Accidental Angels

Accidental Angels
Accidental Angels

Yesterday afternoon, I stepped out of the 3rd marathon meeting of the day to take what I assumed would be a brief personal phone call.

Have you had one of those?  Where the “Hey, what’s up?” is quickly followed with “What the hell are you talking about?”  It was an amazingly difficult 20 minutes that sent me from getting a breath of fresh air to hiding behind a closed door, struggling to contain my emotions and keep my voice level.  I failed at both of those things.

There was a follow up conversation later in the day, one that was longer, even more painful, and during which I threw in the towel on containing my emotions and put all my effort into remaining rational and logical.  After an hour and a half, I had a raging headache, my eyes were swollen from sobbing, and my exhaustion and feeling of failure was absolute.

This morning, my eyes were still puffy, my head was still raging, but another day of marathon meetings was not to be denied.  Off to work I went.

I’m not in this office every day.  Usually 3-5 days a month, and those days are pretty packed.  Not much time for roaming the halls and expanding my circle.

This morning, a woman I barely knew stuck her head in my door and said, “Hey, I’m not sure you remember me?  I’m Cheryl from Operations, we met at the anniversary party last year.”  I actually didn’t remember Cheryl at all, but I recognized the face, and said “Yeah, yeah, yeah, how are you?  What’s up?”

And she totally ruined my well practiced composure for the entire day.

“God, you’re going to think I’m so nosy, and I’m not, and I’m not a weirdo, but I ….. can I close the door?”  She didn’t wait for an answer.  “I walked past here yesterday heading to Modifiers, and I did NOT mean to eavesdrop, but I heard you on the phone with someone…..”

Oh, Lordy.  I just looked at her.  I didn’t know what to say.

“….and it just stopped me dead in my tracks.  I don’t know who you were talking to, but I want you to know that my best friend said almost those exact same words to me 5 years ago.  I stopped in the hall and just listened, and that was so crappy of me to do, but I couldn’t NOT listen.  I’m so sorry.  I just want you to know that I hope it works out.  When my friend gave me that verbal punch….I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t done that.  They’re probably angry at you, but just hang in there.  It’s so hard, sometimes, and you just can’t see the forest for the trees, ya know?  Sometimes we just need to hear reality.  I just wanted to tell you that, because I could tell you were really torn up.  I’m sorry if you think I’m crazy.”

With that, I mumbled some apology about losing my composure in the office, and thanked her for stopping by, and tried unsuccessfully to not tear up, and she went on her way.

And that, my friends, is when I realized that sometimes angels wear lanyards and lab coats, and just show up to let you know that it’s all ok.

Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl.

Thanks, Cheryl



A Facebook friend that I’ve known online for probably 10 years or so posted this photo to his page today.



So I unfriended him.  But it made me sad, for a multitude of reasons.  First and foremost, I like the guy.  He’s a good egg, a funny guy, a genuinely kind person, and we share many of the same interests, opinions, and sense of humor.

There is a bigger sadness, though, and that is the propagation of the “Us v. Them” mentality.  The conclusion that differing opinions require separation.  If you’re not with me, you’re against me.  If you don’t agree with me, you’re of no worth to me.  My way or the highway.


Whatever happened to “In a multitude of counselors there is wisdom”?

Of course, this gun control issue is just the division of the day due to the recent mass shooting.  You know what’s sad?  I’m not going to mention what mass shooting happened recently, but if someone is reading this 3 years from now, the reference to  a “recent mass shooting” won’t even put this in a memorable time frame.

As I was saying, this is just one issue that causes everyone to pick teams and go huddle in their corner.  Political parties (dear God, help me get through these political campaigns and their outrageousness), gay marriage, abortion, immigration reform, police brutality, religion….it goes on and on.  Us vs. Them.

There is no civilized debate anymore, let alone reasonable discussion.  There is no ability to “agree to disagree”.  There is not passionate discourse espousing the good of an opinion; there is degrading, uncouth, offensive, derogatory, demeaning rhetoric spewed against the opposing view.

Mudslinging run amok.

Then there is the stereotyping.  Holy hell.

Support law enforcement = racist

Support #BlackLivesMatter = bleeding heart liberal (or thug)

Republican = greedy, racist, redneck, war monger

Democrat = lazy, welfare loving, immoral, milquetoast

Christian = uneducated, hypocritical, bible-thumper, intolerant

Gay = pervert, pedophile, homosexual recruiter

Just the tip of the iceberg.  And each one of those identified groups of people (stereotypes) is what’s destroying this country according to at least one of the other groups.

Sad, sad, sad.

Remember 9/12/01?  When our political, racial, religious, social differences all kind of faded away, and we were just Americans that wanted to stand together?  14 years later, we’ve developed into ever growing groups of Us and Them.  We look at those who have different thoughts or beliefs as enemies.  We’ve convinced ourselves that the Us visions of what America should be can’t be had as long as Them exist.  We’re doing to ourselves what the terrorists tried to do 14 years ago:  destroy the American way of life.

I don’t have the answers.  I’m not smart enough for that.  But I know polarization will never solve anything.

You know what else I know?  That I learn a lot of stuff from those of you that are different from me. I gain understanding and perspective.  I don’t always agree, but I don’t have to.  So whether you’re a gun enthusiast, homosexual, Christian, Liberal, police officer, overpaid CEO, underpaid fast food worker, Democrat, atheist, immigrant, vegan, or Republican, I will treat you and your opinions with respect and kindness.  I will be happy for your successes.  I will pray for you when you’re struggling.  I will tell you jokes that aren’t politically correct.  I will share recipes.  I’ll be your friend, but I won’t be an Us or a Them.


A Reminder Named Allison

A Reminder Named Allison

*While I’m out traipsing across the country for my real job, I thought I’d post something that was written 5 years ago today.  I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, away from my family, while I worked.  For sanity, I spent my free time volunteering at a local animal shelter.  This is a story about a dog, one of millions, that explains why I am so passionate about animal rescue.  Please consider a shelter pet.*

Last night, I was invited to the home of friends for dinner & a movie.  They have 2 dogs, sweet mixed breed companions that are well loved members of the family.  One is a little possessive, and will bark at you if you pet the other.  It worked out ok for me, because Moose & Echo have taught me well how to pet 2 dogs simultaneously.

So, I was grateful for some canine time.  This morning, though, I realized that a little dog time is much like one handful of M&M’s….it’s probably plenty, but you really want another handful.

After leaving work today, I went back to the Humane Society.  I continue to be very impressed with this facility and its operation.  The volunteers/employees are friendly and helpful, the animals are always spruced up with neck scarves or bows, the information cards are filled out….it’s just a good facility.   I was happy to see there’s no overcrowding right now.  As a matter of fact, one of the 4 kennels is completely empty, which gives the Society time to do some maintenance on those enclosures.

There’s a real glut of American Staffordshire Terriers in the kennels, a.k.a the politically correct identification of a pit bull.  Whether it’s for marketing purposes or legal reasons, I’m glad to see that the stigma of “pit bull” is left off of the descriptions of these sweet, smart dogs.

While I won’t go so far as to say there are no bad dogs, I am a firm believer that there are no bad breeds….only bad owners

Note:  there ARE bad dogs, but based on a percentage of population, there are way more bad humans than dogs. I’ll take a bad dog over a bad human any day.

I’m going through the kennels, thinking it’s a pretty good day to be a shelter dog.  Happy dogs, lots of families looking for canine companions, with constant exclamations from all sides:  “Awwww, look at her!”  “Moooooom, come see this one!”  “Wow, what a beautiful dog!”  Yep, it was a good day to be a shelter dog in Ft. Lauderdale.

Then I came to the last enclosure in Kennel 4.  Allison’s enclosure.  Beautiful face, beautiful eyes, just a gorgeous young dog.  Another American Staffordshire Terrier, wink wink.  I wonder who picked “Allison” as a name.  It doesn’t suit her at all.  She’s a Chloe, or a Shera, or maybe even a Margot or Zoe, but not an Allison.

She is shaking like a leaf in the center of her kennel. I take another step and she bolts to the back of the kennel.  Check the signs on the chain link, and learn she just had a bath, she’s a year old, she’s in training.  There’s another sign, that says “I’m shy, please be patient”.  “Shy” is kind of a mild word for her.  If she could find a way to crawl into the floor drain, she would.

I sit on the concrete floor.  I’ll go down to her level, let her investigate.  I don’t call her over, but I do talk to her.  I stay still, letting her decide when she wants to take a sniff.  She peeks around the opening into the front part of the kennel, takes 2 steps towards me, then runs to the back.  We do this for 20 minutes.  She is shaking so badly I’m starting to feel guilty for causing this anxiety attack, but I know this behavior isn’t going to get her adopted.  So I wait a little longer.

Eventually, she takes the two steps into the front kennel and doesn’t bolt.  She sits.  She shakes.  No growling, no signs of aggression, and I’m encouraged. I put my hand out, hoping she’ll return the effort and at least lean her nose towards me, but even that minor movement causes retreat.

She tries again.  Hesitantly crossing the divider and slowly sitting down, averting her eyes.  Shaking, shaking, shaking.  I wait.  Whether faith or anxiety or curiosity compels her, I don’t know, but finally she looks at me.  In just the briefest of moments, I see behind her eyes, and know that Allison is the reason I am so passionate about these animals.

Her heart wants to run over and climb on me and lick my face.  She wants nothing more than to have someone throw a ball or play tug of war or get a belly rub.

She is shaking because her fear is greater than her hope. 

Her instinct is to love and protect, but her experience defies her instinct.  She doesn’t know if this human is going to hurt her.  Has she been hit, yelled at, neglected, kicked?  I don’t know what the method of action was, but the result is that she is a dog betrayed.  She doesn’t know what she has done wrong, and is unsure what to do now that will get a good response.  She is fearful, distrustful, terrified…but still wants to trust some human enough to love them.

She puts her front legs forward a bit, a timid introduction to lying down. She is still shaking.  I s-l-o-w-l-y bring the camera up from my lap, and she runs with her tail between her legs.  I’m an idiot for trying to move, and fear we’re going to start from scratch.  It’s beginning to feel like a really awkward slumber party, and my knees are starting to scream protest against the concrete floor. She surprises me, and returns to her hesitant spot in less than a minute.

We hang out this way for another 20 minutes, with Allison fleeing only when prospective adopters walk past.  I sneak 2 pictures.  I finally decide to go, and she turns her head and backs away as I leave.

I have reinforced her fear of rejection.  It breaks my heart.

I walk away wondering if the right person will show up.  I wish I could leave yet another sign on the cage. I would title it “Do You Deserve This Marvelous Animal?”  I want to tell those who are looking for the perfect dog to not be put off by the shaking.  This is a wonderful dog, a beautiful dog, an intelligent dog.  She is going to need a lot of time, a lot of attention, a lot of reassurance. The payback will be huge.  She will be loyal and kind and loving.  She will protect you with her life.  She will be your companion and your confidante.  She will be an incredible family dog.

Tonight, my hope is that the right person will stop long enough to see what’s behind those eyes, and will give her a forever home…and a new name.