Monday, February 28, 2011


Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't.  Sometimes what we hope for most  is right within our reach, and then sometimes we feel like we are only grasping at straws no matter what we do.

"Listen to the mustn'ts, child, listen to the don'ts - listen to the shouldn't, the impossibles, the won'ts - listen to the never haves, then listen close to me - anything can happen, child
ANYTHING can be."
~Sheri Silverstein

Reaching for the brass ring takes perseverance and guts and sometimes there is no glory.  But then there are those times that are extraordinary.

Such was the case with Lynn and her lab Luc!   Suffice it to say that Luc is a lover.  He is so much of a lover that kissing is his absolute favorite thing in the world.  Lynn wanted desperately for Luc to become a Penny's From Heaven Foundation Therapy Dog.  I first met them both in Dripping Springs right outside of Austin.  Luc was a typical young lab, full of exuberance and energy and nothing but the sweetest heart ever and eyes that could melt Scrooge.  The only problem was he wanted to lick everyone he met.  Needless to say this is in no way appropriate for a rock solid therapy dog.  

Luc went through multiple classes and training, private lessons, class lessons, field trips and more.  He did everything right, except the licking.  Soon "NO LICK" became his middle name!  He passed his American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizenship certification.  Licking wasn't on the test.

But then when it came to the Penny's From Heaven Therapy Dog test, he passed every step of the way, except for one thing, he continued to lick.  Lynn was about ready to give up on her dream, but the ironic part of it is, nobody else gave up on this team.  We put props under Lynn and told her to keep working.  We saw enormous potential in this dog and knew something had to work.  We consulted trainer after trainer...some offering hope and some grasping at straws.  

Yesterday my team facilitator and I went to once again evaluate Luc. We met in the parking lot at Stay n Play Pet Ranch. An obvious hush fell over everyone as Lynn and Luc got out of the car.  I walked up to them.  Luc sat, did not jump nor try to lick.  Two other testers did the same thing.  Rock solid!  NO LICKING!

I cried!  Yes, I cried as my team facilitator and everyone looked my way for the final approval.  I simply shook my head "yes". Everyone was jumping up and down and shouting congratulations, well aware of how long the journey had been. As Luc jumped up in unison, he gave Lynn a tiny little kiss on her neck.  It was okay!  Lynn confessed she had said more than a few prayers on her way to be tested.  

Albert Einstein said, "Most people see what is, and never see what can be." Lynn and all of us saw what could be.  We never once gave up on this dog!  Somehow he must have know.  "Luc the Licker" was no more!  Luc the therapy dog had taken his place. 

Dreams do come true.  And prayers are answered.  Luc has the extraordinary coded inside of him.  Now it need only be released!  He has miles to go and hearts to win.  There was more inside of this lab, with the pleading eyes, than anyone dared to think.  We saw potential, Lynn did the work and many, many people struggling to heal will reap the benefits.  Luc was not placed here by accident.  Luc was placed here to teach us all a lesson. 

  "Are you in earnest?  Then seize this very minute.  Whatever you can do , or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  Only engage and then the mind grows heated; only begin and then the goal will be completed.

Just think, if Lynn had given up, there would  have been so many wonderful things that might not take place without Luc.

What she did matters.  Luc will matter.  Together they will make a difference.

No trumpets sounded, no cake and ice cream.  But an important decision was made and this dog, this one dog, placed here on this earth, will change moments and seconds and perhaps lives, simply by his gift of presence. 
"Determine that the thing shall be done, and then we shall find the way."
~Abraham Lincoln

That is enough.  That is enough.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


 Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.

~Marcus Aurelius

My father, ages and ages ago, was addicted to Aurelius' writings.  I remember him sitting in his 'easy' chair engrossed in this fraying navy blue book. Occasionally, he would toss his head back as if asleep, but now I realize he was thinking, reflecting, absorbing. Of the very few things I have remaining of his, except some memories, is this worn and weathered copy of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. My dad could not have left me anything more valuable or anything more that has impacted my life and who I am as a person. 

Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161-180 and is today considered still one of the most important stoic philophers in history. I so wish my father were here to discuss this philosophy with me.  For in reviewing his works, I find this is how I conduct my thinking, my life, my business, and my heart.

Confine yourself to the present.
~Marcus Aurelius

Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.

~Marcus Aurelius

Everything that happens happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.
I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.
~Marcus Aurelius


It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.
 ~Marcus Aurelius

Nothing much has changed has it?  Centuries and centuries later. I think about this this morning for some unknown purpose.  But most assuredly the answer will surface.  I miss my father this morning, as well.  He left this earth forty years ago. This morning he surrounds me.

My house is a shambles.  Remodeling, renovating, removing, repairing.  Dust, memories, and 'stuff' congretate on every flat surface, bringing the past alive again. I have no appliances to cook on or in.  I have no cares.  I am blessed.  I am happy.  Why?  Because I am alive.  I am living a great life where, by my efforts and those affiliated with and around me, we are all working our best to change the quality of lives of others.  I guess this is all one can hope for.  A messy house, a great deal of love, a passion undying, a little dust, and a dog at our feet.

Before the workmen arrive once again, please review the grand philosophy of Marcus Aurelius and go out into the world today and shine and dance and breathe in deeply.  For this is it! 





~Marcus Aurelius

Monday, February 21, 2011


This morning I want to write.  I have to write.  Yesterday was my birthday.  This morning I am overcome with wanting to eliminate, simplify, remove, clear out, annihilate those things in my life that are unnecessary, cluttering, suffocating, stifling and clogging my existence.

Like Thoreau I want to live on golden pond.  Perhaps a dream, but wanting it is okay.  Wanting it doesn't have to be a dream.  It can be what it is.  It can be in my heart.  For it is in my heart that I can live, and with any luck I will one day soon find myself on this place called golden pond.

Perhaps this is somewhat soulful and secretive. Perhaps too, it is screaming to be released.  To me there is no sound louder than YES!!!

The grand lady of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald said, "Forgive me if I don't have the words.  Maybe I can sing it and you'll understand."  Maybe I can write it, and you will understand.

My life is complicated, as I suspect yours just might be as well.  Too much so.  I sometimes feel out of control of any of it, as it carries me on the same chaotic wave every day. This morning I want to freshen and clean it up, live in each sacred present moment, eliminate that clutter that is often unbearable and find that place where I belong.  Where I can write, where I don't have to hide and dread and fear and where I can escape from the clutter and chaos imposed by myself and others.

I have to 'walk through  the door' alone.  No one can do it for me. 

"Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
~Winnie the Pooh

Yes, this life we all lead is rich with complications.  We all need moments, times, places and spaces where we do nothing.  Where nothing is asked of us and we can inhale and remember those things and people that are truly important to use.  Those people that are worth keeping in our lives and those that we need to let go of.

For today, I will dust the dog biscuit crumbs off of my sofa, write, dream, love, cherish, and distance myself from those things and those  people whose sole pulse is to drag me down and demolish.  I will remember that each second is a gift and not to be taken for granted or wasted.  For in reality, we never know when the storm is coming.

But is it possible to recover from the clutter that is our lives?  Not just the piles and stacks of stuff, but those things, people, times, noise, aggravations and garbage that drags us down every day in every way.  How can we clean house?  Where do we start?

For me I will follow Teddy Roosevelt's suggestion, "It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."  So I will try!

For me this fearsome chaos and clutter is anesthetizing to the soul.  It jades and blocks and makes us paranoid.  It can cool us and distance us and leave us hard of heart.  I see it over and over and over again...those who swallow a stone become a stone! 

Perhaps the answer lies in doing nothing.  Sitting and doing nothing.  My mantra is, "If you don't know the right nothing."  So today I do nothing.  The answers will come.  For if I don't attend to my own wounds, I have no capacity for those of others.  If I refuse to rest, take care of myself, declutter my existence then how can I be there for anyone else?

Monday, February 14, 2011


Valentine's Day! Chocolate, roses, sexy lingerie!  Yes, but real love, the true love kind of thing, to me is found with that person who props you up when your knees go weak.

There is, of course, the notion that love is something you feel - that warm, yummy, tingling feeling.  These moments can be the seeds of love, but it is not really love until it gets beyond feelings to some kind of doing. Love in action, if you will.  Okay, so if  love reveals itself in action, then it stands to reason that lack of love reveals itself in lack of action. 

This last week following a fluke South Texas deep freeze, I lost my oven, my microwave, my stove top, my washing machine, and two walls from burst frozen pipes, and more you don't need to hear about. And for icing on the cake, I ended up in the Urgent Care Clinic with a kidney stone. Which by the way, remains lurking somewhere deep inside me.  Along with the disruption and insurance adjusters, I find my roof is "old" and seriously in need of replacing. 

To escape chaos, yesterday, I went to my favorite Mexican place for breakfast with a friend. The minute the plate of 'migas' arrived, I suddenly flipped into a gigantic panic attack.  I threw my glasses off and onto the table (the first sign for me that a panic attack is approaching).  Well, instead of devouring my favorite food on the planet, I sipped on apple juice and tried to hang onto the chair and table from the horrible dizziness that accompanies it.  I felt like I was bursting out of my skin and tried mind over matter, deep breathing, and ultimately 'xanax.'  Finally when I felt I could stand it no longer, my wobbly, shaky legs and my friend helped me out of the door, into the car, and home into bed until the attack subsided. 

Two hours later and feeling much better, I was at IHOP interviewing a warrior from Desert Storm, suffering from severe, chronic PTSD. As I listened to his story, I felt a renewed understanding of what this does to a person.  I only  understand a small piece of it, but that is bad enough.  We had to select a specific booth in the restaurant so that he could have his back to the wall and be able to see the door.  After we sat down I asked if he felt comfortable and his response was, "I know exactly where all the entrances and exits are.  I feel okay." 

He wants a dog - a battle buddy.  He is applying for one of our PTSD Support Service Dogs.  He lost his golden retriever and is devastated.  He isolates himself, has equilibrium problems, has distrubed sleep, is hypervigilant, is on 13 medications a day, and sometimes imagines ending his life.  He struggles to Walmart at 3:00 am when no one else is there so he can feel less threatened. He rarely leaves his home, and when he does, he is not alone. The list goes on and the story never ends.  His wife is an angel.  She is there by his side no matter what.  This is but one of thousands of the same scenarios.  It breaks my heart.

But ultimately, his service dog will be there for him when his knees go weak, when he senses the enemy all around him, when the nightmares are all too real.  He will not be alone.  He will have his friend, his battle buddy, he will have love.

It is an awesome thing to be able to provide such a gift, a gift of love and security and safety to a warrior who has all but given up.  He fought for our country, for you and me. Yesterday he wore his pride on a ball cap - VETERAN DESERT STORM, as he shared with us the fact that there are people who don't understand, who ridicule, who demean him. 

I understand. I listened.

I recalled the story of a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.  Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap and just sat there.  When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing,  I just helped him cry."  That is all any of us can do,  just be there, sit quietly, listen gently and help them cry.

This my friends is love. 

 " We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and reslessness,  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.  We need silence to be able to touch souls." ~ Mother Teresa

Today may you find a soul to touch.

Happy Valentine's Day.


"An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding, and it is not to be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself."
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, February 10, 2011


We are told that there is goodness inside each of us.  But I sometimes wonder if that is correct. I also wonder why others take such joy in attempting to ruin another persons efforts at doing good.  Deep down inside, I feel it is a lack of self esteem.  Perhaps they are thinking if they tear someone else down, they will feel better about themselves.  I have always and will always be outraged by wrong.  Today is no exception.  Fighting windmills is my specialty. 

None of us like to lose.  And as Lily Tomlin said, "The problem with winning the rat race is you're still a rat." So I choose to look at my adversaries as rats.  And then I consider, what if I decide I don't want to compete?  In all honesty, I prefer to sit back and observe their foolishness and behave with grace.  I refuse to accept what someone else fabricates about me to make themselves be perceived as better.  Lies have been told with the sole purpose of hurting me and ruining my foundation.  Okay, guess what?  It didn't work! I win.  I have maintained my integrity, my optimism, and certainly my compassion despite their best efforts to threaten these qualities in me.

I have a job to do. But not until I do the job at hand.  And that job is to rest.  After burst pipes, fried appliances, water damage, holes in walls, a burned up washing machine, ever present workmen, and the joy of a kidney stone, plus the ever present persistence of an individual to see me burst, fried, and damaged, I am still here. And I am not the rat. 

Sometimes we simply need the nourishment provided by rest.  More often than not, I have to remind myself that I am more than a productivity unit. Renewal is essential and sacred for alertness and a good attitude.  I have to find the healing power of time off.  We all have a place where we find sanctuary - a place where we can pause and rest and find ourselves again.  Our identity is not defined by our accomplishing something and achieving something.  Consider perhaps, that it is defined solely when we stop, sit still, and hear that small still voice inside saying "Thank you, I needed this."

So this weekend I rest.  And in resting I will find the unfaltering determination to carry out that which is good and right.  I will find the ability to go on in spite of my enemies. I am moving forward.  They can stay stuck.

As a dear friend reminds me, "There are two kinds of days, good days and better days."  Today is a good day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
~Thomas Edison

Ever feel like this?  No matter how hard you try it just won't work. But as bitter a pill as it is to swallow, failures are necessary steps on the road to learning and growth.  Ouch.  I don't like the word failure.  It is messy to assume that it is black and white, all failures or all successes.  Sorry, but life is just not this simple.

Maybe it is time for a change.  I love the quote by Jack Welch, "Change before you have to."  Sometimes we have to change.  Sometimes we are forced to change. Sometimes there is no other way but to change.  But an interesting premise is found when we consider this one thing -  what if we initiate change and intentionally plan for it? In other words, change before it is forced on us.

Change is good. And remember Nietzsche's "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger."  Sometimes I wish I could hit him.  I am strong enough thank you. Then I pick up the pieces and move forward again.

Much like our warriors we get stronger not just because we go through the tough times, but because we are forced to call upon our best selves to get through this rough stuff. I draw on a variety of techniques - tears,  humor, patience, courage, and sometimes chocolate.

I love my work, the foundation, the warriors and yes the failures and the successes.  But they are not who I am. I am more than my work.  I need other sources of satisfaction, new possibilities, new miracles, new magic, new mistakes, new optimism, new compassion and new, sweet simple things. 

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces.  I would still plant my apple tree."  ~Martin Luther

I am not so certain I can restore normality to chaos much longer. It is taking its toll. Maybe I do need to plant an apple tree, or go to Sedona, rent a condo in Santa Fe, revisit my Rocky Mountains, or sit and write the book I have been struggling to write for a year.  There are decisions to be made.

"What if we're wrong? We waffle and weave.  Maybe we can put off the decision for a while.  Maybe things will be clearer tomorow.  Not making a decision is making a decision - and it may well be the worst decision we could make."  ~Linda Picone

I have made a decision! And the good part is if I have taken the wrong path, I can always turn around and go back.  But if I don't make a decision, I'll never know the right way to go.  And ultimately, how terribly sad that would be.


I recently was given a book purchased on South Texas' Mustang  Island called A Grain of Sand: Nature's Secret Wonder by Dr. Gary Greenberg.  The author has traveled across this planet photographing individual grains of sand magnified at two hundred times the size. In the sands of Hawaii and Tahiti, the Sahara and the Poles, each grain is exquisite in it's beauty, color, texture, size and shape and each holds the secret to life. The book was purchased because of the beauty and extraordinarily vibrant colors in each photograph.  But the more I read it and understood the scope of what each grain held the more remarkable it all appeared.

Who knew that individual grains of sand could be so absolutely gorgeous, unique and captivating?  This is a book that opens up your imagination with awe, wonder and great overwhelming respect.  You will see anything from sand-grained sized sea urchin spines to tiny, tiny shells all polished by the relentless surf.  I have an entirely new understanding and appreciation of sand.

"To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower.  To hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour." ~ William Blake, 1805

What if we were to look at this world of individuals in much the same way?  Each as unique and as varied as the grains of sand on the beach. What then?  Would we be more tolerant?  Would we be more in awe of our differences than put off by them? Would we respect each other more? 

We are all tossed and tumbled in much the same way.  Some see us as we are and then the majority see us for who they wish we were.  And then there are those who put us under a microscope and examine us and rarely find the beauty that is deep within.  Perhaps, just perhaps upon closer observation we might be found to be just as beautiful as a grain of sand.