Sunday, November 24, 2019


Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

Millie was enjoying her visits with Mike and Goldie.  Mike was savoring those home-cooked meals that Millie prepared whenever she came to visit.  Most of all, they both appreciated the savings that occurred when they went grocery shopping together.  Millie loved to use coupons and plan meals with the food that was on sale.

Mike just loved to spend time with his two favorite girls, Goldie and Millie.

Millie was practicing the dog training skills that Ruth had been showing her.  This was positive reinforcement training or as Ruth told Millie, “I call it ‘training with tools of love.’”  

Goldie quickly learned the lessons of Sit and Down.  She even enjoyed the Give Me Your Paw trick. 

The latest training challenge involved Goldie's being left alone.  Goldie enjoyed Mike's and Millie’s company and saw no joy in being left behind. 

Ruth suggested using a “mind game” to keep Goldie busy and happy.  She explained the use of the Kong toy as a “mind game.”  Millie purchased several Kong toys to use to keep Goldie pleasantly distracted. 

The Kong is a brand of toy.  It was a hard rubber cone which had a small hole at one end and a larger hole at the other end.  Treats are placed into the large end and then something sticky, like peanut butter, would be used to seal the treats into the toy.  The Kong toys were given to Goldie just before they left the house.  The Kong toys would keep Goldie busy as she chewed and licked to get those delicious treats.  This was an enjoyable distraction for Goldie and kept her occupied for hours. 

Goldie began to look forward to their leaving because she got this special toy filled with delicious treats.

On one particular day, Millie had gotten the treats together and was ready to fill the Kong toys.  She then discovered that the Kong toys had been hidden throughout the house.  Mike saw Millie get down on her knees, crawl around the floor, and look under every overstuffed chair and cabinet.  “Millie! What are you doing?”  Mike asked. 

Goldie had been closely following Millie’s movements.  The look on Goldie’s face seemed to also ask, “What are you doing?”

Frustrated, Millie tried to explain her problem, “I understand that Goldie likes to hide her special toys, but I wish she would understand that if I cannot find the Kong toys, I will not be able to fill them with the treats!” 

The Kong toys were soon found, and the treats were packed into the toys.  Just before Millie and Mike left the house, they handed the toys to Goldie. 

When they came home, Mike was the first to enter the house.  He began to laugh and couldn’t wait for Millie to see what he had found.  As soon as Millie came in, Mike began to wave at her and said, “Come here!  You have got to see this!” 

Millie started to walk toward Mike and asked, “What are you so excited about?” As she got nearer to Goldie’s crate, she discovered what had made Mike so excited.  Looking down at the area in front of Goldie’s open crate, she saw all the Kong toys lined up in a row.  

It was as if Goldie said, “Here they are!  No need to search for them anymore.”

Laughing, Millie turned to Mike and said, “Goldie really does understand everything we say!”


With her permission, I am serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, near-final material from this instructive novel by dog trainer Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through  UNDERSTANDING SASSIE  

I coached and edited for Helen through my Write Your Book with Me endeavor.

GOOD GRIEF: Witness to Others What You Have Learned

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

I don’t know; I think I’d be gloomy without some faith that there is a purpose and there is a kind of witness to my life.
— John Updike, Novelist

These are words that I take to heart. I have often thought, what good is it if I kept what I learned and experienced to myself while I watch others suffer?

We all learn many valuable lessons on our journey through life. As children, we are taught many lessons about what to do and how to behave daily. We grow older and learn new lessons as we have different experiences, some good and some not so good. As parents, we try to share these lessons with our children, hoping they do not make the same mistakes we made. Aging occurs, and we learn even more lessons of life. Lessons that are valuable, but do we recognize the value of these lessons? Do we keep them to ourselves or do we offer them up to help others?

I have wanted to help others all my life, with what I knew and what I’ve learned so their lives would be easier, their suffering not as acute, hoping they’d skip some of the pain in the process. Yes, I was a compulsive helper in this respect; being a nurse helped to meet that need. But, I have learned that not everyone loves to hear, “Let me tell you what I learned, so you don’t make the same mistakes.”

Some, even most, people were not interested. They wanted to go their own ways, make their own mistakes and live their own lives. OK, then, I thought, they have a right to run their own lives. This hurt, but I have always been willing to learn, to try to do better…even if it took years. And it did.

But what if you could approach this sharing of life’s lessons in another way? I thought. I learned that there are many ways to do this that are more effective and that maintain respect for others.

One way is to be a witness to others. A witness, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “…one who has personal knowledge of something, something serving as evidence or proof, public affirmation by word or example….”

During my journey through my grief and loss, I learned a lot. Each day, even now, I am learning: how to go on alone, how to find purpose, how to find peace and joy, how to be brave, how to help others with what I learned…and to bear witness.

I have always wanted to write a book, but I never had a clear direction as to the content. The death of my husband was the stimulus for me to pursue this dream…although I did not recognize it at first. I was only journaling my thoughts, terrified that I would forget some part of what occurred. And then, something amazing happened. Interactions with people during this time stimulated words that became written down as stories and lessons learned.

Writing this book became my purpose and a learning opportunity for me about how to share and care for others. In this book, I tell my story, bearing witness to my journey: the sadness, grief, humor, progress and setbacks, helpful tips, and encouragement.

I hope you, too, can be a witness to others who are going through grief and loss. I urge you to provide caring, compassion, and support…instead of telling others how they should grieve or how long it should take.

Encourage with gentleness and love those who are suffering.

Be a witness!


With her permission, I am serializing here a near-final version of nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: 


Ginny Carter, a friendly British competitor of mine, graciously sent me a review copy of her newest book, Your Business Your Book, and I am impressed, though not surprised, by how good it is. It would certainly have been helpful to me when I wrote my business book, Write Your Book with Me, to promote my own company of that name.

Why write a business book? Ginny debunks nearly a dozen excuses people give for not writing theirs, then gets down to a few reasons that end up compelling the business person to become a writer: doing the book clears your thinking, serves as a thick business card, and puts you ahead of others in your industry who have not yet written theirs. You can stack yours on that table by your podium when you give the invited talk your new book attracted. Then sell and sign your book-baby to those in the audience eager to read it.

How to get from your here and now, bookless, to your there and then, being an author: PLAN, WRITE, PROMOTE, her three-part battle plan that includes her 17 valuable chapters. I’d list these chapters here, but the wise Ginny Carter purchased the “Look Inside the Book” option at, and they are there in all their glory, part of the 10% or so of the book Amazon displays.


It starts with thinking: what do I know that others would like to know?

Actually, it starts, as Ginny Carter explains, with setting aside the obstacles your mind: I don’t have time. It won’t be perfect. Where shall I start? I hate/can’t write. I don’t know enough. No one will read it. Too much competition! Some may dislike it. She answers these objections, then issues a warning: don’t write a book if you have limited knowledge of your business, if you are just starting out.

Tools: “something to write with, something to write on, and your brain.” You’ve got these. She adds that a place to write with few interruptions will help. Computer? Yes. Software? Microsoft Word or even better, Scrivener. (I use Word.)

Size: topics influence size. Something around 40,000 words will work, though e-books can be shorter and major efforts can be longer.

Time: “Longer than you think, then double it.” Like Ginny, I coach and edit writers. I find it will take hundreds of hours of work but not thousands before their book is done. She recommends counting words in some of your own blog posts, then tripling the time per word to adjust for research and editing.

Enterprise: You should be in a field where writing a book will advance you, such as coaching, consultancy, speaking. Ginny herself does these.

More excellent advice: know what you want your book to achieve. I am reminded of Covey’s “Begin with the end in mind.” Ginny and I would want more clients.

Generally, you will make your money from something other than selling your book. Some common goals: help readers, be seen as an expert, attract clients, get speaking opportunities, establish yourself in a new niche, build and email list, sell coaching or a training program, gain satisfaction and a sense of achievement. Without your having clear goals, your book is likely to achieve little.

For whom are you writing this book? Ginny agrees with other coaches who advise would-be authors to create an “avatar,” an imaginary reader about whom you think you know a great deal. Then, streamline your book, direct it to your target audiences, such as future clients, customers.

“Unearth the gold,” by which Ginny Carter would have us understand, “Readers don’t buy books, they buy solutions that make them feel good.” Think about that long and hard. As others have written, the reader wants WIIFM, “What’s In It For Me?” She advises we give them what they want, not what we think they need.

Some other hints: What would your reader do “even if…”? What makes the writer special? What are you passionate about? You can have quite a following if even a small percentage of a large population agrees strongly with you. You’ll need to know your stuff well to pull this off.

She urges would-be authors to fill in this crucial information, “I want to help [my target readers] to [my expertise] so they can [the result for them] and so I can [my goal for myself].”

Return on Investment [ROI]: make sure you get some! More and better clients, opportunities, connections. To maximize these, you need Lead Magnets (giving something away to build an email list, for example), Seeding (noting your own business successes occasionally in your book), Recruiting Influencers (getting some others to participate and eventually to promote). Ms. Carter lists plenty of tips for doing these marketing things well, and she advises that one take advantage of a few social media, like LinkedIn and Twitter, but not spread oneself thin on too many.

Title: Love at first sight? The beginning of your seduction of the prospective reader is your title. Don’t blow this. Her title itself is excellent: Your Business Your Book, pithy and personal, telling you what you’ll be getting. Memorable. What benefit? What feelings? Name the audience, Nice Girls…. Make it intriguing, perhaps contradictory, like The Millionaire Next Door. See what Amazon has already. Then, flesh it out, “Your subtitle does the heavy lifting for the main title….” One of my own writing clients published Good Grief, about making the best of a bad situation.

Skeleton: Your book will flesh out the skeleton/outline you create first. Ginny Carter describes Mind Mapping and the use of Sticky Notes. I like to put the book in a skeletal file that starts with a Title Page and goes on to Dedication, etc., through the chapters and to the end notes.

Book type: Self-help, how-too, transformational memoir, thought-leading-inspirational, interviews…all are described in useful detail. In some doubt? Check some books you have found valuable.

Outline, outline, outline: Here’s an example:

- Introduction: set up
- State the main point
- Make subsidiary points
- Give stories and examples
- Conclude, summarize.

Types of readers: Ginny Carter notes that some need to know Why? Some What? Some How? Some What if? Cater to all four. Tell them why to do it, what to do, how to do it, and responses to what if?

Mine what you have written already and bring a pen with you everywhere, jotting notes on paper or even your hand.


Put your arguments in a plausible order. Write each simply and clearly. Bring your reader along. She tells an amusing story about current teenagers trying to make a phone call with an old rotary-dial phone. (Pick up the receiver first!) As you write, make every paragraph count. “Use plain English.” Be sparse. I think authors/editors Strunk and White wrote, “omit needless words.” Carter adds, “punctuate for effect”…clarity and variety.

Persuasive writing: Your Introduction should “capture your readers’ interest and earn their trust.” Why should they listen to you? Write your Introduction last. Tell what the book is about. Be empathetic. Summarize your solution. Explain why you are credible. Promise benefits. Seduce the reader to keep going chapter by chapter: start and end each strongly, give specifics, use metaphors (she cites Mardy Grothe’s I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like, and gives some ideas about constructing metaphorical bridges to subjects), mean what you say and say what you mean and say it the way you would say it in person, avoiding clich├ęs and adverbs and repetition. Tell stories, personal ones if possible, and make points with them: have a hook, set the scene, add conflict, let it develop, resolve it, call to action.

Resistance: fear is the source of most “writer’s block.” Fear of what? Rejection? Incompletion? Inadequacy? Well, write…though scared. Or dictate. Microsoft Word has a dictation capability, and before that, I used Dragon Naturally Speaking, which Carter notes favorably.

Carter and I also favor the rotten first draft, as something beats nothing every time, agreeing with Ann Lamott’s advice in her Bird by Bird. Just don’t send it out to your client!

“Don’t write the book yourself….50% of nonfiction bestsellers are ghostwritten….” That’s too bad, and I am not in favor of it, but I’m not a ghostwriter, although not everything one writes gets one’s name on it. Editors add as well as subtract. Carter has a half-dozen good reasons why there are advantages to using a ghostwriter. I agree; just make yours a co-author.

Carter also coaches, and so do I. The author has to do more of the work but will learn from the experience, pay less, and be the actual author. Coaches help plan, motivate, edit, and advise on promoting your work.


Carter has a great Mark Twain quote to start this section, “Editing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Strunk and White in their classic, Elements of Style, urge, “Omit needless words.” A famous author (the name is forgotten) advised us to “kill our darlings.” Some stuff is not darling, and the unattractive parts are like blemishes on an otherwise pretty face. She and I agree: write the first draft before nit-picking it, or as she quotes, “draft hot, edit cold.”

The steps Ginny Carter recommends include a sticky-note paste-up of the chapters and printing-out of the book, followed by editing for content and readability, correcting, editing for style, including variety and rhythm. Then, hire an editor! The better the draft and the better the editor, the better the book. Well, if you can afford it, she’d have you start with an editor who helps with the structure, then one for the copy, and finally a proofreader.

Next, come beta readers, people who are kind enough to critique your draft final and who resemble your target audience.

Finish! She quotes Erica Jong on how hard it is to declare the book is done. I had a client who could not stop “improving” his book and never published it. Once it is done, you will be judged. Takes courage.

Bits and pieces are discussed: Praise, Foreword, Acknowledgments, About the Author. Her insight all helps.


Ginny Carter knows the publishing options well: traditional publishers, self-publishing, and hybrid/partner versions of these two. She discusses and dissects all three…in depth. I found I agreed with her, but I won’t go into that here. We have both found that for the non-famous, but talented, people we help, the hybrid/partner publishers are most suitable.


She tells the bad news–promotion is a risky gamble–with the good news–almost anything good you do will add to your “fame” and “stature.”

Pre-publication: have an Internet author website, be active on social media, find allies to serve as beta readers or reviewers. Read Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book.

Post-publication: add more social media plus talks and interviews now that you have a published book, rather than a prospective one. Blog. Email. Twitter. Facebook. Consider those to be verbs! Use Amazon to the max: author page, even mutual reviews with other authors. Get LinkedIn? Maybe. YouTube is the second-biggest search engine after Google. Podcasts? There are many, most with small audiences, but some have just the people you want to reach.

Details of having a successful email list are given. You may not want to bother, but most who advise us on selling our books recommend it.

One of my own coaching clients has given roughly fifty little book talks, at libraries, senior centers, bookstores, and a few radio and television outlets. It’s sort of old-fashioned “offline” promotion that Carter describes, as well; it has not made my client’s book a bestseller, but has made some worthwhile contacts for her, and has provided an enjoyable hobby.

Something like a million new book titles will be published in the USA this year. Only a small fraction will be popular enough for you to have heard of them. Your book is not likely to be among them. However, it can reach friends, family, associates, neighbors, potential clients, and just possibly a much wider audience, if you are skilled…and lucky.


Ms. Carter’s book will help her readers hone their skills and produce a better business book than they would have otherwise, and it will enable them to make sound choices about publication and promotion, after which all they need to do for their book to be a wild success is to promote it vigorously…and get lucky.
Your Business, Your Book: How to plan, write, and promote the book that puts you in the spotlight

To get Ginny Carter's book, go to

To have me help you write, finish, and publish your own book, go to

Beethoven Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 5, Prodanova and Lanyi

Two young artists from the Royal Academy of Music, Yoanna Prodanova and Ariel Lanyi, play this beautiful piece masterfully. Twenty minutes of musical pleasure. Two talented musicians and my two favorite instruments, performing a piece by my favorite composer!

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

Ruth did not need to get to the shelter early. It was Saturday, so she decided to sleep a little later.  She had a leisurely breakfast and helped her mother with the house chores. 

At 5:00 p.m., she left to go to the shelter to meet Jane and Millie.

Now that Sassie had been approved for adoption, Ruth made sure that the tag on Sassie’s area read, “ADOPTED.”  

Sassie had been waiting all day for Ruth.  When she caught the scent of Ruth, she could only think of roast beef.  Ruth used this high-value treat to give to Sassie.  
They were Sassie’s special treat from Ruth, and when Sassie thought of Ruth, she also thought of roast beef. 

Sassie was so excited to see Ruth that she was wiggling all over.  Her tail seemed to be wagging her body, and Sassie wanted to keep kissing Ruth. 

“Hold still!”  Ruth said, “I can’t get your leash hooked up to your collar!”  Once the leash was finally attached to Sassie’s collar, they began to look for Jane.

Sassie remembered to mind her manners whenever she walked with Ruth.  Sassie would always keep the leash loose and never pulled.  She loved to take a walk with Ruth because she always made it fun.  Ruth would reward Sassie randomly whenever Sassie used her manners.

Jane was in the large inside exercise room. When Sassie and Ruth entered this area, Ruth unclipped Sassie’s leash and let her explore the room.

Sassie could not believe the large number of toys that she saw in this room.  She ran to a fuzzy ball, pounced on it and then threw it up into the air.  She did this several times.  Sometimes she caught the ball and sometimes the ball would drop and roll.  If it rolled, she would chase it and then pounce on it. 

Sassie played while Ruth and Jane talked. 

“Millie will be here soon,” Jane told Ruth.  “She helps the puppy owners to understand the sounds and actions of their puppies.  Most times the growls they hear are only a play growl, but to the owners it sounds real.  Millie has them look for a Play Bow and helps the owners recognize what their puppies are saying.” 

Jane no sooner said this than Millie walked into the exercise area. 

“Hi,” Millie said with a big smile on her face.  Sassie spotted Millie and decided to bring a toy to her.  “Hi, to you as well,” Millie greeted Sassie as she dug into her treat bag.  Sassie had already dropped the toy and sat waiting for her treat.  Sassie knew that offering a sit was the fastest way for her to get a treat.  Millie laughed as she rewarded Sassie with the treat. 

“It is time for you to put Sassie back on the leash,” Jane said.  “Please sit in one of the chairs that are located around the room. When all have arrived, and everyone is seated, Millie will go over the rules, and we will let the puppies off leash at the same time.”  When Jane finished saying this, she pointed at the chairs. 

Millie handed a copy of the rules to Ruth and said, “This is just a reminder of a few basic rules.  I will also announce them before the puppies will be able to play.  I’m here to help with behavior questions, but safety and positive socialization is the main goal of this puppy play date.”  By 7:10 p.m., most of the chairs were occupied by puppy owners with their puppies at their feet.

Millie began her announcements. “You will see that behind your chair is a hide-a-way for the puppies.  Please help the puppies to feel safe in these areas. Only one puppy should occupy a hide-a-way area.  Re-direct a puppy that may wish to chase someone into this area and let it know that the hide-a-way is for only one puppy at a time.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  We want your puppies to have fun during this time.  Now, on the count of three, unhook your leashes.  One, two, three.”

The dogs began to scamper in all directions.  A few stayed by their humans and just watched.  A few ran for a toy.  A few decided to explore the room.  A few demonstrated a Play Bow to another puppy and began a game of Chase.  The humans had treats ready to reward their puppies if they decided to Check In.  Millie explained that it was called a Check In if the puppy decided to come back to their human on their own.  She said that a Check In should always be rewarded. 

When the one puppy that had stayed by his human saw another puppy come towards him, he turned and ran into his hide-a-way.  The human did a good job of re-directing the approaching puppy by tossing a treat away from the hide-a-way.  Millie was explaining how play can look and sound like real fighting.  

“These puppies are practicing their skills in a playful manner.  Always watch for the Play Bow,” Millie reminded everyone. 

The humans began to relax as they laughed at the puppy play.  Sassie was so happy and excited to be able to play with the other puppies.  She used some of the lessons that Goldie had taught her and even used a few calming signals such as the sniff or the yawn.  There were water bowls available if the puppies needed to get a drink. 

As it got closer to 8:00 p.m., more and more of the puppies were lying down to rest.  Some decided to chew on a toy.  Some teased their human for a cuddle.  Some puppies decided to crawl into the hide-a-way and rest.  At 8:00 p.m., Millie announced, “Call your puppies and please attach their leashes.  As you leave this area, please be careful and take your time.  Have a safe trip home.  See you in two weeks”

Sassie had decided to lie by Ruth and was sound asleep.  Ruth picked her up and gently carried her to her area at the shelter.  Ruth knew that tomorrow morning she would return to the shelter and bring her home.  She kissed Sassie on the top of her head and told her, “I will see you early tomorrow morning.  Sweet dreams.”  


With her permission, I am serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, near-final material from this instructive novel by dog trainer Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through

I coached and edited for Helen through my Write Your Book with Me endeavor.

GOOD GRIEF: Muscles of the Soul Worksheet

Take a few moments, when you are ready, to record how you exercised these muscles during a stressful event. You can also use this exercise in a proactive manner by brainstorming how you might develop or strengthen your muscles of the soul to provide a tool kit from which to draw when dealing with stress or to help others deal with stress. A good exercise for building resilience.















     Unconditional Love:
Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation


With her permission, I am serializing here a near-final version of nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: 

Monday, November 11, 2019


Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

Mike continued to spend his lunchtime at the peaceful forest retreat.  He would watch the clouds and sometimes close his eyes for a short nap. 

It was on a sunny but cool day that he noticed a patch of golden fur.  At first, he thought he had been imagining this bit of gold, but as he started to pick up his lunch containers, he saw that patch of golden fur near a distant tree.  He had an extra roast beef sandwich that he had not eaten, so he decided to see if he could lure this animal with the food.  He laid a roast beef trail from his lunch area to the dirt road.  He then hid behind some shrubbery and watched to see what would happen. 

Goldie saw the food trail, and when Mike got out of sight, she was too hungry to be cautious.  Goldie gobbled all the food on the trail to the road and bolted back to the seclusion of the forest.

The next day, Millie had reluctantly agreed to take a break and have a cup of coffee with Mike.  “Millie,” Mike said, “I am so glad you were willing to join me this morning!” 

Millie was about to take a sip of her coffee but set it down instead.  “What’s up, Mike?” she asked. 

Mike continued, “You know that I’ve been taking my lunch to a peaceful forest location.”  Millie nodded yes, and Mike continued, “I’ve discovered an adult dog that looks like a Golden Retriever is living near that area.  She reminds me of a dog I used to have as a child.  I believe she is a young adult.  She may be two or three years old.  If I can get her to trust me, I would like to give her a home.  She is thin, and I am afraid she might not be able to survive the upcoming winter.  Can you help me?”

Millie was interested and decided it would not hurt for her to go with Mike and see what she could do to help this dog.  She asked another waitress to cover the rest of her shift and then joined Mike.  As they left the diner, Mike asked, “do you have any ideas?’ 

“I do have a number of tricks that may be helpful.” Millie replied.  They continued to talk about the golden-haired dog as they drove to Mike’s forest lunch spot.

When they got to the forest, Millie and Mike decided to lay another roast beef trail.  Mike showed Millie the hiding place he had used the day before, and together they watched for Goldie.  It was only a short time before Millie whispered, “I think that is her!  She is so beautiful.”  Then Millie added, “You were right about her being thin.  I can see her ribs.”  

They waited as they watched Goldie’s movements.  She was trying to hide behind a tree but slowly began to move to the roast beef trail.  She gobbled the treats and then bolted back to her hide-a-way. 

Millie recognized Goldie’s need for food.  They decided to move slowly from their hiding place and drop more roast beef as they moved to Mike’s lunch spot.  They continued to toss the food away from where they were sitting.  “Don’t look in her direction,” Millie warned Mike.  “She is hungry but will not come to the food if she thinks we are watching her.”  

Goldie would bolt from her tree and grab a piece of food.  However, she came to realize that Millie and Mike were not a danger but a source of the good food. She gradually began to trust Mike and Millie.  The food was satisfying her hunger and they gave her a lot of it.  She came closer and closer.  Neither Mike nor Millie made any attempt to touch her.  Soon Goldie did become brave enough to take a piece of the food from their hands.  They still made no move to pet her. 

The next time they came to Mike’s lunch spot, Goldie came to them and not only took food from their hands but nudged them as well.  That was when they decided that it was time to reach for her slowly. 

Mike was so excited when Goldie began to run to Mike whenever he came to his lunch spot.  That’s when Mike knew it was time to bring Goldie home.

Millie began to enjoy spending the evenings with Mike and Goldie.  Millie especially liked to bring new toys for Goldie.  Mike laughed at how Goldie seemed to look for a toy every time Millie would arrive at the house.  Mike kept saying, “You’re spoiling her,”

Millie’s response was always, “I enjoy watching Goldie play with her toys.” 

On this occasion, Millie had brought a long unstuffed fuzzy creature.  Millie was trying to get Goldie to pull on it.  Goldie gave a Play Bow and pounced on the creature.  Then Goldie tossed the toy into the air.  When she caught it, she shook it. Mike laughed and asked Millie, “What was that all about?”

Millie explained the Play Bow and the other actions.  Mike looked at Millie and said, “Wow, that college behavior you are learning is interesting!”  Millie smiled at Mike and only answered, “Dogs understand more than you realize.”


With her permission, I am serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, near-final material from this novel by Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through

GOOD GRIEF. My Wishes for You

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting TransformationMay you find PEACE in your heart – remembering
it’s more than a pump,
And feel compassion for YOURSELF and others.
May you experience JOY every day;
It gives you something to live for and gladdens the heart.
May you continue to share your CARING with others,
And let others COMFORT you when you are feeling down,
sad, or alone.
May you hang on during tough times – sometimes
that’s all you can do;
But remember to let HOPE float up and do its magic healing.
May you remember to BREATHE when faced with fear, stress or loss;
It relaxes the body and refocuses the mind.
May you make time for YOURSELF each and every day
Practicing self-care and becoming your best.
May you recognize you are worthy and loved by GOD and others,
So you can share this LOVE with others too.
May you LIVE every day as if it were your last,
So you have no regrets.
May you have the courage to be AWESOME,
And hold tightly to the wonderful person you are.

Thank you from my HEART
                                    Cheryl A. Barrett, 11/25/2014

Allow for Time
to Heal Your Wounded Spirit

You don’t know how strong you are until being strong
is the only option you have.
Bob Marley, Songwriter, Musician

Yes, it takes time to work through grief and loss.
There is no specified time limit for this journey. It is unique to each person. There is no one path for all, but a path exists for each of us to walk. These five actions helped me on my journey:

·       Be patient. There will be ups and downs, progress and setbacks, on this healing journey.
·       Be strong. Use your resources and reach out to family and friends to support you.
·       Have faith. Move confidently toward the future filled with endless possibilities.
·       Look back. Express joy and gratitude for what you shared.
·       Look forward. Live with joy and gratitude in anticipation of your future.

While finishing this book, I reviewed the textbooks that I used in a Stress Management Instructor course I had taken some years ago. I found a section on stress and human spirituality, addressing the issues and impact of loss.

Some view this spiritual loss as a heart-sick feeling devastating to the soul. Yes, it does feel this way and goes on for some time. Your mind, your heart, and your soul are at war with the healing process at first. As time moves on, your mind shows you the logic of the situation, leading the way to healing as you set positive intentions. Your heart and soul continue to ache and recovery lags woefully behind, creating extended sorrow and grief.

The war within me went on for some time before I could take small steps toward healing. Yes, this war within is often said to be a trip to hell. I agree!

According to holistic stress management speaker B. L. Seaward, Ph.D: “There are two ways to emerge from a proverbial trip to hell. The first is as a victim, where one carries a sense of remorse or resentment for a very long time — sometimes forever. The second is as a victor, an individual who emerges gracefully with neither animosity nor resentment.”

Dr. Seaward mentions that the journey of healing requires “exercising your muscles of the soul.” Using his list of topics, I explain next how I exercised “the muscles of the soul” to heal my own wounded spirit from the loss of my dear husband, Fred.

     Compassion: I accepted comfort and compassion from friends and family who listened to me and shared in my grieving. I asked for help, hugs, or companionship when I felt the need. I read and reread the condolence cards and emails, finding comfort in the loving words. I am truly grateful for such caring sent my way. I also was compassionate toward myself, accepting my weaknesses. I allowed myself to cry. I even bravely chose events that brought on the tears, so I could purge myself of the pain of loss. Watching movies that involved loss and healing were very helpful, and I felt much better.

     Courage: I protected myself from triggers that would cause me to cry at times. I wore sunglasses to camouflage my eyes and hide the ravages of a tearful face. I carried tissues everywhere to mop up the waterfall of tears. I wanted people to see a survivor, not a victim of a tragedy…and someone with a brave heart who could stand tall and move forward. Writing this book took courage I did not think I had.

     Creativity: I found things that brought joy and laughter back into my life and put a smile on my face. I saw a “how to” video on making baskets out of recycled paper rolled into long tubes and made a few of these. The finished project was satisfying. In another creative adventure, three of us went to a “wine and paint night” at a local restaurant and painted a big sunflower with acrylics. We adopted artists’ personas: I am now known as (Cherylbrant) and my accomplices were my friend, Peg (Pegasso), and my daughter, Bonnie (Boninchi): each imitating her favorite artist with her painting. We had fun.

     Curiosity: I sought out options and answers to so many questions about finances, funeral details, insurance, IRAs, 401Ks, death benefits, who needs death certificates, applying for social security, retirement, name change and beneficiary change. And so much more. I made lists upon lists and checked off items as they were done — eventually.

     Faith: I had faith from the start, although it was battered down by the nearly overwhelming grief, anger and regrets. Although my faith was wounded, I still watched the Sunday service with Joel Osteen. I still read my daily devotions on The Power of Being Thankful by Joyce Meyer. I still prayed. I kept searching for understanding until I reread the story of Job in the Bible. Job experienced numerous losses and kept his faith. I found that you might never get the answers as to why this tragedy happened, but in faith, you walk forward, confident that there is a light waiting for you ahead.

     Forgiveness: This was hard, but I did forgive my husband for leaving me. I forgave God for taking him. I forgave myself for all the perceived regrets I had of not doing as much as I could have and should have done. I chose to give up the overpowering unforgiveness that kept eroding my spirit. It was such a relief.

     Humbleness: I worked to get outside of myself, helping others not as fortunate as I am. Looking at the big picture, my loss was insignificant compared to what some others have had to deal with in their life. I put together a care package for a friend, Anne, who always gives to others…so she would take time for herself, for a change. I mentored a young woman, June, in her pursuit of higher education in nursing. I gave my ticket to the amusement park to someone else to go. I volunteered to work on a quilt that was to be raffled off to raise money for the church. I cooked a meal and packed up a goodie bag for a friend whose husband underwent surgery. These actions helped me stop being focused on “poor me,” and I am thankful for the opportunity to do these. I look forward to doing more in the future.

     Humor: I am blessed to live with a daughter who makes me laugh hard and often. We laugh about memories with my husband, her father. We laugh about almost anything. She often breaks into a song and dance that is hysterical. She still hides sometimes and tries to scare me like her father used to do to both of us. I watched movies alone that were funny, as well as watching ones with my daughter or with a friend and laughed a lot. My daughter was, and is, the greatest gift in keeping me smiling and stimulating laughter. I think she was a comedian in her past life. I knew that laughter heals, and I employed my creativity to make opportunities for it to happen. Laughter was a great tension reducer for me.

     Integrity: I fell short in “honesty” at first, as I needed to insulate myself from the pain and loss. Certainly, it was evident to many how devastating to me Fred’s death was, but to others who were not close, things looked “OK.” I told people I was fine when I was not, that I was eating when I was not, that I was sleeping when I was not — and more. As the impact of my grief lessened somewhat and time moved forward, I was able to find a way to trust others and share how I really felt. It was hard to keep up the “good lie” and such a relief to be able to share how I truly felt. I discovered that once I faced and became my truth again, I could become empowered and exercise other muscles of the soul more effectively.

     Intuition: Sensing, insights, inspiration, and enlightenment are part of intuition. I have had experience with intuition in the past. For example, my intuition told me that the first person (male) I met in Home Depot was the one to help me with my car issue in the parking lot, but I dismissed it. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to return to him, and he was the one who came and helped start my car. Often, we get a feeling about something and dismiss it, moving forward at a too-fast mental pace. Slowing down and taking a pause to reflect allows for opportunities to become more evident. I am thankful that when I was walking up the stairs the night my husband died, I acted on the feeling that I had and turned to look at him and say, “Good night, Fred” — the last time I spoke to him. I am now more sensitive to my intuition for self-care and for caring for others’ needs.

     Optimism: Being positive was a challenge, as I had lost someone who was a constant source of support — my personal cheerleader of positivity. Suddenly, I had to create my own positivity. I found it is much easier to be negative and find fault than to be positive. So, I discovered a way to start. I faked being positive at first, and then little-by-little I began to feel positive about something in my day. I woke up and expressed thankfulness for the day. I set an intention to allow hope to bloom in my heart and open my eyes to a new future. I saw people struggling with much worse situations than mine, leading me to get out of my own way. I embraced a spirit of optimism.

     Patience: I grieved hard…with tears, anger, frustration, and more. I questioned God: Why did you do this to me? I questioned my dead husband: Why did you do this to me? I asked: Why did I deserve to be alone? I looked around at other older couples and envied them their togetherness and asked again: Why not me? Guess what? There were no answers, only acceptance that one time is over and another time is beginning. With patience and the passing of time, I came to terms with this. I felt peace.

     Persistence: To deal with all the details on my journey required persistence, because there were always loose ends. Nothing got done in a one-time action. There were always follow-ups, often too many to keep track of them all. I just made new lists and kept going.

     Resiliency: There were many times that I regressed in the healing process, but I did not give up. I bounced back stronger after every new wave of grief, anger, regret or self-pity that hit me, threatening to take me under. Each time, I chose to be strong and go forward; I bounced back quicker and was able to move forward again…and again…and again.

     Unconditional love: I worked for only four and a half months after my loss. I quit, to get out of the rat race and to be able to take better care of myself. I still mourned, even as I opened a new door to my future. I learned to love myself. The most amazing thing happened: I have become filled with more joy, peace, happiness, and expectation for sharing with others.

You can use the form on the next page with these same topics to write how you have exercised the muscles of your soul as you journey through your own grief and loss. It took time for me to do this, and it was sporadic, but thoughts and experiences along the way produced what I have shared about the muscles of the soul to me.
Yes, this journey is hard and it may be a long one. Be strong, and walk forward step-by-step, breath-by-breath. You, too, will emerge the victor. You have learned much and have much to share now with others.


·       I step forward in faith and am stronger each day.
·       I use the muscles of the soul to heal my wounded spirit.
·       I am optimistic that I can experience joy and love.


With her permission, I am serializing here a near-final version of nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: