Puppies for World Peace – a Proposal

"Stella" courtesy of The Animal Orphanage of Voorhees in Voorhees, NJ

This is a rewrite of a blog I wrote about 3 years ago.  I just felt it was timely again.

Recently, my husband and I took the step of ditching our regular TV provider.  We now get our boob tube entertainment via the internet – and quite frankly, this has been working out really well for us.  However, it means that if I want to keep up on news and headlines, I have to search them out.  My daily foray onto the news sites returned the following:

  • ISIS: Why we enslave women
  • Vietnam vet’s leg stolen at NFL game
  • Ranger disrespected by flight crew
  • Brawl erupts after NASCAR race
  • And on…and on… and on…

It’s enough to make you want to jump out the window (which given that I am on the first floor probably won’t solve anything.) But yesterday, I think I may have discovered the solution to all the world’s problems.  Okay – that’s a gross exaggeration, but I may have hit on a thought that could help a little… Puppies!  Yes, I said puppies!

My friend and I meet at a local coffee shop on Sundays whenever we can.  We sit, eat delicious quiche, and catch up on whatever comes to mind.   At yesterday’s java joint, I had the opportunity to watch a fascinating thing happen.  I brought our new puppy Stella with me, and as we sat and drank our coffee, the most interesting phenomena began to occur.  Each person that walked by stopped to play with Stella.  They stopped in groups, singles, and couples; they were young and old; black and white; tall and short; high-heeled and sneakered.

Stella helping build peaceful relations.

Fostering world peace at the coffee shop with friend Amanda

They were all unknown to each other, drawn by this little black and white fur ball of bouncing energy.  At one point, there were at least three different groups of strangers, all playing together on the sidewalk in front of the café.  And as they played, they began to interact with each other.  One woman bought a cup of coffee for an older gentleman; someone else took the time to pledge money for an Aids walk; a young couple helped an elderly lady cross the road – and the catalyst to all of these acts of kindness was a silly little puppy.

IMAG0330

Stella advising her new dad.

So, is my answer to world peace a puppy?  Well, sort of.  Okay, not really.  But if you stop and think about it for a minute, you might start to see some sense in what I am saying.  After all, I’m positive that the diversity among the individuals playing together on that sidewalk also represented an enormous diversity in belief systems.  None of that mattered for the few precious minutes of happy puppy playtime.  People that might otherwise never interact smiled, talked, and enjoyed a few moments together.  And their actions reflected the small transformation a puppy had on their worlds.

Can we change the world with puppies?  Well, no.  But we can take that small lesson and realize that, for a few minutes, the world became just a little bit better – that adversity and differences among individuals can, in fact, be set aside for a brief moment.  And, if you can set your differences aside for one moment, who’s to say you can’t do it for two, or three, or four or…  Moreover, just maybe, those who stopped to play with that puppy, took the feeling with them and made someone else’s day a little bit better as well.

So to the world leaders out there reading this blog (because I’m sure some of them do,) at your next meeting, take a puppy with you.  It just might make a difference.

Image of Stella with her head cocked slightly to one side.

Stella – ever inquisitive. The new ambassador for world peace.

Freedom on my 50th Birthday: a definition

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Thomas Jefferson

Let us find a way to make this true for all people – regardless of ability, color, education, religion, gender, marital status, language, country of origin, financial status, social standing (or sitting), political preferences, family history, and any other word or phrase we as a society use to separate ourselves from each other.

I am the epitome of the great American mutt – the result of the once great concept of the Melting Pot. This is me on my 50th birthday – it is not me of yesterday and won’t be me of tomorrow. This is me of today.

Ability: I am able-bodied but make choices that may one day rob me of that. I am not better or worse than others – just different (sorta like everyone else.) I do have to stop standing on things that are not meant to be ladders, or this may change sooner than I think.

Color:  I am technically white but appear mostly pink and blotchy red. What color are you? I think under our skin we may be the same -indistinguishable from each other. I keep this in mind (but occasionally picturing everyone without skin makes me a little queasy.)

Education: I am highly educated but occasionally (maybe frequently) stupid.  Some of our leaders are highly stupid and occasionally educated.  I am working to help change that.

Religion: I was, but now I’m not – we must each be free to believe in what brings us peace and let others do the same. I suggest we try to be good people.  I think that might work.

Gender: Is unique to the individual and should remain that way. I am a woman who likes the manly type of things.  I can plumb, use power-tools, bar-b-que, swing a hammer, and MacGyver the hell out of most things.  I don’t wear make-up. I am not you, and you are not me.  Let us admire each other’s definition.

Marital Status: Yes – for all.  I believe you fall in love with a soul.  The soul I love is male – just kinda worked out that way. Who you love won’t ever change that for me.  What I want is for you to have this same deep bond – if you want it. Makes no difference to me who it is.

Language: My language is filled with curse words from all over the world – now including ASL. I am open to learning the curse words from your mother tongue – will you share?  Speak what lets you convey the important things in your life. Work to communicate with everyone. Understand that language and communication are not the same things.

Country of Origin: America. Did you think I meant my ancestors?  What does that have to do with me? They gave me the pink with red blotchy skin that burns at the thought of the sun. They gave me stories.  But I am an American.

Financial Status: Sometimes I have money – more times I don’t.  I give away when I can. I have no status.  I’m okay with that.

Social Standing (or Sitting): I am a total social misfit that really doesn’t give a flying f*ck. (At least I pretend that’s true.) Underneath I am scared and shy and afraid and clumsy – and I’m hoping you’ll like me and I try not to care.

Political Preferences: I prefer politicians that do not exude ignorance, bigotry, self-centered idolatry, sexism, sadism, racism, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, hatred,  misogyny….. I didn’t say democrat or republican.  Right not my preferences are not being met – wanna help me change that?

Family History: I am not born into my family but was lucky enough to be picked by them. I am celebrated, cared-for, tolerated, teased, rebuked, praised, scolded, and welcomed.  You know, the good stuff about family.

Right now, I am this.  Tomorrow I will be something else.  We each carry with us the sum of our experiences – good and bad – that blend to make us who we are.  Each adventure changes the picture and redraws the landscape where we live.  It’s kinda exciting.  I wonder who I will be next? I just hope I like her.

Me at 50

BKPE 2017 – you have healed me.

Image of the percussion ensemble in competition
The Cave

It is 3:00 in the morning and I am sitting in a slightly better than a 2-bit hotel in Dayton, Ohio – a place I come once a year, almost every year.  I don’t have relatives here.  I don’t come here for work. I don’t come here for a vacation.  I have gotten here via plane, driven my own car through the night, and ridden on a bus I swear was out of control. I have had good times here and bad times.  There have been successes, failures, and growth – laughter, tears, and dancing – struggles, missteps, and triumphs. And always I am thunderstruck at what a group of kids can do.

I am at the World Guard International Percussion Finals is Dayton, Ohio.

And I beyond proud of this cobbled together family of 40 kids, the amazing adults that lead them, and their astounding director (who BTW is snoring as I write).  They may not know it yet or understand what has happened, but they have achieved a greatness today that will follow them always.  I know this because I have watched it happen year after year, for almost 30 years now. 

For those of you who don’t know what WGI is all about, I am going to send you to a website to see for yourself.  In spite of being a writer and making my living with words, I can never quite explain what is indoor percussion.  I usually resort to something like this:

“So you know what a marching band looks like?  Okay, you take the guys out on the field with the drums, and the group that is usually up front with the keyboards and stuff and you put them in a basketball stadium where they march around and play music while wearing costumes and makeup and sometimes jumping off of things and sometimes things go wrong and sometimes things go right and at finals there will be thousands of these kids involved that aren’t out on the street making the kind of trouble that makes old men swear at them and cops wish for a different life.”

Now you see why it’s easier just to go to a website and see for yourself.  Try this one: 2016 Percussion videos.

Okay, now that you understand a little more what I am talking about, I want to tell you about this group – this family – that make up the 2017 Blue Knights Indoor Percussion Ensemble.  My husband is their director, my friends are their instructors, and I put them in you-can’t-wash-them, they-are-way-to-warm, the-metal-gives-me-a-funkyrash costumes.  It has been a long time since I was solely responsible for making 40 uniforms.  But that was my fault for designing something that was unique to each of them – but it also let me get to know them all, at least a little bit. They’ve been fun to tease, to push, to shock, and make laugh. And I think they have healed me. Those of you who have been following my blog (oh ye mighty few) have read about the difficult time Mike and I have had over the past couple of years – from the lost jobs, the lost house, the lost items in the flood, the lost strength, the lost… we have struggled to find our way through. But we did!  I love my new job (a tale for another time), and I love being home in Colorado. But it wasn’t until just now (at 3:00 am in Dayton, Ohio) that I realized I needed to be involved with an ensemble again. I needed to feel what it meant to put your “all” into something like this – something that lives and breathes because of kids – because they give me hope.

Over the years, Mike’s ensembles have had all different levels of success. Some have won (irrespective of a medal) and some have not. Some crapped out on themselves, and some have gone the distance.  But these guys, they are something special. I keep trying to put my finger on just what makes them so… (see, I can’t even find the right word)… just SO. There have been a few groups of the years (and they know who they are) that have had that something… SO.  They are the ones that still smile at us when we see them in the lot – or the ones that invite us to their wedding even though we haven’t seen them in years – or the ones, who in the middle of warming up their own group, turn and throw themselves at us for a hug – or the one that showed up to help us unload our moving van on a snowy January day. The one who told us he was glad to finally have the chance to pay us back for what we gave him all those years ago in the ensemble. But you give to me…to us.

This group didn’t medal today.  They didn’t even make semi-finals, something I desperately wanted for them and truly believed they deserved. I watched them dig down a little bit deeper than before and pull up something great. I am awed by your strength.  

We all hear about how our leaders suck, or so-and-so is doing such-and-such to him-and-her.  Or that we worry about the future because of those-rotten-good-for-nothing-kids-that-don’t-care-and-will-amount-to-nothing. Well, I can say, if our future is in these kids’ hands, AWESOME. I admire their leadership.

I watch you comfort those around you when your own pain is apparent. I am moved by your kindness.

I heard you tell me it’s nice just to have me there at rehearsal.  I am tickled by your acceptance.

I listened to you tell each other that not one of your instructors would put winning above someone’s health.  I am honored by your trust.

I saw the intensity of emotion when you said you just played the best show of your life.  I am changed by your passion.

And I noticed when you moved your mind to next year and saw what possibilities lay ahead. I am fortified by your vision.

And I know that you have healed that part of me still broken by life.

I thank you, and I am proud of you – you are so…

…I have no words.

 

Family has nothing to do with blood

Family – Kin – Relatives – Tribe – Folk – Fellowship- Mates – Clan

When you look up synonyms for family, these are but a few of the words you will find.  And none of them have anything to with blood or biology.  I am in a unique position to understand that family is anything but blood.  I am an adopted child – the only one out of four children.  Uniquely, I am a middle adopted child which is even more unusual. The general scenario is either people adopt thinking they can’t have children and then find they can – the adopted then being the oldest. Or they can’t have any more children and choose to adopt making the adopted the youngest.  But my parent’s  plans ended up with me in the middle. See – I’ve been odd since birth.

But in spite of the unique situation of how I came to be part of this family, I am just that – a member of the Haney clan. I have always been treated exactly like the rest, from chores to arguments, to rewards, and so forth. No one ever said, “You’re not our real kid/sister/ etc.”  And I don’t remember ever saying, “You’re not my real family/mom/brother/sister.” In fact, most of the time I hear how much we look alike – which is pretty funny given that the rest of my family are taller, thinner, and more athletic.  They look at a mountain and say, “Alright, let’s climb that.”  I look at that same mountain and find a great place to sit and draw it.  But we hold our heads the same, have the same facial expressions, use the same phrases when speaking, and have the same mannerisms.  These are things that identify us as family.

I understand completely that a family is something more than a chance of birth.  In fact, for some, birth families are the least family-like.  This is why I am so grateful for the other families I belong to. I have a furry family with my husband, one that brings us joy and comfort.

I have a new work family that has embraced me as one of them, not in spite of my quirks and weirdness, but with total disregard for them (and even embracing some of the odder ones.) They are teaching me the finer points of being a part of the disability family, putting up with my fumbles and answering my (sometimes) stupid questions.  They are teaching me how to be a member of this wonderful family.

I have an online family of people I have never met face to face. They are as much a family to me as any.  We care for each other, look out for each other, offer support and praise for each other.  And sometimes help each other understand that perhaps their blood relatives are not the family they think they are.  We help others with issues of abuse, neglect, abandonment, spitefulness, and sometimes violence.  We work to help everyone feel that they are important, wanted, cared for, and needed – all the things I learned from my first family.  And I try my best to bring this understanding to others.

This time of year is difficult for many. While suicide is not at its peak over the holidays, it is nonetheless prevalent and likely for some. According to the CDC, every minute someone will attempt to commit suicide – and every 13 minutes someone will be successful.  And here’s the kicker – disease and illness are mostly out of the average person’s ability to heal, but for people considering suicide, sometimes you and I can help. A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting. You and I can help by recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. Often we are afraid to bring up the subject.  Even writing this, I find myself using synonyms for suicide – as if just saying it will trigger the action. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

I didn’t really intend for this post to be about suicide prevention – but like many times when I am writing, the words take me somewhere I didn’t see when I started.  I meant for this to be a celebration of family – to try and open minds about the importance of the relationships that make a family rather than the blood relations that we often use as a family definition. But perhaps my definition of family by default lead me to this discussion because I understand how much family cares for each other.  Sometimes we sit around the table and talk about nothing.  Sometimes we sit on the floor and share the most important, the most wonderful, the most painful moments of our lives. A family listens. When we listen we can share in the joy, laugh at the crazy, revel in the beauty, cry over the pain, hurt in empathy, rage at the unfair, scream at the wrongs, and heal with each other. We reach out, stumble, trip, fall, catch, hold, lift and support. My family taught me this – teaches me this every day.

These last couple of years have been very hard.  They have brought some difficult times, but they have also brought joy, happiness, redemption, and growth.  I have tested the strength of my family bonds.  I have missed birthdays, holidays, and celebrations – sometimes because I just couldn’t see beyond my own four walls.  I have caused hurt and pain.  But in spite of my failings, my human fallibility, my family is still there, waiting for me to get it together and keeping an eye on me until then. You have a greater family than you may know.  Look around and rethink what family means to you.

Family: a group of people, connected by interest, support, kindness, and care.  A  bond that will often cause you to put other’s needs above your own.  A well that offers hope and healing, filled by others in your tribe. Not defined by blood and biology.

To all my family members – we will find hope, happiness, and joy in 2017 – together.

_______________

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, please call your local authorities (911). The hotlines below are 24 hours and are confidential.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1.800.273.TALK (273-8255)
For hearing and speech impaired with TTY equipment: 1.800.799.4TTY (779-4889)
Español: 1.888.628.9454

National Child Abuse Hotline
1.800.4.A.CHILD (422-4453)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.SAFE (799-7233)

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
1.800.656.HOPE (656-4673)
The Trevor Project
1.866.4.U.TREVOR (488-7386)

Veterans Crisis Line
1.800.273.TALK (273-8255) PRESS 1

Crisis Text Line
TEXT “TWLOHA” TO 741-741

Maybe this year I will finally cross something off my bucket list – getting arrested for civil disobedience.

 

 

I cried last night as I often do in the face of great emotion.  I am a crier and always have been.  It is only when I am really angry that the tears pass and I become coldly focused, intensely rational, and very scary .  This morning I am not crying. But it is not because I passed through the emotion to anger, but because I realize we have been given an opportunity.  It’s true!  Let me show you what I mean,

Jump in the Wayback Machine with me to yesterday. As many of you are, I am watching the returns.  I had a strange feeling of unreality – not unlike the feeling I had when I first heard that the towers had fallen.  I keep thinking “This can’t really be happening! I don’t live in a country of racist, bigoted, homophobic people!”  And you know what, we don’t.  I refuse to believe that the majority of people in America share the same beliefs as Donald Trump.

But he got elected!” you say.  True, but we have a flawed electoral system.

But he’s now the president!” someone wails.  False, not yet he isn’t.

But the world is over as we know it!” True. But it always is.

Every day, the world is over as we know it.  Yesterday is gone and there isn’t a Wayback Machine to give you a do-over.  In fact, we shouldn’t ever get a do-over.  Because it is only in the face of adversity that we find something to fight for – something worth our time and effort, our sweat and tears, our pain and suffering.  The greater the adversity, the greater the opportunity to make a difference.

My friends are black and white, yellow and red, blue and green. They are straight, gay, bi, transgender, transsexual, married, divorced, separated, and single.  My friends have 2 legs, 1 leg, no legs, and wheels. They speak, and sign, and stutter, and slur. They speak English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and Gibberish.  They are Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, and Atheist. And we all live on the Island of Misfit Toys together. It’s warm and happy here.  We are accepted, admired, and encouraged for our diversities.

But now the country has said they don’t like our being different.  They want us to be the same.  They want to keep out the elements that make us different – the very elements that blend us into a unique and beautiful country. Well, maybe we should say thank you!  Thank you for the opportunity to show the world that we are not what our political outcome suggests. But see, here’s the thing – this is no different than it was yesterday or the day before or last year or years ago.  It is only that it has been said out loud, at the top of people’s lungs. The fractured country that we live in has been brought out into the open. And in doing so, we have been given an opportunity to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!  The first step in recovery is to admit you have a problem.  It seems to me that the county stood up last night and said, “Hi, My name is The United States of America and I have a problem.

The road to recovery requires getting help.  Get involved in an organization that shares your beliefs.  Find a way to start making a change.  Look for an opportunity that might have previously been hidden. Go find something that makes you feel empowered. Trump may have been elected, but he has a long road ahead to prove he can make good on any of his campaign threats. You and I, however, have a golden opportunity to affect true change. Find a local organization and ask how you can get involved.  For me, I might just cross off a bucket list item – getting arrested for civil disobedience.  Does anyone care to join me?

kitten-stressed

Some Colorado organizations that are working for positive change (look for something similar where you live):

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC)

The Gill Foundation

Indivisible Colorado

Black Denver

Colorado Muslim Society 

Please post in comments any of the organizations that you know are working for positive change.  Let’s spread the word and share the resources.

 

 

Sunrise on a new day.

Sunrise over LA from my sister's rooftop deck.

I’m sitting on my sister’s rooftop deck in LA overlooking the San Pedro harbor – and it is glorious! I slept up here last night as it was just too hot to sleep on the couch downstairs.  My nephew, David, had wanted me to have his room (he even put away his clothes without asking) but I told him I wanted to camp out on the roof. It was amazing!  I’m sure nobody thinks of LA as silent or tranquil, but that is exactly what the night was. Now as the sun rises I can hear the city waking up around me. Over the last hour, the light changed very slowly and then Boom!  Daylight hits and everything is different. The vast dark expanse of the starry night is replaced with the recognizable objects that make up the everyday world. Dark and light, vast and defined, imagination and reality, perception and truth, extraordinary and mundane. Life is like that.

I had a dear friend from long ago reach out to me yesterday – just to make sure I am okay. And you know what? I’m great .We always tell people we are sorry for what they have to go through, but I’m not. I am the person I am because of those things. The good, the bad, the laughs, the ugly snotty crying, the rage, the passion, the wounds, the warmth, the love. I wouldn’t want to take that away from anyone. I wouldn’t want to repeat the last few years, but, odd as it sounds, I’m glad they happened. Somebody said to me once that they are 100% successful at life because they are still here. Hoowah! That’s me.

I am finding my way – I am wealthy beyond belief – I have what I need – I am loved, valued, respected, cared about, and supported. Life’s not even half way done with me yet.  I am a writer, an artist, a caregiver, a collaborator.  I am an employee, a contractor, a boss, and a partner.  I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. I am Ange, Aggie, Angie, and Aunt Pickle. I am strong and weak, confident and afraid, right and really wrong sometimes.  I am 100% successful because I am still here! And the haters, disbelievers, doubters, and negative vibe givers can just suck it! We don’t need you in our lives. Not you and not me.

Now the sun is up, I smell coffee from somewhere, the idiot on the motorcycle that just flew down the street is being pulled over by a cop. Life is great. Thanks for the reminder Paul. I think I needed that.

win_20161021_08_36_41_pro

You can’t treat people like crap! Part Deux.

I wanted to follow up on the last blog. Since my writing focused on fairness, it seemed only right that I let you know I heard from the CEO of Deckers Brands.  I forwarded to him both the emails I sent following my extremely foreshortened, abridged, and abbreviated career with Deckers. I heard from him on the same day.  He was gracious and considerate and promised to review the situation.

Eh! Who knows? There might be hope for the company yet…I’ll let you know.