Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recipe for a Memorable Dinner (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

Recipe for a Memorable Mother/Son Date Night

One (1) Mom
One (1) Son
One (1) Restaurant Serving High Carb, Low Nutrition Food (i.e., Krystal, Steak 'n Shake)

Place Mom and Son at Restaurant (note: eliminate husbands and daughters - this recipe fails if contiminated by other family members)

Seat Mom and Son at a Table for Two

Consume hamburgers, french fries, milkshakes, chicken sandwiches.

Re-order at least one item because it is not "plain" (just bread and meat)

Confound server or counter staff by re-orders

Top off the experience with Son stating, "I Love You Mom"

Store the memories in an airtight heart forever.


Sunday, March 27, 2011


Who is this man and why did I volunteer to be on his team site unseen?

"This man" is Terry Hitchcock. In 1996, he ran 75 marathons in 75 days. He did this to raise awareness of the challenges faced by single parents and to honor his wife's memory. (His wife, Sue, had just passed away from breast cancer and he had three young children to raise.)

As Terry's run was made into the documentary MY RUN, the power of the story to continue raising awareness of the issues faced by single parents as well as people affected by cancer gained "legs" that he couldn't have imagined back in 1996 as he made his way toward the Atlanta Olympics.

There are some people in this world who gain your trust and kindle your enthusiasm to the degree that you want to be on their team, even if the finished product has not been laid in your hands yet. This is true for many of the FSU Film students with whom I have directly worked. If they vouch for someone who has entered a contest and needs a Facebook "like," a Twitter "retweet," or some other vote of approval, I really don't need to ask any other questions. That's pretty much how I felt when Tim VandeSteeg and I started discussing the film and its outreach efforts. It took one phone call for me to say "I'm in" and invite all 1,000+ of my Facebook friends to "like" MY RUN also.

This Thursday night (March 31, 2011), at 7 p.m., at the Governor's Square Theatre, I'll get to see the documentary, along with viewers nationwide. It is showing in more than 500 theatres. A portion of the proceeds of ticket sales goes to Livestrong.

All of the benefits of the inspirational message are yours to keep.

Now, for the really great news!! Indiewood Pictures has provided me with two tickets to Thursday night's showing (a $25 value) to give to one of my blog readers!! Subway of Tallahassee is donating a $10 gift card so you can even grab a bite to eat on the way to the movie! Capital City Runners will give the winner $10 off their next $100 purchase.  Just do one of these:

1) "Like" MY RUN on Facebook
2) Follow MY RUN on Twitter
3) Visit the MY RUN website here

After you do, post a comment letting me know!

I will choose a winner by 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Please leave me your email address in this format: emailname at provider dot com (for example I would be opuswsk at aol dot com).

This film may have won 10 awards at major film festivals and a "five star" rating from the Dove Foundation. But for me, they had me at "be a part of our team - together we'll be unstoppable."

PS - If you're not one of my Tallahassee readers, but rather one of my legions of readers in other states (ha ha!), I would still love for you to help with spreading the news about MY RUN through Facebook and Twitter!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Has Anyone Seen Mom? (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

That Kat, she really knows how to bring couples together. Take, for instance, prompt #3 of this week's five choices:

Something you do that drives your significant other crazy.

When I sent my husband an email to tell him that I needed help with my blog, I figured that the "crazy-making" thing would end up being "how you always email me with such minute details of our life." When we sat down later that evening to actually discuss the topic, I hinted (strongly) that this would be a perfect "guest posting" opportunity for him. No such luck. But he did give me two ... not just one but two ...  crazy-makers. After 18.5 years of marriage I suppose he is entitled to two.

I have a lot to do, freelance project under deadline, day job, exercise, cat's in the cradle and the kids have the flu and all that, so here they are. No analysis, no defense, just the cold hard crazy-making facts. (Feel free, however, to leave comments of support, agreement with him (if you must), or anything that may arrive in my inbox and make me think "yay! someone read my blog").

Number One

In this image of my dresser, you see (among other things) my daughter's "House of Representatives" patch from when she was a page in the House ... two years ago ... a tin I bought at Christmas to use for a gift card .... a spool of brown ribbon I bought a couple of weeks ago for Tenley's dance costume, and of course a big green (Christmas) pen. The issue? I don't pick up after myself. It's true.

Number Two

Apparently, my husband and children have a running joke about the fact that it takes me twice as long to do anything as they expect. For example, a ten minute trip to Publix for one item turns into an hour-long odyssey.

One thing that does not drive me crazy is comments. Bring 'em on! But if you're planning to refer me to Hoarders after seeing learning about my "picking up after myself" issue, please let me know in advance. I think I need to run out for milk.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Marching Blindly Through Molasses

When I was driving to Carrabelle last weekend to participate in the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum Reunion, I was listening to "The Professor and the Madman," a book written by Simon Winchester about the development of the Oxford English Dictionary. At one point the book was discussing the laughingly erratic progress of the project and Winchester used the term "Marching Blindly Through Molasses." The term perfectly defines how I feel as I stand on the brink of the book I dream of writing.

I want to write about Camp Gordon Johnston, where a quarter of a million men prepared for amphibious combat between 1942 and April 1946. Having been in Tallahassee since 1982 (with the exception of the three years in New York), I have driven through Carrabelle more times than I can count. It was always on the way to somewhere else (specifically, the beach). This is typical of what I'd see out of the window:  

I got interested in Camp Gordon Johnston (CGJ) when my friends, Tony and Linda Minichiello, became involved in establishing a World War II museum in Carrabelle. When Tony first started describing CGJ and the museum to me, I thought "oh that's kinda nice," but over a series of years I got roped in conversation by conversation and finally made it to visit. On a Saturday, I  managed to wrangle my son and a friend of his into the car for the trip. Even though I arrived ten minutes before closing time, Tony gave us the deluxe tour, including the building where the museum stores its automobiles, such as this:

I took the time off of work this year and spent all of Friday and all of Saturday participating in the reunion activities. I sort of envisioned sitting down with the CGJ veterans who were there, picking their brains for stories and gathering detailed information for my eventual book. Which is why I am as surprised as anyone else that I spent most of the weekend thinking about Vietnam. (Although the annual reunion is centered upon the WWII veterans, it has expanded to be a gathering point for veterans from any branch of the armed forces, from any conflict.)

Two couples took me "under wing," and both of the men were Vietnam Veterans. Rather rapidly as the weekend began, I deduced that my objective for the future book would be to meet everyone and gain some credibility among the veterans. There was no time or opportunity for in-depth "interviews" and the veterans who had been at Camp Gordon Johnson wanted to visit with each other, for the most part.

There were themes that ran through the conversations I had this weekend that connected back to Matterhorn, the audiobook I listened to several weeks ago. Although the book is technically "fiction," Karl Marlantes has stated that it is based on his experiences in Vietnam. He said when he first arrived back in the US after serving, he "dumped" everything out on paper. It wasn't until 30 years or so had passed that he could mold his "brain dump" from 30 years ago into the somewhat more objective book that was published.  A couple of observations:

There is a point in Matterhorn where Marlantes's characters talk about the toxic mist that is coming at them from a plane above. The troops are supposed to have moved on to a different location prior to the misting, but an administrative decision made in some office far away changes the plan. Their commanding officer says, "Oh, don't worry about that. It's just a defoliant. It won't hurt anything but plants. It is called Agent Orange."

The Camp Gordon Johnston veterans tell a story of a boatload of soldiers who were lost when their amphibious landing craft let down its ramp in the dead of a moonless night, thinking it was at Dog Island. The craft had missed the mark and was still in open water. The soldiers, weighed down with gear, all drowned. Did some administrative decision in some office far away move the mission to a night that did not have the benefit of the moonlight?

I am at 700+ words and there is so much more to tell. For now, let's just say I "got it" every time Lynn, the wife of Jerry, one of the Vietnam veterans present, told everyone in uniform:

 Thank you for your service.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Virtually Inspired (A Mama Kat's Writing Workshop Prompt)

This week, Mama Kat gives us an opportunity to share a photo of something that inspires us. I am celebrating my 200th blog post (!) and hope to mark the occasion by being a catalyst for good. First of all, meet my inspiration:

Brenya Elizabeth Sullivan

Brenya's adorable face smiles out at me from Doug Welch's Miles for Miracles page. Doug is running the 2011 Boston Marathon this year in honor of Brenya, who lived from March 8, 2009 to October 18, 2009. She had Polymicrogyria, a genetic brain malformation. Doug is a "charity" entrant into the Marathon, meaning that he has committed to raise $10,000 for Children's Hospital Boston. "Luau" wrote a post explaining how the charity entries work and how much each charity entrant is putting on the line personally here.

How does all of this tie in with celebrating my 200th blog post? First of all, if you are reading this and if you have read any of my other blogs, thank you for listening to me prattle on and on about convenience store bathrooms, red velvet cupcakes, ways in which the English language is maligned, and the original topic I started blogging about: running.

Doug Welch is running for Brenya and for Children's Hospital Boston, which "welcomes kids whose families can't afford health care-more than any other hospital in Massachusetts. It makes a point of reaching out to local communities to help low-income and at-risk kids. And it really gets the importance of training the next generation of top pediatricians and nurses."

Doug told me more about the moment when running and compassion merged for him:

I was almost 300 lbs and recovering from knee surgery when I decided to run the Boston Marathon for Brenya. When I applied for the "Miles for Miracles" team Brenya was still alive and her family were going to be my "patient partners." Her father James is one of my best friends and my former roommate. I was literally in the parking lot of the funeral home on the day of her funeral when I got the phone call from Children's to let me know I was on the team..." So, here I was, incredibly out of shape, with bad knees and a bad back, who'd never been able to run more than a few miles (as an adult), and I was committed to running the Boston Marathon. At Brenya's funeral they handed-out purple Mardi-Gras beads (purple was Brenya's favorite color, she ALWAYS responded positively to it) and I wore 2 pair of them on all of my long runs and races leading-up to the Marathon. I often had to reach down and grab them praying to Brenya for strength to get me through... I wore them in the Marathon and gave them to James and Shannah right after I finished in 4:14:09.

I am asking you to "celebrate" with me by generating 200 "actions" to help Doug out in his effort and, by so doing, to celebrate Brenya's memory and help innumerable children who will need the services of Children's Hospital Boston. Here are some suggestions:

1) Participate in Doug's "Virtual 36K," Miles for Miracles, this Sunday, 3/20/11! How often do you get to pick your own location and start time for a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon? It's all explained on the event page, and your affordable entry fee (for example, $5 for a 5K) benefits Children's Hospital Boston and qualifies you for "door prizes"! Every dollar will count toward "the 200 actions" (i.e. $10 for a 10K will leave us with 190 more "actions" to take).

2) Help get the word out! I know how stretched many of us are budget-wise, and I know not everyone is a runner/walker (YET!), but with the click of a button you can enlist others and help communicate about this cause.

Facebook:  Visit the event page and share it with your friends on Facebook!
Twitter:       Follow Doug here @reallynotarunnr
Tweet this:  Check out this virtual race that benefits a great cause! cc: @biggreenpen @reallynotarunnr Please RT
If you "don't do" social media and you don't walk or run, please know that your moral support counts too! You can email Doug a personal note of support at "reallynotarunner (at)".

And if you could comment back or email me (opuswsk (at) to let me know you took action, I'll do my best to keep track, hoping we reach 200 "somethings"!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Words of the New Orleans Edition)

This past Saturday, I was attending the 16th Annual Camp Gordon Johnston Reunion. As part of the festivities, the New Orleans LCU was supposed to make a mock amphibious landing on Carrabelle Beach to simulate the WWII training activities that occurred there in the early '40's.

Unfortunately, the beach was too shallow for the New Orleans to complete the landing. All was not lost, however. The crew gave tours of the craft. Our tour guide was this very nice young man, Lieutenant (I think) Weinstein:

Maybe it's just all of the uncertainty of our family's struggle with continued unemployment, but as much as I love all things military watercraft, it just seemed that the words on the boat summarized my life right now:

It often feels like something stinks:

Thank goodness I have friends with whom I can:

And say what's on my mind:  

And, as always, I need to keep my options open:

Thank you to the US Army Reserves 824th Transportation Company, 332nd Transportation Battalion (Terminal), based in Tampa, Florida.

Monday, March 14, 2011

14 Again

When my friend Dan Carubia told me this story, I asked if I could use it as a guest post faster than you can say "hat trick." Sometimes it is okay to let time play a serendipitous trick ...

14 Again
(A Guest Post by Dan Carubia) 

As soon as I saw him walk past me, my true age of 63 was reduced in my mind to 14.

I was in Toronto finishing up on a business trip and decided to stay just one extra day to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, eat an early dinner at Gretzky's sports bar and see the hockey at the Air Canada Centre.

The Hall of Fame tour was really cool. As I was ready to leave, I took one final picture, one of Robert Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks. I do not know why I did this, maybe because of his hard 115 mph slap shot and skating ability, maybe it was the look and design of the jersey or Hull's matinee look. No matter I took the picture.

When I arrived at Gretzky’s, the host of the NHL Network’s call-in show was preparing for the day’s show. introduced myself to the host told him I was "Dan from Albany" and talked old time hockey for a few minutes as he was getting ready.

I sat at a small round table right in front of his broadcast space, settled in with a Molson's beer and got ready to watch the program.

Then, it happened in a flash -- I was now 14. He passed to the right of me and sat in a booth 5 feet from where I was sitting. He had about 5 or 7 books under his arm and dropped them on the table. He still had that wide toothy smile and that raspy voice. It was Robert Hull, Bobby "The Golden Jet" Hull, he of the 115 mph slap shot and the skating skills that netted him 604 goals during his career.

After his greeting to the host of the TV show, Bobby Hull sat down in the booth with his publisher awaiting his call on to the program to talk "old time" hockey and plug his new book: THE GOLDEN JET. I brought my 14 year old body over to the booth, sat down and introduced myself to Bobby Hull. I explained that I was there the night he "tickled the twine" against the NY Ranger net minder Lorne "Gump" Worsley to score the first of his three 50 goal seasons.

I asked Bobby Hull if I could buy a beer for him and his publisher for I had a story to tell him about that night so many years ago. Red wine for Bobby Hull another beer for me and the story goes like this. I was a "gopher" for Artie, who ran the visitors' locker room at Madison Square
Garden. I cut up oranges, hung up the players’ long johns in their lockers that they wore under their uniforms and got the black tape ready for the sticks, stuff like that.

Before I could say another word Bobby Hull asked me to buy his book and showed me the picture taken that night of him blasting the puck past the Gumper. I asked if he would sign it. He did and I brought the book.

I continued my blabbering about how I was in the locker room cleaning up, packing up the equipment for the team’s return to Chicago. I asked Bobby Hull if he remembered how all the reporters and photo guys were pushing for a story and pictures, how the room which was small to begin with was now SRO and the photo guys asked for his picture with the puck that was his 50th. He remembered. Because of the crowd Bobby Hull was in a chair a few feet away and almost in the middle of the room. He needed that puck. I told him your trainer called to me to get the puck that it was on the top shelf of his locker. I was standing near Bobby Hull's locker and I took the puck and flipped the puck to the trainer and he gave it to Hull. He laughed his laugh and drank his wine.

Bobby Hull asked me to turn over to the back of the book. There was that picture, the toothless grin, the puck with the number 50 on it and the Ranger Logo. This 14 year old kid got welled up at the sight of this picture...

....and almost cried in his beer looking at that visual memory of my youth and the event.

We talked a few more minutes about just stuff: the players of his day, train rides after a Saturday night game in Mountrail to NYC for a game on Sunday night, walking the floors of their hotels in the middle of the night, looking for some food from the room service trays that were left outside of other peoples' rooms because everything else was closed and his work ethic that was instilled by his farmer Father.

It was time for Bobby Hull to go on the TV show and for me to make my way to the hockey game. I needed one more favor from Bobby Hull: a picture. I positioned us under a wall hanging of his jersey and a waitress took the picture. We shook hands said good bye.

Epilogue: I took in the game at the Air Canada Centre. My seat was in the upper rows of the upper deck. Now this is Maple Leaf hockey - all the games are sold out. I got into my old school thinking and said if only there was a seat that was in the front row where I could take some pictures boy would that be great. During the first period I noticed a few seats behind the net and my goal was to sit there if possible. Luck would have it I found my seat and as I have done since it was 14, got to sneak in there and be cool. That seat, first row behind the net was good for me for the next two periods.

When the game was over, a 5-0 win for the Oilers, I walked up the ramp out into the cold on Bay street in Toronto. I hailed a cab. As the cab stopped and just as I was ready to open the door I saw my reflection in the window of the cab.

Damn ...  I was back to being 63

All Photo Credits: Dan Carubia

For information about the book "The Golden Jet," visit this link.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Fifth Sister (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)


Mama Kat had five great writing prompts this week. handed me number three:

 "A Memorable Neighbor."

I was reminded of a "memorable neighbor(s)" when I visited Orange Park, Florida, over Martin Luther King weekend. I had gone there to meet up with people I had known as part of the Rainbow Girls and Order of Demolay oh-so-long-ago, and they are trying to do an annual get-together. Several of us ran a 5K race that morning, then met up at the Lodge.

Between the lodge and lunch, I drove through my old neighborhood, which looks so much smaller than it did in my imagination. Smaller houses, smaller greenspaces, smaller and somewhat more rundown "everything." There was a house around the corner from mine where four girls lived. As an only child, a house with four girls seemed like Heaven to me. The Harringtons were all very Scandinavian looking - blond hair, blue eyes - and they were all so athletic. I was definitely the "odd girl out" physically and athletically, but for a few summers I was a sort of quasi-fifth sister.

(I don't have a picture of the oldest sister, but here are the other three.)

We had a quintessential "kids' summer," the kind that many of our kids these days will never know. We hung out at their house, played endlessly in the open field adjoining our yards (which looks eerily like the field in "The Lovely Bones" - a thought that struck me when reading the book and watching the movie -  even though it doesn't make sense that a Florida field would look like that cold stark midwestern field in the movie).

I remember spending hours skateboarding. I remember being barefooted. I remember pogo sticking. I remember lizard catching (trying at least) among the sharp-edged palmetto bushes. I remember jumping into a huge pile of leaves. I remember almost breaking my neck when I missed the leaves once and ended up landing right on my head (ouch). I remember the lack of structure but the way the time seemed to fill itself up.

In retrospect, I think the home of the four sisters had its own issues. I very rarely saw their mom - I am not sure if she was sick or had some type of addiction issue or what. The dad was very nice. Whatever the case, being in a home where I could walk away from those problems at night was an arrangement that worked okay for me. I had my own stuff to deal with in my home.

But in a childhood where I did my own share of reading alone in my room, creating social networks in my head, and hitting a tennis ball against a wall, it was a memorable to have company for barefooted pogosticking lizardcatching adventures.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Old Nana Edition)

An entry into the "inadvertently very humorous typo" Hall of Fame:

(Photo Credit: Hillary Lavin)

Monday, March 7, 2011

One More Month (A Reverb 11 Prompt)

I have been totally immersed in a proofreading project most of the weekend, and as Sunday night approached I was wishing I had built myself a little library of "ready-to-go" posts. At the same time, I was visualizing my response to the March 2011 #Reverb10/#Reverb11 prompt:

If March 2011 was your last month to live, how would you live it?

Since I responded to the February 2011 Reverb Prompt with a SWOT Analysis, I decided to keep the "business vibe" thing going and do a pie chart analysis of my last month. This endeavor would have been a lot easier if I had "excelled at EXCEL," but here we go:

Version Number One, Incorporating "Sleep" and "Miscellaneous":

Take out sleep and miscellaneous and I have:

To elaborate briefly, since the categoriy labels are a bit difficult to see, once "sleep" and "miscellaneous" are gone, the top four equal sizes of the pie are:

- Time as a family - me, Wayne, Tenley and Wayne Kevin
- Time with each child as an individual to build as many memories as possible (not necessarily of big "EVENTS" but of being together)
- Time with the people I have "loved and liked" - to make sure they know why
- Next would be setting up a project that I would like to be my legacy - since I won't be using my Passport until I am 46, I want a way for people who love travel and love seeing the world but don't necessarily have the means to have a way to do that more easily - the "Use That Passport" Fund
- Exercise - with only a month left, exercise wouldn't be about dropping pounds or building muscle, but just enjoying the thrill of movement and fresh air
- New York City - there would have to be two days of walking around the city I love
- Worship - it's fundamental to who I am
- Making Amends - taking one more opportunity to restore broken or fragile relationships
- The Celebration - helping to plan my memorial service, one where people celebrate what was good about me, commit to helping my children lead happy lives and for Heaven's Sake when they ask for stories, someone comes up to the microphone (I hate that awkward moment at funerals where they ask for stories about the deceased and no one approaches the microphone)

A couple of takeaways:

You'll notice there's a huge, humongous slice of the first pie that is labeled "miscellaneous." I think the lesson there is that even if you are down to a month left, part of the gift life hands us is the "not knowing" and being open to that is key.

It's odd that reading isn't in there. I do love to read but if I only have 31 days, I'll probably be eating life pie.

What would your "life pie" look like?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Inspirational Facebook Group No One Wanted to Create (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

ThMama Kat's writing prompt I ended up with this week is "What inspired you this week?" It is hard to choose just one thing.

I got to see Nick earn his completion certificate from the Tallahassee Teen Challenge Men's Program. He shared his testimony in this post about Teen Challenge's Car Care Program. I met his wife, his sister, and a faith community that has helped him turn his life around.

I read "Highest Duty," a biography by Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the USAir pilot who "landed" his disabled plane in the Hudson River after a flock of birds caused both engines to quit. One of the personal effects returned to him once the contents of the plane were delivered to their rightful owners was a fortune cookie fortune he always carried with him: Delay is better than disaster. No kidding.

The ultimate inspiration from the week points out how you don't have to have a lot of years on you to know how to come together and support each other when a community has a loss. Nathan White, who was the band director at my son's middle school, Montford Middle, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 47. I am embarrassed to say that although he and I lived only a mile apart in the same neighborhood and our children went to the same school, we had never met. I had met his wife, Ginger, when I used to be at the bus stop in the mornings. I met his kids at the bus stop. He had always left for work prior to bus stop time since he was a teacher. I still regret that we never connected. I drive past his house every single time I enter or leave our neighborhood.

When he died, I asked to join the Facebook group that his former and current students had created. The main creator is a ninth grader now, and she is a young lady I have known since she was a cute little kindergartner. I have watched her grow into an articulate, empathic young woman who is a stellar big sister to two very young little girls. I watched the kids talk among themselves on Facebook, sharing philosophy:

I think this is just a lesson, to cherish every moment we have with everybody, even if we don't like them that much. Because just like that, they could be gone. - Josh

Helping each other cope:

Be strong, my friends! ♥ Continue your love of music! God will help us through this and NEVER leave our side, so don't doubt Him! :) - Sarah

Trying to grapple with the sheer shock:

Please pray for Mr. White's family and all those that loved him! This was most likely a great shock to them and they need to be comforted! - Elaina

We adults could take some notes from these young people about how to grieve and how to support one another. They didn't presume to know anything at all that would make this better, besides being there for each other and letting one another talk. They were honest, raw, loving, questioning, human.

As far as inspirations go, I think they had a good one, and in turn they served as an inspiration to me.

We will mis [sic] you Mr. White!!! We all loved you very much, and you inspired us.
(From Faith and Julia)


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Dancing Girls - and Boys - Edition)

There were little girls ...

And bigger girls (my bigger girl to be precise)

Photo Credit:  Bill Lucas

And grown-up girls (and boys):

Photo Credit: Bill Lucas

On a beautiful Tallahassee day that led hearts of all ages to feel like dancing.