All Dogs Go To Heaven…Especially This One. Remembering Rudy The Wonder Dog

August 28th, 2018 | no comments

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.
~Robert Louis Stevenson~

Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.

~Agnes Sligh Turnbull~

Yesterday we lost a family member, a writing partner, a teacher and a loyal friend.  Rudy the Wonder Dog is no longer in pain, and for that we are thankful. But as you know, the ache we feel in our hearts can only lessen with the passage of time.

When I was crossing the border into the United States with Rudy, I was asked to take him out of his kennel for inspection and to review his immigration papers.   He was a young and very boisterous dog at the time, and stupidly, I had put his leash into my checked bag. Having no leash, I struggled to control him, unsuccessfully.  With my hand on his collar, he literally took me off my feet onto my ass and dragged me across the border. He dragged me, kicking and screaming into the next chapter of my life.  

Rudy was like that.  He would, without words, tell you not to be afraid of change, and he just gave you this feeling of comfort and safety. 

On the morning of July 5, 2009, as divers searched for my son Stephen, Rudy sat with me on the shoreline, scratching at the sand, and crying, almost as if he knew where to find him, wanting to jump in that water and bring him home.

When Stephen’s passed, for weeks after, I would find Rudy lying outside Stephen’s bedroom door, crying. Somedays, I would lie on the floor next to him.  He grieved just as intensely as we did. 

And then he moved to my office, to lie on top of my feet for the next few months as I grieved and wrote Gratitude in Grief. We wrote that book together.  And, as only a dog can do, he reminded me of God’s unconditional love.  Even on the darkest of days when my vision was clouded by grief and I struggled to stay tethered to life, he never let me forget that love was all around me.

He has been my “one little thing” every day and I am so incredibly thankful for the time that I had with him.

I know that some people will say he was just “a dog.”  But he was so much more than that.  And for the rest of my days, I will continue to try to be the person that he thought I was.  

With any loss, it is only fitting to have an obituary. Rudy and I wrote this together, our final project.  I will miss his warm fur on my feet. 

Passed away peacefully on August 27, 2018, surrounded by the family who loved him, Rudy the Wonder Dog, the most beautiful Chocolate Lab, aged 14 years.

Rudy lived a full life, and was a teacher of unconditional love to all who crossed his path.  Born in Canada, Rudy later settled in Charlotte, North Carolina where he quickly acclimated to the warm sun, and backyard friends.

As a pup, Rudy was fond of galloping from one place to another and sliding to a complete stop, slobbering excessively on those he loved, and dragging his butt across the carpet to relieve an itch. (sometimes leaving an unfortunate mark on the carpet) 

A lover of pizza, he once completely inhaled an entire pie that was cooling on the kitchen island. He also ate a complete tub of Costco sized margarine that caused his poop to shoot like a rocket from his behind for days and days.  In general, Rudy’s behind provided a daily adventure for the olfactory senses, and he specialized in the silent but deadly variation of emissions that sounded like your bike tire has sprung a slow leak. 

But he more than made up for any food mishaps with the love he showered on his family and friends.  An old soul, you could contemplate the mysteries of life by simply looking into his big brown eyes and feel warmth in a cold world when he cuddled with you or sat on your feet on a chilly winter’s night. He was always happy to see you, even when you probably didn’t deserve the accolades he gave to you so freely.  He just loved you without condition, showing us how we should love each other.

Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us. And make our lives a little brighter. And they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.
~Dan Gemeinhart~

Although technically a water dog, Rudy preferred to be carried in the water by his father Brady, especially when swimming in the ocean.  While at the beach he carried his own leash, obliging the “all dogs must be on a leash” rule without feeling constrained from mingling with fellow beachgoers, especially the Golden Lab from the summer of 2014.  

Predeceased by his big brother Stephen, he leaves to mourn his loss, mother Kelly, father Brady and brother and best friend Brendan (he had a special and unique wag of his tail when he saw Brendan that communicated so much joy and love that was for Brendan only) We believe that Stephen has now greeted Rudy with joy, and Rudy is once again galloping across a field without any pain…both probably running towards an “All You Can Eat” pizza buffet.  

Rudy was the co-author of two books, Gratitude in Grief and Just One Little Thing.  Sitting at and on the feet of his assistant/typist Kelly, he shared the benefits of looking for gratitude while grieving his precious brother.  Rudy was a master teacher of gratitude and its ability to anchor you to the present moment and shared the lessons he learned from Stephen’s passing with dogs and humans near and far.  His co-author and mother believed that he was one of God’s messengers.

He was a beautiful and gentle soul who will be sorely missed.  Rudy’s final wish was that we humans could understand this simple truth. God gave us dogs so that we would have in-house instruction on how to give love without condition.  His final hope was that we would continue to strive to love like a dog.

Rudy has been cremated and his ashes will be spread on his favorite beach.




God’s Valentine

February 13th, 2018 | no comments

Love is a consistent passion to give, not a meek persistent hope to receive. The only demand of life is the privilege to love all.  

~ Swami Chinmayananda ~

What if this arrived in the mail today?
My Dearest (Insert Your Name Here),
Happy Valentine’s. I have to say, I adore this day. It is all about love, hugs, kisses, and chocolate. The history books will tell you the story of the Saint, and it is a remarkable tale. But I’m really happy to see how this day has evolved with the sole purpose of expressing love for one another. I do wish it was more universal sometimes. I don’t like to see anyone left out of the lovefest. Remember Valentine’s Day back in the third grade? When your Mom would make you fill out those Valentines for every single person in your class, dropping them in their decorated paper bag taped to the side of their desk? And you asked her why you had to give Billy one because he picked his nose and flicked it at you in math class and then laughed with the other boys as you struggled to get “it” out of your hair? And she told you that everyone deserved a valentine, and it did not matter how he behaved, it was all about how you shared the best part of yourself, regardless. Yeah, your mother had it figured out. She and I are on the same page. Everyone is deserving of love, even if their current behavior does not align with what you know to be the truth.
So this year, I thought I would get into the act. I feel sometimes that no matter how hard I try, some don’t notice the love I place before them every day. I create the most beautiful sunshine or flowers. I bring you together with people who have the potential to change the course of your life, to inspire you, to comfort you. I send you messages in your dreams, or on the wings of a butterfly. But still, you sometimes don’t see or feel My love. So, perhaps a more overt approach would work. I’ve been cutting out paper hearts for days now. And for you, I think I’ve crafted the right words.
On this Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that you are loved. Like no other. The love is unconditional. It does not matter that you screwed up ten years ago or ten minutes ago. I still love you. It does not matter that you don’t look like the airbrushed image within the pages of that magazine you read while waiting in the airport. I still love you and see perfection in you each time I look into your eyes. It does not matter if you feel like a failure or feel like life just did not pan out like you thought it would. I still love you, and I know that life is taking you to the exact place you need to be. It does not matter if you have cursed me for years now; even if you are angry with me and blame me for the struggles and pain in your life. I still love you and understand why you might be confused or think that I imposed this suffering on you. I did not, but I am here to help you through it. It doesn’t matter what other people say to you about Me, and tell you that you are not made of the right stuff to be accepted by Me. I made you, and them, in MY image, and I accept every single individual part of you. Your color, your belief system, your sexual orientation, your zits, the darkest parts of you and your biggest mistakes. I accept all of it. And I love you just the same. When you look in the mirror, you see all those things that make you imperfect. I see the opposite. I see beyond the fear and the assumptions, I see the love. Even if you don’t. I even accept you when you are close-minded, or sometimes make others feel they will not be loved by Me because they are different from you. I still love you, just as I love them. There is room for everyone, and I see that place within your heart that knows this to be true.
I want you to know I happen to think you are perfect and one of My greatest masterpieces. And because I am the artist, I can see that you have only begun to discover just how great you are. You’re just getting started. Don’t let the minutia of life weigh you down, there is much more on your to-do list. There are a lot of people waiting to be loved. Be happy.
You can be happy.
I want you to know that I love you more than all the leaves on all the trees, all the sand on all the beaches, every individual cell in your body and the bodies of every other person on the planet. Start with that love, and build on it. Pass it on, cultivate it in your daily actions and thoughts, and all your other concerns will take care of themselves. It’s just that simple.
So, stand a little taller. Strut with confidence. Wear your heart on your sleeve, and tell the world, “I am God’s valentine.”
One last thing, for any good relationship to work, you need open and honest communication. So drop me a line sometime. I’m listening, honest. In the meantime, get out there and start spreading some love.
Love ya mean it,

Love to the Alabama girls who are 14, but could pass for 20 and a prayer for those who dismiss them.

December 11th, 2017 | no comments


I just can’t take it anymore.  On several occasions over the past few months, I’ve asked my husband, “is this really happening?”

It seems that we have found ourselves, much like the cast of Stranger Things, threatened by the Upside-Down world.

I don’t know how else to describe it, and I’m sure I’m not alone. The definitions of good and bad are shifting before our very eyes, and never before has it been so obvious that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I have pondered on how I could possibly affect change, how I could productively add my voice to the multitudes that are already screaming so loud that no one can hear.  And shamefully, many times I have chosen to simply look away for a bit, to let someone else handle it because the problems seem too much to bear and I needed just a short reprieve.

But I keep coming back because sometimes, you need to speak up.  Sometimes you just have to say something, anything to try and start a conversation that might heal.

I’m angry about things. I am.  But I know that the world has plenty of anger right now.  And anger isn’t solving anything.  So, I choose to talk person to person, to lower my voice and elevate the conversation.

Below is an email I wrote to Pastor Earl Wise on November 22, 2017. I read an article about the Alabama election in the Boston Globe titled, Why evangelicals are again backing a Republican despite allegations of sexual misconduct by Astead W. Herndon.

Pastor Wise is quoted in the article and his words caused such an eruption of emotion in me, I had to write to him.  I was not writing to talk about votes or partisanship, although I certainly have my opinions on that.  Rather, I was writing because as a pastor, he is a representative of God, and those young girls he so unartfully spoke of are God’s children too.

I tracked down his contact information, sent an initial email to confirm it was him, to which he responded, “They have taken what they wanted and made a narrative to suit themselves.  I still believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and there are many things about this scenario that are so very questionable.”

I sent my message and then waited for a response, feeling I had communicated in a respectful way that warranted some sort of acknowledgment. I waited until today, but no response.

So, I’ve decided to share it with you, my readers.  We can’t stop talking to each other, even when the other person does not or cannot respond.  We can’t be afraid to speak our truth, and we must be respectful of the fact that our truth may not be the same as someone else’s.  And that’s not easy.

But if this is going to get better, we’re going to have to listen and try to understand people’s experiences and motivations behind their beliefs.  Even if those beliefs make us sick.

Person to person, we can figure this out. Pastor Wise, I’m still praying for you and for anyone else who may be using their position in a way that alienates ANY of God’s family.

And finally, I am reaching out to all those girls who find themselves in a situation they are too young to navigate, who feel like they have no voice or nowhere to turn. You are not alone.  I and millions of women like me are here.

And, no matter what the politics dictate tomorrow or months or years from now…. God loves you.


Dear Pastor Wise,

I wanted to write to you after reading your comments in the Boston Globe about the accusations made against Roy Moore.  I reach out to you in the hopes of providing feedback that does not start an argument, but rather promotes reflection.

I prayed about reaching out to you before I did, wanting to only put things out that promote love and unity.  You see, I’ve been trying to put that good out into the world since my son died in 2009.  It was at that time I truly connected with God, forming a relationship that continues to guide me in thought and deed to this day.  I was raised as a Catholic, but it wasn’t until I lost my child, that I opened my heart to the love only God can give and allowed that love to guide me through the darkness.

Specifically, I wanted to respond to this quote:

I don’t know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they’re getting a healthy sum,” pastor Earl Wise told the Boston Globe. “How these gals came up with this, I don’t know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line.”

“Plus,” Wise added, “there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20.”

Pastor Wise, a 14-year-old girl is a child.  I was a 14-year-old child who developed early, I was one of the first girls in my class to wear a bra, and remember the comments I endured, as well as the tears I shed in the girl’s bathroom at my elementary school.   I was a child who was noticed by older males much earlier than I was emotionally mature enough to navigate.  As the hashtag goes, #MeToo.

From a growth and development perspective, my body may have looked to be close to adulthood, but my brain was far from mature.  Did you know that emerging science about brain development suggests that most people don’t reach full maturity until age 25?  So, as much as I may have looked the part, I was not ready to assume the responsibilities or navigate the complex decisions that an adult does independently.

The government did not think I was mature enough to vote in an election or operate a motor vehicle.  I was still a child.

So, given my history, your words impacted me and brought up feelings that I had suppressed for many years. I was one of those girls who looked older than my chronological age, but I was still a child.  And as a child, relied on the good and moral judgment of adults to care for me as I grew into adulthood.

You indicated that you believe that people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and I agree with that.  So, if that is the case with Mr. Moore, the same courtesy should be offered to the women who have come forward.  Your words not only vilify the children of whom you speak, they just do not align with the vocation you have chosen for your life’s work.

Pastor Wise, I’ve addressed you in my correspondence with your professional title to both remind myself and you that your position is as a representative of God.

And if there is one thing that I know to be true, it is this.  God’s love is unchanging.  The winds of change can sway the agendas of political parties and governments, but God is the keel that steadies us through life’s journey.

James 1:17 says, with Him “there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

I believe that to be true.  So, no matter the season, the political fight of the day, the losses we endure in our lives, the mistakes we make, God is there. In a world filled with uncertainty and turmoil, it is a constant we can rely on.

God has been the same since the beginning.  And that means God’s love is the same unchanging constant no matter who is in the White House or who holds power in the Senate.  And if that is true, then the message that comes from God’s representative should be unchanging as well, and not be modified because of political agenda or partisanship.  The message that you as a pastor have been entrusted to share is so much bigger than any election.

I know you know this, which is why I was saddened to see you use your platform as a representative of God to spread a message that is not at all aligned with God’s unchanging message of love.  Is this truly part of the promise you made to God?

When I was a confused young teen, my faith played a huge part in shaping my life and navigating the hardships that we all face.  And that’s why I wanted to write to you.   If a 14-year-old young girl in your church found herself being pursued by an adult male and came to you for counsel, how would you respond? I want to believe that you would do the right thing.  I do.  But my concern is, perhaps that girl will not reach out to you now.  Perhaps she read your comments and no longer sees you as the representative she could turn to in times of trouble. Perhaps she thinks that she can’t seek counsel because she could “pass for 20”  so she shouldn’t really complain.

In your earlier response, you said: “They have taken what they wanted and made a narrative to suit themselves.”  I have to say, I look around this world and I see so much of that these days. People interpret politics, behavior, religion in a way that suits their agenda, and they run with it. And with that interpretation, they separate themselves from their neighbors, life becomes about us and them, and nothing gets solved.  We lose sight of what truly matters. That’s why I wanted to write to you.

God’s loving message is sacred. It is unchanging.  And because of that, we must protect it from being used to feed a narrative or agenda.  Our faith must be the constant that every person can turn to in good times and bad.

Again, I want to thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. It is my hope that we can be two people who, through respectful dialogue, can play a part in healing our country.   I have prayed for you, and I will continue to do so.

I am sending you and your family warm wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving surrounded by the people you love.

Kelly Buckley



The Dangerous Game of Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda…

September 17th, 2017 | no comments

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.

~Fulton Oursler~

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

~Alexander Graham Bell~

It’s a two quote kind of day.

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

If I can be completely honest, those three fabricated words drive me nuts. Three words that actually sum up what is wrong with the world these days. We keep looking back hoping to fix what’s in front of us. Shortly after Stephen died, a person said those words to me. This person said, “I know you must be playing the woulda, coulda, shoulda game right now.”

Yes, it is true, someone actually said that.

My reply? “No, actually I am not. Even though I wish things could be different, I would not change the way I loved my son, nor would I expect him to have loved me any differently than he so beautifully did. If something happened to someone you love tomorrow, I hope you could say the same thing.”

Yes, I did have “that” tone when I said it.  And my left eyebrow may or may not have been elevated.

Was I a perfect parent? No. Was he a perfect child? I think so, but I suppose I may be slightly biased. But woulda, coulda, shoulda? Really? I was absolutely stunned that someone would say this to a mother who was grieving the recent loss of her child. Speechless, and let’s face it. That does not happen to me very often.

This statement, early in my grief, shocked me. I just didn’t see it coming. The person did not see the error in saying it. It was almost as if it was a given for her, a natural process in her own life to look back over her shoulder and “play the game”, revisiting your actions and the actions of others with a focus on regret, blame, and shame. Looking to the past in the hopes that reflection can somehow change the reality that you are facing in the present.

But we all know you can’t erase or change the past. So why do we spend so much time trying to do just that?

It never works. It can’t. Looking back does one thing. It keeps you stuck. You cannot move forward as long as you are trying to affect change on the unchangeable. And how far do you plan on going back? To your most recent mistake? How about college? Hell, if we are playing the game, why not go back to that unfortunate incident in the third grade? If this game really worked, we would all spend our todays fixing our yesterdays.

Now, that is not to say that you can never look back and reflect on your life lessons in an attempt to improve yourself for the days and years ahead. That is a good thing. It is also not to say that you will never make any mistakes. No matter how great you live, you will always be imperfect by design. I am cringing right now thinking about some of my own “cringe-worthy” moments on my journey to now.

You also can’t change the past for someone else. Many times, when we hurt, we look to the past, and say, “If she didn’t do that to me, I could be happy.”

Okay, but she did. And unless you are Marty McFly with a DeLorean and a mad scientist for a friend, you can’t go back and change it. So what now?

So, today:

    • Wipe the slate clean.
    • Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Everyone else does.
    • Make peace with the fact that no relationship will ever have perfect closure. Whether it is death, divorce, a messy break-up, or firing. It will never be the perfect script you write after the fact. And that’s okay. That’s how you learn.
    • Know that you only ever have the power to improve upon the present.
    • Distance yourself from any toxic emotional vampires who tell you that you should play the game of woulda, coulda, shoulda.
    • Promise yourself you are done playing that game. No more. Refocus yourself on the now. It will take work at first, but keep trying. It will happen.
    • Imagine what your loved one would say to you. For me, I think about that chat with Stephen. I think he tells me daily to take all the love I have for him in my heart and give it away to those who need it.


Wipe the slate clean. You deserve to be happy.

Have a clean chalkboard kind of day,


Tulips and Steaming Dog Crap

April 3rd, 2017 | no comments



Tulip. Beautiful Bouquet Of Tulips. Colorful Tulips.People who look through keyholes are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped.

~Author Unknown~


The tulips in my back yard have started to pop up. The tulips are a sign of life from the cold ground, a good sign that spring will indeed come this year, despite the cold temperatures leading up to this moment.

I look at the tulips and think a little, on how they represent life, and the human spirit in so many ways. Over the past eight months, I’ve experienced the winter of my life. And much like the bulbs beneath the ground, my quiet and painful winter is beginning to subside, and I am starting to feel ready for the sunshine on my face again.

I feel mighty proud as I reflect and look at the greenery shooting from the ground. Boy, I am deep, and wise.

And then I see it.

In the corner of my eye, as I gaze on the tulips, I see rising steam. At first, I am confused, knowing that the dryer vent is on the other side of the house. But, on closer inspection, I see it. Steaming on the ground, it is Rudy’s own creation, left strategically in front of my window, so I may watch the steam billow up into the morning sky.

Gee, thanks Rudy.

I laugh, as I look at the two focal points from this different perspective. And then I realize. Rudy unknowingly completed the picture. Did I mention he is a Wonder Dog?

Life is like the tulip for me, new life emerging, slowly and tentatively, not knowing what will happen when you break through to the other side. My life and the tulip endure, even though we may only show our beauty and bravery with the right season, and retract when it gets too cold and unbearable. Life and the tulip are meant to be lived, even in the harshest of circumstances. I think about the tulip bulb, beneath the ground, living life within a contained shell that would ensure its survival, and it sounds like how I have lived since Stephen’s death. Protecting my broken heart, living in my shell for months. But as with the tulip, I knew, in my broken heart, that I would find a way to blossom once again.

Truly, real life is more like the complete picture I see out my window, with Rudy’s oh so generous addition to the canvas.

You can reemerge from the winter of your life, just as the tulip. But, no matter what you’ve been through, or how hard the winter was, when you reemerge, there it is.


Crap is a part of life. No matter how you try to change it, you will always have the balance of good and bad in life. There will always be people and situations that will hurt you, anger you, irritate, and raise your blood pressure.

The key to happiness is in how you look at it.

I like to think of life as a photograph and I am the photographer.  As the photographer, what do I see through my lens? The tulip? Or the steaming dog crap? Will I be so disgusted that Rudy ruined the picture, that I lose sight of the tulip completely? Or worse, do I throw my hands up in the air and say, “There’s no point in taking the picture because it’s not perfect!”


There will always be people and situations that will hurt you, anger you, or break you. The key to happiness is in how you look at it. Click To Tweet

I choose to realize that the balance of the two is what makes the tulip more beautiful. I choose to see the miracle of the tulip, being able to break through the cold ground and exist even though the environment may not be perfect for its survival. I choose to focus my lens on the tulip, and realize that Rudy’s contribution will eventually serve as fertilizer to make next year’s blooms more colorful and resilient.

Life is all in how you look at it. A life lived well is a life that understands that the good and the bad go together and both are our teachers on the journey.

Look for the blossoms in your life today,


Portrait of a Strong Wise Woman

March 8th, 2017 | no comments

Women Female Feminism Lady Madam Friends ConceptOne is not born a woman, one becomes one.
~ Simone De Beauvoir~

I’ve been writing for a number of years now. Books, blogs, speeches, tweets, grocery lists.

But what I’ve never really discussed is the thousands of person to person emails I’ve exchanged with women who have risen above some of the most devastating circumstances one could imagine.

Frankly, I’ve been quiet about it because I didn’t know how to really describe it. I started writing because my son died and my life completely fell apart. Women started to write back because their lives had fallen apart too, and they recognized a little piece of themselves in my shattered bloggable life.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t going to respond to them first. I had my own pain, I couldn’t handle anything else, and I had honestly never expected anyone to reach out to me.

But my 12-year-old son Brendan, with wisdom beyond his years, sad, “Mom, if people write to you, you have to write them back. If they take the time to write to you, it means they are hurting like we are. Promise me you will write to them, even if you get on Oprah.”

My sweet boy, my son, my teacher.

So I did. I clicked reply, and I started having a conversation with these incredibly broken people. And I would tell them that it’s okay, I’m broken too. But we can find a way through together. Sometimes we would exchange one or two emails. Other women still check in with me periodically almost seven years later.

So, on this International Women’s Day, I wanted to tell you about the women I celebrate. I don’t need to look to the news, or a top ten list. I have a beautiful chest in my office that holds the emails and letters of the women I’ve connected with since I started writing about what matters in life, about the fact that we can be broken and beautiful all at the same time.

There’s the woman who wrote to me after her son was shot. He was a police officer, and was killed in the line of duty. The funeral was over and she was sitting in her house surrounded by memories of this boy who wanted to be a superhero. She was trying to find a way to keep breathing in and out because the grief sat like a weight on her chest. She had encouraged him to be that superhero, to follow all of his dreams. And he died, running into danger, being a hero. We cried together for a few months, as we sorted through the tremendous mess of making peace with unanswered questions, unspoken words and unlived potential.

I think about the lady who I exchanged emails with for weeks, as she built up the courage to leave an abusive relationship. She was terrified, physically and emotionally beaten to a pulp, but she was finally ready. She moved into a new apartment, and started a life that she had no idea how she would pay for, all the while knowing that she would look over her shoulder with fear for years to come. But she stood up, not only for herself, but for her daughter, who was her sun, moon and stars. The promise of this young girl’s life propelled this mother into action, and Momma Bear tucked her baby behind her and pushed her way into a new life.

I think about the cancer survivor who emailed me one night when she was hanging on by a thread, chemotherapy having ravaged her physically and mentally. She emailed me because she did not want her children and husband to see her fall apart. She was on empty, so she emailed a stranger in the middle of the night because she read some of my ponderings on life and thought I might understand what it was to be broken. And I did. Woman to woman, we talked about the pain we shared, and what we as women carry quietly to keep the hearts of those who love us safe and secure. She went on to not only survive, but thrive, and turned her experience into a catapult to help others. She, like me, wanted to make sure that people walking a similar path knew they were never alone.

I know there will be much celebration today for the movers and shakers, and the women who have transformed our world with their leadership, intellect, compassion and drive. And each accolade is well deserved. But today, I also want to celebrate the women I’ve met via email, sitting at my laptop, writing through pain, wondering if anyone was out there. They wrote to me from their darkness, and I replied to them from mine. We ruminated and lamented, we encouraged and consoled.

I am a Strong Wise Woman. Click To Tweet

Most of all, we discovered that as women, embracing the broken mess was what made us beautiful. I read once about the Japanese art of Kintsugi. Broken pottery is repaired with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. It does not hide the breakage or the repair, but embraces it as part of the history of the object, making it more beautiful. No disguises, embracing both the broken and the beautiful.

That is my portrait of a strong wise woman.

We stumble, we fall. Sometimes we absolutely shatter into a million pieces. But, as women do, we dust ourselves off and we stand up and continue the journey. We recognize that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and the strength of our shared stories and experiences moves us and the world forward. We look for the lessons in loss and we search for understanding and meaning.

Strong wise women.

We recognize that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and the strength of our shared stories and experiences moves us and the world forward. Click To Tweet

Today I celebrate the courageous women I met in the dark. Mother to mother. Woman to woman.

Check out Kelly’s Strong Wise Women products. 

“Be a Nester”-Life Lessons From a Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

December 23rd, 2016 | no comments


Whatever else be lost among the years, Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing: Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears, Let us hold close one day, remembering Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men. Let us get back our childlike faith again.

 ~Grace Noll Crowell~

I’ve been thinking about the Christmas shows of my childhood.

Back in “my day”, we did not have TV channels that aired cartoons and kid’s shows 24/7, 365 days per year. Back in my day, we had a handful of television channels, and if you could convince your father that Barney Miller was a rerun, you may just get to watch that Christmas special on CBC.

Yes kids, one TV. Horrifying I know, but we made it. Oh, and did I mention?

I was the remote control until some time in 1983.

Anyway, I was like many other kids around the planet during that time, and I waited for those special, once-a-year programs that were a sure sign that Santa was on his way. Of course, the old standards, like Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Rudolph and Frosty were always on the menu. But for me, the one that always pulled at my heartstrings was Nester. Every year, I would check the local TV listings to make sure I did not miss it.  Each time I watched, I would cry for Nester and his hardships, even though I knew the plot of the story by heart, and knew he would be eventually okay.

Nester was a long-eared donkey who, much like Rudolph, was ridiculed for his physical differences. Nester could not work like the other donkeys, as he kept tripping over his big ears, that were so long they dragged on the ground.

The story of Nester is an emotional one. He is ridiculed, pushed out into the cold. He loses his mother,  the most important person in his life and wonders how he will ever go on. At certain points, he feels worthless and wonders why he should bother to even try and keep going in his life. And then he meets his cherub, who tells him she is there, on behalf of God, to guide him. As she puts it,

Your ears can do a wondrous thing no other ears can do…the sounds they hear will guide you on a path that’s straight and true. And you will save another as your mother once saved you. 

The good news?  He believed and listened to that gentle guidance.  He listened because he wanted to honor the memory of his mother. And what happened?  He ended up being the very special donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem.

My point?  I think we are all a little more like Nester than we might like to admit. And no, not just the ears.

We are all flawed and imperfect in some way.  Each one of our lives is, in one way or another, a little broken. It is never what we envision or plan for, or what we feel we deserve.
We sometimes struggle through life carrying the ball and chain of our own perceptions.  We spend most of our lives seeing what is wrong about us, neglecting to notice what is right.   And then, to top it all off, sometimes, really bad things happen. People we love get sick, or even die.

But, just like Nester, I believe there is guidance and love from above all around us.  We simply have to be willing to hear it, and to abide by it even when it does not make sense to us, even when we are hurting.  Do you know why?

Because what we can’t see is that all those flaws, and disappointments and heartaches are exactly what make us into the person God needs us to be here on earth.  Each one of those things that we may see as a weakness, God sees as a strength, as something we will be able to use for our own special jobs here on earth.  And the job?

It does not involve a cubicle, or a time card.  I think our job here on earth is to figure out, based on all that has happened to us and shaped us, who we are best designed to love.

For me, I think I am supposed to help and comfort people who hurt, if it is only to say that you will make it, and you are never alone.  I think if I can do that, I am a success.

One of the songs in this show gently guides Nester to listen to the gentle whispers from heaven,


If you hear a choir of angels, follow the sound of the angels.  Follow the voices that guide you….

Today, in this season of magic and angels, I would like to ask you to do the same.  Look not only at what has happened to you in your life.  Look at how it uniquely prepares you to help others who may need it.  Look how your gifts can be used to show others a little piece of heaven right here, right now, when they need it the most.

Look not only at what has happened to you. Look at how it uniquely prepares you to help others who may need it. Look how your gifts can be used to show others a little piece of heaven right here, right now, when they need it the most. Click To Tweet

I’m a Nester.  Are you?

I’ve attached the You Tube clip of the show to the bottom of this post.  I know it’s no Toy Story 3, but I encourage you to take the twenty minutes and watch it.   I would also encourage you to share it with your children. Take some time today to listen to the message and pass it on.
Have a long-eared kind of day,

Christmas Shopping, Crying in Target and Toothy Grins From Heaven…

December 14th, 2016 | no comments

Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Christmas shopping. It’s just not as they portray it in the commercials. Where are the happy people dancing in sequence down the aisles, with cheery Christmas music blaring in the background?

On a recent shopping excursion, I believe I may have been sucked into a vortex of negativity, stuck in a store with the most negative people on the planet. I was bumped, and growled at; I was witness to more than one parent completely melting down with their children. I was also witness to more than one child not really understanding the “reason for the season. ”

I find the holiday season to be bittersweet for me. As a self-proclaimed “occasion girl” I have always loved this time of year. But, as with anyone who has lost someone important, it is also a time when you are painfully reminded that there is one less person to shop for this year.

That first December after Stephen died, I could barely breathe in the stores. I remember standing in a quiet aisle of car cleaning supplies drying my tears with one of those expensive wash clothes for your car. Don’t tell Target, but I put it back on the rack.

I stood there for more than twenty minutes, simply trying to inhale so the pain in my chest would subside, and I could gather the remaining items on my list.

This year, I am stronger, but I still have moments where the thought of Christmas without Stephen is still very difficult to think about. It is especially hard when I shop, and I see things I know he would like or laugh about.

So, as you can probably imagine, my emotions were getting the best of me as I pushed my cart through the aisles of Target, watching people….just take life for granted.

I had to physically remove myself from the Mom yelling at her daughter so I did not confront her with the ravings of a bereaved parent. Did she not know how truly blessed she was to have this little girl looking up at her, even if it was only to ask for the $49.99 doll only days before Christmas?

In any case, all the growling and bumping and bah-humbugging just got the best of me. And, when I pulled into the parking lot of the final store on my shopping excursion, I just sat in the car for a moment, and had…..well, a moment. I was missing Stephen, and thinking back over the Christmases gone by…in particular, I was remembering Christmas Eve when he was a small baby, maybe eight months old. He had these two lonely teeth on the bottom, and would grin on command and proudly show them to you. It was one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received.

So there I was, sitting in my car, reminiscing about the magic of Stephen at Christmas. Missing him, and wishing that I could explain to my fellow shoppers about the importance of being present in the moment, of just being happy because you never know what is around the corner.

I finally mustered up the courage to brave the final store, and stepped out of my car.

Where I was abruptly met by……a toothy grin. It was as if Stephen sent me a smile from heaven to remind me that he is always with me, and that love never dies.

It was the toothy grin of a baby girl, out for a day of shopping with her mom. She was sitting in the cart, and she lit up as soon as we made eye contact, and her smile was brighter than any Christmas bulb I’ve ever seen. It was as if some invisible director pointed to her and yelled “Action!”

I burst out laughing, and the mother popped her head out of the car and smiled. I told her that her little sweetheart just made my day. Her mother replied that she does that, gives out those “two tooth smiles” just when you need it the most.

Boy, was she right.

So, two things to remember. Take a nice deep cleansing breath if you are shopping today. Think about the reason for the season, be present in the beauty that is now, don’t miss it. Make a point to give away some smiles, I’m telling you, it works. And if it doesn’t work, at least you’ll make some people nervous.

Second thing, look for those toothy grins. I believe that God brings them to us when we need them the most, to show us He is listening and comforting us. It is up to us to look for and notice them.

Take some time today to spread some of the good stuff around,


Life’s Challenges and Changes and a Fresh Coat of Paint

December 7th, 2016 | no comments
I wrote this piece a few years ago.  It’s funny, as I continue to write, I am more aware of the fact that I get my inspiration from painting projects, washing machines, duct tape and digging in the dirt in my back yard.  Simple mundane things that I can relate to my life situation.  I suppose it is easier for me to find logic and wisdom in a painting project than it would be to find those same conclusions to more complex challenges.
How about you?  How do you process change? Once you read the blog, I would love to hear from you.
Paintbrush on the can. Top view.All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France
I’ve come to a conclusion. Life is like one big painting project. Let me explain.
I’ve just finished up a painting project in my house. And, as is the story for most of my life, I never really thought the whole thing through. Instead, I plunged ahead, with the vision of perfection in this little brain of mine, and just starting swinging the brush.
But, as with most home improvement endeavors, once you open that can of paint, you realize there’s a ton of things you did not take the time to consider before donning your super attractive paint shirt. You know the one, it has paint samples from every paint project since the early eighties.
To give you some examples, I did not consider:
    • The ceiling height of our front foyer.
    • The confirmed fear of heights as it relates to the ceiling height of the front foyer.
    • That this project may only look manageable, but in four days, I will have a moment where I consider just living with a half painted wall. I will have a pretty convincing conversation with myself about how it would show individuality.
    • That I actually am not sure about this new color. Perhaps I should have just left well enough alone.
    • And finally, I did not consider that this project would confront me with the ugly truth about my housekeeping talents and serve as confirmation that I have not properly cleaned the baseboards since some time in 2007.

I’m telling you, this project was like a month of therapy. With each stroke of the brush, I examined each and every corner of my life. I thought a lot about what sort of mental space I was in the last time I painted these walls, and did wonder if I painted while blindfolded and drinking wine.

I thought a lot about change in life. And how we resist it or long for it, think about it and plan for it, run away from it or towards it.

Sometimes change in life comes in the form of a slap “right up the side of your head.”  It comes as a wallop, knocking you right on your ass.

Others, it is a gradual awakening to a new reality. It is left up to you to push the change forward.

Sometimes, you long for it. Sometimes, you don’t.

But regardless of the origin, change comes. Change comes for everyone and everything. It is the nature of life.

So, I see life as a painting project. I picked my new color, jumped in, and realized I had no idea what I was doing. But, knowing that I had a half-painted wall that could not be undone, I decided to simply keep painting.

So, when life changes, whether by choice or design, just keep painting, one stroke at a time. If you do keep going, slow and steady, you may see that this fresh coat of paint on your life looks a little cleaner than the last one. You see that you are a better painter, having learned from your past mistakes and successes. You see the value of your hard work. Maybe you will learn to appreciate the new colors in your life, having a better understanding of how they got there.

The biggest thing to learn? That Life is like a painting project. Sometimes it has to get really messy before it reveals its beauty. Click To Tweet

Today, I ask you to keep painting. It may not be beautiful yet, but it will be. It will be someday, because of your perseverance.

A Fresh coat of paint.

Grab your brushes,


Finding Common Ground….Where Do We Go From Here?

November 9th, 2016 | no comments

The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity – or it will move apart.

~Franklin D. Roosevelt~

I woke up this morning filled with words.  That’s how it works with me. What I write just kind of shows up…a spark, an idea.  Sometimes I let it sit for a while and marinate. Other times I will wake in the middle of the night and head for my office.

I know I am not alone in my flight of ideas today.  So many of you woke this morning with a rush of thoughts, some anxiety, and maybe a list of questions and concerns about what happens next in your life and country. This presidential election has been like an out of control roller coaster ride, careening the world to the point of nausea.

We all wished it would just end.  And now it has.  So what now?

If you think this is going to be a political commentary, you’re wrong.  I’ll leave that to the experts to dissect.

I want to talk about where we go from here not as partisans, but as people. We have two very different conversations happening in this country.  And no matter how politically astute you feel you’ve been in the last 18 months, the reality is that you were probably hearing only one side of the hopes, dreams and fears of this nation.

During this process, I made a point to visit all news sites. I believe it’s important to be informed by a variety of sources.  I would exclaim to my husband that this country is having two completely different conversations. This morning, I reflected on that observation.  Initially, my belief was that was solely a media driven reality.  I now understand that it was much deeper than that and needs to be where we start to bridge the gap between us.

Now, we need to get on the same page.  We need to find common ground.  We need to take our next steps with an open heart of love and kindness, even if that seems like the craziest thing you could ever imagine at this moment.

Now, before you mean tweet me, give me a second to explain.

I’m not asking you to agree with everything you hear. I have strongly disagreed with many points of discussion throughout this campaign.  I’m not asking you to change your values or sell out on your moral belief system. In fact, I think you need to be more steadfast than ever before.

I’m asking you to begin this next chapter with a focus on common ground.  Don’t begin with the things you hate.  It will separate you.  And as long as we remain separate, we remain broken. As long as you refuse to talk to someone because you “can’t believe they” act, believe or talk in a certain way, you will remain uninformed about the pain they feel and the help they need.

I remember having long late night conversations with my father about life.  When we discussed complex issues, he would say, “Sometimes, the truth lies in the middle Kelly.  Look in the middle of any issue and you can find common ground.”

Sometimes the truth lies in the middle. Look in the middle of any issue and you can find common ground. Click To Tweet

That is where we need to begin.

Today, we stand at the crossroads of conduct.  The success or failure of this country is not completely dependent on the behavior of one person.  It is determined by how we all behave from this moment forward. Because after one of the most divisive campaigns in this country’s history, we all need to decide to act a little kinder, to listen a little more, to understand our civic responsibilities to our neighbors….ALL of our neighbors. We need to tend the seeds of possibility for this nation that were planted well before us and will continue to grow long after we’re gone.

Because the truth is that the greatest threat to this nation is not terrorism, it is the quiet and deadly virus of division.  Kindness is the cure, and we need to begin the treatment today.

The greatest threat to this nation is not terrorism, it is the quiet and deadly virus of division. Kindness is the cure, and we need to begin the treatment today. Click To Tweet

How we behave in this moment will determine where we go.  How we respond to uncertainty, loss and change determines the life we create for ourselves and the people around us.  I know this to be true. From the ashes of a shattered life, I fully understand the power that we have as individuals to choose to rise after we fall, to forgive after faults and to love others when it would be easier to retreat into our own pain.

Take time today to plan your path of peace.  Understand that true power lies in the way we love one another. Know that someone needs to make the first move, and it might as well be you.

True power lies in the way we love one another. Click To Tweet

Meet me in the middle?