Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Mustang Island......where the hardest decision is what color nail polish to select for a pedicure, choosing between a lunch of Shrimp and Grits Sliders over Crab Cakes, or deciding to eavesdrop on muted conversations about Tommy Lee Jones' frequent visits to the island!  It restores my soul and somewhat softens the  tedious and painful lumps and bumps of life back in reality. 

I was on the eleventh floor of a highrise condo.  From the balcony, I saw this lady walking what appears to be a well seasoned golden retriever.  This scene captured my heart and held on tight.  She or he, looks so much like my golden girl, now gone from my life for almost two years. The lump in my throat was more than noticeable as I remembered places and spaces with "Penny" and how her muzzle turned white and her steps slowed, and how I treasured each moment spent with her in her final days.  I often wonder if she looks down upon the PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN FOUNDATION and realizes her legacy.  A legacy filled with wonder and delight and smiles and tears from patients remembering dogs from days past from a furry bright spot that suddenly entered their lives for a moment. 

It isn't always easy letting go.  It can be grueling! It can shake you to your bones and cause you to quiver in doubt of the future.  Then I remember a greeting card in a gift shop on the island that simply read, "You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder.  It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you." ~Vandana Shiva

Maybe sometimes curling up into a tight little ball is okay.  Maybe pulling the covers back over your head works.  But in the end you have to get up and face the day, the problems, the pain and the unanswered questions. Maybe the answers will come, maybe not.  But in between the questions and the answers lies life!  You have to learn when to hold on tight and when to stop rushing, pushing and manipulating.  You need to learn to say 'no' so your 'yes' has some oomph! Taking one step at a time isn't so bad.  Baby steps can lead you where you are supposed to be, not rushing to find a place where you are not supposed to be.

As for this morning, I want to curl up in a ball and sleep.  A dreary morning back at my desk with piles and piles of work to do, meetings coming up, and as Robert Frost said, "miles to go before I sleep." I am quivering today. Today the planet has to carry me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Have you ever thought about how much better you feel when you comfort yourself?  Ladies love to curl up in a soft, yummy blanket and read a good book, and perhaps reach, guiltlessly, for a piece of chocolate or two.  The peace in a home where you can do that is rare. So you have to take it as you can find it.  Or in some cases you have to escape to an island.  As I write this all of my dogs are barking, a fax is coming in and the morning is brand new and the doorbell is ringing. 

I wanted to sit and read a new book I had gotten yesterday.  Of course Military Working Dog related, but nonetheless, comforting to sit in quiet and read!  Something I love to do and seldom do I have the chance to indulge myself with this luxury. 

"Comfort heals.  It brings joy to the spirit.  Comfort renews power, vitality.  Comfort opens you up like the sun unfolds the petals of a fragrant and beautiful flower.  Simply put, comfort will make you and those around you happy." ~ Melody Beattie

Remember when you were young and skinned your knee or had a splinter in your finger?  You most likely would run crying to your mother or grandmother for comfort.  Now who do you run to when you have a bruised ego or hurt feelings?  We are supposed to be strong, composed, in control, in charge.  But sometimes we just aren't, and it is just not possible to imagine we could be this way all of the time.  Maybe outwardly we try, but inwardly we are breaking.

I suppose the hard part for me is to ask for comfort, to find time to allow myself this indulgence, to fall asleep on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around me with the soft breathing of my dogs, as the only background noise audible.  When you allow you to comfort yourself or others to do so, don't you find you feel renewed and the stress and anxiety you are laden with creeps out the door and leaves you to feel like the real you once again?  Not the exhausted, depleted you.

Until I read Melody Beattie's quote above did I realize that what everyone has been saying forever 'that if you don't take care of you, you can't take care of anyone else', really is true.  So yes, I get it, if I am happy most likely those around me will be happy.

This said, next week I am heading to the island once again.  The place where I find healing, and peace, and joy, and relaxation and the ability to inhale all the way to my abdomen.  I will sit and watch movies, walk on the beach, search for shells and find broken ones that somehow remind me of the brokeness in all of us.  I will go to the island seafood store for the day's catch and indulge in the best and freshest fish anywhere, as I prepare it with a butter, garlic, lemon and white wine reduction before dusting it with fresh minced parsley.  I will go to the Island Food Store, which is the size of the entry at a super plus supermarket back home.  I will cherish the simplicity of this oasis where you can find anything and everything you need without hiking miles and aisles to find it.  I will absorb the local color and go into shops with glitter and confetti on the floor and a bubble machine outside next to a pepto bismol colored car.  I will search for paw prints in the sand and remember the comfort of walking with one of my dogs by my side and my mission and purpose on this planet.  I will ask for the ability to remain steadfast in my journey.

I will in these days find the ability to remember who I am and what my purpose is and hopefully shed some of the barnacles of anxiety that cause my rampant panic and vertigo attacks.  I will pamper myself, I will comfort myself.  I will renew myself and come home rested and peaceful and smiling. I will begin writing a book I feel compelled to write (# 56).  I will fall in love with life once again and remember how to dance on the edge of each day and yell 'watch out below' as I recall what it is like to once again feel comforted.

I wish you peace.

Monday, January 16, 2012


A Renaissance artist who made the world's most prized vases. A foreign visiting apprentice came to observe his method. 

After laboring for many weeks with one piece of clay — firing it, painting it, baking it — [the artist] placed it upon a pedestal for inspection. The apprentice sat in awe at this thing of unspeakable beauty. 

But it appeared that the artist was not yet finished. In a shocking and dramatic moment, the artist lifted the vase above his head and dashed it against the floor, breaking it into a thousand shards. 

And then, quietly, he reconnected the pieces by painting them with a paint of pure gold. Each crack reflected invaluable gold. In the end, this magnificent, but imperfect, piece became the most valued piece in the collection.... 

And as you look into the mirror each morning and see the slow and quiet evidence of strain and stress, of passing time and battle fatigue begin to etch deeper, know that those are not meaningless wrinkles but lines of character and wisdom and beauty.

Saturday was not a great day....multiple disappointments and great injustice and plans that took weeks to implement demolished. People that I felt had integrity betrayed me, and more importantly, my warriors. I was thrown back a bit and then decided to shake it off, much like a dog shakes to release stress! 

Then later that morning with a slight chill in the air,  I found myself sitting quietly on the patio at a hospital in the warm South Texas sun watching a miracle occur.  A warrior with severe PTSD, grimaced as he worked his way to the ground with the help of his cane.  Kelsie went up to him, and with great understanding laid her head in his lap. No words were spoken.  No facial expressions.  Then my warrior began exploring each inch of Kelsie's head and face with such tenderness, softness, warmth and love that I could not get the lump out of my throat. He touched her forehead, her muzzle, her eye lids and eye lashes and for a moment, just a moment, I watched the hell he had endured in war fade away. It slipped into a moment that was mesmerizing, overwhelming and unnoticed by others. 

The beauty of it was that  he had that moment. That one moment. Perhaps that is all that was needed for both of us. His fingertips ran gently from the top of her head down her muzzle to her nose and then back again.  Kelsie was falling asleep, content in the knowledge that her job was just lying there, and absorbing the memories of a place and time that have caused a handsome young blonde headed man to never be the same. 

So where I was supposed to have been, and the rude behavior of another, apparently was for a purpose.  I was exactly where I was supposed to have been, doing what I was supposed to be doing ~ sitting on a bench while a dog temporarily took over the burdens of  a war brought home returning in nightmares and horror beyond any of our comprehension.

This morning I thank God for always putting me in the place where I am supposed to be.  And for providing me with a dog who is a sponge for pain.  Perhaps, just perhaps, she and other dogs like her, are the gold in the story above, that will glue some of our warriors back together when they come home to us broken into many pieces.

Life breaks all of us, yet many of us are strong in the broken places. 

— The Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin

Thursday, January 12, 2012


You have enemies? Good that means you have stood up for something! Wnnston Churchill

Yes I have, and now I am tired! Have you ever been in a place where you can't stand one more negative comment, one more loud voice, one more statement of intolerance of someone or something?  Have your best intentions ever been been so misconstrued that people choose to take it the wrong way.  They get angry, frustrated, irritated, defensive.  You feel like you have been stomped into the ground.  Then there are those who are gentle and loving and kind and understanding.  They don't push you or pull you.  They are there with a quiet reverance that exudes love.

I have made a decision to phase back considerably from my decades of volunteer work.  Most have understood my intentions and are helping me to dust off my britches and move on to a life with less stress, less noise, less phone interruptions, less constant complaining and aggravation accompanying it.  Then others don't get it.  I have screamed to be heard.  My body is a mess and is also screaming to be acknowledged after much neglect.  Stress remains and doesn't seem to be lessening. In fact it many ways it is worsening. My panic attacks are almost daily now and nothing seems to stop them. 

Joyce Meyer has said that "God never leads us to busy ourselves so much that we're stressed out all the time and have no joy."  Or in my case poor health.  I am exhausted and depleted.  I want to find this thing called joy again, but after sacrificing thousands of hours for others, exactly where do I find it.  I have built this persona of 'workaholic' to huge proportions.  It is expected that I continue in that vein.  I have lost friends, or what I thought were friends.  I am misunderstood.  My self imposed boundaries are being pushed on and kicked at and tortured.  But I am remaining steadfast.  I cannot, will not, continue as I have in the past. I am crying out and starving for peace. 

There comes that time when your body says, "ENOUGH"!  Mine has said ENOUGH multiple times.  It is convincing those that have relied upon you to do something when no body else would that are the hardest ones to convince you really mean it this time.  I will not be lured back into the 24 hour day schedules and tendencies to competely forget joy and friends and toys that squeak and dogs and fun and laughter and what it is like to actually smile and mean it.

Those words don't come easily.  In fact quite the opposite.  Because I think I have forgotten how to do those things.  But I will try and find them again, if indeed I truly ever had them. I will search for the handlebars and hang on and enjoy the ride.  I want the vitality of life, this one life we get to not disappear.  But I am not exactly sure where to start.

I want to embrace life and all of her mysteries.  I want to awaken one day, just one day, not exhausted.  I want to awaken to dreams of joy, love and peace and quiet and to the freedom our warriors have fought and sacrified so dearly for.

I want to laugh a lot, cry a lot and smile a lot. I want the roar in my head to stop.  I don't want to sit crouched in fear and dread of another panic attack. I don't want to always believe that the worst could possibly happen. 

I want to look at tomorrow with peace, faith and hope.  I want to know that I cannot control some of what life does.  I want the struggle to disappear.  I want to feel at peace. I want to awaken to a heart that is content.

Friday, January 6, 2012


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

As I sit down to right I am peeling a beyond belief fragrant clementine.  It is soothing to remove the peel with great care and delicious to inhale the fragrance that somehow seems to clear my muddled head. The day is spectacular here in South Texas at about 65 degrees, bird egg blue skies and golden leaves falling from the trees, almost as if it were autumn. So many simple pleasures that most take for granted in the scurry of each day. As I bite into each segment of the clementine, I want to remember the moment, the  aroma, the taste.  Today my house is peaceful, quiet and serene.  A blessing, a gift and a moment to catch my breath. The dogs surround me and are breathing softly, with toys nearby.  They seem to have not a care in the world.

So this Friday I ask what would you do that you haven't done.  Where would you be bound if you were to sail away from your safe harbor.  Where would you like to explore, dream and discover?

Mark Twain's quote above sounds unbelievably delicious in its simplicity doesn't it?  But where does reality fit in.  The day to day boredom of the same routine, the same bills to pay, the same bank accounts to balance, the floor to vacuum, the car to wash, the dogs to bathe, the grind of everyday life seems to sometimes leave us lifeless and drab and dragging and sad.

Today as most days I want to catch the trade winds in my sails.  But the piles and piles of unattended paperwork on my desk mound in stacks that never seem to disappear., but grow ferociously.  I have books on the side table intriguing in their titles, such as Meditations to Heal your Life, The Daily Book of Positive Quotations, Soul Happy, Bow Wow Tao and The Power of Pause.  I pick them up occasionally and glance through them, intent on reading them to conclusion one day.  Then something always gets in the way, stops me dead in my tracks and says no you mustn't read that book...you have other things to tend to.

But where do I dare to dream, discover and explore?  Where do I escape to when I need to remember how to breathe and who I am inside the me the everyone else sees?  I guess today I have no answers, only questions and a yearning that is indefatigable in its pursuit of me.

Maybe life is found in the little things.  Maybe life is found in a fragrant clementine, as I sit at my computer and have the freedom and ability to write words for you to read.  Perhaps life is where we are right now, right here, right at this desk in this room, with three sleepy dogs and a window with a piercing blue sky over my right shoulder.

So today as Eleanor Roosevelt said, I  will face life honestly and courageously.  I will enjoy what I am finding peaceful today and perhaps that will better prepare me for tomorrow.  So today I am going to do what I love and let tomorrow fend for itself. 

As for you, I suggest inhaling a clementine.  Twenty years from now we might not have the chance.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?  I have wondered that for a really long time. I try, but no matter how hard I do, the sheet always ends up in a wad.  Guess this is one of those questions that will never be answered...at least for me. Then I wonder why I care.  I wonder why it makes a difference.  Why do all of the spatulas have to go in one place in the kitchen drawer and why do the kleenex boxes have to face one direction in the cabinet? Does this complicate things or make them easier? To me it makes them easier, but that says a lot about my personality doesn't it?

Today at the supermarket I was on the produce aisle where all the veggies are lined up neat and tidy and a Japanese lady was patiently waiting behind me to tear off a plastic bag from the large roll of bags next to the squash.  I first tore a bag off for me and then tore an extra one off and handed it to her.  She smiled with a big surprise on her face and said thank you!  How many times do we do one single little thing that makes a difference to someone we don't even know. Sometimes I believe it is a lost art.

"This is my simple religion.  There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." ~ ~ Dalai Lama

My philosophy is handing a plastic bag to someone in the supermarket and watching the surprised look on her face that some one would do that for her. Does this complicate things or make them easier?  Well maybe.  My church, or religion if you will,  is often in a health care facility, holding the hand of a mom whose baby is critically ill, or wiping a tear from the cheeks of a stranger who is is mom to a warrior who just lost both of his legs and in many cases a warrior that has lost his life.  It isn't hard to be kind, or care, or show compassion.  It doesn't take much time.  When you think about it, think of the time you waste during the course of a single day.  In that time you could put a smile on someone's face where there might not have been one for a very long time.

Last week a mom of a warrior came up to me with tears in her eyes and thanked me for bringing my therapy dog Kelsie to visit her son so many times.  She continued telling me that an hour before she had buried him in the Ft. Sam Houston cemetery.  It seems he loved dogs and that while he was battling for his life, the one glimmer of happiness came from my golden retriever lab cross who loved to nudge him and snuggle him and sit with him on the big old sofa and sleep with her head on his lap, as he too dozed and watched football.  Cancer claimed him. 

As I spoke with her I remembered Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche's statement, "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger."  Then I wondered why in the world do I care how my fitted sheets are folded and if the spatulas are lined up perfectly in the drawer.  We can all only hope that by surviving the difficult times of our lives, after each one, we will be stronger and more resilient that before. 

Let's all remember that even the worse day is only one small moment in our lives.  And that we will come out stronger on the other side.

Every person on this earth is fighting some kind of battle.  It isn't all about us.  I tire dreadfully of people going on and on and on about themselves.  Perhaps they should either focus on how to fold a fitted sheet or hand a lady with a withered hand a plastic bag and accept her smile with a genuine smile back, knowing you made a difference in a world that sometimes forgets how to do that.

My dogs have taught me about living with exuberance and joy and seizing the moment and most of all they have taught me to follow my heart and how to accept unwavering loyalty.  All I need now is to know how to fold a fitted sheet.