29 July 2013

Tuesday, Therapy Work: Next Chapter – Veterans

Next Chapter

Next Chapter

Tomorrow, the next chapter for Red and me, for our lives together. I am going to meet with some veterans officials and some veterans to figure out how Red and I can help with our new therapy work. As I wrote earlier, I've decided that working with veterans, especially those recently returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, is where we can be the most effective hopefully.

I have been working at this, I have been talking to vets and their families about what they need, what a dog might do to help them, and there is almost universal agreement that a dog like Red can be helpful, valuable. I know to apply some of the lessons of the hospice work I did with Izzy. You are there to listen, not talk. It is not my job to slap people on the back, cheer them up. That is patronizing. I do not believe I know what they have been through, I do not have an inkling. I am there to listen, actively, to help in the ways that they choose or need.

The primary relationship will be between Red and the vets, not between me and them. I don't have much to tell them, just a desire to help them open up and be more comfortable, if Red and I can. Red can do the talking, he can also do the listening.

In this work, I leave myself at the door, I am there to offer help. Animals can open people up, relax them, re-connect them to a sometimes alienated and suspicious world. I think the vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan often have a brutal time, I hear this again and again from them and their parents. The war itself was vicious and murky, it was never clear who the enemy was, there is no common ground on what victory is, let alone whether it could be achieved, there were no safe bases, no safe places.

What can somebody like me offer someone who has been through that? Not much. But I can connect them to Red, he is a spirit dog, a guide. I hope he can help. Tomorrow, my first briefing, a visit to a veteran's hospital, a meeting with some young and injured vets. I'll report back. Red is, I believe, ready. We visited an Afghanistan vet over the weekend, just came into the house where he was living. He shook my hand, asked me some questions, ended up on the floor with Red. I could see the healing, it was physical in a way. Time to learn and listen.

Posted in General, Live Your Life
17 May 2013

Soul Of A Town: What Buying Local Really Means

Nicole and Alliyah

Nicole and Alliyah

My blog has readers in every state and a number of countries overseas, it is not a local blog and I only occasionally write about local things, but some of them are important and revealing, they speak to broader things. Our small town has a magical new cafe, a friendly place with wonderful food – fresh, healthy, great tasting stuff, and it has quickly become the heartbeat, perhaps even the soul of this town.

I like writing about some local things – Momma's restaurant, Battenkill Books and now, the Round House Cafe – because they have driven home for me the importance and power of buying local, of permitting the growth of small businesses with values, the antithesis of most modern corporations – just follow the awful news from Bangladesh. I am not political, I found the labels of the "left" and "right" narrowing and distasteful, but I guess I do feel strongly about places like the Round House Cafe, where Nicole and Alliyah seem happy to see everyone and are cheerful and helpful. I had lunch there today with an old friend, and another old friend from my former life wandered in who I have not seen in years wandered in and we had a joyous reunion – I will go and see her tomorrow so she can meet Maria.

Yet another friend who is sweating out a mortgage application came in and half the cafe comforted her and told her it would work out. It did, she got the mortgage. In between, Connie from Battenkill came in for her sandwich, but Scott Carrino, the chef and co-owner had slipped out the back door and delivered it to the bookstore for her. She was shocked and delighted. I call the cafe in the morning, and Alliyah takes my order, knows which dressing I like. I thought I forgot my money one day and they told me not to sweat it, I could bring it in any time. It seems that the veins of the community just flow through there – from noon to 2 p.m. it is intense.

Buying local means jobs for people like Nicole and Alliyah and the other people hired by the cafe, and it strengthens and deepens a sense of community and connection. People from other towns are finding the Round House.  I had lunch last week with an artist using new technology to market her work, just as I am and we traded good ideas. There are not many businesses large or small that are run as well as this one, or that exude such a sense of good will. Usually I bring Maria one of their very fresh salads, and I have been getting her these awesome blueberry scones. I don't eat there every day but I wish I could. I don't want to see everyone I know every day either, it is a small town. But I think the Round House is worth writing about because it has become the soul of my town, a beacon of light, an affirmation of what hard work, community, and creativity can do when they are mixed together and served on their own menu. Alliyah feels like family, she knows my voice and reminds me when I forget something I usually get.

Buying local has become a seminal political idea for me, in a period when I literally cannot abide politics and the anger and stridence it breeds. So I'll take some photos of the Round House from time to time, and write about. No corporate food chain is anything like this. Corporations are devouring individuality and community and are wreaking havoc on small business. We are so lucky we aren't a big enough town to draw them in. But this town has also struggled to keep it's Main Street hopping. I think it's winning that battle.

I don't know if there is a Round House or Battenkill Bookstore in your community, but if there is, I  hope you will vote for it buy doing your business there. Lots of towns have lost their heartbeats, I am so happy mine has found some again.

This is something to vote for, just like my bookstore, where I will be from 11 a.m. to 2:30 recommending books to anyone who wants to buy them from Battenkill. 518 677-2515. You may not be able to get a sandwich from the Round House, but you can vote for Battenkill and strike one blow for freedom and community.

Posted in General, Live Your Life
11 March 2013

Sly Dog

The Sly Dog

The Sly Dog

Some of you have noticed that Red's color has changed. In the summer, on the sunlight, it is Red. In the winter it turns darker. Red's coat has also changed since he started eating Fromm Food. Shiny, very healthy. He looks like a sly dog to me.

Posted in General, Live Your Life

Monday Morning: Flo And Maria

Flo And Maria

Flo And Maria

In some ways, a farm is series of relationships. They are always evolving. Animals come, go, live, die, get sick, get well. Flo was hiding under our porch a few weeks ago, we don't really know for how long. This morning she was sitting in Maria's lap on the porch, perhaps the best place in the world for a cat to be. This cat has figured it out.

Posted in General, Live Your Life
9 February 2013

After The Storm. Summer Patio

Summer Patio

Summer Patio

After the storm, we found a summer patio set up next to an old camper. In the cold, sweet to imagine this couple sitting by the side of the road, catching the traffic and the evening breeze. Photo album up on Facebook.