We are inclined to unity

I’ve always been amazed watching animals in nature instinctively moving in sync — in harmony — with one another. It could be hundreds of birds in flight, fish swimming, herds running. Each one is so in tune with the movement of the others around them that their behavior seems scripted — orchestrated.

Photo by Harrison Haines on

We humans are instinctively capable of finding unity too. When we walk in groups, we often adjust our pace to be in step with those around us. In crowds, we start out handclapping on our own, but within seconds, hundreds of us can clap in unison.

When’s the last time you participated in a stadium wave? It takes only a handful of clustered people to stand and raise their arms in unison. Spontaneously, the people seated in the section next to them know precisely when it is their time to mimic the action. Soon the rhythm of the wave is coursing around the stadium until it loops a few times and the energy dies out.

Also, think about sporting events where you get caught up in the chanting of the crowd. Sparked by enthusiasm, choruses ring out in unison, chanting the encouraging, “I believe that we will win!” or the great-play celebration, “Olé, Olé, Olé” or the ever taunting, very specific, “Air Ball!”

One of my favorite examples is a live performance I watch on TV of Paul McCartney enchanting his concert audience with the Beatles’ biggest #1 hit song, “Hey Jude.” The song itself is about optimism and togetherness, and the coda’s repetitive “nah, nah, nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey Jude” is like a heartfelt lullaby. This along with the crowd’s raised arms waving and clapping in unison. I wanted very much to be there in the moment among everyone.

Photo by Wolfgang on

These forms of unity get us involved in the excitement, bring us together as a crowd, and remind us that our enjoyment of this event and our presence in this moment make us one. We feel connected. This increases our empathy, and we become more sociable to one another.

…so then why does it feel like these days so many people are trying to divide us?

The world has been changing always. Evolving. Advancing. And while many of us need some time to adjust to change, it feels like a large portion of people have come to a dead stop. They’ve thrown out their anchors, settled into their box-shaped comfort zones, and are refusing to pursue unity with anyone outside of their “kind.”

I see these separatists as people who will turn their backs on others without giving them a chance to express their ideas or perspective. I feel separatists are not open to alternative points of view; they believe all others are simply wrong. Rather than rising up to accept people for what they have in common with others, separatists want to sink down and find the line that severs their connections to others.

In my heart, I’m a unifier. I want to know more about people who are different than me so that my outlook and perspective can grow and become more diverse. I want to learn from people who have had different experiences than me. Relying on their examples, I can avoid mistakes or achieve success that I otherwise would not have known about. And my acknowledgement of their experiences gives them validation that they’ve improved others’ lives through their own.

Here are some examples of how a separatist sees personal differences vs. a unifier:

Personal Difference
Two people are sports fans, but for rival teams.
The Separatist
Feels only the rivalry; sees the other as an “enemy.”
The Unifier
Wants to connect based on how much they both love this sport. “Who’s your favorite player?” “Let’s set a friendly wager!”

When you think of NBA player rivalries, hardly any other is bigger than Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird and the Lakers’ Magic Johnson. They first competed against one another in an NCAA championship game between Indiana and Michigan States, respectively. As pros, they competed against each other in the NBA finals three times. Both players are in the NBA Hall of Fame. With such fierce competition between them, you’d think they’d have often wished the worst for their rival. Instead they were and still are the best of friends.

In a book they published together, When the Game Was Ours, Johnson tells how they went from being rivals to being friends, “Then Larry and I sat down for lunch, and I tell you, we figured out we’re so much alike. We’re both from the Midwest, we grew up poor, our families [are] everything to us, basketball is everything to us. So that changed my whole outlook on Larry Bird.”

Photo by Markus Spiske on

Personal Difference
Two people want to improve life in their communities, but they align with different political parties.
The Separatist
Cannot “cross the aisle” in order to prioritize their common goals.
The Unifier
Is interested in collaborating and will listen to opposing viewpoints in order to develop the most-well-rounded solution.

In 1997, I volunteered as an usher for a national summit that led to the formation of America’s Promise Alliance. The objective was to improve the lives of millions of at-risk youths. The reason I was attracted to the event is because it was co-convened by political opposites, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. As stated by President Clinton, the goal of the summit was “to mobilize America’s citizen power in a united effort to solve our common problems, especially those that threaten our young people.”

Over the past 20+ years, the alliance has accumulated nearly 400 corporate, private, non-profit, education, and faith-based partners.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on

Personal Difference
Two people each have goals to unite and inspire others, but they are not of the same religion.
The Separatist
Chooses to work alone as the other is “misguided” or “misinformed.”
The Unifier
Wants to broaden their perspective in order to develop messages that people can relate to on many levels.

I’d been reading a book called The Book of Joy, which is co-authored by Tibetan Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In the 300-page book, I dog-eared just one page for the message that most resonated with me, a quote from the Dalai Lama:

“If we stress secondary level of differences–my nation, my religion, my color–then we notice the differences. Like this moment now in Africa, there is too much emphasis on this nation or that nation. They should think that we are same Africans. Furthermore, we are same human beings. Same with religion: Shiite and Sunni, or Christian and Muslim. We are same human beings. These differences between religions are personal matters. When we relate to others from the place of compassion it goes to the first level, the human level, not the secondary level of difference. Then you can even have compassion for your enemy.”

Photo by Pixabay on

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know

We can’t be judgmental of separatists. Some people have been raised to believe their parents’ and greater family’s ways and beliefs are the only correct choice. Or they commit such loyalty to a group or organization that they shut out any outsiders or new ideas.

Similarly, even open minded people don’t know what they don’t know until they make a conscious effort to focus on the “new” or the “other.”

I recently watched a video that is part of a series launched by former NFL player and current sports analyst Emmanuel Acho. This was following the wave of racial unrest ignited in America. In the video, TV personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines bring their children to Acho to ask him questions about racial relations.

Chip relayed a story about how he and his family had not had a lot of experience with cancer, but a few years ago he met a woman with cancer who conveyed her story to him about what life is like as a cancer patient. Then he and the family became advocates for cancer patients and their families, and have supported a lot of cancer-related initiatives since then.

He said, “…once I learned about it and understood it and it affected my soul, I couldn’t unforget it.”

He said it was the same kind of light-bulb moment when he realized he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a black person or part of a black family living in America.

Photo by Pixabay on

Many people — myself included — had simply never felt the need or desire to think this way. But now that this issue has come front and center (again), this may be the start of a greater level of social equilibrium.

People who are willing to let go of fear and anger, who are willing to be seen as vulnerable and still learning have the most to gain in this world and have the greatest potential to bring the rest of us with them toward empathy, compassion, and love.

Let’s move forward together

Balance is the key to harmony. We’re in this boat together. I may prefer the view on the starboard side while you prefer the view on the port side, but if you row your oar at a different rate than I’m rowing mine, we’re just going to keep moving in a circle. We each can have our own points of view and still move forward together in unity. For the greater good, you have to be willing to try.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…

Growing Learning Loving

5 reasons why my brand is LOVE

I guess we can consider this an all-in-one Brand Positioning Statement, “About Me” bonus track, and a “Hero’s Journey” tale.

In my journey, I’ve had to overcome obstacles — just like you in your life and everyone else in their lives. It’s up to each one of us to decide how to make use of our experiences — whether they will hold us down or lift us up, and whether we’ll bring the people we encounter each day up or down with us.

I’ve decided that love is my purpose, and I want to bring others to a place of love as well. Here are five reasons why love is my reason for being.

5. Life is tough

I grew up just another kid of an alcoholic dad. At the time, if there were kids around me that had dads that were just as bad as or worse than mine, I didn’t know about it. I thought all of my friends’ dads were great. Therefore I didn’t just feel like the winner of the “worst dad” contest — I felt like I was the only one competing. (I realize now that was not the case, but that’s what it felt like when I was a kid.)

Dealing with the shame and low self-esteem brought on by my father’s alcoholism was a daily struggle. As such, the nicknames I earned from boyfriends included “Princess of Gloom and Doom,” “Grumpy Dumpy,” and simply “Baby.” And they were guys who actually cared for me quite a bit.

I was already carrying a bunch of mental baggage, to say the least. Then along came the stalker. He was convicted and my dad died within eight months of each other.

I’m the one that found my dad dead after all the alcohol finally rotted completely through one or more of his major organs. I was 25 years old.

One would hope with both of those situations at a close that life would simply go on from there with all the pain left in the past. But that’s not how humans work.

Over the next couple of years, I was trying to make sense of the world. I had lots of ups and downs — a lot of asking “why me?”

But then I decided I was ready for the pain, fear, and self-doubt to be over. I actually stood out in the middle of a field and made a commitment to the universe to do my best to grow stronger and become kind, honest, brave, and wise.

The Celts saw the oak tree as a symbol of truth, bravery and kindness.
Photo by Sebastian Beck on

But healing from all those years of trauma takes time. Imagine that my psyche was an hourglass. One bulb was reserved for hope and inspiration. Following the stalker and my dad’s death, that bulb was empty. The other bulb was reserved for pain and anger, and it held all the sand.

The day I made that commitment in the field to change my attitude, the hour glass was turned upside down. Each grain of sand fell one at a time through the narrow neck.

Even though the sand was slowly accumulating in the positivity and optimism bulb, there was still sand in the pain and anger bulb for a long while.

Over time, I was able to forgive my dad first, the stalker later. That took, no lie, around 25 years — almost the same amount of time for the trauma to accumulate in the first place.

When we’re willing to accept that life is tough but that we don’t have to allow the worst parts to be the biggest part of us, we are able to lift ourselves up from rock bottom to new heights of love and patience.

4. Life is short

Around the time I turned 30, I began counting up all the times throughout my life I had come out of some pretty dangerous situations completely unscathed. Not even counting my encounters with my dad or the stalker, there was a bad fall from some monkey bars; a runaway horse; an out-of-control carnival ride; a high-speed, head-on car crash; three one-on-one run-ins with demented men, and two near asphyxiations from carbon monoxide.

Don’t misinterpret this to think I was reckless and looking for trouble or attention. These all started out as everyday events that simply took a turn for the worse.

Beating the odds that many times felt like I was still here for a reason. I wanted to show my gratitude for having been given so many second chances. I wasn’t sure how many more near misses I had left in me, and I wanted to make a difference in the world somehow before my time here was through.

A dead tree contrasted with the infinite of space. We only have a short time on Earth to make a difference.
Photo by Matej Čurlík on

Then when I was in my early 40s my mom died suddenly from health complications. I was devastated. Completely unprepared for life without my biggest cheerleader.

Seven years later my niece suffered an accidental death. All the opportunities I wasted to tell her things I wish I had said. Or to do the things with her I wish we could have done together.

When we value life and accept that it is a temporary condition for each of us, we cherish time more meaningfully. We understand that we can’t take people for granted. We need to make the most of our relationships with people while we still have the time together. Embracing this makes it easier for us to forgive and give unconditional love.

3. It opens you up to possibilities

Two years after my mom passed, when I was still feeling abandoned, my desired career path came to an end. I was shocked that I was not successful in convincing everyone I was the right person for the job that I believed I was destined for.

But I couldn’t see myself the way others were seeing me. And I learned that’s not always a bad thing.

Although I didn’t love the decision my leaders had made for me (at first), I still loved them unconditionally, and I was willing to try things their way — to see where they thought my talents could take me.

Some say daisies are a symbol of new beginnings.
Photo by Taryn Elliott on

They placed me in a role where my primary job was writing. Then they asked me to mentor others as writers.

I enjoyed this role so much, I began writing for personal fulfillment. I began putting into words all the thoughts that I had been cataloging in my head for so many years. I wrote about my experiences and what I felt. I continued to write and think, and write and learn, and write and grow. That was the start of me becoming a storyteller.

Being a loving person means you are willing to be vulnerable. You risk getting hurt, but when you put yourself in the hands of people who you love and trust, you open yourself to possibilities that you might not have chosen yourself. You may find yourself journeying to a whole new place of learning and growing.

2. It gives you new purpose

When I was given the blessing of writing for a living, which turned out to be something I love to do, I had found purpose in my life. My talents, interests, and path were aligned.

I found a way that I could reflect on my experiences and write openly about how I got from there to here. I thought that maybe in telling my story, I could offer hope for someone who is in the place where I was — someone who wants to feel like they’re not in a “worst ever” contest all by their self.

Having a desire to help others through my storytelling gave new meaning to everything I had experienced. My bad times no longer felt like heavy baggage when I saw them as opportunities to maybe help someone else see their way through their own tangled mess of emotions.

Some feel the sunflower is a symbol of hope, happiness and renewal.
Photo by Pixabay on

I decided to make it a real thing — me sharing my thoughts and experiences to help others learn, grow and love from their pain, fear and regrets. I wrote two books (one still unpublished), and I started this blog. I’m creating a silver lining not just for myself, but hopefully for others too.

Each one of us has innate gifts and circumstances through which we can manifest love and happiness. We’re not meant to hold these for ourselves or use the rewards for our own happiness. We are meant to share our lives with others — to experience the scary, crazy, and awesomeness of being human with others, to make life better for others.

1. It lets you change the world

I believe we each have the responsibility to contribute positively to the world around us. Not just going through our daily routines on auto pilot and complaining when something doesn’t meet our expectations. I mean making a conscience effort every day to put someone else’s needs first and to make a difference in someone else’s life.

I also believe that each one of us can make the world a better place. We don’t need to have a big voice or a vast platform. We just need to do what we can within our means, using our unique talents and opportunities, to make life better for those around us.

This hybrid tea rose is named "Peace." I bought and planted it in my yard during the riots following the death of George Floyd.

And that’s why my brand is LOVE.

I write for anyone who may have trouble seeing that everyday occurrences hold meaning about the purpose of our lives. I value optimism, and I prioritize continuous improvement. I believe that when we are able to let go of our pain and fear, we are able to turn our struggles into inspiration for others. Therefore, I hope to encourage you to keep learning and growing to become a more loving person. And in doing that, we’re all spreading seeds of love.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…


‘He ain’t right.’ You’re not what he said you are.

In honor of George Floyd, whose tragic death is what finally opened my eyes. Not being a racist is not enough.

I feel like I’m walking a tightrope writing this blog. As I begin, I’m praying for the right words to flow from my heart to my fingertips. My intention is to share an experience from a few years ago that now has new, deeper meaning for me.

I’ve told this story a few times over the past two years as if I was merely an observer to what unfolded. Today – in response to the events which started on May 25 – I know now my role in speaking out against the kind of racial hatred that too many Americans endure day in and day out.

The participants

In January 2018, my middle-school-aged son asked me to take him to a video game store down the street from our home. I knew that this chain of stores had experienced armed robberies around Christmas time. I even knew a dad from my son’s hockey team who was in one of the stores during a holdup. He was telling me the story the day after it happened, and it was obvious he was still shook up.

I took my son to the video game store anyway, but I was on full alert walking in. Once inside, I saw there was a line of people waiting at the check-out counter. The store employee was a black man, probably in his late 20s. He was waiting on a young black man, probably around 19 or 20, and he was with a black friend who was wandering around the store.

Next in line was a middle-aged white woman, a few years younger than me. She was with a teenager who had an autism spectrum disorder. Behind them in line was a black woman, older than me, and a black boy younger than my son was with her. I got in line behind them, and my son was looking around the back of the store. We are both white.

Those are the observable characteristics of the people in the store. I’ll be honest here and now tell you about the story that was going on in my head.

The store employee looked like a cool guy — someone who’d be fun to hang out with at a backyard barbecue. The older women appeared to be the grandmother of the young boy. I wasn’t getting a “mom” vibe from the middle-aged woman who was with the teenager — maybe she was a much older sister or an aunt. The young man who was talking to the store employee looked like a computer geek, and his friend looked to me like he could be a dangerous man. Like he associates with dangerous people. I was intimidated by him.

The incident

Something was causing a delay with the store employee completing the transaction with the young man. This is typical at the video game store. He could be pre-ordering a game, updating his membership, selling back used games, processing a return or exchange, etc.

Bored with the wait, his friend started looking around the store. That’s when my son and I walked in. The intimidating-looking man and I were squeezing by one another in a small aisle.

I said, “excuse me,” and he said, “oh sorry,” and I said, “you’re fine.” As this was happening, I didn’t feel any negative energy from him. I relaxed.

Aside from selling video games, the store sells a lot of collectibles and memorabilia. There were a lot of eye-catching things all around, especially to someone who is bored with the wait.

What grabbed the man’s attention most was a rack of character t-shirts. He was getting a kick out of holding up the humorous shirts as if he wanted to buy one of them.

“Yo,” he said to everyone, “Check out my new Pokemon shirt.”

It was cute. I giggled.

He must have seen that he got the attention of the other middle-aged woman because he jokingly said to her, “When did they start selling clothes at [the video game store]?”

The woman gave a reply, and they shared a few more comments and chuckles back and forth.

The teenage boy with her was showing simple movement and sound tics. Then suddenly he spoke out loud and clear: “Ha! I can’t believe you’re talking to that n-word!”

I had turned my back to the group at this point just to see where my son was. He and I were both closest to the back of the store. When I heard what the teen said, I froze. And waited for something to happen.

The man spoke up, asking the teenager. “What did you say? I can’t believe you said that!”

The woman gasped loudly and yelled at the teenager, “Why did you say that? Why did you say that?”

I don’t think the woman knew what to do next. She just kept yelling at the teen, “Why did you say that?”

Then the man chuckled and said, “Hey, it’s alright… I can see he ain’t right.”

Oh brother. I was too afraid to move, but in my head I was planning an escape route for my son through the backroom. I would have done whatever I needed to get him out, if this situation got worse.

The woman continued to yell at the teen, saying he was going to be in big trouble. Then the man began to tell her to take it easy on him, that he didn’t want her to be upset with the teenager.

In each of the next few awkward exchanges between the two of them, there was something very distinctive that struck me as odd. She never told the teenager that what he said was wrong. She never asked him where he learned to say that. She never apologized to the man for what the teenager said.

All the while, not a single one of the rest of us said a word. Finally the woman remembered how her legs worked and she towed the teenager out the door with her, leaving behind whatever she had planned to buy. In that moment I said a prayer for the teenager. I was afraid for what he’d face next.

When they were out the door, and just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, the man made a comment to his friend.

“Can you believe that? I still can’t believe he said that,” he said. “Boy, good thing I was here with you. If it had been me and [so-and-so], we’d be drawin’ out!”

“Oh dear God,” I thought to myself.

Yes, it is a good thing he wasn’t with a different friend indeed.

What I did next

Still nothing. I so wanted to say something to this man. And I ran a hundred things through my head, but I wasn’t confident I could deliver what was in my heart.

I wanted to say “thank you” without it sounding like “thank you for not hurting anyone.”

I wanted to say “good job” without it sounding like a white stamp of approval.

I wanted to say something, anything that would shatter the predisposition I held of a potentially armed black man’s ability to make a good decision when addressed with such an evil word.

I entered the store that day mentally prepared for a holdup. I wasn’t prepared to witness such blatant racism.

While the woman was still there, I didn’t want to insert myself in their conversation. I don’t believe it was a place where I belonged. But I kept my back turned — literally and figuratively — on the whole thing.

Here this man was bravely facing this woman and the teenager who had said the most horrific thing to him. He was not only forgiving them — on the spot — but also defending the teenager, allowing his mental deficiency to be an excuse for this behavior.

And I wasn’t even brave enough to try making eye contact with him, with the hope that he could feel my compassion and understand that I was on his side.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. How many times do we walk away from a situation wishing we had done something differently?

What I wish I had done after the woman and the teen left was use the man’s own words, “I can see he ain’t right,” not in regard to the teenager’s disorder, but relative to what he had said.

I wish I would have said, “I agree with you:  ‘He ain’t right.’ You’re not what he said you are.” And then I should have shook his hand.

What I know now

The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests (both peaceful and violent) have given me a new perspective on a number of things that I’m sorry I didn’t realize sooner.

  1. In addition to wanting to say something positive to the man for his reaction, I should have admonished what was said. And I should have made that acknowledgement not just to the one man but to everyone else left in the store with me and my son. Although the teenager’s comment was directed to just one of them, it was equally insulting to the other blacks who heard it.
  2. I was wrong to assume that the woman with the teenager was guilty by association. I don’t know what her relationship to him was, and I don’t know that she was a party to him learning how to use that word in that context. Maybe she was, but that’s not for me to assume.
  3. It didn’t occur to me until this week that by not saying anything to any of them, it may have appeared that I agreed with the statement — that they had no allies that day.

So to the universe I would like to say, if you see those two friends, the older woman and the young boy, or the store employee, please let them know that I am deeply sorry that I didn’t make any effort to show them I was on their side. I’m sorry that I didn’t know until now that not being a racist is not enough — that I need to stand with them to fight racism in my own means. I need to make it my fight too. And I won’t make that mistake again.


A blog that’s gone to the dogs

I’m a dog person. Perhaps I could have been a cat person, but cats make my eyes burn like Vesuvius and my nose pour like Niagara Falls. So dog person it is. I’ve known a lot of dogs in my life, and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have shared my home and my family with three very special dogs.

IMO, dogs are powerful healing machines. I’ve felt a love from each one of my three that is unlike any other. It’s a love that inspires me to spread gratitude and compassion to everyone around me.

June holds some meaningful memories for me and my dogs, and this blog is for them.


When I was in ninth grade, my family got the runt of a Lab/Shephard litter. My parents named him Sam. He was considered a family dog; he loved everyone in the family, but I became his person.

Those high school years were tough for me. I am the youngest of three siblings, and my brother and sister were out of the house, living their own lives by then. I was left without any allies to deal with our alcoholic dad who — every day — played fetch with my emotions and self-esteem. At the same time, my mom was strict like a Catholic school nun. As such, I didn’t have a lot of friends.

Sam and I spent a lot of time hiding in my bedroom. Our house was filled with tension and fear, and I was lost and lonely. He was there for me to pet when I was sad or anxious, or he’d just stay by my side and rest his chin on me when I was too distracted to see him. Just so I wouldn’t feel alone. Sam became my emotional life preserver.

Sam became my emotional life preserver.

When I left for college, Sam relied on my mom (and she on him), but on weekends when I came home to visit, he greeted me like no one else in the family could. I began spending more and more time at school; Sam and I spent less and less time together, but he was always there to give me the best greeting whenever I came home.

When I was 24, I moved back home again; Sam was around nine or ten years old. He and I picked right back up as best friends like we had never been apart. Then the following year, my mom decided to divorce my dad. The plan was that my dad would get his own condo; my mom and I would move in with my sister, her husband and my two-year-old niece, and Sam would go live with my brother, his fiancé, and their two dogs.

I was heartbroken over being separated from Sam again. Probably more so than when I went to college. My brother and his fiancé were dog lovers, obviously, but their two dogs were bigger and rougher than Sam. I was sleeping one night in my bedroom in my sister’s house and suddenly it seemed like Sam was on the bed with me, the way he’d always been anytime we were sleeping in the same house together.

I was sobbing a little, and I looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m so sorry that you couldn’t come with me and that you got shipped to that house with those two big dogs, and I bet you never get any peace and, they’re probably messing with your food and water and toys all the time. I’m so worried about you, and I just want you to know that I love you and I hope you’re OK. Are you OK?”

Sam’s warm, dark eyes consoled me, and in a deep but kind voice he said to me, “Yea…”

Sam lived there with my brother for a few years, but one day my brother called and said he didn’t think Sam was doing so well. The vet determined that Sam had lung issues (no doubt from my parents’ chain-smoking). He told my brother and me what to watch for and that when it gets to the point when Sam is struggling too much with everyday stuff, we should bring him back.

My brother and I gave Sam all the love we had those last few days, and the rest of the family stopped by to say farewell. When we took Sam back to the vet’s office, as we sat in the waiting room, despite his suffering, Sam did everything he could to look strong and happy and to make us smile. Then when Sam was on the vet’s table, my brother and I hugged him and pet him and cried until the vet let us know that Sam had taken his last difficult breath. Then we cried some more.

Sam loved pork chop bones and playing hide-and-seek. His love for me had given me security and taught me courage on some of my scariest days and nights, and I will never forget that.


I bought a condo when I was 27. I lived there by myself less than six months when I decided I needed a companion, so I completed a greyhound adoption form. I asked for the smallest one they had. That was Gabbie. She was 50 pounds, which is as small as a full-grown greyhound should be.

I got her the month that she turned two years old. That was the minimum time an owner would hold a greyhound. If the dog hadn’t earned the owner enough money by then, they were out. So Gabbie’s size was likely her greatest gift. She didn’t have a single racing scar on her, so perhaps she either never raced because of her size, or if she did race, she was so far behind the pack that she missed all the action.

When I brought her home for the first time, she didn’t know how to go up stairs; she had never seen herself in a mirror. She didn’t know what it meant to be a pet. She didn’t come near me for two weeks. I sat on the couch one day crying because I had gotten a dog to keep me company, but all she did was lay by herself in the bedroom.

Then once she came out, she became one of the best friends I ever had. She was an incredibly graceful, poised and polite creature. Gabbie brought a lot of class to our relationship.

Gabbie brought a lot of class to our relationship.

She saw me through a couple of break-ups. She met my future husband and loved him as much as I do. She moved with us into our first house. I had been telling her for years that one day I’d get her a yard to run in, and I was so overjoyed to see her do just that for the first time.

She was with me through two pregnancies, and she was by my side as I took care of my young sons.

Then one day I was standing on the edge of the kitchen, getting water from the fridge dispenser, and I caught sight of Gabbie as she paused on the stairway landing before coming all the way down. Immediately I knew. How could I have missed it? I was so occupied all the time with my sons that I wasn’t noticing her health failing until that moment — when I knew it was too late.

It was almost the same story with the vet as had been the case with Sam. They told me her bloodwork indicated a severe battle with cancer; if they had to guess, they’d say it was in her stomach. For two straight weeks, anytime I was anywhere that was not in front of my sons or coworkers, I was crying. How could I have let her down like that?

Finally on a Saturday morning in June (it was the summer solstice, in fact), I woke up and knew it was time. Gabbie was 15 years old. She had become a great friend to our seven-year-old son (our four-year-old son was still too young), so I had to tell him how very sick she was before I left with her. I’ll never forgot returning from the vet and coming in the door. My son met me half-way up the stairs and saw that I had Gabbie’s collar in my hand.

I didn’t have to say a word. I can still hear him say to me, “But I wasn’t ready for this to be the last day!”

Gabbie loved running, big soft dog beds, and all of her toys. Her love for me gave me purpose when I needed to feel relevant, and I will never forget that.


Gabbie had been gone a few years when my family and I moved into our forever home. We all could feel that our family needed another dog to be complete.

While my husband looked online at every dog listed by every animal rescue in a 50-mile radius, I was seeing redheads everywhere. I’d be doing ordinary, everyday stuff when suddenly I’d see Seth Green in my head. Or I’d turn on the TV and Sean White was being interviewed.

I said to my friends, “I have no idea who’s about to come into my life, but I know they are going to have red hair.”

On Father’s Day, my husband got us all in the car, and we headed to a local shelter. We were going to meet a puppy named Tammy that had been rescued with two brothers from the side of a road. When we arrived, the shelter staff took us to a visitation room and they came walking in with the most pitiful dog I ever saw.

She was small and scrawny and shivering. None of us wanted to pet her because her head was all wet and gross. We all looked at each other with a universal look of “uh-uh” and asked if we could see a few other dogs. They said sure; first they’d put Tammy back and then come get us to walk through the kennel.

When we entered the kennel, the first stall on the left had three puppies. In the middle was skinny little Tammy with her two big, plump brothers on either side of her. Each brother had one of Tammy’s ears in their mouths.

Now I could see it. This sweet girl wasn’t pathetic at all. She was stuck living with two brothers who were torturing her and eating her share of the dog food. I couldn’t let her endure that bullying for one more second. I didn’t check with my family for agreement or reinforcement. I simply turned to the staff person and said, “She’s coming home with us right now!”

“She’s coming home with us right now!”

The name Tammy didn’t suit this smart, resilient, soft auburn girl. We considered all the names for redheads: Ginger, Scarlett, Apple, Copper… We finally settled on Rosie.

She is unlike any dog I’ve ever known. The first few weeks she was with us, I used to look her in the eyes and ask, “Who’s in there?” It felt like there were things about me that she just knew.

Rosie is eight now, and she loves ear and belly rubs, playing fetch and family dance parties.

I’m grateful for every day I have to share with her. She’s Zen in a fur coat. She entices me to be calm and mindful. She makes it possible for anyone to love as much as she loves.

So those are the stories of my dogs. I hope you have someone in your life who loves you and inspires you to love others as much as these three have done for me.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…


When the tail wags the dog

If you don’t see the lesson in this one, I hope you at least you get a chuckle out of it. There doesn’t always need to be a lesson. Sometimes the thing we need most in life is just a good laugh.

When I came out of my house this one morning to leave for work, I was greeted in my driveway by two happy, albeit wet, little white dogs. (It had been raining lightly.) These dogs were infamous; they lived nearby and had a reputation for roaming the neighborhood. I said hi to them, and as I opened my car door, one of them jumped in. Seriously, just jumped right in. That’s great.

I checked the tag on its collar and saw the address was one street over from mine. I grabbed the other little dog and put him in the car too, ready for delivery. Before I could even sit down, they were leaving muddy paw prints all over my leather interior. I shut the car door, walked to the back and grabbed a towel from the hatch, walked up to the driver door again, opened it, cleaned off my seat and sat down. In the next 60 seconds that it took me to drive to their house, the wet dogs went from my lap, to the passenger seat and on my purse and laptop bag, to under the steering wheel and everywhere else they didn’t belong.

I found their house and saw it had a For Sale sign out front with a big “Under Contract” sign attached. The house looked pretty stark—not just as if no one was home, but maybe that they had moved out over the weekend. But who would move away and leave these sweet little dogs behind?

But who would move away and leave these sweet little dogs behind?

The driveway

I pulled in the driveway, got out, left the dogs in the car with the engine running and walked up to the front door of the house. No one answered after two loud knocks, so I smashed my face against the window to see if the house looked lived in. It did. They must have left for work or something.

So then I was thinking about whether I should put the dogs in their own backyard or mine. I decided to call the realtor on the For Sale sign with hopes they could get in touch with the owners. I walked back to the car, pulled the driver door handle and… the door was locked. The rear driver-side door was locked. The hatch was locked. The passenger-side rear door was locked, and as I was about to try the passenger-side front door (just in case), I saw a neighbor across the street two doors down.

I hollered to him, “Do you know who lives here? I have their dogs in my car.”

He yelled back, “You’re not supposed to be able to lock the doors like that when the engine is running.”

I replied, “Well, the doors are locked.”

“But that’s not supposed to be able to happen,” he repeated.

“Well it did,” I hollered, “Do you know if the neighbors are home.”

“They were there last night,” was his reply.

I asked again, “But do you know if they work during the day? Do you think someone could be home or might be home soon?”

“They were home last night,” he repeated.

Since this neighbor (a.k.a. Captain Obvious) was not going to provide any helpful information, I yelled, “Thanks. I’m going to walk home and get my other car key.”

As I walked around the block to my house, leaving my car running in a stranger’s driveway with their two wet dogs locked inside and the engine running, all I could think was, “Please, please, please, please, please let my inside garage door be unlocked!”

Thankfully it was. I grabbed the valet key and walked back around the block to my car thinking, “Please, please, please, please, please don’t let the car alarm activate when I turn the valet key in the door while the main key is in the ignition and the engine is running.”

Thankfully it did not. I grabbed both little white dogs and walked with one under each arm to the back gate. One of the dogs was loving this; the other was not. The unhappy one was wiggling madly to get free. I managed to put them both on the ground and swiftly grab each one by its collar, and with that, the unhappy dog began trying to bite me.

I managed to put them both on the ground and swiftly grab each one by its collar, and with that, the unhappy dog began trying to bite me.

The fence

The fence and gate were six feet talk, and the gate latch was near the top. I’m only five feet tall, so I had to reach up to open the gate. I needed one hand free to do that, so I had to get both dog collars in one hand, which I did, but then the little dog’s heads were smushed together. While being bent over holding the two dogs on the ground in one hand, I couldn’t reach the latch. If I ended up lifting them off the ground a few inches by their collars in order to get the gate open, I’m sorry, but it was for their own good.

I got the gate open, shoved the dogs in the yard, latched the fence and then looked around for something to secure the latch. A loose bit of wire on the ground did the trick.

I walked back to the driveway and got in the car, which stank like wet dogs. Dirty little paw prints were everywhere. They had stepped on switches for the seat warmers; they had partially rolled down two windows, and quite obvious in that moment, they had stepped on the door lock button when I had been knocking on their front door.

The call

I called the number on the realtor sign. I was explaining to the women who answered the phone where I was, the unbelievable tale I had experienced, and that she needed to notify the homeowners that their dogs were safely stowed in their backyard. She didn’t quite understand what I was asking her to do, so I began to repeat, “Can you please call the owners and tell them…” I stopped mid-sentence as I saw two little white dogs come running joyfully from around the other side of the house. They ran behind my car and off down the road and never looked back. Adios.

“Umm, well…” I said to the woman on the phone. “If you could just tell the home owners that their dogs are running lose again, that would be great. Thanks.”

“If you could just tell the home owners that their dogs are running lose again, that would be great. Thanks.”

I hung up and backed out of the driveway. I was damp and muddy. My shoes were covered in grass clippings. And I stank like a wet dog. As I drove to work, a strange, tortured laugh bubbled up from my toes, gaining spite and regret as it rose until it spilled over with an earnest outcry of, “What the f*ck was THAT???”

Even if you face a challenge with a compassionate heart and the best intentions, sometimes it can still unravel before your eyes, and you end up right back where you started. That’s life, and you have to face the challenge anyway, again and again. Also, sometimes the people (or animals) who you want to help, don’t want your help, and sometimes you can’t do anything to change that. Regardless, you have to do the right thing. Every time.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…