Advocacy

I have  spent a lot of time on Facebook doing various “advocacy” things.  There are pages for The Animal Rescue Site, and other things I’ve come across along the way which will send me posts to sign various petitions, such as blasting Obama for okaying the sale of horse meat (yes, for consumption), protecting wolves from being hunted by helicopter, boycotting Chicken of the Sea for fishing practices that also ensnare rays, dolphins, turtles and other creatures, cracking down on puppy mills and dog fighting.  I also get a lot of these via email.

I am obviously for the animals, and would love to do so much more than sign petitions, but limited time and extremely limited money prevent this.  I am doing what I have the ability to do at present.  If you’re supposed to “be the change you want to see in the world”, this is my way of performing that task.

The one that has me using the most time is Pet Pardons on Facebook.  I don’t know how, but they get profiles of domestic animals in kill shelters which you can click on and “advocate” for their stay of execution.  Going pet by pet can definitely consume the afternoon, but when the posts come that an animal was spared, it’s just wonderful.  The down side is that, in order to accept my “advocacy” for any given animal, I have to agree to have Facebook post each profile I’ve clicked on, which I’m sure is annoying for my friends.  But the goal is to have everybody who might be willing to respond to do so.

Oh, I just remembered another petition I’ve signed: to stop the use of inhumane gassing chambers when shelters do end the animals’ lives.  They basically suffocate.  It’s terrible, and costly.

I don’t only sign things for animals, though, the first human-based thing that comes to mind is signing a petition to allow the continued access to birth control for lower-income women.  I don’t want to get into religion or other political or moral aspects surrounding such things, but accessible birth control should help us as a race avoid over-population, crowded orphanages and foster homes, children whose needs aren’t met, and landing people in the position of considering abortion, which I’m not getting into.  I’m just saying we can help it not get to that stage.

A lot of the time, especially with the animal activism, it’s hard to continue because there is just so much need out there.  It gets overwhelming.  I have made a lot of progress this year as a person, and I think doing this helps me to continue in this fashion as well as helping make change in the world (hopefully).

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The Ballad of The Furg….

I find it hard to keep up with my blog.  Most days I suppose I don’t have much to say.  The holiday season doesn’t help, as it adds so much pressure and longer work hours for me.

So, what’s new….I finally gave the dog a much-needed bath today, which is one chore off of the mountain I’d been neglecting.  It kept getting put back because of all the rain; what’s the purpose of washing her when she’s going to get muddy?

While washing the dog isn’t necessarily fun (especially since I know she hates it), watching the after-show party always is.  Most dogs aren’t nuts about the bath, but they always seem to get some turbo-boost of energy afterwards, running all around the home and crashing into things.  Furgii’s a smaller dog (12 lbs.), so it’s even more amusing I’d think, than with a bigger dog since she’s small and flies all around with incredible agility.  I also love the sound of her feet pattering all over the carpets and the constant dry-off shake which she does so vigorously her back legs come off the floor.  She provided a lot of laughs today, and it’s only 10:45, having gotten up about three hours ago.

My Furg is a rescue, and all future pets will be as well.  She’s my first or second pet depending on how you count.  My “first” dog was Chance, and I only had him five weeks.  He had an illness that was too severe for me to manage on my own.  His disease was undiagnosed at the time.  I had even written a song for him, “Taking a Chance”, in anticipation of getting him.  The song is about, after what happened to my stepson and my marriage, that maybe it was him saving me rather than the other way around.  He is an amazing dog, and we had bonded in pretty much three days.  It was an incredible experience, but it wasn’t to be.  It was and still is heartbreaking.  Hence I got Furgii.

Now, The Furg was muuuuch slower to open up and bond.  She was okay here, and okay being with me, but I didn’t realize how many levels there were to her trust and comfort until they opened up one by one.  Chance seemed to know in a day that I loved him and would never hurt him.  He knew I was his new owner, and loved back almost instantaneously.  She was so slow to do the same.

I’ve had her almost a year and a half now.  Her story is that a young woman in North Carolina was at work and saw Furgii wandering across the parking lot.  She had a collar, but no tag or microchip.  The woman and her husband posted around to attract her owner to no avail.  They contacted a rescue, but the rescue was so booked they offered to pay for the bills if the couple would foster her.  Six months later (June 26, 2010), I adopted her.  It was a month after I had to give up Chance.

They didn’t know her name, so she was “Girl” for a bit, then “Sweet Pea”, and then “Peanut”.  It was as Peanut that I adopted her.  I wasn’t crazy about the name, and she’d only had it six months, so I changed it to Furgii, after the singer, Fergie, my celebrity crush.  I apologize if this joke offends you, but it was a joke that gave her the name.  I was deciding what I would call her, and thought, “If I name her Fergie, then I could say that Fergie’s my bitch, and I’d be telling the truth.”  Well the joke might be in poor taste and not very good, but the name stuck, although I altered the spelling.  The new spelling was inspired by Finnish hockey players with names like “Niiniimaa” and “Niitimakii”.  It took at least six months for her to get that she’s “Furgii”, but she definitely does now.

I often wonder how she ended up wandering around North Carolina in January 2010.  Did she escape?  Did some piece of shit owner just turn her loose to fend for herself?  The first thought is heart-wrenching, and the second one is maddening.  She is my blessing now, that’s all I do know.

I eventually wrote a song for her, too.  It’s called “Piinuts”, after the name she came with, but given a spelling like her new name.  The gist of it is about having “searched for Chances, but ending up with Piinuts.  It all came down to Piinuts”.  I tried to have the music tell a story by having several movements which come full circle at the end back to the starting point.

She came with a thyroid problem (hypothyroidism), of which I was aware going in.  She takes a very cheap synthetic hormone to correct the problem, as people do for the same illness.  However, she also had two seizures in my first 11 days with her (day 3 and 11).  When I contacted the foster parents, they were unaware of this problem in her and were rather shocked.  As I said, they were not a part of the rescue itself, and I doubt they were ever duplicitous regarding her health.  They are a young couple, they both work, and they may simply never have seen any evidence of seizures.

The woman had offered that they had set off a Hartz flea bomb about a month before I’d adopted her.  Furgii had never seemed effected, but the couple’s own Jack Russell had thrown up for three days afterward.  I mentioned this to my vet, but he didn’t think it factored in.  She was diagnosed as epileptic.

Of course, after my stepson’s abuse, the dissolution of my marriage, the five weeks with Chance (I do believe THAT “rescue” party failed to disclose his problems), I thought at this point that God hated me.  Something about the seizures never sat right with me, though.  Could they be from the flea bomb, after all, combined with having gotten comfortable at the foster home for six months after being on the street for an unknown length of time?  Now she was uprooted again.  Plus the foster home has two people and two other dogs, whereas here it was just me (a stranger) and no other pets?

After a year on the phenobarbital, I decided I needed to know for sure:  Did she need this medicine?  Long term use can cause organ problems, and it increased her hunger and thirst to unbelievable levels.  She’d always sniff around on the carpet hoping for something to eat, and then she’d beg all day.  When no food was forthcoming, she’d drink her entire water bowl just to fill her stomach with something.  This of course led to some accidents, but I felt bad that her experience was governed by a manic insatiability.  It had to be horrible for her.

I slowly, slowly, slowly decreased her phenobarbital doses starting in May from a full pill twice per day to a full pill in the morning and a half at night.  In August, I made it half a pill each time.  Just before Halloween, I would give her a half in the morning, and sometimes none in the evening if I was going to be home to observe her.  Finally, I was on vacation from October 29 through November 6.  I had run out of her pills, so it seemed like the time to cut it out all together.  At no point in the weening process had I seen a seizure or witnessed evidence of it, such as having vomited or eliminated in the apartment.

It is now three and a half weeks off of it, and still no episodes.  Her appetite and behavior are back to normal.  It was a hard decision to make to take her off the medicine.  I can’t imagine what I would have felt like if I was wrong.  But, whether as a pet parent or the parent of a human child, these are decisions we have to make.  In fact, I’ve had to make those as a human parent, too.

So, there’s the Ballad of The Furg.  I started this post not knowing what to write about, blabbered about her bath, and ended with her life story (as I know it).

Hope you enjoyed learning about her as much as I enjoy having her be my pet!

Thanksgiving

I want to show and give thanks for all of the loved ones and gifts I have in my life.

I have friends, family,  and acquaintances that enrich my life.  I have a gift (I think) for writing which allows me to express myself and feeds my soul.  I have wonderful technology which allows me to store 800 musical albums (and counting) and connect with those I care about.  I have a job which allows me to support myself. I have a home and a very reliable car, both of which I love.  And, of course, I have my Furgii (see below).

This all being said (and meant), is it wrong following seven straight days at work (the last three in excess of ten hours and dealing with the public) that I just want to be left alone on Thursday before returning to work on Friday?  Alone except for The Furg, of course.

Flashbacks in Last Night’s Class

I was at my tai chi class last night (yes, I take a tai chi class), which is actually held in the basement of a church.  I don’t belong to the church, and  religion or lack thereof doesn’t qualify or disqualify anyone from going.  That’s just where it’s held.

I bring the church part up because the basement is a multi-purpose setting.  Meetings are held down there, other exercise classes, and plays and talent shows as well, since there is a stage.  The stage is the key to my story here.  The curtains were open, and various things were up there, including desks and chairs.  The one item that really caught my attention was a little red ball.

I’ve mentioned my dissolved marriage in this still-new blog, but not the reasons why it is so.  The fact is that my ex-wife and I found out my stepson was being abused by his biological father.  All of the trauma and stress that came from this revelation is what ultimately did us in.  I’m not saying we wouldn’t have ended where we are now anyway, because who knows, but that’s the way it happened.

This I mention now because once we got him away from his father (he lives in another state, there’s a restraining order, etc,), my stepson had violent episodes of lashing out, which is apparently common of victims once they are safe.  His violence was so bad (towards us and himself) that it was a miracle if he could make it to school.  This was our daily existence, walking on eggshells until something finally tripped the land mine.

He was eventually sent to a live-in therapeutic setting for children like himself.  My wife and I had separated by this point.  Ultimately, he was in a series of centers for three years before finally coming home.  It was the memory of his second such therapeutic situation that was triggered by this little red ball.

This facility is in Piscataway, and is part of the psychology and psychiatry program at Rutgers.  We would get two visits per week (My wife had come back to living with me and we were briefly together again at this point).  During our visits, we could use the gym on the campus, as long as it wasn’t already in use.  This was often a highlight to the visits.  My stepson loved the time since he’s very athletic and active, and we made up a lot of different games while there.

This gym also had a stage area, with curtains and all, and this, to get to the destination at the end of the winding road, is why seeing a ball on a stage sent scenes rushing back from the past to fill my head.  We were doing breathing and meditative exercises in tai chi class at the time, and as I was holding my pose, and focusing straight ahead, I saw the ball.  I had to stifle the urge to cry, and to remain in the present.

There will be things that will bring flashbacks of such memories, of course, though it happens less frequently over time.  But when they do, they will always come at a time when they’re completely unexpected.

Poetry

One of my writers’ groups had a discussion on poetry last night.  This being my field of creativity, I, of course, HAD to go.  It was a very lively discussion, too.  A lot of the people there said that they used to write poetry, but haven’t in a very long time for various reasons.  One person, if I’m remembering this correctly, thanked me for continuing to do so.  What I remember clearly was my reply: “I didn’t have a choice!”

This is quite true.  My first poem that wasn’t forced out of me by a teacher was written when I was 14.  “Dreamdeath” was the title.  I had a view of poems as being girly, or pansy-ish, or whatever, and was as such not given to thinking that this was something I would want to do.  At least not consciously.  I couldn’t say why I wrote that first poem that day except that I was COMPELLED to do it.  I still have the fear when I tell someone I write poetry that they’ll apply the stigmas I believed were there when I was 14.  I’ll tell people I’m a lyricist, which is true since I do write musical accompaniment to a lot of my pieces, but I think it sounds a little more macho maybe to say lyricist instead of poet.

Regardless of the name one uses for what I do, by 16 or 17, I was churning out poems/lyrics.  I did intend them to be used in songs even then, having bought my first bass guitar and amplifier at 16 and figuring I was going to be in the next Motley Crue (he admitted embarrassingly).

My favorite bass player now, Geddy Lee from the band Rush, once said in an interview that to become a better musician, you had to play with musicians better than yourself.  It will force you to elevate your skills to their level.  I think the same thing works for writing, or it did with me, at least.  I started out writing lyrics (very sadly) similar to those of the music I listened to.  It was shit.

I eventually got into bands like Rush, Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Sting, and others which have actual, real-live intelligence put into the words.  By elevating my lyricists of choice, my own skills elevated.  I got pretty good, if I can say so, but then I read something new:  John Keats.  Kaboom.  I progressed by lightyears over where I’d been.  I didn’t even read that much of Keats in the grand scheme of things, but it changed what I did.  Perhaps it was the phrasing, some use of alliteration, I don’t know.  I’m just glad it took hold.

Many, many years later, I still need to do this, my writing.  In fact, I think I write my songs so that my words will have a vehicle, rather than writing words because songs need lyrics.  I have demons to exorcize, and this is how I do it.  I can’t imagine what and where I’d be without this outlet.

I have gotten so much positive feedback from those with whom I’ve shared my writing, which is almost as rewarding as having created the work in the first place.  I have heard artists of all types refer to their creations as being like their children, and that they had to “birth” each one.  I agree with that.  I do see them as like my children, and I’m proud of them.  You want them all to be successful in their own right, but of course this just isn’t possible.  You still want the best for them, though, and want them to be regarded well.

Regardless of whether or not this makes any sense to you and equally regardless of whether you choose to call what I do lyrics or poems or simply WRITING, it’s something I still HAVE to do.  It’s almost as important to my existence as blood, air, and physical sustenance.

The Birthday

So I had my former stepson over for his 13th birthday.  We were originally supposed to see a movie, but he decided he wanted to rent one On Demand, which was fine.  We also played some Wii.  I would have sold the game system ages ago to cover something silly like food expenses or my well-overdue medical bills from a series of endoscopies, but he loves the game and it’s something we do together.  I never touch it otherwise.

He, his mother, and his grandparents were going out to dinner, and I was invited along, but I declined.  I know this sounds selfish, but I really had my heart set on watching the big football game tonight between my Steelers and their most hated rival, Baltimore.  With dinner being at 6 and the game at 8:30, I might not have missed much of it, but I had the erroneous thought I might take a nap before the game since I have to return to work tomorrow after a week off and I go in at 5 a.m.

The other thing would have been how strange it would be to sit  with my ex-wife and ex-in-laws conversing over dinner.  I hate her for dropping me (twice) and for shacking up with my replacement.  I know the focus should be his birthday, and I should maybe put my angst aside for that, but I can’t, and I’m not entirely convinced I should.  How long am I supposed to be the nice guy, hanging in for the child that’s not his when no expectation of the same seems to be made of the new man?  How long should I be expected to act like a member of the family from which I was evicted?

The guilt, of course, kicks in nonetheless for putting my needs, wants and feelings over his.  I don’t think he is or will be hung up about it, but I still feel a little shitty anyway.

In-laws

Here is some backstory to this post:  I was married once, and my ex has a son, to whom I was basically the father for most of the union.  The role of his biological father was “downsized”, shall we say.  Our marriage lasted five years before we separated, plus the year and a half I was “in the picture” prior to the wedding.  I still see my now-former stepson sometimes.

I was going to a store to get a gift for him, his birthday being tomorrow, and I saw my former in-laws getting something from a bakery further down the strip mall.  They were very likely getting his cake (on a side note, I was once quoted in a college paper in which I said I don’t know why Jersey is called the Garden State when our chief crop appeared to be mini-malls).  I was tempted to say hi to them, even though there was a chance I’d see them tomorrow anyway, but I didn’t catch up to them between the time they got into their car and I got out of mine.

I don’t really have a negative thought pattern regarding them, although, having been my in-laws, things weren’t always so peachy.  The reasons I’m no longer married are not their fault, and my relationship with them at the end was actually very good.  I think they understand what I went through and what I had put up with in the marriage.  I know that paints my ex a very dark hue by saying that, but when and if that story unfolds here it will make sense.  Not that I can’t say bad things about her, but I’m not doing that here and now.  The point is that I haven’t any animosity toward her parents, and I think that this is mutual.

I’m writing about it because it was just a weird thing of, “Do I say hi, do I not say hi?”  I had chosen to do so by the time I exited the vehicle, but it was too late.  It just got me thinking about the nature of interpersonal relationships and the awkwardness that can arise in the aftermath of certain things.

I will be taking my now-former stepson out tomorrow to see a movie and give him his gifts.  He will be 13, which just seems crazy.  I met him when he was a year old or less, I was dating his mother when he was a year and a half, and I was officially his stepfather when he was 3.  It’s been almost 5 years since the separation, and 4 since the divorce was official (although we were back together for a few months after the initial separation.  I have watched him grow up, even though I haven’t  been an active participant in that for a long time.  I think that, to him, I’m still the father figure perhaps.

It’s not been an easy thing to stay in touch.  It hurts a lot, frankly, the reminder of what went wrong, and I absolutely hate seeing HER, which of course I have to hide from HIM.  But I can’t just let him go, even though he’s not my responsibility anymore.  I can’t just leave him when I think he still needs my presence in his life.  It’s not all a chore; I DO love him, but it’s just hard when I’m still not over everything that happened, even after all this time.  Part of me does need to continually “ease” out of the role over time, for my own health.

Seeing his grandparents was yet another reminder of family had and family lost, with the internal question asked of “Where does this leave us?”