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Books and Dogs

So the perils of a busy life with a chronic illness is that I:

  1. Do absolutely nothing extraordinary and blog worthy besides work-dog-horses-volunteering
  2. Am totally using my creativity to do those things and have nothing left to blog with.

So that’s good and bad. Doing too much is better than doing too little, although my body sometimes objects to this assertion!

BUT! I actually took a day off this weekend and did something fun for myself! Yay!

Amazing hildren’s book author Laura Numeroff (of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie fame) wrote a simply adorable book called Raising A Hero, about a young boy raising a Canine Companions for Independence puppy. 

She is doing a series of book signings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and of course I had to go to one and fangirl a bit! I think Cassius enjoyed her as well. I’ve been connected with her on social media for a bit and she not only remembered me and was excited to meet Cassius in real life but was incredibly gracious with everyone!


On Saturday we had our yearly Northwest Graduate Seminar, lots of useful info and workshops (including a wonderful presentation by a PTSD graduate) – and Cassius and I passed our recertification and got a snazzy new vest and leash!

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We did the requisite pose by Snoopy.


And said hi to Ada, the campus kitty!

It was a really good weekend.

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Caffeine, Canines & Camaraderie

This is a sponsored post for Self Care Catalysts. I have been compensated through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. All opinions remain my own and I was in now way influenced by the company.

Sometimes I majorly fail at self care. I have things to do, work to do, lots of deadlines and should-do’s in both my work life and other life (which isn’t work but certainly feels like it sometimes). But I try. So, going in order with my alliterated list (because, really, alliteration makes everything better).

Caffeine


I love my coffee. Whether it is fancy independent roasters or your run of the mill Starbucks or something else (well, nearly, I am admittedly a coffee snob!) my coffee makes me happy. It also helps me with fatigue and I swear it helps with chronic pain – or else it just makes you so buzzed it doesn’t matter as much! My morning is made by my morning, and midmorning, coffee. I’ve learned that I have to be careful, so part of my self care is to stay away from the coffee after 1 pm if I want to sleep. Because actually being able to sleep is good!

Canines


My Canine Companions for Independence service dog is s huge contributor towards my self care! He helps me conserve my pathetically low energy by opening doors, carrying things, and picking up all sorts of stuff! These are all things I can do myself but that take a tremendous amount of effort and energy. And using that energy means that I have less physical energy for other things. And honestly, nothing sucks as much as having lots of mental energy but no physical energy. That’s a recipe for self-pity. My dog, in his role just as a dog and not as a service dog, is also paramount to my mental self care! Animals are awesome in this way. And yes, an equine is crashing the canine party because that’s also important to my self-care. The physical and mental exercise I get from riding are life-changing.

Camaraderie

For me, a connection to others with chronic illnesses and disabilities, both my particular condition and others, is vital to my self care! It is reaffirming and sometimes life-changing. I get this connection in many ways – through the groups dedicated to my condition, from cross-disability groups, from my service dog group, and from conferences such as MedX which bring together people of many different backgrounds, both epatients and supporters, all interested in self care through education and empowerment and working together. The rush I get from the interactions I have with people who have experienced what I have is vital.

Having Said All This

Somehow this post makes it seem like I have everything in control with my self care. And… I don’t! I push myself, putting way too much on my plate – and then regret it! But self care and relying on what I outlined above are goals I’m always striving to achieve.

Photo: Rick Guidotti

My name is Natalie, and I ride horses. I also have Moebius syndrome.

http://www.selfcaremvmt.com facebook.com/selfcaremvmt @selfcaremvmt @selfcaremvmt

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Will Work For Coffee: Self-Care At Work #sponsored

Apparently I have an inordinate number of pictures of coffee on my phone. I also have a ton of photos of my dog, but that at least makes more sense than my strange compulsion to photograph my work coffee habit!

I am a firm believer in the power of caffeine to cure many of the ills of life, and especially the ills of trying to work with a chronic illness.

And I’m only saying this somewhat tongue-in-cheek.


I am a firm believer that caffeine is the best medicine ever. Yes, it’s a tad addictive and rather expensive (which is why I most definitely do not add up what I spend on my coffee habit!) but it’s often literally the only thing I can do in the morning to get myself up and going and feeling filled up. 

Iced coffee, drip coffee, espresso drinks… some combination of all of these is a big part of how I survive my full-time job with a chronic illness. 

I deal with a lot of pain from my neuromuscular disorder and fatigue from my autoimmune disorder so am always looking for ways to help myself in these ways. Some things I do are pretty self-explanatory: getting enough sleep is important! same with eating well and all that stuff.

But some other more novel things help, too: 

Enter: Cassius, service dog extraordinaire! I’ve been partnered with a service dog for three years now, and he helps me immensely with reducing pain, conserving energy, helping me navigate my commute, and providing an awesome distraction from my pain during the workday. He can happily pick things up for me when I drop them, offer counterbalance going up and down the many BART stairs I maneuver on a daily basis (because the elevators are slow and nasty. Bad combination!) and opening and closing doors, drawers and cabinets for me.

During my workday I try to take a decent number of breaks to either plop down in the breakroom or get outside and enjoy some fresh aid and to change up what I’m doing, luckily my job at a library really allows for doing a bunch of different things throughout the day. This helps me alternate what areas are less painful than others. It’s facetiously better to have many things hurt a little than to have one thing hurt too much!
Lastly, taking a bit of time for myself to devompress after and before work is vital – whether it’s reading (it’s quite nice to have access to thus ands of books all the time!) or playing ridiculous computer games (Frozen Free Fall, anyone?) or hanging out with puppies and horses on my hours and days off is vital to my sanity and health.

Working is important to me. It means that I’m contributing to society, making my mark in the workplace, and (every so often) changing people’s lives – and sometimes their perceptions of what people with disabilities can accomplish. I don’t necessarily focus on that, but I don’t argue with it when it happens!

For more tips on Self-Care, check out http://selfcaremvmt.com/

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Dogs Just Gotta Have Fun

It’s actually quite surprising how often I hear “does your service dog ever get to have fun?”… common sense would dictate that of course he does, but apparently his serious working demeanor (wiggly tail aside) leads people to believe that he doesn’t get to be a dog.   
I assure you, this dog has more toys than any one dog needs, 3 beds in a one-bedroom apartment (not including the couch and person-bed!) and a ridiculous amount of attention and spoiling. Of course he deserves it all (and more!)

 
Dog parks are a no go for my particular situation, so getting to go to the humongous Gittinger Park after a chapter planning meeting in Santa Rosa yesterday was a treat. He only ran around for about 5 to 10 minutes, but it was a very happy run with some of his assistance dog and breeder friends.   

“Cashie, HERE!”

 

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Chapter Workshop

Cassius & Independence

Yesterday the East Bay and South Bay Canine Companions (note to self: not!CCI) held their annual Chapter Workshop together. This is the first one I’ve attended for some reason, and I’m so glad I did!

You know the day is going to be great when one of the first people you (and the dog) see after getting out of the car is James – Cassius’s trainer and now the Puppy Program Manager for the Northwest Region. Cassius momentarily turned into a goofy wiggly happy puppy, but mostly contained himself and did a somewhat respectable greeting. I love how much he loves all his people, even after many months of not seeing them.

Now to sessions: these included the over-managed and under-managed dog (which reminded me of a few handling errors/shortcuts I tend to make and how I need to be better about them – imagine that, Cassius is a lot less likely to forge when hurrying when I ask him to sit beforehand!), things about loading and unloading from the car (James made me feel better about how we do that/car-riding in general).

We had a little time to visit and say hi to people and dogs alike, including the cutest black fluffy puppy I’ve ever seen. They need to breed more black fluffies! Then we had a session outside on appropriate play and encouraging dogs to play appropriately using rewards without expectations – that was a new concept and it made a lot of sense.

An update on some of the programs going on – PTSD study (including the best video ever of one of the dogs showing off the Search skill!) and the fMRI study – was followed by one on the breeding program, loved hearing about that as I don’t follow it too closely. Apparently there is a huge long waitlist for a dog in the NWR, which is a good problem to have although not good if you’re waiting for a puppy!

We ended the day with more visiting of humans and dogs, and I left as always – inspired by the people and dogs I am privileged to work with.

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