Happy Halloween

Family Halloween

My sisters and me in the late 60’s

Halloween is really, almost over…two hours to go and nobody has rung the doorbell for at least 30 minutes.  So, Happy Halloween to all you spooks out in the world.  I’m not sure what it is ab…

Source: Happy Halloween


Taking to the Skies

Taking to the skies once again. This time business met with pleasure as I made my way to Kansas City for a leadership conference of The Association of Fundraising Professionals and then on to my Alma Mater, Washburn University and their 150th Anniversary.  I had only flown Southwest Airlines once prior to this trip, but oh how fun and entertaining. (More on that later). My colleagues and I arrived into Kansas City and we checked in to the the lovely Downtown Marriott. It’s Muelbach Tower awaited us with a rich history.  Manager Barney Allis took over the hotel in 1931, and during his lengthy tenure, the hotel welcomed celebrities including Helen Keller, Ernest HemingwayBabe RuthFrank SinatraBob HopeElvis Presley, and The Beatles. The hotel also hosted Presidents including Theodore RooseveltWoodrow WilsonCalvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. Missouri-native Harry S. Truman stayed in the hotel’s Presidential Suite so frequently that the Muehlebach became known as White House West. Downtown Kansas City is a beautiful place and area fountains were blue in celebration of a successful Royals post season and World Series run.  Thursday and Friday offered great conference sessions where I made new friends and learned new strategies to set a course for our local AFP chapter in the New Year.  Friday afternoon, I was excited to be voted the representative to the international board of directors in the year to come. The evening would then open up to the excitement of the Kansas City Royals looking to clinch the American League pennant in their home city.  Friends from college, colleagues from AFP and I made our way to the action. We found a great table where the food and drinks satisfied our palate and it was “Game On.”  Royals struck first and while it was touch and go, the Royals would not disappoint a frothy fan base. We made our way to the “Power and Light” District where fans were crazy with winning fever!  It was incredible to be part of the action and it brought back memories of the Royals winning the World Series in 1985 over the St. Louis Cardinals. It is funny how that tied in to the next leg of my journey but not before the closing speaker, Carol Hallquist, President of the Hallmark Foundation gave a mind opening presentation cleverly using Hallmark cards to present “10 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years.”   After her speech, it was on to Topeka, Capitol of Kansas for all you curious history buffs.

My alma mater, Washburn University” was celebrating its 150th anniversary. (No not my 150th reunion).  And wow, what fun!  Homecoming weekend would culminate in a parade, grand unveiling of the new welcome center, football game and the Bow Tie Bash!  Most people have never heard of Washburn University, home of the fighting Icabods!  What is an Icabod you ask?  Well 150 years ago, Thompson College was founded and renamed Washburn after a generous benefactor Icabod Washburn who gave a $25,000 gift in order to grow the college and open its doors to women and African Americans. Washburn was certainly a man before his time.  Home to around 8,000 students, Washburn offers a variety of majors and is home to a law school where people like newsman Bill Kurtis and politician Bob Dole graduated. The campus has seen an amazing facelift in the 30 years since I graduated. New union, housing, stadium, remodeled buildings and the crown jewel in their new Morgan Hall welcome center. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation also has a new 95,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility on campus where forensic students can engage and learn from the best of reality CSI.  The Bow Tie Bash was a well attended affair and there was music, food, and fun!  The president of Washburn, Dr. Farley, is…well an unassuming rockstar!  He mixes and mingles with everyone, from students to major donors to the college. He is engaging, fun and has done a great job to elevate Washburn both in and out of the city. His trademark is his bow tie…as seen in the picture with the man, the legend, the rockstar!  Thanks President Farley!  There are so many wonderful memories of Washburn and the years I spent there. Ask and I will tell. In addition to having a first “real” boyfriend, losing a friend in a freak accident, attending sporting events, learning the constellations in my favorite teacher’s class (thanks Dr. Parnell…I still remember them and often look to the skies and think back to your class), making my first “D” ever in school (really didn’t like economics), it was there I learned about philanthropy.  From my anthropology class and doing a project feeding the homeless to working at United Way. That would set my course on a journey filled with so much for which I am grateful. Yes and that would lead me to annual gifts and a planned gift for my beloved Washburn. Join me and remember your school and all it gave you and maybe still gives you. Go to a reunion, a celebration, buy a brick, make an annual gift, put them in your estate plan, connect with an old professor to say thank you, call a classmate you haven’t talked with in years. It is amazing how fast the years evaporate and memories flood your mind. As the memory booked closed on the weekend, I made plans to head home but not before staying with our family friend Doug. Doug, his wife and my mom were all in the PTA when their kids and my siblings and I were in school. I babysat for his son and it was Doug who made my sister Meredith and my birthday by paying for our lunch when we were teenagers. Well, he hasn’t changed. Still the funny, generous and outspoken man I’ve always known.   He took me to dinner…not just anyplace mind you. We went to the fried chicken (yes FRIED) Mecca in Leawood called “RC’s.” My mouth watered as I watched sumptuous treats pass us by. Finally our plates arrived and they were adorned with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. Wow, what a treat. And yes, every Midwest meal should be complete with cobbler.  Not just any cobbler…blackberry cobbler with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Then, as the former Dean Foods guru says “Val, put two small coffee creamers on top to make it perfect.”  Bring on two spoons.  Thanks Doug!  The trip came to a humorous close on Southwest.  If you ever fly the KC to Dallas or Dallas to New Orleans trek, look and listen for John Booker.  He is the funniest flight attendant ever! He had us all laughing with tears rolling into the aisle. On the trek from Dallas to Orlando, I boarded the plane.  Much to my surprise there was a seat on the FRONT row between two gentlemen.  Their wives were in the seats on the other side of the aisle.  My fascination and excitement of sitting in the FRONT row was evident as I plopped myself right down…I’ve never flown first class before and Southwest doesn’t have such things…so I seized the opportunity to have a window seat on THE FRONT ROW!!!  Yipee, oh happy day.  That also meant one of the first off the plane. Sweet!  I look forward to my next Southwest flight unless Delta reinstates that Skymall Magazine!  Thanks to all my colleagues, friends and flight attendants who made this a wonderful trip which is a fabulous tapestry woven together with memories of the past and those to come.


A Thankful Time of Year

Osborn lights at WDW Hollywood Studios

Osborn lights at WDW Hollywood Studios

It is officially “the Holidays.”  Sure, holiday accoutrements went up in stores as Halloween approached but once Thanksgiving is over, somehow we launch into a frenzied pitch until January.  This year, more stores started Black Friday as the gravy cooled on Thanksgiving.  What would the Pilgrims think?  First they would be appalled at the amount of food consumed and then all the activities that take away from the intent of the holiday….to give thanks.

As I reflect on Thanksgiving, there are many things to which I am thankful.  A beautiful daughter, wonderful family, obedient pets (ok, obnoxious dogs), a job that allows me the freedom to be creative, daring, helpful and successful without boundaries, good health, fine friends, a roof over my head and yes, turkey in my belly but not so much that I’m like that guy on the Monty Python movie who explodes with a wafer thin mint.IMG_3619

I think about Christmas, the year behind and the year ahead.   The year behind us has brought happy memories to many and heartache to some as they have lost loved ones.  Be happy for the memories you have and remember that they are still with us in spirit through our actions and hearts.  For all of you who are mean to your friends, co-workers, family members and strangers, shame on you.  You are fortunate if they still consider you a friend.  For those of you who have been given a “second chance” at life, quit being a stooge and be thankful and happy.  You bring others down with your anger, acidic words, and frame of mind.  You infect others, so expect it in return.   Just saying, Karma is a bigger jerk than anyone!  Try a little tenderness…sure you may fall flat but at least you tried.  For those embarking on new journeys this coming year, enjoy the ride.  Nothing is guaranteed, the unknown is damn scary, but remember peace with the decisions you have made is a wonderful place and when you expect great things, somehow they happen.  It’s never been said “dream small or go home.”  NO, it’s “DREAM BIG or go home.”

Thanks to my parents who gave us wonderful holidays to remember.  The Christmas Eve parties where hundreds of people of all ages converged on our house.  Where I learned pate’ and caviar are for an “adult palate” and that the punch at one end of the table was spiked.   Where my brother and sister learned their affinity for becoming real estate moguls and development lawyers as we played Monopoly for two-weeks straight and built high-rise condos and mixed land use developments.   Thanks for my parents and grandparents for making one Christmas exceptionally magical by making original hand-made Barbie condos for my sisters and me.  They were awesome!  Oh the memories.

I suppose making Christmas happen for others is what the season is about.  From putting spare change in the Salvation Army bucket to helping others in need.  Young or old, rich or poor, you never know what circumstances people find themselves in at this time of year.  The holidays bring back so many memories good and bad.  I’ve gotten hooked on the Hallmark Christmas movies this year.  Kleenex is seeing an unusual spike in their tissues thanks to me.  My dogs look at me like “what the heck is happening to her?”   My husband rolls his eyes, as usual and makes fun of me.  Note to husband…”Santa is watching!”IMG_5032

Yes, I have plenty to be thankful for.  A special thanks to my guardian angels both known and unknown to me.  You help keep life in perspective and help me to giggle, note life’s wonder and curb my anger when I’m ready to throw darts.  Thanks, in advance, for helping me choose NICE when it comes right down to all that I do in the coming month and year.

There will be more to come in the coming weeks as I will come face-to-face with more stories to share.  In the meantime, consider giving a gift to a child in need and visit http://www.chsfl.org to give a gift that really means so much.


“Have Your “Selfie” a Merry Little Christmas”

So the good folks at the Oxford Dictionary have proclaimed “selfie” as the 2013 “word of the year.”   I much prefer that to “twerk” and you can certainly bet that there would be no holiday letter with the Mardle’s/Murray’s “twerking.”

Brianna selfie

We trust this finds you and your family doing well this holiday season.  What a year this has been.  Brianna graduated from Seminole State College in May and is furthering her education at the University of North Florida studying Psychology and Criminal Justice.  After I made her watch Silence of the Lambs, she decided the FBI is an option but lamb for dinner isn’t.  She has been involved in campus activities and has been selected into Sigma Alpha Pi which is The National Society of Leadership and Success and focuses on goal fulfillment, community involvement and leadership.  Their stated mission is “We Build Leaders Who Make a Better World.”   On her holiday trips home, she continues to work at Walt Disney World’s “Rockin’ Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror and the parade.  She just had her 3rd year anniversary of working for The Mouse.  We are proud of her beyond words.  Brianna enjoyed traveling this year to New York on spring break, Miami, Georgia and a host of places throughout Florida.  She and I participated in the “Color Run” early in the year and she continues her love of sports in Jacksonville.


handsome oneConductor Frank continues to play with his trains and has extended his talents with cameras to include teaching private lessons and classes at the local Crealde’ Art Gallery.  He is quite the camera aficionado.  He is the proud grandfather, not by me mind you, of six grandkids ranging in age from 6 months to 12 years.  Needless to say, he could open his own photography studio and stay busy 24/7.  Frank traveled to England in the spring as his brother passed away.  The silver lining was getting to see family that he hasn’t been with since childhood.  As always, Frank remains the handyman around the house and is always finding little things and big things to fix and tinker with.  He plays cabana boy in the summertime and is the techno guru that helps solve those pesky computer issues.




photo (2)I am excited to have a new career working for a tremendous organization called Devereux, a leading nonprofit behavioral health organization that supports primarily children.  Founded more than 100 years ago, we operate in 11 states.  We inspire hope, ensure well-being, and promote meaningful life choices.  It has truly changed my life as well.  To learn more, check out www.Devereux.org    In addition to a new and exciting career change, I was proud to chair Orlando’s National Philanthropy Day through the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  More than 570 guests attended the event in November which hosted the president of the International Association of Fundraising Professionals.   It was truly an honor and privilege.  This has been a transformational year for me as I continue my quest to find 5-K runs that are challenging, meet with friends at LA Fitness at 5:30 a.m., and work with a trainer a couple times a week.  I feel better all the way around.  My favorite runs were through the “Master of All Terrain” series.  From running at an abandoned airfield to the motorcross speedway in beautiful Bithlo, I was the oldest female to complete all three races.  Watch out 2014!

Our dogs Penny and Bubba continue to entertain us by being themselves.  They enjoy their car rides, trips to the park and fun near the pool in the summertime.  This year we lost our dear sweet Haley cat.  Over her 18 year life, she brought us joy and comfort.  She is missed.

Haley Selfie Bubba Penny Selfie









This year was a tremendous year for birthdays.  Brianna was able to buy ME a drink as she turned 21 in June.  I followed by turning 50 the same month and my mother June, turned 80 on November 1.  To celebrate mom’s birthday, my sister Meredith coordinated a trip for everyone to meet in Kansas City at the Plaza where we invited 20 of mom’s closest Kansas friends and had lunch at the Raphael.  It was a great time.  While it was 10 degrees and there was snow, it helped to enhance the holiday feeling and made those of us coming from Florida even more grateful for the warmer climate.

Speaking of the warmer climate, we encourage you to come down or over for a visit.  Florida has many opportunities for fun year-round.  Whether it is a theme park, boating, the beach, or just enjoying seafood, we have it close by.

Well, it’s now time to go an make my winning entry for the holiday work party tomorrow.  It’s a homemade gingerbread with pear and cognac pudding recipe.  Ok, even if I don’t win, enjoying the “drunken fruits” of my labor will be well worth the investment of time.

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!  Cheers!


And the award goes to…

When my siblings and I were kids, our mother would pack us in the Vista Cruiser station wagon (it was the family vehicle with the first ever moon view skylights) and we would ohhh and ahhhh to my mom’s delight as we passed house after house decorated for the holidays.

As we became teenagers, the joy of looking at lights waned a bit and we often found other things to do.  Somehow, the “dazzle” of holiday lights took a backseat to boyfriends, swim meets, and listening to anything but boring ole Bing Crosby.

Well, what’s the saying, “the old becomes new again”  or in this case I find myself thinking, “oh jeez, I’m turning into my mother.”  Which, by the way, isn’t such a bad thing…just saying.  I’m older and wiser now and for the past couple of years have really enjoyed firing up the Camry and heading down memory lane.  The ooohhhs and ahhhhs are back.

Now, if you haven’t seen holiday lights lately, WOW, stop reading immediately and head out on a drive through your neighborhood to witness the “neighborhood spectacle of lights” your neighbors have so diligently put up for your viewing pleasure.   Our neighborhood association has a contest every year for the most creative, most beautiful, etc. in the lighting and decorating department.  Well, if I could cast my vote, it would be for the neighbors down around the corner…talk about creative, humorous holiday lights.  The first night I saw them, I laughed the whole way home.  No, not a snicker laugh, a full on Santa deep belly laugh.  So funny, I brought the family to see them….and then came down to talk with the decorating genius and take a photo of said lights.  YES, here they are….the award SHOULD go to…RUDOLPH.   Oh wait, don’t worry kids, it’s not Rudolph, no red nose.  But it is one of his relations.

In talking with our neighbors, he admits to being a country boy and he loves to hunt, fish and get close to nature.  He and his wife have both a Florida Gator AND a Georgia flag that hang at their house.  Now, if that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.  I say they both get points for being down-to-earth and extra points for their sense of humor.   Thank you for adding some holiday cheer to the neighborhood!  Kudos and if you don’t win this year’s award, see me and I’ll bring the beer and be the first to toast you on a job well done.

Ok, so if you’re not into driving around neighborhoods looking at holiday lights in fear that people will think you’re a stalker, fear not.  That’s why Walt Disney World has the “Spectacle of Lights.”   If you happen to live in Orlando or are lucky enough to visit over the holidays, this is one light display not to be missed.  We have been almost every year since they started in 1995 and my have they come a long way since the first showing with just 4 million lights.  According to www.studioscentral.com , there are now…

  • 5 million individual lights or 350 miles of lights that took 21,000 hours to install.
  • More than 40 Mickey images hidden throughout.
  • A 70-foot-tall Christmas tree glittering with 58,000 lights and a 30-foot-tall tree with 27,300 lights.
  • A whopping 800,000 watts of electricity used along the park’s 760-foot-long New York, Chicago & San Francisco Streets.
  • More than 350 miles of Christmas lights wrapped around the display with 32.2 miles of extension cables.
  • Sixty-six snow machines and 100 gallons of snow fluid used to create a flurry of snowflakes.

So back to the neighborhood lights…thank you to those of you who take the time to painstakingly string lights on your rooftops, doorways, walkways.  Thank you for checking each bulb to make sure they work and finding that one…somewhere in the strand….that keeps the others from lighting up.  Thank you for finding room in your closets, shed, attic or spare bedroom for the lights the other eleven months out of the year.  But most of all, thank you for taking time to spread your good cheer, good humor and great lights with the rest of us!  Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Happy Hanukah, and may we all live past what the Mayan calendar says will be the end of the world in order that you can put away those lights and then get them out again for many years to come.

More lights at WDW Hollywood Studios

Osborn lights at WDW Hollywood Studios


Jellyfish Therapy

My mom grew up in Florida and I owe great gratitude to her, my dad and grandparents for giving us kids the pleasure of summer beach trips.  Little did I know then that long car rides from the mid-west to Florida would be the start of something I would later refer to as Jellyfish Therapy.   For those of you poor souls who have never been to beach, let alone just floated along like a jellyfish, I feel badly for you.  For the experience of just floating along, limp, carefree, peaceful, weightless in the salt water with the sun kissing your body is unlike anything else and I highly recommend it.  It’s just you, the sound of your breathing and the water wrapping you like a blanket of pure love.  At our house, we call it “Jellyfish Therapy.”   Highly recommended on a calm body of salt water like the Gulf of Mexico, it could be done elsewhere I suppose.

Now, this type of therapy didn’t happen by accident.  It happened because my parents spent hours teaching us to swim, how to relax and float, and to enjoy getting salty and sandy.  In addition to the sun, salt and sand throughout the years, we ate countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, consumed our weight in cheese puffs, drank grape and orange Fanta and were slathered in vats of Coppertone.  To this day whenever I taste Fanta or catch a whiff of the unmistakable fragrance of Coppertone, it takes me back to a childhood filled with riding waves, my sisters and I wearing matching bathing suits, and spending time in Noxema after a little too much sun.

My grandparents lived in a little house in Ft. Pierce…no air conditioning but an attic fan that kept us cool and sounded like a 747 ready to take off.  There was this great big banyon tree out front that we would climb and there were mounds of earthworms that we would dig through.

We made daily trips to the beach and would stay all day.  We would ride waves, build sandcastles, watch the Australian pines blow in the wind and listen to stories about the jetties being WWII training grounds for the Normandy invasion, how Florida was so close to Cuba during the missile crisis, how my mom would climb the pines when she was young and so on.  See mom, I was listening.  It was on that same beach I would get my first teenage kiss from the son of my mom’s dear friends.  Magical, wonderful memories.

Since those days, I still love to go to the beach.  Perhaps that is one reason our family moved back to Florida after years away.  Like turtles, we had that primordial urge to go back to the beach that calls to us.  And, while it has changed over the years, and more sophisticated roadways make it easier to discover new beaches, the beach calls more often than I can go to it.

This past weekend, my daughter and I went to St. Petersburg Beach where we enjoyed a couple of days of “Jellyfish Therapy” mixed with laughter, singing, cruising the beach road, watching fireworks, listening to a great guitarist Daniel Giron at the Don Cesar Resort, eating German food, witnessing a beach wedding, and so much more.  While only two hours away, it was a world apart from the day-to-day grind.  To unplug, get “off the grid,” not be accountable to anyone but oneself is refreshing.  To reconnect with my daughter is priceless and hopefully I have given her memories of the beach over the years that she too can pass along to her kids one day.

So, I hope that this summer you too can “unplug” from the grind and find your own “Jellyfish Therapy.”  It might be hiking in the mountains, running a marathon, taking a family roadtrip to grandma’s house, or just enjoying a staycation.  Whatever “it is,” know that it is yours to catalog in the annals of time.

If you cant’ make it to the beach but want to really relish in some of the meaning of it’s hosts, the shells, check out the book “Gift From the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  It is a wonderful collection of thoughts and how five types of shells can speak to us at any stage in our lives.  A treasured book my mom gave to me. Thanks Mom.  Every time I go to the beach or read the book, it makes life a little easier to understand.  Here’s my mom with her dear friends the Croghans and with “flat Caitlyn” at the beach.



I recently took my husband to the airport as he was traveling to Europe to visit family.  As we drove up to the drop off area, I witnessed many different people with one thing in common…a hug.  There were spouses, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, friends, lovers and they were displaying some sort of emotion through their hugs and yes some kisses…but we’ll stick to hugs for this entry.

I love to hug but not everyone does.  In fact, when my daughter was in kindergarten her teacher called to say “you need to have Brianna not hug the other kids.”  Really? How sad.  Upon further discussion, the teacher told me that some kids are quite taken aback by hugs.  Wow, a kid that doesn’t like a hug or know how to handle it.  Those few words made me sad for the kids not getting them or sharing them.  It was then I realized how special hugs can be and how much I had taken them for granted for so many years.

Hugs translate into any language.  They can mean congratulations, happy to see you, hello, goodbye, hey dude you’re cool, I love you, I like you, and so many other things.  And, there are so many different types of hugs….bear hugs, chest bump hugs, over the shoulder hugs, around the waist hugs, and the list goes on.

When was the last time you had a hug?  What was it like?  What was the best hug you ever got?   I give and receive hugs on a daily basis.  Friends, family and sometimes new acquaintances who I feel like I’ve known forever after a conversation.

There are five people that stand out in my mind when it comes to a great hug.  My daughter (of course), her friend Victor, my dear friend Tammie, a new friend Lauren, and the woman who officiated my wedding…Rebecca.  What is it about these five hugs?  Like many hugs I receive, they are genuine, but these hugs are ones that just go to the core.  They really hug like it is the only thing in the world that matters at the time.  They make you feel like if the world ends today, you would remember them and take that hug with you.

It made me think of the guy named Juan Mann who started the Free Hugs Campaign years ago.  Check it out at  http://www.freehugscampaign.org/    Here’s a guy who stood out in a public place with a sign saying “free hugs.”  What would you do if you saw someone with that sign?   Would you be afraid, embarrassed or would you go and get a free hug?  Or do you view it as you’d have to give a hug to a total stranger?  Is it the getting or receiving part that hangs you up?  Or, perhaps it is both.

When was the last time you went to a theme park?  I’m especially partial to Walt Disney World and whenever we go, you guessed it, there are plenty of hugs to be seen.  What is it about a hug from Mickey Mouse, Snow White, or Goofy that just makes you feel good?  Even adults can be spotted giving and receiving hugs from their  favorite characters.

As you read this, think about those people who should get a hug from you and go give them one.  It might be a hug saying “thanks” or “I Love You” or “I’m happy to see you” or “I’m really irritated with you but a hug will make it better.”   You don’t even have to have a reason to hug someone special.

As Bil Keane who does Family Circus says “A hug is like a boomerang, you get it back right away.”  For more great quotes on hugs, check out…  http://www.quotegarden.com/hug.html

Now, quit reading and go hug someone!