Friday, December 30, 2011
If you have been holding on to unnecessary people in your life, let them go.
If you have been clinging on to some old memories for too long, let the past go.
If you have been haunted and bound by past mistakes, it's time to let them go.
If you have been afraid and stopping yourself from being who you truly are for too long, let all that self-doubt go.
If you have been insecure of your abilities and afraid to take risks for too long, let go of the loser mentality.
Wise words from a wise woman! I thank her for the inspiration.
I have long subscribed to this philosophy. It has served me well. I choose to look into a kaleidoscope and see an array of beautiful colors, lights and forms than to be stuck in the muddle of chaos and drama. I think often of that kaleidoscope when I am fighting back tears. One of the most difficult moments in my life is giving someone else a hug, when I need it the most. Fighting back the tears in my eyes when I am wiping off someone elses's. Listening to someones grief when I want my own misery to be heard. Being the reason someone smiles when my own smile seems to be lost.
Being the strong one isn't always the easiest job in the world.
But you know what, eventually, you will find that your own problems don't seem quite as big, or insurmountable, or laborious when you give of yourself to someone else. Sitting and thinking endlessly about yourself is a big fat waste of time, as far as I am concerned. Analyzing yourself has its place sure. But there comes a time and place where you need to get up off of your tuffet and get going!
I assume most of you have a dog and understand the beauty and joy of that. My dogs over the years have taught me greater lessons than anyone else in my life.
Blackie taught me that if you had a friend nearby to cry with that life would eventually get better. Lady taught me about death and loss and an overwhelming grief that one day lessens. Charlie taught me exuberance and playfulness and how to nag someone endlessly until you get what you want. Lulu taught me that even if you are a very large dog about 100 pounds you can still be afraid and alone, and she taught me that nothing is better than someone who loves you deep down inside. Penny taught me that life isn't all play. Life is about helping others and serving even when your own pain is crushing. Wally has taught me to not walk into a dark room for fear I step on something furry. Annie taught me never to give up even if someone is on the verge of death. Death can be beaten back. Spunky taught me unconditional love and that nothing feels better than a warm little body under the covers, snuggling close on a cold night. Molly taught me that risking crossing a freeway to save a dog you never met ultimately brings you a friendship that is incomparable. Casey taught me that letting go of a friend you have had for 21 years is acutely painful. Kelsie has taught me that if she is close by, I feel safe. Gracie has taught me to be her eyes so she has someone to trust inside her dark world. Colonel has taught me that having three legs isn't so bad. And most importantly, they have all taught me about love.
Sleep well friends. Dream about what your dogs have taught you.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
What is it about people that they feel they must and have the right to malign and hate viciously with such unfounded venom that it is unbelieveable? It is solely meant to demolish and destroy every thing you believe in and have worked for for years. Pursuing only one side of the story they, not once, ask for the other side. They are out for vengeance ~ out for blood. They know no better.
Perhaps it is guilt because they know they did not choose to pursue the facts. Assuming, if they cast blame on another then they become right and avenged. The focus is averted away from them. It destroys their integrity. It then becomes dangerous and dreadful to them.
"Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools talk because they have to say something."
So on this day, despite the fools, we choose to rise above. We shall not lower ourselves to standards and wrongful words we do not subscribe to or deserve. We are above such. We shall simply try to become stronger, better in the knowledge that we have been made more confident and more empathetic.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Andrew M. Greeley said, "We're given chances every day of our life. We don't usually take them, but they're there for the taking." Okay, I will buy that, but I have to ask what stops us. What keeps us in the same old routine, the same drudgery we complain about all the time and never do anything about? Weakness, stupidity, fear? Whatever it is, it stops us from living our lives. Each morning is the beginning of a new day. Each minute is the beginning of a new hour. We have a huge choice as to what we are going to do with that day or hour. And when you think about it, what we do about it defines who we are and where the boundary of our cares and concerns really lies!
Each day we are given a second chance. A chance to do the right thing. A chance to find the magic in a new beginning. Alfred Lord Tennyson said, ".....men may rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things." I agree. We should always stand ready, ready to welcome a new experience with an ecstatic frame of mind. We need to believe. We need to be cockeyed optimists! We need to live this life we were given. The risk of staying stuck is certain death. The risk of moving forward has glorious rewards.
"The good old days were never that good, believe me. The good new days are today, and better days are coming tomorrow. Our greatest songs are still unsung." ~ Hubert H. Humphrey
I see this philosophy in our warriors. I see it in the faces of the wives who have remained by their sides. I see it in the faces of the service dogs who are trained to stand beside them...no matter what. I see it in the smiles on the faces of 80+ year old people, who take joy in each moment they are alive. I see it in the faces of children who are excited from moment to moment. I see it in the faces of those who have faced death head on and find joy in the next second. The good news is it is there to be seen. And it is there to be envied. People who remain stuck, do so out of choice. How ultimately sad for them. They are dying a slow miserable death.
The bad news is there are those who remain in the quagmire of disbelief. I have seen it in the face of family members who had/have no spark, no energy, no desire to reach out into this world and seize the day, the opportunity, the love. They barely speak, much less love this life they have been given.
A bit of magic awaits all of us each day, if we remain open to it. So for me this new year is going to be more than just a new year. It is going to be a new life to be greeted with enthusiasm and joy, as I leave behind those whose negativity causes dread in me and death to others.
We can all have a fresh start whenever we set out minds to it. We can make excuses over and over again as to why we stay down, but not for this lady. I will live today well. I will begin anew with each day, just as nature does. I, like Thomas Jefferson, says "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."
"Those who face that which is actually before them, unburdened by the past, undistracted by the future, these are they who live, who make the best use of their lives; these are those who have found the secret of contentment."
As for me I follow the words of Martin Luther King, " The time is right to always do what is right."
Happy New Year everyone!
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
This photo I took brings me such peace. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is the feeling of a peaceful winter in South Texas with sparrows in a sleeping dormant Crape Myrtle tree, waiting for spring to bring forth its vibrant pink blossoms. They are not in any hurry they are just peacefully waiting.
To the left of this tree is the main entrance into the Warrior Family Support Center at SAMMC. It is here too that you will find waiting...and healing from injuries sustained in a war far, far away. Waiting!
I guess I am no different than anyone else when it comes to thinking many times that perhaps the best is over. I have had my best times. But isn't this limiting ourselves with wrong thinking? We are actually limiting the universe and this is downright wrong and pretty stupid when you think about it. Sure, I have had some good times, some horrible times, pain and grief and events so difficult I am unable to remember them, but I prefer to think the best is yet to come .
The best is not over!
As we approach a new year, I choose to remember the good memories and realize that while there have been horrible ones, the best is still to come. Those that have injured me have their own issues and I personally am separating permanently from them. It is easy. I will not longer allow individuals into my life that are negative or that I am unable to trust. This leaves me space and time and a place to renew, heal, and become ready to accept, with open arms, that the best is coming.
Think about it. All endings are really new beginnings. That's just the way the journey works. Staying stuck is ridiculous and unproductive. There are soul mates yet to meet and joy to be experienced. So this new year, I will allow no one to hurt me. I will rise above it. My soul will be at peace. At last. Good bye to those of you who do not bring me joy, peace, happiness and have not earned my trust or my love. I will continue to be kind and gentle and compassionate. And by so doing, my peace will return. 2012 I will return to center, and breathe in the energy and out the past I have chosen to leave behind.
When I get confused and feel alone, I will go back to my heart...the only place I can truly trust. There are those who are there for me no matter what and they know who they are. Those who have consistently stood by me when I was irrational, clumsy, and just plain messed up, are those that listened, took my hand and in the silence were simply there for me. The answer then is in my heart. Too bad I spent so much time not listening to it. But now things have changed. People come into your lives for a a season and a reason. Sometimes at the time we don't know why. But in the end, it is those who stay, who are there for you when needed, who will drop whatever they are doing to help you, to answer the phone in the middle of the night, to sleep with their phone by their pillow just in case you need them, who bring you groceries, who take your trash to the curb, who love you for all the right reasons ~ not the wrong ones.
Sometimes we aren't quite sure what is next, but you know what....it is alright....we don't have to know. We simply have to trust and live for each moment. But more importantly than that we must learn to trust our hearts. And sometimes the experiences we go through lead us to the knowledge that finally, and at last, sets us free. Free to move forward and in the right direction. This year I will create relationships and friendships that are equal. It is here that I will find love.
This year I will not get so carried away with the anticipatory thinking that I am unable to live in the present moment! I too can imagine sitting in a dormant tree, waiting for the best that is indeed yet to come!
Happy New Year to everyone of you who read these words from my heart!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Christmas isn't about the presents under the tree. Christmas is about what goes on in a hospital today. What goes on in hearts that are aching and breaking. Christmas is about reaching out to those who are struggling and to those that are going through horrible experiences and simply need someone, anyone, a stranger or a friend to reach out and help hold them up...hold them together. Sometimes words aren't necessary. Sometimes, for some people, Christmas is a day full of tears and fears and heartbreak instead of celebration.
I have a precious friend whose husband is gravely ill. I have another friend awaiting a diagnosis that could be devastating. And yet another friend,, I have never met, whose son recently returned from Iraq, where one half of his platoon was killed. He is struggling to remain upright with the overwhelming question, "Why was I allowed to live and not die with them." He has attempted suicide twice. Survivor's guilt is horrendous.
I say these things to you today to remind you of what Christmas really is about. It is about love and finding it within your heart to care about others who are grieving, devastated and hanging on by a thread. So as you celebrate this special season of Christmas and Hanukkah, please take a moment and reach out your hand to someone who needs it more than you will ever know. And say a prayer that their pain is eased, and let them know that they are loved and thought of not just during this special time of year, but always.
It is in so doing that you will find the spirit of the season, the reason for the season, and the light that can glimmer for those who need you the most. It isn't about the gifts under the tree; it is about the gifts in your heart.
Work for a cause not for applause.
Live life to express not to impress.
Don't strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
These words are from one of our wounded warriors with a TADSAW SERVICE DOG posted on facebook only a few days ago. "Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential , and fight for your dreams."
I saved this quote for a special occasion, but I never knew the occasion would be so bittersweet and full of pain and fury. As I write this a Penny's from Heaven Foundation team member's day old baby girl fights for her life. The husband of another team member is at this moment in a ten hour surgery for a double lung transplant related to his experiences in Vietnam. I don't seem to be able to focus on work and am feeling quite off balance. Prayers and more prayers are flying upwards, and I quite simply feel the need to string words together to express my feelings.
At the Annual PFHF Christmas party I was presented with a precious gift of my favorite things...three inspirational books. One is called "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff", by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. The first sentence had me captured, "Often we allow ourselves to get all worked up about things that, upon closer examination, aren't really that big a deal."
We are all too willing to focus on the little day to day problems and blow them way out of proportion. This certainly includes me. Days and days of rain in South Texas and twelve muddy dog paws tracking in and out of my clean house send me into orbit. But upon closer examination, what if I didn't have my dogs? Sure my floor would be clean, but my life would be empty. I complain about having to park so far from my destination, only to realize that the walking will do me good. And on and on. So as Carlson says we sweat he small stuff and 'completely lose touch with the magic and beauty of life. When you commit to working toward this goal you will find that you will have far more energy to be kinder and gentler.'
Okay I get it. I try. I really do. But how do we practice what we preach? Today nothing is more important than my two dear friends who are struggling and fearful and waiting. Waiting for the white coats to appear and say all is fine...your baby, your husband will be just fine.
So today I take notice of those things the warrior mentioned. For me, I will enjoy the gray skies and cold air and the fact that my house is warm and my dogs are huddled around me as I type, and as I wipe my eyes occasionally. I bless them for being close and in their own way, understanding and consoling. I will trust the timing of my lessons. I will open my eyes and see the beauty around me, appreciate more the closeness of those I love and that love me back, I will trust my heart. I will allow no negativity into my day or life. Those that intentionally hurt or injure or criticize, I will remove from my path. I will clear the path to my heart.
Today I know that I am able to trust the dark moments and passages that sometimes consume us and those we love. I am going to try and breathe deeply, relax and trust the rhythm of life. I will realize that in these moments of frustration and angst, we learn that they are necessary moments. For without them, we would not be able to see the beauty that surrounds us every moment of every day.
I am going to turn on Christmas music, wrap some gifts and know that the universe has control. And that soon the answers will become clear. As my friends move from darkness into the light, they too will understand. And they too will 'fight for their dreams.' And in the end we will all be gentler and kinder.
"Trust even the bleak times.
When you reach the end of
the tunnel, then you will
know why this all had to be."
Monday, December 12, 2011
It's all about love.
There really isn't anything else. At least nothing else that truly matters. The past two days have been tumultuous to say the least. Tears, tears and more tears. Some of joy, some of sorrow, some from fear, and some of disbelief at the way people treat their dogs and each other, and tears of frustration at not being able to fix things or people that need fixing.
Last night was Penny's From Heaven Foundation's Annual Christmas/Holiday Party. The team members, fortunate enough to attend, met two heroes, one a Military Working Dog named Hero, rescued from a shelter in Florida, and the other hero, a Marine Veteran from Montana who has been rescued by another rescue dog named Nina, who in turn has rescued him from a life of isolation and shown him there is a great big wonderful world out there and a life to be lived with her by his side. It was a most touching evening, a moving evening, and an evening to be cherished by those who were there, as Perry, through tears, shared his feelings on what Nina means to him and his never ending gratitude to TADSAW (Train a Dog Save a Warrior) for having never given up on him and how we will all be missed so much.
Christmas trees and lights were bright and nostalgic and the fire pit on the patio brought a warmth to a chilly evening. Good friends, good food, and good friendship. And most of all love. The real kind.
This afternoon I received a beautiful Christmas story from Elizabeth, a team member, about her dog Caius. This too brought tears to my eyes at the miracles that occurred in a hospital when two patients, who were completely out of control, throwing things and not allowing the nurses to even enter their rooms, broke down when a PFHF German Shepherd Dog walked into their lives. They sobbed into his fur and felt unconditional love for the first time in a very long time. A social worker of a different kind paved the way for staff to enter the room and begin working with both of these patients. A miracle of love. Miracles happen every day, but to be witness to them is always a true gift of love, a blessing.
Today brings with it nostalgia. On this cold and gloomy and rainy day, I am wondering what would I have done differently with my life, what would I have changed, what would I have not done or done differently. First and foremost, I would not have wasted valuable time, effort and energy with people that repeatedly hurt me. I would have instead fought for what was right and fair and I would have fought for my self respect. I would have used that wasted time to make the world a better place. I would have taken more risks for those things and people that really mattered and eliminated those who devoured me much sooner.
I know that I am on this earth to make the world a better place because of what I do, have done, and will continue to do because of who I am. It is all about love and the knowledge that there is nothing else. Too bad more people don't get that. You can't buy it, exchange it, invent it. You must live it. You must love and live with compassion and a genuine sense that deep inside you know that what you are doing is the right thing to do. Those that offend, lie, cheat, and betray and consistently injure and hurt you, need to just go away. There is work to be done, lives to be saved, and hearts to mend, not break.
"To make a difference in this world, you must first dare to be different. When the truth needs to be spoken, when the work needs to be done, when the help needs to be offered...dare to make a difference."
Sunday, December 11, 2011
All of us are afraid at one time or another. We feel unsure and confused and alone. Issues come into our lives that we don't know how to handle, so we manage to sidestep around them, ignore them, make excuses for them, or just plain fear them to the point of exhaustion.
But sometimes, just sometimes, these issues can be dealt with from the heart. You can find, that with a hand to hold, you can be guided through these places of fear gently, safely and with love and honesty.
Such was the case with a warrior that Kelsie and I met about a month and a half ago. When we walked into the day room at the hospital, she literally ran screaming out the door. It didn't take long to realize she was terrified of dogs..big dogs, small dogs, it didn't matter...just dogs!
So I backed up and went into another room assuring her that there was nothing to fear and I would keep Miss Kelsie away from her. Skeptically she returned to her chair, but her body language indicated that she was still fearful and most anxious any hyper vigilant.
The next week we visited again. Being the warrior that she is, she decided it might be time to beat this thing called fear! I was delighted, as this is right up my alley. Dispelling fear. I just told her whenever she was ready to let me know. Kelsie and I went about the business of reaching out to dozens of other wounded warriors with PTSD and soon I saw S. coming closer and closer, taking two steps back and then another three forward. As she approached us Kelsie was lying on her side on the floor snuggled up to a Marine lying next to her with his arm around her, rubbing her belly. I didn't say a word as S. laid down behind the Marine and told him to protect her as she reached over him and carefully touched Kelsie's back. Right after touching her she jumped up and ran into the other room. I told her that I was proud of her. She smiled.
The next week brought more improvement. She came up to Kelsie and me and spent maybe 3-4 minutes getting up the nerve to pet her by herself with no Marine back up! I told Kelsie to be very still and S. fearlessly touched and stroked her back with two fingers, then her hand, and then a scratch or two. Kelsie flinched a little and S. jumped back. But instantly came back and petted her again. Mission accomplished!!!
The next week more improvement. I put a blanket on a chair and told Kelsie 'up'. S. sat in the chair next to her and petted her head, shoulders and back. I asked her how it felt and she said it feels good. Then the break through, "I think maybe now I can get a dog for my little girls who have been begging for one. Thank you. Kelsie is special."
The last time we were to see each other before she was to be sent back to her base, we asked for a private meeting with S. We were able to meet her outside on a beautiful sunny December day. As we walked to a bench, I asked her to take half of the leash and help me walk Kelsie. She did it! Fear conquered.
Then I asked her to sit and let me take a picture of just her and Kelsie to send to her little girls with Kelsie and her antlers. She did it. I don't think that she really understood how brave she had become in just a few short weeks. But to me we had climbed a mountain together and both of us learned some valuable lessons.
Fear can be overcome and conquered. Baby steps. I personally believe that the answer to conquering fear lies within us. Yes, we receive guidance from others, but ultimately we truly want to conquer this demon. And for S., it came from her heart. Her daughters want a dog, and she wants to make them happy. Perhaps she found on a December day in South Texas that what she was really searching for was within her heart. And perhaps now, as well, she will find that conquering some of the demons from the war she fought for us in Iraq/Afghanistan might be just a bit more manageable.
The only thing fear does is prevent us from finding our joy! I would like to think this Christmas there just might be a puppy under a Christmas tree for two very special little girls whose mother climbed a huge mountain, not just for herself, but for them.
Happy Sunday everyone!
Saturday, December 10, 2011
"THOSE WHO EXPECT TO REAP THE BLESSINGS OF FREEDOM, MUST, LIKE MEN, UNDERGO THE FATIGUE OF SUPPORTING IT."
I don't know where to start. Today I got so mad I could have hit someone, something or anything in my way. Sure I get mad like everyone else. A car that cuts you off, the stupid mistakes people make, the dog who tracks mud on a recently mopped floor...and on and on. But today I was really, really done! It happened this morning. It is now evening, and I am still livid.
Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc. has tables at several of the Barnes and Noble stores in San Antonio with multiple therapy dog teams who come and wrap shopper's Christmas gifts and in return we receive a donation to our foundation to assist with the wounded warrior projects, etc. We are doing this multiple times during these few days left before Christmas. The stores are packed and as people are waiting in line, we tell them about our wounded warriors and PTSD and service dogs and therapy dogs.
This morning I hadn't been there but about 20 minutes and had collected about 40.00 for our donation boxes given by folks who expressed how grateful they are for what we do to help our returning military that have been leveled by the hell of PTSD, TBI and MST. Small children came up and put pennies into the container, as their parents explained that it went to help our 'sick soldiers.' It was a beautiful experience.
Then there was this one man in line waiting to check out. I explained to him what we were doing and smiled and asked if he would like his gift book wrapped for free. He simply said, "No thank you." I then asked him for a donation of any size to help our wounded warriors returning from war. He said, "No thank you." No thank you? I don't understand? How could he just say no thank you and turn away. In so doing he turned his back on his warriors...our military who has his back.
I am having trouble finding the words to express how I felt and what I thought. Perhaps that is a good thing. I wanted to tell him that our warriors are laying down their lives every second of every day in war torn countries so that he has the right to say "No thank you." I wanted to tell him what a jerk he is and invite him to come with me to the Warrior Family Support Center or the PTSD hospital or to jump off a bridge, but I bit my tongue until it hurt.
Sadly, it reminded me of two Christmas's ago when I was at a church manning a PFHF booth we had set up for parishioners to stop immediately after services and sign Christmas cards for our deployed troops, expressing their appreciation for their service and their sacrifices. Believe it or not, more people said no they would not, or they didn't have time, or they would think about it, or they would be back later to do it, than signed the cards. I was sickened.
I don't care what people's political or religious preferences are in the least. I don't care what they were doing in church when they knelt and thanked God for whatever. But I find it far more than hypocritical, when they walk out the door of that church and refuse point blank to sign a Christmas greeting card for a warrior far, far away fighting for their freedom. What I also care about is that they are living in America...land of the free....and they have the audacity to say "No thank you."
The anger increased, as most of the afternoon I spent at a lock down hospital facility with wounded warriors with severe PTSD. I see the hell they face. I see the blank look in their eyes. I see the families that are torn apart. I see them grasping for the life they once had or a little piece of it. I hear them tell me what they saw, did, heard, felt, witnessed comes back to them every night. They never or seldom sleep, so they don't have to relive war. They can't leave home, they isolate and the list goes on.
These guys and gals have cried until they have run out of tears. I have sat quietly for hours as these warriors come and sit or lie on a blanket on the floor with Kelsie, my PTSD Service/Therapy Dog or Colonel, the TADSAW ambassador German Shepherd. They just stroke the dogs as they lay their heads in the warrior's laps. Trying to remember or to not remember, trying to wash away hell. They gaze forever into the dogs eyes. I don't need to guess what they see. I see a pleading for help to end the flashbacks, the horror, the grim reality of what they endured and can't forget. To end the pain.
I see them experience, sometimes for the first time since combat, peace. Kelsie or Colonel don't ask questions or make judgements or put conditions on the relationship. They are simply there. PTSD doesn't discriminate. It is horror locked inside.
Moments of courage and greatness are revealed in our warrior's stories. All are legendary and all hold great sacrifices. These are not simply war stories, but lessons in character, patriotism and devoted love of country.
So to the man in line at Barnes and Nobel who couldn't give .25 to help a warrior and to the people coming out the door of the church after praying for forgiveness, who were too busy to sign a Christmas card to a warrior, I say to hell with you. I feel sorry for you. You must be very sad people and you have to live with yourself.
By not signing a Christmas card or donating loose change to a warrior these people let the warriors down. But what I can guarantee you is that the warriors won't let them down. They will lay down their lives for them. They will carry the flag into battle so that you, my dear friends, can have the freedom to say 'No thank you.'
Anyone want to help me change the world? I guess to change something you first have to understand it. And I quite simply do not understand it.
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The face got me at first glance. The eyes had me weak at the knees. The body language spoke volumes. This was a photo posted on facebook. I saw it at 3:30 am this morning.
I wrote instantly while in some frantic state that said "Save this one. Save this one. You can't save them all but save this one." I heard back while at lunch at a Chinese restaurant. The Beef and Peppers was abandoned, as I raced outside to take the call.
The voice on the other end of the phone was Gina, a lady in a very rural community on the Texas Oklahoma border. She alone rescues animals from the City Pound which is conveniently located next to the City Dump, in this one stop light town! She told me she had saved 384 dogs in one year and mourned those she could not save. I understand the haunting feeling of not being able to do anything or do enough. It is horrible to say the least.
But through facebook she reached out with a prayer that was answered. The dog was immediately taken from the dump to the vet where she was found to be in great shape. Heartworm negative and they provided all her vaccinations for no charge. Yes, I said yes!
Why this dog? Why not? I suppose it is a Christmas thing. A weakening or strengthening of the spirit, or the soul. A desire to save something that will surely die if I don't. I can't bear being haunted by these eyes night after night.
Within a little less than an hour, Gina had a person driving two hours to Oklahoma to retrieve this pup and drive her to Waco where one of the TADSAW trainers will hold her until I can get up there to evaluate her and talk to her fuzzy ears about her future and about what a lucky girl she is. So again why this one? The answer is already clear. She will be perfect. I was told when she was having her blood drawn, she just held up her paw and wagged her tail. She loves to snuggle and is eager to please.
You might also ask why was this dog left at the pound? One reason and one reason only...the owners didn't like her anymore because she teased their cat. Okay then, let's just kill her! Please know that I am refraining from words you didn't know I knew and anger that is spueing like venom.
So yes, I needed to save something. I needed to give a gift to someone or some thing for Christmas. I needed to give the gift of life. Whether to me personally or to a wounded warrior who too will be mesmerized by the eyes remains to be seen. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that somewhere along the Texas Oklahoma border is a woman who cares. Who spends every cent she makes trying to save lives every day of her life. She does it. She makes a difference. She made a difference to this one!
We haven't decided on a name yet. Ideas anyone? Noel...Hope...Freedom....Christmas....
Right now, with tears in my eyes, I want to very simply hold her close....and tell her it is going to be ok...no it is going to be wonderful. She is going to live. She is going to live to change a life.
And not so secretly, I want to rail out at these idiots that decided to have her killed...to quote the dog pound..."just kill her we don't care...we don't want her."
Sometimes I just don't understand people or life or hatred or stupid or idiocy. But I do understand love, and I feel quite certain that if this dog could speak, she would forgive them. I wish I could.
Never fear I will keep you updated on our Christmas wish come true. And should you wish to say thank you to a woman you will never know on the border of Texas and Oklahoma please send a donation of any size to simply say 'thank you for doing what you do.' It will change her life. I don't imagine anyone has ever thanked her before.
paypal and credit cards and checks accepted
Your too can help save a life.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
A man looked at his dog and asked "What time is it?" The dog responded NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW!
Okay I get it. Here is the deal. The time is now. There is no other time but now. This is the only second or minute that any of us are guaranteed. So the question is what do we do with this one second that we know we are blessed with?
What do you do? Would do any of us do? My dear friend and national motivational speaker, Terry Hershey, recently wrote in his blog about the phone calls from the twin towers from those knowing they were going to die in just moments. What did they do? What did they have the presence of mind to do? They called their family....their wives, children, mothers to say goodbye and to have a good life.
We are so occupied with the piles on our desks, the to do lists, the phone calls to make, the work left undone, and this time of year the gifts and the decorations and the turmoil and chaos of making merry! We are too occupied with stuff.
During this busy time of year, I want to challenge all of you. Instead of rushing about looking for that perfect gift for someone who already has more than enough, my challenge to you is to go to your local nursing home and buy a gift for an elderly person who may truly have nothing and may be lonely at Christmas...or go to a soup kitchen and volunteer...and in my case spend Christmas Day and Eve visiting the wounded warriors with my therapy dog Kelsie.
Step back, slow down, and reflect on the true meaning of the season!!
So in my one moment I know I have, my life is measured in the joy I am able to bring to others.
My challenge is this...life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don't, and believe that everthing happens for a reason. If you get a chance take it.
Nobody promised life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Driving yourself, depriving yourself, pushing yourself. Just how do you take good care of yourself, when you know it is vital? When the doctor tells you it is vital. Melodie Beatty says, "The harder you push, the more you relentlessly demand perfection, the worse you feel." She asks that we fall in love with ourselves and to be gentle, loving, kind and attentive to ourselves. Okay good in theory right? But taking care of myself like I would take care of someone I love isn't all that easy. People require things of you. Things you know will deplete you, exhaust you and put you horizontal for a while. Sometimes a long time. But how do you say no?
So if I read Beattie right, if I take better care of myself, the joy will return? I don't know whether to put a question mark after that sentence or an exclamation point. Ms. Beattie says that 'the better and more often you care for yourself, the more you'll align with the universe and God's love.'
Okay so I gave it a try. I took a day off today. A day just for me. A day to do things that would please me. Well the phone rang exactly 26 times. The fax machine broke. The dogs were in a frenzy over something all day long and not one thing did I do for me. Everyone who phoned wanted whatever they wanted yesterday and "if I wouldn't mind taking care of it asap...it would be appreciated." Yeah right! Their lack of planning constitutes an emergency on my part! Gotta love it.
Yesterday afternoon I had told everyone I was taking today for me (in other words leave me the hell alone), but besides the endless array of phone calls, etc., I ended up at Bass Pro being a cheerleader for a dog team graduating as a certified Train a Dog~Save a Warrior Service Dog team. It really was great, but a price was paid. Photos to celebrate with Santa, lunch I couldn't eat, a chair at the restaurant that sent me screaming for ice on my spine, and once home my dogs decided to reign havoc for at least an hour. I admit I did the one thing I could think of to do. I cried. It didn't help in the slightest. It only made me more exhausted. It clearly showed what state I am in. So a few sips of a Chateau St. Michel from Washington state eased the pain, at least for a while.
I more and more feel myself drawn to the mountains in Colorado and the beautiful solace of the mesas in New Mexico. I find I want to escape...everything and everyone. I want to stand on top of mesa at Sankawi Run in NM and look down and discover a centuries old pot shard made from the hands of a Pueblo Indian. I want to feel the snow flakes hit my face and inhale the cleansing fragrance of a pine tree. And inhale, really inhale the scent of steaming hot chocolate with a warm fragrant croissant on the side. I want to breathe again. I want to feel alive again, instead of feeling exhaustion and constant pain. I want to walk the streets in Santa Fe and absorb the sights and sounds and the aroma of pinon in fire places and visit art galleries on Canyon Road and hear the bells from the oldest church in the United States. I want to visit Ojo Caliente Hot Springs and soak in the waters on this ancient Native American site.
Perhaps then I could breathe again. Inhale again. Feel nourished and remember what peace feels like. No phones, no faxes, no deadlines, no people who betray and lie to you, no stacks of work that keep replenshing themselves on my desk, no bank accounts that won't balance, no books left unread on my nightstand, no demands, no commands, no sultry looks, no tacky under the breath comments, no noise. What I wouldn't do for peace.
Monday, November 28, 2011
A simple phrase, "You don't treat us like we're children. Thank you." A warrior petting our Train a Dog~Save a Warrior ambassador, 'Colonel' found himself vocalizing some thoughts and feelings, as we sat quietly on a bench watching Kelsie and Colonel chasing balls, flies, rope toys, and taking time to roll in the grass two days after Thanksgiving. Feelings he had not expressed in a very long time began to open up. "You treat us with kindness and compassion and with respect. That's what we need. We don't need to be treated and talked to like we are children or stupid."
At first I didn't understand, but then it became abundantly clear. These guys and gals went to war at a very young age and had no choice but to grow up quickly. They come back, without exception, different people. They do not come back a child. I tried to explain to him that perhaps some, quite simply, didn't know how to treat them. I told him that I have friends, life long friends, who will not accompany me to any of the military facilities to visit with my warriors. Why? Because they don't think they could handle it or didn't know what to say. Well, that might be another blog, but suffice it to say it is in the same realm of unreality and useless absurdity.
A great lesson was learned this breezy, cool November afternoon. A lesson of gratitude, as this young man expressed in a very few words something we all should take note of.
As Kitty Kelley said, "A hero is someone we can admire without apology." Nicholas taught us that he has character, patience, love of country, and the ability to touch out with human feelings. He was a brilliant teacher, for which I personally am enormously grateful.
Nicholas will be released from the hospital this Friday. He shall be missed. Greatly missed.
I will leave you with a note he handed to us in a sealed white envelope....with strict instructions to not open it until we left the building.
"Thank you so much for coming to our unit on Saturday afternoons~it means the world to me. You have no idea how great it feels to be so many miles away from family, but yet still know that you and the Colonel and Kelsie will still be here.
As a token of my appreciation, I would like to donate $50.00 to help a fellow soldier to have the opportunity to come to San Antonio and train with their service dog. You told me last week you have no problem asking 30 people for $50.00 each to help with hotel costs...now you just need to ask 29 people.
Thank you again for everything and I look forward to my own service dog one day."
We try to not ask for money in this venue, but in honor of this young warrior we are asking for 29 people to donate 50.00 so that we can tell Nicholas that "You did it!" He is a Battle Buddy for TADSAW (Train a Dog~Save a Warrior), but he is also a Battle Buddy for a warrior with severe PTSD/TBI that he most likely will never know...but wants to help.
Please consider honoring a friend or a loved one this holiday season with a $50.00 donation to TADSAW. A card will be sent to them notifying them of your generosity to a wounded warrior!
Nothing would make this warrior feel better this Christmas than to feel he accomplished something remarkable, by helping a fellow warrior to get his service dog. These guys and gals take care of their own. They are neither selfish nor looking for reward. They love each other and care for each other passionately. Remarkably, in so doing, they teach us how to live.
Please send donations to:
For Nicholas' Fund
13423 Blanco Road, Ste. 218
San Antonio, TX 78216
How far your candle throws its beams!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I went to the beach, Mustang Island, out of desperation. Desperate to see if I could breathe again, to find my life, my future, and my ability to remember to take care of myself first, and to more importantly find the strength to continue.
I relaxed. It is impossible not to with the waves crashing onto the shore, the sound of the surf, the time of year when see you are the only person on the beach and nothing is more important than that moment, when you find you are not thinking, not worried, not pressured and not overcome by life and the burdens it is constantly dropping in your lap.
The purpose became real. The lesson poignant and vivid.
It is on the island that finding what truly is important, when you are completely and totally exhausted and in constant pain, it isn't all that difficult.
In highschool, I was required to memorize "Invictus" by William Earnest Henley. For some reason, watching the waves roll in and out, as the sun was about to rise, and I sipped my coffee, I remembered this poem. And recited it aloud.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have winced but not cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloodied but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade.
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul."
As I sat on the top floor of the 12 story condo at 6:00 AM , inhaling, exhaling, the sea, the salt water, the peace was all a gift of life. Suddenly, my very special gift from the sea appeared on this warm November early morning. A gift so vibrant, unexpected and so forceful, I couldn't help but shed tears in abundance.
You see, just days before Thanksgiving, I was sent a messenger. This most unusual messenger flew onto the ledge of the balcony, as I was setting up to take photographs of the sunrise (always a powerful moment for me). But little did I know how powerful and forceful the message this time would be.
I have recently questioned my life, my purpose, my decisions that need to be made and my constant yearning for adventures and journeys yet to be.
Here on the island I have slept nine and a half hours in a row, undisturbed. My anxiety and depression, as least in this time and place, vanished. Medication was not necessary. I found myself, for however brief a time, once again. The real me. My soul found its way to the surface.
And then the messenger appeared.
As most of you must know by now, I work with wounded warriors, amputees, burn survivers, and warriors with horrific invisible wounds of war. Their PTSD and pain has inbedded inself so deeply inside of me that I too experience Secondary PTSD. It isn't pretty, nor was it invited. But it is inside of me nonetheless. Perhaps this allows me to assist them in a more understanding way. I get it! They see that I do and trust me.
I understand their horror of flashbacks and a pain unspeakable. These are men and women who were just trying to stay alive. Who witnessed the death of their battle buddies, their friends, children, women. They never had time to grieve, as they were just trying to stay alive.
So who was the messenger? The messenger was a black bird. A bird brought to me by another far greater messenger to teach me abundant lessons. For you see, this bird had but one leg. He too was an amputee. He too, had somewhere along the way, paid the price for his freedom.
You might think this odd or I am reaching too far. But this was the only bird on the beach for as far as I could see. None in the water, none in he sand, nore the air. He came alone. It was then that I understood. As he ate a breakfast of French bread on the ledge, so close I could have reached out and touched him, I realized I need to take care of me first, so that I can take care of others. The turbulance I live with daily is demolishing me. I have only this moment, sparkling like a star, then melting like a snowflake. The moments are slipping away much too rapidly. But what more was this messenger trying to tell me? I remembered a quote from Marie Beynon Ray. It put it more into perspective.
"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late."
My life's chaos and turbulence is troubling, exhausting, and taking its toll on me physically and mentally. It has become my life force and my demolishion all at he same time. Okay Mr. Bird what am I to do? Where is my list of things to do? Florence Nightengale said, "I think that feelings waste themselves in words; they ought to be distilled into actions, and into actions which bring results." But I still had no concrete answers.
The messenger came out of no where. But what is the answer. If I begin doing what I want to do now, I let others down ~ my warriors. Would not life become insipid and empty. If I continue, I jeopardize my life. So perhaps the lesson lies in taking a break, as best I can. Letting go of the less important things, and listening to the message brought to me by a bird with only one leg. You can continue, you can go on, but first you need to take care of yourself. Perhaps the bird was saying rest and then return to your warriors. Do what they were unable to do. Find the time to grieve those things in your life that you haven't grieved. Let go of those people and things and times that you have no control over. Let go. Let go. Let go. Do it. Do it.
The second morning at the beach, the bird returned. Same time! I fed him. I thanked him and wished him well. As I felt certain in some very real way he understood. I also thanked a messenger much higher up for teaching one of his children a lesson she very much needed to hear.
"We dread being wounded or beaten. We are tempted to give up. Yet if, despite these difficulties, we engage in some form of action, whether we are beaten or not, we will have won a victory."
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Hell. It is in many of the faces of our combat warriors returning with PTSD and TBI ~ a result of the experiences endured during combat! But an antidote for this horrible and debilitating anxiety is often found when a PFHF therapy dog walks into Laurel Ridge Military Resiliency Unit in San Antonio, Texas!
I wrote about it last week and didn't think there was anyway it could be topped this week. But it just keeps getting better. As we entered the unit with Kelsie and Colonel, it was as if Santa had just arrived with the gift that they had been asking for all year. Faces stoic and solemn, quite suddenly are brighted with smiles and glistening eyes. The whole demeanor and attitude in the room changes. Movement begins to take place. The television, card games and dominoes are abandoned, as these dogs are solely responsible for taking control of the room.
You would think the warriors would rush to them, but they are so overwhelmingly respectful of their battle buddies that they wait patiently for their turn to spend just a few moments with either or both or these therapists in fur. If one feels he has been there too long, he will tell a buddy he is sorry and gets up for the next to have their turn.
I laid a soft blanket on the sofa for Kelsie to lay on while the guys/gals came one at a time and sat next to her. She would roll over on her back, snuggle up close, or gently lay her head in their laps. They would pet her back, under her therapy vest, rub softly between her eyes, or fondle her ears and talk softly to her. For many of them, they had waited for this the entire week! At least that is what more than one warrior told me. "I hoped and I prayed you'd be here today. It helped me get through the week."
For these men and women, who have endured hell, these dogs are a journey into their hearts. A letting go, a freeing of their souls from the torment they continue to endure on the battlefields they return home to ~ a battlefield in their minds. There is an inability to forget what they saw, witnessed, felt, and smelled, that at least for now is trapped inside of them. But for a few moments they become boys again, human again, alive again. They become aware that there is something outside of themselves and their medical team that is able to erase some of the hell. First they learn to crawl and then slowly they begin to trust again. To trust and undo the feeling that the enemy is around every corner and disguised in a myriad of ways. As they pet the dogs for a moment, hell is released and they catch a glimpse of warmth, honesty, and compassion and more importantly unconditional and nonjudgemental love and best of all how to trust again.
As for the dogs and their benefits, there is no real scientific evidence, nor data. We only know it works! These guys learn to connect more closely with each other, with themselves with the magic and the mystery of it all. How something so simple can obliterate something so horrible and devastating to a human has yet to be determined. Perhaps there is no need to know. But for 30 warriors in lockdown for PTSD, we will be there. We will not let them down. We will not let them become a statistic. A sad statistic that 18 warriors kill themselves each and every day. That is more than have died in combat.
So we embrace the power of our therapy dogs and open our hearts to these young men and women who are on a very rough journey to return to a semblance of the life they had before war. With these dogs they are able to surrender to the fact that they do have feelings and that there just might be power in powerlessness. And they might just become aware of the fact to pass through the feelings of what they have endured, rather than avoiding them, just might be an answer. And if it takes a dog to guide them, then so be it.
Therapy and service dogs for our warriors with PTSD/TBI/MST just might become a mantra that will heal their hearts and their minds and align them with peace. These dogs will give them all the attention, devotion, guidance, and grace they might need, to find the only way out is through.
It might sound odd and Pollyanna to some. But some doctors are now writing prescriptions for service dogs for our warriors. God bless them. They understand. They understand that our emotions and past experiences often can keep us away from the present moment. But with a dog, something happens. With a dog the warriors begin to focus again, to hear a heart beat next to them that is consistent and unflaling and that becomes hidden in their soul and stored in their body when they need it the most. With their canine battle buddy by their side to help them get back on track, whether in a day, a week, or months, they will have advanced on their paths. And a new cycle and life will have begun. And hell just might be a very long way away, as they learn to connect back to a place of peace.
As for next Saturday, we will celebrate Kelsie's sixth birthday with the warriors. They have requested hot wings, and a cake! Can't get much simpler than that can it?
Donations are gratefully accepted!
This holiday season please give the gift that will save a life! Help support Penny's From Heaven Foundation, Inc. with a contribution.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Moments come and go in our lives...some willingly forgotten and some leaving footprints in places we didn't even know we had.
Saturday I spent several hours with about ten wounded warriors home from Iraq/Afghanistan. There was no applause, no parade, no flag waving. Each had witnessed horrors too awful to speak about. All were facing a new battle, the battle of an invisible injury called post traumatic stress and/or a traumatic brain injury. They were hospitalized in a lock down facility, so they would not cause injury to themselves, as they were treated and attempting to resume some part of a life they once knew...before war, before hell.
I was instructed to leave my purse and cell phone in the car. I could take nothing in with me but a German Shepherd therapy dog named Colonel and his handler. It had taken literally months to gain approval to be admitted to this secure unit. But perseverance paid off. And it paid off in a very big way.
When we first entered the 'day room', it was easy to sense the listlessness, the boredom, the lack of life, and faces staring into space, into a time and place they are not able to forget. Staff was first to say, "Oh look, the Colonel is here!" One guy turned, as if he needed to stand and salute, but upon realizing 'the Colonel' was a dog, he smiled, leaned over to pet him and said "He outranks me." Tortured souls and eyes turned to see exactly what he was talking about. It was then the magic occurred.
Stephen King is quoted as saying, "Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win." This I personally and sadly understand all too well. But on this beautiful South Texas afternoon the monsters and the ghosts and the horrors of war didn't win!
Before two minutes had passed one blond headed slender young man wearing gray rubber slippers just stood and stared at Colonel and then at me as he said, 'Until this dog walked into this room, I had nothing! Thank you. Now I feel like I can breathe again, I can live again. My life has changed. Everything has changed."
Every word I write at this moment, everything, every effort, everything I have ever done in my whole life comes looking back at me. It is almost as if nothing prior to those heartfelt words from these soldier meant anything, anything at all. In those words, I realized suddenly what it all comes down to is love. Unconditional, non judgmental love. A choice to commit to something, someone, no matter what the obstacles or temptations might be that stand in our way.
This was further affirmed when we were preparing to leave after three hours, and one soldier came up to me and asked in almost a whisper if I could give him a hug. I said I would be honored. As I did so, I whispered "thank you for your service and sacrifice." Barely audible, as if he were almost afraid to say the words, he asked if I would be back. I told him absolutely. With tears in his eyes, he said, "You have been my only visitor in the four months I have been here. Thank you." I told him that hugs are vital and that we need that connection to live. I hugged him again and had the sense he never wanted to let go. Perhaps because I felt the same.
Maybe, just maybe, the choices and decisions and roads I travel and make day in and day out, year after year, say more about love than never having a choice to make at all.
So today I ask you to "listen to your heart. Because wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure." ~ Paulo Coelho
On this day I became more clearly myself. On this day I understand that God is inside of me, showing me the direction to take and who might need a hug more than anything at all. Offering hope and healing and hugs and understanding just might change a life, save a life. On this day I realized who I am, where I have been and most importantly, where I am going.
It was interesting to observe each of the dozen or so warriors allowing their comrades to have some private time and space with Colonel. Then the next would come up and snuggle and give belly scratches and utter private words that only the Colonel could hear. This is all that was needed. They would ask his name and about what had happened that he had had to have a leg amputated. "I want a dog like this, a dog that has been injured and rescued and one that I can love." Then they would just sit on the floor, rubbing Colonel's ears, softly and tenderly stroking his fur and for a while forgetting. Forgetting war, and death and fire and screams.
Perhaps on this Saturday afternoon two prisoners were freed by something as simple, and as necessary, as a hug.
"A great silence comes over me, and I wonder why I ever thought to use language." ~ Rumi
"The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." ~ Mark Twain