Tuesday, November 30, 2010


"Yes, he is a lifesaver.  He has pulled me from such a deep slump.  I want to help spread the word.  So other guys that have to endure can know there may not be a direct answer, but the dogs and the relationship helps ease the pain and brighten our days.  Thank you for understanding. My dog, Kinglsey, won't leave my side. It brings me such happiness to know my buddy is by my side."


The late theologian and pastor Forrest Church says that grace means not only can we have the wonders of life - we already do. 

"Put away your shopping list of grievances and give yourself away."

Reading this, it occured to me that we all have our own 'shopping lists.' Lists of grievances, lists of bitterness, list of things we can't live without, lists of successes and lists of failures. Face it, we are a nation of consumers.  Comsumption defines us, and ultimately produces and projects who we are. Our lives are  defined by what we purchase.  Jewelry, houses, cars, the right PC or Mac, Blackberries or iPhones, Nike or New Balance, what we wear, even what airlines we fly.  And sometimes we are defined by what charity we support.  And when it comes to giving we grumble that we don't have the money, but we find it to spend on more stuff. We want to and expect to live 'happily ever after' because we have the right 'stuff'.

We work hard to have this right 'stuff'.  Yet in our pursuit, we sometimes need permission to play! Perhaps if we sit back and think about it we are, and already have, the stuff that dreams are made of.  Perhaps that boldness and power is already in us, just waiting for the magic to erupt.

So I say to you, don't let them take away who you are!  Stuff and things and people try to remake us.  We try our best to oblige, but in actuality we are once again being defined by someone else and their requirements and unrealistic requirements of us. 

So where do lifesavers come in?  They may just come in with wonder and whimsy and whoopsie daisies and pawprints walking beside us, guiding us, supporting us, comforting us and silently saying to us that "It is going to be alright.  I am here.  I believe in you."  The offering of permission to play, permission to delight in a good old fashioned belly laugh, permission to act silly and to not care what anyone else thinks just might be the right medicine.  Permission granted to cry and to be heard and understood!

Stuff is no antidote or guarantee against loneliness, pain, grief, anger, and fear.  In fact it serves only to dwarf us.  Perhaps the answer is found waiting.  Waiting at the front door when you walk in.  Whirling and twirling, as if the entire world revolves around your return home. A lifesaver you can snuggle, tell your deepest fears and secrets to, and a lifesaver that truly does save your life, more often than not.

With love, fear falls away. Saying 'yes' to love is saying 'no' to fear.





Penny's from Heaven Foundation, Inc.
13423 Blanco Road, Ste 218
San Antonio, TX 78216 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


"The humans have tried everything. Now it is up to us dogs!"
~101 Dalmatians~

You want to help and you aren't sure how. You find that the person home from war is not the same any more. You try everything. There are moments you are alone, frustrated, sad, angry and bitter.  It is as if when you said goodbye, you really said goodbye. 

A closed heart can become clogged. You try everything to open that heart but it just doesn't work.  You want to be kind and loving, but suddenly you find an edge to your voice, and it escalates into anger.  These are the times when a nonjudgmental friend is needed to keep our warriors balanced.  They need to be given permission to feel all of their emotions, including expressing anger in an appropriate manner.  They need someone to simply listen, as they express all of their issues with dignity and grace. Finding this solitary place, a spot where they feel safe, allows them to speak how they feel.  They can write it, shout it, pound it out, work with mental health professionals, go to the gym and work it out, but sometimes, once everything has been tried, it just might be time to leave it up to the dogs.

Seeking a place of healing is seeking a place of power.  With nonjudgmental acceptance our warriors can come back to center once again.  Maybe not the same center, but a new center. A center where they feel welcomed, where they can breathe, find energy, and loving resources around them.  Working things out, working things through, taking steps, with your best friend beside you, are steps toward healing where fears can be released, and a place where they can be gentle with themselves and hopefully find a place where their souls can be at peace.

With their dog by their side the warriors don't have to rush, push, or try to force things forward.  It doesn't work.  Not anymore.  Hurrying, or impatience, will not speed up the process, or their journey.  The answer, our warriors with PTSD need to fully immerse themselves in the moments. What better way to do that than with a dog who is the epitome of exemplifying being immersed in the moment. 

Thunder comes, storms come, and lightning flashes.  And it is frightening.  But storms don't last forever and with a dog by your side the damage can be minimal.  And perhaps, just perhaps, when humans have tried everything, it is at that precise moment that it is up to the dogs!


"Just as nature plays out her storms, sometimes with violence, sometimes with gray days, sometimes with a gentle cleansing rain, we have storms in our lives, storms in our soul.  Storms are part of life, part of growth, part of the journey."
~Melodie Beattie~




13423 BLANCO ROAD, STE. 218

www.tadsaw.org  (under construction)

Saturday, November 27, 2010


"Every man dies, but not every man lives."

“When you feel like you’re running into a dead-end, don’t think of it as the end of the road, think of it as God giving you a chance to turn in another direction and have a new beginning.”

Once in a while right in the middle of an ordinary life...love brings you a fairy tale. Sometimes these fairy tales are huge and burst in unannounced.  Sometimes they creep in quietly almost unnoticed.  And then sometimes you might find yourself sitting in the middle of one and quite simply don't know what to do.  Because you too  have your own demons to extinguish, or deal with, or kick to the side, or sock in the teeth.  Who is willing to listen?  Who is there for you? Who is your 'Battle Buddy?"

I understand PTSD. I get it.  I live it. I fight it.  I hate it.  I can't control it. I pray, I rail out against it, and I dread it. The hardest thing is that many friends just don't get it.  I listen to 'my' Soldiers and Marines and hear them.  I hear their cries for help, the pain in their eyes, their almost futile frustration and their sense that it 'doesn't feel right to be happy.'  They feel lost, isolated, disassociated, and define their PTSD as a 'scar, just like a tatoo, that is there for the rest of their lives.' 

It isn't something you 'get over.' There is a book I find solace in and refer back to frequently, "How Can It Be All Right, When Everything Is All Wrong? by Lewis B. Smedes.  "Put it as plainly as it can be put: we need to suffer some of the cussed wrongness of life in order to find its deep rightness.  We have to feel pain we do not want to feel, carry burdens we do not want to carry, put up with misery we do not want to put up with, cry tears we do not want to shed. If we feel no hurt now, we will, when all is done, be the most miserable of all people. Ultimately, at the end of the game, when we cash in our chips, it will be all right with us only if we have been hurt with life's wrongness." 

As Smedes says, 'To suffer is to put up with things you very much want not to put up with.....if you badly want to be rid of something and it will not go away, you are suffering."  It is often, for our warriors, a mental anguish, a desperate ache, visions of 'hell' that won't go away.  Somehow this suffering has bound us together.  Our pain, our grief, our hurt that we have no power to make go away. By all appearances we are stuck with it.  As William Shakespeare said, "Out, out damned spot."  But this spot won't go away. 

It was Thanksgiving a couple of days ago.  My house was full of warriors bound in brotherhood, all victimized by PTSD.  I suffer with them because I choose freely to let their hurts hurt me. I bring it on myself.  And yes it is my doing. I have walked, eyes wide open, into their pain. 

They don't know this.  Nor do they have to.  Nor is it important that that they do.  It is what it is. I like to think of it as my gift. My understanding to a small degree, what they are forced to endure, perhaps makes me better equipped to help, sharing, to a small degree, their pain. 

 As they walked in the door of a home smelling of roasted turkey, arms wide open, I entered their embrace and heard two single words whispered by each into my ear, "Hi Mom." To me there are no more beautiful words.  To me these two words make the suffering worthwhile.  For a while I am their mother and they are my sons.  Son, men, warriors that I understand.  Warriors that I love.  Warriors that for some reason find comfort in me.  I wonder why I was chosen.  I wonder why me.  But then it doesn't really matter does it?  What does matter is that we find comfort in each other. And in this big old messed up world what else is there? 

To see these young men, fighting in the aftermath of multiple deployments against PTSD that visits them every moment of the day and night, sometimes the only and the best comfort - the one single thing that understands them is their dog.  This I understand.  To simply put your hand out and that dog is there, no matter what, can, at least, for that time, make everything alright. 

To be lucky enough to locate someone to hurt with is all that is needed. 

Sitting on a sunny, crisp November day with your best friend is heaven.


13423 BLANCO ROAD ~STE 218


What better gift could you give a warrior than someone to hurt with?

Monday, November 22, 2010


I posted this a year ago this week.  It seems appropriate to post it again.  I hope it reminds you of what is, or should be, most important this Thanksgiving week!

I tell this story to let our soldiers with the invisible wounds know they are not alone and their service and sacrifices do not go unnoticed. And I tell it for you. So that when you go to sleep at night, you will remember Allen Hill and the price of freedom.

Sometimes things happen in our lives that cause us to stumble and temporarily be thrown off balance. We grumble about the heat and the inconveniences of a freeway traffic jam, and we worry about the unimportant and mundane occurrences in our everyday lives that appear to us to be so earthshaking and insurmountable.

And then sometimes things happen that allow us to reach the center of what is most important. We suddenly awaken to what people we have never met, in a place we have never heard of, endured and will endure for the remainder of their lives to keep us free. Everyday, in every way, these American heroes lay their lives on the line to protect us. I find that extraordinarily humbling. And I find it remorseful that they aren’t appreciated more for their service and sacrifices.

It was a late 107 degree July Monday afternoon in San Antonio. I drove to a psych hospital where twenty soldiers are undergoing treatment for the invisible wound called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) I had met many, many soldiers at Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center with this injury, but none had effected me quite like Allen. Allen’s story first captured the heart of America when he and his wife were on a national television program focusing on the devastating effects of PTSD and how his service dog, Frankie, from Puppies Behind Bars in New York alerts him to his debilitating and reoccurring flashbacks by jumping on his lap and licking his face until he focuses on the present once again and the unspeakable horrors of war are temporarily released, at least for a few minutes before striking again.

I had had the opportunity of spending some time with Allen’s wife Gina and their two kids the day before. She kindly invited me to visit her husband the next day. Little did I know the impact simply meeting him would have on my life.

As Allen approached the large round dining table in the cafeteria at the hospital, I noticed we were surrounded by families visiting loved ones, small children who had been horrifically sexually abused, and gang members looking somewhat lost. As soon as Allen entered the room, Frankie became alert, tail wagging. You could almost hear her saying, “Finally, there you are.”

Allen sat down with his dinner tray of chopped beef and rice and mixed vegetables. Frankie was in position, under the dining room table with both paws and head resting on Allen’s big red shoes. She waited! She waited for the man she listened to. Listening for that moment when she needed to alert him back to the real world once again.

I introduced myself and spoke with this soldier who had sacrificed his future for me and others like me. With a lump in my throat, I extended my hand which he shook with a handshake that told me a lot about this man. I told him what wonderful sons he had and that he should be very proud. This seemed to please him. I mentioned I hoped he was a little better every day and that therapy was helping. We talked about ‘baby steps’ and how talking to a counselor would help him release the horrors of war and that while they would never go away they would lessen to a degree and he would grow to recognize the triggers to these flashbacks easing their intensity somewhat. He told me that he had not shared everything with his therapist. I asked why and he simply said, “It is more than she could take. There were days I didn’t think I would live.” I told him, “She can take it, she can take it. She is trained to.” His eyes told me that those words feel on deaf ears. He wanted to spare her the pain of what he endured. This is the kind of man Allen is or maybe he couldn’t relive it one more time.

Gina and I talked for a while as Allen silently ate his dinner. But her eyes kept moving from my face to his. Ever vigilant, Gina quietly said, “He is beginning to have a flashback.” I turned and looked at an American hero who was staring blankly into space. A space filled with unspeakable horrors that come back to him without warning, blacking out all reality of the present. Gina stood and went to stand beside him. Allen is never combative in these flashbacks but his eyes and face tell the story. First his eye lids started to quiver and then twitch. His eyes never off of the horizon of a place and time we will never know. Then his face contorted somewhat. Gina, patting his cheeks and calling his name realized she needed help from a dog that knew exactly what to do.

Frankie was given one of eighty commands she learned at Puppies Behind Bars and placed both front paws on Allen’s chest and began licking and nudging his face. Literally in two to three seconds, Allen blinked and returned to us for a brief time, until it happened about ten minutes later.

This is his life. This is Gina’s life. This is the price of freedom, the freedom that allowed Allen to get up and bring back three pieces of strawberry cheesecake, one for each son and one for himself.

Allen may not be perfect, but in his imperfections, he taught me that the bottom line is how we deal with the tough stuff, what and who we passionately and truly love, and that people are not defined by their limitations. In Allen’s beautiful black eyes, I saw my own life reflected and wondered on the way home how I would cope in similar circumstances. I was keenly aware of those times in my life when I have needed to be carried – when I just couldn’t do it anymore – and who was there for me.

Allen’s story is not so unique. Thousands of our wounded heroes are returning from combat with the same injury. Glimpses into their lives are full of struggles and coping and agony and despair. They feel excluded, isolated, and face unspeakable terrors at every corner at every moment of the day.

We all need someone willing to go looking for us when we’re lost. We all want to find our way home again and sometimes it just isn’t that easy. “When I came home, I had to learn to be an American again.” Occasionally the flashbacks cause him to search his house for insurgents. It is then that Frankie takes Allen outside of his flashbacks and panic attacks into the here and now in a matter of seconds. Without Frankie the flashbacks could last hours.

At the end of the day what I write about turns out to deal with my deepest concerns and values. The important part is making the story powerful by expressing my authentic emotions. I write from my heart. Tonight I write about Allen.

Charles M. Schultz said, “A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.” For Allen and Gina and the kids, I have hope. And Frankie - well Frankie gives me goosebumps! Observant and ever vigilant Frankie teaches us that nuzzling can make a huge difference. So with Frankie the story is just beginning. This dog provides a new meaning to ‘rest in peace.’ With this dog under his arm Allen can find rest, and peace and sleep and perhaps life again. Not the same life, but life.

Frankie can convey encouragement, support, empathy, affection, humor and can elicit it in Allen. The abilities of both are enhanced by the presence of the other. Frankie is not there to talk about how Allen got in this predicament, but to focus on hope and the future.

So I ask you to remember Allen and Frankie. Hear what life is telling you. Let your heart guide you. It whispers - so listen closely. By risk there is more to be gained than lost. Allen risks life minute by minute every day. With Frankie and Allen’s courageous companionship and allegiance to each other they just might be kindred spirits. Observing, I have learned to acknowledge that your soul mate helps you be your best self…so that your soul can do the most for the world. And sometimes your soul mate just might be a yellow lab named Frankie.

Allen has already done his best for the world. I like to think that what happened to Allen happened for us. For us to learn to appreciate our freedom and all the young men and women like him who sacrifice for us as we go about our daily duties completely unaware of their existence.

Allen and Frankie showed me that waiting for the ‘right time’ we spend much of our lives waiting. Allen fought so that we have this freedom to make a choice, to make a stand, to make our lives brilliant with joy and happiness, to make our lives count. For this I will be eternally grateful to this man I met today. I would miss him had we never met.

On the way home I realized that whatever comes from my heart has been given to me as a gift. I must give it honor. Allen will eventually heal to some degree from the past and I believe people who are fortunate enough to meet him will accept the gifts he has to offer their futures. Allen may not know it but our lives are now woven together, for on this hot Texas afternoon our dreams collided. For him the battle will never end. War ends but the battles don’t. For Gina and Allen love doesn’t fit into a nice shiny mold. But it fits.

 Your tax deductible contribution of any amount will go toward sponsorship of another team such as Allen and Frankie. 

Full sponsorship is 1,000.00
Our Warriors with PTSD need your help.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Veteran's Day 2010 

"Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize."
~Elizabeth Harrison

" There are people who take the heart out of you, and there are people who put it back."
~Elizabeth David

Today I awoke thankful to be an American.  Thankful to have our military protecting us.  Thankful for those who have given all so that we have the freedoms we have. 

I thought of the two years I spent in Seoul, Korea. If anything were to have changed my life completely, it was my time there.  It was here that my eyes and my heart opened.  The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) wasn't far away, and it was an eye opener. 

We lived in a 13 floor apartment building on the economy, not post housing.  The electricity went out daily. Water had to be carried up 13 flights of stairs by our housemaid, Miss Kim.  Carried it in a bucket on her head, so that we might flush the commode.  I thought of the roaches and rats we had to trap everyday in the kitchen.  I thought of the Korean military police who stood outside our apartment door armed with machine guns every time there was a Korean soccer match in the stadium directly below us, to protect the President of Korea from being assassinated.  We couldn't come or go.  If there was a breach at the DMZ we were locked in our apartment in the dark for hours and sometimes days until it was safe to leave.  I remember standing on the beaches where General McCarthy had stood.  I remember what it was to have my freedom taken away. 

I wonder how many Americans have any idea how grateful they should be to our military in harm's way at this very moment, so that we may begin making preparations for Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. I wonder if Americans feel the depth and intensity of other family's grief when this Thanksgiving one of their sons, or daughters, or husbands, or brothers or fathers won't be at the table. I wonder if they have ever looked into the vacant emotionless face of a wounded warrior returning from the hell of war to find himself or herself void of emotion and living in constant fear.  I wonder.

Upon leaving Seoul and arriving in Hawaii, the culture shock was horrific.  We were there three weeks to get our bearings, before returning to the continental United States.  Arriving tan and healthy looking, nobody could know that we were not the same family that had left.  Nor would we ever be.  It changes you.  It can't be helped. Lives change dramatically.

Today I honor our military.  I respect our military.  The courage of these young men and women is overwhelming.  I wish you could see it, feel it, absorb it and take it into your heart.  With them my heart bursts with sadness, happiness, and pride all at the same time.


Today I ask if you are living a life of action or reaction

I ask you to help us support our wounded warriors returning to us with the demons of PTSD.  Our TADSAW (Train a Dog ~ Save a Warrior) Support/Service dogs are making a difference. 
Our military tell us everyday. 
The need is huge and the demand growing daily as the word spreads. 


 "This dog has made all the difference in my life.  I can go to my kids soccer games. I can drive to the store. Every soldier with PTSD could benefit from a Support/Service Dog."

Your generous tax deductible contribution can be sent to:




Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I suppose everyone longs to be listened to...to be heard. We try to find the right words to convey what is in our hearts and in our guts. We struggle to be understood. Sometimes it doesn't work. These are the times we need to be heard the most. When we are tired. When we hurt. When we are lost. When we simply need someone's arms around us to let us know we are loved and that they understand.

Sometimes there is a deep longing for a place called peace. Today I can't find it.

I suppose when it comes right down to it, we are all alone a great deal of the time. There are those times of struggle when we reach out for help and there is no one there to catch us as we are falling.  These are scary times.  But if we're lucky, sometimes the road rises to meet us and we continue the march. 

"When we speak from the heart, we long for an ear to hear us, and we all have experienced that down feeling when we perceive ourselves as written off or misunderstood."

~ Harriet Lerner

I am knee deep in  "LONE SURVIVOR" by Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell.  The eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost hereos of Seal Team 10. It is a rivoting narrative of heroism and endurance against impossible odds. The harrowing account of survival in the mountains of Afghanistan, surrounded by hundreds of Taliban rebels.

On today the eve of Veteran's Day, I think of those warriors who come home a different person.  Come home to a family who expects them to be the same as when they left.  This is not feasible.  This is not reality.  They have faced reality head on. They have faced death and hell head on.  For this I thank them and say to them, "I hear you."

I quote Marcus Luttrell in his final chapter of the book, NEVER FORGET"My days are relentless.  I think about Afghanistan hourly, playing the scenario over and over in my head until I am on the verge of insanity.  I would give anything to have my friends back and life the way it used to be - seeing their faces, hearing their voices, and hell even the way they smell.  I know that it may sound trivial to a lot of people, but it's the little things that I miss the most about all of them.  It was my greatest honor to serve with these men on and off the battlefield.  They died doing what they loved, protecting this great country of ours, and in my eyes there is no greater sacrifice than that."

To all of our veterans and current military in harm's way on this day before Veteran's Day...we are here, we are thinking of you, praying for you, and we know that first and foremost you have our backs.  Thank you for your service and your sacrifices.  You are not, nor ever will be, forgotten!

I hear you and I am listening. My wish to you all is that you find your special place of peace.

John Amos ~ Rest in Peace

Monday, November 8, 2010


This particular November Sunday morning began with a plate of the best  Migas, some crispy fried potatoes and some of the hottest salsa ever at an authentic Mexican restaurant.  You know it is authentic, when the waitresses only speak Spanish!

Following breakfast, all I wanted to do was curl up on a rock on this beautiful South Texas November morning.  The temperature was about 55 degrees, rising to 70!  It doesn't  get much better than that.

Sadly, the day progressed with multiple errands and then more errands. You know the day. Get them all done so Monday you can work harder to accomplish more, to make more money, to spend the next weekend spending more money, doing more chores, and running more errands. It is quite simply the American way!

Not my kind of life but frequently mine nevertheless. However, for ten minutes in the chaos of it all, there was a 'moment'. An amazing moment when all seemed to be right with the world, and in that place in time I understood that if I were to capture this moment and hold on tight, I just might be able to bring it back when needed.

One of the soldiers, Kevin, in our TRAIN A DOG ~ SAVE A WARRIOR program is being placed with a black and, in places white, border collier cross named Luther. Luther was selected from the kill shelter because no one wanted him. He was rescued and taken to a ranch near San Antonio. He is being foster homed there for now, just until his soldier is able to move into his apartment and begin training for support service dog status.

After my fortifying breakfast I stopped at the local tractor supply to purchase a collar, leash and lots of toys, I went to the ranch to "work" with Luther. Hotdog tidbits in my hand and the leash in the other, Luther proved to be a quick study. He seemed to know exactly what was expected of him. He was attentive, ignoring the exquisite thoroughbred race horses, watching with some interest while munching on hay. He was eager to please. As reward Luther was given a rawhide, most likely the first treat of his life. Being unloved and unwanted doesn't yield many treats or kindness of any kind, much less a good meal.

I sat in the grass and watched Luther. At first he did not know quite what to do with the bone, but soon settled and enjoyed the beginning of what will be an amazing journey. The temperature was as close to perfect as you can get. The skies a brilliant, vibrant blue. Luther would glance occasionally in my direction. Then he left his bone, came over, and sat as close to me as he could, draping his right leg over my left leg, as if to say 'thank you.  I like you.' He felt safe and probably for the first time ever, he was at peace. We both felt like dozing and closing our eyes.

Knowing that this beautiful dog was destined to be a lifesaver for one of our TADSAW warriors with PTSD, I tried an experiment. I laid down on the grass. Within seconds, Luther snuggled as close as he could to me, laid his head on my shoulder, and fell fast asleep.  The horses were frisky and a hawk was gracefully soaring overhead. Luther rolled over onto his back, stretched, and for that moment, it was as close to perfect as it could get.

His body was warm against mine, and I felt comforted.  As I dozed, I thought that anyone with PTSD couldn't help but be soothed, calmed, reassured, secure, and relaxed with Luther.  What a gift for both of us.  For in giving to others sometimes we  receive an amazing gift back. 

My gift this Sunday was tranquility, stillness, serenity, and calmness, if only for a few moments with a black dog named Luther.  How easy this medicine is to swallow, to snuggle, and to lose yourself in.  I can't wait for 'our' soldier, Kevin, to discover this for himself. 


Help us help more soldiers with more dogs like Luther... with a one thousand dollar contribution to sponsor a dog/warrior team.
Please send your tax deductible donations to:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sunshine and puddles

When did it all start? This journey through sunshine and puddles. Navigating the days of our lives.

When did life become so complicated just when it is needed to be less so?

Promises made on mountain tops and dreams unfulfilled. Disappointments in abundance and wisdom no greater. Shallow people and lost opportunities. Fences constructed between people.

For some reason I am unable to get a vision out of my head this morning. I had stopped on a country road at an intersection of 'go and don't go.' On the corner was an old pick up truck. A stand of crates and lumber had been constructed to hold baskets and and more baskets of fresh homegrown produce. Cucumbers, ripe luscious end-of-the-season tomatoes, tiny new potatoes, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, hand-picked Texas soft shell pecans, oranges and grapefruit, and yellow onions waiting to be grilled. To the side was a small flatbed trailer full of huge sweet potatoes. A couple was buying a basket full of the them in anticipation of a family Thanksgiving celebration.

The vendor was tan and weathered. Through a brilliant, almost elfish, smile you saw not only that he had no teeth, but that without a doubt he was happy and enjoying the day, the sunshine, the wind, and what he was doing. I was envious.

Out of nowhere as we were selecting our produce he said, "I am about to have lunch!" I asked him where he was going or if he had brought a sandwich. He pointed to the cab of his truck, a truck as weathered as he. "See those cans on the dash in the window? They are heating in the sun." With enormous pride he told me that this was soon to be his lunch.

Okay, so by now you know I am a tad over-sensitive, but oddly at that moment I felt a lump in my throat appear. It was not out of pity or sadness, but seemingly out of envy. I was on television for twenty years cooking, written fifty-one cookbooks, and have hundreds more in my library. Perhaps it was the simplicity of his lunch, the pride, and total lack of need for apology he felt in sharing his menu with me. Or perhaps it was that my life is so overly complicated and frantic that I miss the cans warming in my window.

Last night under my feather quilt I was lulled to sleep by the soft breathing of my little old dog Wally, on the pillow next to me. It was heaven. It was peace. It was a flight into another dimension not visited often enough.

Every step taken on this earth should be a prayer and each breath a gift. This morning how I long for my mountains. Wandering my days and nights, I long for them, their majesty and their simplicity and their strength. They would know how to handle this melancholy brought on by sunshine and puddles.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc, just graduated eleven new teams!  As each was tested and graduated, there were tears. Why? Because it is hard work, sacrifice and tenacity! What we do requires tears, demands them, and is futile without them. Tears show we are human and in our humaness we find that place deep inside where we can help in the healing process of those who need us the most. These teams are beginning the journey of a lifetime.
These teams don't know it yet, but they are about to become heroes!  They will develop friendships that last a lifetime, find relationships that are built on the fragile ground of infinite illnesses, and place smiles on faces that haven't had one for a very long time. They will become 'safe' people and provide no challenges to anyone.  Instead of taking soup or cake, they will provide balance in fragile lives by the simple and heartfelt introduction of their dogs.  Quality of lives will change, not the lives themselves! 

We are not here to 'change lives.' That is not in our hands.  We are here to make a difference in a moment, a single moment.  A smile brought to a face, a string of words from a patient who hasn't spoken for weeks, a arm that decides it is time to move to reach and pet a warm furry head. These are the moments we treasure, the moments that tell us why we are present for those who need us the most. 

There are times when they will never know if they made the slightest difference in a life or not.  But one thing I can guarantee them is that they will have.  It is not about them or their dog; it is solely about that person struggling to get through the next week, hour, or moment.  They will make a difference and they will be better people because of it.

"Heroes are not fearless.
They are the ones who feel it most
Yet stand up for all they believe.
They are defined by what they overcome
Not by what they do not feel"
~Nel Whatmore

From Amanda who works in cardiology at BAMC with her new therapy dog, Buster.  "I am so excited... it finally sunk in today. My adrenal glands were on overdrive last night and I couldn't sleep... much better this am.... and I am walking proud!  We still have a lot of work to do and many things to learn.... but I did share the news with my patients today! Thank you!"

Having these newly certified dog teams makes me rich!  I feel like I am just beginning to 'pay it forward.'  What a blessing that feeling is. So I say, "No thank you." But somehow my little thank you seems small in comparison to what they have given me and to what the journey they are about to embark on will bring to them and to all the lives they touch.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Do we take things for granted?  Life, days, hours, moments?  Do we rush right past them and never see what is happening of monumental proportion right in front of us?  Are we too absorbed by our email, iphone, ipad, Blackberry and computer, all rushing us at warp speed toward something of great importance, obliterating all else? Do we look up at the face of the person in front of us and really see them or continue texting, as if there were a huge sense of urgency?

Did you ever wonder what would happen, if you slowed down just a bit? Is it always better to be in a rush than to pause occasionally and be witness to the truly spectacular.  To me the answer is easy.

Writing slows me down. It slows my breathing and takes me to a place where if I don't journey there frequently I feel lost. While writing, I have to find the right words to convey a message succinctly and place these words in rows to make a point, tell a story, or evoke an emotion.  This takes time and thought and peace and sometimes an Indian flute in the background. For me the ocean and mountains also slow me down, putting my life in perspective and with a meaning few might understand. Mossy rocks in a mountain stream, a stone chimney all that remains of a cabin where someone once lived and loved, climbing roses on a rickity old fence, wild strawberries in the forest, horses' breath on a cold morning, and a sliver of the moon hung in an autumn sky, all provide beauty to me that is sometimes much too hard to bear.  

A friend continually asks me if I am happy. It is as if his worth is predicated on my answer. Sometimes I answer 'yes,' and sometimes I think long and hard about the answer and provide none.  And then sometimes I am reminded that the beauty that surrounds me must be magic.

Such beauty can go completely unnoticed by most, and then for a lucky few sometimes it is so overwhelming that tears flow unexpectedly and unashamedly.  

When Trevor met his TRAIN A DOG SAVE A WARRIOR PTSD Support Service Dog for the first time in the shadow of the Center for the Intrepid on the patio of the Fisher House at SAMMC, people soon became aware of the beauty of the moment, the magic.  Hands went over mouths, sun glasses went on so no one could see that something quite special had indeed made them human.  Then complete strangers went up to this soldier and hugged him sobbing.  In the background I heard a whisper, " I can't believe we are witness to this." 

Maybe it was magic.  To me it was pure and simple love. Love of a soldier who desparately needed a friend, a dog who would accompany him  unconditionally through thick and thin and through the hell of PTSD and a war he doesn't want to remember.  It was something quite rare to see complete strangers coming together to celebrate one overwhelming, rare, and perfect wildly insane moment.  In that time and space, I saw fairies turning cartwheels in the twilight of an October evening, where we had all been witness to something that for a brief moment caught us and brought us to life.

Perhaps sometimes our brains get on a rampage of rush, when all that is needed is to open our eyes and see the miracles surrounding us at every corner.    This is the real happiness, the real life, the one we should be living. Are you?


One Thousand Dollars will sponsor a Wounded Warrior and his special magical dog!
Please send tax deductible donations to:
13423 BLANCO ROAD, STE. 218

Monday, November 1, 2010


"Now I know I've got a heart, 'cause it's breaking."
The Tin Woodsman ~ The Wizard of Oz

Ten of thousands of our troops are wounded in their dreams and in their ambitions forever!  From attempting to pick up a paperclip to forgetting how to tie their shoelaces, our warriors returning from combat with TBI/PTSD are not the same people who left.  They never will be.

I want to share these words written to me a couple of days ago.  As I type them, I cry.  As I cry, I feel his pain.  As I feel his pain, I am compelled to do more.  And hopefully, as Penny's From Heaven Foundation does more, we can help ease the pain of many, many more warriors with our special offering of our PTSD Support Service Dogs.

"I cry and the damn awful memories come back.  But then I look at this big brown lump at my feet.  She gets up, licks the tears from my face, and I know she is telling me "Daddy, it is okay.  You'll make it through another day.  Don't give up.  I need you to love me!"

So yes, today I feel like the Tin Woodsman.  I have a heart, and it is breaking.  Our wounded warriors need us to love them.

I guess sometimes I just have to sit at my desk for hours and days, with closed drapes, not knowing the time of day or the day of the week and devote my every waking moment to helping get our wounded warriors PTSD Support Service Dogs.  I ask the question why.  How can it possibly make a difference?  And then I read these words above and know in my soul that it made a difference to this one. And for this, it has all been worthwhile.

Maybe we just have to live into the answers. And perhaps, just perhaps this discovery is the mission of my life. I am beginning to understand why when I answer the telephone and hear the words, "Mom, I need help,"  from a soldier who fought for my freedom, our freedom, everything else stops in my life. He phones me because he trusts me, as I trusted him to protect my freedom.

Maybe the answer is not searching for the answers.  Which in reality can't be given to me now anyway.  So today I live the questions. And I work, and I fight to stay awake, and to do right, and to make a dent in the aftermath of this thing called war. And I work to provide a 'big brown lump' at the feet of another soldier, who can nuzzle and lick away his or her tears too.

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.'
~ Rainer Maria Rilke


Please help us support another PTSD Support Service Dog for a Wounded Warrior!
One Thousand Dollars TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION per sponsorship.

13423 BLANCO ROAD - STE. 218

We thank you for your consideration and your support.