Episode 8 of “Imagine…Life on a Chain” is now LIVE! Catch up today…

Hello, everyone! I hope you’re reading along with me to learn how Imagine, a mixed breed pup, ends up on a chain, and staying with me as we work our way to getting him OFF THAT CHAIN.

Because being UNTETHERED is the only way to go, right? Who doesn’t want to be free?

This is a fiction tale, but it could just as easily be true, and is in fact “Imagine” is a mixture of a few different dogs I pulled from chains in looks and personalities.

In this week’s episode, Episode 8, we FINALLY start to see exactly what happened to him to drive him to that awful place in his life.

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Eight: Homeless

The End of the End

Mom smiled and called the dogs to her. She leaned forward and hugged them both, clinging tightly; then she sighed and sat back, looking frail and weak tucked into that corner chair. “We’re gonna’ need to have a long talk this week, my darlings, but not tonight. Mom’s too tired, and she just wants to crawl into her own bed and hold Dad’s hand for a bit. Dad will feed you, then we’re all off to bed. Ok?”

Dennis smiled, patted Val’s knee, and wearily shuffled off into the kitchen. Imagine thought he looked ten years older than he had a week ago, and a sadness hung in the air, palpable, suffocating...

Read more Here.

Remember, if you’re just getting to the party, the first three episodes are FREE, and then they’re mere pennies after that. I hope you’ll join Imagine/Magnum and I on his journey to freedom, hope, and…love? We’ll see!

My First Kindle Vella Story is Here! “Imagine…Life on a Chain” is Available Now

Kindle Vella is here! What is Kindle Vella? Short stories that are produced one episode at a time.

The first three episodes are always free. After that, Imagine…Life on a Chain by ME will cost mere pennies per episode! A new episode will come out every Thursday until the short story is done. And it WILL have a happy ending…because Imagine deserves that, and I didn’t get to give it to every dog I met along the way.

There are currently seven episodes available, at around 700 words each.

The story is written for adults, but could be read by ages 12 and up, as I’m keeping it “clean.”

The first episode is provided in it’s entirety, below. I hope you’ll become one of my readers!

This story rocks, too, for groups that are trying to educate about chaining…there aren’t many stories out for adults that tell the truth about this despicable practice, and this one shows what it’s really like, from the dog’s perspective.

While the story is fiction, my inspiration for the story comes from two of the more than 250 dogs I was able to rescue from chains: Magnum and Banshee. Magnum is the dog you see pictured, and Imagine (the story’s main character) has Magnum’s looks, but Banshee’s personality. Banshee would have done ANYTHING for a ball, and could have been trained for so much…but was left to languish on the chain for most of his life.

Banshee spent most of his life on a chain, but he would have been capable of so much.
Banshee (I called him Ban Man) would play fetch for hours, especially in the river.
Magnum lived on a super thick, heavy logging chain. Poor dog.
Magnum after his rescue. He lived with me as he was too unpredictable to adopt. The only person he ever bit was my ex-husband, but who could blame him for that?

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode One

In the year 2020, the worst global disaster in our lifetimes forced humans into confinement against their wishes.

They didn’t deal with it well.

Doctors and scientists tried to educate the people, convince them it was for the greater good, and yet—even when faced with the very real possibility of death for stepping outside their doors—humans still did so in large numbers.

They fought wearing masks, proven to save lives.

Fought any perceived restrictions on their freedom.

One could argue that for the first time ever, humans at large got a small taste of what is a daily reality for a dog on a chain.

Dogs like Imagine, who couldn’t speak for himself…

…had no voice to say “no more.”

Shame, too. If only the humans had known what he was capable of, they may not have cast him aside so casually…

Based on a true story, Imagine could be any dog living a confined existence in America today. Each of these dogs is worthy, capable, and deserving of a home and loving family of their own.

And, yes, dare we say, freedom.

A Weird Smell

The dog awoke, feeling more uncomfortable than usual—which was saying something, given that he was chained to a dilapidated box the size of a grocery cart.

The world seemed off, the neighborhood quiet, even the woods behind him hushed . . . like everything waited . . .

He shifted uneasily, sniffed the air.

It was warm for March; the sun was just peeking over the far-off mountains, and he shivered as he crawled out of his doghouse to meet the dawn, memory of the recent cold snap making his bones ache.

He supposed he should be grateful for the promise of a warm day. As he slid into middle age, the winter months seemed longer and more unbearable with each passing year.

He shook his fur out the best he could, hoping for a little more insulation until the temperatures rose a few degrees.

He was a mutt, like so many of the forgotten. His fur was thick but on the shorter side, and his black and tan markings made him unremarkable. His floppy ears bespoke a Labrador heritage, while his coloring hinted at shepherd in the mix.

His eyes were kind, smart, knowing.

And sad.

So very, very sad.

His owner called him Magnum, tossed out with a sneer and a pretend gun pointed at the dog’s head, the obligatory “pew, pew” sounds always next out of his mouth.

“Here’s your food, ya stupid mutt,” he’d say, pouring some kibble into a bowl and dumping a pitcher of water over it, never bothering to bend over far enough to ensure the water stayed in the dog’s banged-up dish.

The dog gobbled the offerings each night, knowing he had to eat fast and slurp every drop of the precious liquid, as tomorrow was never a sure thing.

On the few occasions he hadn’t finished his dinner, there was always someone waiting just beyond the shadows to take it from him.

But even though the morning brought constant hunger and thirst, dinner was a long, very long time away—if it came at all.

He peered at the neighbor’s back window and, reassuringly, saw a flicker of light. He remained bothered by the unusual stillness, even for early morning when the world had just begun to awake from its dark slumber.

Normally he could hear the traffic already clogging the highway two blocks over, but today there were no cars on the road.

Normally his owner Johnny’s alarm blared about this time, but the faint sounds of his snores still drifted out into the backyard.

The breeze shifted, and a whiff of something unknown teased his senses.

What was that? He brought his head up and inhaled deeply.

He didn’t recognize it…and yet…and yet. Something about the odor nudged a memory from his mind, of a time when life held promise, when he’d fully embraced the naïve enthusiasm that came with puppyhood.  

He tugged on the mental string, and the flashback overwhelmed him. He sagged onto the ground, assaulted by memories of his first home.

Next Episode: His First Home

Read Episodes 2-7 HERE.

Today Marks the 10-Year Anniversary of Our Purchase of Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound; Would I Do It Again?

The look on my face at the loan signing for the property.
Yeah, I should have been even MORE afraid than this.

Should I Have Done That?

The Eternal Question…

At the age of 57, I often feel like I exist in a state of bewilderment. I vowed never to be as out of it as my mother was, but now I realize that’s not as easy as it seems when you’re in your mid-30s. Poor Mom had no idea of current fashion, trends, slang, or, God forbid, the internet.

I remember when a lesbian couple moved in down the street from her. She called them “The Sisters,” while whispering to me that she knew they weren’t actually sisters, but she felt too uncomfortable with the truth, so “The Sisters” it was.

That was progress for her.

Today I feel more empathy for my mother of 20 years ago, as well as for the me of 10 years ago, taking a big leap despite the fear I was obviously feeling in the above photo.

The ME of today would hug that scared woman if I could. And probably whisper “Don’t Do It!” just for good measure.

Ten years to the day that I signed the paperwork as CEO of Dogs Deserve Better—a nonprofit that freed dogs from chains—to purchase Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound and transform it to a rescue facility, I’m left pondering if I’d do it all over again.

Truth is, there are a few pivotal moments in a person’s life. Those moments you take that leap of faith, or decide the risk is too great to move forward.

That day I took a leap, and as a result would give up the last vestiges of my belief in a free and fair world.

My foster dog Sloan at the signing. I loved that boy and ended up adopting him.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “How could you believe in a fair and free world anyway, lady? Are you that naive?”

I wouldn’t have thought I was. But we each hold underlying beliefs that we only see more clearly in retrospect, and I believed if you were doing something with good intentions and bringing positive outcomes to the world you would be supported by the universe.

Duh. They hung Jesus from a cross, if the Bible is to be believed. Derp.

So, for better or worse, I leapt. I began a four year journey, one where I learned the depths of cruelty that can exist beneath the surface, where there are people content to support dog fighters and destroy dog rescuers and still pretend to be saintly, and where up appears to be down and down up.

You know, similar to the last four years under the former guy.

But I can’t just see the negative. There was overwhelming amounts of good, too. There was joy in the overcoming, there were smiles on the dogs’ faces as they played and on the faces of staff caring for them.

There were dogs freed from horrible lives, and brought into a haven that taught them that not all humans are bad, not all humans will hurt them, and not all humans will leave them to die at the end of chains.

I worked with people with hearts of gold, who describe that time with great nostalgia for a magical period where we worked together to bring a dream to fruition. I would never want to deprive those friends of that experience.

Or myself either, truth be told.

Like so many experiences in life, I will probably weigh the positives and negatives for my remaining days and ponder whether I should have done it or not.

The bewildering answer is I still don’t know.

If you’re interested in reading the full story and seeing hundreds of photos of the transformation, my book It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups” is available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook, kindle, and e-Pub. You can find all the links on this page.

For now, I’m choosing to be kinder to myself about that time and the things I beat myself up for. Maybe if I had known, had understood what I was up against, I would have been able to fight stronger, harder, and longer.

There are people involved in that story who I will probably never have a charitable thought about. I ain’t no Jesus. But time has a way of blurring the edges of the worst and allowing the best to shine through. I’m thankful for that.

For today, I shall celebrate the good and leave the bad. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the happy photos of the many dogs we were able to bring joy to. Thank you to everyone who supported me through those four years. I’m grateful for you.

Sloan on closing day
The dogfighting sheds were super eerie

Dog caretakers walk the dogs through our fenced field.
The dogs played and played in the field. Who wouldn’t smile?
One of the many puppies we cared for
Our trainer working with a group of rescues
They were finally FREE!
We want breakfast
One of my favorites!
Cheerful babies enjoying their day, as they deserve
Me with Sampson, one of my most memorable rescues
Sampson in his new home laying with “his boy.” This photo still makes me tear up.
We took him from the worst and gave him the best. We did that.

If I hadn’t bought the property, Sampson could have died at the end of his chain without rescue ever coming for him. He might never have felt the loving touch of a caring human. He could have missed out on “his boy” and a home of his very own.

For him and the others who were saved…

For our Littlest Readers, Meet Animals thru a Dog Who Wants to Chase Them in “No Guppy, Puppy!”

Hi, everyone! I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I blogged, and I apologize. To be honest, I struggled emotionally—as I’m sure many of you did—in 2020. It was a rough year, and much of the struggle has continued into 2021 for so many of us.

While I plugged away at getting animal books out into the world, I felt, for me personally, staying quiet was a better path than putting my pain onto others who were feeling it too. I often think of blogging more again, but until I can feel safer and more whole, I may hold off.

Rest assured I am still loving the animals and thinking of ways to speak up for them through publishing books on their behalf—it’s about the best I can do right now. I hope you’ll choose one or two of our books from http://www.whochainsyou.com and read or share them with your family and friends.

And, feel free to reach out if you too are struggling and need someone to talk to. Be well, my friends. Tamira

FreedomChaser Books

No Guppy, Puppy!
The Puppy Problems Series

Written and Illustrated by Tamira Thayne

Buy in Paperback | Buy on Kindle | Buy in E-Pub

No Guppy, Puppy! introduces our littlest readers to lots of new animal friends as we learn about Puppy’s little problem: he likes to chase animals!

But guess what? The other animals don’t want to be chased. So Mom gives Puppy something fun and safe to do for each animal they meet.

In the end, Puppy finally sees someone Mom will let him chase…shhh…you’ll have to read the story to find out who it is!

Written and illustrated by Tamira Thayne, No Guppy, Puppy! seeks to introduce young readers ages 3 and up to both early sight words and the animals we can see on our daily walks. It also introduces the concept of redirection from unwanted behaviors to something more positive, safe, and…

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New, Expanded Edition Hardcover Showcases What Became of Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound

It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups is now available in expanded edition hardcover, too! 15 additional pages of before and after dog rescues, plus 320 pages of story and photos.

FreedomChaser Books


New, Expanded Edition Hardcover
Showcases What Became of
Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound

Publisher Expands Author Tamira Thayne’s “It Went to the Dogs:
How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups”

August 5, 2020 • Amissville VA

When chained-dog activist Tamira Thayne and her nonprofit purchased Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound and set about transforming it to a rescue facility, she had no idea what she was walking into.


The decision would lead not only to a home for her nonprofit’s rescue dogs, but also to the most turbulent four years of her life: she faced down allegations of racism, community harassment, poisoning, and, ultimately, false charges aimed at driving her and Dogs Deserve Better from the county.


The four black sheds where Michael Vick’s dogs trained and lost their lives still stand today, serving as a stark and brutal reminder of the world of dogfighting.


What Thayne remembers…

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A Hermit Crab Becomes a Hero to His Captured Friends in New Book for Ages 8 and Up

I’ve got a new book in my Animal Protector’s Series out! I love the hermit crabs…and they are so mistreated by humans. Give it a read or give as a gift to a kid you love!

FreedomChaser Books


In Squirmy Hermie’s Heroics, a Crab Helps his Newfound Friends to Safety

by Tamira Thayne
Illustrated by C.A. Wulff

Snip, snip . . . snip, snip.

Squirmy Hermie poked his head out of his pink and yellow-painted shell, peering out into the darkening room. Where was that noise coming from? The store had closed for the night; the only sounds this late came from his newfound crab friends as they began their nocturnal hunt for food and entertainment.

And maybe a way out of here?The nagging hope slipped into his mind for the hundredth time since he’d arrived in this place only a few days earlier.

Snip, snip . . . snip, snip.

There it was again.

Squirmy and his friend Hairy had been taken, along with many others, from their beach homes in the Caribbean islands. Why? Where were they now? And how could they free themselves…

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What do COVID-19 and The Tiger King Have in Common?

What do COVID-19 and the new Netflix series “The Tiger King” have in common?

They both highlight the despicable treatment of animals by humans…and how we pay the price for our cruelty in the end.

I’ve been horrified about the Chinese animal markets for years—you hear things, read things, try your best to ignore those things you can’t fix. Pretend they’re not happening. You know they’re eating dogs and cats over there and see the unforgettable pictures of our family companions crammed into crates, off to the market to be slain for dinner.

“What kind of sick monsters do this,” Americans think, going back to their steak and potatoes dinner.

Except it was only a matter of time before the dregs of Chinese society dragged enough helpless beings into their cruel markets to inflict on humans another disease that the world doesn’t have the immunity to fight.

And so we’re all going down. Yay.

It would be simple to be pissed off at all the Chinese people of the world, but—just as all Americans aren’t responsible for school shootings—it’s only the despicable Chinese people who capture and sell animals who are responsible for bringing us COVID-19.

Those fucks, I am mad at.

And while we stew in our anger that people the world over are dying and will continue to die because some assholes think it’s a good idea to eat bats and pangolins, it’s tempting to make it a problem of THEM vs. US.

THEY are horrible people. THEY harmed animals, and now we’re all dying.


But it’s not just THEM. Americans are once again offering up proof that we are just as despicable in our own right.

Enter The Tiger King.

If you’re living under a rock (like I usually do) The Tiger King is all the rage; it’s a Netflix documentary series that pits more than one batshit crazy tiger breeder against a tiger activist and her followers.

I’d heard snippets of this story for years—if you’re in the animal welfare movements you probably did too. But I had no idea just how TRULY INSANE the story was.

INSANE. And that’s why people can’t stop watching it.

I watched the whole seven episodes last night, and I felt like my soul needed a good sudsing off afterwards.

I realized Americans can’t possibly believe we’re better than any other country when we’ve got these creepy, egomaniacal white scumbags breeding tigers to make a quick buck and then slaughtering them or selling them to shitty roadside zoos when they get too big to be of use.

“Animal Activists”: the words were spit out throughout the series by Joe Exotic, the premiere douchebag, as an expletive of the highest order.

WE, the animal activists, he claimed, are the horrible people daring to get up in his business…daring to tell him what he can do with his tigers…daring to try to shut him down.

And yet…and yet…and yet. This same man used the allure of tigers to reel in young guys (who it turns out weren’t even gay) to become his what, chattel? Drug use and abuse was rampant, with one of the husbands losing most of his teeth from meth, while the other accidentally offed himself playing with a loaded weapon.

It appeared that all the men involved in this abuse of tigers were USING THEM TO GET WOMEN (OR MEN) TO SLEEP WITH THEM.

It was a den of vipers, and each new character introduced into the story seemed even more despicable than the one who came before.

One of my biggest takeaways from The Tiger King was that America has no high ground when it comes to animal abuse. NONE.

These men believe it’s their God-given right to use the tigers for any purpose they see fit. There is NEVER a thought spared for what the TIGER actually wants. And ALL these tiger breeders kill the babies when they get too big—but they know it’s wrong and illegal, so they hide the fact that they’re doing it.

Will more charges be coming for some of the other losers who are exploiting these animals? Lordy, I sure hope so.

Even the tiger activist, Carole Baskin, doesn’t come across as being above the fray. I’m not even going to touch the missing second husband thing, hoping that’s just a smear campaign. And while I understand that when you mix it up with people of this ilk, lowlife criminals, you can’t help but get dirty yourself…I do have a few criticisms that I think are perfectly valid and need to be brought up.

1. Carole brags that she has no paid staff. It seems that she/the organization has money. She was showing on camera how much her nonprofit was getting weekly in donations just through Facebook—yet she uses only volunteer help? No. That’s unacceptable.

The creepy men were paying their people $100-$125 A WEEK—and making them work every single day—just for the glory of being around the tigers and these egomaniacs.

Yet she comes off even WORSE than them in this area. If you value the lives of the animals, and you value the people who care for them, then you need to pay them, and it needs to be well above minimum wage. Volunteers can fill the gaps, and can make life a little easier for the employees, but expecting people to give 40 hours a week or more for no pay is cruel in and of itself.

2. Her volunteers pose with bloody (dead?) white rabbits that they are going to feed to the tigers. WHAT. THE. HOLY. FUCK. I didn’t even understand what was happening when I saw that photo…who in their right mind would do such a thing? And call themselves an animal activist? When she was asked about the picture, she rolled her eyes and blew it off like people were making a big deal about nothing.

Really? So the rabbits didn’t have a right to life, just the tigers? If you’re going to call yourself an animal activist, then it really can’t be just ONE animal that has the right to live and thrive, can it? While I’m well aware that tigers are carnivores, (all the dead animals they were throwing to them was horrific, I couldn’t watch) other animals that are seen merely as food actually WANT to live and have their own agendas too. Yes, even white rabbits.

How could she be so insensitive as to allow such a photo and then wonder why others have a problem with it?

3. Her sanctuary didn’t look better than the tiger breeders’ zoos…in fact, it looked worse. If you’re going to serve as an example of what a tiger sanctuary SHOULD look like, it needs to be AH-MAZING; it needs to have lots of room for the tigers to roam, to swim, to live as good a life as possible in captivity. Having never been to her facility, I have only the show to go by, but I saw no evidence of her place being better. AND IT NEEDS TO BE. MUCH BETTER.

After watching this show last night, I felt even more disappointed in America, if that were even possible. Until humans learn and understand that animals have the same right to life that we do, we will continue to exploit them in whatever way suits our fancy.

And we will continue to pay the price for it…often with our own lives and the lives of the innocent who truly deserve better.


Happy Birthday to the Mother who No Longer Knows Me


Mom, second from right, with her husband Chuck, visiting my cousins on one of their trips around the U.S.

My mother turns 79 today, but she neither knows nor cares about that.

Advanced dementia has robbed her of everything that makes life meaningful, rendered her not only incapable of holding a conversation, but taken away virtually all words aside from “Jeep”, which she assiduously uses to strongarm her husband into driving her about the countryside multiple times per day.

Oddly enough, she still points in the direction she wants him to turn, retaining some sense of direction and map knowledge in a brain which has increasingly revolted against her, against all of us.

She no longer knows her children, her sisters, her friends, or even her husband, beyond the understanding that he’s her caregiver and life is much scarier for her when he’s not there.

I’d planned to make the four hour trek for a brief visit today, even though I acknowledged that it would be for my sake and not hers. I wanted one last photo of her with her birthday cake (which she probably wouldn’t eat), because I have a clear understanding that this will be her last.

Yet my recent illness and fears of being the one to put the final nail in her coffin by unwittingly passing along COVID-19 kept me home today instead.

I won’t pretend that my mother and I had the perfect mother-daughter relationship, yet the inevitable ending has a way of softening the edges of the middle.

Estep 081

A photo of Mom I found in the files from her computer. Most were blurry, ha.

My mother longed to be a writer, and although she never achieved any sort of fame or made much in the way of money at it, she did write and publish three Christian fiction novels plus a children’s book, and had a handful of articles and daily devotions published in magazines and books.

When her mind was addled to the point that she could no longer use her computer, I pulled all her writing off her laptop and saved it to my own. I’m now very grateful I had the presence of mind to do so.

As a way of saying “Happy Birthday”, and “I miss you, Mom” to the woman who birthed me and my two brothers, I share a couple of her pieces with you, below.

Help! I’m Not Aging Gracefully

by Lorena Estep
(A version of this was published in Mature Living)

Nearing retirement age, I began battling the aging process in every way possible. I didn’t mind getting older—I just didn’t want to look older. It was bad enough struggling in my 20’s and 30’s to keep the weight down, but from middle age and up, it became a Herculean effort! Each new fad diet worked for awhile, especially the lo-carb, hi-protein. That is until I began to dislike meat and crave carbs . . . especially the sugary ones with lots of icing.

Reaching the age where I was considered a senior citizen in some places and not others, I found I would rather pay the full price than admit to being in that age bracket, unless there was a significant difference in cost.

I had my first very rude (and I mean very rude) awakening while shopping in a department store with my husband one day. He said, “I’m going to the snack bar for a cup of coffee.”

“Okay, sweetie. I’ll be there in a few minutes to join you.” I shopped a little longer, then went over to stand in line for a cup of tea.

“That’s twenty-five cents,” the young girl at the cash register said.

Surprised, I asked, “Why is it so cheap? Are you having a special?”

“That’s the senior citizen rate.”

The feelings that ripped through me were hard to describe: a combination of mortification, indignation, and anger that was like a slap in the face. Of course, being a very determined person, I couldn’t let it alone.

“So how do you decide if someone’s a senior citizen?” I had to ask.

“I just look at them, and if they look old, I give it to them.”

I stared at her in icy disbelief, as she stood there in all her youthful glory, smiling so guilelessly. I grabbed my tea and stomped over to my husband. “How much was your coffee?” I asked in a snappish tone.

“Twenty-five cents,” he answered innocently, taking a sip.

I set my tea down with a thud and plopped onto the chair beside him. “Well, that’s because you look old,” I informed him.

“No it isn’t. It’s just a special sale.”

“Nope. The girl said that’s the senior discount, and if someone looks old, she gives it to them!”

He shrugged and placidly kept drinking.

That was my mortifying initiation into “seniorhood.” Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten any younger looking, no matter how many different kinds of facial exercises or creams I try. Nor have I gotten hardened to the offense of being given the discount without asking for it.

Occasionally there is the upside where someone thinks you’re younger than you are. Recently, I had my four-year-old granddaughter and ten-year-old grandson in a store at a mall. The man who waited on us referred to me as their mother. My smile was wide, and I didn’t bother to correct him.

When we left the store, I said to my grandson, “He thought I was your mother.” I was still smiling.

Giving me an indignant look my grandson said, “I know. I was rather insulted!”

Then he laughed, and Grandma still had enough pizzazz to chase him up through the mall.

Lorena Estep

Rayne 3

Mom with my son when she visited him in California

I found this amongst her writings, and am very touched she nominated me for an award that I’ve never heard of. I obviously didn’t win, but thanks for trying, Mom.


“You can’t quit, Mother. You know you love to write. That’s when you’re the happiest.”

“Sometimes it’s so discouraging and overwhelming,” I complain. “There are a hundred manuscripts I want to send out at once, and I don’t know what to work on first. If the ratio of rejections to acceptances were reversed, it would be more encouraging and worth the time, energy and frustration.”

We go through similar scenes from time to time, and my daughter is as tenacious as a dog with a bone. Since she determinedly rescues chained dogs, fostering them in her home, I suspect she has learned a few tricks from the assorted canines she lives with.

“Dwell mostly on the acceptances,” she continues. “Only allow yourself two hours to mourn when a rejection comes.

“That last article you had published was great, and I loved the full-page drawing they put with it. I was thinking that for Mother’s Day, I could take that picture out of the magazine and mat and frame it as my gift to you. If you hang it by your desk, every time you get discouraged you can look at it and know all the hard work is worthwhile.”

I always end up hugging her and getting back to work.

She also does much of my critiquing, diligently checking for mistakes and clarity. On a bi-monthly basis, I put together a ten-page newsletter for the church I attend.

When it’s time to add in pictures and the finishing touches, she comes to my home and uses her graphic designer skills to give it a professional tweak.

She’s a caring person who never gives up on what she sets out to do. Her home is full of children, dogs, cats and love. I’m proud of my daughter, and thankful for her love and the fact that she believes in me, and my writing venture.

On behalf of a person who won’t allow me to quit, I hereby nominate my daughter, Tammy, for the “Barnabas-Marcie” Brag award.

—Lorena Estep

Until you experience dementia in someone you love,  you will never know the unique pain this disease dumps on the family of those affected. In reality, I lost my mother years ago; now that she’s finally at the beginning of the end, I feel only relief tinged with sadness. The long, slow road to the final curtain has been replete with hurt, anger, and mourning, all while her body still lives.

I learned to celebrate a smile, and treasure the jolt of hearing her speak—because in my head she’s already gone. Her voice brings me back, for an instant, to the mother I once knew.

Happy 79th, Mom. I wish you were here to celebrate with me.


Mom captured on our camera walking my dog Sloan and my cat Tuna in 2014

Just your Average American, Wondering if I’m a Walking Talking Coronavirus Disseminator

I started feeling sick last Saturday. Typical cold symptoms, cough, headache, feverish, etc., which I’ve experienced at least four other times in the past six months.

Except this time is difference. Because now I have to wonder…could it be? Is it? THE coronavirus? The rampaging COVID-19?

Yet I’m not in any of the high-risk groups. I haven’t traveled outside the U.S., or been in contact with anyone who has, to my knowledge. And I’m not at death’s door…so the odds of me being tested are about zero. Even though I’m one of the lucky ones who actually has health insurance—it doesn’t matter.

Because America isn’t testing anyone who isn’t set to keel over at any second. And it’s not looking good for anytime soon either.

BUT CORONAVIRUS PARANOIA HAS SET IN…both here in America, and in my living room.

Using my case as an example, let’s digress to before Christmas. My Facebook feed had been overtaken by these adorable cat paw sock ads. If you’re an animal lover, you might know the ones…they look something like this:


Me: Those would make an awesome extra gift for Bryn for Christmas. I’m buying some.

Me two months later, in February: Hey, why didn’t those socks I ordered ever show up? I should investigate.

After some sleuthing, I end up filing a complaint with PayPal, patting myself on the back for using their foolproof services to pay for the purchase. Yes! At least I’ll get my money back. I’ll show those scammers.

But then…about a week later, I get a notice of a package at the post office. “Surprise…we meant to send you these kitty socks all along. We just forgot!”

From. China.

Great! So China is now shut down with the coronavirus, but I’ve just been handed a bag of very belated and not-so-christmassy cheer…by an obviously-sick postal worker. Ouch. Double whammy.

Me, to me: Don’t be paranoid. Of course the virus can’t really last on packages from China. I’m sure it dies enroute.

About twelve days later I get sick, and then two days later my daughter gets sick, too.

Me, to me: Could it be? Nah…that’s crazy. I better keep this to myself…everyone will just tell me I’m being stupid. The virus surely can’t last on packages that long, right? 

And then John Oliver jumps in to assure me that I’m nuts. They have NO PROOF. NO PROOF.

Even though I like to believe everything John Oliver tells me—because he’s John Oliver, and he’s funny—NO PROOF at this point isn’t really cutting it for me. I mean, all that’s saying is that they haven’t definitively proven it one way or another…not that IT’S NOT POSSIBLE.

Even though a dog has already tested positive, they are also saying we shouldn’t read into that little fact. I’m begging to differ there, too. “The case has raised the specter that dogs might be swept into the epidemic, which, even now, public health officials say does not appear to infect or be spread by pets. But experts say much remains unknown about the dog’s infection, and they emphasized the lone case is not yet cause for alarm or reassessments about interactions with pets.”

Um, yeah, alright.

Given that I don’t watch Fox News, I also learn from John Oliver that Jim Baker is peddling some silver solution for the virus. Far be it for me to agree with Jim Baker or any other snake oil salesman, but I’ve got nothing to lose at this point, so…

Me, feeling like complete doggy doo: Ooh, I’ve had some kind of silver stuff in my cupboard for years. Let me see if it’s still there…

Ta-DA! It is!

I spritz it in my mouth a couple of times.

No lie . . . within an hour I start to feel better. What sorcery is this?

Me: Placebo effect? I don’t think I’m really that good at thinking myself well. I’ve tried it hundreds of times before and it never worked.

Also me, two days and multiple spritzes later: I feel like that damn silver stuff helped me. Could Jim Baker be onto something? Should I join his cult after all?

Well, hell: did that silver spray really do more for me than my government did?

But seriously, here’s the problem with the lack of testing in America. I’m not the only one left confused and feeling helpless in the face of our national response. Every sick person is. COVID-19 is pretty much indistinguishable from the cold or flu, which we all can easily end up with multiple times a year.

And yet, unless or until we’re completely knocked out by the worst symptoms of our cold or flu, we still go to work. Because we have to. Because we can’t stay home for every sniffle, every cough, every sneeze. That’s a luxury we don’t have. And so for those of us who feel ill right now but know we can’t get tested, we’re just going about our daily lives.

And if we actually do have the virus, we’re spreading it. To other innocent people.

Which none of us should be doing.

America needs to get our act together. The test should be available to anyone exhibiting the symptoms, without question. We should be able to know if it’s safe to go to work or if we have “permission” to stay home for weeks at a time.

Staying home for many of us is a luxury we just can’t afford under normal circumstances.

Our government’s lies, false statistics, and “gut feelings” are just another reason so many of us don’t feel safe in America anymore.

We want and deserve the same testing that is available in most of the rest of the world. Hell, South Korea even has drive through testing! How hard can that be?

Reflections on 56 Years: Oprah Lied about the 50s, the Curse of Empathy, and Why Can’t the Real World be Sanitized like “The Call of the Wild”?


Gorgeous drawing of my dog, Khronos, by Abbie Withers. He reminds me of Buck in the remake of “The Call of the Wild.”

Tomorrow I will turn 56.

Yesterday, my hubby Joe and I went to see “The Call of the Wild.”

Neither the harking back to a book I’d read as a child and remembered as being emotionally painful, nor the forthcoming years that promise the ongoing pain of aging has seemed very celebratory.

I liked “The Call of the Wild”; in fact, I liked it much more than I’d expected to. And while I couldn’t remember the details of the book—it’s been 46 years since my last reading of it, after all—I had a sneaking suspicion that the movie was a sanitized version. For which I am grateful.

Buck’s first beating in the movie consisted of only one hit; I thought the book was probably much worse. And, true confession, I escaped to the bathroom as the second abuse scene came up, not able to face what the evil man would do to the beautiful dog. A couple renegade sobs escaped my throat as I burst through the theater door into the emotional neutrality of the quiet hallway. As I hurried to the ladies room, I  corralled my wayward pain, shoved it back into the recesses, and went about the business of denying the ugly of life once more.

It occurred to me that way too much of my time is spent denying the ugly in an attempt at surviving my days here on Planet Earth.

I see this as the curse of having a heart, the ability to empathize, to understand and in some way feel the pain of others, both human and animal.

Apparently, my foggy memories served me right about the movie’s sanitization, according to this article. And yet I found even the couple abuse scenes, and the (very sparing) dog-fighting scenes, almost more than I could bear. I squeezed Joe’s hand at each attack during the fight between Buck and the pack leader, Spitz, and pondered—for the thousandth time—how anyone could actually choose to participate or watch such a thing as dogfighting.

I was in my late 40’s when I read an article in Oprah talking about how wonderful the 50’s were supposed to be for women. I couldn’t wait! Now THIS was more like it! Ostensibly, when we hit 50, we women would magically stop caring so much about our looks and how the world viewed us, would be free to be ‘ourselves’, and would truly enjoy the rest of our years on the planet.

What bliss awaited me!

Yet tomorrow I’ll be 56—over halfway through the magical decade—and I’m still waiting for this glorious epiphany to hit. Crap. Did I miss the bus, again?

Or, did Oprah lie to me? Maybe the 50’s are just good if you have plenty of money to mute the evils of the world.

Instead, I’m tubby, have decided to embrace my grays even though this will not enhance my appearance, and think it’s a wise idea overall to avoid the mirror.

And depression rides my coattails on the best of days.

Whereas empathy SHOULD be a trait to be celebrated, instead it’s become an anchor weighing me down in a world where cruelty toward animals and humans alike abounds.

Avoiding pain in the quest for emotional survival seems to be my daily modus operandi.

In a world under Trump, cruelty towards our fellow humans and animals is more the point that the consequence of our interactions with others.

I rarely blog anymore, because I can’t offer much in the way of support for those suffering. I can’t help others, when I’m in too much pain. I avoid Facebook, and most social media, most of the time. I find myself more attracted to Twitter, because at least there people are standing up to Trump and his ilk, and I need to feel like not all hope is lost.

It’s ironic that the kindest people on the planet are those who are most able to feel the pain of others: this is, indeed, specifically what makes them kind. It also makes them less able or likely to fight back against evil.

Those who are cruel are able to cage children at our borders, lie with impunity in the hijacking of America, and toss out of office anyone telling the truth with no qualms or twinges of conscience.

I messaged with a friend yesterday about the upcoming election, and we agreed we were afraid we couldn’t emotionally SURVIVE another four years of Trump. How sad is that? That a president causes so much emotional harm to those in the country they don’t know if they can live through it?



I’m already seeing so much infighting in the Democratic primaries, that I feel hopeless about our ability to focus, to rise above, and to effectively fight this evil.

Why? Why can’t we see that getting rid of Trump, by coming together as a nation, has to be the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY?

As Jennifer Rubin said in this The Washington Post editorial, “What, if anything, can Democrats do in the next week or so to change the trajectory of the race? There is very little chance that they will do what is necessary; that would require selflessness and self-reflection as well as party leadership, none of which is evident in today’s Democratic Party.”

Great. As if I needed more to be depressed about.

If you have a heart and soul; if you care about animals, if you care about people, if you care about our planet, then removing Trump has to be the first and foremost responsibility.

The death of our planet looms…our only chance for survival for us and our children is putting actual adults in charge.

Maybe it’s not all Oprah’s fault that I can’t embrace my 50’s. Still…if she can’t sanitize the world to make me believe it’s a kinder place, she at least shouldn’t make me promises that she can’t keep.

Happy 56 to me.

Lobotomy, anyone?