Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Those words, "Hugs to you Mama" came across to me on facebook this morning from the precious wife of a warrior who has adopted me and visa versa, as mother and daughter.  

As I am facing a struggle with the health of my service dog and the warrior's guardian angel, Kelsie, I needed these words more than she will ever know.  I took my precious angel to the Specialty Veterinary Hospital this morning for an ultrasound of her kidneys.


I sat waiting for about an hour and a half, watching dogs in serious condition come and go and one golden retriever passed by me on a stretcher.  It set me back to my beautiful golden girl, Penny, when she was so terribly ill. "Hugs to you Mama" came back to me. 
Another facebook comment told me I would be okay, I had to be, because "you are the glue for the warriors ~ for all of us." The list goes on with dozens and dozens of well wishes and concerned friends, telling me it is okay to be afraid.  I don't like glue. I have been told that I need to recognize that and that in so doing then these people who tell me these things will have empowered me to do greater things.  It just never occurred to me ~ until Hugs to you Mama. As I waited, I realized I feel that I do what I do because it is the right thing.  I literally have no choice.
I had posted from the waiting room that I was worried about Kelsie and when the tech came out to get my girl, she kept pulling away from this stranger because she knew I needed her. She would literally stop, look back at me, and not move. She didn't understand why someone was taking her away from me. Little did she know my heart was with her too. I got up and walked with her to the door to the back, and it was as if she knew, if I lead her there, it was okay.  As I sat down, I realized she was right I needed her deeply.  I needed to know she was alright.  I needed to know this deep inside. We are one.

This week and last has been an emotional roller coaster with warriors struggling with horrific issues and more.  My cup has runneth over. I stood strong for my warriors and their issues. Now this fear.  Fear is an enemy for anyone with PTSD.
Waiting, I had the strangest feeling that I needed to be cradled and sung a lullaby.  (My therapist will have a ball with that one.) But then don't we all need this at one time or another when fear creeps into our lives and the rails are moved, and we aren't sure what is next. We may not speak these words, but somewhere deep inside we feel that yearning, that need, that reassurance that someone is there and cares and understands ~ no matter what. Someone to hold you close, someone who accepts and validates you heart and soul and asks nothing in return.
I yearn for the cleansing breeze of the ocean or the gentle wind in the mountains.  I yearn for it like my next breath.  I need to breath out fear. Just for a little while I need to retreat from the clamor, noise, arguments, and chaos of the life I live.
I have learned to accept suffering, suffering of my warriors, their wives and families. I have read that "it can stretch your heart to make room for greater love and joy."  I felt that to my core this morning when I read, HUGS TO YOU MAMA from someone who loves me and whom I love. We have never met.  But I feel her heart and I feel her pain.  And this morning she felt mine.

Sunday, August 25, 2013



There are, more often than not, those times with Gracie and her soldiers that are overwhelmingly intense.  Times that take your breath away, times that change you forever, times that hold the secret of life.  Their stories and their stories with Gracie are woven into my life story.

People over and over again tell me that they couldn’t do what I do.  They ‘just couldn’t deal with it.’  I usually smile and don’t answer, but in my heart I know that this isn’t what I do, this is who I am.  And despite my high school English teacher’s warnings of double negatives, this is something “I can’t, not do.”  Love is not what I feel, it is what I do.

 Last week I was remembering a time at the Fisher House and a certain soldier. I swear I could not remember whether he had legs or not.  Strange!  Then I wondered what difference does it makes.  Isn’t that just what the dogs do?  Don’t they accept the soldiers and patients regardless of their appearance?  I don’t even notice anymore, if a limb is missing.  There are so many, it is now routine to me.  The courtyard between the two Fisher Houses and the Center for the Intrepid is sometimes like rush hour with young men in wheelchairs, many missing both legs.  All are handsome, vibrant, strong, smiling, determined, resolute and gritty. Some come wheeling over to wherever Gracie might be, reach down and pet her as if it were a normal occurrence, maybe say something or maybe not, then off they go to lunch or doctor’s appointments or therapy. 

Like most Saturday’s Gracie and I had entered the front hall of the Fisher House to the wafting aroma of Saturday morning bacon and eggs prepared by a local church.  This is always a bit distracting to Gracie whose nose often leads her into trouble, or to tidbits that might make it to the floor, or if my head is turned, a child or soldier handing her a tiny crumb in secret. 

We went into the TV room to set up her water dish behind the large brown leather wing chair as always.  Nick was snoozing in one of the other chairs.  To the average person there was nothing appeared different to the casual observer.  But I noticed instantly that for the first time in a year and a half he had legs.  His prosthetics were on!  Nick had been through hell, seriously burned and losing both legs.  But he was making the turn.  He now can drive a specially converted car and has a girlfriend.  Life is good.  His dad who has been with him for the entire time, had finally gone back home.  Nick was going to be okay.  And as he reminds me with a grin, ‘I’ll be a little bit taller than I was before.”  Soon he said his goodbyes, patted Gracie and began the laborious process of standing with his crutches.  He then threw a back pack on and headed for his room.  For me this was huge.  I had never seen him in anything but his wheelchair. I put my hand over my heart and took a deep breath. 

In the meantime, Gracie had found an old friend, Jacob.  Watching Nascar races and eating a huge plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and fresh fruit on the sofa, Jacob, in his usual warm and hospitable way, asked if I had had my breakfast. He has been at the Fisher House for 17 months and is in the final process of being released and will soon be going home to Pueblo, Colorado.  Gracie ran to his side, sniffed him and then gave him ‘kisses’ on the cheek for the several little pieces of crunchy bacon he offered her.  Then she was off to find more friends.

We went outside to take a little ‘break’ in the grass to discover that it had not been mowed in a good while.  Gracie had quite a crowd in hysterics as she was almost lost in the tall grass.  She loved it and the more laughter she received the more she enjoyed the journey, with only the top of her back and tip of her tail visible, and her long ears waving like the American flag that flew high above her.

We headed back to a patio table and sat and talked for a while with Maria, the wife of a wounded soldier from Ft. Riley, Kansas.  Maria was beautiful and young and looked tired beyond her years.  Gracie and I were alone with her, as she told us about her husband and his injury.  I asked what she did to take care of herself.  She said when Adam was in doctor’s appointments at the hospital and then therapy she tried to rest a little in between.  She shared that she was her husband’s sole caretaker.  There was no one else.  With a tear in her voice she said, “You really know who your friends and family are when something like this happens. And quickly you know who they aren’t.”

I asked if her husband were sleeping and she said he was inside finishing breakfast.  She soon went and got him. As he came out, Adam laid something on the patio table and we all sat together.  I wanted to take a photo of Maria and Gracie and was struggling with my new camera.  As I tried focusing on Gracie, I noticed in the viewfinder that there was a hat or something on the table.  I put the camera down to remove the distraction from the shot, but when I did I realized it was an army helmet.  I looked at it and then at Adam and then Maria.  Maria simply said, “That is the helmet Adam had on when he was shot through his head.”  The reality of the situation and Adam’s injury came through loud and clear.  I had a cold, eerie feeling, but I couldn’t let it show.  Maria pointed out the entry and exit holes that took a large part of Adam’s brain.  The same bullet that went through the helmet changed Maria’s life, as well as Austin, Brandon and baby Lea, their three young children. And it changed mine.

On this hot first day of summer, I felt angry and bitter at this discovery on the patio table and deeply saddened for the family that had been cheated in such a horrific way.   Gracie was on her pink rubber backed mat on the table next to the helmet.  I wanted to record this moment, and as I focused the camera I realized that Gracie’s little tongue was gently touching the bullet’s exit hole.  It was as though she had some sixth sense.  It was as if she knew.  I snapped the picture and then told Gracie to “leave it.”  She did and quietly laid her head down on the mat just inches from the helmet, as I took another and then another photograph.  This helmet worn in Iraq by a courageous young husband and father of three exceptionally handsome children had come along way.  I asked Adam if his buddies had saved it for him.  And he simply said, “Yes ma’am.” 
Adam needed to get inside out of the sun and heat and to rest.  Gracie and I said our goodbyes and I told Maria I would email her the photos that afternoon.  When I got home I downloaded them and it was suddenly more real that before.  I emailed them to her, with a note that should she need anything at all to call me, or if she needed to just get away and go to lunch.  She wrote back almost instantly, “I love the pictures. You can but them in your website.' If you want we can sit down and tell you what happened, from the time he got shot till now so you can put it in your website to see if you get some donations for the therapy dogs. I really love what you are doing. It helps the injured soldiers and their families. When I was spending time with her, (Gracie) I just forgot for a second how my life has changed. Thank you so much for taking your time to visit us here at the Fisher House.” 
Maria, as well as a growing number of other military wives, has been thrust into a life as caretaker for her severely injured husband, as well as their three young children.   She has been forced to navigate a new life.   All I could offer was little Gracie and lunch for this young woman. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I adopted her at 7 weeks of age.  She was born mostly blind with no hope of recovery and no hope of being bred or purchased.  The breeder decided to have her euthanized immediately upon hearing the report. 

From the first moment I saw her I knew she was to be mine. It was an sheer accident that I was in the veterinary office when they brought her in to be evaluated.  There was no way they could get the price tag they wanted for her and could not breed her, so the only answer was to 'just go ahead and euthanize her'.  I took her on the spot with the agreement I would have her spayed.

I loved Gracie with all that was in me at first glance.  And she today still has my heart.   She has unlocked the pain and losses of my life time and time again. She was the best bargain of my life ~ this dog nobody wanted.

The reality of the story is that she saved my life.  Little Gracie burst into my home and life with a generosity of spirit and a love of life like nothing I had ever seen. At a time in my life when the bottom had been pulled out from under me for the umpteenth time, and I didn't know how to put one foot in front of the other.  We learned together.  She has taught me so very much...that no matter the circumstances, we can still find joy and laughter and a love that will never leave or disappoint either of us.
Gracie triumphed loud and clear.  She didn't know she had a disability and nothing would stop her love of life. She was blind with her eyes, but never with her heart.  I took her in and we will never be separated.  She can't see the treats handed to her when she is good dog, but she can smell them.  She cannot see the love in my eyes when I look at her, but she can feel it.  She cannot run outside with the sun is too bright, but she lights up my days and eats up my praise.  She knows and feels loved.  The real kind, the non judgmental kind, the unconditional kind.  The kind never questioned!
Those that said she is just 'no good' should see her now. She was impeccably trained and became a therapy dog.  She has worked endlessly with wounded warriors and their wives and children.  She has a spirit that instantly makes people that are severely depressed come to life again.  She rolls over on her back and begs for belly one ever resists.  She has brought smiles to the faces of those struggling with the death of a loved one.  She generates a sense that everything is going to be alright and if she can do it...then they can do it too.
For me, I inhale her! Both literally and figuratively.  I know that most likely doesn't make sense.  But when I am grooming her and have her on the counter putting eye drops in her precious eyes to ward off having to remove her eyes, I bury my face into her fur and breathe...just breathe.  It is a moment of meditation, a moment of renewal, a moment of gratitude for a dog who unlocked my heart. She is blind with her eyes, but never with her heart! As Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much."
Having Gracie in my life has transformed me.  It has been a life saver because she lifts my spirits and those of the lost souls she has brought back from the brink. She is the brightest light I have ever known. It is my honor to have her in my life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I ran across an article that I had torn out of a magazine and find this morning it is worthy of sharing.
Have you ever thought about why some people instantly make us feel important, special and they light up a room just by walking into it? Some people just have IT, whatever IT is.
I consistently aim to have IT.  But I haven't always.  As a little girl I was horrifically shy and always hidden behind my mother's skirt. I had no clue how to interact with people.  I had agoraphobia when I first married and never left our apartment for at least a year.  Then all of a sudden I decided to fake it!  'Fake it till you make it', I guess is what you would say now.  If I smiled and was conversant and made people laugh then I would appear normal and maybe have IT. It worked.
Then later I realized that it isn't about how much charisma we might have or our level of success or our presentation skills, or how we dress ~ it is about what we do, how we act.  And by that I don't mean what our job is or where we work or how successful we are. 

So I began watching people that had IT and here is what I saw.  They listen more than they talk. You might wonder what this means...well it quite simply shows the other person that they are important. Asking questions is a beginning, maintaining eye contact and genuinely listening and caring what they are saying by your body language.  Be focused 100% on them in the midst of whatever else might be going on or how boring whatever they are saying might be. 
I see so many people who check their phone and their IPad and more. This indicates quite clearly that you are NOT important.
HEAR WHAT THEY ARE SAYING! Try not to interrupt or speak and then only if it is pertinent to what the other person is saying and about what matters to them.
Then when I mastered this, I realized that listening and actually hearing what others say, is a good thing.  We don't know what other people know, and everyone knows things we don't know.  We can learn from others.  And digging deeper this enlightenment makes them a great deal more important than can learn from them.  You already know your stuff. And if you have tendencies of being shy this opens the door for them to do all the talking.
PRAISE PEOPLE no matter what they have done or what their accomplishments are or aren't...praise them, DON'T JUDGE THEM.  Nobody gets enough praise. And when you do praise, be sincere and MEAN IT! You have no idea how much it will be appreciated that you noticed the good job they were doing and the work and effort that went into it.
As for me and the masses, we all want to be around happy and joyful people.  The words you choose and the sullen expression on your face or your distraction or disinterest in what they are talking about or doing is like a red flashing light.
It is all about being humble, admitting your mistakes.  Use them to be 'real'.  Learn to laugh at yourself and your mistakes.  You will be a great deal more likeable and a whole lot more fun to be around. 

I have a new friend.  She is likeable, approachable, smart, clever, and kind.  She makes me laugh.  She hears what I say.  She listens.  She offers her knowledge to me and she calls to just see if I am alright.  And she has a smile that lights up the room.  But she too is fragile on occasion and needs an ear to listen.  She is honest and tells it like it is. This I like.  I admire.  I can be exactly who I am around her.  This is the person I strive to be for our warriors, their families, and my other friends. This is a woman I am grateful to have in my life.   

To make someone feel important and special is a skill.  But what happens is that skill can become real, and you suddenly find you truly do care about them and they are important to you and to others.  Sometimes we just need to smile when it hurts, laugh when we might rather cry, and listen when others need us to hear.  And most importantly, we need to listen more than we talk!!! It might just surprise you. 

Monday, August 19, 2013


For me today is a bad day!  Can't explain it but it started with a horrendous nightmare that couldn't be explained or awakened from.  It has stuck with me all day long.  A horror of unknown origins. 

My day was set aside to begin my new book at the computer.  Well I could not/can not focus.  It will have to wait.  It just isn't in me.  A day for me is often, too often, defined by what I accomplish.  Which I know is exactly the opposite of what I preach.  But today I have accomplished zero. I have tried to remember what a friend from long ago would tell me, "It is okay to not do anything."  So today is one of those days.

 I have talked to friends who know me well and can usually bring me 'about face'. But a phone call from a warrior turned my life around.

The circumstances and reason for the phone call don't matter.  She has PTSD and wants a service dog.  She will only speak with me and I completely understand and cherish her trust. I had her laughing and crying and she was doing the same for me.  We were simply, in that time and place, comrades in arms. 

I understood her pain and told her I would be her 'San Antonio mom.'  It was that easy.  She shared her deepest pain and as usual I willingly absorbed it.  She is an amazing young woman and one I could easily call 'sweetie,' and I did so on the phone.  I again told her I would be her 'San Antonio mom' and she cried some more, telling me she needed a mother more than anything.  And I told her that I needed a daughter more than anything.  So the bond was built. The cards were dealt and now we have a very special relationship....a relationship built on trust, compassion and a deep understanding each for the other. It was a phone call with a gift attached.  One I cherish and a 'daughter' who needs a mother and visa versa.

Sometimes I like to say "I feel like I am rearranging chairs on a ship that is going down."  That nothing I do is ever good enough for some, and the harder I try to maintain a calm attitude and to break away from the agony of it all and maintain professionalism, it is thrust back at me with a defensive posture that will not retreat. And it always, always levels me to a place I dread more than anything.  A place where I feel the deepest necessity to defend my actions!! Which in reality don't need defending.

So I decided to read some of the many emails that have on occasion taken a back seat.  One was photographs (which I adore) sent by a friend I see far too seldom.  The photos always make me smile and take me on rides to far away places that I will never be able to visit.  But this time one of the photos made me smile.  And believe me in the middle of a PANIC ATTACK that isn't easy.  I looked at it and smiled some more, and then suddenly felt a rush of tears that wouldn't stop.  The more I looked at this walrus the more I felt like wanting to hide my face and cover my eyes and disappear from the pain with no name that I was having. Just as the walrus was covering his face and hiding.

I posted the photo on facebook and received the following from a friend. Who answered my question as to why at first glance it was joyful and upon closer observation most sad.

"Because we can see the love there and know deep inside that the "animal" deserves the same chances to live and be loved as humans. Just like any animal.
Other's sadly, see money that could be made and "just" an animal."

She continued.

"That's the same reaction I had to this photo Patsy. Exactly the same.

I only put what I actually believe and feel in my heart and soul.. I am very blessed if it has helped at all. Hell.. I am like that a lot of the time Patsy. You are stronger than you know. If my words helped you to understand that joy followed by sadness, please share them. Perhaps others will then understand a little bit more."

Joy followed by sadness!  Ouch!  It doesn't feel so good does it?  It makes my head spin and my knees wobble.  I understand because it is real and it happened to me, but the thing going on inside of me I am not quite so sure.  Now sadness followed by joy makes more least to me. But what happens when you see your self, your deepest emotions, your pain, your frustration, your agony, your battle, and futility in a walrus hiding his face?

So sounds a little nutty to some of you I feel certain.  But for me, for today, for now it feels like I have once again been opened up and my deeply buried feelings are escaping ~ allowed out.  Perhaps all of us need to be like a walrus hiding his face once in a while!  Perhaps we all need to be opened up and let all of the bad stuff out, the sadness out, the pain out and the feelings of futility out. 

So to my friend Denise who sent the photos, I feel certain you had no idea this would come from it and to my fb friend M. thank you for affirming that it is okay to feel this way and that there truly are those times when joy is followed by sadness.  I just wish it weren't so difficult to swallow.   But then as they said 'gotta take the bitter with the sweet 'and today that is what I was meant to do. Another awakening, an opening up, an understanding, that photographs can make us smile, life can make us smile and they can also, in their wisdom and clarity and creative spirit, awaken us to places where we need to go, not necessarily where we want to go.  So for that precious walrus on his birthday, I will be eternally grateful for his handsome message only a few may understand.  Oh his birthday he gave me a beautiful gift.  A gift of renewed understanding that some days there are lessons to be learned.  There may not always be answers, but those too will come.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013


There was a time when I found myself pleading for my life, wondering if the pain of unknown origin would ever end.  After years of self work, I have discovered that in my imperfections, I am perfect.  As are we all. 
During those days that I was living through hell, the first and only thing I wanted was to be treated like a person first.  I would not, could not, tolerate being defined by my limitations. It only made things worse.  I knew what my limitations were, but they were not who I was deep inside. It just made me angry!
All of our stories are unique glimpses into how we cope and struggle and work through the days of our lives as best we can.  There have been many days when I have needed to be carried, when I just couldn't do it anymore.  Who was there for me?  In whose presence did I feel safe and comfortable?  I know I have, and I imagine many of you have, lived in places and spaces where we felt excluded. 
It is in times like this when we all need someone willing to go looking for us when we're lost.
We all want to find our way home again.  The bottom line is how do we deal with the rough stuff?  I love this anonymous quote, "What saves a man is to take a step and then another step."  How simple that sounds.  And belief me it is true. Even if it is solely leaving the isolation of your house and taking a step into the front yard.  Next time take two steps.  With each step the journey will become easier, because you are beginning to find that faith and trust in yourself.  Soon you will find it in others. The ones that have been there for you.  The ones who come to your rescue and won't let you get lost. 

You may rant and rave when they try to help you and drag you screaming and yelling from the torture and darkness you are in, but they don't know any other way. 

Healing is where your story begins. 
So how do you help a person struggling from the effects and torment of Post Traumatic Stress emerge from the darkness?  Perhaps a single act of kindness is a starting place.  Give them hope that they won't be stuck forever.  Just as our therapy and service dogs do for us, make a bridge that conveys comfort, peace, encouragement, affection, and strength.  With my dogs, I like to call it 'the laying on of paws.' For if more of us would spend the time and carefully observe what our dogs do for us when we are feeling lost, they would know how to help us. They don't tell us to 'get over it' as so many humans do.  They are simply close by, waiting and being.
My dogs are soft and close by, but not too close.  They are a presence that doesn't leave me, a presence that I can trust, a presence that is sincere and real. A presence in whose company I feel safe and peaceful and comfortable. They don't have an agenda.  They don't say one thing and mean another.  They are what I have always called 'a gift of presence.'  People struggling with PTSD become absorbed in their own problems, causing emotional distress and demanding, constantly demanding vigilance.  But with dogs the attention is shifted, if only for a little while, thus reducing anxiety and depression, as they convey support, empathy, affection, humor, as they elicit it to their human!
A service or therapy dog can increase self esteem, confidence and control.  They increase interaction with others, brighten your mood, address your grief and loss in a very loving patient way.  They improve reality and orientation.  Eye contact with people is encouraged, as the dog becomes the focal point, not the person struggling out of the nightmare.  Dogs improve the ability to express thoughts and feelings.  They do not judge nor complain.  They are quite simply there for us. 
A dog has the ability to allow things to happen that wouldn't happen without the dog. The abilities of both are enhanced by the presence of the other.
The touches of a soft muzzle, or a tail wag all lift spirits, bring a smile, change an outlook and give hope. They, as well as those people who don't abandon you, will help you focus on a time when the problem no longer exists.
Small steps lead to large changes.  If something is working, do it more.  The simplest approach is often the best medicine.  If you look closely you will be able to see that there are indeed angels in the shadows just waiting for you to begin to emerge. 
This is the first in a series of dealing with Post Traumatic Stress. Please tell me if you like it, if you agree, what has helped you, how do you deal with it, how do people treat you.  This can be your forum!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Ever have one of those days when you just couldn't figure out what it is all about?
One of those days when you wanted to stick your head in the sand and be done with everyone and everything ~  a day when absolutely nothing makes sense and words were babble and attempts at remedial efforts seemed futile. I try to tell myself that these are day to day obstacles that apply to everyone, but when you are smack dab in the middle of people and words that make your head spin you can't be comforted by platitudes.
Then, suddenly out of no where, come little graces that land in your heart and forever will bless you and brighten you and enlighten you.  Little graces in the form of words that instantly make you gasp and sit up straight and read and re-read them time and time again to see if they were real or imaginary.
These words that come so abruptly and unexpectedly, bursting with honesty and truth and vulnerability, have the ability to clear your head, driving away the ever present sludge and opening a window to who you are and where you are to go next. 
These words did not come in an envelope or package or by phone.  They came from a friend I have never met.  A friend I know and hold in my heart as if I have known her forever. She tells me I have awakened something in her, but truth be told, she is the one who awakened something in me.   As she messaged me, I felt her pain.  I felt it because it was my own as well. Escaping from the paralysis of PTSD is not to be done alone.  One must have a friend, a friend who understands, tolerates, loves, gently nudges, listens, and holds you tight when you feel you might fly off this planet.
This friend must come and perch softly on your shoulder or under your wing until you wake up and notice them.  And it is then and only then that you feel safe.  It is then that you realize that this is a gift that has been sent to you and perhaps has been there patiently waiting for you for a long, long time. I feel that at times like this, and there are all too few of them, when you are not expecting it,  that it appears just like an awakening. A slip of light floats in and with it there is a glimmer of hope.
You suddenly find the warmth of the thought of a friend who will never let you down, when you just begin to feel you might learn to trust again. You also might be astonished that you too have been given a lifeline and know the answer to a question you have been struggling with for a very, very long time ~ where you are to go next. 
So this morning I say to my friend that we both need to learn to trust someone, so that we can trust ourselves. 
Theodore Roetke wrote, "in a dark time, the eye begins to see."  For it is only in darkness that the light will become visible.  For my friend I believe she has taken a gigantic step forward, because now I  feel that she is beginning to accept and bless the light that is on. 
I believe that the resistance to the horrors that so many of us have endured is human.  We try to avoid the truth that nightmares and flashbacks bring us.  We try to avoid the darkness of it all. Feeling helpless is traumatic and our ignorance furthers our helplessness so we retreat from it...frozen in fear, until one day, some one believes in us and a slip of light and angels appear in the shadows. And it is then that you find you are not alone and someone does understand and someone does care and someone won't let you fly off of this planet. And with a friend beside you and lots of luck and love you might find yourself awakening to starlight and sweet dreams once again.

Monday, August 12, 2013


In my past months of healing, I have been told that I have never really been allowed to be me.  So who have I been?  I have been who and what everyone else wanted me to be. I will not go into great detail, but does making certain the spices in the spice rack were alphabetized before my former husband came home each night give you a clue? To include a white glove test of all the furniture!  And this I endured for 27 years.  I knew no better, for this is how I grew up.  It was all I knew.
I am now finally learning to say what I mean, say what I feel, and take chances.  Because honestly, no matter where you end up, it will end up just as it was supposed to.  Our mistakes make us who we are and we learn and grow with each and every choice we make.  Speaking the truth to people who have known us only one way, does not always make us win Ms./Mr. Congeniality.  So yes sometimes the truth hurts. Some people don't want to hear the truth.  And it is these people who will twist the truth to hurt you in return, in an attempt to take the guilt away from themselves.

"The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love and passion."
~ Nadia Boulanger

So that being said, everything we do, say, or feel is something that we should be okay with. And being okay with it has to be learned.  My self esteem over decades has been battered and then battered some more.  I think many of  us become so lost in our lack of self esteem that we forget that our life is an essential part of a greater whole and that we have many amazing, fascinating and worthwhile gifts to offer to the world at large. So crawling out of the hole is a little painful at first, but ultimately it will provide you with an amazingly feeling of liberation! When I realized this,  I felt a weight lift from my shoulders that I had been carrying around for far too long.

Most of you know that my therapy dogs and involvement with multiple therapy and service dog organizations for nearly forty years has shown me the reason for my existence on this earth.  These dogs that have passed through my life, and four that still remain, have exquisite virtues.  They have made and make room by giving.  They share. They neutralize poisons. And they heal.  This is what I have learned on this earth, observing my therapy and service dogs. 
Bottom line seems simple.  But is it? If you want to be remembered, find the real you and then give yourself away. 
I ask you to become a solitary dreamer. What is stopping you? Never write off your dream as a failure. Do not assemble lists of excuses. Take that chance. Nourish your soul. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Let this live within you.  You are worth it.  You are special.  You are unique in this world. Find your niche and don't let anything or anybody stop you.  With dreamers, the world is made beautiful and without them humanity would perish.

"Our fears must never hold us back from pursuing our hopes."
~ John F. Kennedy


There is a powerful saying in the world of writing: "If you  can't feel it you can't write it!"  I agree 100%.  Recently I have had multiple messages from people telling me how my 'words' have changed their lives.  After much consideration, I found that this is a tremendous responsibility ~ and obligation. One that I accept with humility and pride.   

Point one is to realize, understand, and digest the fact that our feelings are so, so much a part of what it is to be human. Some of us tend to disguise our feelings for fear someone might find out who we really are ... deep down inside.  Or we hide our feelings so that we don't appear weak, or mentally unstable, or heaven forbid not accepted by those we choose to impress. But if the truth were know, most everyone is fighting some kind of a battle and hiding behind a veil to appear 'normal.'

Today I am going to pose a question to you that will take either a great deal of thought, or none at all. Here goes!  What means the world to you?

You can keep this to yourself, share it with trusted friends or family, but answer it truthfully.  What means the world to you?  To me the answer comes with the reality that if we know, really know, what means the world to us, we are blessed with a most precious gift.  A gift that shows that we can allow ourselves to be human.  We allow ourselves to be seen.  And it is at this point we allow ourselves to be loved for all the right reasons. 

My life hasn't been a fairy tale.  Most of it being composed of repercussions of horrific things that had happened to me as a little girl...a baby. These repercussions continued throughout my life. Without going into the depths of these most sad experiences, suffice it to say I have begun to grow up, to realize, to accept, and to move forward on wobbly legs to a place where I have finally found what the world means to me.  I have no doubt that this knowledge and journey has brought me to where I am today...helping those returning warriors with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries. 

So what means the world to means a path out of the darkness I have been in for decades ~ to come to realize that if I stay in an isolated place, yes no one can hurt me, but realize too that if that is the case, then no one can love me either. For me what the world means is being there for others that are hurt, injured, and are lost.  I feel so enormously blessed that I have endured and overcome what I have so that now I can offer to others all that I can, to include my therapy dogs helping the wounded warriors ease their pain, their fear and the burden of battle they return home with.

Pain will no longer use me.  I have learned how to use pain.  It isn't always easy, and is an uphill battle many times, but I am now in control of my life and life will no longer control me.

This is what the world means to me. I will take the pain and experiences of my life and use them to the best of my ability to love someone else back into existence that is lost in the wilderness of Post Traumatic Stress.  As much as we struggle to do small things, great and grand things by ourselves, we come to that place in the road where we suddenly ... or ...finally realize we can't do it without help. 

Some days I struggle.  Some days I flounder.  Some days I want to relinquish the reigns to someone, anyone else. 

But when all is said and done, something happens that makes me realize the value and importance of my actions in helping other. And this is what the world means to me.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


"Where there is too much, something is missing." ~ Hasidic Saying
Sometimes it is as simple as eight words that can put your life in perspective.  The above words have done that for me. I am at that place where there is just too much.  Too much pulling at me, too much to be done, too much undone. You know the drill.  But in the midst of all of this 'too much' discover that something is missing.  In most cases it is you that is missing.  The important things are missing.  The things that make your heart sing are missing. Every day you go through the same routine...get up, shower, work, eat, go to bed and do the same thing all over again.  But what is it deep in your soul that is missing or perhaps lost in the chaos of everyday life?
The solution is to simplify. To simplify by defining those things that are most important to you, to your life right now, to your soul. Perhaps this is the answer.
For me it is important that I not lose contact with friends. It is important for me to take time to care and help those that need me the most.
They say the main reason to be alive is to enjoy it.  I have spent hours and hours trying to figure out this one.  I do not enjoy seeing the pain my warriors are in.  Seeing warriors with double and triple amputations and those on the verge of suicide?  But this is what I do.  This is where my calling is.  But how do I find balance?  How can I find that quiet place where love can enter and bring a renewed sense of being to my life? When can I smile again?
Perhaps as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Improve your spare moments and they will become the brightest gems in your life."  Where are my spare moments?  I guess I am no different than anyone else.  I check my email, my voice mail, my test messages and facebook pages frequently throughout the day and the rest of the day responding, putting out fires, propping up those who need it the most, taking care of my senior dogs and attempting to find time to write my next book.  Then I am too exhausted to eat and most of the time too exhausted to put on my pj's to go to bed. There is extreme exhaustion, mental and physical, involved in what I do.  So how do I put all of this into do I simplify? 

Yes there is too much!  And definitely something is missing!  Each week I think I will find just one day to do something...all day....special with a friend...something just for me.  Something that requires not thinking about wounded warriors, dog issues, mail left unanswered, what to do if, when to do it, etc.  But each week comes and goes and nothing changes. Life gets in the way. And each day gone is another day gone. 

Yesterday I met 8 week old golden retriever...almost white...a beautiful luscious cream color.  He was going to live with a friend, to be his best friend, to set his life on forward, not stalled.  Once released from a crate after a 3 hour drive to San Antonio, Bear, promptly shook and walked in the grass, sniffed the air, and I had the feeling that he was just quite simply enjoying the moment.  No expectations of what is coming next, no fear of the unknown, just happy to be alive and praised for doing his 'business' in the grass.  We took him to my friend's house where he walked in like he owned the place, and yes, he now has officially claimed it.

He sniffed each room, found a ball, a sock with a knot in it, and a pillow on the sofa.  He romped, he played, he shoved the ball with his nose, and he would come up to both of us and want to be cuddled and snuggled and told what a good boy he was, as his tail never stopped wagging.  He knew life was simple and good and easy.
 I wanted to be Bear.  I wanted no worries, no expectations,  or guilt for not doing what others expect of me, but what I need to do for myself, my sanity, my soul.
I tell people this and they pretend to understand, but they don't really. They nod or voice agreement, but deep inside they are thinking of the next thing on their to do list, or thinking how selfish I am, as they rattle papers trying to multi task. Because they are so busy you know!
They are thinking that there is more to this world than satisfying her own personal needs.
But what they don't see is that I never have.  I never have satisfied my own personal needs.  I have always sacrificed for others.  For what they wanted, needed, demanded, or what they couldn't do without.  I had to be what they wanted me to be.  Never was I allowed to be me.
I wonder how many reading this have gone through or are going through the same thing.  For me it is time. For me I finally speak my mind.  For me I am exhausted from a lifetime of meeting others needs but never my own. It doesn't mean I don't care about them or what is going on in their lives. But I need my remaining time on this planet to know what it feels like to experience joy and happiness.
Yes there has been too much in my life and indeed something has been missing.  Like Bear, I yearn to be loved and understood and cared for in a very special way.  For me wrong turns and decisions have been just as important as right turns.  Perhaps more important. Perhaps my decisions have been a learning experience that has been worth a fortune.
I whispered in Bear's ear what a life he had in store for him.  What wonders he would see and how many people he would bring joy to in his future life as a therapy dog!  He didn't seem to care.  He was quite simply in the moment.  Not thinking about tomorrow or the next day or his future...only the here and now.
Were it only so easy for the rest of us.  He will never know what I saw when I looked at him.  To me he was a gift, a lesson to be learned and a goal yet to meet.
'Life and love are all we get, so life and love are all we can give." ~ Dan Zarda
I will remember you little Bear. Will you remember me? I feel most certain your life will bring miracles ~ whether you know it or not. I believe you will be a light to so many and the best is yet to be. I feel quite certain that you will not allow your life to pass you by.
There is much to be learned from a little cream colored little dog named Bear.

Friday, August 9, 2013


 "I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you.  And that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom."
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Women Who Run with the Wolves

 There has come a time in my life to start looking internally for happiness not externally.  In so doing I will be able to find what is true in my heart. I have no doubt but what this will lead me to my true passion.  It is then that I can teach that to others. To determine my success I must begin and acknowledge exactly where I am right now. 
I have thought about this for a long time.  I have discussed it with a cherished friend and realize that the purpose of my life is to find happiness and fulfillment in what I am doing. This means letting go of those people and things and projects and chores and endless goals and perceived challenges that endlessly occupy my time, to be able to find what is important to me at this age and stage of my life. 
For me healing from a lifetime of abuse can best come from solitude.  From writing ~ from peace ~ from a deep desire to find that life that allows me to live ecstatically.  I have plowed through pain and anger wondering if it would ever end. I am now tip toeing out into the light.  Setbacks occur and I try with all my being to learn to deal with the tough stuff and find that which I care about and that which is my center.

If it makes any sense at all, I want to find my way back home.  It doesn't make much sense to me either, but it is as if I want to return to a home that I have never known or had.  A home where I feel safe and comfortable and cherished and a home where I can write my stories, a home where there is comfy chair and a window looking out onto vibrant lush green fields and mountains or the ocean. Without this, I have determined I would feel as if I have no soul.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, "We tell stories to know that we are not alone." This I understand.  This I get!  At the end of the day, what I write turns out to deal with my deepest concerns and value.
For the past 30+ years my therapy dogs and I have left footprints and paw prints in many, many hospitals and thousands of lives, and more recently the service dogs for the warriors with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries.  I have observed endlessly my pups and others helping patients press pass pain. As one quite elderly lady said, "Little Gracie walks into the hospital with angel wings." These moments have been the silver lining of my life and they have been band aids for the lives of those struggling to get through the next second, minute, hour, or day. These moments have almost always given me goose bumps. 
So for me the next step is to write. To write my 60th book. For me healing is where the story begins.
A warrior told me that when my golden/lab Kelsie was asleep with him on a sofa, tucked under his arm, that there was a new meaning for rest in peace.  The stories will begin here and will be linked by love and single acts of kindness. As my dogs have conveyed encouragement, support, empathy, affection, humor, and hope, faith, and courage by their mere presence, they accept without judgment and they love without expectation.  My dogs have given humans an emotional break and provided, perhaps more importantly, the ability to just 'be'. These dogs do not have an agenda, nor do they fake enthusiasm. 
We all become much too frequently absorbed in our own problems, causing vast emotional distress. Observing my own therapy dogs and the warriors service dogs, I have seen them shift the patients attention, if only for a while, as they instantly reduce anxiety and depression.
For me the story is no different.  For me between the wish and he thing ~ life lies waiting.  As Gertrude Stein so wisely said, "Let me listen to me ~ not to them." Every day I sit back and wait for my book to be written is a day lost.  I will begin to write where the story begins, where the mental images return and turn into phrases that drip with emotion and meaning.
And at the end of the day this is where I shall find peace and the earth shall become quiet.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at him."
I ran across this quote quite by accident and realized I undoubtedly agree.  I could build quite a large building with the bricks that have been thrown at me.  I wanted to sit down and write all the bad things, the sad things, the unwelcome things that have been thrust at me, as I have tried my entire life to do good.  But I realized something I was told by a most trusted friend. He offered these words to me. "But haven't you done some amazing and incredibly good and important things in your life? Aren't you a good person? Don't you have an amazing heart? Haven't you built the foundation of your life upon bricks of strength, love, honesty, compassion, passion, success, talent and credibility?"

Looking at it that way I suppose the moral is that all of the bricks that have been thrown at me have allowed me to evolve and become the kind of person I am. The past week I have made a decision.  The decision is to do only those things that bring me joy.  Those things that make a difference in a way that I feel proud that I was a part of. I am posting a note on my life, that I shall no longer be a target and all drama must be left at the door. What I do want and require is happiness, joy, smiles, laughter, and a hunger for a life that has been missing for far too long.
To this end I spent Monday till today bringing national and some international awareness to a young man who witnessed his best friend in war, his battle buddy, shoot himself in the head to escape the hell of war.  This young man, needless to say, returned to the country he fought for with PTSD.  He crumbled, as any of us would have under the circumstances. 
He has obtained a trained service dog and finally felt confident enough to escape the isolation of his home to attend the church he has been attending since 2009.  His wife has left him and he is now alone with his service dog to struggle, to dig out, to try to forget what he witnessed and endured.  He went to church to be supported, to be loved, to pray, to try to dig himself out of the hell of survive. But instead he was kicked out of the church by the deacon and the parishioners  because of his service dog.  It is a long convoluted story that doesn't need to be repeated in this forum.  But he too had bricks thrown at him in a very different, very painful way.  He is a soft spoken young man who loves his God.  Who loves his dog. And longs to love life once again.  A young man who fought for this country and her freedom.  I am afraid I find something terribly, terribly wrong with this scenario. 
I thought a long time about the battle within this warrior, and then I thought of the young man who committed suicide in front of him.  He obviously was in such tremendous pain that he did not think of what repercussions this action would have on his best friend.  Does this make him a coward ~ no.  Does this make him a hero ~ no.  Does this make him any less a man ~ no.  What this does is make him human.
Twenty two warriors kill themselves everyday from the hell of post traumatic stress and a hell they cannot escape!  Twenty two.  I know all the statistics.  I know how they get dropped.  I know they are in a loop with no end. I have looked in hundreds of faces and can see it instantly.  I know we don't do enough as a nation for them when they return.  Everyone I know knows this.  But what exactly do those of us do that truly care. 
For me I did the only thing I knew to do. One thing that my television background taught me. I called the major news networks. They have all grabbed at the story.  Perhaps some awareness will be brought to what exactly a service dog does for a warrior returning to a country he defended and is now failing him, when he needs help the most.  He isn't the only one...there are tens of thousands just like him and more, many more, to come.  His dog helps him, I helped him, his dog trainer helped him.  But what about the others that find the war just begins when they return home?  What about them then?
"Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.  Do you think you were put here for something less?" ~ Chief Arvol Looking Horse
We all have a choice as to what to do with the bricks that are thrown at us. As for this young warrior, he has chosen to go to another church ~ one that is welcoming him with open arms and hearts.  Perhaps the bricks thrown at him and his dog stood for something far greater than he can ever know.  Perhaps those bricks will be a firm foundation for future warriors to come, that can and will be welcomed into God's house with open and loving arms. Why should it be any other way? As for the church that 'kicked' him to the curb~ well they have to answer to the same God.
It bears repeating that dog spelled backwards is God.  So the moral of this story is whether you go out there and make a difference in one life or a hundred lives, just go out there and do what you've got to do and give what you've got to give. There are those who will still throw bricks, but use them to help you build your firm foundation and believe me changing the way you view this makes all the difference.  You can almost find yourself thanking them for their assistance.  For without adversity where would we find the good stuff?