Settling in

I’ve only been living in my house for four days, but already I can say that moving there was one of the best things I have ever done! I’m staying at home tonight to use the internet and keep my mum company since my dad is in Kentucky, and I miss the place already.

I spent Wednesday evening bringing boxes to the house, cleaning and deciding where to put things. My family and cousin helped, and even the builder called in for tea when he saw that the lights were still on at half ten. An hour later I went down to collect O J and we spent our first night there. I didn’t feel lonely or it didn’t feel strange. O J’s bed is under the stairs and he slept there with no problems. He did creep upstairs to my room at one stage to see what was up there, but when he had a good look around, I told him to go back to bed because I don’t want him coming up there.

On Thursday morning my table and chairs were delivered, and the sofa came later. Before that, my aunt came in to find me walking around with a bowl of cereal in my hand, and then I went and sat on the stairs. The blinds were fitted and my mum helped me to do a big shop for food and cleaning things. I was so busy that I completely forgot to vote in the presidential election. I had no real preference anyway, but well done to Michael D! A few friends came out that night and helped me to put things away and showed me how to work the dishwasher. The next door neighbour also called in with a box of biscuits and we had tea. She gave me her number encase I ever need it. I thought I would have to call her the following night, when my hair drier set off the very loud fire alarm at 12 A.M. Thankfully it stopped after a minute. I just have to remember to dry my hair in the kitchen anymore!

I had my first house warming gathering on Saturday night. I wouldn’t call it a big party since there were only eight of us, but it went well. We had intended going to town to a Halloween fancy dress gig but ended up all dressing up but just staying in the house. I haven’t got my TV up yet so Cheryl spent the night making up games and it was great fun. Nights without TV can be very interesting, and I wouldn’t miss one if I didn’t have it. It was great to have friends around and be able to entertain and feed them, even if it was only pizza and nibbles. The girls gave me some lovely presents too, in fact I got some very thoughtful things during the week that I really appreciate.

O J has settled in very quickly. He hasn’t done much work since we moved but I know he will get back into it very quickly. He refused to use the run for the first two days but is fine with it now. He is also happy enough to stay in the house alone, which is great for me. The main reason I can tell that he has settled in well is that he already barks when people come to the door, meaning he is protecting what he considers to be his own territory already!

I’m so glad I have this week off work to spend time sorting things in the house. There are still lots of people who haven’t seen it yet, and there are still some minor things that the builder and electrician have to fix. So far so good though, and I won’t be moving back home any time soon!

On The Move!

People told me that building a house would be one of the most stressful things I will ever do, and I hope they are right. It is a lot of work, and in particular, the last month has been crazy!
Finally, after almost ten months of building and rennovating, my house is ready, and I will be moving in later today. All the hard work, time and energy was worth it, because I love the house!

Working with builders, plumbers, electricians, and all the people involved in putting a house together isn’t easy. The plan on paper and in your head often turns out a little bit different in reality. Things go wrong and mistakes are made, which can result in things being much more expensive than they should. I had the advantage of rennovating an existing house, so I was able to see the progress and the changes more clearly. This is an ideal situation for a blind person who is building, because at least you don’t have to imagine what plans will be like from a non-existing building.Thankfully the end result is a house that I am delighted with, and am really looking forward to showing relations and friends during my week off.

I spent the weekend sorting out clothes, cds and junk. I found things in my room that I completely forgot I owned! It will take a few weeks to actually move everything, but the necessities will do for now. I have started packing boxes and a friend helped to bring some down on Monday evening. Last night my mum, her friend and two of my aunts helped us to clean the house. It was so dusty after the builders had finished. By the time I get home from work today, my bedroom furniture and carpet should be in. OJ and I will have our last official dinner in my house (of course there’ll be lots more as we will be visiting often!) Then we’ll bring down some more things and I will spend my first night there. I’m so excited! The house isn’t completely finished yet. There are no tables or chairs at all, and nothing in the spare rooms. As long as I have a bed, water and electricity I’ll be fine.

I know that I am extremely lucky to own my own house already. It is something I have always wanted to do. It wouldn’t be possible without my family, particularly my parents who have been more helpful than I could ever have imagined. Moving house also wouldn’t be an option if I didn’t have a guide dog. I lived away from home for three years when I studied at college, but I didn’t have the independence, security and fredom that OJ gives me.I know the road crossing outside my house is busy and dangerous, and I will have problems getting around for a while, but the National Council for the Blind and Irish guide dogs are working to improve this. I know that it will eventually be sorted out and OJ will find his way around safely and confidently. Apart from that, he will be a good companion, and I don’t mind living alone at all if I have a dog for company.

I will be internetless until next Wednesday when I get my phone line put in. This time next week I’ll post my first week update.

O J Rocks!

O J did possibly one of his best day’s work for me yesterday, something that only took him four years to achieve, but something that makes me think he’s cool.
He came to his first ever Frames related gig with me, Glen Hansard’s gig at
An Grianan Theatre
in Letterkenny. I think it goes without saying that Glen is my favourite singer/songwriter, so being able to bring O J along with me, without him freaking out because the gig was too loud was great! The theatre is my favourite venue to see Glen play solo. Not only because he always seems to enjoy being there, but because the theatre itself is well run, the sound is excellent and the staff are really helpful.

I went straight to the theatre after a busy day in work, to have a chat with Mark Geary for my radio show, (due to techy problems the interview won’t be broadcast until next Sunday 23rd.) Mark played with Glen during his first solo gig in Letterkenny in January 2003, so it was nice to have them both playing there again after eight and a half years. I was nervous for about two minutes, when I realised I was being rediculous. Mark is always friendly and easy to talk to, and I really appreciate the time he took to come and chat. Of course OJ insisted on being petted too, and got his own way as usual! ūüôā
During our chat I could hear Glen soundchecking upstairs, and started to wonder if bringing O J was going to be a bad idea!

The gig itself was very intense, almost three hours long with a set list of about thirty songs. Glen’s voice sounds even more mature, and a late night the night before didn’t stop him choosing to sing some of the more difficult songs, with help from the audience when he couldn’t hit some of the high notes. It will be interesting to hear how the new material sounds when it is recorded, as there are clearly many new things influencing his music at the moment. I know some people view Glen as a performer who doesn’t change much – he knows how to connect with an audience and keep their attention so songs can often sound the same, but for me, there is always something different and something new every time I see him pplay, and that must be the thing that keeps me going to gigs over and over again, and coming out almost three hours later wondering when the next one will be.

O J was brilliant, and lay under the seat quietly most of the time, apart from getting up for a couple of stretches towards the end. At one point, just as Glen and Mark were getting ready to play together and the theatre was completely silent, O J did the hugest dog shake ever! The audience began laughing and Glen said, “that wasn’t me!” Luckily it was dark and only my cousin could see how embarrassed I was. I don’t know if he knew the dog was there or if he just thought something very strange was going on in the audience, but either way it was funny!

Set List (not in the correct order):

Lay Me Down
Song for Someone
Seven Day Mile
Low Rising (sexual healing snippet)
Pennies in the Fountain
Stars are Underground
Say it to Me Now
What Happens When The Heart Just Stops
Plateau (Jane Says)
Perfect Opening Line
The Parting Glass
Falling Slowly
It’s Coming (new)
Come Away (new song written for Hunger Games)
Moving On (new)
Crash in the Levee (down in the Flood) (Dylan cover)
There’s a Ghost (new song)
Song of Good Hope (new)
When Your Mind’s Made Up
Hairshirt, (R.E.M cover)
It Beats Me (with Mark),
Hold Tight (with Mark)
Forever Young (Dylan cover) with Mark, Fiacra & Keith McNamara)
I Will (Dean Martin cover) (lead vocals by Fiacra) ‚Äď to a half empty theatre

Guest Post: Assistance Dog for Autism

This month’s guest post is from a blogger I have mentioned many times here during the last couple of years. They won an Irish Blog Award earlier this year, so I thought it was time they introduced themselves in their own words.

“Greetings from Clive & Co over at Clive – Assistance Dog for Autism and many thanks for the opportunity to introduce ourselves and talk a little about assistance dogs, autism and the impact both have had on our lives.
Three years ago we started blogging about Clive and Murray Рour assistance dog and our son who has autism.  Clive is 6 now, Murray is 13.  Clive came into our lives five years ago and during that time a huge transformation has taken place in Murray.  A lot of work has also taken place during that time too
– lots of special needs schooling, lots of occupational therapy and speech therapy, lots of horse-riding and swimming and Special Olympics competitions
but it’s been the ‘lots of Clive’ that has really turned things around for Murray.
Before Clive came into our lives Рsimple everyday tasks were difficult for Murray.  He craved routine, familiarity, the safety of home.  Taking him shopping, trying to stand in a queue, attempting to go to a football match Рthese were all things that Murray found extremely frightening and upsetting.  He had little language to explain his fear, his sensitivity to noise and crowds, his nervousness of strangers Рso Murray cried or screamed or got so upset at
the idea of leaving the house – he threw up. ¬†We got so used to Murray getting sick that we couldn’t remember a time when Murray didn’t throw up at the idea of a change in routine. ¬†That was what life was like for our family or rather it was a lack of a life because we couldn’t do much as a family. Murray has another sibling who didn’t get much of look in with all that was going on with Murray.

Clive has changed that РClive has transformed Murray РClive has enabled Murray to lead a relatively normal life.  When Murray has Clive with him Рhe feels secure, confident and is able to cope with a change in his surroundings, Murray can manage and now enjoy interaction with people outside of the house.
¬†From the days of not even being able to go to our local GAA club to watch Murray’s sister play football – we can now go into Croke Park to cheer on Dublin!¬†
Over the past five years Murray’s speech has come on hugely – Clive has helped that because Murray wanted to communicate with ‘his dog’ so having Clive with him 24/7 has helped develop Murray’s language skills. ¬†Murray has become far more independent because of Clive – more independent than we ever thought possible – seeing him able to take Clive for a walk on his own this summer was a truly magical experience. ¬†An experience we would never have considered
possible five years ago prior to Clive coming into our lives. ¬†Murray’s confidence has grown hugely – he now engages willingly and happily with people outside the house. ¬†He is hugely proud of Clive and always willing to go places, try new things, meet new people.
Clive has literally opened up the world for Murray! ¬† Clive has taken Murray to Spain, France, Belgium and the USA. ¬†A fellow blogger in the USA – reading Clive’s blog in South Carolina has invited us over to her house for the past two summers. ¬†Clive and his blog have enabled Murray to experience new countries, new experiences – truly a whole new world. ¬†On the rare occasion that for some reason, Clive can’t be with Murray – Murray can now accept and understand
that and can carry on without Clive (once he knows Clive is safe and happy at home).
Murray is a magical kid Рa kid that has given his family so much pleasure over the past 13 years Рhe has enriched our lives and made all the family sit up and view the world a little differently.  He has got his family involved in fundraising, autism awareness and supporting Irish Guide Dogs and the work they do.  He has done all this and more because of that great golden shaggy dog that came home from Cork one June morning five years ago.   If Murray is
magical – then Clive is his ‘magical’ canine!

There are currently 175 assistance dogs around Ireland working with children like Murray. ¬†There are also over 200 children with autism on a waiting list for an assistance dog. ¬†The current wait time for an assistance dog is four years. ¬†That’s a long time when you have a child with autism ….
Many thanks for taking the time to read our guest post here on Jen’s Blog. ¬†For more stories on Clive and the work he does as an assistance dog for autism
– please check out his blog
assistance dog for autism.”

Finally, its October!

September was a long horrible month, and to be honest I’m glad to see the end of it. I’m not the type of person to feel sorry for myself for long, and I always try to find positive things wherever possible. Last month was a reminder to appreciate spending time with family and friends, and not to take things for granted. When O J was sick, it reminded me to appreciate having a guide dog even more than I already do, because working without one is something I would find very difficult.
Lastly, and even though its less important, I was reminded that technology is easily lost or broken, so I should always back things up! I learned that the hard way!

A couple of good things happened in September, and I know I have a lot to look forward to now. I found out that I definitely have a job for another year, which is a great relief. My new house is currently being painted and I hope to have moved in by Halloween. Before that, I’m looking forward to meeting up with some friends, and going to a Glen Hansard gig (which is always exciting for me!)

I just wanted to write something here myself today, since I will be posting another guest post tomorrow from an award-winning blogger! Stay tuned!