Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I love moonlight - the way it brightens the earth in the middle of the night, seemingly just when you need it the most.

Not feeling well at all last night I awakened at 2:00.  Dangling my legs over the side of the bed, I saw Kelsie fast asleep bathed in a golden glow.  Her fur almost luminiscent in the moonlight from the large picture window above her bed.  She had fallen asleep with her head resting on the window sill pointing toward the moon. 

The window was cracked a bit and the grape-like fragrance of the Mountain Laurel wafted in, and with it came a sensation of one of those moments when, despite bronchitis and a sinus infection and more, perhaps all is as it should be .

I recalled romantic moonlit nights and promises, made and not kept, of futures planned and broken dreams and hearts. And I thought of our military thousands of miles away under the same moon, fighting for their lives - for our lives.

I thought of people  dying, being born, laughing, crying, evaporating and struggling under this same moon.  I felt very small.  As we grow older, the plots and journeys of our lives become more complex, our lives, just as our faith, are often defined by the journeys and mountains we must climb. And when we do reach the summit and come to the end of a frightful journey this is where we catch a glimpse of grace and gratitude and perhaps even great love.  And when we reach this summit it is no wonder we want to stay.

"Because of our own stupid choices or the pressures of others upon us, many of us find ourselves in a place far away from our dreams...there comes a time to ask God to help us come home to give us life again.  To look down on us and shine on us once again. There comes a time to ask Him to hear our heartfelt prayer." Peter Wallace

Perhaps the moonlight shining in my window will be the answer to my prayer.

There's a web like a spider's web
Made of silver light and shadows
Spun by the moon in my room last night
It's a web made to catch a dream
Hold it tight 'til I awaken
As if to tell me my dream is all right

Traditional Folk Song

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


"Find something that moves you or pisses you off, and do something about it.  Put your self out there.  Be brave.  Be bold.  Take action.  You have a voice.  Speak up, especially when something tries to keep you silent.  Take a stand for what's right.  Raise a ruckus and make a change.  You may not always be popular, but you'll be part of something larger and bigger and greater than yourself.  Besides, making history is extremely cool."
Samuel L. Jackson, American Actor

Today I am sick and feel like the earth has come crushing down on me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I'm really not surprised by the week I have had.  But in spite of it all I am here - and that is a good thing. 

A friend told me a week ago that she thought I could write a story about a banana peel on the sidewalk.  I feel sure I  could.  But today I write  to ask you to step outside of your comfort zone - often.  "Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live," words of an American Journalist, Dorothy Thompson.

For what happens if we don't?  We become timid and squeamish and discontent.  Too discontent to live our lives.  Many choose to lie on their sofa, watch television, and simply look on, letting life pass them by.  People too often turn their backs on life.  They refuse to experience awe and wonder and discovery.  What happened to curiosity?  What happened to grabbing the brass ring and rejoicing? 

Everyone claims to be seeking the meaning of life - the why are we here thing.  As Joseph Campbell said in The Power of Myth, "I think what we are seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive."

The rapture of being alive!  How many of us can say that we have felt that? 

 I close with my favorite Agatha Christie quote,  "I like living.  I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

Now antibiotics, aspirin, cough syrup, and a box of 'Peeps!"  Should do the trick!


"If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood.  I'd type a little faster."
Isaac Asimov

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
Helen Keller

Photo Courtesy of Robert McLeroy
I miss you Mac!

Monday, March 29, 2010


This morning I can't get it out of my head...a dream I had last night...or rather a nightmare.  I was in my home, letting the dogs out into the back yard,  I realized the antique iron side gate to the yard and the gate to the front yard were both missing.  On the other side, of where the gate once hung, was a huge camouflage tarp in front of my house and the all too familiar sound of bulldozers.

I ran back inside, stumbling into the front window.  I looked out and my entire subdivision was leveled, and in the rubble was a military transport plane loading soldiers, laden with heavy back packs, holding the leashes of their Military Working Dogs.  Hundreds of people were scurrying around readying for war.  I could smell the scene, and the dust, and the sand, while the roar of the engines permiated me.

I jolted myself out of this time and place and reached for the pillow next to me to find my little dog, Wally, sound asleep.  As I petted him and placed my hand on his side, I felt his heart beating slowly, steadily and peacefully.  I turned over and went back to dozing and fell into another nightmare, replacing the first.  A friend and I were traveling by car and suddenly became lost.  We came to the crest of a hill and found ourselves surrounded by total and complete darkness.  I turned around and went to find somewhere to ask directions.  This proved futile.  There was a long line of people also seeking directions and there was no one no help.

Iraq and Afghanistan are places I can't imagine, places I have never been and never will be, but I feel deep inside that I know the loneliness, the fear, the attachment  and bond to a dog and the safety and comfort provided.  I undertand the places when you are afraid and know no way out and there is no one to give you directions.  You just know that you have no choice but to push forward by faith. For me, no matter how many times I have been battered and knocked to the ground, I push on never quite sure where the reserves come from or how to get to where I want to go.  But I know I have no choice.

I am reminded of Alan Alda when he said, "You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing."

This must be a similar sensation to ones experienced by our veterans, coming home to people that have no sense of where they have been emotionally or physically.  People who love you and want to help, but don't know how.  People whose lives have been disrupted and put on hold to be there for you, perhaps spending  months and months and sometimes years with 'their soldier' in the hospital. Perhaps coming home missing an arm, both legs, blind or with severe burns or a traumatic brain injury or PTSD. 

It is at this time Penny's From Heaven Foundation someday in the not too distant future wants to step in and offer another type of hero, a therapy dog or a service dog.  A companion or an assistance dog that sees past the injuries and teaches us that the disfigured or critically injured are not defined by their differences, but rather by the things that mean the most to them - their loved ones, their values, their faith and their friends.

I think we all find that underneath we are all pretty much scared all the time.  There is certainly no shame in that.  The world is full of pain but also the overcoming of it.

Yes I have nightmares, and yes I struggle, and yes 'panic disorder' sometimes prevails, and yes my enemies attempt to shatter, but there is sometimes that one moment of grace that comes to us quite unexpectedly.  It can almost make us catch our breath in awe.  If we pay close attention, this single instant will often provide us with an amazing opportunity to do something creative, caring or valuable, or healing. And if we are lucky, something that just might leave the world, or even just one person, a little better for us having been here.

If I have learned nothing else in my lifetime, I have learned to be aware and attentive to where I am being led. 

We must all learn to realize that we can't do it all alone.  For this there are no choices.  We must ask for guidance and then let go.  Listen and pay attention.  The answers will come.  Life jumps into the middle of it and this,  I promise you,  is the most exciting stuff of all. 

There are no guarantees.  This too I have learned.  And I have also learned that being present for these courageous soldiers is the greatest gift I have, and all I have to offer.

We all face battles. Small ones, medium ones, and sometimes those that knock the props out from under us. From these battles, and even nightmares, without exception, great lessons are to be learned. We need only to pay attention and be aware.  It is from these battles that we grow in ways we never could have without them.  Clearly, going through some of the painful times, is no picnic and often we wonder if the pain will ever go away.  But next time you face a challenge, know that it will end, then just sit back and observe how you have become a better person because of having made it throught that time and place. 

Life lessons are all around us. No one and nothing escapes them. 


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We need your help now more than ever in reaching out to our warriors with wounds.  Our goal is to provide trained therapy dogs, psychiatric support dogs and comfort dogs to these valiant young men and women.  Your tax deductible contribution of any size is greatly appreciated.
Please help us help our soldiers.

In our culture it seems to prevail, "If it feels good, do it."  And take it from me, there is nothing that feels better than doing something for someone else.  You never know when the effort you make just might put something in motion.  It could be a turning point in a life!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I feel certain that your world often feels as topsy turvey as mine.  When nothing you do is good enough, when people you have trusted and relied on turn on you with venom, when people you love don't love you back, when a pint of 'Cookies and Cream' ice cream is heaven and a lap full of dog is a gift.

Recently at a hotel in Nashville, days and nights turned topsy turvey when we exited from our rooms into hallways of this carpet.  In the elevator, I quiried people as to their thoughts about this floor covering.  Only two out of dozens thought it was "fun."  Fun in small doses perhaps for a nursery school,  but not yards and yards of it. 

It served only to remind me of my recent diagnosis of Panic Disorder.  The carpet looks like my mind feels when it is experiencing 'panic.' Circles and colors and chaos and fear and anxiety all running together in a hallway with no way out.  And then the intense fear of having another attack sets in and causes another attack.  Weird stuff this Panic Disorder!  Okay I am told to reduce my stress - and my anxiety will be reduced.  Get rid of the triggers and the anxiety will be reduced.  Breathe in - breathe out - slowly. 

Okay I will buy it.  I have researched it, googled it and swallowed it, and had psychological counseling, and I get it.  But how do I stop the constant everyday stressors in my life, to say nothing of those who are determined to take gigantic bites out of me to satisfy their own needs and to cause pain to someone they know nothing about. These people who have made assumptions based on no factual information whatsoever,  seem to enjoy flinging arrows in my direction.

The pattern on this psychodelic carpet is almost guaranteed to make you crazy, or at least me.  To stand in a hallway full of people curiously observing me taking a  photograph of the carpet....well you make the conclusion!

Perhaps this carpet was my turning point!

But there was an ending to this explosion of chaotic carpet...the pillows on the beds had monogrammed pillow cases!  SOFT and FIRM!  It made me wonder why don't people come with labels?  Perhaps if they did, I would, or could, learn to like this carpet.

I laid down on the SOFT pillow and melted.  As I did so, I remembered a patient in one of the hospitals on one of my Animal Assisted Therapy visits to patients with my precious Penny.  The gentleman in his wheelchair told me he thought Penny looked tired.  He petted her head and with eyes that would move mountains, quietly whispered, "Rest your head on me - I can handle it."

This is Holy Week.  I will forgive those who have temporarily caused me to crumble.  I will forgive. I will rest my head.


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Saturday, March 27, 2010


Today I received a letter. You might remember the kind, in an envelope with a stamp and handwritten.  It was sent to me by Chaplain Rob J in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  He wanted to thank me for sending Pockets of Peace books to his soldiers.  He indicated they keep a library and the books have been added 'for the guys to enjoy.'  He concluded, "We greatly appreciate your sacrifice." 

And what exactly is my sacrifice? This bothered me all day.

He is the one in harm's way, he is the one making the sacrifice.
We have all heard 'no sacrifice no victory.' I looked the word up in Websters and found that 'sacrifice is something lost or surrended in order to gain an objective.'  

So yes, perhaps I do understand.  And yes, perhaps I do sacrifice.  I spend endless hours that seen to speed by at a frenetic pace at the computer. I spend almost every waking hour furthering the mission and purpose of Penny's From Heaven Foundation.  It is my passion. And for passion one must lose or surrender and sacrifice.  Passion of work, of country, of love.  Having to give up something (or sacrifice something) for something else is a sacrifice.  And yes sometimes you have to dodge the bullets.

So to Chaplain Rob J, I say thank you.  And I say thank you to those of you who sacrifice for others.  Henry Ward Beecher reminds us that, "In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich."


Martin Luther King, Jr ~ "Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944) French aviator and writer.

"The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves."
 - Eric Hoffer

"No idea can succeed except at the expense of sacrifice; no one ever escapes without enduring strain from the struggle of life."
- Ernest Renan

Friday, March 26, 2010


"Henny Penny the sky is falling!"

This is an old cumulative fable about Chicken Little who believes the sky is falling.   It has been passed down for generations as a common idiom indicating an hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.

Yesterday was such a day. 

There are days you aren't quite certain that you are equipped to get through.  There are days that are frantic, frenzied and frenetic. There are days you feel trapped by circumstances and by life.  There are beautiful days you hope will never end. Then there was yesterday.

I was maligned by many, and quite simply slandered by people who meant to cause me pain, brought about by false assumptions and things they knew nothing about.  Not at all suspicious or odd, the only person in this group who was kind to me was a soldier. 

But you know what? I made it through.  This morning the reason doesn't matter.  Words, once said, cannot be taken back. But we mend, we heal, we learn, and we go on. 

I ended the tumultuous day by visiting soldiers and their families at the Lackland AFB Fisher House.  Perspective returned and kindness and openness and generosity abounded. After homemade pineapple and ham pizza and yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, the world seemed a bit softer.  Soldiers and their family members sat on the floor with our working therapy dogs and laughed and smiled and talked, and for a few moments their concerns and fears dissapated - as did mine! Once again my soldiers had my back and deflected the verbal weapons flung at me.

The people with the harsh, crushing words for me have been my teachers. Today I thank and bless them. They have left me a better person and more committed than ever to the mission of Penny's From Heaven Foundation Soldiers' Angels Operation Support Dogs.

So this morning I leave you and our fighting men and women, who always have our backs, with fitting words from my favorite poet, Mary Oliver's, "What is the greatest gift?"

"What is the greatest gift?
Could it be the world itself - the oceans, the meadowlark
the patience of the trees in the wind?
Could it be love, with its sweet clamor of passion?

Something else - something else entirely
holds me in thrall.
That you have a life that I wonder about
more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a life - courteous, intelligent -
that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a soul - your own, no one else's -
that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.
So that I find my soul clapping its hands for yours
more than my own."


"Hold fast to dreams.  For if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly."
~James Langston Hughes~

"Troubles are a lot like people - they grown bigger if you nurse them.~
~Author Unknown~

"If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles."
~Doug Larson~

Your donations are graciously accepted to help our men and women in harm's way.
Contributions will be used to purchase baby wipes, protein bars, hard candy, and multiple other items that you and I take for granted each and every second of the day.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010


I was in Nashville for the past few days.  I did not see the Grand Ole Opry or the Ryman or the 'bat' building. 

I did see the airport, the Holiday Inn Express, and Lipscomb University. And I also saw that  in the 'time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.' (William McKinley).   I saw that there are many, many others who, in recognition of the selfless service in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, love and care for our veterans, and that there are passionate people out there such as Lipscomb University, Challenge America, Operation Standdown, Share Care, Blue Star Mothers of America, Dive Heart, The Shield Foundation, The Kessler Foundation, Folds of Honor Foundation, Challenge Aspen, Wounded Warrior Project, Penny's from Heaven Foundation, Inc. and others standing by their sides and fostering solutions for transition from battlefield to home front.

Warriors with wounds (we were taught these are not 'wounded warriors') Tara Hutchison (from San Antonio), Zaneta Adams, Eric Edmundson, and Dan Shannon were in attendance.  They told their stories and made us proud to be Americans.  Proud to know them, to shake their hands, to say thank you.

I discovered that what truly matters is found just below the surface. I found that the pride in America runs deep, not just within me, but in others.  There were few dry eyes as country western superstar, Amy Grant, stood before us at the reception with Sgt. Eric Edmundson in his wheelchair being held by his mother.  Amy spoke of giving back, of paying it forward, and of never forgetting, and for never letting our soldiers down. 

Today, my passion is just below the surface and pouring outward.  I will not stop. I will not give up. And I will never give up on 'my' soldiers.  I have chosen my path, and I will not allow my own stupid choices, or the pressures of others upon me, deter me from my goals and dreams.

In Nashville, I recovered and rediscovered the path of my true values and purpose.  God Bless America and those who keep us safe and may we all  see the inner strength, pride, and dignity that our soldiers possess.  There is much to be learned from them.


Without your help we cannot continue our mission!

Your tax deductible donation can be made payable to:
Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc.
1915 Eagle Meadow
San Antonio, TX 78248

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Saturday, March 20, 2010


We all need time to let the dust settle!  Progress exhausts us.  Sometimes we all get so caught up in the day to day business and busyness of life that we have neither the time nor the quiet to understand ourselves or our goals.

I for one find I have no time for inward attention.  You know what I mean - that time when we take care of ourselves.  We need, as well, the time for the nourishing of relationships.  Our calendars are packed full of things that have to be done - or do they?  We have to 'pencil in' lunch with a friend, if nothing more important comes up.  I have heard people say they have no time for friends anymore. What a sad statement that is. It is as if our worth is determined by our busyness. 

This same busyness tricks us into trusting it.  Then what?  It exhausts us. It leaves us breathless and sobbing.  How do we restore sanity to our lives?

I know when I go out of town I leave time the day before for a margin of error.  If something can go wrong it will.  But I am not placed in crisis mode.  Why can't we do this in other areas of our lives? 

We work faster and faster and find less and less meaning in anything we do.   Okay so we need to say 'no' more often.  Richard  A. Swenson, M.D. says in his book Margin, " Saying No is not just a good idea -  it has now become a mathematical necessity.  Without this two-letter word, I doubt that regaining margin is possible.  If there are fifteen good things to do today and you can do only ten of them, you will need to say No five times.  This is not rocket science, but instead kindergarten logic.  Yet saying No, for most of us, is enormously difficult."

As Anne Lamott, says, "No is a complete sentence."  But for some reason we are afraid to say this word for fear people find us selfish, insensitive, or rude.  So we stay overloaded.  Overloaded by hurry, expectations, fatigue, work, traffic, technology, people, stuff, noise, debt, decisions...the list goes on. 

For me overload hurts and is hurting me. The overload of other people  hurts me.  Perhaps this is why I find solace in Anne Morrow Lindbergh's, Gift from the Sea. Perhaps we need to strip down to that place deep inside where we find authenticity.

Wouldn't it be nice to plan for free time, to be available to your friends, to not have to rush out the door, relish the moments and the memories, and perhaps accomplish less but do the right thing.  Consider today what you would do if you let the dust settle.

We need to remove our masks and become 'real' - like The Velveteen Rabbit.  And in becoming real we just might be able to say 'no' and save our own lives.

For me for now watching the clouds roll across the sky and listening to Marshall Styler's Mockingbird Station is  a start.


 "Who is not afraid of pure space -- that breathtaking empty space of an open door?"

"Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day - like writing a poem or saying a prayer."

"My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds."

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"Life is a journey, but it is not a race.  Do yourself a favor and slow down."
Richard A. Swenson

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Friday, March 19, 2010


"Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one."
~Baltasar Gracian~

A hero is defined as, "a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities." The thesaurus says, "brave man, superman, champion, and conqueror."

Today I question how you can be a hero in the midst of clutter.  Our cars are cluttered, our desks are cluttered, and our lives are cluttered.  Can we hope to be courageous, brave and superman in the midst of clutter?  Clutter can fill our hearts, and minds, and clutter can drain us.  And as we are drained, so often are our hopes and our energy and our desire for greatness.

Critical choices must be made to rid our lives of the clutter.

Rev. Dr. Wiley Stephens says, "There are the regrets of things we did not do in the past or things we wished we had done.  You might call this the clutter of the way not chosen."  Or the clutter of the road not chosen as in Robert Frost's words, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both."  Okay I get it. 

To quote Peter Walsh's wisdom, "When we have trouble letting's usually the memory, rather than the item itself, that we are frightened of losing."  Wow that hits home.  Sometimes things, and often even people, clutter our lives and we have trouble letting go. They are no longer useful, no longer necessary, no longer loved or even liked, but we cling to them because we cling to clutter, stuff that has outlived its purpose and usefulness.  So why do we do this?  Why can't we let go of clutter? Why are we afraid to let go of it?

What critical choices must we make as we unclutter?  How do we clean things up and clear a path to our future, free from the debris of the past?  How do we face a future with an open heart?

A confused or disordered state defines clutter.  So it makes sense to clear confusion and disorder from our lives in order to clear the path to our future. 

Then sometimes these questions are too much.  "Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold.  But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color of the rainbow to slide down."  ~ Douglas Pagels.  Sometimes a good rest can lead to the answers along with a broom or a vacuum to clear away your doubts and fears. 

James Carroll, ~ "We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking.  We move along the surface of things...but, there are times when we must stop.  We sit still.  We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or in its memory.  We listen, and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper."

Maybe it is in these breezes and rainbows that we begin to clear away the clutter.  Maybe the answers will come, as we live the questions...the answers will come.

Maybe being a hero isn't the answer, maybe being human is. 

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." Ambrose Redmoon 

Thursday, March 18, 2010


He was fit and tall and handsome in his pumpkin colored t-shirt and quite intrigued with little Gracie. His eyes sparkled, as he petted her. I asked this soldier about one of the two chains around his neck, one was a cross and the other a silver disk the size of a dime with a tiny handprint etched on it. I asked him about the handprint, as I turned it over and read the back. “I will always love you Daddy. Allie. ” Jacob had worn this since his infant daughter died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at three months of age. He told me how Allie was now in heaven with his mom, Allie’s grandma. Jacob’s mom had died when he was only four years old. “Now Mom is taking care of my baby. I can see mom holding her and rocking her in heaven.” I told him he had two very special angels watching over him.  I hugged him and thanked him for sharing that story with me. He said, “No thank you and for the work you do with the soldiers and for bringing Gracie here to brighten their days.” He kissed the top of her little head  before we said goodbye.

Greg had a magnetic personality and great energy and was suffering from great pain. He had brown hair and eyes that somehow seemed to show everything and yet hold secrets, as he introduced us to his mom. I picked Gracie up, and placed her on her pink rubber mat on the patio table of the Fisher House so he could reach her better. Within seconds Gracie was snuggled into his arms and he was whispering to her. This response is now common place. I was once surprised by it, but no longer. These soldiers, that seem to wear courage like armor, are learning to make friends with their injuries and often their rage. The common thread is they quite simply adore Gracie. Somehow they seem to find solace and great comfort in this little dog. I remembered reading somewhere, “The brighter a fire the more people are drawn to it.” Gracie seems to use her fire to accomplish great things. And for her, there is no end to doing something she loves.

Greg is one of hundreds, thousands, of soldiers who are in a place in between. A place I like to call “no longer” and “not yet”. A place where healing takes place - just as ‘music is made by the space between the notes.”

Moments like these make life important. Moments that are like people we know and love who are special, so we keep them close! We hold them close because they are worth it, because we are worth it. These are moments I won’t forget. They have become my way of life. All the injuries, all the suffering and pain and horrors of war - all the healing and repairing and struggling.

I watched as a soldier's  mom watched her son with Kelsie, and I was struck by what I perceived as her total  exhaustion and vulnerability. I don’t know what she was thinking, but being a mom myself I can imagine. How many times in my life I have been face to face with the pain of realizing that sometimes there just isn’t any more - we have given all we have. Sometimes what we care most about gets all used up and goes away.

So the moral is - while we have it, it is best we love it, care for it, fix it when it is broken and try to heal it when it’s sick.

We are all vulnerable to this fragile life. It is in this vulnerable place, the place in between no longer and not yet, where we are able to find beauty, compassion, empathy, kindness, and forgiveness. And then sometimes a couple of pet therapists that ask nothing more than to settle on your lap or shoulder and just be there.

As my dear friend Terry Hershey says, “The alternative? protect ourselves from all manner of brokenness and to seal off our hearts and souls with Teflon. There will be no pain or brokenness. And there will be no love.”



Please help us help our soldiers!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Fred Rogers from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood fame said that his version of graciousness and meeting the deeper needs of others is "loving someone into existence."  I know that feeling.  I hope that you let those words enter your heart and become absorbed.

Is there someone you need to 'love into existence?"

We all need to know we are loved and capable of loving.  But are we able to receive love? Have we been hurt so many times that we are afraid of suffering the pain of it's loss once more, or do we feel we are not worthy of being loved for some reason or another, or is it simply that we don't know how to be loved? And if we don't know how to be loved then why?

There is self-serving love, and then there is true love, unconditional, and nonjudgemental love.  Loving someone can be hard.  But how can you love someone who doesn't know how to be loved?   How do you 'love someone into existence?'   

Being loved is a blessing, a gift, an opportunity. Sure it takes courage.  Storms will come and clouds will loom.  And sometimes you feel as if you are adrift in a sea of uncertainty.  It is in these times you call upon your reserves in the tide of despair and search for the promise of sunshine. 

I had one wounded Marine that was at BAMC for over a year and a half, healing.  But each week watching him move past pain, frustration, and anger, he slowly emerged from his cocoon and began helping complete strangers - his 'brothers'- with their issues.  

Jonathan adored Gracie, and he was one of her favorites. He loved to shout to me across the courtyard  at the Fisher House, “Hey Boomer!” I would shout back, “Hey Sooner!” You might guess that both of us are proud graduates of Oklahoma University. This, as you might expect, is not something to cry out in Texas, but nonetheless Jonathan and I did so proudly. And in reality, I figured he would protect me if it got violent!  

On Saturdays when he knew Gracie and I were to be there he would always wear his OU t-shirt. He had been married in March, deployed in April and wounded the same month. Then his wife filed for divorce. This Marine exemplifies “Always faithful. – Semper Fi.” He actually celebrates his injury. When I asked if any of his buddies had been injured he said, “No, if they had of been, I would have had to burn the town down.” We had talked for a while, before he excused himself to go buy ‘his guys’ in Iraq some ‘fun stuff.’

Our soldiers are forced to deny their emotions in order to survive. True it helps them survive the war, but in the long run this can have some devastating consequences. This emotional denial can cause delayed stress syndrome.

I was forced as a child to deny what was happening in my own home and deny my feelings about it. Not being lovable to my own parents, I have never felt truly loveable to anyone. Today I feel the feelings; I change my perspective and follow my gut reactions. I have changed the dance of my life from one of endurance and struggling to one of celebration and healing. It is a conscious daily decision, and one I am not always able to swallow.  I guess you can say that I have had to 'love myself into existence.'

One extraordinary day with Jonathan I heard words that vibrated in my heart and that were felt  in my soul. I found that I was vindicated, my meaning justified, and I finally felt fully alive. For a good while I have known my purpose or ministry. But sitting in the Barracks with Jonathan on one cool, humid and dreary morning, I knew for certain.

A group of volunteers were breaking down tables from a  breakfast they had just served to the wounded soldiers. I had parked close by to run in for a quick meeting with the managers. Kelsie was with me, being the perfect catalyst to provide a light for whoever might need it.

As the room cleared, I saw Jonathan. I remembered seeing him in the worst and best of times. Today, one of the best times, found him sitting in his wheelchair, talking with another soldier. Kelsie and I approached and instantly saw that his friend had a contagious brilliant smile, that I soon discovered hid  overwhelming burdens and frustrations.

I hugged Jonathan and kissed him on the cheek. With his disarming smile he said, “How are my girls?” I told him how good he looked and then he introduced me to Jesse. I extended my hand and found that Jesse had to struggle to move his arm, and grimaced in pain, as he did so. His hand, he told me 'didn’t work.’ I told him that was a good excuse for a hug.  He smiled.

It was obvious that my Marine was solely focused on his conversation with Jesse. I sat down and  made myself invisible, for it was obvious that this was their time. Jonathan never stopped petting Kelsie on the head and neck, as he and Jesse talked. Jesse, holding his beret upside down with an unopened bottle of 7-UP in it, said “I didn’t sign on for this. I’ve been here for 45 days. I didn’t sign on to be here. I want to be in Iraq with my guys. I want out of here.” Jonathan kindly, firmly, and full of the confidence that he exudes told him, “You are here. You are here to heal. Get used to it. Deal with it. You can’t go anywhere until you are better. You can’t be of use to anyone until you are better. You may have to be here for a year or more. Yes, each day is a struggle, but you can do it.”

It was then the words appeared out of nowhere!  Jonathan turned and looked at me and said, “And just when you think you can't do it anymore.....then she is here.” Sometimes stringing words together is easy. Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes words are only a feeling in your heart. I heard the words said, but even today it takes a while to understand the depth and intensity of them. And it is doubly hard to write what they meant and mean to me. Let me just say that I most likely will never hear words that touched me like these did.

I handed Jesse my business card and whispered in his ear, ‘This is part of the journey, not the destination. You be an inspiration. He simply responded, “I will try.”

Next time someone asks me how I do what I do, or why I do what I do, I will know the answer.

It isn’t important that they understand. What is important is that I understand. I am where I belong.  I am blessed, humbled, and grateful in the presence of these young men and women who support each other whenever and however necessary. The very least any of us can do is support them in return.

And yes, I do and will continue to do, everything in my power to 'love them into existence.'

"In my wildest dreams, you always play the hero. In my darkest hour of night, you rescue me, you save my life."

--Bliss and Cerney

The only true gift is a portion of yourself."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's so easy, To think about Love, To Talk about Love, To wish for Love, But it's not always easy, To recognize Love, Even when we hold it.... In our hands."

"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction."
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 "There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved."
--George Sand


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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


We all have our own interpretation of adventure - of what our adventure is.  For some of us it is as simple as navigating traffic on our way to work, or meeting all of our obligations for a single day, or sadly for some just  getting out of bed and putting both feet on the floor.

Adventure can be tame or the exploration of a lifetime.  For some of us adventure may not be found in scaling mountains or in voyages to distant places, but in facing our own fears and searching for the path to a new way of living. 

Helen Keller is remembered for her lack of vision certainly, but mainly for her keen observations in spite of it.  "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."

A friend came to me and was deeply concerned over his son spending the summer with a mission outreach group in Honduras. My friend was consumed by 'what ifs.'  My instant response was, "That is wonderful!"  He was silent for a few moments and then, almost disappointed,  said, "You are the only one who has thought that."  His son is 21, an adult.  He only has this one glorious life, and he has chosen to have 'his' adventure.  He could spend the summer in Europe or New Mexico or San Antonio, but he has opted for 'life'. He will face challenges, see and do things others would shy away from or only dream about.  But for his entire life he will have had an adventure.

When I was 21, I spent two years in Seoul, Korea.  It was my adventure.  I loved it, and today treasure the memories.  It forever changed the way I think and feel.  It has made me appreciate the United States of America.  It has made me appreciate many things others today take for granted.  It has made me appreciate our military and what they fight for, ice cream cones, purple mountains majesty and freedom. It has made me understand poverty and hunger and life without this thing called freedom. This young man who is off to Honduras will also forever be changed.  He will have a new perspective, he will grow, he will have had the experience.  He too will find a compassion and empathy that nothing else can provide him.  He will have had his adventure - an adventure where he is working for peace, for truth, and singleness of heart. 

So I say to this young adventurer, 'Godspeed! Rejoice, be very happy, you are not an endangered species.  There are others who want an adventure, but seldom have the courage.  Have an adventure for them!"

So for you, act on a whim once in a while, set out on a journey whose rewards and results you can't anticipate.  Take a step in a direction you are unsure of. You just might find life.  Help to bring about change in this world, by being a candle for others.  Rejoice and let go of being so protective and enter into this adventure called life.

What is your adventure?  What is holding you back? 


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Monday, March 15, 2010


Saturday afternoon I had a lengthy phone discussion with a soldier about how Penny's from Heaven Foundation, Inc. is often thwarted in its efforts to help our veterans with PTSD.  We agreed that it may be the lack of scientific data and/or studies backing up what we already know - that certain intuitive and sensitive dogs are able to assist some soldiers with their ongoing battles with PTSD. 

Not judging, or feeling sorry for, or turning away from a soldier who has lost his face, legs or arms is difficult and unnerving for some and  for those who quite simply do not 'get it.'  Understanding that these soldiers are not defined by their appearance, disabilities, or visible or invisible wounds is easy for our PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN FOUNDATION/SOLDIERS' ANGELS SUPPORT DOGS.  They simply do not care!  They see with their hearts.  They see love, compassion, angst, grief, sorrow, courage, determination and yes even fear.  As these dogs, softly and purposefully, lay their heads on soldier's laps, the warmth of the dog, and this moment, permiates into a place most of us can only imagine. A place where there is peace and comfort and tranquility, if only for a brief time. 

My friend understands.  You see he has PTSD.  You can feel it in his face, his smile, his eyes, his body language and in the air around him.  He faces demons daily, hourly.  He struggles, and he will survive.  He will survive because he is meant to.  He has a purpose and an ability to help others in the same situation.  His voice is calm and knowledgeable and sincere and safe and wise beyond his years. His demeanor is decisive, resolute, focused and decided.

As we discussed the fact that there is little to no scientific data regarding the comfort and reality provided by therapy dogs, service dogs, comfort and support dogs, psychiatric support dogs and even household pet dogs with  soldiers struggling with PTSD, Jarod hit the nail on the head!  "It may not be science - it may just be God." 

Okay, I'll go with that, because I believe it.  But the question remains how do we get the medical community, the Department of Defense, the VA, etc. to buy into this?  Perhaps the thinking is that these are young, strong, courageous men who certainly should not, could not  possibly find comfort in a mere dog.  But they are wrong.  There is much to be gained by finding reassurance, wellbeing, consolation and support in a dog.  What are my statistics?  What is my data?  I have seen it work...over and over and over again. In fact, I will go so far as to say I have never not seen it work!

Being crushed, visibly and/or invisibly wounded, demolished by war brings the best and strongest to their knees.  Having to hide barricaded in a closet all night for fear of 'enemy attack,' or shop at Walmart at 3:00 am because there are no crowds to judge or fear, or avoid a previous way of life, becomes a way of living for these young men and women. This doesn't have to be their legacy!!

We have yet to even begin to realize the healing abilities of dogs.  But what I do know is that voices soften, fear disappates, smiles appear, war disappears, the need for drugs is diminished, and the softness and gentleness of a dog's head in a soldier's lap indeed "may not be science, it may just be God."

Not everything has to have an explanation, and isn't that what faith is all about? Isn't that what love is all about?


"I talk to him when I'm lonesome like; and I'm sure he understands.  When he looks at me so attentively , and gently licks my hands; then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat.  For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that."

~W. Dayton Wedgefarth~ From his poem "Bum"

"Dogs are our link to paradise.  They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent.  To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace."
~Milan Kundera~

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Please help us help our soldiers!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Where does it come from? This thing called dedication...dedication to principle, to passion, to life, to purpose, to people you have never met, to country.

Last night I attended, with Kelsie my therapy dog, the celebration of the grand opening of the Soldiers' Angels Shipping Center/Museum in San Antonio.  It was a grand event.  Volunteers in Soldiers' Angels t-shirts, pins, bracelets and conviction were in attendance, as well as soldiers  from OEF and OIF, and some from previous wars also present to support and honor the opening of a shipping center, all run by veterans, that send out a 'semi' daily full of donated items to our deployed military.

"Let no soldier go unloved, until they all come home!" (the mantra of Soldiers' Angels) rang out, as group photos were taken of the entire group in attendance.  It was a breathtaking, reverberating, and somewhat chilling experience in a way.  As the words rang out, I hoped the nation heard the words.  This morning, I hope the nation knows what the work of one passionately dedicated woman, Patti Patton-Bader has brought to fruition.  I invite you to visit their website, read the history of this group of indefatigable individuals and realize that one person truly can 'build a village' and join them in their effort to 'let no soldier go unloved.' 

I was blessed to meet SPC Troy Yocum. Troy was but one of the Soldiers' Angels and volunteers who stooped to pet Kelsie and thank her for her service to the soldiers and to the United States of America.  He seemed mesmerized by her vest, touching each of the patches and pins attached with great interest and intensity.  As his fingers fell on the American Flag he asked how he could have one.  I wasn't sure what he meant at the time.

But I soon found out.  Troy, an honorably discharged Iraq-War Veteran will begin hiking with Emmie his dog, while drumming, for over 7000 miles, circling the USA to help raise $5 million dollars for struggling Military Families, beginning april 17th, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  A SOLDIER'S HIKE FOR OUR HEROES!  and  Troy is ready - physically, mentally and emotionally.  In February 2011, he will come through San Antonio on his march across the U.S. - Penny's from Heaven Foundation's  Soldiers' Angels Support Dogs and their owners  will walk with him as he enters the city.  "I will only walk as fast as the slowest person...that's how the Army does it."


Emmie or Emerson Elaine Eskridge the Superdog was born in Louisville, KY on June 19th, 2007. She is the smallest of the six original and distinct breeds of dog from Japan called Shiba Inu (柴犬?).She is a small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain and trails. Emmie has an abundance of energy. She loves to run, play catch, and hunt small animals.
Emmie has a thick coat, especially during the winter. Her safety is a main concern from the crew during very hot days. If temperatures rise then Emmie will take it nice and easy by riding in the RV that follows SPC Yocum. Of course she can't stand this. She always wants to be out front to lead the hike. Troy sometimes thinks that she was born for the purpose of hiking across America!

So this morning, Emmie is proud to announce that she is certified as an Honorary Penny's From Heaven Soldiers' Angel Support Dog!  You see what Troy wanted, as he touched the American flag on Kelsie's vest, was a vest for Emmie to wear as she walks for fifteen months across America to support our Heroes.  She will have a vest, an American flag and the Penny's From Heaven Foundation patch and a Soldiers' Angel pin.  She will proudly represent what we stand for, she will proudly represent our country, and she will proudly honor our soldiers, as she and Troy bring awareness to their mission!

"To further spread the word that our American Heroes are fighting just as hard at home as they do overseas. We hope to provide a peace of mind and lay the foundation for military families in need to succeed. Troy will literally put one foot in front of the other, crossing the great states of America to reach people and help spread the importance of helping our military families." 

Their goal is to raise the needed $5 million for these families! "

Troy is extraordinary.  His dedication is intense. "Our soldiers are ready at a moments notice. They don't pick their battles, but when called to service they respond. Keeping our enemies at bay. Our heroes are champions of freedom not eager for war but willing to sacrifice. One for the need of many. Many veterans live by this military code and have done so when our country needed it the most. Now it is our NATIONAL HEROES who need our help and its time that we all stand by them with honor. While one soldier may miss holidays, a birthday, or a birth of a child, others may suffer mentally and develop anxiety, depression or PTSD. Some even sacrifice much more by being injured by road side bombs, being shot or taking shrapnel. Some pay the ultimate price. In any case, we ask a lot of our men and women in uniform and when in their time of strife, who can they call on?"

Please help Troy and Emmie, support them, and support those men and women who allow us the freedom to walk across America free!

And you had better believe that Penny's From Heaven Foundation Soldiers' Angels Support Dog teams will be there for them.

Soldiers' Angels is proud to support SPC Troy Yocum on this truly inspiring Hike For Our Heroes. "May No Soldier Go Unloved," encapsulates the motivation behind Soldiers' Angels. The volunteers of Soldiers' Angels work tirelessly to demonstrate active care and concern for veterans, the wounded, deployed service members and their families. Soldiers' Angels volunteers will spread the word in their communities before Troy's arrival in their area. Soldiers' Angels media team will also post updates on Troy's progress on their official sites at Twitter @soldiersangels, and 

They are happy to have started off Troy's fundraiser efforts with a $1,000 donation and urge others to contribute.

Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-led 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their families. Founded by the mother of two American soldiers, they are an international, volunteer-led organization supporting America's men and women in uniform. With over 30 different teams and projects, their nearly 200,000 volunteers assist veterans, wounded and deployed personnel and their families in a variety of unique and effective ways.

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If you would like to donate to Troy and Emmie's journey, please let us know!