the good mess.

This is Jack.

imageWe met Jack one week ago today.

Jack is 90 lbs. of pure LOVE. He is a gentle giant. Jack also has no sense of personal space, as is witnessed by his favorite resting place – a person’s lap.

We found out about Jack when my friend, Lisa, called to say that she just saw a beautiful Golden Retriever at an animal shelter. Jack was surrendered to the shelter by a woman who realized that she couldn’t properly care for him. His large size and extremely high energy level proved to be more than she could handle, so she hesitantly brought him to the shelter (on two separate occasions!) in the hopes that he would find a good home. Even though a second dog wasn’t in our immediate plan, I loaded the kids up in the car and met our friend at the shelter about an hour later. I texted my husband just before we left that we were going “Just to look”.

When we walked into the shelter, Jack’s crate was empty. We looked outside and there he was…with another family! I quickly shifted into “It wasn’t meant to be” mode, but we decided to stay and wait our turn to meet him. The other family left the outdoor area and we stepped inside the pen.

Jack greeted all of us like we were his long lost friends – there were great big bear hugs and sloppy dog kisses. His enthusiasm for life! balls! his tail! was contagious. He exudes the most innocent, energetic LOVE. Even our pup, Jane, who doesn’t get along well with other dogs, must have sensed this when she first met him too. She was surprisingly tolerant of his puppy-energy during their preliminary visit. The animal control staff was amazed at how quickly they got along with one another. They received several applications for Jack, but they felt like our family’s situation seemed like the best fit. After just a couple of visits, we were approved for his adoption and allowed to take him home.

Ever since Jack stepped through our front door just five days ago, it’s been a cRaZy WhiRlwiNd of activity. The floors are a little hairier, our clothes are a little slobberier and the remotes, iPhones, markers and sunglasses have all been moved a little LOT higher.

We’ll have to break him of his overly enthusiastic hugs, chewing of EVERYTHING and his ability to grab things off the counter with ease. He will need to learn how to sit and stay, walk on a leash and not jump at the screen door and/or windows. He has a lot to learn and so do we.

It has been, is and will be a TON of work (did I mention that we’ve only had him FIVE days?).

On the very first day of Jack’s arrival, Brian walked into my room and said,

Our house is a MESS now that Jack’s here! But, Mom, it’s good. It’s good-messy. Like…medium-messy. It’s good.”


He’s right…it is messy but it IS good.❤️

weekly rak up
#204. Sent a “thank you” note to the shelter with pictures of Jack in the hopes that they would share with his first owner.
#203. Gave a nice tip for great service.
#202. Adopted our sweet Jack from the animal shelter. (RAK of the week)

#201. Donated dog toy to animal shelter.


#200. Paid a compliment to a stranger.
#199. Bought supplies for homemade dog toys-kids delivered some to local shelter.
#198. Left a cold bottled water for our mailman.
#197. Left cash and kindness note in vending machine.
#196. Fixed flower pot at a grave site.
#195. Sent a thank you note for a most awesome RAK that someone gave to me.
#194. Delivered Blessing Bag to a homeless man.
#193. Delivered Blessing Bag, water and ice cooler to homeless woman and her friends.
#192. Bought water and ice to accompany “Blessing Bags”.

#191. Bought supplies and started packing “Blessing Bags.

#190. Let lifeguard at pool borrow sweatshirt because it got really cold when sun went down (and she is on shift until 10pm)!

#189. Complimented someone’s hairdo.

#188. Rolled cart in middle of parking lot back to cart “garage”.

Treasured Trash and the Weekly RAK-Up

FullSizeRender (7)On Friday afternoon, I was lucky to have a little one-on-one time with our middle child, Kate. One-on-one time with any of our children doesn’t happen very often in our household, so we decided to take full advantage of our alone time together. Because it was unseasonably warm, we chose to spend most of the two hours outside. It’s amazing what a little fresh air, warm sunshine and hoops in the driveway can do for the spirit. After my arms felt like Jell-O from all those awesome hook shots (yea, right), I suggested that we take a break and walk down the road to the duck pond. I wanted to pick up a little trash as a “free” act of kindness for my #365ActsofKindness project. While Kate didn’t want to go initially, I convinced her with the stash of stale Goldfish crackers in the pantry, knowing that she couldn’t resist going as feeding the ducks is one of her favorite activities.

When we walked into the house to grab the Goldfish, our pup, Jane, was waiting at the door with her ears perked up as if she knew exactly where we were going. We couldn’t NOT bring her, although we both strongly considered that option. You see, while Jane’s a super-sweet dog, there is nothing sweet about walking her. She tugs on the leash so hard that you can feel your arm being pulled out of its socket and she goes completely berserk when she sees a squirrel, bird, jogger, or another dog. It’s just not necessarily the way we wanted to spend our special mother-daughter time together. Still, the pathetic look she gave us, complete with a single tear in her eye (okay, slight exaggeration), convinced us that we couldn’t leave without her. We put on her harness and set off for the duck pond. Our loveable Jane only attempted to bite the head off of one squirrel and one other dog. It was a successful walk in our book. :o)

We spent about a half an hour at the pond looking out at the water and feeding the ducks, geese and an occasional seagull. Kate would grab a handful of the tiny Goldfish crackers out of the bag, throw them up into the air and the seagulls would swoop down to try to grab the crackers before they landed in the water. Kate giggled and screamed as the seagulls got a little close for comfort or when she’d see a duck swimming over for the food. The sun was shining at just the right angle…not only did it warm our skin as we stood at the water’s edge, but it also made the surface of the water literally sparkle. I took a deep breath and smelled the warm, earthy soon-to-be spring air. It was the perfect moment. One thing that I love about the duck pond is that while it is beautiful and serene, there’s more depth to it than one would initially realize. If you focus your gaze a little further down the river beyond the tall grasses and gaggle of geese, there is the stark contrast to the quiet beauty where the traffic whizzes by on I95. It’s pretty cool because you get to feel the calm, peaceful feeling of nature, but you don’t feel isolated because you’re reminded of all the other people in the world – commuters, families, truckers – buzzing by at about sixty-five miles per hour on the highway. People. Noise. Reality. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I grew up in a big city, but I like it. For some reason it makes me feel less alone. I always end up imagining the people in the cars and trucks, I do the same thing with airplanes. I stare off and wonder…who’s driving, where they are going, what are they thinking…are they happy or sad?

“Okay…it’s empty!” Kate’s words brought me back from my thoughts as she shook the empty bag of Goldfish at all the wildlife creatures she had now attracted to her. It was time to go home. Just like most perfect moments, it went too quickly and had to come to an end. Our one-on-one time would soon become one-on-three time.

As we walked up to the road from the grassy area of the duck pond, I remembered that I wanted to pick up trash as my 72nd (72nd!) act of kindness. At the edge of the park, there was a gallon-sized Ziploc bag filled with garbage and an empty pack of Marlboros perched on top of it. It was like someone had pulled over, cleaned out the contents of their car, put it in the Ziploc baggie, sealed it, topped it off with the box of cigarettes that wouldn’t fit in the bag and intentionally left it all there. Once again, there was the stark contrast to the beauty of nature, only unlike the traffic whizzing by, the trash that was purposefully left behind really annoyed me. I almost went ahead and picked up the Ziploc bag, but then thought of all the dogs that walk by and what dogs do to mark their territory, and I thought, I might be kind, but even “kind” has its limits. I decided to leave it there. About a foot away from the bag, was a half empty (or was it half full?) Dunkin Donuts plastic cup on the side of the road. I rationalized to myself and Kate that this would work as my “trash”, so I picked it up and carefully held it in between my index finger and thumb. Along the way home, Kate laughed and said, “Oh, that looks so refreshing, Mom, how does it taste?” I pretended to sip it and answered, “It tastes so good, wanna sip?” The moment made even more hilarious when the dirt crusted along the side of the cup moved and we thought there was a bug crawling on it. We were laughing so hard by the time we got home it almost seemed a shame to throw it away…almost.

But, even during that silly moment, I didn’t feel great about leaving all the other trash behind or the lesson I was modeling for my daughter who is a careful, quiet observer. By only picking up the one piece of trash and claiming that I did my act of kindness for the day, I felt like a complete fake. It also made me feel like I was just going through the motions to check something off a list instead of really being mindful of my acts of kindness. The thought of the garbage and my complacency nagged at me the rest of the night.

So, early the next morning, I decided to walk back to the duck pond. This time, instead of stale Goldfish, I grabbed a tall white kitchen garbage bag and my helper-pup, Jane. On my way out, I invited Kate to join us, but she responded that she was really comfy in her bed with her iPad. When I explained to her why I was going back, my old-soul daughter listened, smiled knowingly and went back to playing her game.

When Jane and I arrived at the duck pond, I was sorta surprised, but pleased to see that the Ziploc bag, complete with cigarette box on top of it, was still sitting along the road. I picked it up along with several beer cans scattered around, although I actually didn’t mind that part because it felt like payback for the days long, long ago when my friends and I would drink at the beach or the park and then toss our empties everywhere except the garbage cans. I also picked up other garbage, including filthy Styrofoam containers, broken glass, a crushed diet coke can, old paper and tissue, and I had to carefully step over and through some sticker bushes to get a couple Whole Foods deli containers with old fruit and salads. It was completely disgusting and I had a scratch or two on my legs, but it definitely felt better than just picking up the one Dunkin Donuts cup.


After I was finished collecting the trash, I walked back home with our helpful pup, Jane. She didn’t even pull on her leash that hard. I was amazed that we filled half the garbage bag with trash that was carelessly cast away by others. The duck pond was cleaner and so was my conscience. What’s that saying about trash, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? I guess this sorta applies here. While it wasn’t my favorite way to spend a Saturday morning, it wasn’t all bad either. There have been days when I loathe this project sitting over my head, but mostly I am grateful. Very grateful. I hope Kate (and Emma and Brian) notice my gratitude too.




#74. Left some scratch off lotto tickets on a couple of cars’ windshields in the parking lot at Goodwill.

#73. Picked up the trash at the duck pond: A Redux. (RAK of the Week)

#72. Picked up trash at the duck pond: the lite version.

#71. Gave Emma Starbucks gift cards to give to others on her birthday. She successfully hid two gift cards in random lockers AND in her dad’s “beauty product” drawer. :o)

#70. Wrote letters to adolescent residents in a mental health facility as suggested by the Random Act of Kindness Organization (RAKtivist)*.

#69. Gave an extra tip to a car wash attendant.

#68. Let someone pull ahead of me in traffic.

*Note about Cards to Inspire:  Cards To Inspire is doing a card drive for encouraging cards for adolescents who are residents in mental health treatment facilities. The cards will be presented to the adolescents in May in honor of May being mental health month. You’re welcome to contribute!

A big “thank you” to my friend, Colleen King, for the clean-up at the duck pond suggestion. I never realized how much trash accumulates at one of our favorite spots. Do you have any other “free” acts of kindness that you like to do? If so, I’d love to hear all ideas! Thank you!  

The Chicken Meatball and the Weekly RAK-Up

hello. my name is jane.

Almost a year ago, I started this blog about loss, acts of kindness, grief and the furry friends that have seen us through the most difficult times over the years. While the focus of my blog is shifting slightly – one thing has remained the same – we are still being supported by a sweet, furry friend. This time…it’s Jane.

Jane. Janers. The Queen of Puppy Selfies and Road Trips. Our unofficial “comfort” dog.

There’s nothing plain about this Jane.

Jane joined our family two and a half years ago and she quickly adapted to being a part of the Riggs’ crew; she was younger sister to our sweet, Bailey, and felt right at home with Emma, Kate and Brian, too.

While Jane is a pretty calm presence in our house most of the time, she gets a bit riled up when new people come to the front door (who can blame her?) or if she’s found a ball. If you happen to catch her eye when she’s holding a ball in her mouth, then you’ve pretty much signed on with Jane for the long haul. She must play fetch, which means YOU must play fetch. And she’s relentless. She will spend hours catching and dropping the same ball over and over and OVER again. When our friends visit, they are often rubbing their shoulders when they’re leaving, as if they’ve torn their rotator cuffs…her fetching skills are just that intense. But, other than that one “demand”, Jane is the most low-key, low-maintenance member of our family.

We love our Jane.

Jane is loyal and protective and takes care of us as only a family dog can do. She was even there for each of our kids when they had the stomach virus just a couple of weeks ago, never dry-heaving (unlike their mother) and cuddling up lovingly and patiently right next to them, just like Nurse Nana from Peter Pan. She’s the first to curl up next to me and just be when I’m sad, which has been more than usual over the last several months. She also has this funny way of cheering us up by reaching her paw out and tapping us when she wants you to pet her. I mean, c’mon…you can’t help but smile when she taps you on your shoulder, hand or even face with her fuzzy paw.

IMG_3384 (1)
fuzzy paw (do you see the heart?)


So, this week…my featured RAK is focused on kindness to animals (#47). While we would have had her groomed at some point anyway, this #365Act project reminded me to take a moment to be mindful of our pup’s loyalty and unconditional kindness (and to give her an extra “chicken meatball” dog treat too). :o)




#48. Gave a little extra tip to the dog groomer because she did such a great job and was so nice to Jane.

#47. Took Jane for a little spa treatment (a.k.a. the groomer).

#46. Offered my table at Starbucks to a couple who was looking for a spot to sit.

#45. Brought celebratory champagne to a friend who just finished chemo. 

#44. Mailed a Valentine to a friend.

#43. Wrote a “thank you” note to one of the teachers for the AWESOME 1st edition of the school newspaper.

#42. Picked up boxes that a person dropped in front of me at store.

#41. Delivered flowers to a friend who just experienced a loss.

#40. Paper-clipped a scratch-off ticket to the seat of the grocery cart I was using and then left in the parking lot.

#39. Secretly snuck a lotto ticket with a “good luck” note into the pocket of a coat of one of the guys stocking shelves during my early Sunday morning grocery run (the coat was hanging in the next aisle and I was able to just drop the note inside the pocket…I didn’t pick pockets, I promise!). 

#38. Made a donation to St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer.

It was a busy and fun week and people have started to send me some more creative and different ways to Be Kind to others. I am so grateful for these ideas…please keep ’em coming! I have 317 more acts of kindness to go…

the transitional object

heart-shaped kibble crumb
heart-shaped kibble crumb from bailey

a few days ago, we had to put our dog of 13 1/2 years to sleep. i had never done it before and was surprised by how peaceful it was…but it also felt so final. there was no doubt about it, bailey was really gone.

before they gave him a sedative, the vet tech gave him a bunch of treats. we had tried earlier in the morning to give him some “chicken meatballs”, but he had refused. in this moment, however, bailey ate up every single treat. he wagged his tail once, then twice, and looked up at her for more.

the vet then gave him the sedative to help him sleep before the final injection would be administered. we were up by his head and he fell into a deep, calm sleep. before the vet gave him the last shot, i looked down at the blanket and right next to him were a couple of heart-shaped kibble crumbs. i pointed them out to everyone in the room and we all marveled at the beauty of the moment.

bailey was full of love.

he was sound asleep as we assured him over and over again that he was such a good boy and that we loved him so much. bailey’s face was propped up gently on his paw and he started snoring loudly…three times…and then there was just silence. we kneeled down by him for a while and then kissed our sweet pal goodbye. before we left, we covered him with the blanket, but not before i grabbed one of the hearts and stuck it in my bag. my transitional object.

the transitional object. i had never heard of this term before my mom mentioned it to me a few years ago…

she had left roscoe’s dog run (basically a cord and a leash that ran from the deck to the back yard) up several years after he had died. we didn’t give it much thought until her deck was converted into a wheelchair accessible ramp and the dog run became more of a hazard as people were clotheslined walking up to her back door. when asked if we could just take it down for a little while when we were having guests over, she said, “it’s my ‘transitional object’, please leave it alone!” when i thought about the amount of loss she had faced recently, it made sense and i didn’t gripe about it anymore.

when she was ready, she eventually let someone take it down.

a few weeks ago, when we were moving things out of her house, my husband texted to see if he should transfer the one can of tab from her fridge to our cooler. anyone who knew my mom, knew her by her tab.


although she hadn’t had a tab in a few years, keeping it in her fridge was another transitional object…something that made her feel more connected to the person she was before she became so sick with scleroderma. the tab is now my transitional object for her. (oh, and the forty storage bins that are stashed away in a friend’s garage and our closet, but we’ll get to that later).

it’s made me think about some of the transitional objects i have had over the years…

our friend, carrie…her words are my transitional object. the words she wrote to her children at her own funeral service about being kind and also her words that she left in a voicemail that i just haven’t brought myself to delete…

my brother, brian…i wore his sports watch until the battery died and his red sox baseball cap through a bunch of 5k’s…it made me feel like he was always with me…

my step-father, john…there are many because his death blindsided me and probably changed me the most. i have kept emails from him when he was helping us choose paint colors and work through house projects, the clothes he was wearing when his body was recovered and his suicide note. for me, these transitional objects help me stay connected to him, as well as try to work through my brother’s suicide.

our friend, ann…i kept the postcard she had sent from her summer vacation just before she died the summer of 1983. it stayed folded up in my pocket and then placed in a book and then eventually i lost track of it…

the same thing happened with the tree-top fairy from my babysitter, sheila. it was always close to me and then it was just gone…

i guess over time you really are able to let go, but for now, i will hold onto many objects, including a heart-shaped kibble crumb and a can of tab…which i know people will think is absolutely crazy, but for some reason it helps. maybe i am more like my mom than i thought…

just sitting ‘n spinning…


A few weeks ago, my former babysitter, Tina, joked that she would bring a sit ‘n spin to the last hurrah at our childhood home.

Ah, the sit ‘n spin…such great memories! The sit ‘n spin was a staple in every home in the 70’s, usually found in the living room, right in front of the t.v.

My siblings and I would spend HOURS on that little contraption. When it was my turn, I would stare down at the blue and yellow stripes and spin so fast, the colors blended together. What a trip!  Sometimes I would close my eyes, throw my head back and knock into any sibling or dog in my way. I was like a mini-tornado and loved every minute of it!

A few years ago, I saw one in the basement at a friend’s house and asked if I could try it out. Two notable differences this time around: I got dizzy after the first turn, and 150+ lbs takes a whole LOT of upper body strength!

It was not the same.

Luckily, my babysitters (er, I mean former babysitters) and I have our memories…

Last summer when my mom died, I immediately called and texted friends and family to let them know the sad news.

Then I messaged my babysitters.

I still cannot really explain it, but as I sat in the tiny, crowded airport awaiting my flight back home, I felt a sudden urgency to let them know. And just as they had been there for me when we were all kids, they responded immediately and were there for me again.

I was about 8 years old when my parents got divorced. Within that same year, my mom went back to school to become an R.N. and she also went back to work full-time. Because of her long hours, she relied heavily on neighborhood kids to take care of the four of us. Tina, Erin and Anne were some of our regular babysitters and they were a part of our family.

When I reconnected with Anne and Tina via Facebook a couple of years ago, it felt like we had never lost touch, although it had been many, many years.

It felt like home.

They have memories of things that I only somewhat remember…favorite toys like the “Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop” playdoh set and songs we used to make up and sing together.

"shave and a haircut...two bits"
“shave and a haircut…two bits”

I remember Kiss singing “Beth”, Stu, Kayo, the Christmas tree falling on Brian, Blarney shenanigans, Little Kings’ subs, Round Records and the rock fight incident…just to name a few…

They will probably never realize the influence they had on my life or how safe I felt when they were there. I know that we had the neighborhood reputation as being the “Benda Brats,” and we definitely lived up to the name, but they still showed up for us. Every. Single. Time.

My mom hired them out of necessity because she couldn’t be there. Little did she know that these kind, intelligent, beautiful, funny and accomplished women would be there for me again when she was gone.

Not only there for me, but willing to let me sit ‘n spin…

the bro

the "bro"
Bailey and The Bro

Our 13-year-old puppy, Bailey, exudes loving kindness. He’s also very cute – it says so right on his latest and greatest t-shirt – “I’m cute”.

Yes, it is a little bizarre for a golden retriever to wear a t-shirt. However, it is even more bizarre that his t-shirt serves as a bra, or as I like to call it: a “bro” (from one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes).

The “bro” became a wardrobe staple for Bailey a few months ago when the vet suggested that he wear a t-shirt because the tumor on his chest had grown so much and needed some support. Because Bailey is a “senior” dog and the tumor has grown between muscle, tendons, and is filled with blood vessels, removing it was just too risky. Providing support and keeping him as comfortable as possible is what we were told to do.

And so we listened to the vet’s advice and followed Bailey’s lead…

The first time Dave and I saw Bailey, we fell in love with the fuzzy little puppy. He came home with us on Christmas Eve – what a gift! Our very first baby, Bailey would lie in my lap as I rubbed his tummy, tickled underneath his chin and cooed, “Who’s a pretty baby?!” We invited friends and family to see our new “baby” and he pretty much captured their hearts too. Despite the uncontrollable sneezing, eyes watering and almost swelling shut, even our friends with terrible allergies still visited and pet him saying, “It’s okay because he’s so, so (ATCHOO!) adorable!”

Bailey taught me that there is joy in the most unexpected, simplest things.

He’s been there for us since the beginning…about 1 year into our marriage. He was the first one to learn that I was pregnant, and the first one to console me when we lost that pregnancy. He was also right there when I learned that I was pregnant with Emma. When I sat on the stairs in surprise, excitement and FEAR, he quickly tried to comfort me. For Bailey, consoling and comforting meant nudging my arm with his cold, wet nose until I finally pet him. My heart rate immediately slowed down.

Bailey taught me the simple, yet important lesson that making someone else feel better when you feel sad, makes you feel better too.

When Emma was born and cried NON-STOP for three months, Bailey stood guard over her bassinet, crib, baby swing and car seat.

First night home
First night home

I think he felt just as bad as I did that we couldn’t stop her crying. When he wasn’t standing over her, he could be found next to me. We would both look over at the crib and he would gently nudge me with the cold, wet nose.

Bailey taught me that misery really does like company.

When my mom and step-father, “Papa John”, would come over, they would literally run over us to get to Bailey. When we saw them just before our big move to Connecticut, my mom hugged me and sobbed, “Oh honey…I’m going to miss BAILEY so much!” The last time she visited and I was taking pictures, Mom asked if her “granddog” Bailey could be next to her in the picture. In fact, he already was as he didn’t leave her side that entire visit, which was the last time any of us ever saw her again.

This was taken the day AFTER Kate's First Communion when we realized we forgot to  take one with Grandma the day before!
The day AFTER Kate’s First Communion when we realized we forgot to take one with Grandma the day before. Kate was such a good sport to get back in the dress and wear the wilted headpiece.

Bailey taught me the importance of being loyal and present.

These days, Bailey’s a little slow…slow to get up, slow to hear things…just slow. No doubt about it, it’s just plain hard to get old. When he is up, he walks around looking like he’s had a partial boob job, which is funny but a little sad too. He still walks around the kitchen while his little sister, Jane, balances dog toys on his head. He lets her go first when we open the door to let them both outside. Bailey now refuses to eat unless there a “chicken meatball” to spice up his dry food. Just like his “Uncle” Blarney did many years ago, he also pretends to shiver to get extra treats and it works every time too. (I mean, have you ever seen a dog shiver with chattering teeth and all? It’s sooooo cute!) The vet just smiled when I told him and agreed that he’s earned every single treat.

It’s no surprise that the tumor is right over his heart and it keeps getting bigger and bigger. Because Bailey has always had the biggest heart.

So, we continue to keep each other as comfortable as possible and the “bro” supports us all.

are those happy tears, mommy?

This morning I received an unexpected gift.

Choosing Grace  is our AFSP Team name.  "B" stands for Benda, in honor of my brother, Brian "H" stands for Hanson, in honor of John and my mom
Choosing Grace
is our AFSP Team name.
“B” stands for Benda, in honor of my brother, Brian
“H” stands for Hanson, in honor of John and my mom

It’s from one of my life-long friends, Amy.

Amy (or Amelina, to me) and I will always have a special connection – not only have we known each other since kindergarten, but we were also hit by a car together in second grade. There is nothing like bonding over broken bones and body casts.

The accident happened back in the 70’s, when parents didn’t hover and kids had a little more time to explore different options. We explored the option, “Does it really make sense to cross at the light ALL the way at the end of the street when your house is actually in the middle of the block in the opposite direction?” The answer: Yes, yes it does. (And my kids and their friends get a daily street safety lecture from me, even though we’re the last house on a dead end street!)

That impulsive decision greatly impacted our young lives and we both wear the scars of the accident to this day. She has a permanent bump on her forehead and I still have the indentation in my leg, which has actually lessened with age and weight loss and gains (who says there aren’t benefits to cellulite!).

While Amy and I can joke about it now, it really was no laughing matter. Amy still remembers the whole terrible incident; I was knocked unconscious. I have always believed I was the lucky one for that.

When I was hit, I flew up into the air and then slid under a parked car. Neighborhood legend has it that a bunch of neighbors came out and literally lifted the car up, so that the paramedics could get me out. I have no recollection of it and my parents told me that when I woke up in the hospital, the first words out of my mouth were, “I’m bored.” I only remember being upset when I learned that they had to cut off my brand new jeans from Winsbergs to get to my leg and that I wouldn’t be wearing any jeans until I was out of traction and the cast – about three months.

After about six weeks in the hospital, I returned home. I had a full body cast and a sweet bedroom in the dining room, complete with t.v.

We also had a new dog named, Rover.

Just as we never mastered “JAAHCKK”, we never quite remembered “Rover”, so our newest addition became known in our Sesame Street-obsessed family as…


GROVER!  Grover was a friendly, low-key stray dog and there are a couple of pictures of me leaning on him when I somehow figured out how to stand in the body cast. Because he was more of a wanderer than a family dog, Grover walked right out of our back yard just a couple of short months after we found him. He probably knew that we were settling in and was just looking for another kid who needed someone to lean on…

And speaking of leaning…back to my friend, Amy, and all of my life-long and new-found friends, who I have been leaning on especially over the past few years…

With everything that’s been going on, I’ve been flooded with so many memories, but I also keep thinking about the story/poem, “Footprints in the Sand”. My favorite line is, “…The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

I was about 13 years old the first time I heard that story and remember feeling profoundly moved and hopeful that God would have my back during difficult times. I still believe that, but in my life the story looks more like this…

When I look back at the footprints in the sand, I notice that during the most difficult and darkest times of my life, there have been several sets of foot- (and paw!) prints in the sand. It’s during those times that my friends and family have carried me.

They are the only reason I have the strength to continue choosing grace.


this is alf.

alf. i never would have imagined that a harmless facebook post with this fuzzy little alien’s mug on it, would trigger so many memories. although the show was cancelled 25 years ago and i only watched it a handful of times, i always liked alf because his voice was funny, he was quick-witted and obsessed with cats, and his cute little face reminded me of a dog we had when i was little. our dog’s name was “jacques”.

jacques (stunt double)
this is jacques’ clone.

jacques was an airedale terrier. because we were so young when we got him, my memories of jacques are a little fuzzy. i remember that he was very soft, fluffy and full of energy. i also remember my mom saying that he was very expensive and, if you knew my mom, that was very important. the only other things i remember are that he liked to jump, and my mom, who gave him his french-inspired name, constantly corrected my siblings and me (we were  6, 5, 4 and 3 years old), “his name is not ‘JACK’, it’s pronounced ‘JAAHCKK’!”. we were a very cultured crew.

unfortunately, jacques was not with our family for very long. one day when my mom went to the back door to call him inside, she noticed that both gates were closed, but he was nowhere to be found. jacques was gone for good. i’m sure we were devastated, but i honestly have no recollection of our response. although we’ll never know exactly what happened, my mom always said he was stolen “because he cost a small FORTUNE”. we had several dogs after that, but jacques was the last dog my mom ever paid for and the only dog taken from our back yard.

as we’ve been clearing out our childhood home over the last several months, we have come across many photo albums overflowing with polaroids and our family dogs are very often front and center with the four kids. i haven’t found any pictures of jacques yet.

while there’s no record of jacques, a picture of his doppelganger, alf, and the friend who innocently posted it, have inspired me to start writing. so, i freely admit that i am spinning with everything that’s happened over the past several months and what will happen over the next several weeks. it feels like my mind will spontaneously combust if i don’t tell my stories and the stories of those who lie under the radar. there is gentle kindness to be found even (especially) in these moments.

let the spinning begin….

saying goodbye


In a couple of weeks, my friends, family and I will say goodbye to our family home. For 43 years, our house provided WAY more than shelter. It’s the place where two of my siblings were born. It’s the place where we celebrated baptisms, first communions, graduations, birthdays, dances and a wedding. It’s the place where friends and neighbors congregated after school and on the weekends. It’s the place my brother left, and it’s the place where I learned his ultimate fate. It’s the place that housed many furry and not-so-furry friends, including dogs, a cat, lizards, gerbils, fish, a bird and a rogue squirrel that took up residence in our attic at one point. It’s the place where we laughed. It’s the place where we cried. It’s the place where we played hard. It’s the place my mom left and never returned. It’s the place I will always call home.

It’s been over 43 years of the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows and many in-between days too. It’s been a constant in my life and in the lives of many other people.

Saying goodbye is never easy for me, and it would be so easy to become sad and resentful over this loss. However, as I sit here on the sofa with our warm puppy, Jane, to the left of me and our sweet Bailey on the floor to the right, I realize unconditional love and kindness are right here in front of me and I have a choice. I am following their lead…