All mouth and no trousers

 

don't talk

Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Practice what you preach. Well done is better than well said. Walk the walk, talk the talk. It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote in 1903 in the play Man and Superman, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” You can talk a good game but be full of empty promises.

GBS at 90
George Bernard Shaw at 90. He looks wise to me!

From Shakespeare, who said everything better than anyone else, in Richard III:

bill

Fear not, my lord, we will not stand to prate;
Talkers are no good doers: be assured
We come to use our hands and not our tongues.

BC as RIII
Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Richard III.

In other words, yep, shut up, we are here to get shit done.

Apparently, in the UK they say someone who is full of those empty promises is “all mouth and no trousers.” Which makes me think of the Wallace and Grommit movie The Wrong Trousers.

wrong trousers

 

 

Last month I attended my last required residential conference for my doctoral program at Saybrook University. No, that doesn’t mean I am anywhere near completion! One of the sessions I attended was about identifying our values and then living and leading by them. After we each winnowed a 2 page list of terms down to our personal top 3, we had to write the 3 on the backs of the name badges we wore throughout the conference.

Values

Since I could never make my badge hang right anyway, for the rest of the conference, what people saw if they looked was not my name but the words I had written. I kept waiting for someone to ask me about it, but no one did.

Maybe everyone thought I had the adorable hippie name Kindness Compassion Love. It’s easier to spell and pronounce than my actual name.

But I was quickly tested on living by my values. Of walking the walk. Of proving I wasn’t all mouth and no trousers. It wasn’t so easy. In that same values session, we broke out into small groups to discuss examples of leaders who we think of as living by their values. Normally in these sessions, our political alignments tend to be fairly aligned. I mean, come one, it’s an alternative university with twice yearly meetings in Monterey, California. Not a huge bastion of conservative Republicanism; in other words, it’s not Trump country. Just saying. But we are all allowed our own views and the safe space to express them, yes? And there are students at Saybrook from all over not just the country, but the world.

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The first student in our group, a new student in her first semester, prefaced her choice by saying that she realized she would be the only one in the room to choose who she was about to name. Then she said that to her, Trump (she said President Trump, which I refuse to do) is second only to God in leadership and values, and that she admires his family values and people skills. No joke. I sat in stunned silence for a moment. She was clearly serious, and I have to admit it took courage for her to take this stance in this group of people. She knew she was a minority of one. My mantra of “kindness compassion love” looped through my thoughts. I smiled, I babbled. I was friendly. Later, I made an effort to befriend this student. I could tell she felt lonely and somewhat ostracized in the group. Others, also shocked but wanting to walk their walk as well, talked to her, engaged her, made their best efforts to include in her group activities. But even though she seemed to relax a bit, she still kept herself somewhat separate from the class.

ostracized

It was an uncomfortable feeling to find myself so clearly tested on my values. I came away hoping I had learned a lesson in tolerance. And then it happened again at work.

Not a Trump incident, but in dealing with a difficult person in a public setting as a representative of the organization for which I work.

I work at an animal shelter. Emotions can run high in both directions. Yes, pople are often overjoyed at meeting their new best friend and getting to take them home. But people also cry over lost and deceased pets. They get upset when the animal they want to adopt has been adopted by someone else. They get frustrated when we don’t have the answers they want to hear. And we get frustrated when we are trying our best and the situation is still going downhill despite our best efforts. (Check out this list of tips from Psychology Today.)

There is a woman who lost her cat. She comes to the shelter looking to see if we have her cat. That’s reasonable. I would do the same. She is sad and angry about her missing cat. I get it. She is frustrated. Desperate even. She is not easy to talk to. Her anger and emotions get in the way. She perceives she is being treated badly, that people are being rude to her. I spent about half an hour with her, doing my best to practice kindness, compassion, love. To exercise my empathy muscles. Reminding myself that she is a very unhappy person and to be treated gently. It wasn’t easy, but I did my best. We did not have her beloved kitty. I hope she finds him. I hope she comes to realize some inner peace.

lost cat

As for myself, I will always be a work in progress. I have to exercise those empathy muscles so they don’t atrophy. To remind myself not to turn a blind eye to people who are homeless, to not turn my head the other way when I see suffering, to not bury my head in the sand when I don’t want to know what horrible things are happening in our world. Apathy is not one of my values, and I must do my best not to let it lull me to inaction or avoidance.

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In the words of essayist/philosopher/poet/filmmaker Suzy Kassem, “Apathy is the door to ignorance. Empathy is the door to wisdom.”

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Suzy Kassem

 

I want to be wise, not ignorant. So I am going to put on my trousers and get out there walking.

my projects

 

Peace and hugs.

Herding Cats and Other Species Who Don’t Want to be Herded

I am in beautiful Monterey at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa for the semi-annual residential conference of Saybrook University.

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I’m sure the area is gorgeous but it’s been pouring down rain and we’ve been in conference sessions all day everday so I haven’t left the hotel grounds!

 

This is the start of my 5th semester in my PhD program (how did that happen?) and struggling with focusing my research toward a dissertation. The more I learn, the more interests I find and the more I want to do. So in one sense, my brain is one of the fractious array of cats to be herded referred to in the title.

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My brain.

 

If you’ve ever been around cats at all, you know they don’t really follow any rules of group dynamics or recognize much in the way of authority but their own.

 

Much like the amazingly intelligent, mostly outspoken, and dynamic group of people who want to make the world a better place meeting here at the Saybrook conference. Being here reminds me of the wonderful short story by John Sayles, The Anarchists’ Convention.

sayles
Writer, director, and actor John Sayles

sayles-book

I became aware of this story from listening to the Public Radio International (PRI) show, Selected Shorts.

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The story was read by comedian Jerry Stiller. If you ask me, he is the perfect voice for the story.

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Jerry Stiller
isaiah-sheffer-and-jerry
The late Isaiah Sheffer, host of the show, working with Jerry Stiller.

 

I won’t elaborate too much, but suffice to say that there isn’t much structure or order at an anarchists’ convention, and not a lot is achieved. But it makes a great story, and I love a great story. Maybe I’ll write my version when this conference is done. One thing we do all seem to agree on is that systems are broken and change is needed. The big question is how do we make that change?

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Meanwhile, back to the cat ranch!

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Peace and hugs. Meow!

 

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.

paulo-freire
Paulo Freire
boaventura
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!

The Do It Yourself Museum ©, maybe someday brought to you by the Hallmark Channel ™

I wear the crown of Queen of the Unfinished Project.

queen
Good thing my sister sent me the tiara. If I had to make it, it’d be half-finished.

I enthusiastically start things, to either lose interest or time or both, with the promise that someday I will get back to each and every project. If I start something new and I am not immediately good at it, I give up (for example, my very brief flirtation with the pottery wheel; that thing is hard!). That romantic scene from Ghost? Total fiction.

ghost
Remember folks, this is a Hollywood movie and these are actors.

I finally got one not horrible mug-like thing, applied some glaze to it, and then never went back to pick up the fired piece. And my hands and shoulders hurt like hell for days.

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Not my finest work.

For years I have wanted to do something with eucalyptus “buttons”, which are easy to gather here in California where so many eucalyptus trees were planted at one time. I finally found an old frame for a dollar at the flea market, bought some glue sticks, and happily glued away for a day. Never picked it back up.

eucalyptus-frame
I actually think it looks cool like this.

My mother was a talented seamstress, but I didn’t inherit her patience. Over the years, I’ve gone through spells of “I’m going to start making clothes” to then get frustrated when I realize it’s best if you take the time to make sure the clothes will fit you when you are done.

fabric-stash
The current fabric and pattern stash.
satin-dress
I had a brilliant idea to repurpose a brown satin tablecloth into an evening dress. It hangs unfinished in my closet, about 4 sizes too small now. I have nowhere to wear a brown satin evening dress anyway.
mending-pile
The mending pile, gathering dust.

I tried quilting for a while. I bought bags of fabric scraps off of eBay, I downloaded quilting patterns, I made about a dozen wobbly quilt squares, and now they are in a tub in a closet somewhere.

quilt
I had good intentions.

There was knitting. I took classes, bought yarn everywhere I went, did finish a couple of sweaters I am too embarrassed to wear, and gave up about 3 years ago.

knitting
The sweater I started for Bob. He picked the yarn and the pattern. I’m probably about 20% done after 4 years. Maybe for his retirement present…

 

yarn-stash
The reduced yarn stash; I cleaned it out a while ago but couldn’t part with the yarns I bought on trips to Germany, Halifax, and Salt Spring Island.

Drawing and painting? Yes, I dabble in those. Have all my life. When I was younger I would finish what I started. What happened? I’m currently into coloring books, but mostly buying them, not coloring in them. I also started a project of drawing portraits of animals at the shelter, but didn’t get very far with that.

coloring-books
Doesn’t it look like fun?
art-journal
Bought on a summer vacation. Again, I had good intentions.

 

When I first met Bob way back in 2004, I was taking a watercolor painting class at Napa College. I enjoyed it a lot, and finished my first painting and was mostly happy with it.

balloon
I finished!

I started my next painting, one of a bird on a branch. It started out okay, commenced going downhill, and went into a tub in a closet. Then Bob decided to write a book. A challenge was issued. If he started writing a first draft, then I would finish the painting. He wrote.

bob-books
Bob has now written the first drafts of not just one, but TWO novels.

I didn’t paint. For a couple of years. I was oh so subtly reminded of the deal a time of two. I would get out the watercolor paints and the unfinished painting, stare at it for about an hour, and put it away again. I began to hate that innocent sparrow. After a long time, I finally resolved to do my best. Bob was on a trip to China, and I figured I’d surprise him. I painted, but not happily. I felt coerced. I hated the poor bird. I said “Enough!” and framed it as is, pretending I’d finished it. Everytime I see it on the den wall, I am unhappy with it. But it reminds me that when you are unhappy or angry when doing something, it shows. Chill out, relax, try to have fun.

meh
Meh. Stupid bird.

Bob has been thoroughly enjoying his writing classes and the group of people he’s been working with, so of course, I decided to give writing a try! My brilliant project–a memoir of the summer of 1972, when my mother married my evil stepfather, split up the family, and moved half of us to California from Georgia on a cross-country drive from hell. It was going to be poignant, funny, and an actual finished manuscript. I bought a road atlas to map out the stops I remembered from the trip, I hung a map with notes on my wall, I signed up for weekly classes.

memoir-map
We took the southern route, through Texas, in the summer, in an old station wagon without air conditioning and a driver who smoked and drank the whole way. Fun times. (The purple line through the northern route is a later trip in the 1990s, in the winter snow. Yes, backwards planning both times.)
writers-pile
My stack of notes and index cards. I could restart that memoir someday…

What I turned out to be good at was making up titles. My favorite–“A Good Title Only Gets You So Far”, which would then be a blank book when opened.

titles-and-ideas
I guess I am more of a concept person.

So what happened? I enrolled in a PhD program and gave up my career in memoir and fiction.

saybrook
I am determined to finish this project!

But I still wake up, usually at 3:30 a.m., with great ideas that I think I should really start putting on paper.

So here we finally get to the tantalizing reference to the Hallmark Channel in the above title.

logo

I am a romantic and a sentimentalist. I have a real weakness for the rose-colored glasses world of the Hallmark Channel. The movies make me happy. I indulge when Bob is at work or his writing classes. I eat chocolate and wish I lived in the Hallmark world of small, charming towns, quirky friends and neighbors, and the cafe that everyone gathers in for coffee and cookies. I still believe that this town exists somewhere.

My latest 3:30 a.m. title and concept:  The Do It Yourself Museum. Please do not steal my idea. It would make a perfect beach read and then Hallmark Channel movie.

By way of explanation: I’ve until recently worked in a lot of museums. I love small town history museums, with old typed labels and dusty cases and volunteers waiting to greet you.

house-museum
A small town history museum somewhere I’ve been, perhaps in British Columbia.

I love to curate mini-collections that no one but me, Bob, and the cleaning lady ever see.

I want to have one of these museums in my Hallmark town. The main character, a down-to-earth middle aged woman (no, not in her 20s, not tall, not thin; this is my vision) drives into Hallmark Town, falls in love with the town, and lucks into the job of running the town museum. She buys an adorable cottage with hanging flower baskets on the big front porch (rocking chairs required) and butts heads with the handsome mayor, who wants to turn the old museum into a commercially-profitable something or other to attract business to the town. As they bicker, they fall in love, and she saves the museum and the town. I’ve got the Hallmark formula down!

If you know anyone at the Hallmark Channel, have them contact me. I’ll either be out on the golf course (see Life Lessons Learned Playing Golf) or at banjo lessons, depending on which I decide to enthusiastically take up next.

In my mind, I’ll be a cool cross between Steve Martin and Taylor Swift.

If lucky, I’d probably be more like these ladies (assuming I ever manage to play a note).

Or I could just pose with the banjo, and pretend I know how to play it.

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846-03164971 © ClassicStock / Masterfile Model Release: Yes Property Release: No 1960s YOUNG BLOND WOMAN PLAYING BANJO WEARING PLAID SHIRT

As soon as I finish that PhD, I’m signing up for lessons! I’m sure I can find a banjo at the flea market.

 

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.

Back_to_School_Movie_Posterme and name tag.jpg

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

 

coast 2
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.

Books
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.

schedule 2
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.

vegan breakfast
The spinach and potato scramble. The vegan bacon looks really strange but I decided to try it.
coffee 1
One of the numerous coffee stations.
morning announcements
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.

day 1 forum 1day 1 forum 2day 1 forum 3day 1 forum 4

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.

world cafe 1
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.

bay trail 1
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.

tshirt

And now to study!

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I Survived the First Semester! Or, I’ve Been Really Busy

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When I applied to a Ph.D. program on an impulse last summer, I knew my life would be busy, but I didn’t realize just how busy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I thought, sure, I can go to school full time while working full time. It hasn’t been the easiest thing I ever decided to do, and I have many more semesters to go. But having now submitted my last paper for the first semester (YAY), I can look back and reflect on just how crazy the last few months have been.

before
Before–the cockeyed optimist, ready to study!
Insane Asylum Entrance
This way madness lies…
after 1
Got my last paper in. Semester one done. Can I brush my hair now?

One of my first moves was to get a big dry-erase calendar to organize my life. I hung it, planned out the semester, and then pretty much ignored it until today, when I am wiping it clean for next semester.

calendar 2
I’ll pay more attention next semester.

As would be expected in any doctoral program, books are involved. Lots of books. Some I really enjoyed. Some I struggled with. And I faced the reality that I have to pick and choose what to read; I can’t read it all. Or I’m going to have to take a speed-reading class.

MGLH
Read this book!
On Complexity
Foster cat Mouse and I struggled with this one.

My dictionary stays open to the “h” pages–I can’t remember the definitions of heuristic and hermeneutics to save my life.

I did have to change some things in my daily routine. My obsession with making the bed every morning is a thing of the past, I hate to say (sorry, Mom). As much as I like to do laundry, the laundry room is now the least visited room in the house.

unmade bed
I blame it on the cats.
laundry
I justify infrequent laundry by saying it’s because of the drought in California.
mending
My mending and sewing pile gathers dust on top of the sewing machine.
crafts
I have become the queen of unfinished craft projects.

We might not ever eat homemade meals if not for the Purple Carrot. Similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh!, it’s a service that ships the ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week. Purple Carrot happens to be vegan, and has the caché of having Mark Bittman on the team.

Purple Carrot logo

purple carrot 2
Quick, easy, tasty and healthy vegan recipes. A life saver!

Of course, we do end up eating on tv trays in front of television most of the time. But that’s not new.

tv trays

 

eating at desk
Eating at my desk is also not unheard of these days.
Clif bar
Yes, a Clif Bar with coffee is a balanced breakfast, really.

Have I mentioned coffee? There’s a lot of coffee in my life. Funny thing. it’s mostly decaf, but still gotta have it!

I have managed to have some fun down time. Maybe that’s why I scramble to get my papers in on time, but my idea of fun down time is going out on marches and protests, and I think of those as a part of my humane education program. As my friend and fellow future Ph.D. Suzy Fisher says, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.

Never Be Silent

Elephant March
Marching for Elephants with one of my favorite activists, Sara Muñiz.
Gene Baur
Farm Sanctuary Founder Gene Baur speaks at UC Berkeley.
Walk for Farm Animals
Walk for Farm Animals in San Francisco with my buddies Cláudia Santos and Heather Meyer.
Preetirang
I also spent a beautiful day at Preetirang Sanctuary thanks to Cláudia.
Brave the Cage
I Braved the Cage with Suzy Fisher. Animal Place was at UC Berkeley to demonstrate what the lives of hens in battery cages are like.
FFF
Fur Free Friday. The awesome Kitty Jones is behind me, holding the Animals Are Not Ours to Wear sign.

A trip to Chicago was one of the highlights of autumn for me. I got to live my Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute of Chicago and attend a wonderful concert by the National Brass Ensemble, thanks to the generosity of world’s best boyfriend and amazing brass player Robert Ward.

There’s always room for food in my life, maybe too much so sometimes, and cooking classes are a great way to spend the spare time I don’t have.

JL Fields
Fun holiday cooking class at the PETA Foundation offices with JL Fields.
Thanksgiving cook
Thanksgiving chef in pajamas and apron, with bed hair.

I bake for the monthly bake sales held to benefit animal sanctuaries by the Berkeley Organization for the Advocacy of Animals at UC Berkeley.

I continued to volunteer for East Bay SPCA. It’s because of my experience there with the animals that I am on this path, so I can’t give that up! And I’ve added fostering onto the list of things I do. Our guest bathroom has been turned into a foster cat habitat.

Mouse 2
Foster kitty Mouse and her babies. She did most of the work. All now adopted into loving homes!
kittens studying
The kittens were not particularly appreciative of the finer points of research methodology.
Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle preferred television to studying.
Kianna
Kianna, not loving the cone, after surgery to remove her paralyzed tail (probably hit by a car).

During all of this, work was chaotic too! The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive moved into a new building. Moving is never easy unless you have truckloads of money to pay someone else to do it while you go on vacation.

I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose.

And just when I got settled into a new office and a new neighborhood, I found a wonderful opportunity to work at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Let the commuting begin! Only it didn’t begin so well. My car should be done at the MINI service center soon.

Shrem build
The Manetti Shrem Museum, under construction, planned to open in Fall 2016.

Ask me how I’m doing:

swing
I’d like to say life is like this, but…
thumbs up
A fellow Saybrook student posted this on Facebook; all of us in the program understand!

One day it will all be worth it: I will be one of the new Doctors of Philosophy getting to wear the coveted sash.

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Saybrook graduates, August 2015. I want that sash!

I couldn’t be doing any of this without the love and support of aforementioned Robert Ward. Thank you!

vegan kiss

And for any possible naysayers out there (thankfully that would not be any of my friends or family), I will leave you with the wise words of Harold. Please excuse his language.

Harold

 

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.
Paris-Hilton-007
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.

kat-and-mouse

“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

Returning to School in My 50s, or, Perfecting the Art of Procrastination

Preface: I should be writing an assignment on peer reviewed journals and open access publishing, but this is more fun. I fell asleep doing my school reading on the couch last night, and I hoped I’d wake up full of academic insight but instead I woke up thinking, I’ll do a blog post on going back to school!

For those of you who know me personally, I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak. My television hero for many years was Mr. Monk, played in the best persnickety way by Tony Shaloub.

monk

Towels had to hung a certain way, the bed made just so every morning, laundry folded while it was still warm, never a dish left in the kitchen sink. News flash: between working full time, going to school full time, volunteering at the East Bay SPCA, and having a bathroom full of foster kittens, I don’t have time to be Mr. Monk anymore!

good morning

My favorite appliance used to be the television set in the den; now it’s the coffee machine in the kitchen.

television coffee

I still watch television, but I am choosier about what I watch. Chopped and Ted Allen, I love you, but what else can you put in a mystery box that I haven’t seen already? And Rick Castle, I think I’m done with you and Kate Beckett. When you disappeared for 3 months on the way to your wedding–that was jumping the proverbial shark for me.

Chopped Castle

As Heidi Klum says, one day you’re in, one day you’re out. Heidi, you and Tim Gunn are in. I can’t give up Project Runway. And Gordon Ramsay, you might be as mean as they come, but I am addicted to you. Plus you added Christina Tosi to the MasterChef host crew, and a woman who kicks ass in the pastry kitchen is right up my alley.

Project-Runway-Bridal

The home cooks will need to create an elevated dish using peanut butter and jelly.

I got so involved in getting my study area organized Saturday night that I completely FORGOT that I had a ticket to the Hall and Oates concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. Daryl and John, I have not outgrown you, I just have a very busy life right now. I’ll be there next time!

Hall and Oates The_Greek_Theatre_Berkeley_Sign Greek

I used to take the time to put in my contacts and make sure I looked nice before I left home in the morning. Now, as long as I am wearing clothes and have coffee, who cares?

looking good today

If there were books left piled in the kitchen (rarely), they were about food and cooking. Now there is always a pile of reading, nothing to do with food or cooking either one! And the stack of books by the bed is going to get dusty before I get to them.

cookbooks texts papers bedside

Unheard of just a month ago, there are two loads of laundry that have been waiting days for folding. And my poor refrigerator is going to starve. For a fledgling vegan, I don’t have many fruits or vegetables on hand! But the pets have food, more important.

laundry refrigerator

So, why am I doing this whole school thing at this point in my life? Because it’s the most excited I’ve felt about anything in a long time. I finally found something, Humane Education through Saybrook University, that I am passionate about and maybe it will turn into a way that I can make a little bit of difference in the world. I feel inspired and fulfilled, feelings I don’t really get at work these days but feelings that I think we all deserve to have. And now on to that assignment on open access publishing…

Six Days in Seattle

After much agonizing over saving for a rainy day versus following my heart, I decided to go for it and head to Seattle and start a doctoral program. I am intimidated by the sound of it myself; I am starting on a PhD in Organizational Systems, emphasis Humane Education. I am not sure where my research will take me at this point, but I know I want to look at animal sheltering, animal welfare, animal agriculture and farm sanctuary among other possible topics. The program, through Saybrook University, requires all new students to attend a residential orientation conference for two days, followed by a residential program attended by all of the students, new and continuing. I am in Seattle for a total of 6 days at the lovely Cedarbrook Lodge. Today is Day 4, and we have a little free time (a little).

Of course, before I could leave Oakland, we had to say goodbye to foster kitten Abracadabra. She had gained enough weight to go back to the shelter for spaying and vaccinations to go out to the adoption center and find her new family. Good luck little Abby! It was hard to say goodbye.

Abby

I am an anxious traveler, and don’t travel alone that often, so this felt like I was going on a big adventure. I checked in at the Alaska Airlines counter in the International Terminal of San Francisco International Airport and had to go through the misery that is security screening with a very many international travelers even though my flight was domestic; it took quite a long time. But the International Terminal is quite nice otherwise. This mural is before you hit security. You might not love California quite as much afterward.

ILY

There is quite a lot of art in the airport, from wall murals to changing exhibitions. Some of my favorite murals were Joyce Hsu’s Namoo House:

Hsu 2 Hsu label

Enrique Chagoya’s Love Letters:

Chagoya Chagoya label

And Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s Waiting:

Sultan Mandel Sultan Mandel labl=el

After a coffee (why does soy milk cost 75 cents more than regular at a coffee place?), I headed to my gate. Right across the aisle was a flight for Paris. Too bad the conference isn’t there! Seattle is a nice place, so I went to my correct line and didn’t try to sneak on the Paris flight.

Paris Seattle sign

How civilized; there are charging stations at every seat on the Alaska Airlines flight. All planes should have these.

seat outlet

On arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and, dare I say, pretty, the airport is. Even the bathroom is pleasing to the eye! And you can rate the cleanliness; it was “smiley face” clean.

bathroom art bathroom rating

Everything was so well signed and accessible that I had my bag at baggage claim and was on the Cedarbrook shuttle in what seemed a matter of minutes. The lodge is remarkably close to the airport but it is anything but your traditional airport hotel. You feel like you are miles from everything!

Cedarbrook door Cedarbrook grounds 1

I decided to pay for the luxury and ease of dinner the the lodge’s Copperleaf Restaurant. I am not used to eating in restaurants alone, so I took a book (Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things), but I was too busy taking pictures and eating delicious food to get much reading done.

Cedarbrook dining Museum

I was intrigued by the table decorations; a frog riding a snail was the best. They sell them in the lodge’s gift shop. Might have to get one!

giddyup snail

The conference started bright and early the next morning. Signed in, got my agenda and name tag, and tried not to get any more anxious than I already was.

agenda student Day 1

It’s been a jam-packed few days but I have learned a lot, made a whole new group of friends, and been inspired to affirm that I made the right decision.  And 6 days at the lodge is not a bad thing! There is even a piano in the business center.

Cedarbrook room 1 Cedarbrook piano Cedarbrook grounds 2

Last night was the graduation ceremony for the 2015 graduates. It was very inspiring and I covet the velvet sash that I too will wear if I play my cards right (well, if I work hard).

graduates graduation graduation flowers

I am exhausted, overwhelmed, apprehensive, inspired, excited…but this is an amazing and supportive group of faculty and students and we are all on each others’ sides. I will be glad to head home on Tuesday evening, but I will also be sad to leave this amazing learning community to start doing the distance education work. That’s the plus side of social media–we can all keep in touch and keep our community going even thought we are spread around the country (and globe). Still smiling!

student Day 2

Summer on a plate/in a glass

It has been unusually hot for the Bay Area of California the last few days. Maybe it was earthquake weather? I don’t really know what that means, but it’s been hot, muggy, and hazy.  And voilà, this morning we had a 4.0 earthquake centered in the Piedmont area of Oakland. I was awake, up and feeding the foster kitten, Abracadabra. I was in the middle of my open kitchen so I couldn’t really get under a doorway or a desk or table, so I held on and hoped for the best! No damage at our house. The pets weren’t impressed.

map

For your entertainment, a little shot of foster kitten Abracadabra.

IMG_6477

Despite the heat this weekend, I decided to make a trip into San Francisco. I got on BART at 10:51 a.m.  and since there was a Giants baseball game in the early afternoon, the cars were already awash in orange and black hats and t-shirts; and it was unbearable in the cars, like being in a sauna with a whole bunch of other people, not all of whom smell so good. Not necessarily a reflection on Giants fans! I am one!

giants

I headed toward the San Francisco Street Food Festival at Pier 70, but it was so hot, and Pier 70 is not really that nice (all hot black asphalt, no shade, and the roasting pigs on spits were way more than this vegan could stand).

SFFF

Instead, I ended up in nearby Esprit Park, with trees and shades (!), and home to the Urban Open Air Street Market, much more my speed.

download

Esprit-Park IMG_6499 IMG_6500

Not necessarily a lot of vegan eats (but no animals on spits, thank goodness), but I had a wonderful cold and refreshing watermelon agua fresca that kept me going for the trip back to the East Bay.

IMG_6501

You might be able to see from the shot of the Ferry Building how hazy the air is. The fires north of here are affecting our air quality. It’s really frightening with the fire danger so high, and so many people have been evacuated in the fire zones. And the loss of wildlife and habitat is unthinkable.

IMG_6503

Back in Oakland, our air conditioner was deployed, one of the few days every summer we feel compelled to use it. Neither of us felt like cooking and it was too hot for anything heavy, so we opted for salad bar dinner (or as my family calls it, big weird salad). Summer on a plate!

IMG_6498

Eating on folding trays in front of the television in the air conditioning–childhood memories for sure. However, as a child I wouldn’t have been watching Rectify, one of the best shows on right now but not 1960s mother-approved fare, for sure. I think we would have been watching The Doris Day Show.

Rectify_TV_Series-257780681-large

What better way to wind up a hot summer night than with an iced coffee? Decaf of course.

IMG_6504

The foster kitten returns to the East Bay SPCA tomorrow to prep for adoptions now that she’s put on some weight. I’ll miss her! But hopefully we will get another one when traveling dies down. I am off to Seattle in a couple of days; expect some blogging as I start on my doctoral program in humane education with Saybrook University at our term opening from Cedarbrook Lodge!

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