ideas. It also helps that my husband supports all of my experiments. The fact that he is a scientist doesn’t hurt. One mantra we have come to live by is, “If you screw it up, dinner is just an order away.” For me, in the kitchen, failure is an option, and it is ok.

My Job

In my work, the projects are complex. Organization Development is not a linear science. Peg A might not insert into slot B right away. We work with clients at different stages of readiness. One modality might work for one client, and completely flop for another. We work with, through, and around the humanity of our clients, and especially ourselves. For me, when dealing with these complex projects, I struggle to see an obvious path to a successful conclusion. I have to get to know my clients’ preferences. How do they like to communicate? Do they know what OD even is? What is their motivation? I have often found myself feeling overwhelmed, and when I feel overwhelmed, my first inclination is to back away. However, that is not what I am paid to do. I am supposed to “Trust the process. Embrace the ambiguity.” Both of those concepts trip up a structural thinker like myself.

How Do These Topics Connect?

At first, it probably doesn’t look like they do. But let’s work on guiding my mindset down a different path. When I cook, I take a mishmash of ingredients, simple and complex in their own right, and weave them together to make something new. Change a spice in a dish, and you might get an entirely different meal. My work can be viewed similarly. I am presented with a lot of different variables, and at the end of my work with the client, my hope is that their organization will be in a new and better place. If a modality fails with a client, we go back to our service agreement and try again. What if, just maybe, I start to think of my projects at work as recipes in my kitchen? This way, I can insert structure into my work where there seemingly isn’t any. My team follows a process map when we work with clients. It’s often not linear, but it does have a beginning and an end. Maybe that process map is the foundation recipe, and the agreements, communications, interventions, data gathered, etc. are the different spices, the supplemented ingredients, the change in cooking method.

How About You?

What obstacles might you be experiencing? What things in your life bring you joy? How can you make connections in order to make an obstacle more joyful? Leave your thoughts below, and enjoy your journey.

Day 8: Everybody’s workin for the Weekend, Except Me

Hello readers.

I’ve been a part of the workforce for 8 years. During that time, I have learned that nothing is more important to me than work life balance. I work to live. That isn’t to say I don’t like my work. I do. Practicing Organization Development is incredibly rewarding. Shifting a client’s mindset and humanizing their organization gives me the warm fuzzies. When working with clients, especially when in the stages where are physically in their space, I shift my priorities so that they come first. However, on a normal work day, when my day ends, I’m done. The rest of the day and night are mine to enjoy.

I’m an introvert working in a people-focused profession. I don’t get my energy from others. People are often surprised because I come across as an extrovert. By the end of my day, my energy is depleted, and I need to recharge before the next morning. This has been one of the unintended blessing of this forced quarantine. Actually, even this introvert is starting to crave people.

On the weekend, I do nothing work related. I cook, play Jackbox games with my friends, hang out with my husband, and indulge in whatever makes me happy. I like my job. I like the people and clients I work with. However, part of being a good practitioner is knowing myself and my ability to set my own boundaries. I respect workaholics, but I’m not about that life.

How about you? How do you achieve work life balance? Let me know in the comments.

Day 7: Some Resources or your COVID19 Journey

Good morning, readers.

COVID19 has everyone feeling all kinds of ways. Today, I want to share a framework and some questions that might help guide you on your journey.

Who Do I Want to be During COVID19?

The diagram illustrates 3 zones: Fear, Learning, and Growth. Each zone has behaviors attributed to them. Where are you today? Where do you want to be?

COVID19 Questions:

  • Who am I checking on or connecting with today?
  • What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
  • How am I getting outside today?
  • How am I moving my body today?
  • How am I expressing my creativity today?
  • What type of self-care am I practicing today?
  • What am I grateful for today?

Day 6: A Spotlight on My Tired Mind

Good evening.

I’m writing today to make sure I don’t lose my streak, but today, I don’t have a topic in mind. My soul has been wrung out, and my emotions are all over the place. Have I made the right life decisions? Am I doing enough to be successful? What is success for me? Is it attainable?

I did get out and work with Pi in this great weather. I’m having salmon and green beans for dinner. I have a supportive husband / friends. Tonight. That needs to be enough.

Day 5: The Advice I Give Myself, but Probably Won’t Take

Hello readers. I’ve been lying in bed with a migraine, and all I have felt is guilt. I should’ve gone to the grocery store with my husband. I should’ve done laundry while he was gone. I should’ve helped unload the dishwasher. I didn’t do any of these things. My husband came home, and as I sat up to greet him, my head pounded, and the room spun. And still, I felt guilty. I’ve been grappling with all the things I should be doing. At least I’m writing this entry. At least I have a 16 day streak going on Duololingo. But it’s not enough.

Is it ok to be less productive right now? While my brain says no, this article says yes. Yes, I had to wade through a sea of articles telling me about how I could buckle down and be a better version of myself, but at least there is a beacon of hope for me, albeit small.

So, the advice? Stop beating yourself up over the things you can’t / don’t want to change. It’s so hard for me to listen to those words, but they might just be what I need to get through. Maybe they’ll help you too.

4 Loves in My Life

Hello readers. Welcome to day 4 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Over the past 13 years, I have been introduced to four loves. Their names are Santana, Railey, Perla, and Pi. Each of them served as my guide dogs. Some worked longer than others, but each of my four legged loves has left their own paw prints on my heart.

Santana

For most of my life, I didn’t want to work with guide dogs. I was always impressed by the work they did, but in my mind, having one would make me look more blind. However, after getting a couple years of college under my belt, I decided to apply for my first guide. So, at the end of May in 2007, I flew out to

Guide Dogs for the Blind to receive my first dog. I was introduced to Santana, a fluffy black lab. With this being my first dog, I didn’t know exactly what I should be looking for in. A partner. All I knew was that I wanted a dog that could navigate me around my college campus safely. I trained with her for a month and headed back to my life in Illinois. On July 4, the fireworks made her a terrified shaking mess, and from then on, the problems kept coming. She generalized her fear of fireworks to thunder, to the sounds of trains running by miles away. At the end of her life, she was afraid of bells ringing on TV. When we worked together, she wouldn’t work in environments where everything was set up in a grid pattern. For instance, if we went into a restaurant where tables were placed randomly, she would sit and shake rather than walking through and around the seats. The final straw came when I was crossing a street with her, and she turned around and tried to run back to the sidewalk to socialize with another dog. She retired around Thanksgiving of 2008, and my parents adopted her as their pet. She was a wonderful pet, and a favorite of the kids in my neighborhood. She would push our cat around with her toys, much to the annoyance of the cat. Unfortunately, Santana passed away in 2018 just before her 13th birthday.

Railey

After Santana, I knew I still wanted to work with a dog, and I was also still taking college classes. In May of 2009, I flew back out to California for dog number 2, and received Railey, a big yellow lab. When I met him, the first thing he did was pee on my shoes. People say he was marking me, and I think they’re right. Railey was an amazing guide. He worked with me for 8 years. We walked in two graduation ceremonies, and when I rreceived my master’s degree, he received a degree as well. He moved with me from Illinois to DC, and when most dogs would balk at the extreme change in scenery, Railey thrived. He rode the metro, guided me to 3 jobs, attended all of my classes, moved into 3 different apartments, and charmed every person he met. Well, except for the Uber driver who didn’t want us (especially him) in her car, so she drove away while I was still holding the door handle. But that’s another story for another day.

The decision to retire Railey was very difficult for me. But I’ve always wanted my guides to have lives after they work. My former neighbors took Railey in, and he is currently living the life of luxury with them. He has more toys than I probably did as a child. He’ll be 13 this year, and I can’t believe it. I have never had a dog so happy to be alive and working. People still stop me to talk about him. He guided me through so much, and I’m happy that he gets to spend the rest of his life as a spoiled pet.

Perla

After I retired Railey, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted another dog. However, DC, while navigable with a cane, is still more easily traversed with a dog. So, out to the GDB Oregon campus I flew to get dog number 3. I received Perla, a little chocolate lab, in February of 2018. When I trained with Railey, the class was 3 weeks long. Perla’s class was two weeks, and boy what a class that was. We spent most of our time in the dorms due to snow. We didn’t get to work in city environments pretty much at all. Perhaps if we had, I might have switched dogs before leaving Oregon. Perla never seemed to settle with me and my then boyfriend. She constantly had accidents in our apartment, and was generally anxious and high strung. There is a difference between anxiety and high initiative, and when living in an environment like DC, the dogs need to have high levels of drive and high levels of resilience. Sadly, Perla didn’t come with the resilience. There was a stretch of street she hated walking on. Unfortunately, we had to walk it every day so that I could get to work. I had instructors from the school fly out to watch her work. We thought we might have turned a corner. But one day, I decided to surprise my boyfriend by walking to the mall and getting something he needed. When we tried to cross at an intersection to walk down the street she hated, she veered out of the crosswalk and started walking in the street. Thinking I had done something wrong, I walked her back to the curb and tried again. When she did the same thing, I walked her back, called the school, and we retired her on the spot. She worked with me for 3 months. The hardest part for me was flying her back to California, putting her into an instructor’s crate, and walking away with her wondering why I was not taking her with me. She tried to become a diabetic service dog, but she didn’t take to that career either. And so, she ended up being officially retired back to her puppy raisers.

Pi

GDB knew how much of a struggle I had gone through with Perla, and they wanted to make things right. In September of 2018, the school called me and said they thought they had a dog for me, a lab/golden cross,, and could i come out at the end of the month to train with her? I dropped everything, packed up, and flew out to California for dog number four. Before I left for class, my instructor called me, and we discussed preferences. I said that if they were looking at two dogs with the same skill set, and one was male, I wanted the male, but I already knew I was getting the lab/golden cross. On October 1, I opened my door, and my instructor introduced me to Pi, a male black lab with yellow eyes. He was born on March 14, and my boyfriend, soon to be fiancé and then husband, who is a scientist, and I reveled in the nerdiness of his name.

Pi is an amazing little guy. He is more mellow than Railey was as a puppy by far, and he is incredibly intelligent. So smart, in fact, that if I show him something incorrectly once, he remembers for eternity. He was the ring dog in my wedding, loves to snuggle, and knows how to ride up and down on our power recliners. Our partnership is still young, but like Railey, I see Pi having a long and fulfilling working partnership with me. My husband and I have also agreed that when he retires, we will keep him no matter what. I’m glad we own our own place now so that pet rent doesn’t become an issue.

So, there you have it. Four of my life’s loves.If I can get to them, I’ll post some pictures for your enjoyment.

Also, if you have any questions about guide dogs, please comment below.

I hope you all have a great night.

Day 3: The Book Review That Wasn’t

Good evening readers.

Today’s challenge invited us to write a book review, but I’ve never been good at writing or reading them. I want to make my own impressions of the books I read. Tonight, I want to talk about my relationship with reading.

I have been a voracious reader since I was a kid. When I was younger, I didn’t have the access to books that I do today. Braille is my first reading language, and in the 90s, as I’m sure is the same as today, access to braille books was limited. That didn’t stop my teacher from keeping a huge shelf stocked with as many books as she could get her hands on. (Pun intended). And I read them all. The especially great thing about reading braille books was that I could hide them under my blankets at night and read in secret when my parents thought I was sleeping.

However, as life progressed, and I needed more and more space for actually living, my braille books became audio files. I also switched away from reading the braille tomes when I was diagnosed with MS, and the relapses decided to play their cruel jokes on my body. Especially my fingers, making them simultaneously less and more sensitive. It felt like I was reading needles, and also missing dots, which invariably changed the words I was reading. This isn’t to say that I don’t read braille at all anymore. I do, and I am always excited to find braille in my world. Imagine my joy when I found out that my favorite beauty products were labeled in braille. Those French beauty designers definitely have my loyalty. And when a restaurant has an up-to-date braille menu, my joy knows no bounds. But sadly, my days of leisure reading in the braille format have gone by the wayside.

I still love reading though. My Audible credits are some of the best money I spend each month. Reading has always been an escape for me and I tend to devour at least 100 books per year. However, I can’t tell you with definitive certainty which book is my favorite. I’m not a re-reader of books. I will say that the best books I’ve read have made me feel emotional connections with the characters, and when I finish the book, I feel like I’ve lost a group of friends.

I find myself missing my late night under-cover reading sometimes. But there is something so liberating about now having access to the entire world of books at my fingertips (just on my phone, rather than under my hands).

And with that stream of consciousness out of the way, I think I’m going to go back to my latest book, Ask Again Yes. Will these characters open a place in my heart for them? Time will tell.

Goodnight.

Day 2: Who I Admire

The second day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge invited us to blog about who we admire. Normally, I would post something heartfelt and inspiring, but I have spent all day in meetings, on the phone, and uploading my performance review (the bane of every employee’s existence.) It just so happens, that today, I finally got the go ahead to post a video my husband and I created last week, and it feeds right into today’s topic.

My husband hails from the great state of Nebraska. He has a very tight group of friends back home, some of whom are in the medical field. As such, they are out on the front lines fighting COVID19. We had the idea that we would send care packages to these friends to show them how much we care about and are thinking of them during these times. One of the things we sent was a video. Both he and I are very musical. He runs, writes for, and plays lead trombone in a jazz band out here called the Capitol Lab Band and I am a theater / choir girl at heart. So, the only way we knew how to express our gratitude and admiration for our friends was through a song. And thus, our parody of My Corona was born. It is lighthearted and fun, but also expresses how we feel during these times. Give it a listen, if you’re so inclined, and feel free to share it with anyone you think needs a day brightener.

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