The challenge of writing three words for 2012 got me here - back to my neglected website, updating the homepage, and diving into the world of blogging - something I have been hesitant to do. So with these words...breathe, undaunted, intention - I begin a new chapter. Will it lead to the publication of my book? A career in writing at some level? Will I keep it up as I never could with the many diaries started so enthusiastically as a child, a teen, a young adult? We shall see. Perhaps my writing friends will help me stay on the page. Perhaps this will be my one and only entry. A limited edition blog.

In the mean time - my words...a challenge from a friend and fellow writer E. Jeanne Harnois who was challenged by a Chris Brogan article. The idea is to replace the traditional New Year Resolutions with three words. Instead of a towering list of do's & don'ts that generally doesn't make it past the first 12 days of the year, come up with three words that will serve as a guide through the next 12 months. More like a personal anthem than a wagging finger. 

Breathe: I forget to do this - whether it is breathing in the air outside or transitioning from one activity to another. I forget to take a moment and just breathe between thoughts - my own or those thrown at me from someone else. All too often I don't take those few seconds to simply inhale and exhale before shifting gears, to be present, to give myself the basic elements of life. I need to slow down and take in my allotment of air.

Undaunted: I want to stay on track. I want give my inner voice her due - since she is generally the one who knows best anyway. Instead, I tend to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt. I cave in to fear and the shadows of my own doubts all too often. I am far too cautious when I want to be fearless. I can get overwhelmed to the point of distraction. This is when I need to breathe. 

Intention: I lose my way because I forget where I am going. I go off on detours - my own and others'. I need to ask at each turn whether it will serve my goal or take me so off track, it will be difficult finding my way back. 

I suppose it's a lot easier to carry three little words around for the next 365 days than a heavy list of do's & don'ts. Still, best just to focus on taking it one deep breath at a time and maybe keep flossing from that New Years list - now that I don't have to do it more than once a day or past January 12th.   

What are your three words?

      Speech for Open Mic 
  Fundraiser for UnChained 
                        June 24, 2012

They say a good salesperson can sell anything - I am not a good salesperson. Not one of those people who could sell ice-cubes to an Eskimo, probably couldn’t even sell hot tea in the freezing cold. But there are some people who seem to think I am good at selling –  some of them are here tonight. They think that I can get donated venues, boats, & office space for any program or organization. They think this because they don’t know the whole story. I don’t often tell the whole story – but since this is an open mic event – I have decided to be open.

Once upon a time I was in love with an extraordinary person I had met in college. He was a talented musician who could rock any guitar and then sweep you away playing classical piano. He had a photographic memory, he had learned to dive on the same team with Olympic diver Greg Louganis, he shared my satirical punny sense of humor, and he held center stage in any crowd he was in.

I am not saying all of this because he died tragically at the age of 27. All those who knew him – knew this at the time. We also knew that he could be argumentative and stubborn – but his heart was always in the right place. He was always in your corner. Didn’t matter who you were – he was a humanitarian in the truest sense.

In February of 1986 he was killed by a former high school classmate, who forced the two of us at gunpoint to drive him out of town and onto a two-lane somewhat deserted road, very late at night. I barely escaped with my life. The scar from having my head pounded with a sawed-off shotgun has faded over the years – but the internal scars are still there -  PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mighty curse. The one local newspaper reporter I trusted interviewed me once the trial was over. Her last question has stayed with me to this day. She asked if there was anything that could have been done to change what happened that night. I told her, not at the time, but perhaps some flag could have gone up and intervention taken place when he beat up his first classmate in kindergarten.

That question led me on a journey to try to make this world a better place. To try to make some difference in the lives of kids who might not feel they have options or might not have the tools to communicate constructively – who might not understand anything but violence. It has been a very long journey. I have my teaching credential at long last and masters in education. I have taught conflict resolution, worked in the classroom and with kids dealing with grief, but I never dreamed that there was any chance of changing the life of a violent teenager. My studies in and out of college have taught me that once a child turns 5, the foundation has been set for life.

And then my friend of 21 years quits her long, successful career, takes a couple of years and a giant leap of faith to try to figure out what else she wants to do with her life. Something with animals – animal rights advocate is too confrontational, animal rescue – already a foster parent for many years – then she gets this brilliant idea and UnChained is born. Matching at-risk youth with at-risk dogs. Rival gang members working cooperatively together training dogs.  Many of the kids we have been working with have been raised in high risk environments. Many have made some seriously bad choices in their lives and are at charter schools or youth camps being given one last chance to turn their lives around – to stay out of jail, graduate high school, and get a job.

You are hearing testimonials this evening about kids whose lives have been touched and hopefully changed by UnChained – I am here to give a testimonial on behalf of those who will hopefully never have to deal with the aftermath of an experience like mine all those years ago. Perhaps one kid will be forever changed and a whole chain of tragic events that might have otherwise unfolded will be prevented. If just one kid is changed – UnChained will have been a huge success!

I can’t sell – I can only speak from the heart. I can’t stop speaking about this organization. Many of us have ideas but you, my dear friend, Melissa, made your brilliant idea a brilliant reality – you have changed my reality, and for that I am eternally grateful. 

    Okay, I'll admit it - I'm a writer. Now I'm trying to do something about it. 


    January 2012