Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Trouble with Dogs II

In 2020, I wrote a farewell blog to my Corgi Mix, "Reina". The name means "queen" in Spanish, and she certainly held sway over my heart. What follows is an updated blog to include the entrance of a little spitfire named "Gracie".

The gift of connection is fraught with the grief of separation.

Simply put, we outlive our dogs, and it’s just not fair.

When I met my dog Reina for the first time, there was an element of loss in the joyful mix; I did not feel it, could not have identified it at the time. But there was a wiggly layer of sadness inside our first meeting, and that niggling thread would follow us through the five years we had together.

The grief would grow more insistent the day the vet told me my girl had Canine Degenerative Myelopathy, a condition which would cause some pain and possible paralysis in her hindquarters.

The sting of losing her this way, in slow dribbles, tracked us like a cold shadow. Our walks became shorter. She accepted my help getting into the car, out of the car, up the steps, into the apartment.

Many things were the same, but even the familiar rituals felt short-lived, more precious.

Brief walks along the lakeshore, lurching along like a couple of mellowed oldsters, just sniffing the breeze and hoping for polished beach glass along the way.

Lots of treats. More than necessary; lavish gifts to hold onto our good moments.

Head pats, ear scratches, belly rubs. Little luxuries to ease the pain.

Small affirmations whispered into a world of

    gifts and goodbyes,

                             homecomings and heartaches,

    rescuing and relinquishing,

    mending and mourning.

I lost her in February of 2020.

In March of that year, the world shut down.

The emptiness in my apartment became a thundering silence; a constant reminder of she’s-not-here-anymore.

The sequester was deeply solitary for me. More profound, really, than lockdown in the world of uncertainty we were dwelling in that dark year.

It’s a strange yet familiar journey, this pilgrimage with dogs. These days I have Gracie as my little sidekick, the heartbeat-at-my-feet. Like Dear Reina, I know Gracie, too, will succumb to her passage over the rainbow bridge.

And I will mourn. Once again, I will know the anguish of losing a pet. The empty food bowl, the resting leash – still hanging on the hook beside the door. Echoes of clickety-clack paws on the floor tile; recalling her unique bark so keenly, you think for a moment she has returned.

So, the question follows me like some kind of no-nonsense coach: Why would you do this over again? Why do you keep tolerating these goodbyes, only to turn around and welcome another dog into your life?

There is no logical answer.

There is only a wagging tail, an upturned face, a slobbery wet kiss on the nose. This is all we need to begin a new story.

The retelling of that story, later on, will far outweigh the pain of goodbye.


Kathy is passionate about rescuing dogs. Gracie is a rescue from Northern Chautauqua Canine Rescue in Westfield, NY. In November 2021, Gracie ran off and went missing for 5 days. Kathy and friends launched a search along the Bayfront Connector in Erie, where a Good Samaritan found Gracie – she was hungry and weary and happy to be returned home. Kathy enrolled Gracie in a wonderful dog training program, Dependable Companions Dog Training, LLC , located in East Liberty, OH. 

Due to her excellent training and confidence-building, Gracie is a thriving Corgi, living her best life. She enjoys car rides and rambling walks in the woods. She knows “sit”, “stay”, “treats”, “car ride”, and “suppertime” and is fluent in the unspoken language of steadfast devotion.


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Laughter Spills Out

I hope today you laugh.

Not because you forced it, but because levity assembled itself around you, surprising your weary self and pulling out joy where the sun couldn’t get in.  Laughter is a stealth ally, showing up when you least expect it and most need it.

I hope you laugh because something strikes you funny and mostly because laughter releases light and hope into the world. You may experience a superb, surprising belly laugh interrupting the quietness of your own home -- but still, you've changed the quality of the air and charged it with happiness particles.

I hope today you laugh.

Maybe, if you're especially blessed, you'll witness a baby giggle and just watching that pure bubbling delight will pull out the giggle in your own gut. Humor sends out a message: Life is hard but I have this moment, and right now it's joy that occupies this space.

Pure, unapologetic joy.

I hope today you laugh.

May the ironic, the ridiculous, the just-plain-silly -- grab you by the shoulder and invite you in. I hope you'll laugh out loud in the grocery line. In traffic with your window down. With a friend at lunch. Next to a stranger in the waiting room. Waiting rooms, especially, need the infusion of laughter.

I hope today you'll laugh.

Have you noticed? When you pass by a room full of mirth, it pours out of the walls and windows like so much sunshine, spreading warmth over everyone in its path. Smiles will curl up on worried faces and laughter will escape, even from unpracticed throats; it's just contagious. Even the slightest murmur reaches heaven.

I hope today you laugh.

Not the manufactured stuff of sit-com tracks, but the genuine, belly-jiggling, side-splitting, absolutely irresistible music of your own voice letting out joy. Laughter around the dinner table is a particularly welcome gift. It bursts into the room like a beloved guest. You want it to stay all evening.

Laughter is medicine for the soul, affirmation for the doubter, a pocket of peace for the worry-worn, an embrace for the desolate.
Release it into the waiting world, a world that offers up countless wonders and comedic creatures; a world that softens the raggedy edges with a sense of the outrageous, the frivolous, the offbeat wackiness. A world that needs more goofy and less grumpy. More lightheartedness and less weightiness.
The universe grows smaller and more inviting when two souls share a joke, a smile, a rare splendid moment.

I hope today you laugh.

Distractions will tug on your sleeve, bills will cry out to be paid, deadlines will shadow you, appliances will quit, people will drive like idiots. Still, there will be moments. Show up for them. You won't be sorry; neither will the people who need to hear your voice chortling out the music -- the off-key, blessed, bursting and brave music -- of laughter.

As seen in the April 2024 edition of Silver Magazine
The Post-Journal & Warren Times Observer

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Stuck in the Not Yet


So here we are:  A familiar wedging in that middle-season that follows Winter and precedes the eruption of Spring – we are stuck in the Not Yet. It’s a big improvement over snow, ice and plunging temperatures, but it’s not quite where we’d like to be.

It’s the Season of the Not Yet.
We are slogging about in this interlude of mud, still-bare trees, jacket weather and grit.

If you think of it as a canvas, though, the world is a muted landscape just waiting for some splashes of color. A hint of early green, a blush of Possibility.

Our view right now is a landscape of muddy edges, watery sleeping fields, unadorned woods and windswept, unruly lawns.

Hiding underneath all that is a dramatic spectacle. It will emerge in bits and breaths until one day the curtain rises on a grand production of color and light and birdsong.

Spring has arrived on the calendar but it’s barely visible in our view. Even so, it's busy maneuvering behind the scenes. While we bustle about and switch ice scrapers for umbrellas, a mighty army of bulbs and seedlings are nudging the waiting earth.

While we complain about the rain and how badly our car needs a good washing, the quietest velvet of early-green arrives on silent knowing branches.

While we dig out mud boots and walk the dog and pay the bills and whine about the cavernous potholes, the soil is quivering and maybe the earth is laughing as it gathers momentum for the Bursting Forth of Glory.

Soon enough, we will look up and notice an unfurled leaf, an affirmation that warmer days are really starting to settle in. We'll step out into the day and feel, instead of a slap of cold wind, the beguiling whisper of a Southern Zephyr on our upturned faces.  

On cue and when we are bone-weary, we will become the hushed audience before the downbeat.

Let the Overture begin.

Mesmerized, we will finally look around.

"Hey! Did you see my tulips this year? They're amazing!" you will say to anyone, everyone.

"Wow! You should take a drive up the hill - the forsythia are the yellowist yellow I've EVER seen!" "My neighbor's daffodils are having a national convention! Man! They're all the way past the driveway into the back field! Come and see!"

And so it goes.

We, you and I, make this oh-so-subtle shift from the whine to the wow.

From the blasé to the blown-away.

From glum to giddy.

The canvas has become a spectacle of light and warmth and every hue of vivid color. The Not Yet is crossing the fence and scampering headlong into Spring and there is no turning back.

The music of peepers and birds and neighborly greetings merge into one boisterous Symphony.

Pretty soon we'll be complaining about the grass growing too fast and the pesky dandelions taking over. Oh, we are a silly unbridled bunch, blithely unaware sometimes, of our own leafy newness.

In spite of our limited vision, we have managed to find an underground, wiggly strength.

Our canvas too, which was briefly mired in the Not Yet, is now warm and radiant and painted with Possibility and Life.

Settle in, take a breath, and don't miss the Overture.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Embracing the Chaos


Many of us traveled home for the holidays.

Now that we’re collectively back in our little comfort zones, taking our familiar walks and stirring our morning coffee, the unknowns of 2024 have harbored some odd, niggling thoughts from the old year.

January, with its clean slate and championed New Beginnings, still carries echoes of our past.

If you traveled home – whether in real time or in your heart’s memory, there is much to ponder.


“Home” is a siren song, a magnetic pull to a place that launched us out; gave us life skills; anchored our hearts and tethered our memories.

To come home, looks different for each of us – yet there is a blending of shared experiences. 

To come home is to find a place at the table with …

Skeptics and believers.

Scholars and shepherds

Ragamuffins and the self-righteous

The misunderstood, the marginalized

The frightened and the furious

The jaded and the curious

Those displaced by divorce or divided by death

The addicted and ashamed

The wounded and the healing

Those stuck inside the In-Betweens


And there in the distance beyond the Not-Knowing, await the shadowy mysteries of a New Year.

Just how do we embrace this yo-yo mix of emotions?

How, I wonder, do we reconcile the co-existing of joy and sorrow? The lingering light and the shadowy darkness?

I say, let’s embrace it all.

All of it.

A new year is a mingling, a sweet and salty flavor of …

Light and darkness

Warmth and chill

Pleasant and bitter

Calm and chaos

Anger and forgiveness

Anticipatory and … stuck.


Why not cling tightly to it all, in one fierce group hug?

The celebrations and the mourning.

After all, grace comes in when we let our expectations go.

We all carry a story of grief-changing-everything.

My story, though now (thankfully) restored, holds sacred space for a time when the kids didn’t want to come home.

And they didn’t.

It was Christmas. The first Christmas after that Shattering August Day when their dad died.

Before Time heals, Grief intensifies: my daughters barely recognized me as a solo parent. I was still Mom, but I was Mom Without Dad.

It must have been just too weird for them. They’d lost their dad and they’d also lost half of me.

For the girls, to be absent from the holiday table, was not so much that they were rebellious. It was a lot more like they were navigating their way through pain. Each of their paths was different and each of their journeys pulled them further and further from me – a desperate flight from the sense of family we all so keenly needed.

It wasn’t just one bereft season – the longer we were at an impasse, the wider and deeper and more painful the gap became.

It would be years before we would find ourselves around a common table again.

There was likely that secret promise hard-wired within my children: “Mom will always be there for us. We can return home when we are ready.”

And they did. Eventually, they did.

Though reconfigured with an empty chair and a heartful of memories, we are a family again.

Maybe this brokenness, this disconnect, this empty chair – will always be with us. Not prominently, not painfully, but quietly woven into the joy as a reminder that we are made for more than this.

In your own flight from others who still need you, please pause.

In your haste to get past the hurt, look up.

Look around.

Those people at the office? Your friend tribe? Your stand-in-the-gap families?

Let them center you.

Allow the holy hush of a quiet evening to encircle you. 

Sit leaning slightly forward into mercy. 

Embrace the chaos.

Let go of the expectations.

After all, grace comes in when we let our expectations go.

In the grit and the dirt of living, we have hope.

We have fresh, earth-covering snowfalls.

We have …

New beginnings

Interior reset buttons

The power of forgiveness.

Do you have an empty chair and a heartful of memories?

Sit quietly with that discord, giving it too, a place of honor.

Are you sorting through the friction, the disagreements inside your own family?

I invite you to lean in and be astonished when a melody emerges.

You will sing new songs; some will be a little off key.

Sing anyway.

Your heart can hold it all.

This blog is also published in the January 2024 edition of Silver Magazine.

Sunday, October 22, 2023



It used to be printed on every shampoo bottle: “Lather, Rinse, Repeat”. I can remember being 14 and staying at my grandmother’s house. As a rule-follower, I did what the label said.

“You don’t need to shampoo your hair twice!” she would say, irritation in her voice. “Once is plenty; we don’t need to be wasting water.”

In that scenario and that era, repetition was considered lavish, extra, over-the-top.

Unnecessary – at least in the realm of shampoo use.

There are situations, though, that call for a healthy dose of repetition. Personally, I’m a fan of repeated family stories. If not for generations of storytelling, I’d never know Grandma once nailed a snake to the floor, or that my great uncle rescued a prized German violin from a neighbor’s attic (later, the violin would become mine).

If not for storytelling, I'd never know Grandma once nailed a snake to the floor, or that my great uncle rescued a prized violin from the neighbor's attic.

Stories grow richer and more textured with every telling. As the decades roll out, stories become the mainstay of our conversations. As we age, our heritage gets woven into our DNA, adding color and depth to the family tree.

Stories matter.

Telling them over again, should never be squelched.

And yet, I have felt a growing impatience with repetition. Have you noticed this too – this annoyance with our beloved narratives?

“You already told me that.” It’s a phrase that’s been hurled in my direction, more than once. It absolutely shuts me down. Why, I wonder, is only fresh news relevant? Yesterday’s news matters too, if you ask me.

But here’s the thing – nobody’s asking.

I can remember begging my parents to tell stories I already knew by heart. There’s nothing like hearing it over again, anticipating the laughter, hearing familiar details and welcoming them like old friends.

Something’s changed.

We even preempt our stories with “Stop me if I’ve told this before…” as a kind of apology.

Repetition is, in fact, a healthy way of processing information. It’s a way to make sense of our messy, complex lives.

Restating an event is like holding it up to the light, having a second look, finding clues. Doing this out loud is good for the soul.

And for every story retold you need a good listener.

To listen is to hold space for that human.

To listen is to show simple respect for their point of view.

To listen is to connect in a way that’s off-the-text, away from the screen.

To actually lean into a conversation is to feel the organic flow of the voice in all its expressions. It’s like your favorite song – and who doesn’t want to hear that one again and again??

Let’s get a bit more specific here: Older people have some things to process and it’s not nice to overlook us as irrelevant or passe.

During one of my jobs as an activity assistant, I sat with residents in a nursing home, listening to their stories. This one dear lady got right to the heart of the matter. She very eloquently said that she had lived several decades and acquired lots of wisdom. With a deep sigh, she confided, “I finally have some wise things to share, but nobody wants to listen.”

I find this profoundly sad and painfully true, now that I’m retired and losing traction in what’s trending and who’s who in the world of social influencers.

Truth is, we are blessed with our own influencers inside our own circles of navigation, every day.

Truth is, we are blessed with our own influencers inside our own circles of navigation, every day.

Why not lean in, linger, and listen? Honor each other’s tendency to repeat, be willing to hear it again and again. Take joy in the familiar cadence of the myths, the legends, the mundane and the splendid.

It all bears repeating. It all craves an ear to hear, a heart to listen and a voice to echo back, “Me too!”

Quit holding your affirmations with tight fists – open your hands and let them fall like confetti on needy shoulders. Then, be prepared to laugh or cry with the joy of sharing a story on repeat.


Manis With Grannies --

There’s a young visionary in Warren who goes around giving manicures to women-of-a-certain-age and inviting them to tell their stories. Her name is Tiffany Marino, and her broadcast is a gift to us all. Listen to Manis with Grannies wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find her on Facebook by searching for “Manis with Grannies” or by visiting her website, If you know a woman 70 or older with an arsenal of stories to share, be sure to get in touch with Tiffany – she’s always looking for the next conversation.

Kathy Joy is a collector of rare, splendid moments. She loves sharing these discoveries with her readers, and welcomes your feedback via email at

Thursday, July 20, 2023

She Hits the Ground Running

I catch the music of tires on pavement, just outside my front door. A little squeal of delight drifts out into the morning; the car door is opened and a beautiful toddler is lifted from her car seat.

My day is about to begin; I’m in charge of a two-year-old named Matilda June.

She is my “Tilly” and I am her “Oma”.

She hits the ground running, this tiny force of nature.

“Oma’s House!” she calls out, filling my grandmother’s heart with unfathomable joy.

Matilda is my very first grandchild, and she has unlocked a space in my life that’s alive with Possibility and new purpose.

I’m loving everything about grandparenting: watching her learn and discover; seeing my daughter step into her Mothering Skills; the stirred-up memories from when I was a young mom – lullabies returning and the mingled smells of crayons, bubble bath and play dough.

I embrace it all, even welcoming the realities of diaper changes, scraped knees, tantrums and teething.

I’ve entered a portal into the-unknown-yet-familiar. There’s no turning back for me. 

I’m all in.

This rite of passage – this mysterious journey into grandparenting --   should be wholly available to All Moms of a Certain Age.

But, sadly, it isn’t.

There are grandmothers and grandfathers who are denied access to their grandchildren. For various heartbreaking reasons.


Family rifts.

Geographical distance.

Strategic rejection.

Ambiguous reasons.

Substance abuse.


Chronic health issues.

Irreconcilable differences in parenting styles.

Financial hardship.

The anguish of this came knocking one day in the grocery store on an otherwise normal Tuesday afternoon.

I was in the checkout line, loading my items onto the counter, when I overheard the conversation in front of me.

Two women exchanging pleasantries – the store clerk and the customer, doing what we women do so naturally: conversing like old friends. They were talking about popsicles, and the store clerk mentioned her granddaughter’s passion for ice cream treats.

Of course, I had to chime in. (As we women do). I offered up how much I love being an “Oma”.

“Do you have grands?” I asked the customer, a tall woman, regal in her silver-gray ponytail, her sundress, her manicured toes. I remember she absolutely exuded warmth and nurture. In my naivete, I simply assumed she had grandkids.

She looked confused at my question, so I repeated it. “Do you have grands?”

That’s when her face clouded over with something like despair and envy mixed.

“I do have grandkids,” she said, “and I used to know them.”

She paused.

“But I don’t know them anymore.”

The world stopped for a moment. The hum and bustle of the store became muted as I struggled to understand her dilemma.

“I used to know them.”

She had grandchildren but she couldn’t be with them. How awful is that?

This dear lady explained her son, the father of her grandchildren, was now divorced and the mother wanted absolutely nothing to do with the extended family; therefore, the children had been cut off from family members they once knew and loved.

I know this kind of thing can happen, but it’s kind of a vague blip on my radar.

Now, here stood a pain-filled human right in front of me, a lovely person paying for her groceries and stepping out into the summer day carrying a certain kind of pain. The pain of severance. 

The ache of empty air where once there was laughter.

The echo of bedtime stories and birthday parties, shadows of memories becoming thick like scar tissue.

Before she left, she turned around and gave me a sad smile. “I’m happy for you, really. Please, enjoy your granddaughter. Because, well … you just never know.”

You just never know.

If you are reading this and you are alienated from your grandchildren, I am deeply, truly sorry. Whatever the reasons, you have been denied the affection of Littles, the loyalty of teenagers, the thrill of seeing young adults launch out into the world.

You are suffering and please know your unseen wounds are visible to Elder Law.

“Grandparent Alienation is a type of elder abuse that occurs when grandparents are unreasonably denied meaningful opportunities to have a relationship and spend time with their grandchildren.”

If you are reading this and you – like me – are abundantly blessed with full access to your offspring’s offspring … revel in that. Drink in ALL the beauty of your situation and be keenly aware of your good fortune.

Tilly June keeps me on my toes. She has only one speed: fast-forward. Together, we go on walks in the woods, inspecting every bug and flower. She loves dandelions.

We make frozen treats and slurp them on the patio, dripping and giggling to our heart’s content.

Her parents invite me on treks to the library, the zoo, the park and the pet store.

It’s all amazing.

And I know it. Every single moment.



A little checklist for the Abundantly Blessed:

ü **Maintain empathy for those missing their grands. Don’t automatically assume other grandparents have it as good as you do.

ü **Be aware there may be legitimate reasons, including the physical safety and emotional welfare of the child, for denial.

ü **Be available to stand in the gap for kids who need a grandparent-figure to influence their young lives. You just may be the answer to somebody’s prayers.

ü **Remain locked and loaded, fully engaged in your joy of being a grandparent.

ü **Happily maintain your bragging rights. You’ve earned them.

ü **Here’s a great resource when you’re thinking up stuff to do with your grands: Type "Macaroni KID" in your search bar. Macaroni KID is a free weekly online newsletter giving you all the kid and family friendly events in your community.


This blog supports Breath of Joy! (



Monday, January 23, 2023



Since the sudden loss of my husband in 2008, I have surrounded myself with likeminded women; tribal comrades who “get me” with a nod or a knowing look. I find this comforting.

There are Facebook groups for widows and Twitter feeds about navigating life in the absence of a soulmate. I find these helpful.

A common thread is the tendency for others to avoid us.

This hurts. We feel alienated. We become less willing to tell you how it really is.

“Once you’re back to normal,” one person cautioned me, “things will fall back into sync”.

Um. What?

What does “normal” even look like?

FACT: There is no returning to normal. Death is a watershed moment. A seismic shift into Bewilderment. It’s not a “journey” either; it’s a hardscrabble slog through uncharted territory.

Death is a watershed moment.

A seismic shift into Bewilderment.

Within days of Roger's funeral, I was told I needed to get right back to work. Being a chronic people pleaser, I did what I was told, and regretted returning too soon. I was emotionally catatonic, unable to make the smallest decisions.

Complete strangers would approach me with something I call “comparison stories” and these were not helpful.

Such as: “You should be grateful your husband’s heart attack was fatal; my husband is hanging on by a thread and I never know when his heart might fail…can you imagine what THAT is like?”

Um, no. I can’t. But thanks, anyway, for holding space for my pain (this sentiment delivered internally, with dripping sarcasm).

But then there was this one friend who materialized like a gift on my back porch. She stood at the threshold and prayed for a buyer - - just the right family to come up the hill and occupy this sprawling acreage with woods and a pond and a barn. A 100-year-old homestead holding laughter in the walls.

I was blown away by her kindness; her refraining from advice and supplying only affirmations. Prayers. Quiet, practical support.

It’s probably true I’m an unruly widow, a rogue variation of who you may think I should be. Sometimes I can be impulsive, often ornery, and emotionally wobbly.

Trouble is, I have no desire to contort myself into another’s definition of “widow”. The business of loss and grief is a messy one. In the end, the shattered pieces look more like a mosaic, less like a well-ordered timeline of “stages”.

A Grief Mosaic

Everybody’s different. Loss is deeply personal to each individual. Some of us will appear crushed, some brave, some stoic. We put on our game faces and go out into the world.

One day at a time.

We’re not asking you to understand us; we’re simply wanting you to walk alongside us on the confused, zig-zaggy pathway of regrouping.

Also, bring snacks please.

What widows really want, is for you to hold our stories. Listen to our ramblings, even when we make no sense.

Listen – not to fix – but to support. Without judgement.

Please do not hold us to a tidy grief timeline. Grief is not linear. Grief is explosive and unpredictable, splintering us and shattering our once-imagined futures.

Grief, kindly, is also an anthem of Resilience.

A soft patchwork quilt of memories.

Maybe, at the end of the day, we are not “widows behaving badly”, but human beings carrying painful stories. 

Can you cut us some slack? Would you simply sit with us and bear witness to our pain? Allow us, please, to be messy. 




A fellow sojourner once said to me, “I just wish I could spill my stories on the floor and then have another person pick up the pieces, hold them to the light, and see the beauty in my memories. That’s all I really want.”


She’s right. A grieving person needs you to hold space for them. Not to fix, not to advise, and especially not to correct.

Simply to listen. And maybe bring snacks.

The years have loosened my grip on expectations. I’m less apt to be offended by random comments; rather, I have deeper empathy for that person’s story. Because “death” manifests itself in many ways: loss of a job, divorce, financial hardship, wayward children, and detoured dreams.   

My gaze has softened into pastels of acceptance. The view from here is manageable, even joy filled.

Pardon me if I sometimes behave badly. This, too, is part of being a widow. You cut me some slack; I’ll float you some grace.

We’ve got this.

And if you find yourself wandering the colorless landscape that has no spouse, no hand to hold, no snacks to share … please know I will walk beside you. In solidarity. In a quiet knowing, a thundering empathy.


As seen in SILVER, a magazine for seniors in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania

Published January 2023