Sunday, September 30, 2012


There is a story told of a young boy who was walking along a beach on the morning following a storm. Here it is:

While walking the beach, a man saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the sea.

As he came closer, he saw thousands of sand dollars the tide had thrown onto the beach. Unable to return to the ocean during low tide, the sand dollars were dying. He observed a young boy picking up the sand dollars one by one and throwing them back into the ocean.

After watching the seemingly futile effort, the observer said, "There must be thousands of sand dollars on this beach. It would be impossible for you to save all of them. There are simply too many. You can't possibly make a difference."

The young boy smiled as he picked up another sand dollar and tossed it back into the ocean. "It made a difference to that one," he replied.

All of us can make a difference to someone by performing small acts of kindness. Often, we never know what an impact we make with just a smile, a touch, or a kind word. That's why I refer to those who make a difference as "Ripplemakers". Pay it forward people, if you will.

But what is the toll taken when attempting to throw all of those sand dollars back into the ocean?  What does it do to us? Does the vastness of it overwhelm us and lead us to believe it is futile?
I ask myself this multiple times a day.  And the answer is always the same, yes. It is definitely worth it.  Sometimes you aren't told.  Sometimes you will never know.  And then sometimes you know instantly.  Or you will know several years from now. It doesn't always make us feel good.  Sometimes it hurts.  Sometimes you can't get the visuals out of your mind, the chaos of war, the hatred of one man for another and the damage and wounds inflicted. The pain for the rest of a life.  The anxiety the stress the isolation.  But when I visit one warrior that has only one remaining limb, I find the smile on his face, if only for a few minutes, is definitely worth it.  It made a difference to this one.
The moral is to breathe in, breathe out and throw that live sand dollar back into the ocean.  It is why we are on this make a difference in the lives of others.  If only one at a time!


Friday, September 28, 2012


Did you ever doubt that maybe sometimes we are the angels?  Sometimes we feel like we are surrounded by angels protecting us.  But did you ever consider the idea that perhaps at just the right time and right place we are the angels?

Wednesday like many other days, I woke up frightened and empty.  But decided I once again would delve into office work to deaden the pain.  I worked all morning, had a ritual peanut butter and jelly sandwich and left to go to a doctor's appointment.

I was called on my way by a nurse from the VA Polytrauma here in San Antonio.  It seems one of the warriors that my therapy dog, Kelsie, and I had visited just the day before had had a huge setback.  A., as I shall call him, had stepped on an IED in Iraq.  He had lost both legs and one arm and a thumb on the remaining limb.  He adored Kelsie's visits and he brushed her and loved her and would just lie and stare into her eyes and she into his. He would contort his body to get closer to her and she would nuzzle his cheeks and hair.  He would laugh and smile and then he kept trying to turn his torso closer and closer to her, until we were afraid he might fall.  He adored her and the feeling was mutual.

But this phone call changed everything.  You see he was in the gym with his physical therapists when suddenly and seemingly out of no where, there was an IED blast on the newscast on the television in the room.  It instantly threw him back into Afghanistan and the IED that blew off his legs and arm.  He remembers in great detail the entire thing (which is unusual).  He was rushed back to his room and the doctors came and the entire staff and his mom worked with him to bring him back to his new reality.  But he simply wanted to stop eating and just die. Anything to stop the pain and the horror of that day that changed his life forever.

This is when I got the phone call. The docs and staff had tried everything. "If you aren't too busy and if you could, would you and Kelsie be able to come help us with A."  My answer ~ "Absolutely!"  "But if you are too busy....."  "I am not too busy.  Was A. too busy when he went to war for this country?"  I went home and got Kelsie.  And we rushed to the hospital.  The nurse told me she had held him and rocked him gently back and forth as he cried and sobbed saying, "This just isn't fair." She had responded, "No it isn't.  It isn't fair at all."

We got to his door and I took a very long slow deep breath, exhaled and said a prayer asking for the right words, the right things to say, to be of some help.  Then the nurse looking hopeful opened the door.

The moment he saw Kelsie a big smile covered his face.  I turned to the audience of hospital staff behind me and gave a thumbs up.  They stood and observed as Kelsie and I went to work.  I had taken a beautiful handmade quilted lap robe that I had been asked to give to a very special warrior.  It had been in my trunk for weeks.  And I had carefully placed it into Kelsie's bag before going into the hospital. 

I placed the chair by the bed as before and covered it with Kelsie's paw print blanket.  I gave her the 'up' command and she popped up on to the chair. I told A. to cover his eyes with his arm and if he peaked "I would never speak to him again."  There was the slightest smile as he did as I asked.  I remember thinking that at that moment he was just like a little kid, being asked to hide his eyes before a big surprise. 

I was winging this entire thing and hadn't a clue what to do next.  So I took the vividly colorful quilt and folded it and placed it over Kelsie's back and tucked it under her chin so that only her face was visible. She looked a bit like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood! Then I told him it was alright to uncover his eyes.

As he looked over at Kelsie he burst out laughing!  I turned and gave the medical staff the thumbs up sign and it was then A. returned to the present moment...Afghanistan was not in the room. Smiles and relief abounded.

I told him Kelsie had brought him a very special gift, because he was a very special man.  He softened, his facial muscles relaxed and his fingers touched the quilt with such tenderness and love that it was almost unbelieveable.  He looked at me, at Kelsie and at the quilt and said the most heartfelt 'thank you' that I had ever heard.  Over and over and over he said it.  I gave him a gigantic hug and whispered in his ear that I loved him and it was going to be alright and that I was so proud of him.

I removed the quilt from Kelsie's back and unfolded it and laid it gently on top of A.  He took one corner and pulled it up under his chin and again softly said, "Thank you."

The staff looked on mesmerized.  What medicine couldn't do, one very beautiful golden lab was able to accomplish. 

We stayed for a while and I told  a couple of funny stories about my dogs. Then seeing him tire and relax, I told him to take a nap before dinner and we packed our bags and quietly leflt. I thanked the nurse for calling us and told her to call anytime anyone needed special animal assisted therapy. I feel quite certain they will.

Then as if this was monumental enough, his mom rode down in the elevator with us and shared with me that just the day before he had asked her if there was any way he could get a quilt to cover up with ~a  brightly colored quilt that could at least temporarily cover and hide his wounds. 

Yes, there were busy angels at work that afternoon.  And the thought briefly returned that maybe there are times when we are the angels.

I knew at this moment that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  I now know which road to travel.

Monday, September 24, 2012


How do you replenish your soul?  How do you celebrate the seasons that come all too quickly each year?  How do you celebrate each day? 

I find that the only way I can replenish my soul is in beauty and solitude. It could be the ocean, a clear blue sky with puffy white clouds, brilliant stars at night, the beauty I devour in well crafted words on the pages of a brand new book, a glorious sunset over a bird refuge on South Padre Island, the sun rising a little piece at a time over the Gulf of Mexico, wildflowers at timberline in the springtime with snow still visible on the higher elevations.  I don't see these things much anymore, except in my imagination.  Tears surface and the yearnings become more intense and I find myself insanely desperate in my longing for them.
I could not live without quiet.  A quiet found in solitude, in time alone, with no sound except the occasional sound of one of my dogs, contented with all, sighing beside my chair. I tire so of arguing and loud voices that are ravinous in their efforts to consume you and yet never listening. I want to plug my ears and turn down their volume.  I want to bury myself under piles of pillows until the noise disappears and the intrusion is gone. I love the sound of quiet. The feeling of peace.
I love those days when I have to go no where and see no one.  Days I can spend in my pajamas with a cup of tea and a croissant and plump ripe blueberries in the garden listening to the birds awaken to a new day.  These are the times that I celebrate.  These are the times that I pray.  These are the times that are all too seldom allowed me.
So this morning once again these all too seldom spaces and the accompanying memories and visions of places I so sincerely need to be and see are once again tucked away.  But I can close my eyes and invision them, the feel of the sun on my face and arms sipping coffee on the terrace of an adobe house in Santa Fe, hiking and enjoying a picnic lunch of wine, cheese and bread in the mountains of my home state, Colorado, and revisiting places that remain in my mind and heart, to be taken out when most needed. Most of all today I wonder if I will ever see them again. How sad that would make me. I feel as if these are as important to life as water and air.

Yesterday I spent 5 hours with three triple amputees and two warriors with self inflicted gunshot wounds to the head and sat with them and their mothers/wives.  It exhausted me...depleted me...made me sad...made me mad....made me feel somehow inexpicably empty.  Unable to fix or help or heal or offer much of anything except my presence and the presence of my best friend, my service/therapy dog Kelsie.For some odd reason I felt as if we were imposing on them and imposing on a world that is all out of whack. A world that is all too real and close and frighteningly terrifying.

I sat and observed as my precious Kelsie snuggled and cuddled and brought smiles to faces I fear had not borne one in a very long time.  I wondered what kind of a world this is where people do this to each other and for some to not be able to stand living any longer.  Then I remembered that 18 warriors die each day from suicide. And was informed that the number of triple amputees returning from war is greatly increasing. I felt 'off' all day, as if nothing I could do would even make a dent.  

This same day I had quite unexpectedly been hurt by the one person on earth I thought would never hurt me. It threw me into a tailspin. As I wondered why.  I could barely speak and felt hollow in a way I never want to feel again. I feel much the same today.  When the props are pulled out from under us what is it we should do?  Look at the bright side? Didn't work.  Try and focus on others problems that are far more severe? Maybe.  But grief is grief and pain is pain and the levels don't seem to make a difference. Delve feet first into work?  Write? Cry but find the pain is so bad that tears won't even come. 

Defeating the feeling of the world, at the warriors with only one limb left, at hatred, at words that cut like a knife into our hearts and souls, at betrayal.   A book sits on my desk called, DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF."  Well this isn't the small stuff so no help here. 

Then as I so often do, I turn to other books.  I open one favotie book and the pages reveal answers in some myterious, predestined way.  This morning I read from LEAN FORWARD INTO YOUR LIFE by Mary Ann Radmacher.

".....if there is value in the difficult becomes more than just "loss."  We lift ourselves up on the wings of our own vision and hope. Live boldly, laugh loudly, love truly, play as often as you can, work as smart as you are able. ......answer 'yes', as you walk may angels gather at your shoulders and may you know they stand with you, as you rest may all your endeavors be rooted in contentment and peace." 

I am still left with questions left unanswered.  Maybe there are no answers, maybe I won't see my mountains or adobe houses and the smell of pinon again.  But for today I will just try and take one step after another and see where I end up. I feel quite certain that my Kelsie walks with angels on her shoulders...perhaps today I can borrow but one.


Saturday, September 22, 2012


A warrior recently wrote to me, "I have all of my parts, but don't have all of my parts if you know what I mean." Sure I do.  I totally get it!  I understand.
This warrior, has no missing limbs, but he is missing that part inside that keeps him upright, that let's him go outside his house without fear, that lets him sleep without night terrors, that keeps him watching the doors, entrances and exits, or from driving over a bridge...the list goes on.  He is missing a really big part that once was his life.
He/she endures this day and night.  They have come home from war with a greater battle yet to fight...the battle of Post Traumatic Stress, or a Traumatic Brain Injury, or Military Sexual Trauma.

It isn't fair.  It isn't right.  They went to war for us, for this country.  And they come home a completely different person.  A person that has anger issues, isolation issues, alcohol and drug abuse and more.  What happened to my daddy?  Where is my husband I prayed everyday would come home safely to me? Where is my son?  What can I do to help?  The pain continues throughout the family and ultimately the community.

But them almost out of nowhere comes that miracle.  The miracle that takes a good portion of the pain away.  That put the parts of the puzzle back together, with a nudge of a muzzle, and soon the warrior finds him or herself back in the supermarket, going to a movie, sleeping through the night and going to the ball park with his son.  His or her spouse no longer has another child to contend with.  The warrior has all their parts back.  They are whole again...or darn near close. 
It is an amazing thing to observe the sudden transformation.  The instant relief of a great deal of the pain from war. 
Life won't ever be the same, but with a dog by their side it is a great deal better and in many ways it is like it once was...before war.
There is light in the warrior's soul once again.  Days and long sleepless nights are no longer dreaded.  There is that one entity that opens doors that they thought were forever closed.  The missing parts begin to return...slowly in some cases and yet in others, dramatically fast. 
Please read and absorb the heartfelt words from a warrior that keep us moving 24/7!!

"It is b/c of TADSAW that I'm here. Both you and Bart thank all of us, but without the two of you I think it is safe to say that most of us wouldn't still be around let alone function."
Needless to say it is more than Bart and me that keep this thing going.  But we are desperately seeking funding to meet the HUGE demand of over 1,000 on a waiting list.  If you can help us, in any way at all, please consider the words above.  There are 18 suicides every day from these horrific invisible injuries of Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injuries and Military Sexual Trauma.  We can't do it without you.  Doesn't this nation owe them this much?
Please help us save a life! A rescue dog enters the lap, heart and soul of a warrior and quite literally saves them.  One warrior told us he had a gun in his mouth prepared to pull the trigger and looked down at his little dog looking up at him and he couldn't do it.  It is as simple and as complicated as that. 
13423 BLANCO ROAD, # 218
210 273 6471
You may contribute through our website as well ~ with paypal, check, credit card, or money order. 
Consider giving a holiday gift of a donation to TADSAW to friends who have everything and would appreciate the depth of your love for our warriors. We will send them a holiday card and an autographed copy of POCKETS OF PEACE ~ A THERAPY FOR PTSD, TBI AND MST. They too can help us help help them have a save dog's life, to save a warrior's life. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I haven't written for a long time.  Or so it seems to me.  I have almost forgotten how.  The words lately have been stuck.  The thread I string these words on has become frayed and tattered and slack.  So have I.
I find I am losing touch with myself all too often.  The person I was once upon a time seems to be battered and ever so weary. So what do we do when we feel this way?  What do we do? You ask questions of those you care about deeply and the answers should come easily, but they don't.  You hear no response and you feel even more lost. 
Those you love have left you.  Or those you thought loved you.  So you turn to the only thing you know to do.  Sitting at a computer and pumping out your soul to people you probably don't even know.  Some of you will read this and think well here she goes again and others, more likely, will understand because perhaps, just perhaps they feel or have felt the same way too. 
I sense it is a human thing.  A human condition.  We want the perfect life, the perfect everything and upon closer observation find that not much about it is perfect at all.  The things, events, people, situations, occasions, times become unfamiliar and lost.  You sometimes wonder who you are and what is your purpose here. 
There is that mountain I want to sit on and hope that the answers come, but in reality they probably won't.  What is it when you ask the questions and nobody answers or even acknowledges you asked them, or sadder yet doesn't seemingly care.  What if time is short and running out and that one thing that would bring you joy keeps disappearing further and further away.
Don't misunderstand there have been amazing parts of my life that I now look back upon and wonder at the time if I realized how truly blessed I was.  Sitting on top if Mendenhall Glacier after leaving the helicopter I remember the color yellow. The color of the rain gear I was wearing.  I remember horseback riding in the high mountains of Montana and seeing, through the horses breath, the most incredible double rainbow at the top of the peak.  I remember red raspberries I picked at timberline in Colorado. I remember walking five feet from flowing lava in Hawaii, and I remember amazing breathtaking adventures in Portugal, and Yugoslavia and France and Switzerland and Hong Kong and Japan and Thailand and Taipei, and dancing on a table in Corfu, and living for 2 years in Seoul, Korea. Now suddenly it seems to have disappeared.  Where has time gone.  What do I do with what is left. I feel stuck.
Maybe I need to learn to speak softly to myself and realize there will be better days ahead. I should tell myself that I really am extending my best effort.  I need to console myself and my wounded soul and tender spirit with the previous successes.  There have been far too many failures of late. But as has been said by Mary Anne Radmacher, one of my favorite authors, "Sometimes you just have "to recognize that on certain days the greatest grace is that the day is over and you get to close your eyes and hope tomorrow comes more brightly."
But how do I find the way back to me? Abraham Maslow says, "perpetrate vast goodnesses on the planet. Go ahead and cry. Let your tears teach you, tears can be stepping stones to your renewal."  I shall try. He also says what stabbed at me like a knife, "...let go of governing the actions and attitudes of others."  Unfetter yourself. That just may be my answer. 
"The other week I said I was an eagle behaving like a pack mule.  Have the courage to forgive yourself.  Have the compassion to forgive others.  Forgiveness is a healer.  Holding on to resentment, hurt, and blame knits wounds into your bones."   
 ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
So perhaps to answer my own question I paraphrase Radmacher, this evening I write words to myself of support and tenderness, I will give myself the words I need.....even if no one else does.  I will reach deeply and pick the rose I planted in myself so long ago.
I will become an eagle again and not a pack mule, carrying everyone else's problems and burdens.
Moving forward into my own life makes me wish there was a guide book, or a recipe, or 'mapquest' on this journey of healing and grace. But perhaps the journey will hold the answers.