I’ve Made Friends With My Skeletons

“…I have in the last year emerged on the other side with a small army of loyal skeletons ready to bask in the light.”

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I’m starting this year with that whole “clean slate” deal for the first time here in 2017.  And I’m able to do so with a little (OK, maybe a lot) of help from my friends.

I have spent a lot of my youth and adult life living a duality.  Working to mirror on the outside what I thought was expected, that which would keep questions from being asked: I was happy, smiling, smart, shy, responsible.  I kept my temper in check.  I was a good example.

All the while, inside I roiled in pain, anger, fear, and darkness.  I was constantly worried the truth would come out, that when it did I would prove to be unlovable.  I lived my life in near panic.  I considered suicide as a teen, became a cutter to deal with the emotions I couldn’t deal with or express.

The idea, and then the reality, of becoming a mom was my saving grace.  Sounds cliche, I know, but it’s true.  It was the one thing I was sure I would do well.  It IS my skill set.  My Trinity makes all that I have been through a lesson for their benefit, something to spare them from.  My silver linings.

As I have slogged through some truly awful, dark, and dangerous times, I have in the last skeleton-familyyear emerged on the other side with a small army of loyal skeletons ready to bask in the light.   They are facts and facets of my life, but they no longer chain me down.  (They do, however, make some people really, really uncomfortable).  The more the light bleaches the rot from them, the more I realize that I would not be who I am without having survived them.  There can be a certain peace found in seeing beauty in that tragedy.

The first to emerge was the the admission that the “perfect couple” that the outside world saw did not, in fact, exist.  I suffered from financial, emotional, and mental subjugation.  I had lost myself in a quest to protect my littles, given up my sense of self and self respect to keep them safe behind closed doors.  Eggshells and fear were the constant companions. Let’s call him Uno.

the-truth-will-set-you-freeSkelly made his way out when I refused to deny being sexually assaulted as a teacher.   I suffer from PTSD from that experience, and it brought back to the forefront issues from past abuses.  I regained a sense of power through counseling and from introducing Skelly to the world.  I was (am) a sexual assault survivor, and I am damn proud of what I have managed to live through.

I think the most frightening one to come through the closet door, the one who had needed the most coaxing, has been Lily.  She has suffered the longest in silence, the one that was the most afraid to come out to the light.  From the moment she listened to “want to see what my mom did last night?” (made cookies? a new hairdo?  danced?) at 8 and then realized that she was mired into a 3 year reign of sexual molestation, followed by 6 more years of daily bullying and torture with “if you don’t do X, I will make sure (your mom, dad, neighbor you idolize, friends) knows what dirty scum you are.  Then who will love you?” It wasn’t until this summer that I was able, with the innocent comment of my youngest to coax me, to bring Lily out, to introduce her to my parents and tell the story.

I can’t express to you the freedom I have felt after flinging that closet door open fully.  And I don’t want to make it sound like it was some easy process, and that you should find it so.  It was agonizing, to be truthful. It has taken years.  And I had the help of counselors, family, and wonderful friends to see me through the  process.  To hold my hand and assure me at each step that I was, indeed, still worthy.  Still loved.  Each hidden truth that escaped, big and small ~ each thing that cracked the facade of who I had built up as that image I thought I had to be, has been terrifying; gut wrenching.  But as I have torn down that outer layer, bit by bit, the person I have discovered, that core of Me, is someone I am proud to be.

Through Lily, Uno, Skelly, and others that now dance in the sunlight, I became the person I am.  Though I would never wish these experiences on others, I learned strength, resiliency, faith, and compassion.  I recognize pain in others and aim to help soothe their suffering.   I have been able to give my pain purpose and can look back and see how it has served to help others already.  And that makes their sunlit romps and dancing all the more enjoyable!

To anyone on a similar journey, May God Be With You, and please know that you are not alone…







Love’s Little Conundrum

I grew up on Disney movies.  I am a sucker for the good triumphing over evil, the underdog pulling through in the end, true love’s first kiss, and that whole Happily Ever After bit. Now that appeals to me, quite a bit.  Throw in a pretty gown and a sparkling tiara and I’m sold on the fairy tale.

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Shockingly, with Disney-esque expectations, love has proved to be quite a conundrum as the reality of the day AFTER Happily Ever After kicks in.

I suppose, to be fair Mr. Disney did have Cinderella work her butt off, Sleeping Beauty did have to battle a jealous fairy, Snow White was dealing with her own issues on jealousy.   Ariel made some pretty ill advised decisions and Jasmine showed quite a temper.  So I probably could have been more prepared if I’d been looking for the cues.

Trouble is, we expect the hard part to be the finding of and falling into love.  That once you have it within your grasp, the easy part begins.

And that really is love’s biggest conundrum; as easy as it is to love someone’s heart and soul, the everyday reality of dealing with them is really, really hard!

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Nothing could have ever really prepared you for that moment when those walls finally fell and let someone truly into your heart, how vulnerable and complete you would feel.   There was no guideline to prepare for the sense of camaraderie when the two of you shared your plans, fears, and desires or the the heartbreak of that first real argument, when that information was used against you in the heat of the moment as cannon fodder.  Not an inkling of what it would be like to watch your partner get sick, or the immense relief of knowing that they would be ok and you played a role in their recovery.   And what about the things that even love can’t fix?

I’ve learned that life, and love, is far more complicated than I ever imagined.  But it’s intricacies offer breathtaking moments, harsh lessons, and above all, joy.  In a world where so many focus on filters, Photoshop, and staged photo ops is it any wonder that we have such unrealistic expectations of something as romanticized as love?  And yet, by placing such grandiose requirements we miss out on the joy of the real connection that we are desperately seeking.


3 kids, 18 days, 3000 Miles, & A Brand New Outlook

“I felt I had to offer [my kids] something better to look back on than what we had just survived…perhaps a good old fashioned road trip would work.”

Entering PA

When I was young, we used to take a week long family vacation every summer to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Ohio.  It was a 9 hour trek, that my brother and I, and sometimes my older sister, would make in the back of a pickup truck.  Crazy visual there, huh?  Wind whipping through our hair… Umm, no.  Pretty posh for us littles at the time ~  A cover for the bed of the truck, a twin mattress with the zoo themed sheet so we could determine territories.  A cooler filled with snacks and a cassette player with The Oak Ridge Boys playing Elvira on repeat

WV Welcome Center

until my mother thought she would go insane.  And then a week of swimming, cornfields, ice cream, and cousins.  I hold very happy memories of those weeks away from home.

Life had dealt me some pretty big blows and I really wanted, to be honest I really NEEDED, to get away and create happy memories with my children.  I felt I had to offer them something better to look back on than what we had just survived. Without a lot of money, it couldn’t be a big Disney-esque treat. But

Giant Cootie, VA

perhaps that good old fashioned road trip would work.

When it came time to plan a family vacation with my three, times had changed.  No more rolling around in the back of the truck playing with stuffed animals and matchbox cars, wrestling and snuggling up to fall asleep on your own bed to travel.  It was uncomfortable booster seats, seat belts and a pretty optimistic plan for a first trip.  From the Southern Adirondacks to Memphis to visit my best friend from elementary school, then home via Charlotte to see my sister and “brother”, Hershey park if the kids were good on the way home.  18 days…

Ripley’s Aquarium, TN

OK, a little background here.  At this point I was separated, just beginning to gain back my footing and starting to recognize bits and pieces of myself in the mirror.  My self image, self worth, and self confidence had been pretty battered and bruised.  As I started to plan the logistics I started to panic.  Could I really do this?  What if something happened along the way?  To me, to the car, to the kids… I knew I needed to do this, but I also knew I needed support.  Who better to call in for help than Grandma???

Mud Island, TN

Almost 3 weeks unfettered access to her grandbabies??  And I promised no Elvira??  She was in!  And so began our “Southern Adventure” in late June of 2010.  We planned to drive no more that 6 hours a day, stopping each day to find something to break up the monotony of the drive.  Every 2 hours to stretch little legs and fill little bellies to prevent meltdowns. Day 1 was the last day of school, we headed to Grandma’s to add her suitcase to the pile and get a good night’s rest before stealing her from

Mud Island, TN

Grampa.  A big celebratory send off of ice cream that night set the tone.

Day 2 was probably the most stressful for me, and it was those first few hours.  As we came closer to the NY/PA border every self doubt and fear came to the forefront ~ what if I really couldn’t do this?  My ex had told me he didn’t have the time to come rescue me when it all went to hell in a handbasket.  Did having Mom

Corinth, MS

along counter that?  Would it be enough?  Was I enough to keep my kids safe?  My heart raced, my chest constricted, my grip on the wheel tightened. Ethel, the GPS we bought specifically for the trip (and the kids felt needed a name), showed that state line creeping ominously closer… and suddenly we were in Pennsylvania.

Wait, what?  We just rolled right on through the line?  No tire blow

Maggie Valley, NC

out?  No engine blowing up?  Miles ticked off and the kids still chattered and sang in the back.  We continued to roll.  I laughed out loud.  My little world had just literally opened its borders!  We had Ethel, Rand McNally, and AAA TripTiks to work from.  We knew we had construction coming up so we stopped for a potty break and a snack.  To this day, crazy as it seems, one of the most memorable things on that trip was the crazy timed relay

Concord, NC

races we ran that second day at that rest area, and the fact that I ran with them.

My son picked up a coupon book for hotels, and suddenly our accommodation worries (the only worry my mother carried across the border) vanished.  Visitor centers at each state line provided us with inspiration for adventures.  Amazing caverns, a float museum, a giant Cootie, and an aquarium helped entertain us on our way to Memphis.  There we walked a scale replica of the Mighty Mississippi at Mud Island and visited the Memphis Zoo with one of my best friends.

Concord, NC

Our goal was to put feet in as many states as possible, so our trip to North Carolina brought us through Corinth, MS (picked because we lived near Corinth, NY), Alabama, and Georgia before heading to Maggie Valley (for obvious reasons!) and then the Charlotte, NC area. We happened upon an amazing Civil War Interpretive Center, playgrounds, a gorgeous rest area with a little nature walk, and tried buttermilk pie on our way.  While visiting my sister, my son celebrated his birthday and we were schooled on NASCAR and

Mooresville, NC

the rodeo, big hits with us all!

Keeping Hershey Park as an “If You Are Good” reward worked beautifully – as we rounded out our 3000 mile trip with stops at Luray Caverns and Natural Bridge to explore the history and beauty of the area, the kids had learned enough to ask wonderful questions of the guides.  And our trip to Hershey was a few days surrounded by chocolate nirvana as we rested up to trek home.

Concord, NC

Another night at Grandma’s to return her to Grampa and fill his ears with all our adventures, and then three tired lil’ monkeys headed back to the Southern Adirondacks filled with memories that 6 year later still pop up randomly in conversation.

For me, this trip was cathartic.  Something inside me broke free the more miles I put between myself and that NY border.  With every turn of the wheel, I was proving that I was capable of

Natural Bridge, VA

planning and implementing a safe trip.  That I was able to provide for my littles, keep them safe and sound, but most importantly I was giving them some wonderful memories that, no matter what came next, no one could steal.  WE would always have this adventure.

This trip did more than give the 5 of us great memories, it forged a bond between us through these shared experiences.  We have inside jokes that we have explained to others, but no one really “gets” exactly, like we do.  We problem solved together, the 5 of us working to formulate a plan for the day, to pick out a landing zone for the evening, deciding if the pool or free breakfast was

Hershey, PA

more important that night as we searched.  We supported each other as a team, even if we were tired, hungry, and cranky.  We made it, all 18 days, all 3000 miles, together!

Since that trip I have happily added states and adventures to my list.  I am at 275,000+ miles now as the kids and I continue our adventures, keeping traditions that began on our “Southern Adventure”.  This one trip changed my whole outlook on who I was and what I was capable of.  It was truly a blessing!

Every day can bring us a new adventure, an opportunity to reframe how we look at ourselves, our circumstance, our world.  I wish for you many happy memories on your journeys!! 🙂

Hot Cocoa Therapy

When a cup of hot cocoa and a random act of kindness work together to warm your heart…

I have mentioned in previous posts that depression an I have a rocky relationship, its like a sneaky shadow ninja that lurks around the periphery of my little world.  Once it can find some small crack to bleed through, it latches on to dim not just the sun, but the moon and stars too.  I’ve gotten better at sensing the infiltration, repairing the cracks, and lighting candles to combat the darkness.  Just like all of us, I’m a work in progress.

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Holidays can be particularly difficult.  Last Christmas season I had to talk to my children about how it was going to be a pretty lean time, and that under the tree wouldn’t look all that impressive.  My kids are wonderful, it didn’t matter to them, they were just excited that we would be able to wake up together and have a special breakfast.  Their total acceptance and support of me was both one of my proudest parenting moments and heart shattering.  And I felt the crack.  And it was a big one.  Damn ninja didn’t even have to sneak in this time.

The kids left for their biweekly long weekend with their dad, leaving me with great big hugs and kisses and I shut down for 4 of the next 5 days.  I became a virtual recluse, except for taking out Chassis for his daily walks, I isolated myself.  Shades closed, curtains drawn. Only went off the property to get groceries.  I just couldn’t handle the “Christmas Spirit” with its bows, pretty papers, and songs feeling like I was failing at it all.

By Sunday I knew I had to readjust, had to  mine for that silver lining.  I wasn’t really sure

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of the plan, but I knew I needed to get out of my house and out of my head for a bit.  So I decided I would head down to Saratoga Springs and walk the shops, if nothing else Broadway is a beautiful walk and I could treat myself to a hot cocoa with the $20 I had in my pocket.

It felt good to be outside in the fresh air.  It actually felt good to be surrounded by people and the entire vibe was happy, and I drank it in.  As I walked I noticed a young man leaning against the kitchen exhaust fan of one of the popular restaurants.  I smiled at him, thinking as the wind blew, what a brilliant place to stand to warm up.  I continued my meandering and window shopping, every step chasing that nasty little ninja from the recesses of my mind.  I stopped to warm up with a hot cocoa after finding a perfect little ornament for my mom.  I had found that acceptance of the situation, I had a plan, I found my center again.  I thought that was my silver lining.  But the Universe presented me with a far greater gift…

As I made my way back to the car, I noticed the same young man standing in the same spot.  Now, my mama bear hackles were raised.  Why was this kid still there?  It was cold, windy.  And he had to be cold, which made me cold.  As I crossed the street, I made a beeline for him.  When I started to speak, he looked up in alarm, until he heard the question.  “Hey there, you look pretty cold out here.  How about we go find a spot to go get a hot cocoa and warm up?”  I think it took him a full 30 seconds to reply, he kind of looked at me like I had 3 heads.  When I offered up the place I had just been, he actually asked if it was OK to go somewhere closer.  His eyes sparkled like my kids do when they beg for a stop at Krispy Kreme on our travels as he described how this place had these flavor shots you could add that make the absolute best tasting drink.  “If its OK, could I please get that? Its OK if you say no, they are just so good”.

The sparkle and smile transformed his face, that scruffy, slightly dirty, sad man returned to the boy he really was, probably 19 or 20.  So excited about a simple treat!  This young man had no idea what a gift he’d just given me, that genuine joy not only beat that nasty little ninja but sealed the crack!  Now to enjoy this. I smiled, weaved my arm into his as we crossed the street and said “Order anything you want, I have it covered!”

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The looks we got as we entered the cafe arm in arm were priceless.  My new friend offered to pull away, but I held steady.  His head dropped as we went to place our order and everyone stared.  The first question was “Eat in or To Go?” and I answered eat in *collective gasp* His head pops up, he looks me in the eye and smiles.  The cashier gives me a smile.  Then the cashier asked for the order.  “My friend is cold and thirsty, but he just loves your cocoa here.  Go ahead and tell them EXACTLY how you want it sweets.  And make sure you grab him a pastry, too (my new friend starts to protest) If he won’t choose one himself, pick the most expensive.”

“This is too much” my new friend whispers.  “Wish I could do more” I whisper back.  He picks out a pastry, gets his cocoa just like he wanted.  Watching him take that first sip was beautiful, he was in bliss.  I get him to a table, give him a hug and whisper God Bless.

I have looked for him on return visits.  Have not seen him around, but have heard that he is doing ok still.  I spent less that $5 on his snack, but what he gave me back that day is more than he will ever know.  The opportunity to offer compassion, dignity, recognition made ME feel whole and fulfilled, and all I really did for him was fill his belly and give him a legitimate reason to be inside and get warm.  His bliss over that hot cocoa is one of the candles I keep lit to combat the darkness, and I am forever grateful he allowed me to buy him a cup!

I think sometimes we forget that in helping others, we help ourselves.  We are a species meant to be connected, and today as you take the time to finish reading this, know that I am sending you a healing thought, a big smile, and a hug!  Blessings to you all, friends! 🙂


Being Different

We are all born with our little quirks, some are learned. Doesn’t matter how we got them, it’s the total sum of them all that makes us all unique.

I’ve heard so many times in my life that I dance to the beat of my own drum. Until later in life, I could never understand what that really meant.

There aren’t many other woman out there like me, and none are exactly the same.

I’m a farm girl. Stubborn, determined, take no shit from anyone kind of girl. That’s the bare bones of how I am. I’ll bet you all just got a mental image of who you think I am and how I dress. You’d be very wrong.

I’m a dedicated and life long dirt track racing fan. Tough, full of grit and not afraid to get greasy. That’s the second part of who I am. Did your mental picture of who I am just change?

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I’ll throw a few more kinks in there. 

I’m a marketing professional. Data and analytics driven. Computer savvy and a research queen. A geek for numbers, data and demographics. A geek for design software and new artistic design of logos and websites.

I’m a photographer that loves to capture moments of peace and tiny creatures like butterflies. I love capturing those tiny moments of awe and wonder.

Now what kind of image you have?

Most days you’ll find me in stained up blue jeans and t-shirts working around the farm but I can also pull off the power suit and super high heels that will rock any straight male in their shoes.

It’s all parts I’ve played to be completely and total me. I’ve met the homeless man on the street. I’ve flyfished in hip waders and a dress. I’ve sat in meetings with powerful figures and I’m at home with it all.

What makes me unique is my adaptability. I never forgot that we are all each individual people, no matter how much money or lack there of. We all want the same thing. It’s called RESPECT.

I have other things that make me unique too. A mind that spins a million miles a minute that helps with problem solving and building marketing campaigns. A sense of humor that’s as good as most comedians and I’m sure not afraid to make fun of myself either.

We all have those quirks about what we do and how we do it. What makes us fully unique is embracing all of them as a whole and just being who we are meant to be.

If we were all the same, life would be so boring! Celebrate the difference. Even if it’s only with yourself, within yourself. Dance to the music of your own drum like no one is watching!

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All the pieces of my life do build into the complex puzzle of who I am today.

For me, my life has been a cycle of many different journeys. Basically, I can snap my life pictures into three bundles.

When I was young until around the time I turned 18, I lived my life in fear and resentment. Abused on several different levels, most of that time was spent as a shy person who didn’t seek to make new friends and just went by day to day. Wondering which day would hopefully be my last.

In 1995, a bad car accident landed me in the hospital with 18 hours worth of reconstructive surgery on my face. I had smashed my face against the steering wheel and dash. I had fallen asleep at the wheel, gone into the ditch and flipped over a driveway.

After feeling alone most of my young life, I began to realize the impact I had on those around me. As my room started filling with flowers, plants, balloons and cards, I began to see that maybe my family wasn’t the rude assholes standing in corners whispering how I was ruined and disfigured now.

Those 10 days in the hospital changed my life dramatically. The following days and weeks did too. As my family left me alone in a wheelchair, unable to get down the hall to use the bathroom or reach the top of my stove to cook myself a meal, I changed. I became determined to ask for help when I needed it. A new and foreign concept to me at the time.

Later in life, at 32 years old, my life took another turn. Now faced with the loss of a major chunk of my family (their choosing) and wondering where I went wrong, I started counseling for the first time. This is where I learned so much and I’m so grateful for the guidance I was given.

Thinking I was somehow flawed, I learned about narcissistic tendencies. I learned about mental, verbal and emotional abuse. I learned that I didn’t even know my own likes and dislikes.

My life has been filled with trying new things. I had focused most of my life trying to find the place I fit in, always with someone else rule book. I always liked my jobs but I never really had that excitement to get out of bed every morning.

I’ve worked all over the place in many different career paths. I’ve been a retail associate, a housekeeper at a hotel, a front desk clerk, a fly fishing instructor, newsprint advertising, a marketing rep, a car salesman, a used car buyer, a painter and I was still lost!

My counselor convinced me to go buy a little $30 point and shoot camera. I armed myself with a 3.1mp Kodak EasyShare camera. My mission was simple. I was to photograph anything and everything that interested me.

After the first couple of days, I found myself seeking out things that sparked my interest. I discovered my love of the countryside panaromas, barns, fields of flowers, sunrises and sunsets, and livestock. As time went on, I started feeling the pull of all this “stuff”.

As this progressed, I learned I loved calves and cows. The photos were plentiful. I would go visit people with dairy cows and horses. I would visit beef farms. Until one fateful day, I had the chance to try something very new.

I was given a calf. A calf all my own to raise. I had an area I could house and raise it. I got out of bed with excitement. I bottle fed, brushed and halter trained that little guy. I feel in LOVE!


My life is a culmination of trying new things. A new counselor led me to a camera and now I have a side career as an agricultural photographer. My love of motor sports has translated into photographing truck and tractor pulls, and sometimes you’ll find me at a race track photographing race cars.

My love of cattle and farms has lead me to building a farm from the ground up. From those fateful days of one lone steer to 42 head of cattle, a small poultry flock and now pigs.

That fateful counselor led me into a journey of self discovery. The discovery that I am and always will be a FARM GIRL.

All of those experiences from my past still play into what I do today. I market my farm and my photography work. I know how to retail my work. I know how to pleasantly answer phones and book farm visitors. I know what paints and stains are good for farm projects. I know how to shop for used goods from feeders to pickups.

Every new experience has given me new friends. I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience. It’s created a career in passionate about.

Don’t ever be afraid to step into the unknown, you never know what key it may hold to unlock another experience!

Accepted Into The Herd

“…to have an animal that you never have given more than a second thought to, to actually look at you and see YOU with a total acceptance.”

It’s those big soulful eyes that draw you in.

Big puddles of chocolate framed in long fringed lashes, they seem to look directly into your soul.

To acknowledge you.

Funny how it takes you aback, to have an animal that you never have given more than a second thought to, to actually look at you and see YOU with a total acceptance.

Henry and I, Spring 2016

Until I met Doreen, I would not have thought that cattle could be so calming.  To sit and watch the calves play, to see them interact with their mamas, to hear them bellow to each other over the hills brings a sense of peace, like the worries of the world sort of melt away.

And then I met Henry.  I came to the farm in a tither, my world tilted on its axis.  Henry is a calf from this spring, growing quickly.   As we wandered out to meet the day’s two newest additions, Henry wandered up to snuggle up to my hip.  He was insistent on having his forehead and horns scratched, and if I stopped he would rub his head and horns along my hip until I would scratch his head and neck again.

Henry stayed until I was giggling, forgetting my terrible day and what had brought my blood pressure so high.   As Henry accepted me, soon the other cattle began to come investigate the newcomer.  Mamas and babies came over to see who Henry had accepted into the herd.  Noses poked in, scratches delivered, and worries dissolved.

Henry isn’t my first experience with finding my center with the help of an animal.  In fact,


As I write this my dog, Chassis, is snuggled tight against my hip.  Chas is a rescue dog, although to be honest, I am not sure who rescued who. He is our “little man”, baby number four in the house.  He is a goofball,  loves tug of war,any toy with a squeaker, bones, running with the kids, and is a blanket hog. He has an innate ability to sense an oncoming panic attack and will climb into my lap and lick my left wrist, insisting on being loved up.  It doesn’t always stop them, but the distraction early on can help it from becoming what I call an “Episode”, the kind that take days to recover from.  While they still happen, having this curious, silly, totally devoted snuggle buddy has reduced the frequency and intensity if he is close by.

There are therapy animals that visit hospitals and nursing homes.  Time spent petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure.  Some courts are now even allowing therapy dogs to sit with children as they testify.  There are various programs where horses are used for therapy, and a whole array of training for service animals to increase quality of life.

The best part is that these connections can be found everywhere, in fleeting moments, even if you don’t own an animal. Its the squirrel who stops it’s scurrying to look you in the eye, the crow in the field that seems insistent on telling you it’s story, the elephant at the zoo who reaches through to ruffle your hair, the ducks on the pond who swim your way to investigate, the whale in the aquarium that decides you are the playmate of choice.

I think the draw to these connections is that our animal companions see us as we really are, behind the mask.  They can see the parts we try to hide, the nervous, needy, sometimes angry parts and they accept us as is.  That total acceptance is a balm to the soul and brings us a sense of peace and happiness.