Tuesday, August 23, 2011


What happens when a life is so full of one thing there is little room for anything else?

Life is not about doing more. Just maybe life is about doing less! Perhaps life is about being in a relationship with yourself, with God and with others. Maybe it isn't about working ourselves to death ~ almost literally.  

The saying goes that on a person's death bed no one says, "I wish I had worked more." 

But what happens when you are so deeply entrenched you can't get out? What happens to those that depend upon you, are waiting on you, are needing you?  What happens when you feel frazzled and depleted and empty.  How do you keep the pain at arm's length? Do you go left, or right, or up or down?  Do you stay still and exist in this quagmire or disappoint yourself or others?

What happens then?  You ask for help.  You reach out.  You get to to the point of screaming in your sleep, please someone understand.  Someone help me.  Someone get the ton of bricks off of my chest.  And that someone doesn't come.

It is then that you have to start removing the bricks one at a time, until you can breathe again.  Until you can sit on a log in a forest and remember what it was once like to feel the sun coming through the branches and the cool clean feeling of the vibrant green moss between your toes.  The little things.  The simple things.  The things that once held you in their grasp and you have lost along the way.  The distance between who you are and who you have become is emphasized.  You find that time when you start to look inside at your own hopes and longings and dreams that haven't come true. It is in these moments of introspection that you find the empty spaces with no words needed.  You remember how to feel.

But somehow the process between who you have become and who you are deep inside is a long one and often lost.  It is as if you are waiting.  Waiting on something or someone or some time.  Waiting to wake up.

I am in that place.  I recall a line from Auntie Mame, 1953 ~ "Life is like a banquet and some poor suckers are starving to death ~ Live, Live, Live."

What comes from our hearts has been given to us as a gift.  We must give it honor.  But what if that gift is devouring us? 

I understand that taking a risk puts us in a place where there is more to be gained than lost.  And I understand that staying stagnant is a bigger risk.  It starts in our minds.  It is a step of faith to move into something much larger.  We never know what is around the corner.

So today I pay homage and respect and attention to my indecisions, my quandries, my questions. 

You see love of life has its own smell and it is never wasted.  Today I remember that remembering is an act of grace.  And I know for a fact that our most powerful memories are sensual ~ touch and smell.  I can almost smell the mountains, and hear the movement and harmony of the trout stream and the cool moist softness of the moss under my feet and the closeness to a place where I know I belong.  You see with change something opens up within us to possibilities we never dreamed possible.  But somewhere along the way you have to take that first step.


"It is not about your name, or your looks, not your bank account, never about who you may or may not know.  It is about your story.  You are writing your own story every single day,with your every choice and decision,with your thoughts and achievements.
~Anita Papas

But what about those whose stories are based on destruction, cruelty, self absorbtion, and lies? What if these stories directly impact you, who you are, and/or your life? Then what do you do?

"Intentionally attempting to inflict pain or hurt upon others simply reveals the narrow minded, insecure place one is operating from.  Rise above such behavior, be a person of integrity and be a positve impact on those you encounter, otherwise you're no different than the rest."
~Bernadette Gabriele

I do not understand those who attempt, with every breath they take, to downgrade and attempt to demolish a person.  I do not have the time or desire to pursue it.  But that doesn't stop them.  The false rumors abound and knives hurled at every move you make.  There comes a point when it is almost humorous and, even more sadly, anticipated.  Then just when you spend one minute or out of two thinking about their fruitless efforts, you receive a letter than says, "Hi Patsy!  Thank you for your friendship.  I am MARINE MOM from Chicago.  I have just spent less than a minute reading your letter and have felt a great message from God.  So thank you for being in my life today."

These are the moments that count.  These are the moments that allow you to let go of the garbage hurled at you. These are the only moments that count.  At it is at that precise moment, I realize that what I am fighting for is not a competition between organizations, but an attempt to educate those who don't 'get' that for hundreds of thousands of veterans, courage is what it takes to face each and every day of their lives, not being able to leave the horrors of war on the battlefield.  For them everyday life is a battlefield.  They are forever 'at war'.

So the question is, why should this be about me?  Why should another organization feel threatened or jealous or angry toward me, for that is not what the focus should be.  What a waste of time. 

People do not have my permission to interpret what I do, think, say or don't say.  Again to them I say, "Poof, you are gone!  I don't have time."

"Who are you to judge me and the life I live?  I am not perfect and I don't live to be, but before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean."

"The best gift for those who judge you is your shoes.  Let them walk in them, so they know and understand."
~Janet Austin

"It is not what happens to you.  It is what you do about it that makes the difference."
~W. Mitchell

"A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life.  It is the tear that results from the injury of the oyster.  The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life.  If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl."

~ Stephan Hoeller

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


We have all had to do it.  Successfully maybe and hopefully.  But decisions must be always based on the information we have on hand. They cannot be emotional or dramatic.  Making difficult decisions is hell.

Making a difficult decision is not always the popular thing. We wonder 'why me'! "Let someone else do it.' It is not always the easy thing.  And on top of the angst of that, you have to be prepared for those who are sad, angry, or just plain hostile. For me it seems to come with the territory.  I have come to understand that some people don't understand no matter what you do, say, or act upon. The most difficult decisions are those we make that we know are going to be unpopular. Do we know it is the right one?  What if it isn't? But then what if we just know, that we know, that we know it is the right thing to do for all concerned?

This week I had to make a decision to pull a dog from our TADSAW Service Dog Program.  A perfect dog, a compelling dog, a snuggle bug with not a mean bone in his body. He and his potential warrior with PTSD would have been 'Battle Buddies' for life!  I have not a single doubt.  They would have bonded in a unique and strong way.

But I had to make the decision to pull this dog because he is a Pit Bull. Because of society's ignorance and stupidity. He has the scars to prove his history has not been anything but cruel.  But he is perfection in spite of man's inhumanity.  As a therapy dog or service dog, he would be top notch.  I would have been proud to have him in the program.  He doesn't harbor resentment or hatred or fear of people.  He simply wants to love and be loved by someone who will forever be his best friend.

Just one day before this decision was made, I had met a dog named 'Tuesday', a service dog for a warrior at an event in Houston honoring them both and the book Luis Carlos Montalvan wrote about his experiences while deployed and his life saver, UNTIL TUESDAY. The book is on the New York Times Bestseller List!

Our hostess began the introduction of Luis and Tuesday by reading a statement that left the audience of over 250 struck with shock and disgust and something akin to outrage.  In a nutshell, this gorgeous golden retriever, wearing his Service Dog vest, and Luis were in the VA Hospital in New York for an appointment.  Upon entering they immediately were accosted and told 'dogs are not allowed in here...leave!"  Luis, not unaccustomed to being asked to leave places with Tuesday, calmly explained that he was a warrior and Tuesday was his service dog and that the American Disabilities Act protected them. This fell on deaf and stupid ears! 

Long story short, the police ripped 'Tuesday' away from him, threw Luis to the ground and a police officer pinned him with his leg in Luis's spine, a spine that has had multiple surgeries from his combat injuries. His back causes him constant pain and forces him to walk with a cane to stabilize himself.  Being in excruciating pain, both mentally and physically and experiencing great concern for his Battle Buddy, 'Tuesday', did not  phase the police one bit.

He was then taken to jail! This American soldier, a warrior, with a TBI/ PTSD and a back injury, hauled off to jail because he was going to a medical appointment at the VA!!!!  Someone explain this to me.  He had every legal right on earth to be in the VA, or any place at all with his service dog.  What is wrong with the system?  Where is the justice? Where is man's humanity to man?  Where is compassion?

Most in the audience had tears in their eyes.  Most shook their heads.  All were aghast and sickened that a wounded warrior and his service dog, an exquisite golden retriever, would be treated that way.  I have nightmares about it. Disturbing yes. Disgusting yes. Unjust yes. But real nonetheless.  For Luis, this has only heightened his decision to pursue justice for all warriors with a service dog, for all disabled with a service dog.  He may have been knocked to the ground, but he is back up and fighting on a very different battlefield than the one in Iraq. But a battlefield never the less.

Luis is a kind soul, a gentle man.  Did he deserve this?  Of course not.  Was it right? No.  Will it happen again to others?  Most likely. Will it happen to our warriors and their TADSAW Service Dogs? Probably, but hopefully not to this extent.

So to my difficult,  unpopular and misunderstood decision...

If this warrior, this national speaker, this kind unassuming man, was taken unjustly to jail for having his golden retriever service dog in the VA, what would a wounded warrior in South Texas face daily when he wanted to simply go to the grocery store, to the bank, to Chuckie Cheese with his kids, to dinner in a restaurant, to Walmart with Eddy, a Pit Bull in a red service dog vest? In a city where 50% of all euthanasia's are Pit Bulls, in a city where all too many Pit Bulls are vicious, fighting dogs. What would this warrior face? 

Many of these warriors are fragile emotionally and physically, have anger issues, have isolation problems, have fear and panic attacks when in public, to have a dog by their sides in many, many cases alleviates the fear and anxiety and with this, hope grows.  Hope for a future, hope for peace, hope for the flashbacks of hell to lessen or stop.  Similar to having a "battle buddy" in the 'zone', a support service dog is a warrior's life-line, as they would be his/hers.

Pit Bulls are not allowed on most airlines.  The warrior could not fly.  They are not allowed in many restaurants, buildings, and facilities.  Is this right? No.  Is this just? No.  Am I angry? Yes.  Is it fair to the dog or the warrior? No. They are not allowed on military installations and the list goes on and on.

To recognize and realize the fact that a warrior with a Pit Bull, as a service dog, would encounter episode after episode of people turning away from him, tucking and hiding their children behind them, leaving a location because they were fearful of this breed, asking management to remove the dog and owner or they would take their business elsewhere, and on and on, led me to make this decision.  It killed me to remove Eddy from the program, as it did his huge fan club in PFHF.  I couldn't in all good faith put a warrior in this situation.

We are here to protect our warriors, to make their lives better, to improve the quality of their lives.  Not to cause them more anxiety because their 'battle buddy' is suspect or perceived as a dangerous and vicious threat.  It makes me sick.  It makes me heartsick.  And yes,  I understand those that question my decision.  But our warriors have to come first in TADSAW.

And perhaps, just perhaps, this will have a happy ending.  Eddy is safe.  And many are trying to find him a home, one that he deserves with love and safety, where he is not feared but loved for the magnificient heart he has. A home where he can cuddle and play and be adored.  As he sat perched in the back of my car, he quietly looked out the window at the passing cars in a world where  people can be so cruel, so void of compassion and humanity, so full of hatred.  I felt ill.

Forced into a decision, I did not want to make, was not my fault, nor was it Eddy's fault.  It is what it is.  So please forgive me and understand my decision to not make a warrior's life more difficult, to not allow him to face, with a Pit Bull,  the same things that Luis faced with a golden retriever.  TADSAW is here to help not harm.

For me, I resent the hell out of being put in this position, by a society that is responsible for allowing this to happen. 

Keri Russell puts it succinctly, "Sometimes it's the smallest decision that can change a life forever."  This week I tried to do that. It has not been a popular decision. Believe me this hurts me more than anyone.


If any one is interested in Eddy, the best little dog in Texas...please contact me. He is a heartbreaker and a best friend just waiting for his forever home and someone to love.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


The artist, the creative spirit, the writer must have downtime, time to do nothing. Time to be alone.  Time to isolate.

In theory this sounds good, but few understand it or are willing to comply. But if they do, oh what a gift it is.  To be allowed time off.  Time to complete.  Time to do nothing. Time to clean ouT the cobwebs from our souls. For it is in this time that life is found once again and the spirit is dusted off and begins to awaken. I guess it is like slowly losing a river and then quietly sitting and waiting and then finding it  once again begins to flow.

It is a necessary freedom. Freedom from the pullings and tuggings and trappings of others wanting something now, yesterday.  The clock, email, text messages, phone calls.  "Your lack of poor planning, does not constitute an emergency on my part."  I have loved that quote dearly. I live by it.  I want it plastered on my forehead.  I am sure you have had someone call you and say I need this today or in an hour, when they have had days to ask, or tell, or better yet to do it themselves. This infuriates me and I will automatically say 'no.'

But have you ever considered that the only real way to have intimacy (not  sexual)  with another human being is based on having alone time, time off. With me it is mandatory.  Temporary freedom from dependencies allows me to not remain stuck.  Stuck in a rut, stuck in conundrums, stuck in stuff, stuck in puddles and muddles and places where I know I don't belong, nor have any desire to.

The river must flow where it will.  Not where others want it to.  So it is with people.  We are only alive when we are allowed freedom, space, and an understanding by our friends to allow us this time.

It is in this space where you find that you are able to throw out the old, the unworkable and make a pathway for the new and more suitable.  You can say, "No I won't be a doormat any longer." And an awareness of the difficult people in your life surfaces, and it is in this place you begin to grow.  Difficult people cause us to feel things we don't want to feel. 

For our warriors returning with visible and invisible wounds, this space and time is mandatory.  For it is in this place that they must give pain the time.  Time to heal, manifest itself, and come to terms with it.

Perhaps that is why our therapy and service dogs are so vital to so many returning from combat.  They ask nothing.  Their presence is neither intrusive, questioning or troublesome.  They are a simple basic security blanket. They don't give up on them.  Their moods or behaviors are never questioned.  They want to lay on the sofa and do nothing, it is okay with them.  A warrior struggling wtih chronic depression finds a sense of peace in a belly rub on his dog. And because the dog must be exercised, fed and cared for, the warrior is quite simply not allowed to wallow for too long. 

It is a beautiful story, this 'after the ouch.'  For any of us, for all of us.  We need time, time given to the pain whatever its source. 

It is a panacia.  It is the only way.  It is the right way.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I am sure you are no different than anyone else.  There are just some days we all feel like we need to be carried. Need to tuck into a bag and let someone tote us around to wherever we need to be. Wherever we yearn to be. A shot of adrenalin wouldn't hurt either.

Today is one of those days.  For two weeks I have blocked every day to complete the manuscript for my new book K-9's ~ An Antidote for PTSD.  Well I haven't touched it! And not for lack of trying. Quite the contrary.

Where the days and time goes I cannot tell you.  But what I can offer is that I have not left my office once this week.  Or if I have, I have no idea where I went. I sometimes don't know if it is day or night.  The drapes closed tightly hiding the secret.  If it weren't for my dogs demanding breakfast or dinner, the secret would remain hidden.

I want to escape this horrific heat of 106 + daily.  I want to go to the mountains and listen to the wind in the aspen and smell the clear clean air and fish for trout in a mountain stream.  I want to remember what it is like to hear the voice of God in the thunder in the high, breathtakingly fragrant  mountains. I want to breathe deeply at the beginning of the day, the end of the day and not sit at a computer endlessly for 14-18 hours.  I want to write, as I sit on a porch about life, dreams, hopes, disappointments, love, grief, joy, and how to live one day, one hour at a time.  I want people to read what I write and feel somewhat comforted, or as least vindicated and normal.  I want, I want, I want. 

For some reason this morning, I remember sitting in a door way at a small pine table in a casita in Santa Fe right off the Plaza near the Georgia O'Keeff museum, writing about the evening before when I had spoken to 50-60 rapists, pedophiles, and murderers in the New Mexico State Prison, followed by dinner and champagne at a four star restaurant with friends. My head was spinning.  Today I remember the feeling of that 40 degree morning and the sun rising over the mesa.  I remember a surreal feeling of being in another time and place. I remember peace and I remember never wanting to leave that doorway.

Why am I remembering this this morning.  I have no idea.  I only wish I were there.  Have you ever been to a place where you know you belong and have some deep spiritual connection?  For me it is Colorado and New Mexico.  It has been 6 years since I have been to NM and 10 since I was able to fall in love with 'my mountains' again.  I miss them both.  The ache is sometimes unbearable. Today it is.

Not too long ago I was asked 'what would make you happy, really happy?'  Now I know.  But here I sit behind on a deadline on my book, stacks and stacks of  work to be done, a calendar that is frightening, and a lump in my throat that doesn't seem to go away. The muse is missing, the drive is missing, and the spirit yearns to be elsewhere.  But here I sit. 

A scrap of torn paper on my desk with a broken staple in it says, "Write down the thoughts of the moment.  Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable."  Frances Bacon must know my mind.

So now back to the land of PTSD and writing about the mental crippling of our warriors and their battle. But this morning I can't get it out of my head that I am fighting my own battle. 

How I wish I were in the mountains.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Dawn is a private time. A time to reflect, breathe, and come to terms with those things interrupting your peace.  For me dawn provides a quiet peaceful time to reflect on a myriad of things. Without this time my day is a shambles. This morning with a cup of French Roast coffee in one hand and the other on the back of my therapy dog Gracie, I was thinking of the miracles that happen when man and dog collide.  Wonderful things, inexplicable things, lovely things, lifesaving things.

Isn't it true, that in the end, we all just want to find that one person who loves us, will stick by us, who will catch us when we fall.  That one person who makes us laugh when we want to cry and who will hold us when we hurt?  But it isn't always that easy is it? This is most assuredly true of our warriors returning with PTSD, having not been able to leave the horrors of war on the battlefield.  To them, once home their lives become battlefields. They are forever at war! Sounds trigger memories, families are torn apart, drugs and alcohol abuse is prevalent as is unemployment and isolation. PTSD has control!

 According to the ICAMI, the International Committee Against Mental Illness, it is estimated that more than half a million of our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan alone will have some form of PTSD. Staggering isn't it? Even more staggering is the statistic that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans dying at home is outpacing the number of combat deaths in the two wars combined, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs!! 

So can these warriors, carrying the bags of boulders on their back called PTSD, ever find peace? Can any of us?

Ramona Anderson said,  "People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace.  They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them.  The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within." But what about our warriors who go within and find chaos and hell instead of this happiness?

Surely there is the potential  of happiness, lack of the tremendous fear, and a sense of contentment for those who cry, those who hurt and those who are lost in the wilderness of their experiences in war.  And should this be doubted, I want you to hear the story of Jeremiah, just one of thousands of  warriors afraid to leave his home, be without his wife, go to the store, or trust. For him this quote stands firm.  For him just like thousands of veterans, courage is what it takes to face each day of their lives.  This one has a wife and children.  His wife has become his caregiver, all the while her husband is trapped in silence and isolation.

"Courage is not the absence of fear.  It's the presence of resolve, the presence of purpose." 

This is from Jeremiah's wife as she was waiting for her plane to take her home, leaving her husband in San Antonio with his TADSAW service dog in training , Gunny, to continue their journey toward independence.

Patsy, I didn't know if I would see you again and wanted to say thank you for everything. I am sad because I am leaving today but overjoyed with the improvements jeremiah has made with Gunny! I feel comfortable with leaving Jeremiah behind even though I cried yesterday really hard and of course choked back a couple of good cries with Bart! I wanted to give jeremiah independence and knew this would be good for him but then it hit me that he would not need me as much now. I wasn't sad because that's what we are here for  but at the same time got that "dropping your child off the first day of school syndrome"! 

It made me feel at peace leaving this time because Gunny will be watching his back when I have done it for so long. It is an odd feeling to feel overjoyed but sad at the same time. I felt better after  something really neat happened . Jeremiah was walking through the airport on a test run and never once looked back to see where I was. He walked with Gunny like they owned the place! I was in the rear due to my legs, and Gunny looked behind to see if I was there and every couple of paces he would look behind again. He got in front of jere as if to slow his pace down and then kept glancing back as if he was saying "no worries, I have him and we are waiting for you." He slowed down enough for me to catch up and walked in between us!  I knew then Gunny was special.

I wanted to tell you that we love gunny as if we have always had him. He watches jere like a hawk and comes to me for sugars and belly scratching. Jere told me on the fourth night "I love my dog. I hope patsy knows that".  In this week, jere only had two bad spells and gunny jumped up on him both times to get his attention and Jere was fine.

Also a worthy note was that Jere has not taken his night time meds since he has been here, the ones that make him dopey and lethargic. He  had absolutely no problems this week. I know thank you isn't enough for everything all of you have done, but hope to pay it forward one day. Gunny is special and a guardian angel and do hope you know it's like he has always been there or that we have had him!

So yes, for some,  there is happiness to be found and war to be put to rest.   For those warriors fortunate enough to find 'paws on the ground' to assist them in their battles, their lives can be controlled on a much better level.  Their lives are still rich with complications, but with a dog by their side the question as to who rescues who, is no longer pertinent.

 "I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark."
~Henry David Thoreau