Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest post - dealing with violence

I habitually post a link to my blog postings to various Facebook places and tweet it.  One place I post is a Facebook group called Poly Friends All Over.  One of the comments to my last post was really helpful to me and I asked the author for permission to post it as a comment to my blog posting.  She was kind enough to agree to that.  Unfortunately it exceeds the length of comments.  Fortunately I happen to know the blog author intimately and she (me) was pleased to step-aside and post Felix's comment as a guest blog posting. I hope that this furthers discussion but more I hope it helps someone else like me in this bizarre situation.

From Felix A.:   When do we interfere with partners who are having issues? [link to blog posting]

Wow, that article [touched by violence] actually made my heart pound.

In answer to your question above, I think, as soon as you notice that something is wrong. Abuse and dysfunction flourish in isolation but when those who witness it speak up it can be enormously grounding
for those involved who may have lost sight of what acceptable behaviour is and can provide an avenue for a victim to ask for support without having to initially overcome the shame of admitting it's happening in the first place. So, good for you for speaking up when you did.

As for the questions in the article - how to feel safe again - is there some way to achieve a state of absolute protection. . .trauma is caused by a sense of powerlessness, of lack of control. The unpredictability of this act, in the heart of your home, the place where you should feel safest, committed by someone who you allowed under your roof and considered a friend, has to have shaken the very foundations of your faith in your ability to judge character and foresee the outcomes of situations.

In order to live our lives, we all need to know that we are able to assess risk with a reasonable degree of accuracy. We all learn as we go of course and we all know that the bizarre and unexpected can happen once in a while, but our ability to make decisions - and to feel safe - is predicated on the idea that we can generally predict the possible outcomes of our decisions.

From what I have read here it seems to me that there is no way anyone could have really predicted this.

As I understand it, escalation of domestic violence from verbal abuse to deadly force in one single moment is quite rare. As someone who has experienced domestic violence I'm sure that you're keenly aware of the patterns and dynamics of that type of relationship and if there had been clear indications that the situation was becoming physically unsafe it's likely that you would have picked up on them. However, whatever the actual chances of such a sudden escalation may be, it happens, it happened, and statistics are rarely comforting.

The fear and apprehension that you feel now is a natural reaction, not only to the horror and proximity of the event, but to having your worldview shaken. The mental replaying of events, searching for foreshadowing that may have been overlooked or actions on your part that could have prevented this, is your mind's way of reintegrating your worldview. It will run its course.There may be some wisdom gleaned from it which you can apply to future situations, and that would be empowering, or you may find that - in your own considered evaluation - you did everything right. That you did everything you could, everything that you are willing to expect of yourself or anyone else in such a situation.

You will feel safe again. At first once in a while, then later, most of the time. You are safer now than you were the day before the shooting - but you didn't know that - and from there springs your apprehension.

There maybe a time of reevaluating your loyalty to people versus your willingness to be in proximity to volatile relationships, for it is true that there is a greater risk of interpersonal violence in such relationships, but where to draw the line? Where to find the balance between safety and compassion? There are two risks to be assessed here. There always are. One is of the all possible perils that come from without, the other is of the risk of making a prison of fear, of locking the doors of your house and your heart so tight that neither joy nor sorrow may enter. Every soul must trade these things off against each other and because of that there is no absolute protection. Even if absolute physical safety could be somehow assured, it would come at the price of never really living.

I don't know where you will find your balance between these things, but I do know that you will find it. I also know that it will always be changing and evolving, and always has been, it's just that right now you are acutely aware of it.

But that's the long view. Right now fear is keeping you up at night. This is again, perfectly natural. You have been through trauma and your body is probably still full of stress hormones, who wouldn't be jumpy? But also, who wants to live in fear?

I could tell you that this is a time to be very gentle with yourself - and it is. I could tell you that eventually the fear will fade as you process your trauma and life moves on - and it will, if simply allowing time to wear it away is what you choose to do.

What I want to tell you however, is how to banish fear. Immediately.

I know it can be done as I have done it, in a situation which had some similarities to your own. The trick is to simply refuse to feel it. I don't mean suppress it and refuse to acknowledge it. I don't mean distract yourself or run from it. I mean face it full on and blow it right out of the doors of your soul.

It is done like this: To grow so weary of its ugly presence in your life, or so pissed off that such a thing dare haunt you, especially at a time like this, that there comes a moment when you simply say no. No to its dark, dank, energy clinging around you and suppressing the brightness of your being. No to the unsteady quivering in your chest. No to the tenseness in your shoulders and no to ears constantly straining for the slightest sound out of place. No to even one more moment of being its victim.

Stand and feel how the floor rises up to meet your feet, solid and strong. This is your ground.

Yes, you are vulnerable, but so is everyone else. Yes, people can be dangerous, but so can you. This is not safety, it is acceptance. Acceptance that whatever may come your way, you can deal with it, and you can do so without fear, because you choose to. Know that you cannot control everything that will happen. Yes, it is wise to take precautions. This is not fear, it is reason. They may work or they may not. Do listen to your instincts, a feeling of fear related to an active situation is usually an important signal that there is danger present - but that is a very different thing than fear born of that which is past - that ambiguous and nebulous fear which taints the future moment by moment.Cast it out. It has no place within you.

Feel your shoulders and spine relax, feel your breath come easily.

Know that this, this decision, the ability to refuse to be afraid, is always and ultimately within your control.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

touched by violence

The response around the world to the mass shooting in Newton, Conneticut has been interesting as people express shock and retrospective analysis of the causes and effects of various things from mental health issues, pharmaceutical use and gun control.  The media coverage of these kind of events gives one a sense of intimacy to the carnage and a rather depressing impression that random violence is more common these days than it every once was.

I'm not sure whether it is more common or we just hear about it more in our age of facebooking and tweeting about everything from life events to bowel movements.  I'm also not sure regulating  guns  with more restrictions and now the suggestion of putting armed guards in every school in the US is the solution.  A blanket solution to random sequences of events will not solve all the issues.  The most effective prevention might  have been to interfere when the red flags began to go up on troubled behaviour.

When do we do that and how alert do we need to be of the behaviour and attitudes of our neighbours, friends, co-workers, lovers and family members?  When do we stop being polite and uncomfortably avoiding people who are self-destructive?  When do we understand that it takes very little for their business to become very much our business and that the risk to our own safety is precarious?  Philosophizing about something that happened thousands of miles away is one thing but quite another when it happens in your own backyard.

I live in a large house that has an upper suite and a lower suite.  I live with my two partners and my teenaged son.  A lovely woman, her toddler daughter and my son's girlfriend live in the lower suite.  About a month ago, the woman downstairs reconciled with her boyfriend after several months apart.  Their relationship is quite toxic and they are both alcoholics.  They fought loudly and often.  She lost her job and they broke up in the same week.  During the period where he'd moved out and they were not involved, she straightened up her life and stopped drinking.    She got herself  a new job and was  starting AA.   My son's girlfriend moved in during that time.  The heavy drinking and arguments started again about two weeks ago.   We have been friendly with her and supportive of her desire to change her life around.  I spoke with her about the slamming doors, throwing things and yelling after the last spat about a week ago.  She said they were back in the same rut and she was working with him and her AA sponsor to change that.  I wanted to tell her to give her head a shake and get out of the relationship.  I did say that  two recovering addicts are not going to be able to stay on any wagon.  They need separate sponsors and a lot of support.  We worried about them and her child.  My son's girlfreind would not sleep in the apartment when the boyfriend was over which is when the daughter is at her dad's place.  She couldn't stand the fighting.

You can't make people fix their lives.  They have to want to do it and want to make changes.  You can only suggest, pray and hold their hands when they struggle. Or can you and should you do more?  Where is the line?

Two nights ago, there was a brief argument.  She told him to get out and someone went out onto their porch which is just below our bedroom window.  It was quiet and I snuggled in to go to sleep.  There were two gun shots  and a crash of glass.  She began to scream while I was on the phone to the police.  He may have intended to kill her first but he most definitely shot himself and died.  Five feet below my bedroom window.  Their business was definitely now mine.

I looked out the bedroom window to confirm to the dispatcher that I could see police officers on site so she'd let me hang up the phone.  I saw the lower part of his body and an officer near him.  The look on the officer's face is one I will not soon forget.

Her daughter was at the dad's place.  My son and his girlfriend were away overnight.  The neighbour to the right, heard the argument and was out on his porch having a smoke.  He saw the boyfriend kill himself.  The neighbour on the left and his wife were also on the phone to the police and heard the shots.  The wife had to go to emerg for what the husband thought was a heart attack later that night.

We were interviewed twice by the police and instructed to stay in our home.   During the first statement, she began to scream in a way that made your skin crawl.  I asked the cop interviewing me if that would indicate that he's been pronounced dead.  He said that was most likely the case.   As we waited for a second interview with a tape recorder, we began to try and analyse what had  likely happened by what we'd heard and seen.  After the second interview, the police cars and ambulances left.  The coroner came and went.  We sat up and tried to calm down.  Unfortunately, all we could think of is all the what ifs and ways that this could have gone down differently with more injuries and fatalities.  Retrospective analysis on how we might have interfered and prevented the outcome had moved through the shock to a jumpy sense of being alert to every noise.

Much has happened since then in terms of her grieving behaviour and the trauma sustained by those of us who were unwilling intimates to their business.  Police have been around the property constantly and the couple who own the house have been in contact.  All of us went to work the next day, and found some support in talking with co-workers and debriefing a bit.  We've heard her home but not spoken directly with her.  Victims Services and her friends and family have been surrounding her.  My son and his girlfriend don't feel safe and we are helping them find a place to move in as soon as possible.

While we and this unfortunate couple weren't involved as lovers/partners so not a poly configuration, we were friends and we considered them extended family.  We included them in family and poly group activities in our home and so on.  What happens in a poly relationship configuration when a relationship within that configuration devolves into domestic violence?   There was no abuser in this scenario.  No one was getting beat up and the verbal abuse was mutual.  I didn't realize that there was a gun in the house although I clearly remember comments NOW that indicated that there has been a gun or two in their suite for some time.  It didn't tweak me before.   Do we need to be so involved in other people's habits and issues that we can protect ourselves from the fallout?  How do we do that?  We have safer sex agreements and dating agreements.  Do we need acceptable habits, when to intervene and storage of weapons agreements?

Tragedy touches you and changes you, whether you were standing right there or just heard about it.   My partner says he doesn't know what to feel but I think its that we don't know which emotion to feel first.  We are scared, saddened, angry and aware of what else could have been saved or lost if any one moment had been different.

Tonight I'm grateful for the miracle of being alive and in a peaceful loving family.  I'm grateful for neighbours who share my trauma but worry about us.  I'm grateful for police, paramedics and victims services volunteers who were an amazing team.

I wish that I had insisted on coaching them on how to communicate non-violently as a couple.  I wish that I had hugged them more often and been a real nosey mom figure in their lives.

I wish with all my heart that he is at peace now and she will find closure and healing some day soon. 

I wish that I could shut out the instant replay tape in my head and stop sleeping in alert mode.  I wish that I wasn't sitting up now with the TV on, afraid to go to sleep and be vulnerable.  I  thought my home to be a safe sanctuary which is important to most people but on par with winning a gold medal  for me as I am a former battered wife.  Being exposed to a domestic war zone has triggered so much for me and likely why I interfered with their business as much as I did.  One never knows how much is enough and how much is too much.

The fallout to violence endures long after the shots are fired and impacts all who hear the news.   Is there a way to always protect ourselves and those we love from it or can we only ever minimize the risks and hope for the best?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Safer Sex for Teens Workshop Notes & Links

Safer Sex for Teens Workshop Notes
 - Aug 2012 - Polycamp NW
 - Information is power.  This workshop will give a light-hearted practical look at safer sex practices for teens and empower them to share their new understanding with their parents and peers.

Key Points to remember:
1. Your body and sexuality are a gift.  Always wrap it and do not accept the same gift from someone else unless it too is wrapped.
2. Your sexuality and your emotions are YOUR gift to give when YOU are ready and not when someone else thinks you are or should be or should give it because they need or want it.
3. You are special and being with you sexually and/or loved by you is a privilege.
4. Talk about safe sex options, plan and have condoms and other supplies BEFORE you are in an intimate situation.

 Resources highlighted during the discussion which followed the questions and not necessarily the format of these notes:

Why Practice Safer Sex?
"Any sexual activity puts you at risk. The only way to be 100% free from risk of STDs is to not have sex. And youths are at high risk: Teens and young adults have the highest rates of STDs of any age group. In 2000, nearly half of the 19 million new STD cases occurred  among people ages 15-24.
About 35% of 14- to 19-year-olds are infected with human papilloma virus (HPV), the most common STD among teens. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls ages 11 to 12, although it may be given to girls as young as age 9. Women up to age 26 should be vaccinated against strains of HPV associated with cervical cancer and genital warts."
"About 18% of all new HIV diagnoses are among people aged 13-24.
All of this can be a bit cumbersome, which is why so many people just don’t bother to use any form of protection, at least from time to time. That’s one of the reasons why there are so many unintended pregnancies and why STDs are so rampant. So if you’re going to engage in sexual intercourse, please make the effort to learn how to prevent pregnancies and STDs."
"Having intercourse has two potential outcomes: causing pleasure and making babies. You will have moments in your life when you’ll want to combine those two, but most of the time you’re going to want one without the other. That’s where contraception comes in. And the less worried you are about causing an unintended pregnancy or risking a disease, the more you’ll enjoy sex — sort of a two-for-the-price-of-one deal. This also works the other way, so if you opt to have sex without using contraception, and you don’t want to get pregnant or contract an STD, you’ll enjoy sex a lot less."
More specifically:

What are the symptoms of STDs that I should look for?  Wouldn't you know if you had an STD or STI?  
 Nurse Sarah - my co-facilitator is a walking dictionary on how all of these diseases present if there are indeed visible symptoms as well as treatments and testing procedures. She gave some brief information and answered questions.

There are many diseases and infections that are spread sexually.  They vary from annoying to life threatening and all should be dealt with promptly but few have symptoms that are obvious.   The bottom line is that anyone can have something and not be aware of it - regardless of their level of sexual expertise or activity.  No matter what they themselves say or think.  YOU are in charge of protecting YOU and responsible for informing others if you have something or have been in contact with someone who has something.  An excellent resource for disease information and current data on same is Center for Disease Control 

Safer sex conversations with dating partners: (HANDOUT) –  Being Ready for Sex, Safer sex activities, If  Safer sex does not happen, Negotiating safer sex

"Communication is an important part of sexual intimacy. For teens in particular, it’s important for sexual health and maturity. If you are in a relationship -- whether or not you are having sex -- you should talk to your partner about their sexual history for several reasons. It can help you establish sexual boundaries (whether you want to have sex or how far you’re willing to take the relationship sexually); it can help you learn if your partner has engaged in risky sex; and it can begin or continue a discussion about safe sex practices." 

"But talking can’t help determine whether your partner has an STD. Even if they assure you that they are sexually healthy, they may be infected with an STD and not know it. Three-fourths of women and half of men who are infected with chlamydia have no symptoms. “The only way to find out for sure if someone has an STD is to get tested,” says Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD, professor of adolescent medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco."

Safer sex conversations with peers: encouraging others to be informed and be safe     - Elevator Speech   -   rest of HAND OUT  Common excuses for not practicing safer sex, Persuasion line to have safer sex.

An Elevator Speech is a short 2 minute speech you have memorized and at the ready for when a topic comes up in a quick moment like in an elevator or in this case in a moment of unexpected intimacy. Often used as a marketing tool for start up entrepreneurs this is frequently used by poly people to explain poly to others new to the idea.  I recommend it here for discussions with peers and especially dating partners. You have made your decision about whether you are ready for sex or not and what your safer sex preferred options are and why.  You know your speech and are prepared for any arguments. This link ( you some "lines" to use in this speech.

Safer sex conversation with parents:  encouraging parents to be informed, safe and trust that you are.
 "You don't need your parents' permission to make choices about birth control in most states. Minors are explicitly granted the right to contraceptive services in 21 states and Washington D.C.; four states have no specific policy; and the remaining 25 states explicitly allow the right to contraceptive services in certain circumstances."

In Canada, provinces vary but generally once you are 16 yrs old you can make health care choices for yourself and you are covered under your parents basic provincial health care insurance until you are 18 or 19 yrs of age.  Medical clinics will take you as a drop in and you can get STD testing there. Most communities have a clinic that specializes in Sexual health and has free condoms, counselling, and testing.

"Most health care providers will discuss your birth control needs and choices confidentially. Most family planning clinics keep visits confidential, and some provide free birth control. If you use your parents’ insurance, it will show up on their insurance statement."
"Experts urge teens to talk with their parents or other trusted adults (a health care provider, for instance) about safe sex practices. Teenagers' peers can sometimes be an unreliable source of information -- or worse, a source of peer pressure. Parents or other grownups can help teens get accurate information about protection from STDs and unwanted pregnancies."

"There may be another benefit of talking to your parents besides delaying sex: stronger relationships, says Halpern-Felsher. “Teens who preemptively talk to their parents about relationships and safe sex are more likely to have healthy relationships and less health risk,” according to Halpern-Felsher." 

 Another benefit to talking with parents particularly if you live in a poly household is that poly adults most often have safer sex agreements amongst them and may have added advice on how to develop one for yourself.  Generally any parent should be pleased to know that you want to be wiser and that you are working out one for yourself but sometimes we forget our babies aren't babies anymore.  I'd like mine to avoid all the hard learning curves, be healthy in body, emotion and spirit. Be gentle with us but please let us be there for you.  

Interestingly enough it was my daughter who had the safer sex talk with me perhaps a dozen years ago now.  I had divorced and re-entered the dating scene.  I married before AIDS and all this safe sex stuff.  She lectured me and gave me pamphlets.  "I love you, Mom.  I want you safe."  The idea that I had choices about these things an a right to draw a safer sex line in the sand was pretty radical and then I found polyamory and well....radical took on a new meaning entirely.

But I digress...

In the workshop session there were parents amongst attendees and facilitators.  We shared the circumstances of our first sexual experiences and our safer sex agreements with the teens attending.  One of the attendees was a 28 year old who noted that she had had opportunity to be sexually active but had remained a virgin and that it was definitely okay to wait until you were ready.  I myself was 19 and pressured into being sexually active before I was ready and had to sort that emotional baggage out.  Others were teens or young adults and had that first experience with someone that they married and are still with.  

The teens attending were supported by their parents in attending the class and the discussion was lively.  Even the shy guy in the corner paid rapt attention.  When they did a wrap up of the camp at which we had presented, our workshop with noted as a highlight.

I'm pleased that a group of great teens got this message. They were given a business card with this blog address to take home  and are to pass it on.  My hope is that the messages here will save someone somewhere from distress and illness. 

Quotes above are from these sites unless otherwise noted:    (especially section under "relationships")   (excellent "lines" for your elevator speech)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Too busy being poly to write about it?!?!

My apologies for the summer of silence on this blog.  It has been a very busy summer and lots of stretches to my personal poly-ness.
Hmm....where to start.
June to mid July was spent pulling together programming and resources for PolyFamilyCampBC, held at Gordon Bay Provincial Park on Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island.  Every year for the past probably ten years I've been involved and often the solo effort behind a group camping experience for my local poly community.  This year was hands down the best one ever.  So many people came forward to participate in one way or another and showed true commitment from idea to follow though.  They needed me to guide and keep them on timeline but that's about it.  It was wonderful.  My carload arrived first and were able to have things set up and organized so that the others could quickly follow up and be involved as planned.  Then one of the teens who had come with us had an accident with a hatchet while he helped prepare kindling for the evening campfire.  We had to take him for a 45 minute drive to the nearest hospital.  I handed my clip board with registration and schedule info on it to the nearest planning committee volunteer and left.  They worked together and everything ran like a charm.  I was worried about the injury which looked worse that in was and when we returned the group of folks who were from all over and not necessarily acquainted had pulled together for a weekend of poly community that is the goal but frequently not the achievement in these types of events.  I was very impressed and felt privileged to have lucked into such a terrific group.  The variety show and a spontaneous water balloon battle were too of the highlights where I watched people of all ages work and laugh together.  It was a happy poly moment for sure.  I'd actually thought that last year was my final year of organizer bunny for this event but was persuaded to do one more year.  I really feel as if the planning committee which was totally new for this year is good to go on their own for next year as there is some very strong leadership amongst them and some very amazing creativity.

The rest of July and August was spent working on materials for two workshops that I would be presenting at PolyCamp NW in Olympia, Washington in late August.  I also had a vendors booth at that event and was gathering some of my published work for that.  I did a Writer's Boot Camp workshop at PolyFamilyCampBC as well as at this Washington camp. Helping people who like to write get themselves organized to publish is part of my business at Filidh Publishing (  and I run a Facebook group for authors as well as IRL meetings (Eclectic Writer's Boot Camp).  The preparation for that workshop went fairly smoothly and both sessions over the summer were exciting with some very unique voices amongst participants.  The second workshop for PolyCamp NW caused me more angst.  Safer Sex for Teens was the title and while I've done safer sex workshops for adults before this was a much different audience.  As my children were growing up, our house was the place to hang out and talk to "Mom" about troubling issues.  I had many chats about how to talk to your boy/girl friend about being ready for sex, using condoms, pregnancy,  drug/alcohol use at parties and a whole host of adult stuff that lands on a teenagers radar much earlier that most parents realize.  I'm always mindful that my preferences as a parent for my children may not be another parent's preference and would often offer to help the kid talk to his/her parents about what was troubling them.  So this workshop topic was a good fit for me and my co-facilitator who is a public health nurse with lots of teen contact in her place of work.  The issue of what resources and laws are in place in Washington state (as opposed to British Columbia where we both live) around teenagers accessing medical testing, contraceptives, and safer sex supplies was a research point.  Also the poly component.  Teenagers who live in poly households, like any other teenager would most likely have an understanding of communication between adults as more open and agreements being in place but would of course not privy to the actual discussions or activities.  The workshop was an amazing experience of listening to the kids and parents who attended and just being in the moment of curiousity with them.  I promised to post the notes from that to this blog so that great bunch of kids could access the resources  for later reminders and pass info on to  their friends. The support of parents and easy atmosphere of the session was a very happy poly moment.

I had opportunity this summer to watch a few episodes of Polyamory: Married and Dating which belatedly became available to Canadian viewers.  I like that its getting wide attention.  I like that its keeping the concept out there and creating awareness.  The term "polyamory" covers a broad spectrum of activity and personally those actors get way more sex than I do too, but it is still a very good show.  I was tweaked by other things.  For instance in the episode when the trio came to the quad's place for their first poly potluck:
1. the one woman says that she'd expected a sex party
2. the vetoed woman was allowed to attend the potluck despite the wife's discomfort
3. all the tongue sucking kissing going on

As an organizer, I had pause to wonder if people who see our notices for potlucks in private homes are expecting sex parties too.  That would explain several things from hesitant attendance to an air of disappointment from a rather exuberant former attendee.  It actually never occurred to me that one would see potluck and thing dessert was sex.  Yes, yes...I am naive at times.  Which brings me to point 3.  People at our events hug and kiss but I generally don't get a throat swabbing with those greetings.  That one character, Tahl, is a bit of a creep with his lower brain doing most of the driving in my opinion anyway.  However, I'm wondering if parties in California are waaaaay different than up here in the Canadian zone.

Point two interested me.  We've had poly configurations break up and issues like this in our local poly communities and when one is the organizer it is really difficult to manage the fall out of stuff like this.  I thought the quad handled it very well as did the wife.  The woman in question was a bit over the top with bringing flowers for "the woman of the house" which would have been fine had they been for both women of the house.  I thought she was brave to attend the event at all though.

Conflicts are part of being human.  The great thing about poly is that we have an opportunity to set them out on the table and work them out.  Pushing the envelope on your comfort and allowing change and compromise to enter into the discussion is extremely valuable and exhausting.  But definitely worthwhile.

This summer has been full of shifts in my work both as an employee and a business owner.  There has been a lot of overtime and working from home to accommodate new responsibilities at my regular job.  I also shifted hats in my business from being an author to being a publisher and promoter of another author.  I hadn't really sought more than a mentor role but was approached by this author to take the ropes and get her published.  It too has meant a lot of overtime and left no time for any writing of my own including this blog.  I've been working on a book about being poly in Canada and a historical fantasy novel.  Both projects call to me and I make brief notes but long to devote some time to writing them.  All of this is very much like my poly relationships in that I try to make sure all my loves have some attention and hope that they will bear with me as I devote more to the one at this time.  Transferable skills?  Perhaps.

This has also been an interesting summer for family, extended family and poly family blending into one amazing blur of love and support.  I discovered in June that I'm a grandmother and both my son and I have set about getting to know a very special young man.  His mother has been embraced by our family and she is very pleased with the welcome to both herself and her son.  I'd not have it any other way and I'm very fortunate that although she and my son are no longer together, she sees the importance of extended family.  My one partner's ex partner has a new beau who lives with his son, his ex, her new hubby and a baby on the way.  They have become regular guests in our home and at extended family events.  It was kind of cute to note both of my partners and the new beau bonding over the BBQ recently.  My partner's ex is roommate to my adult daughters and we all traveled to PolyCamp NW together.  The menfolk entertained themselves and we had a girls weekend.  Conversations were mom and daughter morphed into old friends.  I had a hard time with PolyCamp NW as it was the first time I'd been with that group of people since ending a relationship with someone in that community.  He wasn't there but his wife and other members of his poly-cule were there.  In a sense that made his presence even stronger for me.  I think I've backburnered the grief one goes through with busy stuff.  I was absolutely welcome and hugged to pieces by all of them.  I refrained from asking after him but it was a struggle and I really was not my usual upbeat self.  His wife and I exchanged granbaby photos and I realized that two years have passed.  I couldn't shake the sense that it had happened only yesterday and realized that I needed to get over myself and find closure.  I think one of the things we forget in the poly people must communicate theory is that we really have to communicate with ourselves too.  I got called on that which is another awesome thing being poly gives you.  Time to move on.  I realized too that hiding from the pain of that relationship ending has most definitely impacted all of my other relationships.

Another f@#!$$king learning experience and more notes for my book on poly.  Life is just a research project in the end, isn't it?

Labour Day Weekend I went camping with my two live in partners, a lady who has dated both of my partners off and on, her teenage son and my oldest son and his girlfriend.  We drove way up the Fraser Canyon to Quesnel and stayed at Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park.  My son and his girlfriend live even further up north and met us there.  Our friend grew up in the area and her son was born there so there was some visiting with her family in the area and a life of me guided tour of the town.  I enjoyed visiting with my son and his girlfriend and our friend's son took a shine to the girlfriend referring to her as "bird" in sign language. On the return trip, we stopped in at my one partner's mother and step-dad's place and camped over night.  My partner stayed on to visit with his folks and the rest of us continued home.  His folks were very welcoming of my other partner, our friend and her son.  It was the first we have seen them since the article in the paper and online about our poly triad came out in 2010.  They knew we were poly before that but it was there in print for all the world to see.  That's a bit different.  Some of our family and friends have distanced themselves because of that publicity.  Mom and step-dad were loving and just plain glad to see my partner and that he was happy.  Definitely a happy poly moment.

Happy Fall, dear readers. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Family of Choice

Every relationship has its rough spots and truly all relationships require conscious effort to be happy and successful. Polyamourous relationships have more people to alert us to issues that might otherwise be avoided or back burnered in busy lives. The Polyamourous Misanthrope, a very wise long time blogger, says that most issues can be better addressed when the people involved have had a cookie, a nap and a blow job. Conflicts are much less oppressive when one isn't cranky from not having basic needs met. Another basic need is companionship. Crankiness is sometimes jealousy peeking out and while it is fundamentally important to schedule your time such that all of your partners get a reasonable share, the reality is that this doesn't happen all the time. Life and work schedules get in the way.
The last month has been that kind of a place in our house although I wonder about the impact of the stars or full moon because I've noticed that the last month has been rough on the temperament of many people I've encountered.
My one partner has been struggling since Mother's Day as his grieving for his Mom is still quite fresh and he misses his Dad and siblings a lot. It happened that all three of us had this weekend off and so we took a spontaneous four hour drive to visit his sister and her kids. We really couldn't afford to do it but we really couldn't afford not to do it. Our relationship as a triad was feeling the strain of schedules and exterior pressures. I forget that trio time is as important as time with individual partners. So we jumped in the car after work and I booked a hotel room by surfing on my iPhone and reserving online. Hooked the iPod up to the car speakers and all three of us sang all the way to Campbell River.
The next morning we took a quick ferry ride over to Quadra Island to visit the sister. Such beautiful countryside with rainforest and snow capped mountains. Quadra Island is a very laid back community and the people were most friendly. My partner's sister is a lovely gentle spirited but very strong woman. Her daughters are wonderful kids who are clearly well loved and well cared for. Single moms struggle 24/7 to be two people for their kids and never feel like they are adequate to the task but they just keep going. I remember. I don't have a birth sister but the connection with this woman was instant and strong and I feel like I've got a sister now. She was welcoming and when introducing us said this is my brother and his family who are my family now too. She was proud to share the relationship with the locals as we touristed around and chatted with me as if we had always known each other.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and my partner's heart is strengthened by his time with sister and nieces. Our trio is the better for time away, spontaneous adventure and the benefit you get for doing something for someone you love.

Today: Take the time to go the extra mile without measuring the pros and cons for once. Just do it because someone you love needs to know how much you love them. You need to take the time to love and be loved too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 28, 2012

Theory vs Practice

There are as many variations to poly relationships as there are stars in the sky. That is as it should be given the diversity in humans. The problem comes when we decide that our variation is better than someone else's. It might well be better for us but not so much the others in our life. From birth we know that getting our own needs met is essential to survival and learn to interact with others to achieve that. In a perfect poly-icious world, the conversations we have are building blocks to agreements we make with our friends and family in order to facilitate getting the most needs met with the least amount of conflict.
Men and women are equally likely to agree to something totally at odds with themselves in the heat of passion and regret it for years afterward. One can't really point fingers either because we've all done it.
It was with these bits of wisdom that I listened to some friends vent about their poly configuration. Several people in this group are unable to stand up to a very assertive woman who seems to protect her own sense of insecurity by bullying the others into submission. It frequently amazes me to note that the people with the biggest cavern of insecurity appear to be the most accomplished and confident.
It occurred to me that the level of control and inability to have open honest feedback was very sad but also very much a poly scenario.
Anytime humans are involved things will get messy and poly is very complex to start with. Being poly or living in multipartnered relationships isn't a constant state of hippie nirvana. It is daily work and constant feedback. It is never a done deal. All agreements have to be growing and evolving living things because the relationships they manage and the people they embrace are. That's what makes poly different. Growth is not just wise to empower - it is essential when you multiply the interactions.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Round peg; Square hole

Some days I tire of the monogamist norm being the default in all things.  Facebook would not let me add my one partner's name as a middle name even when placed before my surname and hyphenated.  Add my partners surname behind mine with a hyphen and we are a go.  My son decided to use our hyphenated names as his surname on Facebook only.  I thought it was a sweet idea and so did my partner.  My other partner who is also buddies with that son felt a bit left out.  I'd like to use all three surnames on Facebook and in real life.  I'd like to go to Vegas and marry them both in a drunken moment.  I'd like to shout the happiness of my polyamorous relationship from the mountain tops and take an ad in every paper.

Probably not going to happen and probably not very wise.  It ticks me off that I have to even think twice about these things that monogamous couples do every day.  It ticks me off to have to sit in the rear of the bus.

It amuses me that while I was not overly interested in any of these trappings of monogamy in my very "evolved" polyamorous relationship - until I was denied not only the legal confirmations but now a hand-fasting or ceremony of commitment violates the law.   That makes me feel like a lesser citizen.  That makes me angry.

I pay  taxes at a higher level because my common law partner and I are taxed on our combined incomes.  Revenue Canada apparently values my relationship despite the lack of ceremony but my common law polyamorous relationship doesn't count because of that same lacking ceremony.  Should I choose to make it count by having a ceremony that isn't legal anyway - my relationship is criminalized.

I realize that there is a long road ahead.  Making the general population aware of the happy, healthy polyamorous homes is a priority.  Working around the monogamist norm default in all things to make our round peg shape out that square hole and allow us to choose any seat on the bus will take time.

When I see posters and quote images circulating which support same sex marriage, I am pleased and share or pass them along but part of me is jealous. "What about poly marriages?"  What about us?"

I am deeply and overwhelmingly in love with two wonderful men and I am proud that they love me.  I want to enjoy all the aspects of this relationship and wear all the labels.

Maybe I'll get a tattoo  - well another one.
Or I'll write an advocacy email.
Or I'll organize an advocacy event.

Some how it pales in comparison to flying to Vegas and coming back married to both.
Elvis could do the one and then we could trip down the street for Spock to make me a bigamist.
The honeymoon would be fab. I can see us now driving around the city in a limo, standing up through the sunroof and shouting out - "It IS about the sex, dammit, Great sex!!!"

The Canadian Constitution says all citizens are equal, but some are more equal than others.  Income separates us, language separates us, religion separates us, location impacts our access to services, gender still proves to be a disadvantage, and our choice in loving partners denies us the legal benefits of life time commitment.  We are not equal. 

If you are chaffing at this too and willing to make your voice heard amongst we who are working to remove the disparity that exists, get involved to the level of your "out-ness" and comfort.  The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association is gearing up for some awareness and advocacy projects that will make a difference and move us along the road to true equality as citizens of Canada.  Watch our website at for details or email

Do it for Mrs. Bob-Carol-Ted-Alice-Fred-Sue and her husbands and wives.  Do it for you.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Replenishing love and finding family of choice

Life's been a whirlwind for Polly Amorie this past month. I have some newsy bits for you and some observations to share as well.

First the newsy bits:

Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association ( is looking at projects and advocacy opportunities with the legal stuff now taking a backseat.  They are seeking proactive members from across Canada for various committees working on everything from moderating email lists, web design, planning conferences, developing a poly leadership network with a forum for communicating and collecting resource information to facilitate a refining of a focused advocacy effort and future legal advances for the many families practicing polyamory in Canada.  Want to get involved? Contact them through the website.  Recruitment for specific projects will gear up after their AGM on March 25, 2012.

Dating Challenges for Poly/Open Relationships - May 31 from 7:00 - 9:00 pm at SPARC (Sex Positive Arts and Resource Centre) 450 Montreal St, Victoria.  $10 donation per person proceeds to PolyFamilyCampBC.  This is a panel forum with audience discussion encouraged.  Panel members will provide experienced tips on meeting men and women to date, dating couples, dating for bi-sexual men and women, dating ettiquette in general, talking to your dating partners about polyamory, opening your relationship, strategies, really bad moves and how to repair the mess.  Excellent for new to poly/open relationships and those who are experienced.

PolyFamilyCampBC is scheduled for July 13 to 16 at Gordon Bay Provincial Park Group Camping area.  This park is on Lake Cowichan.  The site has a communal cooking shelter, hot showers and privacy for attendees to enjoy a stream of adult activities and workshop, a terrific child and youth program running concurrently and intergenerational activities as well.  $40 per adult (16 yrs or older) early bird discount if you register and pay before July 1 and children/youth 15 and under are free with a one time family/tribe/camping group child/youth programming fee of $20.  Registration opened March 3rd and you can access information and the registration form at   Also please "like"  the Facebook fan page PolyFamilyCampBC.

Observations: Women, poly and beautiful surroundings.
This past month I was able to attend a women's retreat at Big Fish Lodge in Port Renfrew, British Columbia.  This is an amazing cozy place which can be rented by the bedroom but this group had the entire facility.  There is a backpackers hostel across the street from it owned by the same group. Very friendly management and luxurious accommodations.  Schedule of activities was flexible and division of provisions, cooking and clean up was well organized as was car pooling.  The organizers did very well and the women attending arrived with good intentions and cooperative spirits.  I tend to be a bit of an introvert in the company of women.  I joke that I've lost my manual for female to female friendships and intimacy options.  I made a conscious effort to participate fully though and was rewarded with some very interesting conversations and sharing moments.  There were so many common discussion themes of women struggling in their relationships with their lovers, children, co-workers, extended family and with themselves.  I think women in general are too hard on themselves with comparatives overwhelming from all angles and sources but poly women find dealing with their own issues an essential component of multi-partnered relationship development. These women were so gentle and supportive of each other yet sharing such a scourge of hard judgements on their own efforts.  One of the chat sessions we had involved making three statements about another woman in the group that acknowledged and praised some aspect of her personality, approach to life or activities and then had you make three statements acknowledging something about yourself.  I heard some amazingly insightful statements and saw the respondents moved to tears by the observations of others and the new understanding that somehow they had made an impact just being true to themselves.  The statements made to me completely floored me and I was able to see clearly that the things that are key to who I want to be are observed as being who I already am.  There's an epiphany for you.  I had become that woman despite my hard self-judgements to the contrary.  The woman I was partnered with for the exercise is a charming and very endearing transgender woman who I know well and it was a delight to make acknowledging statements about her - in fact quite difficult to select only three.  I found it really tough to think of three about myself though.  So what has this to do with being polyamorous?  Most but not all of the women at this retreat espouse the philosophy of polyamory although not necessarily currently in a multiple partnered relationship.  There was comment that some of us have more than our "share" of lovers and perhaps others could do partner respite care.  While meant to be humorous the idea that we take love away from other people by having more than the western monogamous ideal is commonly expressed even in such a setting of people who understand the concept of unlimited love and compersion. Following on that discussion was a discussion on how to be more successful at meeting new partners who also espoused the philosophy of polyamory and in particular how as women to meet and date other women who were lesbian or bi-sexual and understanding of polyamory.  It was interesting to hear the stories of those present who had dating nightmare stories to share.  We explored back roads and lush old rainforest, had lunch and a circle gathering under a 900 year old tree. We wandered along the beachfront collecting bits of memorabilia. We did art work, needle work, played music, danced, sang, laughed, cried and talked and talked and talked and talked.  We cooked for each other and ate new and different things.  There was chocolate covered strawberries, wine and plenty of terrific baked goodies to spoil and feed us.  And sixteen women, some who had never met before, each found that they had sixteen dear friends to take home in their heart including a new or stronger friendship with themselves. 

First rule of polyamory:  Be your own primary partner.  Understand, accept and love yourself.  

Observations:  Family is defined by your own heart.
One of my partners had surgery just over a week ago.  It was supposed to be day surgery as it was a laproscopic  gall bladder removal but there was a chance that they'd keep him in overnight.  I accompanied him to the hospital and was prepared to wait with him until they took him to the operating room.  The nursing staff had other ideas and I was handed a piece of paper with a number to call and a time when he'd likely be back from recovery to the day surgery area.  I'd take the day off work but decided to go to work since he didn't need me.  I called at the appointed time and was told that they didn't have anyone by that name.  So I went to the hospital, presented the paper and said I had a receipt for my boyfriend could they please return him.  The receptionist called around and found that they had just moved him to another area and I found him.  I was allowed in to see him briefly as he was still quite sleepy from the anesthesia.  The nurse wanted me to take his prescriptions to the pharmacy for him since I'd be waiting for at least an hour more.  I said that I didn't have his wallet for his benefits card and likely he'd have to do it himself.  "Oh, You're not family then." she says.  I said I live with him, he's just not on my benefits plan.  "Oh, so not his wife. We best leave them then."  she says and shoos me into the waiting room.  Well I was a bit offended.  And I spent a fair bit of time thinking about documents that ought to be in place as we grow older to ensure that he and my other partner and I are not excluded from decisions and access to each other in this kind of situation.  My other partner's estranged wife was quite ill a few years back and the hospital would only talk to him about her care as he is still legally her husband.  Her step-mother was quite incensed about it.  He and I talked about it at the time because the reverse would be true too.  They'd only talk to the ex and I'd be excluded.  With the decision on section 293 comes relief as we have no ceremony to bind us and make us illegal yet we have no ceremony or documents to bind us and define our family for instances like this.  We don't count.  I don't think the state should define what constitutes "family" and "next of kin".  I think that we should be able to define that ourselves.

On the flip side of that, our house has a basement suite which our landlord has been unable to rent since evicting the last tenants in mid November.  Recently a lovely woman and her toddler daughter have moved in.  The owner of the house is aware that we are a poly triad but also I gather the tenants of the house and suite have not always got along.  For either reason, the owner told this new tenant not to approach us.  He didn't tell us that and we'd not comply anyway because we don't roll like that.  My one partner introduced himself at the first polite moment and told her to drop in anytime to meet the rest of us.  She had us down for coffee a few nights later when we all home.  She's a dead ringer for one of my best friend from kindergarten through high school days.  Looks very much like her, sounds like her and has similar mannerisms.  She's glad to have neighbours who are open minded and easy to get along with.  We've had several interactions since and look forward to a friendly relationship.  She invited herself and her daughter to Christmas 2012 family dinner and our monthly board games night.  She and her daughter are welcome additions to our house and our household.  We have kids, dating partners of kids, roommates, ex spouses, ex spouses' parents, parents, close friends and now neighbours who are our family of choice.

Second rule of polyamory:   Family, Tribe or Poly-cule includes the far reaches of your heart.   Love (with all its forms and faces) is an unlimited replenishing resource that can be shared exponentially if you set it free. Knowing that sets you free at the same time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Invisibility or misinformation - which is worse?

The response to the long awaited decision on the BC Supreme reference case concerning the Canadian Polygamy Law was a bit of a disappointment.  The general media heaved a collective sigh of relief that status quo would be maintained and them thar Mormons would now be dealt with "properly".  Our elected legislators in Ottawa stood and applauded the decision in the House of Commons.  All is right with the world now and we can go back to not knowing or caring about some people in the interior of British Columbia.

Well...not quite.

The heretofore mostly silent majority of folks living in some form of multiple partnered relationship but NOT living in Bountiful were suddenly quite vocal on the matter.  Some were also initially sighing in relief that their situation, like mine, falls into the loop hole provided by Justice Bauman.  No ceremony - not illegal.  On the other hand, that also means we don't "count" as a long term committed relationship simply because we have no ceremony. (Common Law unions are certainly recognized and taxed as married by our federal government.) Those who have had a ceremony or some form of commitment event now wonder when the cops will be at the door to break up their homes.

Those who practice polygamy and fall under the Mormon group targetted by this law whether infact happily so or not - women and men -  are living in fear of being arrested and their children sleepless with an understanding that they may be ripped from their parents at any point.

The reality is that the judicial and family services systems do not have the resources to break up the homes of every family practicing multiple partner unions.  The focus on Bountiful is not even doable in terms of court resources, or foster homes for children and no one is going to pull up in a bus to take away all the children as was done in Texas.

What IS happening?  The BC AG has begun the process of selecting a special prosecutor to pursue charges and the process will be long, drawn out and difficult for all concerned.  Laying charges and gathering evidence when victims and witnesses are terrified of the fall out to their participation both in terms of legal ramifications and sanctions from superiors in their church, will continue to be a huge barrier.  Victims of abuse getting support and help will continue to be another barrier.  Changes to the family law under the Family Law Act just passed last fall have redefined "domestic violence" to include coersion and mental/emotional abuse and made violation of a restraining order punishable by 2 years in jail.  These and other changes via this new law will amend other related legistlation and are a good big step towards helping but will be 18 months or so to implement.  (Question: When the perpetrator of the abuse is also a current victim of abuse perpetrated by an authority figure outside of the home - who is charged?) 

Long term problems are not eradicated overnight.  Polyamorists and indeed all other people living in multiple partner homes struggle with the mud slung by the notion that this patriarchal polygamy gone wrong situation is not only the norm but the ONLY possible outcome.  We are invisible in the fog surrounding it. We are lost and while Newt Gingrich's press wasn't particularly positive imagery for polyamory, at least brings up the concept that there are other scenarios.

Occasionally we get lovely stories of happy families in the media - usually around Valentine's Day.  The general population does not appear to want to hear about loving families with multiple partnered adults.  They want to read about the nasty men with lots of women and kids who milk the welfare system and are just perverts.  Even when the story IS about happy folks, the comments in response convey the doubt that anyone with too much sex and love in their life is suspect.

(Personally, I think its sad that we have to see other people as miserable as we are ourselves or worse in order to feel better.  Life is an all you can eat buffet.  You choose to partake of what is available or you  dare to ask for a custom menu.  Too much sex or love or cheeseburgers is really a very personal assessment.  Too much for me might be nothing for you or far beyond your quota and tolerance.  That's the great thing about being human - we're different.   The mindset that "different" is wrong has got to go.)

We need to keep polyamory and the good stuff that we experience in the media.  Invisibility hurts us and feeds the hype that all multiple partnered relationships have bad outcomes.   We need to dare to keep asking for that custom menu and make it known that there are other happy functional options to monogamy.  Options that deserve recognition in the media and in law.