Ponder This

Nonviolent Solutions are Not What you Think

Posted on


I celebrated the beginning of the worldwide Season for Nonviolence with the loveliest like-minded people in Edmonton today. We all met at city hall and had a short ceremony to commemorate it. People read prayers/statements for peace from many world religions and we sang songs together. We even stood on the steps in the shape of a peace symbol. It was all very nice and, well, peaceful.

Nothing anyone said surprised me. It was so lovely, make no mistake, but I did feel that it was a little platitudinal. That’s a word I just made up today. It means, it was full of platitudes. Of course, we have to be the change we want to see in the world. Peace begins with me, definitely. I really don’t want to be disagreeable in this post. Public displays of intention are so important. And perhaps they aren’t the place to get into the how. But I can’t resist — so I’ll do that here (platitude-free).

We fall into a trap if we think that peace is simple. Choosing the non-violent solution, every time, is complicated. It’s tricky. It requires us to be aware of what makes us mad and then, before we can take any angry action, to write a new ending and flawlessly act it out. This is not easy, not even for those of us who are working on being aware of what makes us tick. It’s tricky coming up with a peaceful solution. It’s complicated and messy, although no more messy than violent solutions. Choosing nonviolence still leads to casualties — your ego, your pride, your wallet, perhaps. It is not simple, and in a world where a simpler life is almost worshiped, complexity, and therefore nonviolence, is undesirable. Getting mad is simpler! Being aware and maintaining ears that listen and a desire to understand others is a difficult and multi-faceted enigma. Life is complicated, and so is nonviolence.

There will always be differences between us. There will always be reasons — even good ones — to fight against someone different than ourselves. We simply have to find a way to rise above the differences and accept each other. We need to love and accept ourselves to do this, of course, but doing that alone is not enough. We have to take action, or non-action depending on the situation, with the ultimate goal of peace. Sometimes, we have to focus on de-escalating the situation. We have to face angry people and not add to their anger. We must consistently look for ways to build each other up instead of tear each other down.

Let me give you an example of a messy, non-obvious peaceful solution. One spring, my cousin contacted us and said that she and her husband had booked a bulldozer to come and knock down all the trees on the 19 acres adjacent to our land. She hoped it would not bother our animals, and that was that. The bulldozer was coming, sometime in the next five days. We were devastated. We loved those trees! I grew up exploring that bush and loved it dearly. It was valuable habitat for deer, porcupines and skunks, not to mention birds and squirrels and countless other critters. It was a valuable wind break, shielding us from the harshest north winds. My husband I were outraged, overwhelmed and felt completely helpless to stop it. For about an hour.

Somehow, I was able to stop villainizing my cousin and start thinking straight again. Why were they doing this? They valued farm land more than bush land. They wanted to turn the bush into arable land, probably because they had such large farm payments. They were feeling the pressure of making their big mortgage payments. So, we offered them the radical, messy, nonviolent bulldozer-less solution: we offered to rent those acres of bush, at the rate of farm land, each and every year, to help them make their payments and just because we wanted to. No bulldozer required. They would be making as much money off that land than if they had gone through the years of work it takes to clear the land. We could go for walks without feeling like we were trespassing, and put horses on that land or whatever we liked. It was a win-win solution! I was so thrilled they agreed.

You may be thinking, “how is paying a big bill every year win-win?” I don’t see it as a big bill at all. When the land was divided in the first place, that bush should have been included in our section. But it wasn’t — we didn’t think we could afford such a large piece of land, so we left it out. So, we rent instead of paying a MUCH larger mortgage. See, it’s still win-win. 🙂 This is my favourite example of a non-traditional nonviolent solution, and it just came to me out the blue sky — once I was calm enough to receive it. Some people would see it as ridiculous — to pay prime rates for less-than-prime land — but it really is a fabulous solution.

The nonviolent solution often means thinking outside the box. You may have to really stretch to understand the person you feel like fighting with. It might cost something — your time, your attention, your pride or even a bit of money — but all our actions cost us something if you really think about it. The peaceful answer may feel completely foreign to you. It might be a huge change and something you can’t imagine any rational person doing. Try it out.

Yes, we need to be serene down to our core to affect the world, but we also need to be peace-lovers and take non-conflictual action. I think I just made up another word! Non-conflictual!

So, throughout this season of nonviolence (until April 4), let’s all keep our eye out for those unexpected, nonviolent solutions and actions. After April 4, go back to your old ways — just kidding! 🙂 Some random acts of kindness would be awesome, too.

Love you all! If you have an example of a bulldozer-stopping example of a nonviolent solution, leave a comment! 🙂

Advertisements

Welcome 2018, Farewell 2017

Posted on Updated on

What a year it has been! There are so many highlights I want to share with you!

Farm stuff

The day we got Ziggy and Boeing! I can’t believe that was less than a year ago. I feel like we’ve had them forever!

We got our well fixed back in spring, on the first warm day! It was a big event, and we were so grateful when it was done and the pump wasn’t spraying water all over the inside of the pump shack any more. Darren made a fancy thermostat to control the heater in the pump shack, so it will never get below zero in there again. And we can check the temp any time, because he also made a wifi temperature sensor.

Shearing day! It’s always a big event. I got spit on by Uki, and my arm was GREEN and STINKY until I washed it. After 5 minutes.

Alex was born! What a cutie! So spunky and healthy! We named him Alex to remember his sister, Allie, that passed away a year ago.

Alex is getting so big! 🙂

Travel


Total Solar Eclipse – We had such an awesome trip to Idaho to see the total solar eclipse! 🙂

Cambodia – In November, I went to Cambodia for 8 days to visit a friend and be a tourist. It was amazing. I really should blog about it!

Personally

Music – I continue to play in a band once a month at the Centre for Spiritual Living, which I love. Singing and playing is so fulfilling for me, and I’ve been getting a bit more bold in my song choices. My keyboard playing is getting better too! I love it, and I play with such great people. I really feel blessed.

Writing and Publishing – I’ve been writing like a fiend this year! Just not blogging (sorry about that)! 🙂 I finished writing 4 tiny books, and just this month, I’ve finished all the layout and publishing tasks to self-publish 3 of them with lulu.com! I still need to finish the 4th one. This is another thing that I absolutely love doing! It’s so fun and fulfilling, and I can’t wait to get my books out to the world! 🙂

I feel like I’ve had such a great year! I was grateful much of the time, and was able to help some friends going through tough times and not get carried away by their grief or anger. I took a couple of self-development classes this year; I learned how to do Heart Math and I do it all the time. It’s such a helpful tool for regulating one’s emotions and creating more resiliency. In the second class, I learned more about Ernest Holmes and all that he stood for. It was also an excellent class and I enjoyed every minute of the reading and the class discussions.

I wish everyone such a happy, amazing, phenomenal 2018. May you grow in love and be surrounded by joy, peace, creative activities, and time for all the things you enjoy.

Boeing… Isn’t he handsome?! 😛

Alex the Alpaca Video

Posted on

Enjoy this adorable video of Alex, just a couple of days old, running around!

Alex the Alpaca from Darren Griffith on Vimeo.

Previous post introducing Alex

Open Letter to Refugees, Immigrants and New Canadians

Posted on

Welcome to Canada! Let me tell you a few things about this country you now call home, and offer some advice.

This land was originally inhabited by aboriginal peoples, long before the French, English and Scottish came here to make their homes. We call them First Nations, and when you meet a First Nations person, show them respect. They may not always respect themselves, but you should show respect just the same.

In fact, you will do well in Canada if you respect everyone you meet, as soon as you meet them. They might turn out to be a jerk – we have our share of those – but wait for them to show you that themselves. Don’t assume they are one. Be polite to strangers and friends alike. That might be a big difference from the country you came from.

I don’t know what it was like in your home country, but I can imagine that you didn’t have the well-stocked grocery stores we have, the good road system, the excellent hospitals, and, to a large degree, kind people everywhere you go. There are charitable organizations to help needy people, people having cancer treatments, and a thousand other things. We like to take care of each other here. We like to look out for one another, and although we aren’t perfect at this, it’s something we do as a whole.

It might be because our founding religions were Christian. We do hold quite a few of those values in our society, and you’ll see them in our laws and policies, if you know how to look for them. Not everyone is kind and considerate, but you will do well to practice kindness as much as possible. Non-Christians are welcome here, but I wanted to mention that about our origins. Not everyone is religious, but almost everyone is kind. You are welcome to bring your religion and practice it here, but if your religion is not kind, it will not fit in here. It could, in an extreme case, even make you unwelcome.

Remember that for all the hospitals, roads, bridges, and other amenities you enjoy, someone had to pay for those. People who were born here, and who moved here long before you, did that so that you can benefit from them. You can enjoy moving about this country freely because of others who worked hard, paid their taxes, and because they cared enough to contribute. They contributed by having jobs, by joining service groups, by volunteering and by helping their neighbours with everything from babysitting to snow shoveling. Look for ways to contribute to all sorts of Canadians. Make sure you mix with other cultures and don’t just stick to your own.

We are not perfect but we generally obey the laws and conform to our social norms. You would do well to do the same. We do not consider our laws to apply to some and not to others; they apply to everyone equally, and they are enforced. If you bend them, they will snap back. If you disregard them, you won’t be able to stay here, or you’ll be put in jail – you’ll lose your freedom. One of the reasons Canada is Canada is because we had law enforcement early on; while the US had the wild west, we had the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and they still keep the order today. Respect them.

Our laws say that women have all the same rights as men; if you do not agree with this, you should look for somewhere else to live and move there as soon as you can. If moving is not an option for you, you will do well to learn to keep your opinions very, very hidden. This equality is fundamental to who we are, and you will NOT be able to change it.

Actually, don’t try to change anything about Canada. We are who we are and we’ve been this way a long time. Any of your behaviour that differs too much from the social norm will not make a change; it will only alienate you. Do not blame Canadians for alienating you. You always do that to yourself. We are quite welcoming to those who want to live here, follow our laws, contribute to our society and be like us.

We have our quirks – we love our quirks. You do not have to be a cookie-cutter Canadian. Just take some time to watch those around you and see how they act. Although we value our freedom and independence greatly, we are also more conforming than you may realize. This will be your challenge while you are new here! You will have to learn to put aside your ideas from your home country and adopt ours.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with advice. You have probably been through a lot to get here. Let me summarize.
Show respect to everyone.
Respect the laws, and follow them.
Be grateful for what you have, where you are, and those who made it possible for you to be here.
And yes, be kind and polite!

You may also like: Remembrance Day
Farewell Fort Simpson

Our New Alpacas

Posted on

Hello all! Friday was an exciting day for us as we finally got our 2 new alpacas! We’ve been wanting some new males to keep Fozzie company, since he can’t be with the girls. So, we talked to our friends with alpacas and they held onto two of their young males for us! I’m sure you’ll agree they are super-cute.

The white fella is named Boeing and the brown guy is Ziggy.
The white fella is named Boeing and the brown guy is Ziggy.

Boeing is 3 years old and Ziggy is only 2. Boeing is tall, isn't he?
Boeing is 3 years old and Ziggy is only 2. Boeing is tall, isn’t he?

It was getting dark when we got the new alpacas on Friday night, so these photos were all taken Saturday morning. I plan to keep the new alpacas separate for a little while — my reasoning is that Fozzie should get to know his new friends over the fence before letting them all be together. Since they are all intact males, there is a small chance they will fight — but that depends on personality and crowding. These guys have lots of room, so they should be alright. Saturday morning, we gave the girls and Fozzie their kibble first and then opened Fozzie’s gate. He finished his kibble and then went outside as he always does. He noticed the new guys right away and came over. He looked at them from a little ways back — he was stuck behind a huge pile of snow I had shoveled a few days before — but he found his way to the fence and began sniffing the new fellas.

Before long, Fozzie came over to give everyone a sniff. (Fozzie is black.)
Before long, Fozzie came over to give everyone a sniff. (Fozzie is black.)

Fozzie and Ziggy nose to nose
Fozzie and Ziggy nose to nose

It looks like they are all going to get along great! Ziggy was definitely a bit more curious about Fozzie than Boeing was. Boeing is pretty chill — he’s like a Zen master.
We also got a big load of hay on Friday. A few of the bales were lower quality and/or falling apart, so we piled them outside, to be used first. Well, the girls noticed them and had a feast. What lucky alpacas!

The girls enjoying the new hay
The girls enjoying the new hay

This is a ways from where the male alpacas are — Daisy is looking towards the dogs. It is constant dog play at our place, and sometimes the dogs bumble across the ground and the girls have to get out of their way!

I still don’t have a good picture of Jenny! She’s always moving! But I do have this one.

Jenny
Jenny

Wade and Darren having a moment...
Wade and Darren having a moment…

How to Get a Front-Row Seat to an Alpaca Rodeo

Posted on Updated on

The 3 girls
The 3 girls
We love our alpacas! We have four of them — 3 females and 1 male. I thought I’d take a minute to tell you about the latest alpaca rodeo. It’s not like we plan to have one — except when we have an appointment to get them sheared! Usually the rodeo is kind of unexpected.
A couple of days ago, the rodeo was to help our brown beauty, Marley. She had been limping a little and it had gotten much worse in 24 hrs. So, it was time to have a look at that foot and see what was going on. I figured if Darren held her, I would look at her foot. I mixed up a batch of warm water with epsom salts in it. If this were a movie, we’d go to a flashback now, for how I learned that epsom salts are so good!
In addition to alpacas, we have a healthy population of barn cats. It started when we got Felicity to replace Stella. A while ago, something happened to one of Felicity’s paws. I don’t know how she injured it, but the top was getting infected and she was licking it incessantly. I decided I had to do something, because she was licking it raw and it was getting very puffy. So, I knitted a small sock, and with Darren’s help — what would I do without him?! — we put some polysporin (a cream that’s supposed to fight infections. It doesn’t.) on her paw, a piece of gauze from felicity-in-her-sockthe first aid kit, and then the sock. We taped the sock securely on, in the same manner one tapes on hockey socks, taping the tape to itself, not to her fur. With the sock applied, we figured she’d be great in no time. To make a long story short, let’s just say for over a week, we applied cream, replaced the sock after she pulled it off, and whatnot. She wore a cone for a lot of that time, too, poor kitty. The infection got marginally better, but barely.
Then my friend Noreen suggested warm water with epsom salts in it. I was instructed to run the water over her paw as much as she would let me and then leave it to dry (with Felicity wearing a cone). In two treatments, the infection was almost completely gone! Love that stuff.

I love these summer pictures!
Marley, always smiling
So, zooming back to the present, we are faced with one very limpy alpaca and a bucket of warm epsom salt water. I caught Marley when she wasn’t expecting it and handed her off to Darren. Then, the rodeo started! Our alpacas seem tame enough, until you try to grab and hold them. In that instance, some instinctual effects kick in and they start to buck around like wild broncos! She jumped around a bit, lunging and ducking, trying to get away, for five seconds or so, and then settled down a little ways away.
I knelt down by her bad foot and managed to lift it up and look at it. There was no obvious injury that I could see, but it sure was puffy! The natural crack between her toes was nearly gone, it was so swollen. So, I brought the pail of water over and put her foot in. She didn’t protest at all — it probably felt quite nice — so I gently scooped water up to cover her ankle a bit. I was able to hold her foot in the water for 10-15 seconds before Darren shifted or she just got tired of being touched. A short rodeo began again, but I told Darren to let her go. I had planned to dry her foot off after wetting it, but decided that she was pretty riled up. So we let her be.
The next morning, she was limping much less, and by the next evening (24 hrs after applying the salt water), she was not limping at all! I could not believe it! This time, I had planned to put a bucket of epson salt water out and see if she put her foot in on her own. She’s so smart, I bet she would have!
Fozzie scratching an itch
Fozzie scratching an itch
Other alpaca rodeos are a given when you try to separate one alpaca from the others. We were trying to load Fozzie on shearing day, and he decided to go into the horse trailer first. I told Darren to keep him in, but he did not want to do that! He ran right through Darren’s arm, jamming it into the side of the trailer, and he thought Fozzie had broken it! It was just a bad bruise. I attempted to catch Fozzie a week ago to take a piece of baler twine off him — he must have gotten it off a bale but how he got it around his neck, like a necklace, I’ll never know! Because it was like a necklace, I wasn’t too worried about him getting strangled. He let me cut it, so it was no longer a loop, but he did not let me do much else. I chased and lunged and held onto him briefly, but I was just grabbing his fibre (wool) and then I realized I was sort of pulling on his hair so I let go. How rude of me!
So, I think I’d like to learn how to handle them a bit better. I can move them around really well without touching them, but when grabbing them is necessary, it’s rodeo time and that’s just not ideal. Our mamma alpaca’s bangs are getting quite long and I’d like to trim them, but I’d like to be able to do it with a minimum of drama. So, we’ll just have to google it — or ask the nearby alpaca farm! 🙂

Radical Way to Deal with Someone Having an Angry Outburst

Posted on Updated on

I heard a very interesting thing the other day. I was listening to an inspirational speaker, and what she had to say bent my brain and I’ll never forget it. Let me try and encapsulate it here.

Most of us would stop and help someone who was bleeding in the street. If there was a car accident, we’d stop what we’re doing and offer whatever help we could — first aid, call 9-1-1, wrap the person in a blanket, keep traffic away from them, whatever. But when someone is angry, we don’t want anything to do with him or we feel angry right back, and we’ll even say things that add fuel to his fire. We don’t offer help, and we are not sympathetic. But that angry person is bleeding just as much as the injured one — he is emotionally gushing blood everywhere.

Why don’t we think of helping? There are lots of reasons. Firstly, we don’t see it as a first-aid situation. It doesn’t even occur to us to offer help to the angry person. We just want him to go away (usually). We want him to stop upsetting our mood, our day.

If the person is upset with us, we are too busy reacting to his anger to think of anything else. We are throwing foul words his way as fast as we can think of them. We might be unleashing all the pissed-off things we’ve thought but never said. Or we might be turning inward, just wishing the angry tirade would stop. We might be clamming up and bottling our feelings, but whether we are lashing out or collapsing in, we never think of helping.

If the anger is not about us, then we usually just want to get rid of the person. They are ruining our day! We’ll think, “this isn’t about me — go tell someone who cares.”

But what if we treated that upset person as though they were in need of first aid? I see “no tolerance” signs posted in doctor’s offices. The first one I ever saw was in huge, red letters, in all-caps, and it was NOT messing around. Police would be called. You would not see the doctor. Don’t even think about raising your voice.

But, people who just lost it are in serious trouble. They can’t contain their emotions — it’s rushing out, uncontrolled. Could we offer some sort of first aid to them? Could it be there is a serious mental health issue going on? What if most of the time it’s more than just a lack of self control?

I’ve taken a LOT of first aid over the last 7 years or so, since joining the volunteer fire department. The first step is always to make sure your own safety will not be compromised if you help. We are not taught to rush into burning buildings willy-nilly. If it can’t be done safely, we don’t do it, period. So, personal safety first.

I think the same would apply to anger first aid. If the person is so angry he/she is going to start hurting people, then leave it to the professionals (someone in riot gear)! But if he/she is strictly verbal, and there really is no danger, then what?

The second step in first aid is always to call for more help — dial 9-1-1 or have someone else do it. Same goes in anger — get some back-up if you think you’ll need it. But I would say, don’t just grab the closest person — find someone who is calm enough, or conscious of his/her own state, to help. This could be tough, because a lot of people around may not be calm at all — they might also be angry or afraid. So yes, at times, you might have to call 9-1-1.

talking-on-a-ledgeAfter that, the actual first aid takes place. You assess their breathing. You check for gushing blood. In anger first aid, I suppose it would be to try to show the person you relate. Say the obvious thing to diffuse them. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to rear-end you. It was an accident.” At other times, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. My mistake.” I know that can be hard to say, but if you think of it as something to you need to say to talk the person off a ledge (as in suicide intervention), then just say it.

Anything beyond basic anger diffusing is going to take more thought and be more specific to the situation — which makes it difficult to summarize here. If you can keep your cool, you can probably think of something else thoughtful or helpful to say. Perhaps I’ll do another blog post to expand on things to say/do for specific types of anger. If you ever have a chance to take Mental Health First Aid, do it — I learned a lot when I took it. I think the basic anger diffusing and realizing the person needs help, not police, might go a long ways towards improving the situation. It could, in fact, change the way our whole society operates.

It’s so simple. See someone having an emotional outbreak as needing our help, not our judgment or condemnation. It could change the world.

Mental Health First Aid – Canada

Mental Health First Aid – USA