Breaking It Down: Texas politics for a 6 year old

I Stand With Texas Women

Last week, the people of Texas stood up and in true Texan fashion, rebelled against attempted oppression. You might have somehow missed Wendy Davis’  11 hour filibuster against SB5, which would limit health care access to millions of Texans. You also might not have seen the final minutes where Texans of all ages, races and creeds shouted down the Republican attempt to push through draconian restrictions on reproductive rights and abortion. I shared watching the livestream with over 180 thousand people, around the world, including the two most important people I know — my two sons.

Pull up a chair and sit with me for a spell, I’d like to share with you my non-traditional family, my abortion to protect that family and how I’ve explained what’s going on at the Capitol to my 6 year old son, who I will lovingly refer to as Sprite 1 to protect his privacy. (Sprite 2 is still a little young to be engaged.) Though I am profoundly enraged at what is happening in the state I love, this narrative is not about anger, it is a reflection on freedom and family.

As the events of June 25th unfolded and I watched the livestream in the living room of my co-parent’s house, Sprite 1 was curious what I found so engaging. He curled up next to me on the couch and asked why that woman was talking. I explained (and have continued to explain) that some people believe that we are born free and can make our own choices, as long as we don’t hurt others. That’s what his Mama believes. Other people believe that they know what’s best for other people and want to make rules to protect them, which his Mama doesn’t agree with. I explained that the woman on the screen had been standing for  hours, without food or water or potty breaks, to defend our right to make our own choices, for ourselves. He responded, “That’s a really long time!”

He dubbed Wendy Davis “The Superwoman”. He asked a lot of questions about why the men on the screen weren’t letting her talk and why they seemed angry. I broke it down to the best of my ability; there are rules for talking in that room, like the rules at school about talking in class, and they were arguing about the rules. We discussed beliefs and being respectful of other people’s beliefs, even if we disagree. How in our family, it’s OK to believe something, as long as you don’t hurt others (notice a theme here?). He was fascinated and sat glued to the screen, as I did. Granted, there was a lot about what we were watching that neither of us understood but the sense that something bigger than ourselves was unfolding gripped both of our attentions. That is part of parenting: letting yourself be part of something bigger than you.

I am fiercely protective of my sons, and like most mothers, would do damn near anything for their well-being. Here’s the rub – I have no legal or biological standing as their mother and with the current adoption laws in Texas, there’s a good chance won’t have that standing. “How can that be?”, you might wonder.

I met a family – my eventual chosen family. This family had just lost a wife and a biological mother to a terrible accident, a few months before. The boys, Sprite 1 and Sprite 2, were 18 months and 2 years old respectively, at the time, and very shell-shocked. I came around, helped out, held them when they cried, established firm boundaries when needed. I established routines and guidelines, it seemed like the thing to do. I didn’t want to push an agenda, I had none; so I let the boys decide what role I would take in

Sprites, Photo by Gyesika Safety

their lives. I read up on toddler trauma and grief and I tried to smile and laugh, as much as possible, so that they could have more joy in their lives.

On Mother’s Day 2010, I was standing in the living room of my co-parent’s place when Sprite 2 looked up at me and said “Mama!” Floored me. Didn’t expect it. Tried to not freak out (think that went pretty well) as I realized that, for this little boy, I was his primary female role model. On that day, I became a mother. It’s not what I expected but it works.

We are not your traditional family. Their father and I are not married, though we have an excellent co-parenting relationship. We travel, eat, and  have family time, together. We celebrate, we mourn. Our arrangement may not be traditional but our dynamic is — it’s built on love and the primary directive of the wellbeing of the children. My perspective was rocked, the moment I was called “Mama”, that first time.

That perspective continues to shift and morph last night, Sprite 1 and I sported orange shirts. We went to the Capitol, so that I could formally register my opposition to House Bill 2, before the second special session attempt to push through legislation that would harm people like me. People who are struggling, families, women, and children. People who have a right to choose what is in the best interest for themselves and their families.

Last year, I had an abortion. I wanted that child and I still mourn the child I will never have. What is not in the article is a simple fact I did not share at the time: to have the child I wanted would have been a slap in the face to the one who honored me with the title of “Mama”. I will not go into further details, for they are not mine to give, but let me be clear – only myself, their father and God knew what the right choice was and I made it. It was devastating and painful. I’m still grateful I had the option to do what was best for my family. What I wanted was secondary to what the Sprites needed.

Sprite 1 and I got to the Capitol building last night and he was awestruck by the grandor of the building itself. We wandered around, trying to find where the hearings were being held. The State Troopers and Staffers were respectful and kind to us.

Opponents of an abortion bill walk in circles around supporters of the bill as a committee holds hearings on the bill near by at the Texas state capitol, Tuesday, July 2, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Gov. Rick Perry has called lawmakers back for another special session with abortion on the top of the agenda. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

We got to the hearing rooms and found our friends. Then we waited in a short line so that I could register my opposition. The person manning the kiosk mentioned that the Sprite could register his opposition too. I begged off, mainly because a 6 year old isn’t able to consent to such a thing and it’s his choice, too; but cited not knowing how his father felt about it. We then went to the auditorium to watch the testimony. He found that boring and wanted to take pictures and clap. We watched the protestors, both in orange and blue.

He had many questions: “Why are the people in blue singing?”, “Where’s the Superwoman, Mama?”, “Why are all these people here?”, “Is Jesus here?”, “What’s freedom?”.

I’m not a teacher or a civics scholar, and breaking down what we were seeing and experiencing to a 6 year old was challenging. We talked a lot about our choices and that we get to make them, even the bad ones (a concept we talk about when he makes bad choices, like pinching his brother to get a toy). We talked about the rules Mama and Papa (and other adults) have to follow and how we get to choose what rules we want, in this country. We discussed freedom of speech, bodily autonomy, and most of all, our ability to choose.

When you limit someone’s ability to choose, you don’t just limit bad choices, you limit good choices too. My 6 year old understands this concept. He also understands that we have a right to make those choices. When someone tells me what is best for me and the people I love, without knowing anything about our special family, they are limiting my ability to care for the mental and emotional health of the people I love. Sprite 1 asked me today “What is ‘special’?”.

“Buddy, ‘Special’ is our differences that make us interesting.” I believe that in our country, what makes us special is that we honor those differences, celebrate them and let people flourish and choose for themselves.

 

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The Slut Vote

I recently read a scathing article on jezebel.com about bskillet81′s opinion on why Romney lost the recent election: the all important “Slut Vote”.

I was surprised that though I found his position and statements offensive and antiquated, I don’t actually disagree with the statement that Romney lost because of the Slut Vote. Mainly because I don’t view “Slut” (as bskillet81 obviously does) as a pejorative term. I define slut, and have since reading The Ethical Slut in college, as any person who is confident in their sexuality and empowered to act on their sexuality, as they see fit. There are chaste sluts (I was one, choosing celibacy to refocus my energy for a while.), there are active sluts. There are sluts who express their sexuality with many partners, there are sluts that express it with only one other person. Gay, straight, bi, male, female or transgendered, I feel that anyone who expresses their god-given right to sexuality is a slut.

And those people vote. At the end of the day, Romney lost not just because women want to control their own bodies (Though with 44% of women voting for Obama, we are a force to be reckoned with and have been since 1920.) but because many people see the inherent slippery slope of the government regulating sexuality. The topics of fetal personhood, sexual assault, and who gets to decide what a woman does with her body, sexually or otherwise, does not end with women. This is a fundamental HUMAN rights issue.

From Flickr, photo by a_peabody

So, yes, bskillet81 – sluts, all of those sexually empowered, free, confident individuals came out and delivered a message to the conservatives in this country – we cherish our freedom and we are not willing to let it be taken away. That our bodies are still something that we will not give over to the government. That your petty, infantile, schoolyard name-calling is a defense mechanism that keeps you from seeing the common denominator – it’s not that blacks, or latinos or women voted; it’s that you’re terribly out of touch with post-modern America.

We voted. Our voices, protecting our rights, spoke for those rights. You might want to listen.

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Doors: Opened vs. Closed

In light of the recent dissolution of a relationship I still value but cannot continue to engage in; I’ve been thinking a lot about openness lately. How people react to past dysfunctional relationship dynamics and how they perpetuate them.

Door Comparison by Daveybot on flickr.com

I’m noticing a pattern to the experience of previous relationship pain. It seems to me that people, after a dysfunctional or to go further, abusive relationship, tend to react in one of two ways. (I’m sure, given the very ambiguous nature of existence, that it’s not that black and white but for this exercise, it’s going to be.)

First reaction: to become more open. To want openness and honesty. To crave that. It’s the reaction of saying too much, telling too much, not wanting to be the person who hides things. At it’s extreme, of radical honesty, at all costs.

Second reaction: to become less open. To withdraw. To want to keep things private. It’s the reaction of hiding, unconsciously closing off, not wanting to disclose. At it’s extreme, of lying, at all costs.

I’m seeing this pattern play out in several relationships, right now. The “Opener” vs. “Closer” interaction. I’m seeing that people with wildly opposite coping mechanisms for past pain are often attracted to the opposite, thus perpetuating a cycle of mistrust, on everyone’s part. I am an Opener. I abhor secrets, even as I can see the value in them. I am a queen of  TMI. I have to be consciously mindful of not only my own privacy but of others.

It’s normal to have a pejorative response to the other’s reaction to their experiences. That Openers view Closers as inherently untrustworthy. Closers, I imagine, view Openers as not respecting privacy. It can be so difficult to appreciate another person’s coping mechanism and by not understanding that both reactions are valid, continuing the pattern of resentment and distrust.

Balance

What is the answer? How do we break out of these patterns — to stronger, healthier relationships? To finding a balance between being open and being closed? How do we keep our personal doors unlocked and yet still protect what is inside? I believe there are several ways to address this dichotomous interaction. The initial step is to let go of the idea that someone who reacts or copes differently from us is somehow negative. Then there is self-awareness (Am I an Opener or a Closer?) and convey that information to the person with whom we are attempting to relate. Hopefully they will have cognition of how they operate. From there it’s a matter of compassionately negotiating boundaries. What is acceptable disclosure? What is uncomfortable? How does each person involved define deceit? How open is the shared door and how open is each individual door? If these topics have been broached and agreements made, then much of the work is already done.

What I am learning from my current experience is that compassion is often the simplest solution to the big issues that arise between people. I forgive, not for someone else, but as a gift I give myself, so that I might grow from painful situations.

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Catharsis

My chosen family and I were impacted by the fires in Bastrop County, Texas, over Labor Day weekend, of last year, where 34,000 acres burned to below the ground. It is still difficult to type those words out, the sinking in process over the past six months has been surreal. I couldn’t write about it publicly, afterwards. Could barely talk about it, except in bursts and flashes. There was such loss. Loss of stuff, of course, and loss of security. Loss of promises made to ourselves, loss of past, impacting loss of future. Relationships burned away because of those fires and relationships were forged in that heat.

"Fiery Sunset" by Jonathan.vail, on Flickr.

After a disaster, a tragedy, there is a lot of support. People come out of the woodwork and it’s beautiful to see and experience. The coming together. The friends that took me in. The friends that sat with me while I boggled at the magnitude of it all. The friends who helped clean up the property. The friends who donated to me and to my family. The work doesn’t end two weeks after the event, though, or a month, or even six months down the line. My family is still dealing with the impact those fires had on their lives. I’m still working through the repercussions of that disaster. How do you articulate that much sorrow? I struggle with that, still. I’m not the only one.

My partner and I broke up recently and I trace back the tension to the fires. We’re still family, we still love our children and are committed to co-parenting but the loss of that relationship is something I mourn more than the loss of objects. My tangible memories, my irreplaceable things. Things I miss. My fountain pen collection that I started when I was ten years old. The masks I haggled for in Africa. Wedding presents. The vintage steamer trunk my parents gave me for my 18th birthday. (Yup, my parents gave me large baggage, as a coming of age present.) My letterman jacket. The jewelry box that I got for Christmas when I was six. My journals and poetry from high school (which might not be much of a loss, most of it was pretty terrible, granted.). I treasure what survived, what was stored elsewhere or the ceramics that didn’t burn. That were re-fired.

My pottery that survived. Photo by Gyesika Safety

And that is what I have learned in the last six months, that everything is constantly changing and sometimes we have to lose in order to gain. That some things will survive but not be the same; and some things we will consciously or unconsciously protect. My relationship with my former partner is being re-fired into something new, and that’s scary but exhilarating, at the same time. I am closer to his family than I was before.  My most precious gift, the one gift that I don’t ever want to lose; that for a brief, terrifying few hours I thought was in danger — my children, were protected. They were safe. I never will forget the roiling terror I felt, until we found out that they were. I have learned, on a profoundly visceral level, that life is more precious than any object.

Fire is something that I have never feared. I am a member of a community that celebrates fire, we refer to ourselves as burners. I dance with fire fans. I have always had a healthy appreciation, respect and love of the beauty of the flame. After Labor Day weekend, I lost that love. I became scared. Fire took so much away. It hurt people I love, the people I would do anything to protect from pain. I felt so impotent in the days and weeks afterwards, that nothing I could do would be enough to wipe away the smoke that surrounded the hearts of those affected. I listened and I was present. It was all I could do and it didn’t feel like enough. I remember though, the friend that visited me, the first time I was alone, a week after. I remember that his listening, his presence, was all I needed to feel less scared. Less hollow.

"Resilience" by Phil Ostroff, on Flickr. "A lone fern plant grows out of a landscape covered in pieces of burnt bark and pine needles. Taken during a photo walk through the Bastrop State Park in central Texas. The park succumbed to a massive brushfire in 2011, and is slowly starting the natural process of self-healing, with some human intervention in some places." - Phil Ostroff

It’s been about six months, give or take, and I don’t fear the flame anymore. I’ve danced with my fire fans as my former partner played the djembe I got in Africa. I treasure every moment I spend with my children and I relish the new bonds that have risen up, out of the inferno. I see that though life stopped for me and mine, for awhile, that life also keeps moving forward. I’ve stopped measuring my life as “pre-fires” and “post-fires” and I’m realizing that catharsis is how we grow. I suppose sometimes life has to burn to the roots to create room for the new shoots.

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Two Sides of the Same Coin

My father taught me an expression while working on putting together some Ikea furniture in college: faen, a Norwegian curse word, loosely translate by him to mean “bullshit”. We riffed that “It’s all faen”, with the double meaning of “it’s all fine” and it’s all bullshit. Two sides of the same coin, I believe.

I’ve been assessing illusion lately and how illusion can work for and against us. How a life built on bullshit can also be a life that is just fine, thank you very much. There’s a push towards leading an authentic life, a life of truth. I’m beginning to question the veracity of such a life as we use our illusions to create that sense of an authentic experience. Is an experience any less valuable for being bullshit? Depends on the nature of the experience and the quality of the bullshit.

Illusion, by gandhiji40, on flickr.

My grandfather on my mother’s side used to say that “you slide farther on bullshit than you do on sandpaper.” Bullshit is a good social lubricant and it though ultimately messy, a useful way to get our wants (but not our needs) met. There is a balance to be had between sandpaper (radical honesty) and bullshit (social lubricant) and perhaps that’s where the authentic life resides, in the middle of the pendulum between the two. Between it being all fine and all faen.

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Bringing Sexy Back

“Feeling sexy” has always been a very ephemeral concept, for me. For a good long while I had no idea what that meant or what it felt like. I’d hear people talk about how a certain pair of underpants helped them *feel* sexy. Or an outfit, or a certain outing or activity. This has always perplexed me. You either are sexy or you aren’t, right?

Feeling is an active emotional state, so how can you feel sexy? You can look sexy, you can be sexy, you can bring the sexy but “feel” sexy? What does that feel like? What are the components that elicit that feeling? How do you get there?

Then I had a *ding* moment, I was hopping out of my van, the Doodle Beast (a decommissioned Air Force vehicle that I’d converted into an art car and safe place), at a gas station, cognizant of the looks of other people as I swung down from the door frame.  I felt sexy getting out of the Beast. When I drive the van, I feel sexy. Looking to that experience, I recognized three components at play with the van, as I identify strongly with the vehicle, that elicited the ultimate feeling “sexy”: power, happiness and uniqueness. This feeling is, by definition, an emotional response, the specific manifestations of these components are incredibly personal, but I think some version of the three are present when someone feels sexy:

The Doodle Beast: Powerful, Happy, Unique

  1. An expression of personal power: Using the example of driving the Beast, I’m channeling the raw diesel power of a large box van. (I didn’t say my catalyst to feeling sexy was going to be particularly subtle or deep.) His power is my power and I’m in control of that power. That’s a heady feeling. When people feel a healthy sense of sexy, there is that personal empowerment at play.
  2. An expression of personal happiness: I can’t help but smile when I drive the van. He’s big, he’s goofy, he’s fun. The sense of enjoyment I get from that experience lights me up from the inside. That internal light is sexy. It’s a level of happy that is specific and unique.
  3. An expression of personal uniqueness: There’s nothing quite like the Beast and everyone has something that makes then unique. Part of the personal uniqueness is being comfortable with those parts of ourselves that are different and special. The sense of comfort with ourselves is integral to feeling sexy and tapping into that consciousness of specialness manifests our internal sparkle. We shine when we own our uniqueness.
I’ve heard that confidence is what is sexy to others, and I believe there is some truth to that statement; however, more to the point, when we feel sexy, I think the greatest component is a sense of empowerment. I recently replaced the brakes on my van (with a good friend walking me through the process) and I felt an enormous sense of self-reliance which translated to feeling very sexy indeed. Covered in grease, in my work clothes, I felt sexier than at any other time in my life. Would anyone else have found me sexy, in that moment? It didn’t matter; I fully grokked what it meant to feel sexy, after I had replaced the brakes and the van worked. I had taken control of my own experience.

With this metric in place, I’ve looked to other times when these three components come together and came up with a few other instances: my glasses help me feel sexy, red lipstick, paper journaling with the fountain pen my best friend gave me when we were … 12?. These are all times when that feeling rises up. Making vulgar jokes? Does not help me feel sexy (but I do truly enjoy a bad “yo mama” or pun.)  Learning something new? Feels very sexy.

What helps you feel sexy?

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Crazy Pants

A friend of mine speculates that everyone has some version of Crazy, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Crazy is those idiosyncrasies that make us special. She does say that not everyone’s Crazy will mesh well with other versions. No one is “wrong”, per se, in those situations, the Crazy just doesn’t match up. I like this way of viewing Crazy, it’s non-pejorative and it embraces the quirks we all have. I’m always leery of folks who say they’re not crazy, even normalcy can be off kilter, depending on the situation and environment.

Definitely Crazy Pants. Photo by Brande Jackson on Flickr.

There are different versions of Crazy but there’s also a state where one can go beyond the standard base Crazy and go straight to Crazy Town. I’m talking about putting on your crazy pants. (The opposite, perhaps, of putting on your Big Person Underpants). When you are hurt or in pain, the crazy pants come out. You might fantasize about doing something destructive or out of character, in an attempt to mitigate the pain. People often find their crazy pants after a bad breakup, when all sorts of unhealthy behavior seems like an excellent idea.

I believe that Crazy is state of consciousness, a baseline of the weird and often wonderful that we all have. However, our emotions, though powerful, do not control us or our behaviors. One could look at crazy pants as the id, that primal beast that wants to react from a purely emotional space. However, as we go through life, we learn (hopefully) coping mechanisms for dealing with those moments when we find and put on our crazy pants. Our ego regulates those unhealthy impulses. Most people I’ve met have, at least once, put on their crazy pants and went out for a night on the town. Leaving the house wearing your crazy pants rarely ends well. 

Because we all have a version of Crazy, most folks also have their crazy pants and can empathize when someone they care about puts them on. This is one healthy way of dealing with donning the crazy pants: talk to someone you trust about those unhealthy impulses. Many people can relate, they’ve been there. What is harder to relate to is wearing your crazy pants and going to Crazy Town. Acting on those impulses is a behavior and we are accountable for our behaviors, especially if they hurt other people. Realizing that emotions exist and are valid is essential to accepting our personal humanity, acknowledging that our emotions don’t control our behavior is essential for accepting each other.

Crazy pants happen. We have irrational, intense emotional reactions to situations. How we handle our crazy pants is a measure of our character. Do we own our crazy pants and seek help from people who are not wearing theirs or do we go to Crazy Town? Each situation is different and sometimes the best thing to do is own that you wore your crazy pants when you did something and apologize.

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Survival Guide for Burner Dogs

Every year, at smaller burn events in the Central Texas area, where dogs are permitted to attend, there is a discussion (often heated) about whether dogs should be allowed given the risks and liabilities associated with their participation. Every year I argue that our four footed friends should be allowed and that their guardians need to be held accountable for their pet’s involvement. From the big burn in Nevada, to regionals, there is a Survival Guide, a how to for attending events, for humans. The Survival Guides help educate the participants, they create a common ground so that everyone can have a safe and fun experience at a burn. My experience with my dog, who has now attended 8 smaller burn events, is that the same holds true for pets. The guardian needs to be radically self-reliant for both themself and their dog and prepare for their care. The most important bit of experience I can convey is prepare by Knowing Your Dog and know and follow event guidelines (not just for yourself but also your dog).

Chewie, a.k.a. Safety Third: A happy burner dog at Decomp 2007

There’s an old saw about having a dog is not unlike having a perputual toddler. The comparison is especially apt with a dog at a burn event. When I bring Chewie to an event, his well-being is my primary concern. I am responsible for not only my good time, but his and everyone he interacts with, as well. I take the position of “if I wouldn’t allow a toddler to do something, I’m not going to create a situation where my dog can do that.” This includes keeping Chewie supervised, not forgetting to feed/water/meet basic needs, not being so intoxicated that I cannot care for my pet, and  MOOPing his bodliy wastes.

One aspect of camping with Chewie is that dogs (and many humans) do best when the scenery changes but the basic routine stays the same. I follow the same out at an event as we have at home. He gets fed at the same time, with the same food and water (and medication), same bowls, and is required to sit before the bowl touches the ground (our policy at home). We wake up and we take walks around the event at the same time as we would back home. This does mean having to be less carefree than I would be without him; however, he is much more relaxed and comfortable knowing that his life basics have not changed.

One of the most basic issues that comes up for humans (and also for dogs) is becoming overheated and dehydrated. This is a topic that has been covered in every Survival Guide I have read and this guide is no exception: a pet can get overheated and dehydrated and behave erratically and out of character because of that. Become familiar with the signs of dog dehydration and how to combat it before it occurs. Ensure that there is plenty of fresh water (brought from the source they get at home:”funny”, new tasting water may be rejected by some finicky dogs) available at all times. If I suspect that Chewie is being lax about drinking water, I’ll make some Dog Gatorade. This is half a teaspoon of powered beef bouillon mixed with a quart of water. Then I put out fresh water, which after the saltiness of the bouillon, he is more than happy to drink. Some folks will use Pedialyte to help restore the electrolyte balance. Remember that these are preventative measures – a dehydrated dog needs to be seen by a vet.

Even with keeping the day to day routine the same and keeping the dog hydrated, events can be overstimulating for both humans and pets alike. It is not uncommon for either species to freak out when they are overstimulated. The difference is that a dog cannot tell you that they are upset and overwhelmed. Know your dog. Know the signs, indivdual for each animals, that he or she is stressed out, scared, upset or overwhelmed. When Chewie begins to exhibit signs of distress, he goes back to Chewie Camp and hangs out in his pen.

Chewie Camp 1.0. It's gotten more involved over the years.

The photo to the left shows a very basic incarnation of Chewie Camp, his own theme camp. It now has a small pup tent (pun intended), a ten-panel plastic pen with lights, shade provided through tarps, and pillows. Your dog’s oasis need not be quite as complicated but it is imperative to have a space that smells familiar and comfortable (the dog bed and pillows are the ones he uses at home) that the dog can retreat to, when the blinkie lights and people are too much. Get creative with your dog’s camp – a big dog will have different needs and challenges than a smaller dog. I do recommend a familiar dog bed, a way to be contained (either through a leash, pen, or kennel), a big container of water, and some shade but let your imagination go wild!

To leash or not to leash, that is the perpetual question of smaller events with dogs. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that every smaller event has a leashed dog policy but the extent to which it is enforced has varied from event to event. My policy with Chewie is when we go awandering, he’s leashed (and often teathered to my utility belt, so I don’t lose the leash) and in camp he can wander about within the area or his pen. This is for both his safety and the safety of others. Chewie’s not aggressive, however, unleashed dogs pack up and a pack of dogs is a whole different animal than a dog that is leashed and mindful that their guardian in control. Additionally, I suspect that he takes a measure of comfort knowing that I am right there, supervising him. Dogs want to know who’s alpha and you are their alpha — a leash is the tangible reminder of that status. That being said, I know dogs who are far better at recall commands than Chewie and who stay close to their guardians, even without a leash. I’ve said it already and it bears repeating — Know Your Dog.

Lastly, and most importantly, bringing a dog is a responsibility, and yet, it can be one of the richest burn experiences possible. Have FUN with bringing your dog. Prepare by knowing your dog, taking care of their needs, following the event guidlines and then go nuts with creative and fun ways of interacting with furry beasts. Blinkie collars, fun and interactive dog camps, costumes! There is a a wealth of creative and interesting ways to incorporate your dog into the event in a manner that is beneficial to everyone.

Creative Commons License
Survival Guide for Burner Dogs by Gyesika Safety is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at gyesikasafety.com.

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Guest Blogging

I am pleased as punch to be the guest blogger at approximately 8,000 words, Kit O’Connell’s blog, with an article I wrote recently — Embracing Conflict.

What really tickles me about writing this article, outside of the chance to express my feelings and experiences on a topic many of us shy from, is how meta it is. Kit’s a member of my choice family and I ask you to show me a family that hasn’t had conflict. We’ve had our share and I can say, from being there, that time can be the greatest tool you have when dealing with conflict, resentment and a host of uncomfortable feelings. I’m proud of us for getting through some unfortunate and often dramatic incidents and getting back to a place of mutual support and love.

Kit is the reason I have this blog. He’s hosting the site and he set it up for me. When I came to him and said “I want to start writing publicly, how does that work?”; he almost immediately got me started. I have enjoyed seeing him find his volunteer and artistic niche in the burn community (we do art but most of it is visual in some way. He found the place for his words and did an amazing job as Flipside’s Web Content lead, this year. I look forward to seeing what else he has up his sleeve.) He found an outlet for his voice and passed that along.

Salt Shakers by harlanh, on flickr.com

The gift of conflict is that once you’ve been through it, once you’ve handled it in a positive, constructive manner, is that now you know you *can*. That, for me, is very reassuring in any relationship. I was convinced, for the better part of a year, that I had lost a member of my family and that conviction was worse than the anger and resentment. When I finally calmed down enough to engage, it was scary but now I have the comfort of knowing that we’ve been through the fire and I trust we can go through it again. Conflict as comfort, like a reassuring hug. Reframing it that way has helped me immeasurably in my relationships.

 

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Pop Tarts

Recently, my wasband (yes, you can get along with someone you used to be married to, but that’s another post entirely) posted this video to my facebook page:

It’s been a rough couple of weeks recently and I’d been down on myself. The negative messages that we all hear, day in and day out, were beginning to loop in my head. As much as I’ve attempted to avoid succumbing to them, I was beginning to toilet bowl into negativity. That infectious pop song snapped me out of it. The message that we’re all good enough, that we all have enough and therefore, we all deserve to be accepted for who we are, is a hammer encased bubble wrap.

This is a message that has come up in several pop songs lately. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”

and Katy Perry’s “Firework”

The Onion’s AV Club has already covered the differences between Gaga and Perry, better than I could. What they do share is a wide audience and two songs that, to varying artistic development, state that it’s perfectly acceptable to be who you are. That those aspects of ourselves that we’ll self-deride are the very points that make us powerful creatures. That our power comes from stopping the internal cycle of derision and owning our power, even when it hurts. Perhaps especially when it hurts.

The power of a pop song is much like the tension between negative self talk and personal power: they are pervasive, insidious even. When you look beyond the fluff, the message of acceptance, of oneself and others, is hard to ignore. Because these songs are in wide circulation, they are reaching audiences that are more limited in their personal outlooks. Bigots, homophobes, and sexists are part of the milieu that listens to pop music and they might not like it; however when you can not avoid something, it will eventually change you. Just a little bit, perhaps. Perhaps that’s enough.

I am heartened to see this trend. When a air bubble like Katy Perry, who sells an idea of female sexuality to heterosexual males that I find, at best, obnoxious; also sells a message of personal tolerance, I am hopeful that the very people she sells to will gain a measure of insight. When Lady Gaga, who may be the single most notorious and popular artist, at the moment, says that being gay is not a choice, I can hope that someone will hear that and be swayed enough to rethink their position. Pink states that you can be spiraling downwards and still be lovable … well, that was a message I needed to hear today.

 

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