mom2nomads

ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

A Whirlwind Trip to Roatan Island

We have, for what seems like forever, been encased in dust and smog in Honduras — especially in Tegucigalpa because we are all valleys and mountains. I haven’t been bothered much by it, other than the fact that it’s dreary. At least not until we were on our way to the airport to begin a short, but very appreciated, trip to the Caribbean island of Roatan, when we were informed the airport was closed — all out going flights were grounded and all incoming flights were being diverted. I get why, the airport in Tegus is a notoriously difficult one to land in. The pilot has to make this crazy hairpin turn, turning the plane nearly sideways  in order to avoid slamming into a mountain, before righting the plane and stopping it very quickly on the short runway. Takeoff is slightly less dodgy.

So, yea, nobody wants to mess with that in smog so thick that visibility is only 1 kilometer. Long story short, rather than spending my noon hour standing in crystal clear water with a margarita in my hand I was sitting with my feet propped up on my suitcase in the Tegus airport, playing Plants v Zombies on my iPad. Thankfully, the smog cleared enough that we could fly out and, seven hours after we were supposed to take off, we were finally Roatan bound, with a stop in La Ceiba to change planes. To a 17-seater. Not that I was nervous or anything. I can’t remember the last time I was on a plane where you could actually see what the pilots were doing …

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Eric thought it was fun to be able to watch the pilots, I found it mildly disconcerting and kept having to stop myself from shouting “Both hand on the wheel! BOTH HANDS!” But it was a short flight, maybe 15 minutes, and soon we were landing on Roatan …

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Our hotel shuttle delivered us to the Mayan Princess, where we checked into a room with this view, which made everything sunshine and rainbows …

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This was a work trip for Eric, I was just tagging along for the sand and the ocean (and because I really like the group of people who were holding the convention he was attending). For the record, I was on our dime — just so everyone is clear. There was an event to attend shortly after we arrived, but we had time to take a stroll along the beach before we needed to start scraping the airport funk off and get all prettied up. We did get to enjoy our first Caribbean sunset in a long time ..

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A highlight of the evening was a surprise performance by Garifuna musicians and dancers. Garifuna are an Afro-Caribbean people with an interesting history, you can click here to find out more about their culture. Whenever we see Garifuna musicians and dancers perform we are immediately swept back to Guinea, our first post in the FS, which was full of the music of djembe drums and mesmerizing dancing.

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After a lovely dinner with folks who are thoroughly enjoyable, Eric and I decided to finally get that margarita, which we drank in an open-air thatched beach cabana. Side note: anyone considering bidding Honduras, most of the places you’ll go on business are not quite like this but, every once in a blue moon, you get really, really lucky! And even the not-so-posh places are oh-so-interesting. So go for it!

The next day was all work for Eric so we woke up early for a beach stroll ..

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Exposed coral at the end of West Bay

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We’re pretty positive that when we bring our kids to Roatan they are going to ask to do this crazy climb/slide inflatable thingy

I spent the rest of the morning with a book, doing pretty much this …

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and after lunch we headed back to the airport. Where our flight was delayed, of course. Still, totally worth it just to stand in crystal clear water and feel the sand between my toes …

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We Run in the Footsteps of Giants

One thing running has helped me internalize is that my thoughts are powerful. Thoughts, and the direction they take, can be the difference between having an amazing run and having a run that is torment. I’ve also learned that even when I’m having a run full of self-doubt and general suckage, I need to keep moving forward, just one foot in front of the other, in order to come out the other end. Stopping during a run, even one that feels awful, is never an option because then the negativity wins, and I get stuck there — and I will never let negativity win. I remind myself often that mentally or physically tough runs can be a gift, because those are the runs that steel you, that teach you what you are made of.

A few days ago I wrote a blog piece entitled “PETA’s Silence About Cyber-Stalking Speaks Volumes.” I don’t want to go into detail about the cyber-bullying and stalking that continues on Twitter, simply because I’m not giving a troll, or trolls, any more air than I am forced to. And because, in order to balance out the negativity, I think it’s time for a blog that focuses on being fearless.

Today a friend of mine tagged me in a video of a fearless woman who just ran the International Pars Marathon in Iran, which women are banned from running. But one woman, a woman names Mahsa Torabi, made the incredibly brave decision to run the marathon. She is a woman paving the way for other women, and girls, who will follow in her footsteps.

Running has taught me that I am stronger than I think, that I can do more than I believed myself capable of doing, that I can push through pain and come out the other side feeling unstoppable. And I am constantly inspired by my fellow runners — both female and male. I love my tribe beyond the telling of it. I love their positivity, I love how supportive they are, I love how freely they share their stories, I love how they are largely non-judgmental of other runners. I love that it’s a given that we each run our own race, at our own pace, but that we are all in this crazy-ass tribe together.

And I couldn’t ask for better role models for my children.  Meb Keflezighi is an absolute favorite in our house, and whenever I need a pick me up I watch this video of his victory at the Boston Marathon the year after the bombing:

Because how can you help but smile from ear to ear after watching that? Now that I’ve mentioned our love for Papa Meb I’ll go back to the women.

Deena Kastor is another favorite in our house:

 

and any mention of her name is usually followed by my oldest saying “she’s such a beast!”

Lauren Fleshman, whose sense of humor and outspoken advocacy for body positive thinking I admire every bit as much as the fact that she is a kick-ass runner:

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The three women who will be representing the US in the next Olympics — Amy Cragg, Des Linden, and Shalane Flanagan. It was a thrill to watch them run in the trials and we will be on the edge of our seats when we watch them compete in the Olympics:

Kara Goucher, whose running is as inspiring as her absolute unwillingness to accept anything of herself that is less than what she can give. And she has the most infectious smile!

And, of course, Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run Boston:

Kathrine is a trailblazer for women in running, and was my first running hero. She has dedicated her life to bringing girls and women into running and now heads up 261 Fearless, an ever-growing organization that helps women join together in running and being fearless.

I am a very ordinary runner. But running empowers me, makes me feel strong, and I know I run in the footsteps of giants. Women who have come before me and fought for my right to do something I love, for my daughter’s right to run and compete. And women who are still fighting for themselves and others being held back by misogyny and bigotry. And the runners around me — both physically and virtually — inspire me every day. Sometimes when I need strength on a run I think of Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher. Sometimes I think of a woman I saw during a race we ran last time we were home. Eric and I had already gotten our bananas and Gatorade, we’d hung around for a bit soaking in the atmosphere and cheering runners as they crossed the finish line. Then we’d decided to head home, walking along the race route. I was clapping for the runners who were passing when I saw a woman running, she had the same look on her face that I’m sure I get when a run is really tough. I stopped walking and started clapping harder for her, I shouted encouragement — she looked up from the street and at me, got a huge smile on her face, nodded as if to say “you’re right, I’ve got this” and ran faster towards the finish line. She inspires me — her unwillingness to give up inspires me.

Sometimes in running you just have to remember it’s only a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, everything else is secondary. Which is pretty much how life works in general. One foot in front of the other, cherish the joy, know you can make it through the pain, soak in the beauty around you, get lost in the sound of your own heartbeat, smile when you feel like you can’t, don’t let negative thoughts ruin the gifts in your life, embrace your tribe wholeheartedly, and, always, always, always …

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PETA’s Silence About Cyber-Stalking Speaks Volumes

When unhinged people are tweeting out the most vile insults, lies, and accusations in your name, and you likely know it, what responsibility do you have to put a stop to that? This is a question PETA should be asking itself because this is exactly what has been happening on Twitter.

At this point I have lost track of how many new Twitter accounts have popped up in the past week targeting me and other Twitter users who are trying to spread the truth about PETA. New ones open, they get reported, Twitter mutes them so they don’t pop up in our feeds, and many are getting suspended. Mike Flynn, who has also been a target of this harassment, summed it up well today:

The tweets that have been aimed at those of us who are speaking out about how PETA has killed, and continues to kill, thousands of companion animals are pretty vile — fat shaming, LGBQT shaming, use of the word “retarded,” tweets of a sexual nature (including tweets of a sexual nature tagging PETA2, which is the PETA Twitter account for children), creepy “I will follow you wherever you go” tweets. And, my personal favorite, venomous accusations that I abuse my children and am raising them to hate.

So here’s the deal. You can argue that PETA can’t be held responsible for the tweets of their supporters. But this is targeted, nearly constant, harassment that PETA has been tagged in so you know they are seeing it. Any organization with any standards at all would have shut this down days ago by saying they don’t want this nastiness and cyber-bullying committed in their name. If anyone came to my “defense” with assaults like this I would tell them to knock it off, I would distance myself from them immediately, I would support the person being cyber-bullied — as would most people and organizations with any sense of ethics. But PETA, with their silence, is at least passively supporting this cyber-assault to continue — that speaks volumes about the depths to which they are willing to stoop to continue their killing.

So let’s take a look at some of what this person is tweeting out in PETA’s name.

We have fat shaming:

We have anti-LGBTQ slurs:

 

We have the use of the “R” word:

 

We have creepy stalker talking about the stalking:

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And the cyber-stalker ridiculing one of the people he/she is stalking:

These are only a tiny fraction of the tweets that are floating about, and there are others against people who likely had no idea what they were stepping into when they confronted PETA about their killing that I will not put here because the ugliness is unbelievable. Frankly, I don’t expect PETA to come to my defense, but the tweets I won’t put here are personal attacks, and have targeted someone who is young and should never be on the receiving end of this kind of nastiness.

I will post some of the tweets targeting myself and another Twitter user.

Tweets of a sexual nature, including tweets that were tweeted at PETA’s account that is specifically for children:

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Tweets stating that I am abandoning and abusing my children:

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New Twitter account that are clearly targeting me and Cathy:

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This tweet, by someone who has been tweeting with the stalker/s, seems to sum up their philosophy nicely:

There is no doubt for anyone who knows right from wrong that these tweets are reprehensible, reprehensible enough that I wonder about the sanity of the person who is writing them. But the larger picture is this: why is PETA silent about them? Even if they’ve only seen a fraction of them, that fraction is enough. I’ve only shown a fraction here — there are many, many more. What I’ve highlighted here displays so much hatred, so much venom, so much bigotry, so much misogyny, so many lies. But that’s okay, because it’s “no holds barred,” right? Is this what PETA believes? Why are they tacitly supporting this cyber-stalking and bullying? If you are on the side of right you don’t need to stoop to name calling, humiliation, and lies. So what does the fact that PETA is passively supporting exactly that say about them? There is as much truth in silence as there is in raising your voice. PETA is speaking volumes.

PS. I apologize for the screenshots with a lot of blank space, I can’t link to tweets from accounts that have been suspended and I just didn’t have time to edit the photos. But if anyone wants to know what the 20 best Supernatural episodes are, you can click here! Ya gotta have a sense of humor to get through it, folks.

 

 

 

Cave Spiders, Headache Herbs, and Elephant Ears — Oh My!

I’ve been meaning to blog about the last trip we took to what has become our go to weekend destination, Lago Yojoa, except life kept getting in the way. But if I don’t send out family-focused blogs now and again grandparents get twitchy and nobody wants that!

Yajoa has become our go-to weekend destination — it’s only a few hours away and the roads to the lake are good. Also, why wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as possible here …

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Normally we stay at the absolutely awesome D & D Lodge but my dad was visiting so we wanted to rent a house and we snagged this one at the coffee finca next to the D & D . The house is on stilts and it was fun to feel like we were sleeping in the trees!

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There are beautiful trails in the finca, which we always enjoy exploring!

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This time we found a gorgeous blue lagoon!

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D & D offers fun excursions and we decided to take a day long hike to a cave up in the mountains. Quite some time ago, when the Peace Corps still existed in Honduras, a volunteer, together with people who live in communities in the mountains, organized a tourism co-op. Once the volunteer left, the co-op continued on and D & D works with the local guides when they have visitors who want to find a bit of adventure.

Ours began with a ride in the back of a pickup. The kids thought that was pretty much the coolest thing ever, I was only slightly terrified because what could go wrong while riding in the back of a pickup truck up steep, muddy, mountain roads, right?

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There were some spots in the road that were extra rough so we got out an hoofed it behind the truck.

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Eventually we got to the point in the road where the truck just couldn’t go so the hike began. 12977161_10154092814892766_4350789952320006940_o

Our first stop was a spot where folks gather the coffee beans and ginger they pick in the mountains. So. Much. Coffee.

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And then we started our climb up into the jungle!

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Along the way our amazing guide, Dennis, taught us about the local plants and what their different uses were. It looks like Liam isn’t too sure about the taste of this one …

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But he was totally down with the one that cures headaches!

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Dennis also picked some very yummy citrus fruit for our snack!

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And, fortified, the hike continued!

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Eventually we reached the cave, as you can see everyone was quite chuffed! Okay, just Liam, I think the others were just happy to have arrived.

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I’m going to stop here and say I love caves — when they have interior lighting and you don’t have to noticeably descend while you’re in them. As you can see, there were no lights in the cave and the reason everyone is looking down is because they were watching Dennis climb down the rickety, wooden ladder that took you deeper into the cave.

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Eric and I were more than a little nervous about our kids going down the ladder and deeper into the cave. Our youngest was gung-ho from the beginning, he tends to be rather fearless. The older two were a tad uncertain but, in the end, decided they wanted to do it. Eric and I talked it over — firmly on the side of “no” at first and then realized, why the hell are we in Honduras if we won’t let the kids go on adventures like this? So, down the ladder everyone climbed! Lago Yojoa Jan2015 100Lago Yojoa Jan2015 107Lago Yojoa Jan2015 103

We explored the main section a bit and decided it was wise to not go any deeper since we had only flashlights, but it was pretty cool to wander about, at least until Aisleen came within a hair’s breath of putting her hand on this spider

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She had been chatting away until Dennis got her attention and told her not to run her hand along the wall, which she’d been doing as she talked. Then he shined his light at the spot right in front of where her hand had been, I was certain her screams were going to cause a cave in — she and I have a spider thing and this guy was the size of Eric’s hand (he’s nearly 6’5 so you have an idea of how big the spider was).

We decided it was time to head back and have lunch so we said goodbye to the cave

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and headed down the mountain, stopping for some freshly picked bananas along the way!

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Of course, it started to rain because — jungle. But that’s what the huge leaves, called Elephant Ears among other things, are for!

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The hike ended at Dennis’ house where his lovely family hosted us for lunch. We were tired, a little muddy …

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but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Despite the look on Ry’s face here …

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After lunch we climbed into the truck and headed back to D & D!

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The next day, before heading home, we took a morning hike through the national park down the road from D & D, where there are Lenca ruins. This is a spot we always hike when we come to Yojoa because it’s so gorgeous — also pretty cool to think about walking in the footsteps of the Lenca.

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This was a wonderful adventure for us, complete with doing something that was a bit frightening but, as we say in running, the only way to get comfortable in your discomfort zone is to spend time there! Also, we’ve decided to take advantage of the fact that Honduras is a hardship post and we, therefore, have the option to extend our assignment for a year. So we’re here for another nearly two and a half years — loads of time to find more adventures!

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More Questions Surrounding PETA’s 2015 Stats

I’m in no mood to fight the PETA battles today but something vitally important was just published — and it’s all based on the statistics of PETA and other area animal agencies.

PETA, Where Are the Missing Animals” is the title of the blog piece just published by Nathan Winograd. Mr. Winograd broke down some numbers — self-reported by PETA to the state of Virginia — and, unlike PETA, numbers don’t lie.

In 2015, PETA claims to have transferred 446 animals to other “Virginia Releasing Agencies,” and it lists on it’s VDACS paperwork where each animal was supposed to have gone. However, Mr. Winograd also has the numbers for the other VA agencies and this is where the massive red flag comes in because the numbers don’t add up. The entire blog is vital information for anyone who cares about animals so I encourage everyone reading this to read it. For now, let’s look at some of the most glaring red flags.

First,  the records for the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter. According to PETA’s records, they transferred 7 dogs and 27 cats to PRAS. According to PRAS they received exactly this number of animals from PETA: 0. In fact, they didn’t receive any animals at all from any other shelters. So where are those 34 animals PETA claims to have transferred to PRAS? It’s possible, I suppose that PRAS would list any animals it receives from PETA as being an “owner surrender” but, considering there is a nice big column for “Animals Received from Another Virginia Releasing Agency,” and PETA is a licensed animal shelter, it doesn’t seem likely.

Here’s another Mr. Winograd points out, Norfolk Animal Care Center:

Likewise, while PETA claims it sent 70 cats, 22 dogs, and two “other companion animals” to the Norfolk Animal Care Center, Norfolk reports taking in only 61 cats, 31 dogs, and two “other companion animals” from Chesapeake Animal Control and Virginia Beach Animal Control. It does not report taking in any from PETA.

So now we’re up to 128 missing animals. Where are those 128 animals? 128 cats, dogs, and “other” animals. We know, again by PETA’s own numbers, that they killed 1,502 animals in 2015. And we know that we have 128 missing cats, dogs, and “other”s. 128 animals don’t just go missing from a shelter, something happened to them. And if we know these animals are missing because there are no records of them at the agencies they were supposed to have been transferred to how do we know all the other animals PETA claims it transferred to area shelters were really transferred? How do we know they’re not just missing too? Again, Mr. Winograd has some possible explanations for the number discrepancies so please read his blog.

Let’s say PETA actually did make a clerical error to the tune of 128 animals, hypothetically. What does that say about their capabilities? It’s pretty dismal. And how does that reflect upon their other record keeping abilities?

The more sinister explanation, of course, is that PETA falsified their records to keep their already outrageous kill rates just a little less outrageous. I assume it’s illegal to falsify state records? Obviously, we can’t prove this is what happened to the 128 animals who are unaccounted for, right now this is just a question mark. But, man, that’s one hell of a question mark.

 

 

 

 

A Legacy of Love

Many years ago, on an evening in Washington, D.C., a young, blonde, Army Captain from Virginia spotted a beautiful, dark haired woman. They were both on their way to a dance — she in the back of a covered Army truck, sitting with her friends, he about to get into an accompanying car when he found himself captivated by this woman. He smiled at her and asked if she would like to ride with him rather in the back of the truck. She, being the slightly stubborn and not easily beguiled woman she was, politely refused, saying she was going to the dance with her friends and so she would be sitting with them on the way there. “Don’t be silly,” one of her friends whispered, “he’s cute!” She looked back at the man, with his crooked grin and twinkling eyes, thought for a moment, sighed, and got up to take his outstretched hand. She gracefully descended from the back of the truck — and landed squarely on his foot. But the smile never left his face because he was holding the hand of the person who would become the love of his life — as was she.

More than seventy years passed, the beautiful woman sat quietly with her hospice nurse, talking about things to come. Her nurse reached for her hand and said “Don’t be scared, when the time comes Bill will be waiting for you.” The woman smiled softly and said “Oh, no. When it’s time, he will come for me.” Because, after a lifetime of love and laughter and devotion, she knew her Southern gentleman would never let her make that final journey alone. He would, once again, be there with his hand outstretched.

The man and woman are my grandparents; Peg and Liam Harper; the first story is how their legacy of love began, the second story explains why it lives on.

Very early this past Sunday my Nana passed away, nearly a year and a half after my Da. They had always been the oak tree in my life — rooted, strong, their branches swaying constantly to protect those they loved. I went home in September to visit her, after she entered hospice, and she told me my Da had been coming to see her. Once she awoke from a nap and he was sitting next to her, smiling that gentle smile of his. Once she saw him as suddenly as she felt him, when he reached out to touch her arm. I guess some people could doubt if he was really there, or if this was just wishful thinking on her part, maybe her body preparing to move on. But anyone who knew them will tell you — if there were ever two souls who were meant to always find each other, theirs were.

Nana and Da gave the world many gifts. As part of the greatest generation, Da served in WWII — not only storming the beaches of Normandy but finding himself trapped behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge — and in Korea. Nana kept their life, one that would eventually include two daughters, thriving while he was gone, she built it to be strong and steadfast. And the gift they gave me was a lifetime of love.

Since Nana’s passing I’ve been wandering in a fog of grief, feeling a little like someone being held together by fraying tape. I know how profoundly lucky I am to have had her with me for so long, how blessed we all are that she lived to be 98. But grief is grief, and 98 doesn’t feel long enough. And I realize that’s selfish but I guess grief is like that.

I’ve also been struggling in my mind how best to write about Nana. I’ve written about Nana and Da before, tried to thank them for the love they’ve always given me. And I have a million memories I could share — annual vacations we took to Mackinac Island, quiet strolls through Woodlake Nature Center, dance recitals and performances they never missed, the gingerbread houses we made every Christmas, the love for animals they instilled in me, how they drove to Montana for my college graduation and again to meet Eric for the first time. How I stood with my Da in Washington D.C., watching my, then, two children go round and round on the carousel when he turned to me and said “I’m worried they won’t remember me” and I said “Da, that’s just not possible.” Because the love and devotion they showed towards their daughters, towards me, towards their other cherished granddaughter, Devon, their son-in law, Les, their grandson-in-law, Eric, only grew with each addition to our family and our children adore their great-grandparents. The memories we have are vast and precious.

But right now I’m thinking about the last time we spoke to Nana, a week before she passed. She saw the faces of her great-grandchildren and made the sign of the cross, I thought she was thanking God, my mom thought she was blessing the children. Either way, we’d never seen her do that before. And she got to see Eric, who she and Da couldn’t have loved more if he’d been their flesh and blood, and who returned that love tenfold. And I got to see her, one last time.

In the summer of 2014 we traveled to France to meet my grandparents and visit the beaches where Da had fought so many years ago.  I wrote about this amazing journey, and what it meant to all of us. Since Nana’s passing, I’ve been thinking about one thing in particular that happened. After arriving in Normandy from Paris, famished, we decided to get lunch so we found a little deli. Eric went over to start ordering food and I began to help Nana and Da out of the car. I first helped Nana, then turned for Da and, before I could catch her, Nana stumbled on the cobblestone, falling onto her side. I began screaming for Eric and, not long after, we found ourselves in the waiting room of a hospital. Poor Da was worried sick about Nana, and exhausted from the trip. The hospital would only let one of us back and, since Eric speaks French, we decided it should be him. Eventually, hours after our arrival, he convinced the doctors to let me bring Da back to see Nana.

I wheeled him down the hospital corridor until we found Nana, resting in a bed, and I parked Da as close to her as I could get him. He lovingly took her hand and softly spoke “hello, dear” and she responded “hello, my darling” as her hand closed around his. And my eyes filled with tears because the looks on their faces may as well have been those of 24-year olds freshly in love. Suddenly, things felt right again, because things never were quite right when they were apart.

And so I find comfort in the knowledge that they are, once again, together. And I can see in my mind that dashing young Captain reach his hand out for that beautiful young woman — only this time both of them have the devotion of a lifetime spent in love in their eyes — when he softly speaks “hello, dear” and she responds “hello, my darling.”

Rescue Runners: Help Us Help Animals

Sanity break! It’s time for some damn sunshine and puppies. Yes, actual puppies. Sloths, even! Here’s the deal.

Last summer Eric and I decided to run our first half-marathon when we were home in Minneapolis. *Side note: yes, Eric and I are actually married, he does not have a wife named Margaret with whom he lives in Minnesota, we do live in Honduras with our children, he does work for the US State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, and I am a stay-at-home-mom. If you have no idea why I’m bringing this up, congratulations, you live in the land of the sane. If you do know why I’m bringing this up, take off the tinfoil hat and let the cleansing sunshine in.* Anyhoo … half-marathon. We had a fantastic time! Though that’s not exactly what I was uttering during the heart of it. But, like childbirth, the memory of the pain fades. Soon you find yourself turning to your husband and saying “what would you think about running Grandma’s Marathon next June?” And, since your husband is every bit the lunatic you are he replies “let’s do it!” So we are!

Here’s where the puppies and dogs come in (also cats, kittens, and the occasional sloth). We decided we would really like to run our marathon for a purpose bigger than our own sense of accomplishment, which is pretty common with marathon runners (have I mentioned how I love my tribe? Yep? Okie dokie). There are so many remarkable rescue groups and shelters, it was really tough to decide who we wanted to run for. But we settled on two groups — Pitty Love Rescue and Animal Shelter Costa Rica. Unfortunately, the way Crowdrise (the fundraising site we chose) works you can only choose one organization and it has to be US based. When I mentioned this to Pitty Love Rescue what I got in response was an offer to make a donation to Animal Shelter Costa Rica once the fundraiser has finished. Which just goes to show you what a special rescue group Pitty Love is. Let me tell you a little about these two groups.

First, meet the pups currently available for adoption from Pitty Love Rescue:

Aren’t they gorgeous? As you’ll notice Pitty Love Rescue does not exclusively take in pittbull/terrier mixes — while that is their focus what they do is respond to need. Pitty Love centers around finding responsible, forever homes for the dogs who come to them but they also go one step further by acting as a lifelong resource for the folks who adopt from them. Whether it’s the hard to adopt dog who has behavioral/health issues, or the dog with no issues at all, Pitty Love Rescue is there for whatever the dog needs in order to find a forever home. They also have a secondary focus on education, advocacy, and helping families in the communities where they work stay together by providing them with judgment-free assistance if they hit a rough patch — be it with medical care or dog food. This is a truly remarkable organization. They are located in upstate New York and, in order to provide the very best forever homes possible (through their thorough vetting process), and be a lifelong resource to their adopters, they keep adoptions in-state. So if you’re in New York state and are looking for a forever friend, please check out those gorgeous hunks and hunkettes up there and head on over to the Pitty Love Rescue website.

Allow me to introduce you to our dog, Firu:

 

We adopted Firu from Animal Shelter Costa Rica, a shelter located in the hills surrounding San Jose. Firu was a street dog, though presumably “owned” by someone at one time. I use the word “owned” intentionally because his tail had been chopped off — you do that to property, not a companion. When Firu was rescued from the streets and taken to the shelter by a guardian angel his body was so broken they were unsure if he would survive. Firu was not only severely underweight, he’d been hit by a car and left for dead by the side of the road; his rear left femur had been snapped in half and his hip had been dislocated. After surgery, and weeks of rehabilitation, Firu began to heal and, through a bit of golden luck, he became a part of our family.

Animal Shelter Costa Rica (locally known as The Refugio) helps animals like Firu every day, animals for whom there are no other options, animals who have been tossed aside like garbage, sometimes left for dead. They not only run a large shelter (maintained by a dedicated group of staff and volunteers), they operate a full-service veterinary clinic for the community, a mobile spay/neuter program (which also provides other medical care within the communities they visit), a retirement sanctuary for older dogs, and take in wildlife who need medical care and rehabilitation. Because we adopted Firu from The Refugio, and volunteered there, we got to know Lilian, the remarkable and dedicated woman who runs the shelter, and she is a powerhouse, a dedicated and compassionate woman whose energy seems to know no bounds. I pretty much want to be Lilian when I grow up.

So these are the two amazing rescue groups we’re raising money for with our marathon. We are asking people to join us on our marathon journey, culminating at Grandma’s Marathon on June 18, by donating to our fundraiser for Pitty Love Rescue and Animal Shelter Costa Rica and by spreading the word so that others will do the same. Our goal is modest but, with the mentality of kookie endurance runners who think it’s loads of fun to push our limits and run for hours at a time, we’d like to bust past it and raise as much as possible.

We are honored to be running for these two groups, during our training their dedication and advocacy is providing us with inspiration and drive — and when we run our first marathon we will run it with strength and determination, knowing we, and everyone who joined us, are helping these two rescue groups with their remarkable work. Please visit our fundraising page to donate what you can for Pitty love Rescue and Animal Shelter Costa Rica!

With Many Thanks, Heather and Eric

 

Beating Your Head Against the Wall of PETA’s True Believers

Yesterday one of the most thoughtful and intelligent pieces I’ve ever read on PETA was published by Barkpost and written by Arin Greenwood. The piece, entitled “PETA’s Shelter Euthanized 72% of Its Animals Last Year. That’s a Problem and It Needs to Change” is one in which Ms. Greenwood does an amazing job of threading together a lot of seemingly little pieces — all of which point to the sick and twisted philosophy PETA holds about companion animals and how this philosophy leads to a kill first policy in its “shelter.”

What I’ve come to understand, after all this time, is that PETA’s approach to companion animals, to pets, doesn’t actually make sense — unless you hold the perverse belief, which I do not, that many animals should die to be saved.

These are the words of someone who believes in intellectual honesty and wants to be absolutely the best advocate (I think of her as a warrior but we’ll use advocate here) she can be for animals. These are not the words of someone who has an agenda, or who is trying to sell something. Anyone who follows her advocacy even peripherally knows this. Please, read her piece. It is so important.

For the most part — like vastly most part — the response to Ms. Greenwood’s piece in the comments on Barkpost and FB are extremely supportive. Many people know the truth about PETA and many people are, rightly, furious at their deceptions and killings. And then there are PETA’s defenders, the ones who make you want to beat your head against the wall because how could anyone who claims to love and respect animals excuse their killing? It’s maddening! I think these people fall into a few different categories.

First you have those suffering from cognitive dissonance. These folks are good people but they simply cannot reconcile the truly positive things the organization does with the truly evil things the organization does. The disconnect is too great for them so they just continue to believe in the goodness of PETA.

Then there are people who believe this really is just about overpopulation, and not about PETA’s better off dead philosophy. They defend PETA to the end without even thinking about it, they justify the killing of thousands of animals, and the fact that PETA kills thousands without ever attempting to rehome them. There’s no critical thought process, it’s just accepting PETA’s lies.

Folks in these two groups, I have found, can be open to learning the truth but they have to first be open to the fact that they might be wrong about PETA, that all these years they really have supported an organization that believes companion animals are better off dead, and that is a profoundly bitter pill to swallow. So I encourage them to research the hell out of it, the truth is there, you just have to think critically and independently.

Then there are the True Believers. These are the people who know damn well what the truth is and they defend PETA to the end with lies, allegations, snark, nastiness, and fabrications that hold kernels of truth. These people are a waste of breath and I generally have a “do not engage” policy — though I’ll admit I broke that today. These people are toxic and generally not worth the time it takes to type a response.

So this can be frustrating — this slog towards exposing the truth about PETA. I know I’m not the only one who feels it. I used to get so frustrated, I wanted to just throw my hands up and say “Nothing will ever change, this is pointless and stressful and hopeless.” Then someone, a woman who, like Arin, is a warrior for animals, reminded me that this battle is a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, she spoke the language of the runner — my language — and made me realize something. Here it is …

Things may change or they may not. Together we may stop PETA’s killing, it’s also possible that we won’t. But here’s the thing — do we have a choice other than to fight? Is it really in us to throw up our hands and sit on the sidelines? To look back when all is said and done, when nothing has changed and PETA is still killing, and think “I didn’t do all I could to stop this slaughter.” Over the past year I have met some of the most incredible people, people who spend countless hours advocating, fighting, observing, digging — these people are heroes to me. These people are focused and passionate. And they are unstoppable.

You have a choice. You can be someone who can’t wrap your head around the hypocrisy so you just stay in the same place and support PETA regardless. You can be an apologist for unhindered killing, someone who will justify PETA’s actions for no reason other than “they’re PETA.” But if you are truly someone who cares about the welfare of animals don’t you want to be certain you’re not supporting an organization that believes animals are better off dead? Don’t you want to find out for yourself rather than just take PETA at their word? Because, at the end of the day, it’s not really the “why” of how we act that matters so much as the consequences of our actions. And whether you’re a True Believer or someone who just can’t bear to think PETA is killing for the sake of killing, either way you’re supporting people who kill animals in a twisted attempt to prevent abuse.

And if you decide to research, and you discover the truth and want to help stop PETA, we are here, we are focused, we are unstoppable. And we will welcome you in this fight.

Why Hide Comments on Shelter Bill Benefiting PETA?

So, this is a curious case of “what the heck …?” Delegate Bobby Orrock is the Virginia delegate who recently introduced a bill that will benefit one organization — PETA. The bill, HB340, undermines a vital piece of animal welfare legislation that was passed last year and it will allow PETA to continue killing thousands of animals a year. Delegate Orrock states on his page that he is not working with PETA and has accepted no money from the Virginia Alliance of Animal Shelters, a group that works very closely with PETA. Which is fine, and very possibly true (though I seriously doubt it). What is curious is his Facebook page.

Delegate Orrock was taking a lot of heat for HB340 on FB, then his page was deactivated. Now it’s back up. He’s still taking heat but I’m wondering if he’s managing it a different way.

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These are screen shots of a post Delegate Orrock has on his page regarding HB340. I commented, as did the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies. The curious thing is only I and my friends can see my comment, and only people who have “liked” the VFHS FB page can see their comment. I’ve been told by someone who moderates a FB page that one can make certain comments available only to the commenter and friends, and only to people who “like” a page that has commented. He told me he uses this function when he deems a comment to be inappropriate. Fair enough, when someone is being rude or abusive. But respectful, fair comments being hidden from the public? Is that what moderators of Orrock’s page are doing? They don’t like a comment so they hide it from anyone who isn’t friends with the person who wrote it, or people who haven’t “liked” a page? This way the commenter is none the wiser and thinks everyone can see their comment. It’s a lot more subtle than pressing the delete button. Sneaky, even.

Our democracy relies on open, honest dialogue to function. You would think, ideally, an elected representative would welcome this dialogue. It’s the way we ensure we are truly a democracy, that we are truly hearing all voices, all opinions. Only people who try hard to mold a narrative, people who want to hide truth, to distract from issues, to sway with half-truths, hinder this vital dialogue. I can’t prove this is what those working on Delegate Orrock’s page have done, and there are comments from people who do not support HB340. But it’s rather curious that comments from certain people, and certain groups, seem not to be visible to the public. And if this is what is happening, that’s a sad way for an elected representative to run a public forum. Only people who are scared of the truth hide from it.

 

 

 

 

Picking Apart PETA’s “Humane Euthanasia” Myth

It’s no secret that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals kills thousands of animals each year — in 2014 PETA killed  2,324 of the 2,631 cats and dogs it took in. That statistic is from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as submitted to them by PETA itself, so those numbers are not up for debate. What is up for debate, according to PETA, is the reason their kill rate is so high.

PETA states the reason for such high kill numbers is because they offer free humane euthanasia to the community, and that they are the only shelter in the area offering this.

First, let’s set a few things aside. Let’s set aside the fact that they are not the only shelter in the area offering free humane euthanasia. Lets also set aside the fact that it is considered highly unethical for a shelter to euthanize an animal without first performing its own thorough evaluation process — a shelter following what is considered to be best shelter practices will euthanize because it is warranted, and not because a guardian says it must be done. Let’s also set aside Maya, who PETA stole and killed; the animals who PETA employees killed and whose bodies were dumped in North Carolina; and my own experiences while working for PETA.

So, with those pesky facts put in the naughty corner, let’s hypothetically say that PETA really is a “shelter of last resort,” as they assert. Let’s pretend that Mary Tully, self-proclaimed PETA expert and someone to whom PETA has referred people when they have questions about its shelter, is being honest when she says that PETA’s shelter exists primarily, possibly even “solely,” for the purposes of humane euthanasia.

If you still believe these lies that PETA and its apologists are peddling ask yourself this question: why, if its shelter exists primarily (solely?) for the purposes of offering free humane euthanasia, does PETA even bother to go through the rigmarole of being a licensed private animal shelter? Why not, instead, integrate their free humane euthanasia service into their mobile spay/neuter clinic? Seems like a simple enough solution and it sure would save them a lot of headache and expense — just in lobbyist fees alone. After all, they don’t need to be a shelter in order to provide free humane euthanasia. And they could still adopt out the handful of animals they find homes for each year, private citizens do it all the time — it doesn’t require a license.

So, if it’s true that they exist primarily for the purposes of humane euthanasia, and if it’s a viable option for them to no longer be a shelter and still provide this service, why do they continue to spend so much money, and undergo such public scrutiny and backlash, in order to be a licensed private animal shelter? It doesn’t make any sense. And that’s because the shelter that exists for the primary purposes of free humane euthanasia is all part of the facade.

The vast majority of animals surrendered to PETA are not given to them by guardians for the purpose of humane euthanasia but for the purpose of rehoming. The vast majority of animals PETA takes in aren’t terminally ill, or hopelessly aggressive, or aged and suffering — they are healthy and adoptable. This was exactly the case with a mother cat and her two kittens a veterinarian handed over to PETA employees who told him they would try to find them homes — rather than do that they killed them in the PETA van. During my employment with PETA I was instructed to say whatever needed to be said in order to get guardians to surrender their animals to me. And being able to tell people that they run a private licensed animal shelter makes it so much easier to convince guardians that new homes will be found. After all, a shelter run by the world’s leading animal rights group should be the safest place in the world for an animal needing a new life. At least that’s what trusting guardians are led to believe. In actuality, it’s a death trap.

*A note to Virginians about what you can do to stop PETA’s killing. PETA is attempting to undermine important animal welfare legislation that would help prevent them from killing the vast majority of animals they take in. For more information about this please go here. It is so important for us to keep contacting our legislators to tell them we want PETA’s killing to stop. For more information about how you can help please see this action alert from No Kill Hampton Roads. UPDATE: Please see this new action alert from No Kill Hampton Roads. We have more time to contact legislators, we need to seize that!

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