Monday, July 30, 2012


I found a greeting card in a shop that says,  "You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder.  It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you."  ~Vandana Shiva

I should have bought it for myself, but that would have been a bit odd sending myself a card.  I read it and re-read it and still didn't feel any better.  I still feel overwhelmed and consumed and strangled and wonder if Atlas too was also strangling with chaos and drama surrounding him as well.

Yesterday, I suffered one of the worse panic attacks I have had, or at least in the top three. I will spare you the details for they matter only to me, but suffice it to say it was like wondering through Hell.  It is a place at once dark and hot and then cold.  I trembled and sat on the edge of my bed for fear of falling or dying or ending up chewed and devoured by the viciousness of it all.

My precious golden lab knew instantly. Kelsie, curled up as tight as she could next to me with her head on my leg and never left my side. I must have rubbed her raw in one spot on her back, as I tried and tried to focus on the single strands of hair on her side and remember to inhale for fear if I didn't I would die.  I buried my face into her neck and cried like a baby.  I had taken medication at the onset and had only to wait until they took effect, but the time in between found me breathless, totally unable to inhale deeply ~ totally lost in a wilderness where everything was ugly and hateful and dark and lonely.  It is a feeling like none other.  Then once it passes, you are exhausted, spent, and begin to live in fear of another attack that comes out of no where with no yellow warning light.

I try to think that perhaps I have been gifted with these episodes, for lack of a better word, so that I can join hands in a most unique way with the warriors that return from combat to face an enemy that for them still lives around every corner, an enemy called PTSD.  A place they fear, dread, and want to avoid at all costs, because it is horrific. They look at me differently when I describe to them that I know how they feel and the dread and horror that lurks always nearby. I am not just providing lipservice as so many do.  I get it.  I feel it.  I know it.

What causes mine you might be wondering.  The answer is simple, I don't know.  Stress and anxiety and a complete lack of peace in my life perhaps.  Perhaps reliving the terrors of war with warriors and seeing the physical and mental damage they endure.  Perhaps something in my childhood.  Perhaps but who knows.  Sometimes there is so much chaos and drama dropped in my life I can barely breathe.  The more I try to escape it, the more it rains on me. I feel as if I am in quicksand going deeper and deeper.

As Stephen King says of authors and writers,  "It is your job to say what you see, and then get on with your story." So for today this is my story.

Over the weekend a dear friend found his 52 year old son dead in his bed in the morning.  Another friend's mother died of pancreatic cancer.  I lost a dear warrior I have cherished for years.  Chaos and fear surrounded a MST (Military Sexual Trauma) survivor in my charge.  I felt lost and helpless.  I wanted to run, to hide, to seek refuge from everything.  I longed for the mountains of Colorado and the mesas and pueblos of New Mexico.  I longed for a cool mountain stream where there are yellow and bright pink wildflowers growing near cool green moss and the sound of the water rushing over river rocks where peace is found. I closed my eyes and tried to visualize this place, but found tears washing the images away.

Every story comes out of somewhere.  We all have them.  Some are beautiful like that of my best friend in New York City on her way to spend two weeks on the rivers in Russia.  And then some are astonishing in the ugliness of the moment.  A new friend just wrote me that only I can write my happy ending.  I know she is right.  Right now I just don't know how.

I try over and over and over again.  And it seems like the universe is out to sabotage my awakening to peace and to beauty and to joy.  A warrior recently wrote me, "We may be home from the war, but the war hasn't left us.  Often the war seems like home."  This is the way I feel.

I want someone to hear me screaming out for peace, just as our warriors do.  They aren't understood by most any more than I am.

Stephen King also wrote "writers can damn well write about whatever they please..."  Today I write about what I feel.

Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life. ~Author Unknown

The world is hugged by faithful arms of volunteers -Terri Guillemets

It rarely is difficult for me to write my feelings about anything, as the words pour out and when read later I wonder where they came from.  But this time is different. I sincerely doubt that I can do it justice. But feel it necessary to try. I want to try for you.

Yesterday was one of those 'oh so few days', where you seem to remember the smallest detail.  I had had a call from the Medical Director at the San Antonio VA Polytrauma, one of only five in the world, asking if we would have time to visit three active duty warriors that had multiple combat related injuries, saying that they would definitely benefit from a visit from a TADSAW AMBASSADOR THERAPY DOG.

 I never say no to a request of this nature, setting everything aside to honor the request. Having spent the precious day enduring and endlessly cleaning up after a broken water heater in my attic had decided it a good time to escape the chaos and go do something productive for someone who really had problems.

With walls and ceilings and floors and plaster, dripping and collapsing, and giant equipment dragged into my home to suck out the water, it had done me in.  It was time to face a different kind of reality, a reality that could suck the life out of you if you let it.

My TADSAW AMBASSADOR THERAPY DOG, Kelsie and I found a parking place and then raced into to the VA Polytrauma in 100 degree heat, so as not to burn Kelsie's feet on the burning asphalt.  We arrived breathless and hot!  But duty had called and here we were.  We were greeted with open arms by staff and given room numbers where visitation was 'greatly needed'.  Rarely if ever do we know what the issue is, what the patients needs are or what we might expect.  But I have gotten used to that and find it almost a welcome challenge to reach out to a total stranger with no warning as to the issues involved.

The first warrior we met was a young man  who had lost a good portion of his leg from an IED blast.  His cousin was there as his support system. We visited with them for 20 minutes or so. Despite the visible pain this warrior was in, he wanted us to stay.

 He laid on his side and never stopped petting Kelsie on the top of her head, under her chin and on her shoulders.  The diversion and conversation seemed to help him, but his time with Kelsie provided a definite morale booster. We visited about his dogs he had had in his past and what they had meant to him....the love they shared....and the tremendous bond they had had together.  One of those bonds where nothing else is needed or important.  Each reading the others thoughts and feelings, the dog he had 'once upon a time' had almost come back to life in the moments spent with him in his room.  As we left, he had a smile on his face and a most gracious thank you for us taking our time to spend with him.

Next on our list of rooms, we met a young lady who had had brain surgery and was sitting on the edge of her bed, swinging her legs back and forth. When we knocked and entered she said with a huge smile, "Oh great, I have been waiting and waiting for you."  She visited about her little dog and how she missed him and couldn't wait to get better so she could see him.  She smiled as I coerced her to finish her 'Boost,' because she was a bit dizzy. I told her 'once a mother always a mother.'  The smiles never stopped, and her enthusiasm at having a four footed guest was more than obvious. She thanked us over and over and over again for visiting with her and indicated she hoped to see us again soon.

Our next visit was to a Vietnam veteran who struggled, as he swung his legs over the side of the bed to pet Kelsie, as he told us of his experiences with Military Working Dogs in Vietnam and how they were treated when the troops left and were unable to bring them home. I will not share the details because as most of you know the outcome was not pretty. His deep and strong voice was that of a Colonel or General.  His stature gave the same impression. We visited for a while and then bid him farewell as we headed down the hall to meet B. a hero that should have been wearing a cape and on the 'big screen.'

A male nurse was in the room with him, as we quietly knocked and asked if it was a good time to enter.  As Kelsie and I walked into the room, we saw a young man beaming from ear to ear.  Lying on top of the sheets, it was all too clear that he had lost both legs and an arm.  He kept smiling and using his one remaining limb, pulled himself into a seated position in the center of his bed.  I pulled a chair close to the bed, covered the seat with Kelsie's  red, white and blue flannel blanket and gave her the 'up' command.  She got into the chair and B. was able to reach her with his one arm, while balancing on his trunk.

As he began talking about himself and his personal dogs, and ultimately his injuries, you instantly knew that he was an extraordinary individual.  He had stepped on an IED and admitted there is no way he should be alive today.  He spoke of how he had had multiple transfusions and ended up in Germany until he was stable enough to make it to Walter Reed.  On route to Walter Reed the plane had to land to get more blood for him.  There is no reasonable way he should have survived.  But without blinking he said that there is a reason and that reason quickly took my breath away.  He beamed as he spoke of how he was going to go to work with the Wounded Warrior Project and do everything in his power to help other severely wounded warriors overcome similar injuries and illustrate to them that life does go on and that there is a reason.  He was inspiring, affable, endearing, and real.  He is an American Soldier. 

B. told us that he hated having someone look at him and tell him they were sorry this had happened to him.  He spoke of telling his friends and family what had happened to him at the time of the blast and the look in their faces told him everything he needed to know and everything they did not need to know.  Sympathy, pity, and that 'deer in the headlights' kind of look was not wanted or necessary or remotely helpful.  He said, "A simple thank you would be sufficient.  And that really isn't needed.  I would do it all again, if I had to. It was my job."  Right then and there I realized what all our heroes fight for...what it means to them...and what, and how, it should translate down to us, but rarely does. 

Later that afternoon I read a posting on TADSAW's facebook page reaffirming  exactly what I had heard from B. 

 "What non service members need to understand is that we as service members are willing to protect your family as we protect our own.  It is not something that we want credit or commendations for, as much as acknowledgement that we did our job, and now we may need a little help.  Pity is the most useless of emotions ~ inside we are who we are regardless of how war has left our outside appearance, or our ability to deal with certain situations.  At our core we would still fight for what we believe...please give us something to believe in."

Please give us something to believe in.  Please give us something to believe in.  The words still reverberate in my head to this day and I doubt will ever escape my thoughts.  Please give us something to believe in.

Imagine being that severely injured and your sole focus is in helping others.  B. is rare.  Rather than moaning and groaning or angry about his plight and his life with no legs and only one arm, he wants to get better to help others overcome adversity. He has been selected from up above to remain on this earth ... perhaps another angel on this earth to show us all what really matters.  Helping others. 

You hear over and over again that this is our purpose...helping others.  But how many of us actually do it?  How many of us ever stop thinking of ourselves and our own issues and broken water heaters long enough to even care about anyone else?  How many of us love people we have never met?  How many of us, despite others trying to demolish the good we do, continue forward helping others...for the right reasons.  Not to just to get your name posted on the 'I did something great for someone else list."

The nurse came in and B. indicated he was having a 'little pain' and needed his medicine.  We packed up our bag and I kissed him on the cheek and said 'thank you'.  He said that before we left he had to show us something.  He struggled to turn himself toward his bedside table to reach his telephone.  He, with great pride, shared a video of himself, doing one armed push ups.  To his knowledge, he was the only triple amputee that had ever done this. 

There is my Saturday!    Please next time you see a wounded warrior, simply say thank you.  It will mean everything to them.  And smile and treat them like a friend.  For who could ever have a better friend?

Friday, July 13, 2012


She was an "angel flying too close to the ground" as Willie Nelson sang! To this day I feel her presence in all I do, all I say, and all that I am! Penny's From Heaven Foundation was formed in 2006, in honor of Penny and today in memory of Penny. 

She ws being released from the Guide Dogs of Texas Program here in San Antonio and I was asked if I would foster home her until a permanent home was found. 

The first night she was here, at 2:00 am, my front door knob began to rattle and turn.  A burglar~Penny barked wildly and lunged at the door, while my other three dogs slept.  She has never left my heart and her home was permanent until the day she died.  That next day I discovered that we shared the same birthday.  This pretty much cinched the deal.  She became my guardian angel while I was going through emotional hell.  These days were long and painful and filled with grief and pain.  It was then that I began writing PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN: STORIES OF HEALING. 

Twice a week she and I would go to a rehab hospital here in San Antonio and the stories wrote themselves, as Penny became an inspiration and saving grace to many struggling to heal from a myriad of illnesses and injuries. She became a hero each and everytime she entered the hospital.  And with each patient she visited and snuggled and helped on their road to recovery, I found I too was improving. 

She was an angel and a hero her entire life.  Penny was inducted into the TEXAS ANIMAL HALL OF FAME,  DECEMBER 7TH, 2006. She had been in my hall of fame since the day I first met her.  Today she remains in my heart with each beat, for I know she is above watching over me and guiding Train a Dog~Save a Warrior which was an outgrowth of Penny's From Heaven Foundation.

A cancer survivor for several years she finally succumbed, but behind she left a little piece of herself in the hearts of all she reached.  Today she still reaches those that she ultimately fell in love with...her warriors. Each wounded warrior she met was also fighting some kind of battle.  It was through her interaction with them that I realized that a wounded warrior could relate in a most amazing and healing way with a dog battling cancer.  As Penny became less and less able to 'work', her torch was passed on to my blind therapy dog, a Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen (PBGV).  She too had a remarkable and almost at times an unbelieveable way of reaching into places deeply buried in her warriors that needed her more than they ever knew. 

It was during this time that Penny was spending her last days with me and Kelsie my golden lab came into the household.  The first day they were together they never left each others side.  They snuggled so closely you would have thought they had known each other for years.  But with they lay facing each other and their front two paws met for at least 30 minutes, I just knew the time was coming and the torch was being passed from Penny to Kelsie.  And indeed in just a few short days it did.  Kelsie's first visit was perfection.  Today she and I have bonded in a most special way.  Penny was the glue and no one can convince me otherwise.

Kelsie's journey from formal training with an offender in the Dominguez State Prison in San Antonio to Guide Dogs of Texas and then ultimately to me as my personal service/therapy dog and now as an AMBASSADOR THERAPY DOG FOR TADSAW, Penny should be proud.  I know I am.  The journey has been one of deep and abiding love, one for the other.  For these dogs I have been extraordinarily blessed, for they have taught me what people cannot and have not.  They have taught me what it is like to be human, to be compassionate, to be loving and caring and not malicious and full of hate.  They have taught me all that is good and right with this world and that if we try hard enough to help another living creature, then we too will find a beautiful light shines from us, just as it has from Penny, Gracie and Kelsie.  God Bless these angels for they have shed their light and love on so many people that needed them more than they could ever have imagined.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012


I have been off of the web for several days and Pockets of Peace has eluded me.  Hope you haven't forgotten this little blog spot, but I too sometimes fall  into a mass of clutter in my life and find that I must step back, assess, and remember how to breathe and what really matters in this glorious gift called life.

Being battered, lied to, betrayed, assaulted, sued, and used as a pawn over and over and over again, as well as learning some really horrible things about a person I once trusted, is, at least for a time, debilitating. Kinda been a trend in my life, that I never get used to it. I trust too easily.  I believe people.  You would think by now, my track record would have bonked me on the head and said, "Hey listen to your gut."  But what if don't hear the messages from that place deep inside that says, "Beware"?

As one trusts humanity to be kind, trustworthy, loving and compassionate when the ax falls, it is with a pain like none other.  All too sadly, this ax hit not only me, but multiple other people, as well as our warriors who deserved it least of all. 

I wish the words in the box above could be heard and felt by the perpetrator, but I feel certain they could care less.  To injure, wound, and intentionally hurt someone is without justice.  I only have to believe that somewhere down the line they will be paid back, but in this particular case, I have my most sincere doubts.

So here's the deal.  What do you do?  How do you get past it?  The lies, the deceit, the theft, the pain, and the anger.  "Before you hurt someone~ feel."  Okay but what if that person has no feelings and can't feel, or care about, the damage they are doing to another person(s)? A sociopath personality. I am sorry but I can't understand why.  Why anyone would intentionally lie and steal and cheat and deceive wounded warriors, who deserve it least of all. To see our warriors being manipulated like puppets on a string has killed me.  I will get past this eventually, but will our warriors? 
So this is where I have been.  Under covers with my beautiful golden girl Kelsie.  Trying to cry it out, release the pain, and find a way to go on.  Today I feel like my guts have been ripped out and put back in all wrong.  I want to feel forgiveness, but sorry not yet.  Having multiple people that I trusted to be my friends, turn against me because of this person's manipulations has hurt deeply.  But this person is a pro.  They know exactly how to twist people around their little finger until they are no longer able to think for themselves.  Then treat the entire thing as a game!  Forgiveness no...forget no. Not now, not yet. I am tied in knots and trying to hang on. 

When I took on TADSAW and PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN FOUNDATION, INC.  I did so with a purity of heart and a compassion that was overwhelming for those in need, those hurting, those lost, those in pain, those in anguish, those dying, those in emotional and mental turmoil.  So why, someone tell me please, would decades of doing the right thing for the right reasons be convoluted into the nightmare in which I reside at this moment?