STOP ANIMAL ABUSE

Little Andre is recovering well – BUT- Somebody must know the dog belonged to. Please do the right thing – Contact the McDowell Mountain Animal Hospital in Arizona or ASPCA or PETA.

  You may just stop another dog from being subjected to similar cruelty.

A small dog subjected to unthinkable abuse – found tied up in a plastic bag with its eyes gouged out and full of BB gun pellets – has brought hope to a community.

Andre was found January 3 by Cedric Conwright, who was on his daily walk near his Arizona home. He saw a car pull up in front of him and toss a black garbage back out the window, and discovered the dog curled up inside.

He told azcentral.com: ‘His eyes were closed and covered in slime. He was really thin, too. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t dead.’

Andre, known as the ‘hard-luck hound,’…

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Dear Furgii,

Dear Furgii,

When I met you, I knew that you had hypothyroidism.  It wasn’t a big deal; you take a synthetic hormone that takes care of it.  What I didn’t know was that you also had epilepsy, and that I’d witness 3 of your seizures.  I knew when I met you that you also needed a good dental cleaning.  I didn’t know that the teeth were so bad that your jaw was being eroded, and you’d need to have 8 molars removed.  I also didn’t know the string of maladies that would require trips to the vet for the next 20 months.

You would break a nail completely off, and you’d have to get taken to the emergency vet after hours.  The broken nail would eventually get infected, of course.  You would at one point get profuse diarrhea for 3 days and have to go on an antibiotic. You would get kennel cough and have to go on more medicine.  You would also break a tooth, which I’m not sure I can completely explain.  That tooth also had to be completely removed.  You’re now down 9 of them.

You occasionally do something to your right hind leg, and you hold it up until whatever issue is resolved.  I always wonder if the latest incident will be the one requiring a trip into Moorestown.  You’ll develop little cysts here and there, and I’m afraid to assume they’re just cysts and we’ve seen the good doctors a few times on their account.

I knew when I met you that you would require periodic blood work to check your thyroid levels, but, unknowing of the epilepsy, not about the periodic testing to check your organs because the medicine preventing your seizures isn’t so great for the rest of your body.

I thought when I met you that I’d be getting a companion, a miracle, and that I’d love you.  On these counts, I got everything I expected, and more.  You may have come with more drama than I’d planned, and required more maintenance and expenditure than I could have ever foreseen, but I wouldn’t ever, ever give you up.  I regret nothing.  I DO love you, as unconditionally as you do in return.  I hope on some level you know that.

Love,

Daddy

   






Oration Adulation

On Friday, Feb. 17th, I did my first public reading as a poet.  I had read my work to friends and to each of my writers’ groups, but never truly before an unknown audience.  It was a really cool experience (mainly because it was so well received!).

One of the women in one of  these groups asked me if I’d ever done love poems, because she wanted to set up a performance of he said/she said tales of Valentine’s Days past.  It would have a male and female poet (the two of us) reading original poems written about several stages of relationships.  The stages were, in order: Meeting/Games, Lust, Love, When Problems Start, When It’s Over, Regret, and a Finale which would be about still having some hope for the future (she didn’t want to end it on a downer).  We were to read at a bakery with which she was acquainted, Apron Strings Bakery in Millville, NJ.

I fortunately had at least two poems that fit each category, and our two sets of poems overall actually meshed very well.  The audience turned out to be only six people, but they really loved our work, and that’s always a great feeling.  What was especially awesome was having them say how refreshing it was to hear a male perspective on these topics that actually showed emotions and deep thoughts that they weren’t accustomed to being privy to.  This, I believe, was the point to the whole reading.  It was even called “He Said/She Said”.

I originally had accepted my friend’s invitation to being the “male voice” as a favor, but it turned out to be a very rewarding event.  I’ve been thinking lately about trying to get an anthology published, something to which I’d never given any serious thought before.  After the positive reactions I’ve gotten from both writers’ groups on my work and now from a true objective audience, I’m wondering if it’s time to pursue it.

The Written Word and Words Yet Written

In one of my writers’ groups, our main focus is writing exercises, wherein a “prompt” is given, and we would then take 20-40 minutes to write something based on the prompt.  You don’t HAVE to write on the prompt; you can take just part of the prompt, or do your own thing entirely.  This isn’t a strict environment; it’s a way to spark the creativity and get people to actually write even if it’s something they won’t use later.  We have a 30 minute or so period at the end in which we share what we’ve written, if desired.

An example of prompts we’ve been given in the past are: “satisfaction”, “superstition”, “Her laughter broke the silence….”, and “How to make a dragon”.  The last one had a specific scenario about a scientist doing all of this DNA stuff to create his/her own dragon.  I don’t really write stories, so I used the dragon as a metaphor in a set of lyrics I created.

And that’s what I want to focus on here today.  No, not dragons or metaphors based on them.  It’s the fact that you can give a prompt to 15 different people and get 15 different creations.  It’s amazing.  What makes imagination and creativity work?  And what makes it work differently in each individual?  It’s miraculous.

There are the “mainstay” members that are there almost all the time, people that sporadically show, and others that come once or twice and never again.  But everyone that’s come even once and shared what they’ve written has conjured something no one else has.  Every one of our “core” group that shows up definitely has their niche style.  One guy writes fictitious slapstick humor that’s so over the top that, if made into a movie, only Jim Carey could play it.  One guy has a sci-fi/horror bent with a twist of sexual thriller.  One likes her romance, and another likes her lust and violence in equal measure.  Those are just some examples.  But they can all change it up on you.  The Jim Carey guy, for example, every so often will break out something that’s surprisingly tender and genuine.  Frankly, I’m in awe of his skill.  The lust and violence writer will write a very personal poem every once in awhile.

My own contributions, as I wrote in a post that seems very long ago at this point, are poems and lyrics.  I really don’t deviate from this; it’s what I do.  There are an incredible amount of pieces I wouldn’t have written if not for the prompts, and many concepts that the prompts inspired simply would never have come to my mind otherwise.  I owe the group a great amount for that.

The other writers’ group I’m in focuses on more technical aspects, such as scene structure, character development, finding an agent, making sure your manuscript is ready for submission, etc.  As I said, I’m not a story writer, but I like to go to those meetings for the camaraderie, and who knows?  I may write a story some day.  This group had a meetup last weekend, which was the character development session.  I’m a bit blown away by how much work it is to do prose.  I’m overwhelmed at the moment.  I’m not giving up on it, but it’s eye-opening to see how much research and groundwork must be done.  Quite the opposite of what I usually do, which is very emotion-fueled.  I write my lyrics which (hopefully) get a reaction from the reader/listener.  I write as a reaction to something I’ve lived or seen, and I do most pieces in a single sitting.  I’ll create most of my prompt-based work in the 20-40 minutes given, and a lot of the time my first draft is my final draft.  Or, at the least, very few revisions are ever done. It suits my attention span to write what I write!

I have a new respect for the “story tellers” now.  Not that I didn’t respect them before, but now I see what they have to go through to create what they do, if they’re going to do it convincingly.  Power to them.  I still could jump into that realm, and it would be a good personal challenge, but I think I know where my bread is buttered.  My lyrics.  It’s where my true talent lies, and I actually NEED to do it.  It’s how I process my world, and how I purge my demons.

Everyone in these groups has their own style and preferred genre, and I’ve got mine, it seems.  Creativity is an incredible, inconceivable thing, and what’s more incredible is how everyone has their own voice.

For the Children

Those of you catching my blog for the first time will soon learn what those who’ve been around awhile already do:  I am obsessed with animal advocacy.  This ISN’T what I’m going to write about today, though.  Not exactly.

I’ve mentioned previously the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and that those circumstances centered around my stepson’s abuse by his biological father.  The trauma and emotions and everything just destroyed my family. The divorce may have happened anyway, but the abuse and accompanying trauma was the trigger.

So, how does this tie into my affair with animal advocacy?  Well, I’d gotten a dog as a way of moving on and into another chapter of my life, and the more I loved my dog (and who couldn’t), the more I felt the need to be involved with animal rights.  It occupies a great deal of my free time, but I love it, I love doing it, I love being part of positive change.  I love knowing that I may contribute to the success of any given campaign.

But I often imagine my ex-wife asking me, “Why do you do all of this for animals, and you’ve never done anything for abused children, for children’s rights?”  I often ask this of myself in my own voice, let alone hers.  I feel guilty for not doing it.  Shouldn’t this be a topic even closer to my heart?

I’ve seen what abuse can do to a child’s life.  My stepson’s reality became daily and nightly rages that would require restraining him most days, for he couldn’t get himself under control and he was a danger to himself and everyone around.  He was diagnosed as having dissociative flashbacks as the cause of these rages, and obviously these are not remotely anything a 7-year-old can handle.  He usually couldn’t make it to bed without incident.  He couldn’t even make it to school a lot of the time.

By his 9th birthday, he was living in therapeutic homes and hospitals for children in such situations.  By that point, my wife and I had already separated.  We were back together, and then not, while he lived in several such homes for the next 3 years.  Having lived all of this and seen it happen to the child I tried to raise as my own, shouldn’t this be a cause I’d more eagerly join?

He still has the rages.  Anything can trigger them.  I don’t get reports from his mother as to how he’s doing most of the time, and frankly, I really can’t stand having to deal with her anyway.  My stepson himself isn’t going to volunteer the bad things that have gone on in my absence.  I still see him every couple of months, but I’m almost more of an uncle in a way at this point.  But when I DO get the news of incidents he’s having, I die inside.  He’s 13 now; He’s already lost his childhood, and now his adolescence is jeopardized.  I don’t know how to handle that, how to accept it.  It’s a crippling feeling.

I think this is why I don’t get involved in children’s advocacy, especially that for abused children.  It might be too close to home.  I see so many things daily on the internet doing animal stuff, like dogs being tied up and thrown outside to freeze to death.  Puppies who’ve had their eyes gouged out and then shot with BBs.  These things make me want to curl up and give up so much of the time.  There’s so much wrong, so much evil in the world strictly dealing with animals.  It’s hard to go on sometimes.  I don’t know if I can do this same thing and hear the stories of what’s happening to kids out there.  I already know so much of it.  Maybe it’s partially because MY OWN trauma is tied up in these things.  I don’t think I can handle seeing what I’ve seen happen to animals happening to children, but I still beat myself about not being involved.

I can only thank whatever powers might be, mankind generated and/or higher, that there are people out there who deal with those things daily.  Some of those folks are and have been involved in my stepson’s life.  There are so many programs out there that you wouldn’t know existed.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to stomach doing it myself; I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m not involved at present.  But for now, all I can do about it is what I did back then: cry.

      

In Better Times

2012, My Personal Apocalypse: “May You Live In Interesting Times”

I wanted my blog to consist of thoughtful things, things which might engage potential readers, and to NOT be a bunch of updates on my life.  I have FaceCrook for that.  I didn’t want my page to be a bunch of diary entries, essentially.  But I haven’t had any topic ideas, and it’s been 11 days since my last post (I think).

It is said there’s an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”.  The phrase is allegedly NOT Chinese, nor ancient, but it proves an amusing curse nonetheless.  And I find myself in interesting times.  As I wrote about in my post “A Week of Friday the 13ths”, I began the year with some unexpected veterinary issues (with accompanying bills) after a clean semi-annual checkup of my dog on January 4th.  This all has come to $139 I didn’t expect to spend (on top of the $132 I’d just paid for the blood work, stool and urine samples, and office visit for the clean checkup).  The worst part of it , though, is Furgii having the seizures and needing to go back on the Phenobarbital.  The money is nothing compared to concerns for her health.

Then, on the 25th, I noticed that my email account was sending some strange emails to every email address of which there were records, even if they weren’t in my address book.  I figured it out when the Mailer Daemon sent me notices that my messages to Shop.NFL.com and some other addresses were undeliverable.  This had been going on for 5 days.  When I looked into my “sent” folder, the outgoing messages consisted of what sounded like Biblical passages followed by some kind of coding.  I had to get a new email account, and I changed every user name and password for everything I do on the computer.

Today, I found upon checking my bank account (which I do fairly regularly to double check my math) that a charge of $45.51 to a merchant (WMV*Match.com) is awaiting clearance.  I naturally thought of the dating site, Match.com, to which I have never gone or used.  I called my bank, and was informed that I can dispute the charge once it clears, which will likely be tomorrow.  I had to cancel my debit card and will have to wait for a new one to arrive via mail.  In hindsight, I maybe should have gone to an ATM to get some cash before canceling the old one, because I now have no access to money.  I do have enough food in the house, so I’m not that stuck.  It’s just inconvenient.  I wanted to cancel immediately so no other charges could be made by the villain.  After getting off the phone with the bank, I googled the address, and there has been a string of credit card fraud of varying purchase amounts all made to this “merchant”.  I happen to joyously be one of the latest victims.

Not a good start to my year, to say the least.  It’s funny because just a few days ago, I was telling a co-worker that I have always been a generally unlucky person.  I have had luck kick in when I needed it most, but otherwise, mine has been dreadful.

For example, I should have failed my senior year of high school, most notably because of my history class.  I can only conclude to this day that my teacher passed me because he liked me.  I never did the homework, I never paid attention, and my tests had to be abysmal.  But I used to talk to the teacher about music all the time after class.  I simply couldn’t have earned a passing grade based on anything of a scholastic nature.  It’s unfathomable., but luck allowed me to graduate.

My wife and I found out after moving to Rhode Island that my stepson’s father was abusing him.  Very unlucky thing to have happen (most so for my stepson).  But we found out just before we were up there 6 months.  After that time, my stepson would have been a resident of that state rather than New Jersey, where he was born, and the original custody agreement that my wife was his guardian, with visitation rights by his father, would have been nullified.  Once back in Jersey, we retained the original custody order and could pursue the eventual restraining order against his father.  This was the only lucky thing in the situation, but we got the information we needed in the literal nick of time.  March 1st of 2006 would have been the deadline, and my wife and stepson made a run out of town on February 27th (when we found out about the deadline) and enrolled him in school in Jersey on the 28th.  Nick of time.

Wy wife left me, twice, in the years that followed, but the one lucky thing for me there is that I’m no longer embroiled in the drama that has befallen my former family since then.  This is an awful thing to say and think, but I know I would have been destroyed if she hadn’t left me.  Nick of time (though the scars remain).

My first dog, which I’d gotten to help me move on from that situation, came with chronic health issues that were hidden from me by a completely irresponsible and negligent foster home.  I had the dog 5 weeks before I was able to get someone else to take him.  I could not as a single person care for the dog’s needs.  But he and I were a nearly perfectly compatible match of personalities.  It’s still heartbreaking.  My”nick of time” luck there might have transferred to poor Chance.  If I hadn’t adopted him, the foster home probably would have killed him through negligence, and the home that has him now was finally able to get the proper diagnosis for a dog that has many years to go still.  My 5-week role in his life literally did SAVE it.

I got my current dog to replace him.  She had 2 seizures in my first 2 weeks with her.  The foster home that had her had not witnessed any.  I covered this also in a previous blog post, but I DO NOT in any way blame that foster situation.  It was a young couple that worked and had social lives, and if the seizures had occurred, they hadn’t noticed them. They weren’t even part of the rescue.  They just found her and agreed to foster if the rescue paid the bills.  I truly believe them, and still correspond with them sometimes.

But at this point, my abused stepson, the woman who dumped me twice (and hooked up with someone in one of her outpatient step-down programs after she went bonkers), the two dogs’ health issues….God surely hated me.  In fact, I wondered if Furgii had never had seizures UNTIL she came here, because I’d given my bad luck to her.

And last year, I had a very bad year at work.  I had let so many of the negative issues in my life effect how I was behaving on a day-to-day basis.  I’m deeply ashamed of my conduct during the middle stretch of 2011.  I am very lucky that I was given a chance to turn myself around and was not disciplined or punished in any way, though I should have been.  I was fortunate to “see the light” before it was too late.  Nick of time.  I was looking forward to a good 2012.

And now all of this email nonsense and financial b.s. happens.  I seem to have caught both in the….well, you know.  But It’s maddening that I have to go through this shit.  I know my problems are greatly outweighed by the problems some others have, I do.  But still.

Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls”.  Well, THIS MAN wants to TRY to put the SOULS of his shoes up the ass of THESE TIMES.

“And I Say to Myself….’What a Wonderful World’….”

Previous entries of mine have talked about the evil in the world, mostly that inflicted on animals, and I am in no way doing an about-face regarding that.  There are so many disgusting and disheartening things to be seen daily.  But today, I want to do something else.  Yes, there are those things that are born in the darkest corners of the human mind, but there are amazing, beautiful, wondrous things, too.

There IS love out there, the love of people to make a CHANGE, and even to BE changed whether they want to or not.  I have been doing what I can to change the injustices out there, and I am but the metaphoric grain of sand in the movements I have joined.

I read an article today by someone who fostered animals, including dogs, but never considered herself a dog person until her family fostered, then adopted an aging pit bull, and helped him to live the rest of his years with dignity.  I also saw a PSA featuring a player on the St. Louis Rams football team for pet adoption.  I signed a petition for the protection of wild buffalo and other creatures.

But it’s not just about animals.  A friend of mine supports Somali Mam Foundation, an organization that’s fighting to stop human slave trafficking.  There are movements to protect children.  There are movements to save the environment.  Speaking of which, I received an email today that a bunch of jungle land that was going to be destroyed to make paper plates was saved, as per a petition I had previously signed.

There is darkness, but there is also light.

There are still individuals that care, saving farmland, saving the underprivileged, saving animals, saving the subjugated.  There are the people that even FIND OUT about these troubles in the first place, and act to CREATE the petitions I and others are signing, and making sure it’s all sent where it needs to go.  THAT can only be called LOVE.

It’s still here in this world, though it faces many obstacles.  But instead of focusing on those obstacles, today I want to focus on and be grateful for the people tearing them down.  Because I want to express what they’ve been expressing:  LOVE.

Somaly Mam Foundation

Becoming a Dog Person, article about the aging pit bull

HOMEGAME with PSA, PSA for pet adoption

(Look, I figured out how to install links!)

The Ghost in the Machine

I have been posting for a few months now, and this is my 25th post (a milestone!).  What I want to say here today is how in awe I am that I’ve been able to reach readers.  It started with friends in one of my writers’ groups at a meeting about beginning/promoting/streamlining blogs.  I have since somehow magically gained readers, or at a minimum written posts that at least one of which landed on someone else’s computer screen, and they liked it enough to click “like”, to comment (nicely), and/or to even subscribe.

I thank all of you that have enjoyed what I’m doing and especially those that follow regularly.

I’m still very new to this, and very new to computers in general by comparison to most suburban Americans.  I’m definitely NOT a tech-savvy person.  I’m amazed that the wizardry of these computers and the internet has allowed me this “voice”, and for the digital ears to “listen” to it.  I’m grateful for that, grateful for the spirit in these electrodes and wires and satellite beams that lets us reach out to each other this way.         (Reaching Out)>>

But I’m most grateful for those that support what I’m doing via that spirit by liking and continuing to be open to what I have to say.  I most humbly appreciate that and thank you all.  Peace, love and light to you all, as my friend Jacquie would say.

Revolution # K-9

I was talking with members of one of my writers’ groups during a meetup based on blogs.  Somewhere along the line, I got to talking about dogs, and it was suggested I write about dogs for my next blog post (thanks, Marie!).  This was a great idea, especially since I had earlier mentioned having a hard time coming up with topics upon which to write.

Doing all of the advocacy I do for animals, I know I shouldn’t probably have favorites, but I can’t help it; I’m a dog person.  As far as I can recall, I always have been.  I can’t relate to cats (and I’m allergic to them anyway), but the way dogs show they love and need your companionship, return all that back to you, are so expressive, and have such loyalty draws me in.  I am an extremely loyal person myself (to a fault), and I’ve been hurt by that fact in my life, most recently by my ex-wife (but we don’t need to go there).  Of course I highly regard what is arguably the most loyal creature on the planet.  I advocate for cats as well, but my heart is with canis familiaris.

The conversation I was having during my meetup centered around what we, as people, have done to make dogs the creatures we know.  At no point did golden retrievers and chihuahuas occur in the wild.  We made these breeds over approximately 15,000 years as man domesticated wolves, or wolves entered into a partnership with us.  The theory is that wolves got closer and closer to our ancestors’ encampments to feed off our scraps, perhaps gain warmth near our fires, and our ancestors saw the benefit in having protectors and mobile “alarm systems” hanging around.  Domestication was inevitable.

Why don’t the majority of today’s breeds resemble wolves?  I refer to an article I read in National Geographic (Taming the Wild, March 2011) which covered the story of a Russian geneticist doing research on foxes in the 60’s.  The most fierce and volatile-tempered of the foxes were bred with ones of similar temperament, and the most docile were bred with other docile ones.  There were also control groups bred from mixed temperaments.

After 9 generations (9 years), the ones bred strictly from volatiles were nasty little demons, but the ones bred from only docile parents began to develop patterned coats (the original generation’s just being grey), and had their ears stay droopy longer before standing upright as adult fox ears do.  They would also wag their tails and lick the geneticists’ faces.  By the 13th generation (13 years), they had tails which curled upwards upon seeing humans.  Still later generations of the foxes would include red and chestnut colored fur.

People react to puppy dog eyes and floppy ears, and pretty much every breed of puppy dog has ears and eyes that do that.   People also respond to different colors and patterns and curly tails.  The hypothesis?  It’s an evolutionary trait that developed to make us go “Oooh and Aaahhh” when we see them, and we want to take in these adorable little furballs.  So the foxes started retaining their droopy ears longer and developing different patterns, and sometimes more vibrant colors.

They even started whining when the handlers came by their cages while the aggressive ones snarled and threatened menacingly.  Some “nice ones” would even jump up into the humans’ arms.  All within 15 generations, or 15 years of selective breeding.

So, different traits would change with wolves as they became more and more domesticated, and as different jobs were created for them, such as guarding, herding, or hunting.  Then we cross-bred different emerging subclasses with others to get newer combinations of appearance, size, personality, and function.

My own dog is believed to be a rat terrier/miniature pinscher mix.  Both breeds were designed to be vermin hunters, and are smaller in stature, but possessing a very strong prey drive.  The miniature pinscher was created by mixing the German pinscher with the Italian greyhound and dachshund in all probability, and the rat terrier was likely created by mixing various terrier breeds.  So my Furgii is an amalgamation of generations of specifically designed breeding for specific purposes.

The downside to all of this is that so many of us want “purebred” dogs, such as the different retriever breeds or Yorkshire terriers or mastiffs.  But breeding “like with like” too closely will eventually cause a degradation of the health of the breed if genetic lines are bred with themselves.  The fact is that most breeders in the world are not of the careful or responsible kind, and are just mass producing dogs for a bottom line return.  They don’t remove unhealthy ones from the breeding lines.  Hence we have breeds that are likely to have ailments such as hip dysplasia, cataracts, heart conditions, patellar problems, and so on.

It’s just like human genetics.  Those of Jewish decent are at risk for Tae-Sacs, and African Americans for sickle cell anemia, while the child of a half Caucasian/half African American parent and half Latino/half Asian parent will have a significantly greater chance of being healthy, and would probably have phenomenal skin, too.  It’s the same for dogs (and other creatures, of course).  A mutt can still have been bred from poor genetic stock along the way, but mathematically should have the best chances of escaping these unwanted traits by dilution.

Wild animals, by the way, generally seem to know not to mate incestuously for these reasons.  It’s evolutionary survival not to to do so.  But long story, short, this is how we got dogs from wolves.

Now, I ultimately don’t know where my long-since-descended-from-wolves rat terrier/min pin (rat pin?) Furgii came from, who bred her, or why.  She was found wandering around North Carolina and was in a rescue for 6 months before I adopted her.  What I CAN tell you is that there’s nothing you could offer me which I would accept in trade for her.  Nothing.

And that takes me to the point I really want to make:  You could go to a breeder, even a reputable one, to get the breed of your dreams or even, as many people want, the puppy of your dreams.  But there are so many dogs that are being killed in shelters every damn day because no one wants them.  They were abandoned; they got lost; they “no longer fit into the family’s plans”; they were dumped at the shelter after getting chewed up as a bait dog in a dog fighting ring.  Some of these dogs just need a new family, are just victims of circumstance, and some need to receive love for the first time in their lives.  They’re out there waiting.  Waiting for someone who wants a dog, like you.  So please, if you’re looking for a dog, check the shelters, check the rescues.  As the slogan says, “Rescued is MY favorite breed”.

And Still More Advocacy–(Notice a Theme?)–vs. Diet

I’m obviously kind of gangbusters with animal rights issues if you know me or have read previous posts of mine.  One of the major issues I have WITH MYSELF and all of the stuff I do online for animal rights and such is the fact that I DO eat meat.  Go on, call it hypocrisy, call me full of shit, call me what you like.  You’d likely be right, and I’m telling you now that I have a hard time dealing with my diet when it comes to my conscience.

I even tried going vegetarian two years ago.  I still ate seafood a few times per week, because I was worried that my system would go into shock after over 35 years of just eating meat, bread, and ice cream.  I thought cutting that type of protein out of my life “cold turkey”, if you’ll pardon the phrase, would be harmful to me.  So seafood stayed, with plans to phase it out over time.

I was sick for the entire 5 month period.  I ate salads and other mostly raw vegetables, ate less junk food, should have been healthier than ever before in my life.  But I was weak, tired, ill-feeling, and had cold-like symptoms.  I spoke to 2 full-on vegans I worked with about it. Their responses?  “Oh, yeah, I was sick for 2 whole years when I gave up meat.”  I was like, “There’s no way in Hell I’m going to feel like this for two years….”

I went back to eating meat, and within 2 weeks, I felt like myself.  I know it would be easy to say that this was all some self-fulfilling prophesy, that I really wanted to eat meat, wanted to believe I needed it, and so therefor I got what I wanted.  Not so.  I really wanted to make this change and was convinced I was doing the right thing, “becoming an enlightened person”.  I later heard something that people with different blood types require different food types (makes sense, really), and that O blood types require proteins from meat.  I am an O Positive blood type.  Again, I want to stress that this was a revelation that came AFTER I’d already conceded defeat on the vegetarian diet.

Doing the things I do for animal rights and such, it still eats at my conscience (pardon the use of that phrase, too).  I see a lot of things about how food animals are raised and treated.  Today I saw a video showing the abuse of chickens by throwing them around, merciless beatings of pigs while they squealed in pain, and cows watching while other cows are hoisted up, thrown onto a table and having their throats cut by hand.  The camera closed in on the cow’s eye rolling back while its life left its body.  Within the last week I saw a film of a camel that was forced to the ground and had its knees tied into a permanent kneel to hobble it, and then had a guy go forth and repeatedly stab it in the chest.

I’m sorry to drop all of these images on you, but this is, well, what it is.  I have given up the eating of pork and lamb, because I’ve seen video and heard stories of both animals being kept as domestic pets.  I’ve seen film of pigs and lamb reacting in such cases in ways very similar to my beloved canine species.  Since they can be companion animals on that level, I can no longer justify myself consuming them.  So I’m down to chicken and beef.

Today I actually had a vegan egg and sausage sandwich for lunch; the doorway is still open for change.  Perhaps I will one day make another run at changing what it is on which I subsist, or at least diminish the amount of animal product I consume if not entirely cut it out of my diet.

A Week of Friday the 13ths….

Last Wednesday, January 4, I took my little Furgii to get her semi-annual checkup.  She passed her physical examination, and all of her blood work and other bodily function samples came back negative.  This, of course, was simply awesome.

But then came this week.

On Sunday, the 8th, I came home from work to hear Furg making noises that were “snorty”, like she was having trouble breathing.  Someone came up with the description of a “reverse sneeze”, and it’s as good a description as any I could come up with for it.  She wasn’t doing it all the time, but fairly often.

She also tends to wake up in the night and move around a lot.  At one point that night, she had gotten up, resettled, and was shaking.  Shortly after that, she got off the bed and went to a corner of the room to lay down.  She has a dog bed in the bedroom, but that’s not where she chose to go.  She went to the other side of the room, to an area she doesn’t generally go.  That really freaked me out, because my Mother’s poodle died when I was growing up, and the dog had never been in the dining room unless he was passing through to another area of the house.  He never stayed in the dining room.  When the poodle died (of old age), he went to the dining room to do it, like he had pre-designated that area for that purpose and avoided it until the time came.  This is what I thought of when Furgii went to that corner.

I called out of work Monday, and took her to the vet.  After listening to her lungs, trachea, and nasal passages, the exam yielded nothing out of the ordinary.  I was told to give her some Benadryl for 3 days to see if it was an allergy causing this.  I had vacuumed up the apartment (which I admittedly hadn’t done in a bit through the holiday chaos period) in case it was from dust.  I also cleaned the tub in case there was some kind of mildew that wasn’t visible causing this(ditto).  By Wednesday, the 11th, she was dry heaving, but not doing the snort thing, and Thursday yielded an end to the hacking but instead a persistent dry, guttural cough was the symptom of the day.  We returned to the vet.

After all airways and lungs still showed nothing abnormal, it was theorized that it may just be Kennel Cough, which could go away on its own, but it could also be from some form of infection, so The Furg’s now on an antibiotic for 10 days.  One day seems to be making a huge difference.  There was some coughing this morning before I went to work, but almost nothing since coming home.  That, and her energy had returned; during the week, the usually always-ready-to-play Furgii was very subdued.  She would start to play on instinct and then quit, with her tail making curious poses rather than curled upward and over her back like normal.

But then the worst of it came.  I wrote in an earlier post of the seizures she experienced in my first 2 weeks with her but that the foster home had not seen, as well as the theories on what may have caused them.  Around 3:30, I looked from my computer to see her in the midst of another one.  I had weened her off the phenobarbital as of October 29th, and there was no recurrence of seizures or evidence of any such events happening in my absence.  But there she was, having the 3rd I’m aware of and first since those first 2 weeks a year and a half ago.

I took video of it on my phone, and got 4 minutes of footage before she returned to normal, and I started shooting about a minute after I’d noticed the seizure.  Thus it was at least 5 minutes long, her previous ones being 15-20 minutes each.  From the point I had recognized what was happening, she was definitely seeing her environment and could move her head (the previous 2 events, she was completely locked except for a Stevie Wonder-like swaying).  She tried to get up, and her left paw was locked initially before she moved a foot or so and laid down again.  That was when I started filming.  After the 5 minutes, it was over, and my Furgii was back, as if nothing had happened.

I had hoped that this was all behind her, and I hate having to put her back on that medicine.  It definitely changed who she is as a dog, I believe.  But I took my risk with her health by seeing if she could do without it, and I lost that gamble.  I’m so grateful she doesn’t seem to have paid for it long-term.

So, the whole week leading into Friday the 13th was bad enough, but today, Friday, was naturally the worst.

Advocacy Part III

Pardon my language, but the two most fucked up things I think I’ve ever seen were both seen this week. No other language could be used here.  I saw a dog who had a firecracker duct taped inside his mouth, and a puppy who had his face split lengthwise by an ax. Both dogs were still alive at the time the photos were taken. I know the firecracker one was not able to be saved, and I’m not certain of the ax dog. I just cried when I saw the ax picture. I don’t get it. How are people able to do these things? My hope in this life had evacuated my body for five minutes. I hate people.

Update, 1/13/12:  I have since dug around and found that the puppy struck by the ax did indeed survive, with a snaking scar traveling from his forehead to his upper lip, having missed the button of its nose.  I wish I could adopt that dog and give it all the love it could need and more, but I know it’s not to be.

 

An Anniversary

Okay, I’ve shared with you, my precious readers, some things that happened in my domestic life which are very personal.  And yet these things weren’t too hard to write about or share.  This is possibly because the dissolution of my family happened officially in 2007.  While it’s not exactly water under the bridge at this point, it’s not such a fragile thing to handle as it was.  What I’m writing about today makes me feel very open and vulnerable, like I’m taking a huge risk by revealing it.

In 3 days, on January 7, it will mark 2 years since I’ve given up drinking.  Alcohol abuse has plagued me throughout my life, and yet it does not run in my family.  It was something I latched onto very early, and did to myself.  This paragraph alone makes me feel like I should wait for judging eyes, shaking heads, and faces turning away to other things.

I suppose the best way to write about all of this is to start at the beginning and work my way forward.  When I was in my adolescence, I hated my life, and I hated myself.  At 15, I wanted to kill myself, but hadn’t the willpower to do it.  I started raiding my parents’ unused liquor cabinet at that point, because I figured that if I couldn’t end my life quickly, I’d end it slowly.  The big surprise (other than learning that scotch tastes like what I imagine urine does) was that the feeling I’d get from drinking would turn every emotion I had around.  I had no more hate, anger, or depression.  Life, while drunk, seemed simply wonderful.  Instead of being the slow form of suicide I envisioned, it became a crutch.  I emptied that cabinet pretty good, and since my parents didn’t touch it, it went unnoticed.  My parents also weren’t around a lot.  It still seems strange, though, not to have gotten caught looking back at it.

I gave up drinking for the first time in 1990, a month shy of my 19th birthday, when I became startled that a stressful day resulted in a very clear image of a bottle in my head.  The image appeared in my mind, accompanied by the thought that it would all be over soon, when I got home to my concubine, the bottle.  It frightened me to find myself having that thought.

I’m not sure how long I was “dry”, but I did eventually go back to drinking, because my senses of worthlessness, inadequacy, loneliness, etc., were never addressed.  I understand that now, literally as I’m writing these sentences.  I’m actually tearing up with this revelation.  But onward I must go.  This tale has not fully been told.

I remember that I had gotten obliterated every day for 9 months straight with the exception of perhaps 2 or 3 days when I had a cold.  I was in my mid-twenties.  I worked in the morning, got destroyed when I got home, and would pass out by 8 p.m.  I had plenty of time to sleep it off, and so rarely was hungover or ill-effected for work the next day.  Of course, we seem to be able to handle that kind of lifestyle when we’re young.

I quit drinking at that time because my boss knew what I was doing.  She didn’t stop me in the way you might think.  The drinking didn’t effect my work or reliability, and to be honest, she probably had some problems of her own.  The reason she induced me to stop was because she called me on Thanksgiving, saying she wanted to wish me a happy holiday before I was too drunk.  She didn’t mean it in a negative way, I don’t think, but in a caring way.  I believe she may have had a similar destination, although it was because she was a party girl whereas I was avoiding life.  She wanted to let me know she cared before I’d be unable to have the conversation.

I’ve mentioned my writing of poems and lyrics in these posts, and I was doing this very extensively back then.  1995 was one of my worst years emotionally, and I can recall this because of how prolific I was that year and what it was I’d written.  Anyway, there were a few people at work with whom I shared my writing.  About a week after the Thanksgiving phone call, one such friend wanted me to show the poem I’d just shared with her to another coworker.  I refused, citing how personal my writing was and that I was very selective of whom got to see it.  She said, “What’s wrong with showing people there’re other facets to Jordan besides just being the Shift Leader in the Deli?”  I still refused to share the writing, but I started putting the phone call and that conversation together; what if the other facet everyone saw was just Jordan, the drunk?  I dumped out the bottle I was drinking when that thought hit me, and every other bottle in the apartment.

I had been sober for over 4 years when I started dating my wife-to-be, at 29.  I had made it almost to 5 years, when, strangely enough, Thanksgiving would factor in again.  We had gone to the house of friends of my wife’s (then fiance’s) parents.  I used to wonder if I’d ever drink again.  I thought that because I thought about it so much and wanted there to be a day when I could, it meant that I wasn’t ready to.  But at this Thanksgiving, I was surrounded by the woman I loved and her son, their family, and their friends.  When I was offered wine, it seemed to me that it was just a celebratory thing, it was for the right reasons and not the wrong ones, and I had no pressure or expectations of having a drink.  It frankly seemed inconsequential, so I figured, why not?  This seems like the time is right.  I didn’t get drunk, I just had a glass of wine.  But it awakened that thirst back up.  By the time I was married, I was having an occasional beer with dinner if we went out.

I eventually started buying  alcohol and hiding it in my closet (my wife and I had separate closets).  I would have a six pack in the fridge sometimes, but I’d drink some and smuggle fresh ones from my closet into the six pack so it never looked like I’d touched it.  Sometimes my wife would go with my stepson over to her parents, and if it got late, they’d stay over.  I looked at those nights as times I could take a “mini vacation” and get lit.

I think I should point out here that I never required alcohol on a physical level, which is why I would be able to quit at various times over my life or could wait until my next opportunity to drink.  I never had the D.T.’s.  I could get through my day without it, without needing it.  It is, however, a very deep emotional addiction.  I’m addicted to feeling the way I do when I’m drunk.

I realize this might sound like the typical things addicts will say:  “I don’t have a problem”, “I can quit whenever I want”, “I’m not addicted”, “I’m in control”.  But there is physical dependency and emotional dependency.  I have the latter.  I know I very much do indeed have a problem.  I can have a single drink today and stop there.  I can wait a week or a month and have a second single drink.  But eventually I will want to have them more frequently.  And I’ll want to not just taste it, but feel a little buzz.  And then I’ll want to be drunk.  And then sloppy drunk.  I CAN stop at any point, my problem is in convincing myself I want to.  It becomes a game of “Forever Tomorrow”.  “I’ll stop tomorrow, this is the last day.”  The next day, “Okay, tomorrow, for sure.”  Like I said, the trouble is in convincing myself that I want to stop and not feel that feeling I love so much.  Feeling that false happiness I get when I’m in that state and that I don’t feel when sober.  I was able to control this emotional addiction when I was married because I had something to lose: my family.  It was easier to convince myself then.

However, my family situation ended.  In the first year back from Rhode Island, with my stepson raging violently every night once safe from his father’s abuse, there was no thought or ability to drink.  We just tried to get through each day.  But when my wife and I separated, I drank every day for a month.  I continued to do this for most of the next few months until my wife and I “hooked back up” several months later.  When she eventually became so depressed that she had to go inpatient several times (her son being cared for in the live-in facilities himself at that point), I drank away in despair for her mental state.  When she broke up with me again, guess what I did?  Mind you, I firmly believe my wife never knew of my closet drinking.  I do not believe this had anything to do with her decision to break up with me either time.  I don’t think she’d let me still see her son if she did know.

After the breakup, my drinking continued for a few years, until January, 2010.  By that point, I had dug myself into a nice whole financially, jacking up my credit cards, then about $35,000 of total debt, $20,000 of which I had accrued during the marriage, mostly during the last year of it paying for my stepson’s psychological treatment and medicines not covered by my insurance.  Plus what I’d charged to keep us afloat that whole year back in Jersey when my wife didn’t work.  To add to all of that, from 2008-2010, I not only bought massive amounts of alcohol, I’d buy things online while drunk.  I became $55,000 in debt trying to buy happiness.

So, that January two years ago, I realized something had to change financially.  I had to stop drinking, for one, obviously, and I’d have to see what I could do about the debt for another.  I eventually filed for bankruptcy.

It’s not been an easy road since then.  My money is tight, but this is how I have to pay the ferryman (metaphorically) for the lavish cruise I’d chartered.  I accept that.  That brings my story to the present, 3 days away from 2 years of sobriety.  I have to realistically assume I can never drink again, which is sometimes hard to pull off.  There are ads all over the television, there are social situations in which drinking is prominent, the temptation is always there.

Like I said, I have to convince myself I don’t want to do it, and just as my family was the reason I’d held myself in check before, my reasons now are that I have an amazing gift in my dog, and she needs me to keep my priorities straight.  Plus I’ve worked hard to rebuild this life.  I’ve wasted so much of it, but I’m not dead yet.  Perhaps I can still find some happiness, REAL happiness in my life, and to do so will require saying no, probably for the rest of my days.

Advocacy Revisited

I mentioned in an earlier post that I do what I can at present to advocate for various causes, but mostly for animal rights and such.  Some days are just tough to keep going and not give up.

I get news articles about things people do to their pets (or other people’s pets) and to wild animals as well.  I also see so many pets that need to be adopted or they will be euthanized.  It’s heart-wrenching.

Their are neglect cases all over the place.  Animals are cut, shot, beaten, abducted and then beaten, shot, and or cut, stolen to be sold, and on and on.  And, of course, there is dog fighting.

But, again, it’s not just the domestic animals that suffer.  One thing I came across is a tradition in a town in Carolina (I forget if it was North or South) in which a possum is caught and tortured as part of their New Year’s Ceremony every year.

I’ve signed petitions that are sent to colleges demanding they stop performing experiments and surgical training on living animals that are not injured in any way, but being injured as part of training people.  40 beagles were recently rescued from a lab that experimented on them.

And some of the pets aren’t abused or neglected, but simply couldn’t be cared for by older owners or owners that moved or fell on financially difficult times.

I sometimes see the amount of animals needing help and the thought occurs that I’ll never save them all, and I’m not likely do anything to help that great a number of them.  There are so many.  And I lose any hope for the human race to move past these behaviors.  How do you save the greatest number of those needing help and enlighten those who refuse enlightenment?

But then guilt seeps in, and I have to resume the effort.  I started getting involved in all of this a few months ago, and I need to continue in the new year.  If I have a resolution, it’s to keep it up while giving a great life to my own pet.

Why I Love Dogs….

This is another older piece from my pre-blog life that I thought I’d share.

Why I Love Dogs:                                               7/13/10

  1. Your dog loves you for you, doesn’t judge, and doesn’t hold grudges.

2.   Your dog always looks forward to spending quality time with you.

3.  Your dog won’t leave you, “move on” from you, decide they just don’t love    you anymore, decide that you’re not good enough for them, or demand unreasonable things from you that you can’t fulfill only to hold it against you later.  There are no double standards.

4.  Your dog won’t have dinner waiting on the table when you get home, but they will always be happy that you did come home.

5.  Your dog doesn’t mind when you have bad breath or fart.  In fact, they seem to prefer it.

6.  Your dog’s needs are generally pretty simple.

7.  Your dog has faith in you, even when others don’t.

8.   Your dog doesn’t care when you call them derogatory things like asshole, dipshit, or maggot.

9.   Your dog doesn’t get sarcasm, but they won’t give it back to you, either.

10.   Your dog doesn’t care what you look like in your underwear.

11.   Your dog won’t run up your phone bill.

12.   Your dog won’t take your car without asking.

13.   Your dog has no pretenses.

14.   Your dog won’t talk shit about you or tell your secrets; they are the perfect confidant.

15.   Your dog will provide you with lots of unintentional laughter.

16.   Your dog will bond with you in a way you really can’t duplicate with people.  You can know a dog after five weeks in a way you will never know a person in the same stretch of time.  Your dog really will be your best friend.

Belief

It’s been a bit since I posted (I haven’t had ideas, plus it’s a crazy time of year).  I thought I’d share a poem I wrote.  I’ll warn you, though, that if you’re profoundly religious, you may not like it.  As for responses to this post, please don’t try to comment in the attempt to convince me of anything.  Please just take it as that it’s my blog, and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Belief                                                                 1/11/10

You ask me if I believe in God.

I do when I need to ask

why things are the way they are,

when I pray for loved ones

who are suffering,

even, I’m ashamed to say,

when I’M in crisis,

actual or perceived.

I need to feel there’s a God

when I question why there’s

so much hate,

why I have so much hate,

Why people do the Un-Godly

things they do to each other,

often in His name.

I want someone to be listening

when I wonder why we kill

for foolish things like jewelery,

shoes, money, and skin color,

act with cruelty to our peers,

disregard the needs of others,

even PRAY for harm to them.

I needed to pray for Joshua,

for Steph,

for Jacquie,

for Candy,

for my father,

and for many others

who needed aid I could not provide.

I need to have Him there

when I ask why there’s

a Michael Vick,

and others like him

who WON’T get caught,

why there are puppy mills

and dogs being tied to cars

and dragged.

I need to ask of Him,

why He gave us all this free will

to behave like monsters.

Why does he let Catholics

kill Protestants in Ireland

OVER BELIEF IN THE SAME GOD?

How come Muslims and Jews

are going to slaughter each other

until the apocalypse?

Why were thousands of people

allowed to die on 9/11,

millions to die in the Holocaust,

countless others only He knows

in all the wars in history?

Why have we enslaved others,

and still continue to do so?

How come people are hungry

while others can afford

to let food spoil?

Why do we stab each other

in the back,

metaphorically and literally?

Why?  How come?

I ask myself if I believe in God,

but if I only do

when I need these answers,

when I need help

or my loved ones do,

I can only then pray

to have that question

answered too.

“Satisfaction”

This is another “recycle” piece from my early days in one of my writer’s groups.  The prompt given on which to write was “satisfaction”.  I think I need to re-read it a few times myself, as I had been in a pessimistic state to say the least for the last two years, and I’ve been fighting to turn the page, to revisit the thoughts I had when writing this piece.

“Satisfaction”-7/22/09

I often reflect on life in sports analogies. At work, for example, there are the (metaphoric and literal) Captains and other locker room leaders, the role-players, the bench guys who come in in relief. You can’t always win every game, but you do your best.

Sometimes in life you feel like you’ve had your three strikes and you’re out. And sometimes you come up a yard short (remember the Titans?). Sometimes on paper things don’t seem in your favor, but you stick to your game plan, you steel yourself, and you pull off the Cinderella Story surprise victory.

A lot of the time, you remember to be humble, and that you owe it all to the people who’ve trained you, who’ve been on your teams in the past, the folks who believed in you, and supported you even when times were tough.

To apply the analogy again to my workplace, I’ve been in situations when I realized that I had one of the higher salaries on my team, and I felt the pressure of those dollars, because if I’m earning such a high salary and I don’t perform, well, the fans aren’t going to be happy, are they? And let’s not talk about how the Team Manager will feel.

In life, as in team sports, there are those that lead a team by example, those that are the rah-rah guys. There are those who might seem to be lesser players, but you won’t win without them. There are those whose single-minded intensity makes them dominant over all the rest.

So, what does this have to do with satisfaction?

You see, I remember a scene in Kevin Costner’s “For Love of the Game” when a player is leaving the team to sign with the free-spending Yankees (a team I hate in real life, by the way, but I digress). Costner’s character expresses disappointment and feels betrayed, because they had been teammates for so long. What about the team? The departing player points to his wife and child in the corner of the locker room, saying, “You see them? That’s my team.” I not only got that, but felt the same way.

I’ve brought up work in this piece twice now, but I had rubbed the people I’ve worked with the wrong way because I wasn’t interested in friends. If I got along with you, great. But I was there to do my job, and keep my (home) team afloat. I wasn’t there to be social. It was all about the team at home. The team at work was strictly minor league to me.  In sports, the athletes work hard, train, learn from the mistakes of the past, and sacrifice for the good of the team. I know I did these things for my REAL team, for my wife and stepson. My passion for that game should not be questioned, and I gave what I had to give.

Ah, but here’s the Shakespearean rub: teams disband, players sign elsewhere or retire, some players are simply cut from the team. Sometimes there’s a Team of Destiny, and sometimes you’re not on it.

I’ve touched on the end of my marriage and what happened to my stepson in earlier posts.  Using the sports analogy, suffice it to say, that I have lost my players to other teams.  Some (including myself) might say that I was cut. When this happens, the team must rebuild to make another run at it. I’m rebuilding.

So….satisfaction? Some players aren’t satisfied until they get a championship. Look at Elway, Bourque, Bettis, and others who got to go out on top after decades of failure. In a way, isn’t that what we all want? To achieve all we’ve strived for since we were kids? Knowing we never gave up, and persisitance payed off? What about Nomar Garciaparra, a fan fave in Boston, traded away at the deadline to watch the Red Sox win their first championship in 86 years? That’s brutal. Sometimes I feel like I’m that guy.

Will I ever be satisfied? None of us ever knows. There were times I’d believed I had my one chance at a ring (metaphor, anyone?), and that was all the chance I’d get. But the aforementioned retired players eventually got their satisfaction, and poor Nomar, at least, went down still trying.

Will I get to my final day, satisfied that I achieved what I sacrificed so much for? Nothing is certain, but unless I rebuild after my losses, my personal victory lap will always elude me. You’ve got to fight to win, so I’ve got to dig deep, put on my eye black, put aside the pain and weariness, put the losses behind me, and give it another swing.

Prejudice and Boycott

I’m finding it sad today that I have to boycott so many businesses due to political reasons.  Mind you, the reasons are way more than valid, so boycott I must.

For starters, I’m officially boycotting Lowe’s as of this morning.  The home improvement store pulled its ads from a show about 5 Muslim families living in Detroit called All-American Muslim.  A right-wing group started a ball rolling to get public view of the show swayed to their way of thinking, quoted as calling the show, “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”  Lowe’s did an about-face and pulled their ads.

Yes, their are some Muslims out there posing a threat to innocent lives.  There is no denying that.  But we as a race (the human one, that is) cannot continue to treat an entire people with mistrust and hatred.  There are also Catholics blowing up innocent Protestant civilians in Ireland and England for being Protestants.  We’re not (so far as I know) publishing propaganda vilifying the Catholic religion as a whole for it.

As a person born to a Jewish household, believe me, I’ve seen and felt prejudice, and yes, I have to admit that I’m scared when it comes to Islamic extremists.  As with Hitler’s Third Reich, there are Muslims who’d want me dead simply because I was born to members of the Jewish faith.  It would not matter to them what my own actual religious or political views are, what kind of person I am or try to become, just that I was born Jewish.  I grew up actually ashamed of it.  Every time a person in middle school dropped a coin, if the person then went to retrieve it, other kids would call him a “Jew”.  I was afraid that if they hated Jews so much they’d taunt someone who was not Jewish this way, what would they do if they knew I actually was?  And of course I was brought up hearing of the atrocities of WWII.

And I knew as an adult of extremist Muslim hatred, and 9/11 showed how close they could really get.  Oh, yes, I do know fear for simply having a different descent than others and being a target because of it.  But this fear cannot be allowed to dictate how Muslims, or people from Zaire, or Mongolia or any other background are treated.  This television program should be valuable as a way to open doors to love and understanding, and Lowe’s caved to the pressure of hatred and ignorance.  People of my background have been hated, and I will do my damnedest not to do it to someone else’s people.

The next boycott is of Chic-Fil-A, which is difficult because I absolutely love their product.  I don’t really eat fast food, but if I do, that would be what I’d want.  I haven’t done Burger King, McDonald’s, or Taco Bell in years.  Chic-Fil-A is a step above them all in quality (and digestibility), but they have gone on record against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community.  They’ve even sponsored groups and legislation against the community, especially against same-sex marriage.

I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what I am, but I am in fact not any of the above.  I just know that humans come in various packages, and cannot help what those packages are, just as I had no say in my origins and makeup.  Human decency is human decency.

I’m aware that this company is founded, owned, and run by Mormons,which is of course a religious group, so it isn’t as much a surprise that those in charge of Chic-Fil-A feel this way.  But when you are a company in the customer service industry, those things should stay behind close doors.  You want to be a bigot?  Go ahead.  Just don’t be surprised when you have less customers than you used to, and you can count me as one less, too.  I incidentally also heard recently that they won’t allow Jewish franchise owners or managers, but I haven’t substantiated that at this point.

I have several friends from the LGBT community, and if I had to guess what percentage of people I’ve known came from the LGBT community and treated me respectfully vs. what percentage I’ve believed were straight and treated me the same, it would probably be 90% and 15 or 20%.

Another factor besides decency and solidarity with my friends that helps me in this decision is an interview I once read with Steven Tyler, the singer from the group Aerosmith.  In the article, Tyler was asked what his thoughts on homosexuality were considering his reputation for having relations with countless women over his career.  His response was that there is so little love in this world, that if love exists between two people, ANY two people, to let it be, accept it, and be happy that there is love.  That will always stay with me (unless Alzheimer’s sets in).  So my stance on same-sex marriage and the LGBT community is the same:  let it be, and be happy there is love.

My final boycott I will list here is of the Philadelphia Eagles.  I immediately boycotted the team when they signed the animal abuser and killer Michael Vick.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts or know me, you have probably guessed by now my level of animal activism.  The Eagles are my home-town team, but they are dead to me.

I always get the “he did his time” and “people deserve a second chance” crap.  My view is that if you are the kind of person who gets enjoyment from another creature’s suffering, you most likely will not change that.  If you can look a dog in the eyes, hear it crying in pain for mercy and not only not relent but continue, you will not likely stop being that person simply from 18 months in jail.

Vick is now employed as a quarterback again on a professional franchise making millions (although admittedly most of that money is taken from him to pay for damages incurred by his dog fighting ring and all of the legal expenses, plus other debts).  If this wasn’t enough, I even am made ill by the Eagles fans who vowed to not renew their season tickets and join me in at least some level of boycott, and then went and bought his jersey when he started scoring touchdowns.  Way to stick to your convictions (or even have them), folks.  But it wasn’t just the fighting of dogs.  I won’t brow-beat you with the details, but it was as inhumane and brutal a treatment of animals as it could have been.  There are 31 other teams I’d rather see win the Super Bowl.

So there is my Official 2011-12 Boycott list.  If you agree with anything I’ve written here and want to join me, welcome aboard.  If nothing else, I hope I’ve at least given you something to consider.

Every Picture Tells a Story

I’ve covered some of the things that make me, well, ME in this blog, such as some personal experiences, my writing, my activism stuff.  I’ve done this because I’m hoping to make posts a reader will find worth reading while also letting that reader  get to know the person behind the virtual curtain.

I was thinking today, “What else do I have to say?”  Perhaps it doesn’t have to be some grandiose subject, though.  It could just be something of ME.  So what might be something people want to know?

Well, when someone meets me in person, one of the things that they may find shocking is the amount of tattoo work I’ve had done.  I got all of this ink knowing that judgement might be forthcoming, and there are times I’m anxious about meeting people because of it.  Even in my writers’ groups, I was wary at first even though there was every bit of possibility that any of the writers might just view it as another art form rather than a stigma.  Mind you, I don’t regret any of it.  I look at it as getting to wear my favorite t-shirt every day.  I’m sure I’m not the first person to use that analogy, but that makes it no less true a feeling.

Now the question of why I did it.

I’ve been a rock and roll/hard rock/heavy metal fan since I was 13, and tattoos are part of the culture.  It was never a matter of not wanting them, especially from 15 on.  It was a question of money and what to get.  As I got older, I still didn’t have money or ideas.  When I got married, it was to a rather conservative woman with a rather conservative family, so it didn’t seem like the best thing to do at the time.  And, as mentioned earlier in my postings, I married into an instant family, and there was always something more important on which to spend money.  I couldn’t justify the expense, and I still had no ideas.  I didn’t want to get a skull with a snake crawling through its eye sockets and a fire blazing around it all like you see in tattoo shop windows.  You know, the stuff everybody has (if they have them, that is).

But then, at 36, I was separated, and of course having a hard time dealing with it all.  I had many days with dark thoughts, and drank away a great many of those days.  I did it for two months straight when my wife and stepson moved out and many stretches afterwards.  To be frank, I think the drinking saved my life.

A lot of memories from that time are naturally sketchy.  As such, I don’t quite remember the order of events, whether the decision to get a tattoo came first, or the word I wanted to personify did.  I think the word did, but either way, what I ended up with was the Kanji symbol for the word “endure” or “withstand”.  I would start sinking, and I would tell myself, “Endure!” repeatedly until I got past it.  I remember getting the divorce paperwork in the mail one day and huddling on my floor in response, speaking the word to myself to keep from the image in my head:  assaulting my skull with a baseball bat.

So I looked up the Kanji symbol online, turned to a co-worker of mine from China to verify it meant what I thought it meant, and set up the appointment.  Now, the co-worker didn’t have the greatest skill with English, and may not have understood the words “endure” or “withstand”, but after considering the symbol I gave her, she thought about it and said, “Be strong”.  Close enough.

I still intended to have a relationship with my stepson, and his abusive father had a dragon tattoo on his right shoulder.   I was worried that having this similarity to his biological father might freak him out, so I did a “twofer”.  The symbol was to be put on the outside of my upper arm, and I would get my stepson’s initial on the inside of my arm for him as a way of alleviating any negative connotation.  I also liked that his initial would be under my arm, because it would be a way to “keep him under my wing”.

Now, I had these two tattoos on my right arm, and I’d get out of the shower, and see all of this negative space on my left arm.  The incongruence bothered me.  I played around until I figured out what to do on the outside of my left upper arm.  My last name is Fox, I love music, and my first instrument was the electric bass guitar.  So I drew this up.  The fox is supposed to be sort of surfing the bass, sort of guarding it, while screaming heavy metal style.  The cord is coming out of the bass on the left and, instead of plugging into an amplifier, it plugs into the back of my arm on the right.

The problem is, tattoos are addicting.  You start thinking of all the things you can do, and all of the places you can do them.  I came up with a family crest-type thing for my father when he got cancer (since in remission).  I made an outline of New Jersey which has elements of NJ history and some of my own history in NJ included within the outline.  I have a pair of headphones with Kanji for “music”.

In the crest, I’ve got the family name (Fox, duh), my dad’s love of woodworking and being “the handyman”, his tradition, and the most important thing to him, family (represented by the branch). He was a mechanical engineer before retiring, so the border of the “shield” is made up of gears, drafting compasses (bottom and upper corners), and those “L” shaped rulers (at the top and at the lower corners).  The Jersey one includes the phonograph, the movie, the lightbulb, and the solid body electric guitar, all invented here.  It also has the state fruit (blueberries) and the state bird (American Goldfinch).  It was one of the first 13 colonies (hence the older version of the flag), a pine cone (lower left–hard to see here) the outline of the NJ Turnpike, and  a leaf symbolizing the Garden State.  The other elements are more personal, such as falling in love with music here (hidden G and F Clefs), getting married here (the interlocked rings), and getting my heart broken here (I think you can figure that one out).

The blue jay?  I just love blue jays.  You can see an “A” to the lower right of the jay.  There it says “A & M” which are my niece and nephew’s initials.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to have children after all that’s happened with my stepson, so those two are the future of the Fox family.  To the left of the jay’s beak (above the “endure” symbol), I have the symbol for “Fox”.  I also have other pieces, including depictions I’ve made from my own lyrics (not shown).  Other than the jay, my right arm is all family and “home” stuff, and the left arm is music stuff.

I didn’t start getting work done until I was 36 (I’m now 40), but once I quit drinking so I could start to heal, entering this creative faze became the most fun I’d had in a long time, and it sustained me.  It helped me to move on.  My point in explaining all of this in detail?  To hopefully get any readers out there to see tattoos in another light if they aren’t too keen on them.  You see, they all have meaning to me, and every picture tells a story.

Finding New Friends

Since joining the writers’ groups in which I’ve been involved, I have:

Gained inspiration (mostly in the form of “prompts”–being given a word, phrase, or theme on which to create), created many pieces of which I’m proud, shared some of my pieces aloud, and gotten praise for my work.  I haven’t submitted anything for publishing (haven’t quite had the balls to deal with rejection yet), but who knows?

There has been one unexpected but completely rewarding “side effect” of joining these groups, however:  developing friendships.  Becoming involved in other people’s lives, discovering our common grounds, caring for others and (sometimes begrudgingly) letting them in.  It seems rather dense of me, in retrospect, not to have foreseen this, but I was a very shut off person emotionally and socially at the time I “enlisted” in these groups two and a half years ago.

I was terrified of being judged, being found unworthy, being hurt, and on and on after the breakup of my marriage.  I was always guarded to an extent, wary of others and their intentions, but it escalated at that point in time.

It may have been unexpected for these friendships to come into being, even unwanted in the beginning, but I’m grateful and absolutely enriched by these relationships, no doubt.  And new ones are still being formed.

I generally don’t intend to share my poetry/lyrics on my blog because of copyrights, but I will share this one that I wrote about this experience.  The title is in reference to the name of the group for which I had written it, Seeking the Muse.

Musing the Night Fantastic 8/5/09

My friends, we gather but once each week,
A time I anticipate greatly.
Sometimes it’s your singular wit,
Sometimes your prose so stately,
Sometimes those unpredictable whims;
Your crafts combine with balance.
You awe me and I’m honored so
To witness these wondrous talents.
Yet mutual respect that we each have
For our group’s sublime creations
Has grown a friendship’s precious rose,
Perhaps the greatest of our revelations.

Love you guys and gals, InFOXicatedly

Take that, John Keats!

Another Re-used Writing

This is another “prompted” piece from the past, and the prompt was actually a photo, which I posted at the end here.  I hadn’t gotten back to my usual lyric writing yet at that time (I was writers’ blocked for a few years), so my reactions to the prompts at this point were editorial-like writings.  I thought they might finally get to see the light of day in this forum, hence this and my previous entry.

The Reel Life 8/1/09

Life is a film. A movie, in fact. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end to it, just as any film has. There is even a back story to the beginning, often mysterious at that. There are supporting characters, antagonists, many settings and changes thereof. Life is even like the films that are a series of acts, a la “The Godfather”, “Star Wars”, even “Austin Powers”, though fortunately not as ludicrous.

Many plot twists will occur, ones that the viewers never saw coming, and there also are moments you could predict with your eyes closed and under water. Sometimes the plot develops so quickly you wonder, “How did I get from that scene to this one?” You will even question the meaning to the whole story.

Some of the life-films are epic in their length, while others are tragically short. These life-films don’t generally stick to a genre, rather they flit from comedy to drama, from tragedy to human interest piece, from romance to documentary, from mystery to satire.

There are political scenes, love scenes, revelations, soliloquies. There are monologues, dialogues, denouements, thrills, moments of violence, acts of kindness, and acts of forgiveness.

There are moments when you simply can not wait to get to the next scene. Some scenes are embarrassing, uncomfortable, or strike a chord that hits home. There are also boring moments you wish you could fast-forward.

My good friend Billy said the world’s a stage, and we are its players. Bill never got to see a film, but I think he’d agree with me in this comparison. There was much he understood before his time, before his own ending.

Unfortunately, these films do come to an end, and these endings can be funny, peaceful, sudden or drawn out, horrific, or, extremely rarely, just the way we want them to be. The endings are nearly always unpredictable, but we keep guessing anyway.

Ultimately, the director makes decisions without your consent as to content, duration, theme, and tone, but you can sometimes figure out where the story’s going. You just need to look at it frame by frame.

“Own”

This is something I wrote on July 13, 2009.  It was from a creative prompt in one of my writers’ groups, and the prompt was the word “own”.

What do we really own? At my job they say, “Own your spill.” or “Own your mess.”, as in if it’s yours, or you saw it, you fix it or clean it up. I can agree with that. But people will say , “my dog” or “my boyfriend” but do these really BELONG to us?

A pet is a living creature dependent upon us for survival, but it still has some measure of free will and will not always behave as you would want. I, and many people I know, can honestly tell you that even when you say “my spouse”, there is no ownership. Maybe such things would last longer if there was!

We mortgage houses, take out loans on cars, “own” so many things due to the wonderful world of credit. These can be taken away from us, however. Just like loves, and pets, jobs, etc., all of these can be removed from our “possession”. What do we really own?

I suppose all we can really ever own is the responsibility for our actions, the choices we make to be a better person or not. To leave the world and life itself better than we found it or not. All we can really ever own might only be our ideals.

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).

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?”

Google

I just Googled “Tale of the Fox” just to see where I might fall in the pecking order.  Not surprisingly, there are a few books with the title, including a biography of the now-deceased drummer from Kiss, Eric Carr.  I wasn’t even in the first five results pages.  I’m a nobody….but I’m a nobody with a blog!