Zany copy editor and writer with more than 25 years’ experience in everything from advertising to petting zoos! Am I meticulous? Heck, I get on my own nerves sometimes, that’s how much attention I pay to details. "I am not making this up" – Dave Barry

For the past few days, I’ve wanted to call a few friends about happenings in their lives. But today, most people over 15 prefer a text message or email or -egad- a snapchat instead of a real, meaningful phone call. So we text, email, post on Facebook. We choose relatively anonymous communication in which the receiver of the digital communication is left to interpret what we meant in the moment we pecked out those few letters or shared that “deep” meme (what a joke). Have we become cowards? Are we truly too busy for a real phone call or conversation (without checking our phones every few minutes)?

I have a few friends who call me when they’re going somewhere in their cars. They’re busy people, yes, but it leaves me feeling like I’m there to fill their time. “I have 20 minutes before I have to (whatever), so I’ll call Jeannine.” They don’t realize that I have a difficult time understanding a call from a moving car. I don’t know that I have to stop talking because they’re at a drive-thru, placing an order. I don’t know that I don’t have much opportunity to say much because they’ll be at their destination in a few minutes.

Do you ever yearn for those days – long ago – when you looked forward to calling a friend or family member? Even if you had to make that call after seven or eleven o’clock at night when the rates were low. Something about  getting comfortable in a chair with a glass of Pepsi (or your favorite), and looking forward to catching up with a cherished friend, having time to each share what was going on, and each make the other feel good.

Now, even those “calls-from-the-car” are awkward. They’re always hurried. And people don’t talk about life like we used to. You can’t concentrate on the road AND truly listen to what a friend is saying. It’s dangerous, and you’re likely to focus on how you will respond rather than listening to what your friend or family member tells you. Oh, you hear it, all right, but do you actually listen? You can’t do it, because you’re supposed to be focused on the road.

Sometimes you get a quick, “How’s your day going?” call from a friend at his/her office. Again, that’s not the time to have one of those old-fashioned, relaxed conversations. People at work aren’t supposed to engage in personal calls.

I’ve called friends/family at home when I figure they’re home from work. But then, I sense that they’re stressed out by the day or, because of the nature of their jobs, the last thing they want to do is talk on the phone.

The saddest part of this is how it’s affecting kids in their teens and twenties. They laugh at the thought of having a phone conversation. Their lack of verbal communication shows when they demonstrate that they can’t have a face-to-face conversation. They don’t know what to say, don’t understand the rules of civility: look someone in the eye and TALK.

To this day, I remember how excited I’d get when I knew my then-boyfriend was going to call me. That meant he’d have to stop what he was doing, dial my number, ask the housemother to put me on the phone, and then tell me whateenonphone[2]t had happened since our last conversation. We wrote letters then, too. We share silly stuff, such as “a fraternity came into our room tonight to make a panty raid. It was SO embarrassing!” And we share our hopes, fears, and plans for both college and the future. We learned about each other that way.

Now it seems as though we are just too busy. And when we write, we’re too lazy to even spell out a word. “How are you?” becomes “How R U?” Are we just SO busy that it’s asking entirely too much to include those four letters?!

It makes me sad. I remember having a three-hour conversation with one the first friends I made after college. What fun!

But now people are too busy, and it’s hard to maintain a relationship with clipped phone calls and text messages.

I cannot wait to sing to her.

Why a Dog Wish Psychiatric Service Dog is SUPERIOR, by Bob Taylor.

Turning Point

OBarbara and Mama LOVEne year ago today, I was sprawled on a blanket in the vet’s office. My beautiful, spiritual, best companion – a Golden Retriever named Barbara Bush Mallory – had told me that morning that it was time. She needed to give up the fight. We laid down together, just to be there for each other. And later, I left the vet’s office without my companion. As I sobbed my way to the car, I held tight to her collar. Three days later, I returned to pick up her ashes and a plaster cast of her pawprint.

Today I write about her – for myself. The past year has been an emotional one, and at times I have felt so lonely, so alone, so misunderstood. I live in a new home now. I moved away from St. Petersburg and the home where I saw Barbara in every room after she was gone. Now I am in an almost-perfect small town, with love and friends and beauty filling my life. Still, it does not feel like home. I have been unable to fully unpack – especially in the room where I’d planned to hang my dog art collection – because I do not feel complete. I miss my precious Barbara. It isn’t home. How could it be? I am, for the first time in my 57 years, going through life without a dog.

I don’t mean to say anything negative about what’s happened since I moved here. I can’t count the number of fantastic trips I’ve taken. I can’t count how much I’ve laughed. So many happy days, so many new friends and new emotions. I even rode a horse, and hope to do it again.

Still, there are no words to describe what it’s like to wake up in the morning and still look down to see if Barbara is there, sleeping by my side. I dream about her regularly. And just this week, I SWEAR she barked to wake me up. It was just one loud bark, but it was indisputably her voice. “Get up, Mama. I need to go outSIDE…BARK!”

I have waited until today to go through “her” box. When I opened the box, oh, the wonderful perfume of that sweet dog filled the air. I laid my head on her little pillow and bawled. I have touched her collar and rubbed it on my face. I have thumbed through photos and little things I scribbled down over the course of her life. We had such a life. I’m sorry to say that much of it was bad. For me. I tried to keep my emotions away from her. We walked every day, went swimming, made friends, sang, danced, and did everything we could to enjoy life. And then she got cancer, and it was time for me to be her caregiver. Through it all, right up until the last day, she faced life with a wagging tail and constant kisses for her mama.

I’d give everything I have for just one more day with her. But today marks a turning point. She is not coming back, and I must go into the future with a happy, positive “Golden Retriever Attitude.” I call it GRAttitude. Makes sense to me.

Get those lizBarbara Hunting Lizards at Boppie's 5-11ards, my sweet Barbara, just like you did in this picture. Chase all of heaven’s squirrels. Be young and free. Wait for your mama. I’ll be there one day, and I hope you’ll be right there, wagging your tail.

Mama always loves you. 


Best book you'll read this year.

Best book you’ll read this year.

Sometimes, you discover something and want to shout to the world (or put it on Twitter), “Look at this miraculous discovery! Get ya one!” But I didn’t do it, because, well, it’s a book – and I don’t recommend books. This is an exception.           To those who know me, it’s no secret that I LOVE dogs. I have been following Luis’ and Tuesday’s journeys via Facebook, and the more I saw, the more I knew I had to have this book. You see, even though I did not serve in the military, I have PTSD and other issues. I lost my beloved Golden Retriever, Barbara, last year and have not been the same since.

What I liked about the book was the fact that this brave author, a soldier to the core, does not try to hold back his feelings. We are right there with him in battle, experiencing fear and frustration I’ve never imagined. CPT Montalvan never quit. He never complained and he kept helping until he could no longer serve.

His description of what it’s like to experience PTSD “moments” hit right on for me, and his words should help family and friends understand what we go through. Because if you have not experienced this “brain curse,” you can try to understand, but then you’ll probably think, “He/she should be over that by now.” Or worst of all, “He/she is just doing that to get out of going to work.” Little do y’all know that when a person is in the vice grip of PTSD going from one room to another makes you filled with fear. In the worst cases, when you cannot go to that other room, you want to give up. Luis Montalvan went through this, and in a “don’t-feel-sorry-for-me” writing style, lets you into his life – the life of anyone – not just vets – who suffer conditions not visible to the eye. Oh, how he suffered.Then, Tuesday entered his life, and although trepadacious, Luis realized he was no longer trapped. Tuesday brought freedom and confidence to Luis, and Luis returned it to Tuesday, a sensitive, goofy, and loyal creature.

The best part of this book is the way he explains the special connection between a human and a pet (which is great) and a human and his/her “dialed in” dog. I had this experience, but could neither explain it nor get others to understand.

In crisp, write-like-you-speak language, we go through the highs and lows. We laugh uproariously at Tuesday’s antics and get lumps in our throats when we hear Luis’ heart cry… But always, always, always, Tuesday and Luis emerge victorious.
I loved this book so much that I told my friends I’d buy their copies back if they didn’t learn one thing.
I seldom call a book a must-read, but here it is

Two weeks ago, we set off to explore Big Shoals State Park near the small town of White Springs.

We’d read all about it. “Big Shoals State Park features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. Limestone bluffs, towering 80 feet above the banks of the Suwannee River, afford outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida. When the water level on the Suwannee is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III Whitewater classification, attracting thrill-seeking canoe and kayak enthusiasts. Over 28 miles of wooded trails provide opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.”

I donned my somewhat-new hiking boots, grabbed my walking stick and camera, and we hit the trail. I’m gonna say the trail was a bit challenging. Trip-hazards (roots & cypress knees) and moderate hills. But we reached the river and saw the rapids – at Class III stage. A little past the observation area, we found a way to climb down to a wide whitish-sand beach at the base of the rapids. M headed off with the camera. I walked the beach, looking for stuff.

Now, I’ve never been known for my grace or strength. I’m clutzy and can’t pick up much more than a full coffee mug. But I hiked along that beach and found what I believed to be a fossil. I took it down to the water’s edge, the familiar tea-colored tannic water of the Suwannee. I bent over to rinse the sand from the stone — and fell face-first into the Suwannee River. There under the water, I realized I’d lost my glasses so I stayed under and found them. Left the fossil for someone else.

M saw me fall. She’s used to it. She’s known about my lack of balance for right about 30 years. But whenFall Down Seven Times I didn’t pop back up, she thought I was dead and came running. Just then I flopped over and said, “I’m okay. Got my glasses!” I was wet from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet (Oh, my poor boots!), and we had a long hike back to the car.

I saw her a few feet away, taking my picture. Grrrrrr.

“Now, this might make you angry now, but you’ll think it’s funny later,” she said.

“I already think it’s funny.” But I was hurting.

You might not know this, but after you fall and kinda hurt yourself, it takes some time to recover. You don’t want to look UP to see the trail. But we had to climb. No other way. I was hurting. I’d fallen first onto my knees and then flat down. My head hit the river bottom. My legs were wobbly. It was hot, and I was kind of dehydrated. But we had to climb.

M sprinted up to the trail, looked down, and held out her hand. “Grab my hand. I’ve got you.”

What she didn’t know was that I didn’t have enough strength to make that dang climb. Man, I’m outta shape. So instead of taking her hand, I had to crawl up that embankment. I mean flat-on-my-stomach crawl. I got to the top and plopped down like a rain-soaked newspaper in the grass. As I struggled to my feet, my trusty walking stick (an oak branch) broke.

I knew we had to get back. I was okay. Thirsty, humiliated, weak, and dirt-speckled – but I could make it back. I wanted to make it back. On my own. No help. M blazed the trail in front as I huffed and slogged along behind her.

“What are you doing with your phone?” I managed to ask.

“Ordering you a walking stick,” she answered in a voice so perky I would’ve tackled her if I could have gotten to her. “I got you a red one. I know that’s your favorite color.”

Some people.

We kept going. My mouth was dry and I was getting dizzy. “Just leave me here,” I groaned. Literally groaned. “It’s for the best.”

“Nope,” M chirped. “You’re going to get stronger! Look – we’re almost there. You’re doing great.”

At the edge of a swampy area, we stopped so I could catch a piece of breath.

“What are you doing with your cell phone now?” I wheezed.

“Watching the Gator softball game,” she answered – as if nothing had happened. “It’s important.”

And then I laughed. The hilarity of the situation hit harder than my full weight hit the bottom of the river. She was just fine, walking along smoothly, taking pictures, watching the game. I was behind her, a greyish blob, weaving, panting, and whining. That’s when I realized: I cannot quit. And whining is ridiculous.

Soon, we emerged from the woods. I looked beat-up. A young couple who’d been studying the posted map looked at me, and then at each other. I could imagine their words, “LOOK at that woman! Maybe this trail is too hard.” I smiled.

M brought me some water. I was still wet and didn’t want to ruin her nice leather car seats. “I’ll just ride on the floor in the back,” I said. “I’ll be fine there.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “Let me go get the car. DON’T MOVE.”

And then the car was there. Floor mats on my seat. I got in, and we kept going. We had more to see and, after all, it was just a little dirt and water. Ouch.

I’m ready to go again.

They were boys. One day they were studying, laughing, tossing around a ball with friends, trying to hold a girlfriend’s hand, and attending church on Sundays – sometimes Wednesday nights, too. Life was simple, smiles were plenty, and America was the greatest country on earth.

But our world changed. Germany and Japan had been fighting for world domination, but not on our soil. Not in America. Not until Sunday, December 7, 1941, the holiest day of the week. On that day, the “Imperial” Japanese Navy slaughtered soldiers, sailors, Marines, and civilians with a deadly strike on Pearl Harbor. Close to 3,000 people were killed – just a few less than the number killed during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, another morning sneak attack.

History books abound with detailed accounts of young Americans running to their draft offices, hurried basic training, and long, bloody attacks throughout Europe, the Pacific, and throughout the world.

The young men went off to fight an enemy they could see and vowed to stay in the fight until America prevailed. It was a dirty war, and much of the dirty work and horror took place on the ground in bloody battles waged by our infantrymen – Army and Marines. How many miles did they trudge along, one line on each side of the road (where available) carrying supplies, engaging in battle, stumbling, but always picking each other up? Months before, they had been boys; they’d never even imagined the hardships and horror that became their daily lives.

They went to protect our way of life. They returned, minus more than 400,000 U.S. civilians and military members. Some returned to ticker-tape parades; others simply went home to family. Not many knew the demons they battled when the closed their eyes, images they’d never forget, smiles of friends who’d died in battle.

They found jobs, tried to forget what they’d seen, and lived quietly in the country they’d saved. Some were maimed and “shell-shocked,” but it was only spoken about within the circle of family and friends. They received help and respect. They were not silenced, even denied, by the leaders and citizens of this country.

As time progressed, these Great Americans got older. And so did their stories. For those who remain, memories grow dim. While we’ve seen biographies and autobiographies of military leaders and heroes, we see few stories from the men who trained, went to war, fought, and came home.

Many times, God’s blessings come in ways we do not recognize at first. I received such a blessing, a privilege granted to few. After getting settled in here in High Springs, I met (through my High Springs “family”) one of those men who trained, traveled on a troop ship, came ashore and fought, then finally came home. During R’s time in the army, he managed to write a letter to his girlfriend (who later became his wife) every day. She kept these letters – oh, how she must have treasured them – and he has entrusted these precious letters to me to transcribe. I have the letters she wrote to him while he was in basic training, but he was not able to save her letters once he shipped out.

The letters capture the giddiness of a young couple in love, and the “summer camp”-like atmosphere of his basic training. They move into the intricacies and tragedies of war as seen through the eyes of a young infantryman from Virginia. It’s both love and war, with him choosing his words carefully (and then dodging the censors) so as to not worry his sweetheart back home. It is a love story of man and country. As I read the letters, I hear R’s strong Virginia accent, and it makes me think of my family members who fought in that same war.

They went away as boys. They returned forever changed. R’s story will be the greatest project I have helped into existence. We must never forget their sacrifice. They did not question.They did not protest. They did their jobs. And because of them, we are here today.


Thank you, R. The world will know your story.


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