Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wyanne doing different work

hmmm, while I'm blogging about her loveliness, look how unlovely she looks now - on her way to china i guess.

Wyanne at work

Once again, walking Wyanne has brought me a new friend, Cecie McCaffery. She's an accomplished artist and I'm in awe of her work. She's starting a new life with new art. I happen to be familiar with her older work as I'm a greeting card aficionado, but she prefers to look forward rather than back.
I'm including a couple of my favorites and invite, more than invite, URGE you to look at more of her work (my inclusions don't do them justice) at:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Catching up

I've been meaning to post these for some time
a collection of pin cushions given to me by my oh so talented, long time friend, Mary Ann
and the exquisite quilt she surprised me with for my birthday.
receiving a handmade quilt from someone is like receiving gold; so much effort and love go into the making of a quilt!
I'm so blessed. Two other friends have gifted me with quilts, Janet and Kathy G. and each one, along with this special new one, is such a treasure.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Martha Beck's Anti-Complain Campaign

This article was taken from Oprah's magazine.
Martha Beck wrote one of my all time favorite books,
. She's taken a far different course from those days, but I respect her wisdom!
WebMD Commentary from Oprah.com
By Martha Beck

At 63, Minnie is one of the youngest people I've ever met. She sparkles, and not just because she's dressed in a fabulous buttercup-yellow tank top bedecked with rhinestones and sequins. Everything about Minnie, from her laughter to the successful businesses she's created, seems to shine.

This radiance didn't come easily. Minnie was once a young widow, grieving the death of her husband and one of her two children. When I ask how she rose from this desolation to her success as a mother and a professional, Minnie thinks for a minute, then says, "I just got tired of hearing myself whine. I harnessed my complaining energy and used it to create a really good life."

This isn't the first time I've heard such a story. While many people spend whole lifetimes complaining, most of the high achievers I know divert the energy of frustration away from complaint and into success. I've tried both paths. I can enjoy a good whine the way connoisseurs enjoy a good wine, but eventually, like Minnie, I get sick of my own petulance. Then I embark on something you might want to try: a "venting fast." It's not for the fainthearted, but it's a powerful way to create a better life.

What's a venting fast?

On the surface, it's a simple thing. Here are the instructions:

1. For a period of time, say a week or a month, stop complaining aloud about anything, to anybody.

2. When the urge to fuss arises, vent on paper. Start with the words I'm upset about. Then describe whatever's bothering you.

3. Think of at least one thing you can do to actually change the frustrating situation. Write it down.

If you can't think of any positive action steps, simply continue to resist venting out loud. Eventually, your frustration will increase until you think, I'm so upset I just want to...! Write down what you want to do.

4. Do it. Divorce the guy, cuss in front of your fundamentalist sister, put off lunching with the passive-aggressive "friend" until the end of time.

If you think that a venting fast requires willpower, you're half right. After a few whine-free days, you'll find that it also requires courage -- possibly more than you've ever used. To understand why anyone would put themselves through a venting fast, it helps to know a little about the psychological dynamics of complaint.

All Steamed Up
Complaining is as useful for people's minds as a whistle vent is for a teakettle. We use the phrase "let off steam" because frustration affects our behavior the way heat affects liquid in a container. As the level of negative emotion rises, we feel mounting pressure. We can handle this pressure in the same three ways we can handle steam:

Option One: Explosion
Many people try to deal with the hot vapor of irritation by simply choking it back. This leads to behavioral explosions, as you can learn from anyone who's ever tried to be the perfect, unruffled mother, only to find herself locked in the bathroom punching towels and using language that would make pirates faint.

Or maybe that's just me.

So here's another example: The nursing staff at an inner-city hospital once told me that although treating drug addicts and gunshot victims was a scary proposition, the most terrifying thing they ever had to face (no offense -- I'm just repeating what I was told) was a partially anesthetized nun. Dramatic things happened, the nurses averred, when a holy sister from the neighborhood convent was "going under," drugged just beyond inhibition but not yet to oblivion. The nurses told tales of physical violence, of naked escapes from the OR, of destructive rampages through other patients' rooms -- all perpetrated by brave, godly women who in their right minds never vented about anything.

Apparently, even those of us with the awesome self-control of religious renunciants occasionally need to release psychological pressure. You wouldn't want to emerge from an appendectomy to discover that you've decked the entire surgical team with your own IV rack, would you? That's where a strategy of controlled release comes in.

The effect of emotional venting is to sustain an unsatisfactory status quo. Most people think the opposite, that complaining is part of an effort to change an unsatisfying situation. Nope. Complaining lets off pressure so that we neither explode with frustration nor feel compelled to take the often risky steps of openly opposing a difficult person or situation. Keeping emotional pressure tolerably low doesn't change problematic circumstances but rather perpetuates them.

For instance, Regina is a Mexican-American whose white racist parents-in-law treated her abominably. She complained about this to her husband every day. When I asked why she talked to her husband, she said she was starting an information chain: She would force him to force his parents to change. How long had Regina been employing this strategy? Twenty years. And the effect to date? Nada.

Mike worked for a pompous boss who gave his subordinates little direction and less support. The underlings spent their work hours muttering angry stories and following the soap opera of office conflict. Mike came home exhausted, not from working but from venting. And things at work kept getting worse, not better.

College sophomore Dinah spent hours with her friends ranting about a certain high-ranking elected official, who shall remain nameless. This, Dinah told me, was activism. I said it looked more like passivism -- neither activism nor pacifism but an excellent way of feeling intelligent and important without studying.

Option One: Explosion continued...
These venters thought their chronic complaining was "powerful civil disobedience." Actually, it was disempowering uncivil obedience. By allowing emotional pressure to dissipate without action, these people were able to sit indefinitely in predicaments that pushed them to an emotional boiling point. Now, in situations you don't want to change, this can be a good idea. I was a better mother to my toddlers after a session of recreational complaining with other moms. Having vented about our sleep deprivation, boredom, and longing for adult company, we'd return to the field of battle -- er, motherhood -- able to focus on the sweeter aspects of parenting. In Minnie's case, venting helped ease the anguish of losing loved ones. Without it, she might not have survived her grief. But even she reached the point where venting felt excessive, like an illness rather than a cure. Then it was time for Option Three: creating a steam-driven life.

"It is not that I do not get angry," said Gandhi. "I do not give vent to anger." On another occasion he wrote, "As heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world." Gandhi was describing the power of a mind that refuses to vent frustration, channeling it into productive action the way an engine harnesses steam heat.

If you want to know how much change this can cause, consider the millennia that humans spent watching vapor rise from their cook pots before a 17th-century genius thought, Hey, I think all that steam could drive a piston. Et voilá: the Industrial Revolution. A mere 200 years later, people were walking on the moon. This is the level of transformation that can occur when we stop complaining about our circumstances and begin channeling our emotional pressure into positive action. Look how Gandhi changed the world. He was one of the great peacemakers in all history! Right up until someone shot him!

Oh, yeah. That.

Make no mistake, a venting fast is risky. Without the option of complaining, you'll have only two choices for dealing with emotional buildup: explosion or positive action. The first will damage you, your relationships, your life. The second will fundamentally alter the status quo, and the status quo, by definition, resists change. If you follow the venting-fast rules above, you're almost certain to break implicit or explicit social rules that now govern your life. Prepare to find this terrifying.

When Regina stopped complaining about her in-laws, her emotional steam pressure quickly rendered her unable to tolerate their company. One day, when her father-in-law made a racist comment, Regina stood up and took a cab home. "I was terrified," she told me later. "But I had to do something." The ensuing argument between Regina's husband and his parents was the beginning of overdue but impressive change. Faced with the choice of being respectful or losing their son, the bigots began showing respect.

Option One: Explosion continued...
Mike's story was simpler. When he stopped complaining at the office, he became so sick of his boss and bored with his coworkers' venting that he sought, and found, a job he liked better. The end.

Dinah stopped joining in college vent-fests, but her political discontent continued. She'd always been a mediocre student, but the energy she'd been pouring into complaint now drove her to study political science. Diligently. Dinah is now in law school, thinking up ways to create a just society, rather than simply criticizing the people in power. When she runs for office, I'm voting for her.

If you try a venting fast and survive, you may find yourself heading in new, exciting directions. You may even decide to do what Minnie did: commit to an entire life without complaining. "I have a rule," says Minnie, smile and sequins flashing. "I'm not allowed to whine about anything I can change. And since I can always change my attitude, I don't expect to find a really hopeless situation in this lifetime."

I admire this position enormously, though I don't think I'm quite ready to emulate it. Recreational complaining, the sense of steam leaving those emotional vents, is still perversely enjoyable for me. Maybe someday I'll be like Minnie, who's more vibrant and successful in her seventh decade than most people are in their third. Maybe I'll go on a venting fast that lasts the rest of my life. Until then, my existence will fail to match its potential. But I'm not complaining.

At least that's a start.

Martha Beck is the author of The Four-Day Win (Rodale).

A worthwhile read

This is subtitled, Lessons for People from Animals and their Trainers

The lessons in this book can be applied in so many places, both with our puppies, and with our humans.
Here's a short sample: Reward the good behavior, ignore the bad behavior. Of course, we know it's not that easy, but it can work for lots of situations.
I particularly like her chapter entitled Baby Steps.
Trainers use the term successive approximations, lingo for baby steps toward learning a new behavior.
If an animal won't do a behavior it might be too big. "Likewise, expecting someone (a significant other, ourselves) to change over night is too big an approximation," i.e. new years resolutions.
One of her examples is "do yoga". It never happened; there were too many steps that had to happen first. When she broke it down into successive approximations, get yoga clothes, get yoga mate, find a class, sign up for a class, go to a class, she had much more of a chance of success.
Her rules for baby steps:
1. not use too big an approximation
2. when a behavior deteriorates, go back to kindergarten, step back to a successful place in the training process
3. only train one aspect of a behavior at a time
4. new tank syndrome, realize new settings, i.e. puppy class, is ripe with distractions, let the pup absorb the new stimuli before raising the bar too high
5. try something different, if you've tried plan A over and over, try a different way, make up a plan B

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's all good!

Reggae Beach, St. Kitts

More CCI news

Build-A-Bear Workshop has partnered with Canine Companions for Independence for a special promotion at all stores nationwide and online. Here are the details:

A new stuffed Black Labrador dog is being introduced by Build-A-Bear.
For each stuffed dog sold at Build-A-Bear from April 25 through May 31, the Build-A-Bear Workshop Bear Hugs Foundation will donate $1 to Canine Companions for Independence.
Also on April 25, NER Skilled Companion Team Shea and Mercer will make special appearances on www.buildabearville.com, the Build-A-Bear Workshop virtual world, with their own online character. During that time, she will be exploring the virtual world, talking with other online characters and handing out an exclusive Mercer emoticon. Kids can play games with her online at 3pm and 7pm eastern time.
Through the end of the year, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a new Assistance Dog Backpack accessory for the stuffed dogs will be donated to the Build-A-Bear Workshop Bear Hugs Foundation and granted to organizations that train assistance dogs.

Go Bruce

I'm taking a break from our adventure in paradise to acknowledge a fellow CCI puppy raiser.

I'd be grateful if anyone would like to contribute to his efforts!
Ride for CCI
A Letter from Your Fellow Volunteer, Bruce Ross

Quick Links...
Ride for CCI
Canine Companions for Independence
Dear Fellow CCI Volunteers,

For those who don't know me, my name is Bruce Ross. I've been volunteering for Canine Companions for Independence for almost five years now and in May I will turn in my third puppy in program, Zena, for Advanced Training.

Raising future assistance dogs has been an incredibly meaningful experience for me, and I'm proud to be associated with CCI. I'm so proud, in fact, that in a couple of weeks I'll be embarking on a 700 mile bike ride to raise awareness and funds for our organization! I'm calling it the "Ride for CCI", and I hope it will be successful enough to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities by funding the breeding and training of future CCI assistance dogs. I've never ridden this far before, so the "Ride for CCI" is bound to be an extraordinary personal challenge. I hope the saying proves true, that "with the greatest efforts come the greatest rewards"!

My trek has special meaning for Zena, as well, who will accompany me in the support van for the length of the ride. The journey will begin in Santa Rosa near our National / Northwest Regional headquarters. This is where Zena was born! She will be reunited with her mother, Genas, and her father, Hardin II, along with their volunteer breeder caretakers, John Codding and Hugh "Terry" T. Whettam, respectively, at the Northwest regional graduation ceremony right before we begin our ride on May 17th. Our 700 mile ride will cover most of the length of California, finishing at the May 31st Southwest regional graduation in Oceanside. There, my journey with Zena ends when I turn her in for Advanced Training. I know you all understand when I say the experience will be bittersweet!

I need your support to help make the "Ride for CCI" a worthwhile challenge. Click here to be directed to the "Ride for CCI" website, and don't hesitate to tell others about the event! Like you, I know there is no greater gift to a person with a disability than a CCI assistance dog. Like you, I know they are nothing short of miracles! WE can make miracles happen, together.

Bruce Ross