The Famous Gardner's Seafoods Ski ShowBIG NEWS!!! BIG NEWS!!! My beloved husband Kent Donahue’s first book, The Famous Gardner’s Seafoods Ski Show, is now available through online retailers or by ordering through your local bookstore! You’ll love this slice of local Port Orange, Florida history, and Kent is well qualified to tell the story. He is an active member of the Port Orange Historical Trust, presents a monthly Port Orange history lecture series, and conducts biweekly radio interviews on local history. Kindle and other e-book editions (for Nook, iBooks, etc.) coming soon.

The book can be ordered via the link below, among other places. $14.95, ISBN 978-0982385920

The Famous Gardner’s Seafoods Ski Show

PS: A little plug for the publisher (who happens to be me!) of this fine book. Head on over and “like” Inheritance Press on Facebook if you want to stay informed about other works in the pipeline.

I stumble into a lot of good things in my life quite by accident. I mean seriously, it’s the ultimate charmed existence. So many of the wonderful moments I’ve been blessed with have been unplanned and unexpected. Things like meeting my husband, becoming a superhero, selling our house at the school bus stop, first getting published in a bookmaking a spiritual impact, and finding my true purpose for this blog.

But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I might someday be labeled an athlete. The very notion is downright preposterous! Anyone who knows me and my clutzy, couch potato ways can attest to that.

Then a year ago, a funny thing happened. I got compliments, and I hated it. I’d recently had professional photos taken at a conference that by all accounts were fabulous. I posted one of the pictures on Facebook and many people told me how beautiful it was (you can decide for yourself from the painful evidence below). I graciously accepted the praise, but secretly I was cringing inside. All I could see was exactly how much weight I had regained in recent years.

I felt terribly discouraged for putting on pounds I had worked so hard to lose once before. But a few weeks later I snapped myself out of my self-pity, decided to do something about it, and started a diet. Inspired by my friend John Alexander, I even bought a bicycle, determined to add exercise to the mix. The bicycle immediately began collecting dust in the garage for the next three months after only a single five-mile ride, but the diet was at least producing modest results.

Fast forward to the new year, when I resolved to get serious for real. I set a New Year’s resolution for fitness, with my bike factoring into the new plan. I started riding. And to my everlasting surprise, I kept riding. Later in January, my friend John joined me on a ride and happened to mention his own goal of 100 miles per month. I thought to myself, “Self, if John can do it, so can you!” I decided to realistically cut myself some slack during the hottest summer months, and so was born my goal to pedal 1,000 miles before the end of the year.

At first I didn’t believe in myself that I would really ever hit this goal. I was, after all, the poster child for a sedentary lifestyle. However, it didn’t take long before I started noticing that I was riding faster and longer distances. My stamina was improving quickly, and I discovered that I loved being outside and covering ground on my wheels. I began posting about my rides on Facebook, sure that I was being spammy with my newfound cycling enthusiasm, but my friends heavily encouraged me, giving me kudos for taking charge of my health. And the longer I kept it up, the more I heard from people offline—who were, unbeknownst me, following my Facebook posts—about what an inspiration I had become. This motivated me, and I kept pedaling.

On the days that I wasn’t riding, I was doing workout videos at home—beginner cardio workouts at first, later graduating to circuit training workouts with hand weights. Then heavier hand weights. And then somewhere around 400 miles into my cycling goal, I took a CyclingSavvy class to build confidence in my road and traffic skills and simultaneously talked my husband Kent into letting me use our tax refund to upgrade to a road bike. These things gave me fresh motivation, and I pedaled harder than ever.

A couple of weeks ago at our 18th anniversary dinner, Kent told me that I had become an athlete. I almost choked on my laughter because, well, it’s simply not true. Except that when I told other people about his funny, they agreed with him! “You are a Serious Cyclist now,” they said, “and you work out with weights.” It’s true that I’ve developed arm muscles from the hand weights and leg muscles from pumping the pedals on my bike. I am fit and toned like I have never been in my life. And on our beach vacation earlier this month, I even mustered the courage to wear a bikini. In public. At 41 years old. (No, you cannot see photos of that!)

On Sunday, July 29, I did it. I reached my 1,000-mile goal, five full months ahead of schedule. My friends John Alexander, who first inspired me to get on my bike, and Jim Broman, who is propelling me toward continued improvement, were riding by my side. It was an emotional milestone in my life for setting what seemed an unreachable target and against all predictions, attaining it. Along the way, I accidentally became an athlete. I never meant to, but I have no plans to turn back now. I’m setting new goals to conquer. Cycling has changed my fitness, my confidence, my life. I could never have done it without the will given to me from above and the support and encouragement of the many people who cheered me on.

And friends, guess what? Just over a week ago the newly slim, fit, toned me returned to that conference, and I had new pictures made. When I related the story to the same photographer of how last year’s photos were the inspiration that spurred me to action and how excited I was to be back for her to capture my new svelte look, she said she wanted to cry. When we were done, I asked to see the new pictures in the small window of her camera, and then *I* wanted to cry. What a difference a year, 1,000 miles, and wonderful friends make.

BEFORE (August 1, 2011): AFTER (July 23, 2012):
Mo-before Mo-after
Photos by the amazingly talented Jill Harper of Legacy Solutions.

Okay, okay, so I know I’ve been terribly delinquent in keeping up with my blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I have just contributed an article to a local website about my newfound love of bicycling. It’s part testimonial for the cycling class I recently took, part personal reflection on why I started riding and my evolving goals, and 100% from the heart. Here’s the link:

Couch Potato to Savvy Cyclist in 4.0 Months


Recently I posed a serious question to my Facebook friends, asking them to define success. I confess that I had an ulterior motive, because I wanted to see how their responses would measure up against a theory that’s been rattling around inside my head for quite some time.

I only had a handful of takers, but the replies I received confirmed my suspicions. It turns out that my friends, the people I choose to engage with on social networks like Facebook, think a lot like I do. And how we think about success bears little relation to the various dictionaries I consulted. The dictionaries, without fail, cite external rewards such as wealth, prosperity, eminence, fame, and honors in their definitions. But my friends and I, we speak in far more personal terms of friendship, family, faith, and ideals.

It’s hard to look at this discrepancy in light of “corporate America” culture without pondering the disconnect between how we personally define success in our own lives and how the companies we work for define that same concept. If the tiny sample of friends who responded to my question is any accurate indication, we as individuals subjectively measure our success in terms of our relationships, the impact we have on the people and systems around us, and achieving our personal goals. Corporate success, on the other hand, is far more likely to be measured in quantifiable terms of dollars and metrics and market share, rather than people or community.

I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily a bad thing. Every company has a fiduciary responsibility to its stakeholders and its employees to operate efficiently. It would be impossible for any business to succeed for long, let alone innovate, if it is losing money, and sometimes that means making hard decisions for the bottom line. But I can’t help wondering if the drive to eke out a few more pennies, stay competitive, and grow their influence too often trumps what is really in the best interest of the populations that such organizations are in the business of serving. My perception, based on endless media stories of corporate earnings and stock performance, is that many companies are so focused on the numbers that they lose sight of their own mission.

As I have considered these ideas over the past week, I have realized that the blog post I initially set out to write on this subject has not materialized. I can’t decided if this should be a rant about corporate inhumanity, or a wistful longing for the time to treasure what’s important to me, or even an indictment of the media for pushing the perception that we are only successful it we aspire to more material things—more money, a better job, a bigger house, more accolades, more “stuff.”

And so there is no real conclusion to my musings here, merely observations that I’m still deciphering. But I promised a blog post to those who answered my initial Facebook question, and a blog post I have finally delivered. What I do know is that “success” is probably the wrong word for the concept I’m having trouble articulating. If I figure the rest of it out, you’ll all be the first to know. I promise. In the meantime, what does success look like to you?


The Beverly

Recently, Noah said something that brought back a memory of the moment in their childhood that I so far most regret not having had a video camera handy to capture.

The location:

The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. At the end of the tour, we had the opportunity to sample various Coca-Cola products from around the world, always a highlight of visits there. We were happily tasting away, as we always do. Then we came to it. The Beverly.

The scene:

My sister, Chepin, being the sensible mother and aunt she is, warned the kids that the Beverly (a drink sold in Italy) was vile and they really didn’t want to try that one. The kids, being kids, didn’t believe her. So Chepin decided to pull one over on them. She agreed very seriously that they were onto her; they had caught her trying to talk them out of a tasty, refreshing drink.

Chepin lined up those gullible kids and gave them each a cup, making them wait until they had all been served so they could discover the Beverly’s deliciousness in unison. Four eager little faces, standing side by side, waited impatiently for the cue to take a sip. When Chepin gave the signal, four eager little hands tilted their cups up for a swallow. Four eager little throats gulped it down. A few delayed reaction seconds later, those four eager faces turned to grimaces of nauseous horror at precisely the same instant. Then four sets of feet fled together to the nearest garbage can to dump out what was left in their cups, and four poor little bodies contorted as they hopped around trying to spit the awful lingering taste out of their mouths.

And four gleeful parents laughed so hard they cried over the perfectly synchronized reaction.

This memory still cracks me up when I think of it. To this day I still kick myself for not having brought a video camera to capture that unplanned practical joke and the kids’ viral-video-worthy response.

And the conversation that led to the memory? Noah out of the blue claimed that actually he LIKED the Beverly. I can’t wait to test that claim the next time we’re in Atlanta. How soon they forget.

Shame on you, America

The following post has been going around Facebook over the past couple of days, and it is wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin.

Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without medical needs & mentally ill without treatment-yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 stations. 99 percent of people wont have the guts to copy & repost this.

Let me rebut this point by point:

1.    America is NOT the only country with people who are homeless, hungry, and uninsured. This is so blatantly false it would be laughable, if it wasn’t so scary that anyone actually believed it. Yes, we have our societal ills, but the United States has one of the highest standards of living in the world. There are many, many, many worse off nations where legions of people have no food, shelter, or medical care, with governments unwilling or unable to provide for these basic needs.
Edit: A family member pointed out that what this may be saying isn’t that America is the only country with these societal problems, just the only such country that held a benefit like this. Even if that interpretation is correct, it’s still a false statement. There is NO country free of such social issues, yet America wasn’t alone in hosting a benefit. The rest of my argument stands.

2.    Homeless shelters and food kitchens abound in this country, and no one who shows up in an emergency room will be denied basic medical treatment just because they can’t pay for it. Yes, there is a tremendous need in our country, and we are doing far from a perfect job of addressing those needs. I heartily applaud those who recognize that. But the fact remains that resources are there for those who truly need them in a way that they simply aren’t in many less developed nations.

3.    Some who are expressing so much concern for the poor in America right now are the very same people who complain bitterly about using tax money to pay for programs to help the underprivileged. They accuse such people of being lazy and living off the hard work of honest people. They want nothing to do with paying for legitimate assistance programs to aid those in need, just because some freeloaders may take advantage of the system. In my very humble opinion, this smacks of hypocrisy.

4.    What’s wrong with having a benefit for the people of Haiti in the midst of a national disaster? Haiti is a country with less than nothing, one of the poorest countries on the planet. They’ll never recover without the generosity pouring in from other nations. Besides, no one can say we haven’t done the same for our own people. There were similar benefit concerts following 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina!

When, oh when, did Americans become such elitists? God didn’t command us to only love other Americans. And He didn’t create the artificial international borders that we now use to insulate and isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. We’ve been blessed with so much. Why shouldn’t we share it with those in the most need, in a time of crisis? Where’s our Christian compassion?

Shame on you, America. Indeed.

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of
the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

—Matthew 25:40

She’s an interesting specimen, this creature known as the Papaya Monkey who lives in our home. We’ve been studying her in her native environment for the past 11 years, and our findings are puzzling. What follows are our extensive field notes.


From the moment of her birth this strange new breed of offspring captivated us, starting with her sweet smelling newborn breath. It’s an intoxicating scent this researcher still remembers, even now. No one had ever prepared me for that specific slice of Heaven on Earth. It was just the first of many ways in which the little creature surreptitiously captured our hearts. Despite frequent shrill wailing noises, the subject quickly endeared herself to those around her, as evidenced by cutesy nicknames applied by the researchers such as Maia Papaya and Monkey Maia, later morphed into the more common scientific nomenclature, Papaya Monkey.

Personal Hygiene:

Despite the maternal researcher’s early infatuation with the Papaya Monkey’s breath, over the years it has—how shall I delicately put this—not remained quite so sweet. She’s a pre-teen, and, um, she smells like one. It may be a form of reverse evolution, but we’re hopeful that this aversion to hygiene is only a temporary developmental phase. In a strange contradiction, we have noted in our field observations that when the Papaya Monkey does choose to bathe, she seems to enjoy the experience—at least judging by the extended length of time she is willing to subject herself to the flow of water from above. It is too early to draw a firm conclusion, but this behavior suggests the possibility that the subject believes length of  hygiene efforts can compensate for their infrequency. Her awareness that freedom from dirt and odor is directly correlated with daily cleansing may not yet be fully developed.

Personal Habitat:

The Papaya Monkey’s personal living space suffers considerably from the subject’s lack of attention. All available evidence points to a pervasive disregard for closets, drawers, shelves, and clothing hampers, with her bedroom floor being the location of choice to store all her personal belongings. We therefore regretfully conclude that tidiness may not be one of the Papaya Monkey’s dominant characteristics.

Dietary Habits:

The research subject exhibits low tolerance for foods that hold actual nutritional value. If there is any truth to the saying that you are what you eat, then the Papaya Monkey is unequivocally destined for a future as a chicken nugget.

Family Bonding:

The Papaya Monkey is a loving creature who freely dispenses hugs to her family members. She is particularly well bonded with the paternal researcher, who is nearly always willing to act as the subject’s playmate. The maternal researcher, when not assuming the role of disciplinarian, also enjoys close bonding time with the subject. Though the Papaya Monkey has historically had a close and protective relationship with her younger male sibling, she  currently exists in a state of occasional antagonism toward him, as well. The researchers believe this to be a symptom of adolescence and that she will eventually outgrow this undesirable behavior.

Peer Socialization:

The Papaya Monkey displays curious social habits when among peers. In a recently observed rare overnight gathering with other females similar in age—intended to celebrate the addition of another year to the Papaya Monkey’s life—researchers noted an excessive amount of giggling and generally high volume communication. The creatures also appeared to enjoy grooming each other by applying colored enamel to the nails on each others’ fingers and toes. All of which was extremely foreign to the Papaya Monkey’s younger male sibling, who complained frequently of the noise.

Adult Socialization:

In positive findings, our extensive research shows that so far the Papaya Monkey appears to have been properly domesticated with respect to adult interactions. The researchers frequently get glowing reports about her attitude and behavior from teachers, church staff and volunteers, and other parents. She is nearly always described as respectful, helpful, caring, and easygoing. Close observation reveals that the subject is also extroverted, confident, and a bit on the theatrical side. She is something of a ham, and not at all afraid to hold a conversation with adults.


As the only specimen of the breed, we are still evaluating the Papaya Monkey’s full intelligence potential, but the data so far is encouraging. Reports from school are overwhelmingly positive, and she is particularly fond of social studies. The Papaya Monkey makes a “dream student” (according to the latest field information from her educational instructors) and appears to be particularly well informed in the history of explorers and conquistadors. She brings home straight A’s on her report cards, which suggests that she is more than adequately prepared for the academic rigors she faces. She has also demonstrated a consistent talent for winning a million dollars on the Nintendo DS version of “Are Your Smarter Than a 5th Grader.” She’s pretty smart, for a monkey. And for a 5th grader.


All things considered, I think we’ll keep the Papaya Monkey. She’s a highly entertaining specimen to study, and she is evolving into a lovely young monkey, I mean lady. The researchers agree that she shows tremendous potential for a happy and productive (if cluttered) future. What more could a Papaya Monkey breeder ask for?

Inheritance Press

Inheritance PressWell, it’s all official, I’ve gone and created my own publishing company.

Technically, I created and named Inheritance Press when I self-published my blog book earlier this year. But in recent months I’ve been branching out. I’ve formalized Inheritance Press as a business entity, sought public input on my logo design, created a website, and signed my first author—none other than fellow blogger Paul Nichols of Writing From the Hip. We’ve been working on formatting his book, Growing Up in the 1950s…Just Seven Blocks from the Mexican Border: A Southern Arizona Memoir, scheduled for release on September 5. Stay tuned for an official announcement of availability!

For those curious about the meaning behind the Inheritance Press name, it’s twofold. First, it represents that the first book published under this brand was my own legacy to my children. I hope it’s an inheritance they will treasure forever. Second, it represents my personal faith and the promise that we will inherit eternal life.

The logo is dear to me because it captures both of these meanings. It is a family tree, with the two doves representing my two children. It is also the tree of life, with the doves adding just the right note of Christian symbolism.

As a print-on-demand publisher (albeit a very small, very independent, and very part-time one), I hope to be producing books on topics of personal interest to me. For now, that includes the disparate genres of personal memoirs, workplace learning, and Christian living/spiritual growth. If you know any aspiring authors writing in these genres who are looking for more personal assistance than self-publishing alone provides, feel free to put them in touch with me or direct them to the Inheritance Press website. I’d love to talk with them.

And to stay up to date on new releases, become a fan of Inheritance Press on Facebook!

Ode to Smartfood

Hi, my name is Monique, and I have an addiction. But it’s not what you think. Really, it’s relatively harmless, as vices go. I’m addicted to Smartfood, and the only casualty is my waistline.

Want to know how deep my obsession runs? Last week on my way home from work, the gas light blinked on in my car, signaling the need for fuel. But my brain immediately buzzed in Pavlovian anticipation of a different type of fuel. “Yay, it’s time for more Smartfood!”

This instinctual response is the result of frequent associative conditioning, as any clerk at my friendly neighborhood Mobil station can attest. Case in point: a few weeks ago I was making my regular Smartfood purchase while gassing up the car. When the clerk asked the customary “Will that be all?”, the associate at the next register over answered for me. “That’s all she ever gets.”

Ha. I beg to differ. Sometimes I vary the size bag I buy.

Well, who could blame me? Smartfood is nothing less than manna from Heaven. It may claim to be a simple snack in a homely black bag, but inside that bag is magical fluffy popcorn dressed in a heavy layer of white cheddar cheese goodness. The kind that demands licking every last scrumptious, delectable, cheesy, heavenly, perfect morsel from your deliciously cheese-plastered fingers.

Not that, um, I would ever exhibit such a gauche display of bad manners. At least not in public. Provided, of course, that we agree to exclude actual public places from the definition of “in public.”

Okay, okay, I confess. I have abandoned all pretense of sophisitication and social grace, proudly licking my Smartfood coated fingers in front of all the world. I stand no chance against the siren lure of this savory snack. Resistance is futile.

Sometimes, however, resistance is forced on me through competition to get my hands on the stuff. Where I live, Smartfood is a hot commodity whose demand occasionally exceeds supply. I plead the fifth on whether or not 80% of that demand comes from a single, unnamed citizen. But as a result, I am sometimes stymied in my attempts to acquire a fix. And I wonder if it’s wrong to feel ire at the greedy people in my town who keep buying up all the Smartfood and depriving me of my fair 80% share. So if you ever catch me cleaning out the inventory in the grocery store, I’m merely stockpiling my personal stash to get me through the dry spells.

A final word of advice to those around me: I guard my Smartfood ferociously. Don’t ask me to share. The answer is NO. Get your own bag! But please, oh please, do not buy it at my gas station or my grocery store. Or at my backup dealers, for that matter. You’ll force me into withdrawal, and I’ll have to retaliate by disowning you as my friend.

Menace in the kitchen

“Hmm, that’s strange, it smells a little like something’s burning,” I thought vaguely to myself, then quickly dismissed the fleeting notion as I went back to wiping out kitchen cabinets at our friends’ house, while Kent helped load their moving truck.

Moments later, I really smelled smoke.

What happened next was over and done in mere seconds, but the series of events is indelibly etched in my brain. It happened like this:

  • I turned around to seek the source of the acrid odor, and at that instant, the mountain (it seemed) of packing paper which had been sitting on the stove ignited into flames. I wondered, bewildered, how the paper was on fire.
  • Then I noticed that the knob for one of the stove burners was boldly set on Hi. For what seemed like eternity, but could have only been a split second, I puzzled over how that could possibly have happened when I was alone in the kitchen and hadn’t touched the stove.
  • It felt like impossibly slow, muddled thinking as I finally understood that a flap on the box I had slid out of the way a few minutes earlier must have caught on the burner control. It was a simple act of inattentive carelessness. It was my fault.
  • As panic battled with the unfolding confusion for attention in my brain, I picked up a stack of the burning paper and tried to blow out the flames, which was a little like trying to blow out a Duraflame log. It wasn’t happening. Even if it had worked, there was still more paper incinerating itself below.
  • Adrenaline pumping, I yelled in full panic mode, “Fire! Fire!” as I dashed back and forth to the sink three or four times to throw every shred of the flaming paper under water.
  • Just when I thought I was done, I noticed that a lone sheet had dropped to the floor, still ablaze, and threatened to engulf the dish rag hanging on the front of the stove. I dove to capture the stray offender and save the imperiled dish rag, along with anything else flammable in the vicinity.
  • At some point Kent and our friends arrived on the scene, but I already had things under control. Kent patted me on the back saying “good job, ‘Niquey, good thinking.” He told me later that he didn’t think I even knew he was there, so focused was I on dousing the burning paper. But my senses were hyper-aware. I took in everything in more detail than seems possible, just like in the movies when things happen in slow motion. Slow motion is exactly what it felt like.
  • Finally, realizing I was shaking, I sank to the step stool I had been standing on when it all began, burying my face in my hands out of sheer relief that I had not actually set my friends’ home on fire, while they consoled, “It’s okay, Mo. It’s okay.”
  • As I surveyed the charred paper that littered the floor, I felt simultaneously thankful that no damage had been done (except to my psyche), grateful for incredibly understanding friends, and guilty that the extra time I would now have to spend cleaning up the mess meant that much less I’d get done in the rest of the house. So much for “helping.”

I always knew I was a menace in the kitchen. I just always thought it only pertained to actually cooking. So if I ever offer to help anyone move, you might want to insist that I bring along my own personal fire extinguisher. Just in case.

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