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A Life of Vivid Beauty — My Dad, Michael Troje

There are some moments in life that are etched so deeply into our memories that recalling them brings them back in all their vivid beauty — the first time my dad saw our first born is one of those memories for me. Newborn Liam was fast asleep in his bassinet when my dad and bonus mom, Margy, arrived at our house to meet him. My dad tiptoed to our bedroom, peeked his head around the doorway, got the most amazing look of wonder on his face, and whispered “he’s just so beautiful!” Love at first sight — total, complete, and unconditional. It was the same with our daughter when she was born, and with our youngest son. My father gave himself over to our children absolutely and without hesitation. 

Now our children are 16, 13, and 10. Throughout their lives, all over the world, my father showered them with adoration, indulgences, his infectious laughter, his offbeat sense of humor,  and complete devotion. Which is why, when Eric and I had to break the news to our children that their grandpy had Stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer, they were gutted beyond words. They sobbed, talked about how unfair it was because he was supposed to be there to watch them grow, to be proud of how they lived their lives. They always wanted him to be proud of them, and he always was. They said how he was more like a second father then a grandpa, how lucky they were to have such a grandpa. 

Shortly after, we flew home to spend time with my dad because we knew, more likely than not, he would not make it until our regular summer-long visit. We had a week and a half of poker, Monopoly, Scrabble, laughter, and stories — my dad, very weak by this point, even mustered enough strength to play one last round of soccer outside with our Ry. Eric and the kids left Easter Sunday, I stayed on, afraid to leave because I knew if dad passed without my being there I would not be able to bear it. 

April 24 arrived, our home was bustling with family and friends sitting with dad, putting food out for everyone, cleaning, laughing, and sharing stories of their time with dad. By this point he was sleeping most of the time, but he did have some moments of lucidity — smiling to greet people before drifting off again. My sister and two of her boys arrived around midnight, having decided to come home from St. Louis, where they live. The boys visited a little with their grandpy before turning in for the night. 

My sister, Tiff, myself, and Margy, sat around dad’s bed chatting and laughing as we do. We talked about memories we had and vacations we took and things dad had done in his life. We’d been a family since Tiff was three and I was seven, so our memories were of a lifetime together. Dad’s breathing had been ragged all day, which was new and worrying. Around 2:45 in the morning of April 25 something about dad’s breath changed, pullng the three of us even nearer to him. As his breath changed even more, becoming increasingly labored, we told him how much we love him, stroked his arms, said it was okay for him to let go. He passed peacefully, surrounded by his three girls. I laid my head on his arm and sobbed — suddenly feeling very much like a lost little girl. The three of us believe very strongly that dad waited for us all to be together again, knowing then that we would care for each other in our grief, before he passed. Even in his death his priority was his family — which makes sense because that’s how he lived his life. 

My whole life my dad loved me unconditionally, nurturing who I was instead of trying to shape me into someone who I wasn’t (as parents often seem to do with their children). Rather than try to tame my wild nature he constantly encouraged me to fly freely, to follow my heart, to follow my own moral compass. This was how his mother was with him — rather than try to tame his wild nature she encouraged it. She nurtured his soul with unconditional love and devotion. And he became an amazing man who, without exaggeration, changed lives all over the world through his advocacy,  innovation, and devotion to social justice. 

My father, in turn, gave me the same unconditional love and support, and that is something we give to our children. When people tell us how incredible our kids are, how we must be such good parents, I tell them it’s not us, it’s just who our kids are — we just let them fly free and be who they are, the same my dad did with me and his mom did with him. What a tremendous legacy.

It’s been two weeks since dad’s passing and we are still a family in shock. Dad truly was larger than life, and what his loss means to me is something I can’t yet articulate. Maybe one day I’ll be able to but right now I just know I feel so blessed to have been so loved by such a man, so blessed that my kids were so loved by him, so blessed that he loved Eric like a son. This is a singular loss and I’m just starting to take it in. Right now I only know that our lives have an enormous hole in them. I’m trying to fill it with memories and gratitude, but really I’d just like to hug my dad one last time. 

One night, shortly before he passed away, I went into his bedroom just to see how he was, he was in pain. I stroked his hair, leaned my head on his chest, he wrapped his arms around me while I cried. I said “I love you, dad, so much” and he, through his pain and his tears, said “I love you so much, I love you more than the whole world.” So like my dad to comfort me while he was so close to death. Even when he was so sick he would hug me, tell me he loved me, and say “nighty night” before bed. Always “nighty night.” One night, after his death, I said to him in my head “night, dad” and I heard, clear as day “nighty night.” Nighty night, dad, I love you more than the world.

A lot of people have asked us for copies of the words I said for dad at his ceremony, so I’m including them below, as well as a link to his obituary, which will give those who didn’t know him an idea of the kind of man he was, and why our world is so much richer for his having been in it — even if he was taken far too soon. 

My father was a warrior — not symbolically but truly. Decades ago, he became a champion –for LGTBQ people, domestic abuse survivors, refugees, people battling mental illness, women, and, especially, children. My father had a concrete sense of right and wrong, and he was driven by a passion to act — regardless of personal consequences. This belief in justice and action was a gift given to him by his brother, Bernie, who fostered in my father a profound sense of the importance of fighting for justice, and who was a hero and mentor to my dad. In turn, my father taught me, and my sister, Tiff, to always fight for what is right, to look out for others, to know that we can make a difference. And he told me countless times if I ever got arrested for something in which I believed that he would bail me out. The strange thing is, being my father’s daughter (and therefore an absolute “take it to the mat or don’t bother to do it at all” rebel) I tried my hardest to get arrested. It’s quite possible I’m the only daughter to be disappointed in herself for not getting arrested, but I could never disappoint my dad — as long as I stayed true to myself. I remember chatting about the future with him when I was a teenager and he said “I don’t care what you do as long as you’re happy.” Years later, I became a stay at home mom — and got a fair amount of grief for my decision from some of my fellow feminists. But, my biggest supporter was my dad. He told me that feminism (which he’d been fighting for for decades) wasn’t just about women working outside the home, it was about ensuring that women’s choices belonged to them. “Your life is yours and nobody else’s.” THAT was the message I got from my dad. Be independent. Be fierce. Be a warrior. Be true to who you are. And love unconditionally. 

When dad met our first baby, Liam, it was love at first sight — and that happened with each of his grandchildren. My dad was, by far, not only one of the most indulgent grandfathers but also one of the most dedicated. No matter where we lived in the world — from Africa to Europe to Central America — he was there for long and regular visits, and always so thrilled to be with his babies. Saying goodbye after each visit was heartbreaking for him — and, Margy would joke, not that easy on her either, because the grandkid withdrawal for dad was fierce. 
But, of course, Margy was fine with that because it only demonstrated what a profoundly devoted family man he was. Margy, I want to take a moment to thank you for being the love of his life. I am so grateful to you for making my dad so happy. It means the world to me to know that he had, for so long, your tenderness, joy, humor, and deep love. 
Though he was taken from us far too soon, he lived an incredibly full life. His irreverent sense of humor, which he maintained to the very end — even saying “Mellow Yellow” was his new theme song because he was so jaundiced — his infectious laughter, his passion, his incredible intelligence, his love of books, his unstoppable spirit, and his passion for travel and adventure. All of this and more made him the man he was, and wove an intricate web of people all over the globe who adore him. Which brings me to all of you, his family and friends, whom he has always cherished and who went so far above and beyond during his illness. You were so vital to his life, and many of you gave yourselves over to joining him, in a way, on his final journey. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of him. 
And then there was his biking. Even when he was so sick, he would proudly pronounce how many miles he had on his favorite bike — 56,800 and change. The day after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, less than 2 months ago, he biked 30 miles — nothing, not even terminal cancer, could stand in between him and his bike. We used to spend a lot of time in the home kitchen, drinking coffee, talking about his biking and my running. I GOT his obsession for his bikes and trails because I have the same obsession for my shoes and trails. So, when he no longer could bike, my heart broke for him, because biking was so integral to his spirit and to his love of life. He loved to go fast and he loved to go far, and not being able to do that was painful. 
But now he’s free, and I’m positive he’s already back on that bike. The disease in life that caused him so much physical and mental agony no longer torments him. Now he can jump on his bike and instantaneously be on his favorite trails — Lake Minnetonka, Lake Riley, along the banks of the Mississippi. My dad loved adventure, and he embraced life with a fire few could match. And, at the door of death, he embraced the certainty that he was between worlds with graciousness, with empathy for those who love him, with dignity, and with humor.
The day of dad’s passing a good friend of mine messaged me and told me to tell her the minute we spotted a cardinal. “Funny you should say that,” I said, “we saw one this morning on our back wall, which is weird because we never see cardinals here.” She then told me that cardinals accompany the souls of those who have passed but who want to return to tell their loved ones that they are okay, that they are free. So fly free, dad, fast on your trails, ready for new adventures, and with the knowledge that we carry your legacy in our hearts and in our actions and that, every moment of every day, we are grateful for you. We love you, now and for always. 
Obituary for dad 

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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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!

A Long Awaited Trip to El Salvador

Ever since I was a girl I’ve wanted to go to El Salvador. Probably not for the same reasons other kids wanted to go places — or even the same reasons I wanted to go other places.

In 1980 four American Catholic women were raped and murdered in El Salvador by members of the National Guard.

The victims were 49-year-old Maura Clarke, and 40-year-old Ita Ford, Maryknoll sisters from New York; Dorothy Kazel, a 40-year-old Ursuline nun from Cleveland; and Jean Donovan, a 27-year old lay missionary who was engaged to be married, also from Cleveland.

These were women who were working with people who feared for their lives every day, people who were targeted by their own government because they were fighting for a better future for their children. As a child I was appalled that women who wanted nothing other than to help people had been raped and murdered by men who should have been protecting them. I found out that my own government was funding those men, funding the government that was targeting its people, and that knowledge sparked what became a longtime involvement in seeking social justice in Central America.

When we first started our journey in the Foreign Service the country we really wanted to serve in was Guatemala — it was a country I’d been to as a girl and one I’d completely fallen in love with, as I’ve blogged about before. But, as with all things Foreign Service, it wasn’t up to us and we ended up in Guinea, a first post that brought us both joy and profound loss but taught us a lot about who we are.

Fast forward to now, to Honduras. I loved living in Costa Rica but it didn’t feel like the Central America I remembered from my childhood. But Honduras? I’ve fallen in love with this region all over again and love that we can easily travel within it. I’ve just discovered that I neglected to blog about the trip we took to Guatemala, where we stayed in the lovely village of Flores and where we were able to introduce our children to the majesty of the Mayan world when we took them to Tikal. Their shouts of excitement when they first spotted the ruins as we walked through the jungle brought a huge smile to my face because the first time I saw those ruins I was just a girl — and I remember that awe I felt at the hugeness of the pyramids. I remember how amazing it was to me that I was walking in the footsteps of an ancient people. And I saw that same amazement on the faces of our children. Being able to share that with them was such a gift. I need to blog about that trip.

Anyway — El Salvador. A few weeks ago we rented a house on Playa El Cuco, El Salvador. The children were giggling at me as we neared the border of El Salvador because I was squealing with delight while repeating “I can’t believe I’m finally going to El Salvador!” We crossed the border with ease and, by looking around, you never would have guessed you were in a country that had relatively recently experienced a brutal civil war.

We spent the next few days in a state of relaxation — mornings swimming in the ocean, afternoons lounging in hammocks with books or playing football in the pool, evenings with local beer and beautiful sunsets. I think sometimes our children forget they don’t need the internet and video games in order to be entertained and seeing them spend hours curled up with books was so nice. And Playa Cuco is absolutely beautiful!

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View of our house from the beach

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The kids had so much fun playing in the ocean and the pool, being able to just step out the back door and have the ocean right there was amazing!

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Walking to the beach

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The children waiting on the waves

 

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Ry body surfing

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Liam and Aisleen playing in the waves

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Eric and Aisleen headed back to the house

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The pool was a fantastic place to escape the heat of the day

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As were the hammocks

Once the heat of the day was over the beach was the perfect place for football!

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Ry waiting on the football

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Liam catching the football

And the sunset from our house, through the palm trees, was gorgeous!

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Mornings on Playa El Cuco are equally gorgeous

We spent a lot of time at Playa Intipuca, the next beach over from Playa El Cuco and at La Tortuga Verde, a hotel that also has a fantastic restaurant with so many vegetarian options — our kids were in heaven. And, this …

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Surfboards for rent, $10/per hour or $30 for the day!

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A refresher course, our kids did an all day surf camp when we lived in Costa Rica

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Ry takes it into shore with his instructor cheering him on

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Ry

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Aisleen up on the board

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Liam on the board

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Because carrying a surfboard increases your cool factor by, like, a zillion

And because they had so much fun we went back in the afternoon and rented boards

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This was a nice way to spend our last night in El Salvador

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Did I mention the sunsets are amazing?

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The next morning we had one last breakfast at La Tortuga Verde and said goodbye to Playa El Cuco and Play Intipuca. But only for a little while because we’re going back as soon as possible!

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La Tortuga Verde

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Playa Intipuca

 

 

PETA Equals Death

There is a new law in Virginia, one countless people fought hard for. It solidifies that a private animal shelter is “a facility operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals.” Nothing terribly revolutionary about that, right? It’s pretty much the definition of a shelter. So why did Virginia need this law? Why did it pass the House and the Senate with overwhelming support? Why did animal welfare advocates breathe a collective sigh of relief when this happened? Because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has its headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia and, at those headquarters, they kill thousands of animal each year.

In 2014 PETA received 2,631 animals — 2,324 of them ended up dead. Let that number sink in for a minute. 2,324 animals dead at the hands of PETA in one year. PETA fought hard against SB1381, the now law that defines what an animal shelter is, because it’s a law that can put a serious kink into its killing practices. Despite PETA’s best efforts the law passed — nobody in their right mind thinks it’s acceptable for an organization to kill thousands of animals a year. Slaughterhouses do that but slaughterhouses don’t pretend to be animal rescuers. PETA does that. You can draw your own parallels.

An organization called The Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters (VAAS), long believed to be in bed with PETA, has hired five lobbyists, presumably to help push through new proposed legislation that would undermine SB1381, and PETA appears to have two more lobbyists waiting in the wings (ever wonder what your PETA donation dollars pay for? Now you know). The proposed legislation, three bills introduced by Delegate Bobby Orrock, would undermine completely SB1381 — the existence of which is threatening to PETA because their “shelter” does not exist to find permanent homes, their “shelter” exists as a front for the killing of animals.

So, we have a new battle ahead and we each have a vital role to play. Because, without each of us, PETA will continue to get away with murder. Here’s what you can do:

1. If you are a Virginia voter contact your representatives, if you are unsure about who your representatives are you can find them here. Please let them respectfully know that you oppose HB157, HB340, and HB156. These are the bills that will undermine SB1381, for a very good outline about what each one does you can go here. Your representatives listened last time, when we were fighting so hard for SB1381, and they will listen again but only if you raise your voice so, please, do send those emails.

2. Wherever you vote, you can pop on over to the FB page of Delegate Bobby Orrock, he’s the person responsible for each one of those proposals. He calls himself an animal advocate, though I’m unsure what kind of advocate believes shelters are for killing animals rather than protecting and rehoming animals. He claims he has no connection to PETA — honestly, does anyone really believe that? You can let Delegate Orrock know what you think about his introduction of legislation that undermines a vital animal welfare law, maybe ask him what his connection to VAAS and PETA is. It’s a fair question.

3.  There has been a group formed specifically to fight this new legislation. It is made up of dedicated animal welfare advocates who will be working hard to ensure SB1381 stays intact — and they need your help. PETA Equals Death is the name of the group, you can find them on Facebook here. Please “like” the page so you will be kept in the loop about the proposed legislation, the fight against it, and what you can do. They can also be found on Twitter. Social media is such an effective vehicle in battles like this, keep an eye out for the hashtags PETA Equals Death is using so you can use them as well. The more we share information, the more we Tweet the truth about PETA, the stronger our fight is.

I’ve been speaking out about PETA for just shy of a year now and what I’ve learned is that it’s a slog. It is ingrained in the minds of animal advocates that PETA can’t possibly be killing animals because who wants to believe that they’ve been lied to all these years? Who wants to believe PETA betrays in the worst possible way not only the public trust but those they have vowed to protect? It’s a tough reality to absorb. But each person — each person — who knows the truth is one more person who will raise their voice and stand up. PETA’s revenue was down by $7 million in 2015 — I think we’re making a difference. So don’t be discouraged with the slog, embrace it as the slow, but vital, march for change that it is.

Animal rescue work is a privilege and each person who considers themselves to be a rescuer — in whatever capacity — has a responsibility to make sure rescue is carried out to the highest standard. PETA falls very short of that standard. They think the only way to prevent cruelty and neglect is to kill animals, it’s a profoundly distorted form of preventative medicine. And they are arrogant. They don’t believe, really, that anyone can stand in their way of carrying out the twisted philosophy of rescue work that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of animals. They don’t believe we can stop them. They are very wrong.

I Stand With Maya — and With the Family Seeking Justice for Her

Maya, a tiny slip of a dog, and a family who loves her may just be the ones finally able to shed light into the darkness of PETA. Just over a year ago Maya was stolen off her porch and killed. Not by dog fighters or a person who enjoys harming animals, or any other of the usual suspects, but by the largest animal rights group in the world — PETA. And now Maya’s family is suing PETA, and the two women who stole and killed Maya, for upwards of $9.7 million dollars.

Even as much as I know about Maya and what happened to her I learned new things from reading the suit, which you can read here.

  • On the same day PETA stole and killed Maya, who belonged to the Zarate family, they also appear to have stolen and killed a dog who belonged to Mr. Zarate’s niece.
  • While I suspected the women who stole and killed Maya were the same women who had been working to gain the trust of the Zarate family and others at the trailer park where they lived the lawsuit confirms it: “Carey and Wood came to the Park and began to ingratiate themselves with the residents in order to build trust with the residents.” PETA has claimed that Maya’s theft and death were the result of mistaken identity, that the women thought she was a different dog. These women who spent time gaining the trust of the Zarate family, who spent time with Maya, didn’t realize that the dog they first tried to lure off the Zarate porch and then snatched off the porch, was Maya? It’s utterly ridiculous and now we know that these these women knew Maya, they knew the Zarate family, I assume they knew Cynthia, the little girl who adored Maya. And after grooming this family in order to gain their trust, much the way human predators groom their prey, they stole and killed their dog.
  • Carey and Wood “told residents that they would be trying to find good homes for the dogs they captured.” Which is exactly what PETA says in order to gain custody of the animals they then kill. They don’t say this because they honestly are going to attempt to re-home animals, they say this because they know nobody will hand over animals if they know the animals will be immediately killed. That’s the pattern of behavior. It’s what I was told to do when I worked for PETA, it’s what PETA employees are still doing. By any means necessary.
  • Mr. Zarate, who had installed a security camera on his porch that ended up capturing Maya’s theft, believes that when PETA representatives came to his house to apologize for killing his dog they had ulterior motives. “During the visit, the PETA representatives asked about the video and were visually searching for the camera. It was apparent to Wilber that the real purpose of the visit was for PETA to ascertain the location of the security camera and to learn the extent to which PETA’s illegal actions had been captured on video.” This makes perfect sense — they weren’t actually sorry for stealing and killing Maya, they were assessing how much damage control would be required.
  • “PETA believed that given the socio-economic status of the residents, PETA could take the pets and kill them without any repercusssion to PETA.” Absolutely. There is a reason they target people who don’t have a lot of resources — because those are the people less able to fight back.

As a mother this is the part of the lawsuit that pulled at me: “Cynthia experienced extensive and severe emotional distress. Among other things, she cried for weeks, became lethargic, lost sleep, refrained from eating and lost weight.” I have watched my children grieve for both animals and humans, I have watched one of my children experience the trauma of being badly bullied, I have watched my children as they say goodbye to people they know they will likely never see again. All of this hurts, all of it makes me want to wrap my children in my arms and shield them from any further pain and suffering. After reading Cynthia’s reaction to Maya being stolen and killed I felt myself relating to Mr. Zarate on a different level — not just as someone who knows he’s speaking the truth but as a parent who has watched her children suffer. And my heart just hurts for him, and for Cynthia.

This family who PETA thought would never be able to fight them is doing what few people have the courage to do — they are standing up to a Goliath of an organization that is known to sink to the lowest depths in order to stop anyone who dares to speak the truth about them, they are standing up for a beloved family member, they are standing up for the pain a child has had inflicted upon her. I hope that this lawsuit will finally convince other past employees to come forward to add their voices to the truth the Zarate family is speaking. I know there must be former employees who are also parents — think of what it would mean to you if someone hurt your child as badly as Cynthia has been hurt. Wouldn’t you do absolutely everything you could in order to fight for your child? Wouldn’t you hope others who could help in that fight would stand by you? They are battling a powerful opponent who has deep pockets and wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone who knows the truth about PETA spoke out in support of this family? I, for one, will continue to do that. I will continue to stand for Maya, for Cynthia, for a father who has had to watch his child grieve a terrible betrayal and loss, and for Black Boy. You have my full support and admiration, Mr. Zarate, and you are an example to my children of what it means to do the right thing even when it’s the difficult thing. Thank you.

 

The Twisted Logic of “1984”

Another awesome blog piece from Ray’s mom about the dangers of, and fallacies surrounding, Breed Specific Legislation. And why PETA’s “logic” about supporting BSL is so wrong.

Ray the Vicktory Dog

AdoptionRay5346

I think what I find most disturbing about PeTA’s pit bull stance is they shroud the truth in a wrapping of twisted logic.  To an animal lover who is not up on what’s going on in the real world, their policy seems loving and humane.  To those of us who have seen the group in action, and have actually worked our way through the misdirection, the ugly truth is evident.

The most insidious problem with PeTA’s position, is that it pits (pun intended) animal advocates against each other.  In the past week I have found myself arguing vehemently with people I know love and care about animals.  I was forced to argue against mandatory spay/neuter.  I had to address fallacies surrounding “No-Kill” communities.

As an aside…the reason I do NOT support mandatory spay/neuter is two-fold.  One, I always believe that a carrot is more effective than a stick, which means that free/reduced…

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People Euthanising Thousands of Animals (PETA)

This is exactly what we need — people willing to stand up and say “No. I will NOT support an organization who has twisted rescue work into the work of killing. And I will NOT stop fighting for the truth.” Bravo for a brave blog!

In my own little world

This is a massively ranty post about the hideous organisation PETA and the lies that they feed to the public.

It took me a long time to realise just how bad PETA are. Just how many lies they tell. Just how many animals they murder every single year. Just how many underhand and bullying tactics they use to try and silence the voices of those who criticise them. Well guess what PETA? I don’t give a fuck. You will never shut me up.

I have always been an animal rights activist and up until a while ago, was a PETA supporter. When I first began to hear certain things that were telling me that something was not quite right, I refused to listen to them. “Surely not” I said to myself. Ingrid Newkirk set up an organisation to protect animals and to campaign against abuse and killing. PETA was not…

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Dear PETA, Mess with My Family Again and This Mamma Bear Will Turn Demon

Bullies. They come in all forms — mean girl, jerk at work, corporation. Non-profit. I’ve written about bullies before, when our daughter was the target of one. Today I will write about another bully. This one is PETA.

Many who have spoken out about PETA’s killing of animals have been bullied by them so the fact that it’s happened to me will come as no surprise to those folks. For now I can’t go into detail about their attempt to get me to stop spreading the truth but I can say that they tried to get me to shut up in the most offensive way possible. They tried to get to me by going through my family. They attempted to put into jeopardy something that is sacred to us, the loss of which would do harm to all of us. I want to be very clear that there has been no physical threat or intimidation and we feel one hundred percent safe.

Here’s the other thing I want to be very clear about and this is my direct message to PETA. You have not scared me. You have not scared my family. I am not sitting down, I am not shutting up, I am not going away. I will continue to speak the truth. I will continue to fight your killing at every turn. I will continue to tell Black Boy’s story, to give him a legacy of compassion and non-violence. By trying to get to me through my family you have done exactly two things. You have, once again, revealed yourselves as the biggest bully on the playground. Here’s the second thing, you have made livid a mother bear. I honestly do not care what you say about me, or try to do to me, but when you try to get to me through my family and, by extension, my children, then you are treading on my sacred territory. I am now that mamma bear standing tall on my rear legs, claws extended, roaring, because you tried to put my cubs into jeopardy. The one thing, the one thing, anyone who knows me will tell you is that you never, ever want to mess with my family. Ever.

On a gorgeous Minneapolis morning, our last day home, my husband and I ran our first half-marathon. We’d done the distance many times but, as I learned, it’s different in a race. One thing I did to help me stay strong was dedicate my miles to people and animals in my life. I ran the final mile of the race for Black Boy. As we neared the thirteen mile mark this song started to play

I began to cry. I cried because I was exhausted, I cried because I had to keep going, I cried because I’d dedicated my mile to someone I should have fought for. Now, here’s the thing, it’s really hard to run while you’re crying. I was gasping for air, trying to see the path through my tears. I gathered myself, told myself to just run and I could cry later. I began to sing instead. Because this song, above all others, has been the one I’ve sung to myself when I think about the battle being waged over truth and killing.

And all those things I didn’t say, wrecking balls inside my brain, I will scream them loud tonight, can you hear my voice this time? This is my fight song. Take back my life song. Prove I’m alright song. My power’s turned on. Starting right now I’ll be strong. I’ll play my fight song. And I don’t really care if nobody else believes, cause I still got a lot of fight left in me. Like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion. Like how a single word can make a heart open. I might only have one match but I can make an explosion.

We rounded the corner to the finish line and I saw our children. My pain began to fade as I watched them jump and cheer, the absolute embodiment of joy. Our youngest, who is eight, started to run next to me. He looked up at me, all smiles, cheering and shouting, his hair carried by the wind as he ran. He stopped after a few seconds and motioned with his arms, as if to push me across the finish line. I crossed with the love of my children, with my husband by my side. And I crossed with Black Boy in my heart.

At around ten miles my legs, fatigued because my torn calf had only recently healed, began to feel like dead weight. I looked at my husband and said “I don’t think I can do this.” He smiled and said “of course you can, you never give up.” And I don’t. And I won’t.

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