Written by: "Jen"

Legacies: They’re For the Dogs

RIP Daisy Mae 2012-2014

While we are all so different, there are some things that we inherently share, regardless of location or ideology.  We all look at the same sun and the same moon each day.  We all eat and we all poop.  And, contrary to popular Hollywood movies based on best selling “non-fiction” books, none of us know for sure what is waiting for us after we each take our last breath.  We all speculate based on our individual belief systems.  Many of us are convinced that our understanding of the afterlife is locked-and-loaded.  But, I have yet to meet anyone who was declared dead for a few weeks and came back to life with a selfie full of images of God, angels and dead relatives on his phone.

My dog died two weeks ago, but let me make it clear that she wasn’t just my dog.  She was my best friend, my four-legged child, my confidante, my unconditional love, my biggest fan and my constant companion.  Simply put…She was my joy.  I had a series of appointments in my old town and brought her to the doggie daycare where she loved to play.  After giving me kisses, she ran back to the play area to greet her old friends.  She loved life, loved people, loved her friends and didn’t know when to stop and take a rest.  After getting over-heated, her heart gave out.  I got the call that my 2 year-old Valley Bulldog, Daisy Mae, had died just 4 hours after I dropped her off.  I was 4 blocks away and raced to be by her side, but she was gone.

The first thought that went through my mind was, “Please let there be a heaven because I can’t imagine never seeing my baby girl again.”  I have always been a person of faith, but moments like these make us realize how vulnerable we are to the truth about the afterlife.  We have no control over creating it.  I prayed that she went straight from this world to the Rainbow Bridge where all of the dogs play and wait for their one special owner to eventually arrive for a lovely permanent reunion.  Faith is the only thing that can provide comfort during times like these.  Without it, I know I would feel even emptier than I do now and life would feel purposeless.  So I choose to believe.

Daisy Mae’s death has forced me to see so many things differently.  I have received so much love from family and friends, more than I ever expected.  I have experienced the impact my little baby girl had on others and have been inspired to live a more joyous life.  I have developed such a sense of awareness of the grief that people who have lost a child must experience and am humbled by their courage to get up each day and face life without their loved one.  I have learned that there are animal lovers who “get” how I am feeling and those who probably never will…and I am so proud to be among the animal people.  I have been reminded that with love often comes loss, with birth comes death and then birth again, and with faith comes hope.  Finally, I have learned a great deal about leaving a legacy.  Dogs don’t have money or marketing degrees and they don’t care about having the best LinkedIn profile on the web; however, many of them have more impact (in a much shorter amount of time) than some of the people who do.  Self-promotion does not create a legacy, but what we give to others that inspires them to love more and live more through our example is what legacy is all about.

Someday these tears of grief will become tears of joy,  when I am not coming from a place of loss, but from a place of sheer gratitude for the lessons she taught me and the love she gave me.  Time will help with that.  And for me, paying tribute now to her joyful little spirit in a unique way that will honor her legacy, will be therapeutic and spiritually rewarding.  Daisy Mae’s joy will live on…and I hope to tell her how beautiful she is again at the Rainbow Bridge.


While we are all so different, there are some things that we inherently share, regardless of location or ideology.  We a...

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I love you memo

My dad has always told a lot of jokes…”a million of ‘em” to be exact.  As children, he would often ask us, “When is the best time to say ‘I love you?’”  We would wait for the punch line.  And he would follow with a simple, “Right now.”  He was right.  There is no better time than Right Now to say those three important words.

Those words are meaningful, but our society has also put a lot of pressure on them.  Who said it first?  Did he say it back?  Do you think she meant it?  Does he say it too often?  Who else is she saying it to?  Quit contributing to over-analysis of this beautiful gift of communicating love.  If you feel it, say it…without regret.  Saying it doesn’t mean you have to propose marriage, or that you are obligated to change their bed pans in 40 years or that you are being disloyal to someone else you love.  There is always enough love to go around.  Love is not a lifelong commitment.  It CAN evolve into that if you both choose to nurture the relationship.  But for now, if you feel love for someone, say it.  Love without regret because if for a moment you love someone with all of your heart, you may regret it if you never get another chance to tell them.

Saying “I Love You” doesn’t always have to be romantic.  I often end calls with my family and close friends with “I Love You.”  I think it gets easier to do so as we get older, when we realize that time isn’t eternal, for ourselves and for those we love.  I love how my friends listen, offer to help, make me laugh and share their lives with me.  Why wouldn’t I say it?  And when would I ever grow tired of hearing it?

When I was a child, we had a poster hanging in our laundry room of a cute bunny that said “If you love some bunny, let them go.”  I always thought it was a typo.  Shouldn’t it be, “If you love some bunny, let them KNOW?”  Maybe if you let them know, you would never have to let them go.

Love is beautiful.  Love is free.  We can all give it.  Tell someone special today, RIGHT NOW.

My dad has always told a lot of jokes..."a million of 'em" to be exact.  As children, he would often ask us, "When is th...

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School + May = Field Trips


Wouldn’t it be fun to be a kid again for a day?  Think of how many options you would have when deciding how to spend your afternoon.  Your choice would likely be tied to either an amazing personal experience you would like to have again or something you saw other kids do that you always wanted to do yourself.  Answers to this question vary significantly among adults because children are not born into the same opportunities.

One thing I admire about our public school system (and many others throughout the nation) is that they are making strides to ensure that children have equal opportunities when they are at school by providing free breakfast for all students, free or subsidized lunch for those in need, a standard uniform program and communal school supplies.  There are still areas that can improve, especially in regards to extracurricular programs and individualized transportation, but we have come so far!

A couple of years ago, I chaperoned my son’s 3rd grade field trip to LEGOLAND, which was enthusiastically discussed throughout the whole year leading up to it.  He almost didn’t make it since he made a very noteworthy attempt to rip a tooth out of his mouth that was deeply rooted into position, resulting in an infection.  I told him that we wouldn’t be able to go to the field trip because he was in a lot of pain.  As the concerned parent, I wanted to get it extracted as soon as the office opened.  The negotiations began.  “Can’t you just give me a bunch of medicine and I won’t even complain once,” he begged.  This field trip meant the world to him.  Lucky for him, the field trip gods were on his side because the dentist could not see him until the afternoon.  Off to LEGOLAND we went and he made good on his promises.  The fun of the day erased the pain until we made our way to the extraction chair.

I was pleased to meet the kids in his class about whom he had spoken all year.   Two of the boys I was looking forward to meeting were not on the field trip.  When I inquired, the kids told me that their parents couldn’t afford to send them to LEGOLAND for the day.  I was crushed.  I wish I had known because the other parents in the class could have pulled together the funds to send them.  Wouldn’t it be great if EVERY child could go with their classmates on their annual field trip?  Every child should.

This year, I reached out to my son’s teacher to make sure that all of his classmates could attend Universal Studios and discovered that one student did not have the financial means to go.  The teacher had already reached out to the school’s bookkeeper to see if any funding would be available to pay for this child’s ticket and the school found the funds to send him.  I commend the teacher for jenerously taking the extra time out of her incredibly busy day to look out for the needs of that one student.  That is what makes exceptional teachers exceptional.  My hope is that this boy will look back on his childhood and remember that AWESOME day at the theme park when he got to ride rollercoasters and explore, just like all of the other kids.  I am sending a check to the school to cover his cost and the teacher let the bookkeeper know that the funds she identified can be used to send another child on a class trip.

Experiences are what make memories and those memories help define how we ultimately reflect upon our childhood.  As adults, we have the opportunity to positively impact the experiences for our children, with our children being our community of children.  Let’s communicate with our schools to look out not only for our own, but for other children as well.

Wouldn't it be fun to be a kid again for a day?  Think of how many options you would have when deciding how to spend you...

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GIVING, Old-School Style

Plaid skirts

My parents are both hard workers; the importance of a strong work ethic was instilled in us as small children.  I couldn’t wait to get my first real paycheck…so much so, that I got my first job working after school at my church rectory when I was in the sixth grade.  I attended a K-8 Catholic School in San Francisco’s East Bay.  Adjacent to our bright little fortress of religious solitude lingered a largely intimidating public high school, full of scary older kids who loved to torment us younger ones, easily identified by our plaid.  The campuses were separated by a simple chain link fence.  While our faculty did their best to protect us from interactions, it wasn’t uncommon to see teenagers approach our students during recess to offer them “candy” or say something mean to try to make them cry.

My new job required me to get a work permit, which was available at the High School.  I soon learned that the things you want most in life often require courage.  I mustered mine up, tuned out my surroundings and diligently marched next door.  No high school students were going to get in the way of my newfound adulthood, my entry into the great community of taxpayers and my contribution to the family enterprise.

The job consisted of answering phones, assisting with dinner service to the priests and directing the homeless to shelters as the evenings grew colder.  If the high schoolers were scary, then the homeless were terrifying.  Only responsible girls with thick skin were offered the opportunity to work there.  One would wonder why a church would hire such young girls to work in that part of town into the evenings.  Three reasons: 1. Our parish was rather poor and couldn’t afford more skilled workers.  2. The rectory manager had a child with down syndrome, whom she had to care for after school hours. And, 3. Rumors of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Oakland were beginning to spread, so boys were not offered positions that could allow them to be alone with priests.  Capable female child labor just made the most sense.  And I was grateful.

Since I “held political office” and had sports practice after school, I worked the late shift.  It worked out well because my dad’s office was rather close and he could pick me up on his way home.  Our little administrative team got to know each other very well over the years, transitioning projects and hanging out until the early shift’s ride would arrive.  It had been almost 30 years since I last spoke with any of those girls, but I never forgot them.  We were the tough ones.

Facebook has allowed us all to easily connect with people from our past.   Last year, I was contacted by one of my fellow “secretaries.”  She was moving to Florida because she got a great new opportunity with her employer of the last eight years.  Being from California originally, I was the only human being she would know in the Sunshine State.  She got settled in, set up the new office and, suddenly, their industry took a turn for the worse.  Regardless of the hours she was putting in, her paychecks never came.  She continued to work, keeping the faith that they would make good on their commitments, but it was becoming more and more difficult to keep food on the table for her kids.  She reached out to me for advice and insights into the support network within our state.   Our economy over the last decade has provided us with many examples of how bad things happen to good people.  It can even get the strong girls.

The night I got the call, my heart was heavy.  I got into bed and opened up the April issue of The Oprah Magazine, and began reading “20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself Now!”  Question 5 – What do I really want to do all day? – “Hmmm…maybe I’ll skip that one since I already know the answer is ‘Take a miracle pill that allows me to eat every flavor of Ben & Jerry’s without gaining weight.’”   Needless to say, I continued to read.  In the article, Maureen Taylor, career coach and CEO of SNP Communications (Smart Nice People),  states that to choose the right career, one should “think back to when you were in second grade.  Some psychologists believe it’s around that age – the first period of time many of us can remember – when we become individuals, when we fully grasp the meaning of right and wrong.  It’s also when we tended to gravitate toward what makes us happy.”  She goes on to remind us that we are still the same people.

I began to reflect on some of my amazing elementary school peers, people who expressed a spirit to serve and valued jenerosity at a very young age.  These are kids I admired…kids who pushed me to be better.   I realized that the same things I liked about them then, I still liked about them now.  The article was a reminder that, like me, they are still the same people.  I reached out to two of the boys who also knew my old friend from the rectory and asked for their help.  They both jenerously jumped at the chance to provide assistance and together we sent her $500 for groceries and gas.  I got a call last week.  She got a new job and things are looking up!  No doubt…she is still one of the strong ones.  That hasn’t changed.

Time goes by and even though we don’t always keep in touch, close childhood friends stick together.  Dolly Parton, who released her 42nd album today entitled Blue Smoke, reminds us of the same through her duet with Kenny Rogers entitled “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”  True.  Very true.

My parents are both hard workers; the importance of a strong work ethic was instilled in us as small children.  I couldn...

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ALWAYS! – Derrick Atkinson’s Tribute to Zach Sobiech


This week, I have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in Laura Sobiech’s Fly A Little Higher Blog Tour. Zach’s battle with osteosarcoma was not one he fought alone; rather, it brought his family together as a united front. ‘Family’ does not just consist of mother and fathers, brothers and sisters. Family is comprised of those to whom we connect within our community – our church groups, organizations, social networks and schools (to name a few). From a small town in Minnesota, Zach Sobiech created a global family together through his music. He took the encouragement he received from his parents and close friends to change the world. His faith in God, positive outlook on life and incredible smile brought joy to many of us…and continues to inspire us all to Fly A Little Higher.

When I first learned about this Blog Tour a couple of weeks ago, I reflected on Zach’s story and asked him for guidance through meditation. How could I fly higher? While reflecting on the themes in Laura’s book, I was reminded of a conversation I had last year with my friend, Debbi McCarthy, about a family in Bishopville, South Carolina that overcame tragedy through music. “Up for a road trip?” were the next words out of my mouth and off we went to document this amazing family.

It is Roy and Sally Atkinson’s love and encouragement that has created an instrument, The Washtar, for the purpose of expression that is bettering the lives of those with special needs. It is the amazing warmth and genuine smile of Derrick Atkinson that tugs at the heartstrings when you meet him. Meeting Derrick has changed my life and I hope that in watching this video you can see that, like Zach, he doesn’t let his struggles impact his attitude or his desire to positively influence those around him. He lives his life to the fullest of his abilities, making him someone I admire…another true hero.

Please watch to the very end. I think you will enjoy the after-credit footage that gives you some insights into Derrick’s character and spirit. He just “plain makes me smile.” Looks like the Low Country is rubbin’ off on me!

This week, I have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in Laura Sobiech’s Fly A Little Higher Blog Tour. Zac...

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