Astro was not born perfect. His jaw was slightly deformed and as he neared his first birthday, the deformity was not acceptable which spells doom if you happen to be a little dog bred to be perfect. Because of his imperfection Astro’s breeder decided to have him euthanized; thankfully a big-hearted group of folks who scurry all over Texas rescuing dogs from abuse, neglect and pending death scooped up little Astro and brought him to Austin. The little Dachshund needed a home and it wasn’t long before he was adopted.

But moving isn’t always easy and adoptions can be tricky, throw in an energetic weiner dog and all bets are off. Astro had not been in his new home long when somehow, some way a door was opened and the little dog was off and running. Astro disappeared into the nearby woods just as storm clouds began to take hold of the sky. Within hours the city of Austin was receiving record rainfall, parts of the city were flooding, branches littered the streets, leaves were strewn like confetti blown this way and that in the storms moody, chaotic frenzy. The storm raged all night – thunder, lighting, downed trees, rain, wind and a little dog with a deformed jaw was lost.

There wasn’t a lot of optimism that Astro survived the night. Whether it was from the substantial storm or from a coyote whom Astro would merely be a $4 appetizer on a Happy Hour menu, the odds were stacked against him. Signs were posted throughout the neighborhood but no one had seen the little dog. Hundreds of calls were made to alert neighbors to look out for a little lost dog. A couple of days later with Astro still missing the search was all but over. The dog was too small to survive and didn’t stand a chance against a coyote.

When bad things happen we’re often told to,“let it go” and sometimes that is suitable advice. But not always. Sandy, for one, wasn’t ready to let it go. My intelligent, generous friend who must have gold lining her Texas-sized heart wasn’t ready to let this go. Having paid for the calls to be made on Astros’ behalf, having been very involved with the original scoop and rescue operation, the little dog had touched Sandy’s heart. He looked remarkably similar to Lilly, her little Dachshund who had changed her world. As Austin was finally feeling the heat of summer – scorching temperatures and high humidity had set in – Sandy was traipsing through the woods, looking for Astro…dead or alive…not ready to let go.

As I sat, grounded at home waiting for a furniture delivery, Sandy and I talked about how animals touch us, open our hearts and change our worlds; Astro had not yet had his chance to do that for someone. As she trudged through the woods, Sandy was tearful and wanted desperately to find the little dog so he could share his unconditional love. Repeatedly Sandy explained that he hadn’t had a chance to change a family’s world and she wanted that for Astro. And as Sandy talked, full of emotion, I felt for my friend, I felt for the little lost dog and I realized as I sat with tears rolling down my face that Astro had indeed already touched us. We didn’t know what happened to him, or how afraid he must be, how scary the storm must have seemed and how impossible it would be to survive a meet and greet with a coyote. Our conversation gently segued to the acceptance that we may never know but to have faith that Astro’s life was worthy, that we can’t know the answer to every question but we knew he had touched us and had touched people who had never known him.

The weekend came and went and as I arrived home Monday from work, I heard the familiar ‘ting’ of a text message. It was from Sandy.

“Guess who was just found!”

Tears of joy, relief and wonderment filled my eyes as I waited to hear more from my friend.

Astro had survived the storm, the heat, the coyotes and traffic. One person saw a little dog who looked like the one Sandy had posted on Facebook. She posted a message…someone else who was close by saw the message…and so on and so on…messages and texts and calls were being tossed back and forth as strangers talked with strangers all coming together to scoop up the little dog with the imperfect jaw. “I’m heading South, just saw him turn East”…”Ok, I’m on foot and heading that way”…”We’re coming in from the West, I think we saw him behind some houses, he’s tiny“…”Wait, I’m around the corner, I see him, I’ve got him!…We got him! He’s ok!” …the little dog was no longer lost.

Astro is safe and sound in his new forever home where imperfect jaws are accepted and his unconditional love has already touched his new family.  We’ll never know where Astro was or how he survived all those days and nights on his own. What we do know is Astro is getting a chance to change someone’s world, but the truth is, he had already accomplished that. Astro brought strangers together and opened hearts. His absence showed us the depth of love and care that strangers can have for a little dog deemed unworthy by a breeder and quite possibly he showed us that maybe…just maybe…in our increasingly isolated world where “perfect”  is the new norm and it’s more common to focus on our differences than our similarities that a little dog with an imperfect jaw showed us that coming together is actually far more rewarding.

Not bad for a one-year old.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed

I think the death of Robin Williams has had a profound impact on many people and in my eyes his death was meaningful for that reason. His suicide got our attention and shocked us awake. His pain sent us a message we often don’t want to acknowledge – life can be challenging. None of us go through life without a struggle or two and we all have that in common.

We are all the same…hearts are hearts.

It’s for that common bond that I enjoy my time spent with folks whose road is rockier than others. I can say I enjoy helping people who are often marginalized by our society due to its reticence regarding their mental illness or addictions, etc., and I do…but I often think I’m getting much more out of it than they are. My heart receives bountiful gifts from some of the most generous members of our society; there’s really no such thing as a selfless act.

As I spend time with people struggling with life’s challenges, I am continually warmed by their genuine authenticity, their open vulnerability and their generosity.

                                    Have you ever wondered why the people who have been 
                                         the most humbled are usually the most generous?

The folks who have so little to lose have so much to give and that draws me in for they have some of the wealthiest, richest, warmest hearts I’ve ever known.

And so it happened I came to know Mike, a man in his late 40’s who struggles with a mental illness and a subsequent drug addiction. He doesn’t have a home, a car, or a job but Mike has a heart. The pain from his depression is palpable at times yet few people have made me laugh more than Mike. His heart…like Robin Williams’s…resides smack dab on his sleeve and his sense of humor is one of the healthiest things about him. In the short amount of time I have known him, Mike has struggled with a lot of challenges but through it all he has had the ability to laugh…a wit so dry and sardonic that he pokes fun at his own illness.

Mike sought me out a few weeks ago and asked if we could talk. We found a quiet place and I was concerned by the angst on his face as I sat quietly and prepared to listen. He began by saying he didn’t know what to do…it was the worst thing that’s ever happened to him…and he couldn’t eat or sleep. My mind was racing with what I knew about Mike…homeless, without family, without much support, no money, mentally ill and trying to stay off drugs. Was he going to talk about wanting to kill himself? Without providing details he talked in circles, “It’s awful, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, please Haven help me, tell me what to do…”.

As I listened, he finally found the words to describe what he was going through. He had fallen in love with a woman who didn’t love him back. Mike wasn’t distraught because of all the things I had presumed he would be upset about…this went much deeper than that. He loved someone who didn’t love him. Mike had a broken heart. He didn’t want to talk about finding a place to sleep that night, he wanted to talk about his broken heart.

I looked at Mike for a moment and then I saw it: His resiliency was shining brightly and his humor was still alive and well. And I began to laugh. I didn’t laugh at him. I laughed at the recognition of our bond…hearts are hearts…and it doesn’t matter who you are…when your heart hurts it can feel like the worst thing in the world. When we are in that place there is little we can do…except laugh. And as I laughed, Mike began to laugh which resulted in the two of us laughing louder. It was a laughter of solidarity, a wordless language of recognition: no one gets to waltz through life and at that moment, two hearts were laughing – it wasn’t about homelessness, poverty, mental illness or addiction. It was about human heartache and the understanding that we are all the same. As we sat and laughed very little separated Mike’s life from mine.

                    Hearts are Hearts

It was one of the purest moments I’ve shared with another person and all the more special because it was with an adult who had let down his defenses in order to let me in. Mike has a lot of strikes against him, his life is difficult and odds are he will die far sooner than he would if he didn’t have a mental illness. But Mike has three qualities that many people will never own: the strength required to be vulnerable, the courage it takes to open his heart and the ability to laugh through it all. The result is Mike’s heart, while currently broken but mending, is full of love and generosity and we’d all be better off with more of that in our lives.

                The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched,
                                          they must be felt with the heart.       – Helen Keller

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven


Source: New feed

P & P is an acronym that has a whole host of meanings depending upon the setting. Business executives routinely refer to their Policies and Procedures as P & P, golfers talk about getting together for P & P and are referring to Pitch and Putt; others are referring to Pen and Paper, Plug and Play, even Postage and Packaging. For me P & P means only one thing: Paraffin and Prison stories. Oh how I miss my P & P!

When I made the decision to move from Maine to Austin, Texas, it was the result of much thought and consideration. Leaving the familiar for the unknown is risky and takes courage. Moving from one part of the country to another is a complete and total upheaval of all of the things we use to define ourselves. The familiar is no longer, one’s comfort zone is stretched wider and growth ensues. The move has served me well and intuitively I knew it would. I also knew there would be things I missed.

I had many months to prepare for my move and plenty of time for goodbyes. I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to do before I moved and one by one I accomplished them. It was a wonderful experience to know I was leaving yet had the luxury of time to savor experiences, views, meals, laughter with friends and co-workers, long bike rides followed by dips in the Skillings’ pool and my monthly massage. I remember thinking I would really miss a lot of things and I do…but not nearly as much as I thought I would. There’s really just one thing I have discovered I am not going to be able to replace: my P & P. It was something I knew I would miss but I underestimated how much.

My P & P doesn’t refer to Policies and Procedures or any of the other more common terms. For me P & P means only one thing: Paraffin and Prison stories.

I discovered Kevin through one of those large, structured bike rides to raise money for a charity. Kevin was a cyclist, helped support and sponsor the ride and had recently started a new massage therapy business. Always interested in supporting small business owners, I made an appointment for my first ever 90-minute massage. I never looked back – it was one of the best massages I had ever had. I committed to seeing him once a month, excited to receive quality body work and excited to support a new business owner. I enjoyed watching as his business grew and expanded into a very successful operation. I also enjoyed the massage which included a dip of hands and feet into pre-heated paraffin wax – an idea Kevin implemented in order to work deeper on warm extremities.
P & P
P is for Paraffin.  
                                                       P is also for Prison stories.

Over the course of the couple of years that I saw Kevin we got to know one another. Having created my own business years before, I was interested in his process and related to much of the growing pains and highs and lows that come with owning a business. I gained great respect for his work ethic, drive and integrity as he expanded his business in a dreadful Maine economy while staying committed to his family and values. As we talked one day, I happened to mention my fascination with prisons. People who know me aren’t at all surprised…there is much to explore with regard to the psychology and behaviors of prison yet it isn’t always easy to explain. But Kevin immediately understood. Because Kevin had, at one time unbeknownst to me, worked in a prison! And for me, an aging athlete with aches and pains with a malfunctioning body thermostat, being treated to hot paraffin wraps was great…but add prison stories to the mix…and that equates to irreplaceable. I can find other massage therapists, it’s possible I’ll find one who works with paraffin but to find the P & P combination…that’s a combination I’ll never replace or recreate in Austin.

                    As I sit and write listening to coyotes howl up and down the canyon, am I happy I moved?  

Would I do it again?  Without a doubt.

Do I miss my P & P?  More than I ever imagined.

I’m still in touch with the friends who love and care about me and even though I don’t see them, we talk, email, text, exchange cards and they visit. But Paraffin and Prison stories? Irreplaceable.

I’ve already suggested to Kevin that he open a franchise in Austin but he’d have to train at least one therapist on the in’s and out’s of prison life. Knowing Kevin, I think he’d be up for the challenge.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed