Let’s Go Glamping!

I was sitting outside at work the other day, drinking my iced tea and eating grapes on my break, when the random thought, “It’d be nice to go camping!” occured to me. I am able to ignore a lot of random thoughts, but this one startled me. I do not camp. I have in the past, but I’d rather not do it again. Like the David Foster Wallace essay about going on a cruise, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, camping seems like it should be fun, in theory, but in reality, not so much. And I have no desire to ever go on a cruise, either, thank you very much.

Camping. First of all, why should I sleep on the ground when there is this great invention called the BED? Second, I hate dirt. And peeing behind trees. Indoor plumbing, hello?!

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Any activity that involves this, please let me stay home!

my idea of camping

Have you ever watched the show Monk? Mr. Monk is one of my idols. Mr. Monk had to go camping once. He didn’t like it.

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I’m fine not taking a shower for a day or 2, and being outdoors is great. Within reason. But outdoor living should refer to the Sunset magazine, California lifestyle variety, not living in a tent for fun!

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1953 Sunset cover; my kind of outdoor living.

I love a good picnic; eating out of doors is nice. Especially if you bring really good food. And make it really pretty and romantic.

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I like the idea of outdoor living. If it’s civilized.

There are wonderful ways to spend time outdoors with friends and family while remaining clean and comfortable and having access to an actual bathroom. Outdoor kitchens and living rooms are quite “the thing” these days where the weather permits.

There are more modest ways to follow this idea:

I adore the idea of the unfortunately named “she shed”, the feminine alternative to the man cave.

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These can be basic too.

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This one veers a little close to camping, but I’ll allow it since it’s adorble.

Mobile-She-Shed

But please don’t ask me to go camping.

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My camping experiences started when my mother married her second husband, Van. He loved camping. But his idea of camping was parking his GMC truck, equipped with a camper shell, by the side of any old river and proceeding to fish (boring) and drink a lot. I always took a lot of books. Anytime I was forced into outings with Mom and Van I made sure to have a book. I spent a lot of time in bars and by the sides of rivers reading while they drank. But since he was a cabinet maker, the camper was nicely kitted out, and Mom always tried to cook something nice. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.

Then when I got married, we thought we liked camping. Like Van before us, what we liked was a different setting for drinking.

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We made a point of going to walk-in only sites so it would be more private and we wouldn’t be surrounded by RVs.

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Yellowstone
Campground at Yellowstone. No thanks.

I would cook a lot of gourmet food ahead of time, we would make sure to have lots of wine, and off we’d go. I never slept well, partly from the wine, and partly because sleeping on the ground in a tent sucks! I don’t even do well with cabin camping. I didn’t sleep for an entire week last summer when I went to Maine, but I did gain a new appreciation for frogs.

Given half a chance, my ex-husband would probably have had us going out camping in an old VW hippie van.

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If we had to go camping, I’d have preferred a somewhat less conspicuous van back then (although I do love the hippie van now as a look).

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But we were poor, so it had to be a tent and sleeping bags. As long as we had the money for the wine. I can see us in something like this as well.

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I’m older, wiser, and sober now. And I think life is too short to do things we don’t like if we don’t have to.  I don’t have to go camping, and despite my random thoughts I don’t really want to.

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What about camping even appears to be fun?

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This does not look fun.

Camping is dangerous, besides. There are crazy people out there looking for dummies zipped into sleeping bags and tents, ready-made targets for horror movie mayhem. There are bugs and spiders and creepy crawly things.

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The food chain is fine and all, but I’d rather not be a part of it, thanks.

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And coffee. Let’s talk coffee. I’m sorry, cowboy romanticism aside, boiled coffee made over a campfire does not taste good.

I haven’t mastered the art of campfire espresso, although I suppose it’s possible. But I am not really interested in learning the art. My beautiful Rancilio Silvia machine at home is just fine.

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Admit it, this looks like a serious coffee maker. My best friend.

I’d consider easing myself into the idea with the she-shed (buit it does need a better name), and work my way up to “glamping”(glamour camping).

I could be a glamper. See this Project Runway clip for a good description of glamping. If Tim Gunn is on board, okay!

I’d even go with an Airstream or tear-drop trailer if they were glamped up.

There’s a book for people like me: I Hate Camping, but I Love Glamping! by Lynn Sable. There is also Glamping with MaryJane, by MaryJane Butters. I’m sure there are many more.

One thing I will grant on the plus side for camping: s’mores. I had never had a s’more until I went to Maine last summer. Zoe Weil at the Institute for Humane Education taught me how to make and eat a vegan s’more at the campfire, and I even willingly sang camp songs after ingesting a couple of those. All that was missing was a great cup of coffee.

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Age 54, my first s’mores experience.
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Use a vegan dark chocolate and Dandies vegan marshmallows for cruelty-free s’mores.

But are s’mores enough reason for camping? No, you can make s’mores at home. There is not enough chocolate in the world to make camping fun.

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Only 10?

If all tents could be like the magical ones in Harry Potter, that would be okay too. Wave a wand and have all the comforts of home at your fingertips. Or, alternatively, stay home! Or go to a nice hotel.

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The Weasley tent in one of the numerous Harry Potter films.

As we enter the summer season, I’ll be enjoying outdoor time and sunshine. Just my way, not the cowboy way. And I’ll be a happy camper, ignoring my random thoughts.

Life is Our Classroom

As part of my doctoral program at Saybrook University, I am taking a class entitled Humanistic Foundations of Organizational Development. I am enjoying the class tremendously, and learning about some inspiring and relevant thinkers, such as Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire (1921-1997), author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, author of If God Were a Human Rights Activist.

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Paulo Freire
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Boaventura de Sousa Santos

In collaboration with my fellow Humane Education specialization students Suzy Fisher and Jennifer Elfenbein for a class project, we created this video about our educational program and the Institute for Humane Education, through which we do core coursework. It’s a labor of love, and we are quite proud of it. Please watch, and if it makes you think, we’ve done our job!

Please turn off all electronic devices

I am in my 50s (how did that happen?). I did not grow up in the world of personal computers, cell phones, tablets, iPods, etc. It was with great excitement that my family bought a color television. The old black and white set was relegated to my mother’s bedroom, where it sat on her dresser with its wire coat hanger antenna. When one of us was sick (or pretending to be), we would camp in Mom’s room and watch from her bed. We didn’t have remote controls. As the youngest of 4 children, I was the human remote control (“Hey Gen, change the channel to Mannix.”)

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I think we got 4 channels.
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Mannix, starring Mike Connors, ran from 1967 to 1975.

A fun Friday night at the Cottraux house was eating TV dinners in front of Mannix. My teenaged sisters were usually out on dates, so it would be me, my brother, and Mom, each with a TV tray and the dinner of choice. I enjoyed these, surprisingly. They were considered a treat. My food tastes have changed, thank goodness!

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Yes, I actually enjoyed these.

None of us in the immediate family like to talk on the telephone. In fact, some of us (me) hate to talk on the telephone and have telephonophobia. This is a real thing, the fear of telephones, and is considered a form of social anxiety. But my teenaged sisters HAD to have their own phone in their bedroom. It was a beautiful Princess phone. I thought my sisters were so COOL and I wanted to be just like them. Still do in fact.

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I’m not sure if my sisters’ phone was pink, but I thought it was beautiful.

 

I had no interest in mobile phones when they came out. None. Plus they were huge and hideous.

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I finally got a mobile phone in 2000 when I was working for California State Parks on a 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. shift and was often the first one at the park on cold, dark mornings. I justified it as a safety thing. I never talked on it. I had it for years. It didn’t even have games that I know of.

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So how did I become the person at the summer residency program at the Institute for Humane Education in Surry, Maine who always had her iPhone in her pocket and had trouble setting it aside during activities?

 

I’ve written a little bit about the week in Maine:

I’m finally headed to summer camp…

Falling in love with frogs

This was a time to enjoy being in a beautiful natural setting with amazing people and at least 5 species of awesome frogs. It was not a time to be worrying about where to charge a phone. Some of my favorite activities:

The Bioblitz Dance (Bioblitz Dance)

The Bioblitz Dance is an ongoing “dance” challenge as part of the National Park Service’s Centennial.  The dance was created by John Griffith of the California Conservstion Corps. You too can do the Bioblitz, and post the video to YouTube under the title “The Bioblitz Dance”. It’s fun! And remember, it MUST be done outdoors.

 

Seton Watching (Go Out and Seton Watch!)

At first I heard the name of this activity as Seated Watching. Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946) was a naturalist and wildlife artist, born in England to Scottish parents. His family emigrated to Toronto, Canada when he was a child. He reportedly retreated to the woods to escape his abusive father.

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Ernest Thompson Seton

The idea is pretty simple. Find a comfortable spot outdoors, sit quietly, and observe. Each of us chose a spot, and every day for the week we had varying lengths of time set aside to go sit and observe. You might think my spot was the frog pond, but it wasn’t. I did my own version of Seton watching in the early morning hours at the pond. My “official” Seton watch spot was in a hammock under the trees at the edge of the meadow leading to the pond. My first choice was actually an old school desk in the woods, but I couldn’t remember which trail went there, and the hammock was empty and close by.

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The instruction was to observe a spot about the size of a magazine spread, but since I was looking up into the tree canopy, it was a little different. But still amazing. The play of light through the leaves varied each day depending on time and weather. The sounds of the wind through the trees (I think they were birches) was always intriguing. I could hear birds all around me but I couldn’t see them. I stayed awake. And I didn’t look at my phone.

Wonder Walk (Wonder Walk instructions)

Wonder Walking is done in pairs, with each person taking a turn as the Leader and as the Follower. We did this on the first day when we really didn’t know each other, so there was an element of trust that had to be assumed in turning yourself over to a stranger to be led eyes closed. The odd thing is that I was much more relaxed as the Follower than I was as the Leader. Maybe not that odd, when I think about it!

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Rafael leads me on a Wonder Walk. Photo by Abba Charice Carmichael for IHE, 2016.
with Rafael
Photo by Abba Charice Carmichael for IHE, 2016.

If you are at all curious about Wonder Walking, I am game to go on one with you. Just let me know!

Group Outdoor Art Project

When this activity was announced, my first reaction was “Can’t I do an art project by myself?” Once a loner, always a loner.( I am trying to prove that wrong in my old age.) As an art museum registrar, I found it particularly interesting that all of the groups chose to do ephemeral, performance pieces. Some involved sound, including music created with natural objects in the environment. Flowers played a big role in other offerings. My group did a participatory, silent piece that resulted in a bird bath filled with flowers. It was quite beautiful. And I enjoyed the group process more than I admit.

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Also highly recommended: eating your meals with friends out of doors. And campfires with campsongs (learn the lyrics to Señor Don Gato; you’ll thank me) and (vegan) S’mores. 

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Veggie dog on the dock at Castine, Maine.
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Who doesn’t love a campfire?
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Age 54, my first S’mores experience.
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Illustration by John Manders

Get outside, and please, turn off your electronic devices!

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Falling in love with frogs

Maybe it started with Kermit the Frog, the iconic Muppet with a heart of green-gold.

Kermit
How can you not love that face?

As someone who struggles with anxiety and self-esteem, Kermit singing Bein’ Green, written by Joe Raposo, on Sesame Street in 1970 (maybe I was a little old for Sesame Street at 9 but then again, is anyone ever too old for Sesame Street?) touched my soul and still does.

 

I still watch The Muppet Show when I have a chance. 

Or maybe it was our grandfather Papa, singing the folk song A Frog Went A-Courting to us when we were children. Although this wouldn’t explain my sister Ellen’s fear of frogs. Maybe that’s from Mom supposedly cooking frogs’ legs for Daddy and the legs jumping out of the pan. Mom swore this was true.

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From the children’s book by Janet Kay Jensen.

On You Tube I found versions by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, and a bunch of guys with guitars who I never heard of. But I think Pete Seeger is the closest I’m going to get to Papa.

There are some seriously stupid jokes about frogs. I like stupid jokes. Unfortunately, in many of them things don’t go well for the frog (you know, the word croak being the punchline).

Waiter, waiter, do you have frog legs?

No, I always walk this way.

What do stylish frogs wear?

Jumpsuits!

A few years ago, I took a class called Phobease on dealing with phobias and anxieties. No, frogs weren’t on my list, though they are on Ellen’s. One of Dr. Fear’s (aka Dr. Howard Liebgold) sayings was “If you have to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning. If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” I never liked this saying. I get it. If you have to do something that makes you anxious, just do it and get it over with, and do the hardest first. But I felt bad for that poor so-called ugly frog. At the end of the class, Dr. Fear handed out little plastic frogs to all of us. I still have mine.

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I recently spent a week in Maine at the Institute for Humane Education in Surry with a group of my fellow Humane Education students. It was there that my love for frogs was finally made clear. I don’t sleep well away from home, especially if I get in the habit of drinking coffee during the day. And if I’m anxious. Which I was.

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Sleepless in Surry.

Not wanting to wake my cabin mates (did I mention we all stayed in a bunkhouse together? I’m finally headed to summer camp…) I found myself out of doors in the early hours of the morning down at the pond.

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The Pond.
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Girl meets pond.

I am not particularly an outdoorsy person, and going barefoot is one of my phobias. But there I’d be at 5 a.m. in the damp, on the dock, watching and listening at the pond.

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Pond and feet at sunrise.

I don’t mediatate either; I always feel like my hyperactive brain sabotages me. But I could easily spend an hour or more in the early morning sitting on the dock listening to the frogs. 

(I don’t know how to embed the videos I took, so this sound clip from You Tube will suffice.)

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I was curious if there were any poems about frogs, particularly American, New-Englandy style ones. And lo’ and behold, Robert Frost wrote a poem called Hyla Brook. (Hyla is the genus of the small green tree frog.)

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I also decided to search for frog sounds on iTunes. I am not the only one who loves the sound of frogs!

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I’m considering forking over $9.99 for this one.

frog sounds search album

I can play the sounds while I do the next best thing to pond meditating, which is spending time with the animals who share a home with me.

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Our version of the frog pond.

Of course, I have no idea how Einstein and Misty will react to the frog sounds. It might not be as calming for them as it is for me.

Maybe they’ll prefer this selection: Hair of the Frog by Three Weird Sisters. And don’t get me started again on the whole “three sisters” thing! A Tale of Three Sisters

Hair of the Frog

 

I’m finally headed to summer camp…

Not really, but I’m going to Maine for a week for a residency at the Institute for Humane Education in Surry, Maine for my doctoral program. Fourteen (yes, 14)  of us will be staying in a cabin with bunk beds and 1 (yes, one) bathroom. Am I excited? Anxious, more like.

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Surry, it’s there somewhere.
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Surry, Maine. Note the lobster traps. I don’t eat lobsters.

 

As a child, I NEVER wanted to go to summer camp. EVER. My siblings were of a more “joining” nature–sports, after school activities, student government, scouts (ugh). I was not of this nature. In the least. I much preferred the solitude of a good book in a quiet place ALONE.

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A child after my own heart.

Mom signed me up for Brownies. I was okay with that. Brownies is basically craft time with snacks, things I love (still).

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Arts and crafts, yes.

Then came Girl Scouts. I was an awful Girl Scout. Sell cookies and earn badges and make camp stoves out of tin cans? Exactly what were the tin can stoves for? CAMPING! I played hookey from troop meetings until Mom caught on and then she let me drop out. Thank you, Mom!

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Not me.

 

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Not interested if I have to actually work for them.

She know better than to propose summer camp. I spent my summersreading books, drawing pictures, and watching way too much television. I was so happy!

My vision of summer camp is of mean girls, being humiliated and probably drowning, awful food, and bug bites and sunburn. The word rustic should be applied to expensive artisanal foods, not living arrangements.

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What I see when you say rustic cabin.
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Rustic bread? Now you’re speaking my language!

When I was about 10 or 11, in an effort to get us out of the house, my stepfather gave my brother money to take me to the movies. He took me to see the double feature of Butterflies are Free and Bless the Beasts and the Children. Probably not appropriate for my age. Have you seen Bless the Beasts and the Children? (Get the Carpenters song out of your head.) Summer camp is not a nice place. People and animals DIE.

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How I imagine myself at summer camp:

me at camp

The letter I would write to my mother (soaked in tears):

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I am sure the house will be very nice and surprise me. The 14 of us will become good friends (we’ll for sure get to know each other), have a good time, and learn a lot from our instructors and mentors. That part I am excited about. I have a feeling I’ll be taking showers at weird hours and mostly avoiding the bathroom as much as possible. I will post updates, no worries about that! And if anyone pushes me in any body of water, maybe I’ll finally learn to swim.

 

 

 

Back to School!

After a nice break between semesters, the 2016 spring semester kicked off for Saybrook University with the January 2016 Residential Conference (RC).

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Last semester, our RC at the gorgeous, intimate Cedarbrook Lodge in Seattle was a small gathering of the Organizational Systems (OS) doctoral students and the Master of Arts in Management, Specialization in Global Workforce Collaboration (referred to as MAM) students (all under the auspices of the Department of Leadership and Management). This semester, it was the large gathering of the various Saybrook departments, such as Mind-Body Medicine, Humanistic and Clinical Psychology, and Counseling.

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Since we were so many, of course we needed to be at a larger venue, plus the conference alternates locations every semester. The 5-day RC was held at the Westin San Francisco Airport hotel in Millbrae.

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It’s really close to the airport!

Westin 1

 

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The hotel is on the Old Bayshore Highway, adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Trail.

It’s a nice enough hotel, but not a special place, like Cedarbrook Lodge. The conference didn’t have the same personal feel as last semester, but it was great to see my cohort and get started on my OS courses. The humane education part of my program (Ph.D. in Organizational Systems, Specialization in Humane Education), taken in a partnership program with Valparaiso University’s Institute for Humane Education, started a couple of weeks ago. I’ve already turned in my first assignments for Animal Protection and for Environmental Ethics. At Saybrook, I will be continuing the second class in the basics of research module, Disciplined Inquiry 1B: Research Foundations, as well as taking Dealing with Complexity: The Foundations of Systems Thinking.

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Lots of reading!

Living just across the Bay, I didn’t want to spend the money to stay at the hotel (I need the money to buy books!), so early on Day 1 I headed over bright and early to register and get started.

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The schedule required a Ph.D. to decipher.

Luckily, coffee was plentiful and the breakfast buffet was still going. To my surprise and delight, there was a special vegan/vegetarian section.

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The spinach and potato scramble. The vegan bacon looks really strange but I decided to try it.
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One of the numerous coffee stations.
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Breakfast, orientation, and announcements.

Our first morning forum for OS started with an introduction icebreaker. Being nervous, I had to refer to my prompt sheet to remember my name and where I live!

Then we launched into a “world café”. For those unfamiliar with the concept (which I was before Saybrook), when I Googled world cafe this is the definition I got:

“The ‘World Café’ is a structured conversational process intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion, and link ideas within a larger group to access the ‘collective intelligence’ or collective wisdom in the room.”

With the question of what makes Saybrook and the OS program unique, we spread around the room to talk about topics including education, health care, systems thinking and practice, and organizational transformation. For each topic, a host student stayed at each “café table” while the rest of us made the rounds to all of the tables to add to the discussion, with the host student presenting a summary of the talks to the larger group at the end. It was a great way to bring the new students into the group and for the returning students to reconnect.

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That worked up a pretty good appetite! Lunchtime (and more coffee).

In the later afternoon, a few of us had an open block and attended the Clinical Psychology department’s screening of the 1985 Swedish film My Life as a Dog. We just wanted to see the movie (and it has a dog in it), but it was fascinating to hear the psychology students’ discussion afterwards. Analyses I would never have thought of were debated; I was mainly sad that (SPOILER ALERT) the dog doesn’t make it to the end of the movie.

My Life as a Dog

Lest you think we are not a fun crowd, look: grad school humor!

Groovy Baby

By Day 3 we were tackling some serious world problems with another world cafe. This time our morning icebreaker, lead by the intrepid Mike Johnston, was an activity called That Person Over There…during which we mingled in a group, introducing our fellow students by trading and sharing “my passion is ” sticky notes. It was surprisingly fun.

Then we divided up into groups to apply systems thinking to various pressing global issues. We stayed with one group rather than circulating, and I chose the group looking at environmental degradation.

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The framework.

 

The 5 groups came up with some very interesting points and ideas. We also looked at the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These cards are available for presentations and education.

 

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Our tired brains needed fresh air and our bodies, sitting for long stretches, needed some exercise, so down to the San Francisco Bay Trail entrance just across the street from the hotel.

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The Bay Trail is a 500-mile walking and biking path that runs through all 9 Bay Area counties.

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We obviously only saw a very tiny portion on our hour-long walk, some of it prettier and some of it a bit on the grubby side. What’s up with the littering, anyway? Come on, people!

Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay for the last 2 days, so I said goodbye to my cohort and good friends after dinner. But I did at least get the t-shirt.

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And now to study!

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So, you want to adopt a shelter pet? Or, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking applied

Disclosure: I am writing this to fulfill an assignment for Introduction to Humane Education, a wonderful course in my first semester as a Humane Education PhD student at Saybrook University in conjunction with Valparaiso University and the Institute for Humane Eduction. I am reading The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird (awesome names). The assignment is to bring these elements to others through my teaching. Since I am not a teacher in a clssroom, I am applying the elements to how I might approach pet adoptions during my volunteer shifts at the East Bay SPCA. The views expressed are solely those of the author, not of any organization. I am paraphrasing the 5 elements, not quoting the authors.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
The adoption center at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, California
The adoption center at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, California
Know when your shelter is open before making the trip!
Know when your shelter is open before making the trip!

So, you want to adopt a shelter pet?

Let's think this through.
Let’s think this through.

Element 1: Examine your understanding of the basics.

  • Why do you want a pet? Ask yourself why you want a pet. You might be surprised at the real reason and it might be that a pet is not right for you or it is not the right time. The following are responses I’ve heard and my reaction to them:

“My kids keep asking for a dog/cat.” Not the best reason if it’s the only reason. Knowing as the parent that unless your kids are extraordinary you will be doing a lot of the pet care (and paying the expenses), do you want a pet? And why does your kid want a pet? If it’s because of a cute movie like 101 Dalmatians, chances are the pet will end up back at the shelter. Celebrities with pets are often not good role models either.

Mom, I WANT A CAT!
Mom, I WANT A CAT!
Beautiful but high maintenance.
Beautiful but high maintenance.
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Just because the celebrity du jour has a “purse pet” that she dresses up doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

“I want a cat to catch mice.” or “I want a guard dog.”  At shelters, we are looking to place companion animals as members of families, not working animals. And we can’t guarantee that a cat will be a mouser.

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“I want a present for my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/child/children.” Are you sure the recipient wants a pet? Wouldn’t it be better for them to meet the pet, and make the choice themselves? Giving pets as surprise gifts is not encouraged. At the East Bay SPCA everyone in the household must be on board and present to meet potential adoptive pets.

Yes, completely adorable but needs a lot of care and not a good idea as a surprise.
Yes, completely adorable but needs a lot of care and not a good idea as a surprise.

“I have a cat/dog at home who is lonely and needs a friend.” Maybe. Maybe not. Do you know your pet gets along with other animals? Maybe your cat/dog is happy as an only pet. If you have a dog and want another, be prepared to bring your dog in to meet potential adoptees; it’s required at the East Bay SPCA.

Einstein and Benjamin turned out to be friends.
Einstein and Benjamin turned out to be friends.
Misty and Benjamin, not so much.
Misty and Benjamin, not so much.

“I love animals, grew up with them, can’t imagine life without them and have done my homework on adoption.” First, I will ask for permission to hug you. Then I will start introducing you to the animals. Gold star!

Does every picture of you include a pet?
Does every picture of you include a pet?
Is this how you dress when ou go out? I think you love cats.
Is this how you dress when ou go out? I think you love cats.
Is this postcard on your computer desktop (it is on mine)? Cat person!
Is this postcard on your computer desktop (it is on mine)? Cat person!
Do you own this t-shirt?
Do you own this t-shirt?
Definitely a dog person.
Definitely a dog person.

We will get to more questions in Element 3: Ask questions!

Element 2: Learn from your mistakes.

Meet several potential animals and find the temperament that is right for you. Take your time and find the right fit. If you meet an animal that you don’t connect with, figure out why and look for a pet with the characteristics that would facilitate a connection. Some people want lap cats, some want aloof cats, some want dogs that they can dress up, some want dogs that will go jogging with them. Are you a couch potato? A highly energetic pet won’t be the right one. There are couch potatoes waiting for you at the shelter, too! An older person might do well to consider an older pet. Senior pets are wonderful! Some animals might be shy at first; is that okay with you or do you want instant bonding? Don’t feel shy about having a conversation with the shelter staff or volunteer helping you; they generally know the animals and can make recommendations based on what you are looking for. And remember, it’s not all about looks. Personality is much more important!

Couch potatoes (sorry Bob).
Couch potatoes (sorry Bob).
I might come out eventually...
I might come out eventually…
I know we just met but I love you!
I know we just met but I love you!
Seniors helping seniors.
Seniors helping seniors.
It was probably more fun for me than the dog.
It was probably more fun for me than the dog.
Luna the Fashion Kitty; believe me, not many cats will tolerate this.
Luna the Fashion Kitty; believe me, not many cats will tolerate this.
Maya might be beautiful, but what's her temperament?
Maya might be beautiful, but what’s her temperament?

Once you find the pet that you think is the one, it’s time for adoption counseling.

Element 3: Raise questions!

When adopting a pet, there are many issues to think about and at the East Bay SPCA, a volunteer adoption counselor or a staff associate will guide you through some questions and answer any you have. For example:

  • Where will the pet sleep at night? With you? In a crate? (Please don’t say outdoors.)
Sharing the bed.
Sharing the bed.
  • What behaviors can you tolerate and what not? Have you ever dealt with problem behaviors in pet before? There are ways to correct behaviors if you are willing to put in the effort.
Remember the book and movie Marley and Me?
Remember the book and movie Marley and Me?
Are you willing to deal with behavior problems???
Are you willing to deal with behavior problems???
Unhappy cat.
Unhappy cat.
Be prepared to offer your cat approved scratching surfaces. If the furniture is too important to you, a cat might not be a good choice.
Be prepared to offer your cat approved scratching surfaces. If the furniture is too important to you, a cat might not be a good choice.
Cats do like to get into stuff.
Cats do like to get into stuff.
  • Do you have the willingness to deal with litter boxes or picking up after your dog? Potty training a dog?
Cute as can be but they do need potty training!
Cute as can be but they do need potty training!
Litter boxes don't clean themselves.
Litter boxes don’t clean themselves.
  • Have you considered the cost of toys, grooming, veterinary services? At the East Bay SPCA, you will be informed if they are aware of any pre-existing medical issues, but the cost of care will be yours.
Dog toys and grooming can get expensive.
Dog toys and grooming can get expensive.
Veterinary costs add up too.
Veterinary costs add up too.

pup with cone

  • Do you have time for keeping your pet from being bored? Dogs need walking, cats need activities.
I'm bored. Pay attention to me!
I’m bored. Pay attention to me!
Misty needs activities and grooming!
Misty needs activities and grooming!
It's recommended that you take your dog out for 2 to 3 20 minute walks a day.
It’s recommended that you take your dog out for 2 to 3 20 minute walks a day.
  • Do you have your landlord’s permission?
  • Who will look after the pet if you go on vacation or have an emergency?

The list goes on!

Element 4: Add it all up (look at the “flow” of ideas).

After going through all the pluses and minuses, are you still on board? Have you met a pet that you can do everything in Element 3 for? Do you feel like all of your concerns have been addressed in the adoption counseling? You can change your mind and there won’t be any judgment. The shelter wants what is best for you and the animal. Don’t feel obligated!

We love them, but our apartment is small and we're not home all day.
We love them, but our apartment is small and we’re not home all day.
If you don't go ahead with the adoption, be assured this cutie will find a good home!
If you don’t go ahead with the adoption, be assured this cutie will find a good home!
A firm YES; let's go ahead with the adoption please.
A firm YES; let’s go ahead with the adoption please.

Element 5: Embrace change!

If you adopted an animal companion, congratulations! Your life will change, for the better. The human-animal bond has mutual rewards. And if you have children, there will be lots of learning opportunities ahead. If you didn’t adopt, think about why not. Did you decide maybe the best pet for you isn’t a dog or a cat but some other small animal? There are plenty of private rescue groups for rabbits, birds, all kinds of creatures. Oakland Animal Services, not too far from the East Bay SPCA, has other small animals for adoption. Maybe a younger pet takes more time and energy than you have so you want to look into senior pets. Or if you realized it’s not the right time for you but you’d still like to be involved with animals, you could look into volunteering at a shelter. And start planning for the future when the time is right.

Successful adoption!
Successful adoption!
Volunteer (me) with shelter dog Emma.
Volunteer (me) with shelter dog Emma. Volunteering changed my life!
Become an advocate for senior pets in your community.
Become an advocate for senior pets in your community.

This week is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week; consider making a donation, becoming a volunteer, and/or adopting a pet in need!

nasaw shelters rock