Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Release: Poems from the Battlefield

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure and trepidation that I offer my first book of poetry, a 9" x 7", perfect bound, full color collection.

The text contains photos, quotes and poems reflecting the American Civil War in our region.

Poems from the Battlefield will hopefully become a valuable asset to Manassas and Prince William County, an area rich in history, thought and beauty.

I am grateful for the National and County parks that have offered me the tremendous opportunity to revel in history and in nature every time I've visited.

Click here, and thank you for reading.

Makes you wonder....

Way too busy to post, so here's a cheat. Still...kind of makes you wonder, don't it???

Click the cartoon to make it bigger.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I'm not "a white."

Excellent article and enlightening comments over at's article "9 things NEVER to say to White Colleagues." Kudos to them for taking on the tough topics and generating meaningful discussion.

I will be pleased when our government (and every other organization) stops putting those idiotic "white, non-Hispanic" or "Caucasian" boxes on our forms, the ones that include choices like "black" alongside "Asian." Not only is it demeaning to all of us, it's ridiculous. Why am I white but someone else is "Asian"? Why is an African American "black" but someone else is "non-Hispanic"? Stupid. Inconsistent. They mix up colors with ethnic backgrounds. Should we assume all "whites" are Irish and all "blacks" are Nigerian?

If they must know where we are from or how a cop might identify us, can't we ALL just all put our ethnic heritages on the forms?

Here....write in the blank....Katherine Gotthardt....Lebanese and Sicilian American. Y'all set with that now?

Post-Camping Post

Two days, five girls and me in a cabin
park, sand, playgrounds and campfire
bug bites, sunburn and giggles
pre-teen drama and trauma.
Have I mentioned I love my bed?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Words of Compassion

Via Dexter Fox, Chair, Unity in the Community:

"Unity in the Community has released a major research effort on our web site. WORDS OF COMPASSION is a compilation of documents from religious, secular and governmental organizations that focuses attention on the immigration issue. All documents are in the public domain but are collected here in one place to facilitate review and comparison. We are pleased to offer this resource to our many friends and colleagues. There is real food for thought in the collection of statements, policies, resolutions and letters presented here. Hot links in the Table of Contents provide easy access to each document. An index to all the statements in the collection facilitates access to thematic material throughout the document.

"I hope you will take some time to review the document, see what it there and to share it with friends, colleagues, church groups, political action groups, and any others concerned with immigration and today's immigration issues. The document is located on the web at: or through the Unity web site by navigating from the site through the announcements page to the document: > Announcements > Words of Compassion."

Dexter Fox
Chair, Unity in the Community
P.O. Box 4292
Manassas, VA 20108

Friday, June 19, 2009

People actually read this thing? LOL!

Okay, I knew a couple of people read this blog because I would periodically get comments from blog pals like those I have listed in my links. Of course, I also got some from unsavory people, which is why I shut off the comments feature. But if you DO read this blog, then you have discovered I continue to write whether I think I have an audience or not. You see, blogging is something I do mainly for myself. It's an outlet, like thinking out loud as I said to someone who actually did take the time to read the ominous words of the Poodle.

But they aren't all my words, obviously. I also like to post items that strike me as important. I figure if my couple of readers see announcements and think they are meaningful, they will pass the information on. But mostly, I like to express what's important to me.

See how egotistical I am?

Sorry, but it's this expressive kind of thing. If I can't write, I can't really formulate my thoughts the way I want to. Sometimes, I need to express my thoughts in formal ways. Other times...forget it. I just puke up whatever comes out, which is why I don't take much time on entries, even when I do minor research or use links. If I got paid to blog, I would probably take more time, but then I would have to start another blog as an it-doesn't-matter-what-I-write-because-this-is-my-space blog.

Writing for yourself and not an audience is great. Ironically, though, putting it up in cyber space is a different kind of personal writing. You do take the chance that people are reading your entries, for better or for worse. So why not just journal, you ask, keep it all on your desktop?

I think I've explained this before (but I'm too lazy to find the entry) that there's something magical about having entries in open air like this. It's freeing. It doesn't feel as claustrophobic, yet, there's still some room for privacy. Of course, when you don't use your own name, there's even more room for privacy, but in some ways, I'm just not that private of a person. In other ways I am. I can write about a lot of things that are difficult for me to talk about.

People might think from this blog that I'm some kind of extroverted, raving lunatic. Well, that's fine. But it's rather a misperception because for the most part, I'm not a natural extrovert. I have some serious social anxieties at times and really have to push to get myself to engage with strangers. So I prefer writing. Besides--I can sound smarter in writing than I can in "real life." I can edit. The ADHD doesn't get in the way, and neither does the social anxiety.

That said, I've got some sociable things to do right now.

Time for some strangers to meet the lunatic behind the screen.


PWC Planning Commission Seeks Input

PWC eNotifications Subscription

The Prince William County Planning Commission is seeking comments and ideas from Prince William County residents, businesses and organizations on updates to the Environment Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan. This is an opportunity for public input!

A community input meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Chambers of the James J. McCoart Administration Building at 1 County Complex Court in Prince William County.

Visit for details and a complete schedule of the process. Residents may offer comments and ideas by e-mailing For more information, call the Planning Office at 703-792-6830.

You are receiving this email because you signed up for E-Notification through the Prince William County, Virginia Web Site. If you would like to unsubscribe to this service - please go to

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kids are out!

Last day of school...and I'm glad. It's nice to have the kids home. Yeah, they will annoy the you-know-what out of me and each other sometimes, but overall, I feel fortunate to be able to spend time with them while maintaining some employment.

We have lots planned for this summer including gearing up for my dad and his wife coming down the week of the 4th. Then we're driving down to visit my mom in Orlando at the end of July.

Taking the girls and three friends cabin camping next week. That should be interesting. What else? Visiting the in-laws. Summer school and visits to a list of places I've noted in my head for about a year. Day trips are great! I plan to take lots of them.

When I find my list, I'm going to blog it. Then I will have a record of my summer intentions and see how many of them I meet.


That sounded so serious, didn't it?

You know you need a vacation when you approach summer fun as if it were a New Year's resolution.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I used to think...

Working on my book has brought me back in time not only because the book is rooted in our Civil War, but because I wrote the poems during a tumultuous period in my own life. In this blog, I have already mentioned being misdiagnosed and incorrectly medicated, being raped and beat up, being harassed and manipulated, and working to become someone other than that scared person hiding in the basement, that person with PTSD. But those themes have been hammered away at in therapy, in my writing, in talking to Hubby and friends and in meaningful interactions I've had with bloggers like my bbf Sandra. These aren't what I need to re-visit right now. Now is the time to think about what I used to think.

People sometimes think changing your mind is a bad thing, that it shows some kind of moral inconsistency. I say changing your mind can mean you've grown, you've learned, and that you are actively searching for meaning.

Everything on the list below is just a snapshot, a generalized perception I used to hold. I could probably write whole chapters on each perception, and some day, maybe I will because it's interesting to examine the self and why we believe what we do. There are whole disciplines, doctrines, studies, beliefs and majors dedicated to that one question, "Why do you think that?"

I talk a lot about generalizing because we as humans do it all the time with the way we use our words to define our limited experiences. But that's what we have to realize--our experiences are indeed limited, our brains are limited, and if we base our beliefs only on those, we are limited as well.

In many cases, we think the way we do because we have been conditioned to do so. We don't question our own experiences. Or if we do, we can't seem to figure it all out enough to move on to the next step.

Moving on is a terribly long, painful process, which makes it more appealing to actively avoid than actively seek answers. But if we dare ourselves to move on, we have to start with examining our assumptions. What do we believe and why? Do we really believe these things, or is it just easier to do so?

These are some of my "things."

1. I used to think 99% of wealthy people were selfish egotists who worshipped money.

2. I used to think snobs were snobs because they had perfect little lives and could afford to look down on the rest of us.

3. I used to think I would never live in or own a home.

4. I used to think I would never get a boyfriend.

5. I used to think I was fat and ugly.

6. I used to think I was more street smart than I really am.

7. I used to think nothing would surprise me about human behavior.

8. I used to think I would be a tenured English professor instead of a writer no matter how much I loved to write.

9. I used to think I would publish a book when I was much younger.

10. I used to think a "man" was someone over the age of 30, that a woman was someone over the age of 30, and that anyone 40+ was a much older man or woman.

11. I used to think I could stay with someone who didn't want children.

12. I used to think people would never go out of their way to hurt you if you simply avoided them.

13. I used to think everything was my fault.

14. I used to think I would always be drop-dead poor.

15. I used to think I was wiser than I was when I was far younger than I am now.

16. I used to think if your head split in half, there would be harlequin ice cream inside.

17. I used to think people who are unhappy would acknowledge that and do what they could to change that condition.

18. I used to think my parents wished I was a boy.

19. I used to think racism had gone away a long time ago.

20. I used to think politicians were another species, one that always lied.

21. I used to think that being depressed was a pre-requisite for being a writer.

22. I used to think having your period was a way to get rid of "bad blood."

23. I used to think women had sex by having a penis inserted in their pee-hole.

24. I used to think that's where a tampon went, too.

25. I used to think school was a terrible place to be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Book is Coming!

I'm pleased to announce I've made tremendous progress on my poetry collection which I anticipate will be on the market within the next month or so. It has taken me almost five years to write this series. When I first began, I thought I could whip it out in about two years. Alas, life and trauma got in the way, but because of that, the book has taken on a deeper meaning than it would have if nothing painful had happened. This is not to say one needs to be depressed to write poetry. Rather, for me, poetry is an outlet, an expression and an art form capable of taking on various contexts and multiple levels of metaphor.

I see a lot of work in my future. But work is good.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Hilarious, easy-to-read book of wisdom

Ladies and gents, if you want to be amused, enlightened and inspired without any heavy lifting, I encourage you to check out Sandra Kay's creative non-fiction book Eat, Write & Exercise.

You will see my name on the back of the book because I've enjoyed samples of Sandra's writing prior to the official publication.

Sandra addresses everything from family life to writing and artistic insights to hilarious conversations and thoughts on recovering from abuse. Hope and humor spring from each page.

I'm so glad to have "met" Sandra, a true source of strength.

All I can say is....

Read. Listen.

If Today Was Your Last Day Lyrics

My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day's a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned
Leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If today was your last day,
Tomorrow was too late,
Could you say goodbye to yesterday..
(would you, Would you)
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past?
Donate every dime you have?
(Would you, Would you)
If today was your last day

(What if, What if, If today was your last day)

Against the grain should be a way of life
What's worth the price is always worth the fight
Every second counts cause there's no second try
So live like you're never living twice
Don't take the free ride in your whole life

(What if, What if)

If today was your last day,
Tomorrow was too late,
Could you say goodbye to yesterday..
(Would you, Would you)
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past?
Donate every dime you have?

(Would you, Would you)

And would you call old friends you never see..
Reminisce memories?
Would you forgive your enemies?

(Would you, Would you)

And would you find that one your dreaming of,
Swear up and down to God above,
That you'll finally fall in love?
(That you'll finally fall in love)
If today was your last day

If today was your last day,
Would you make your mark,
On mending a broken heart?
You know it's never too late,
To shoot for the stars,
Regardless of who you are.
So do whatever it takes,
Cause you can't rewind
A moment in this life.
Let nothing stand in your way,
Cause the hands of time
Are never on your side

If today was your last day,
Tomorrow was too late,
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past?
Donate every dime you have?
(Would you, Would you)
And would you call old friends you never see..
Reminisce memories?
Would you forgive your enemies?
(Would you, Could you)
And would you find that one your dreaming of,
Swear up and down to God above,
That you'll finally fall in love?
(Would you, Would you)
If today was your last day

Monday, June 08, 2009

Admissions agreements guarantee transfer for NOVA graduates

Start at NOVA, finish at GMU, U-Va. or U-decide

Admissions agreements guarantee transfer for NOVA graduates

High school seniors who haven’t yet picked a college should consider Northern Virginia Community College where they can save thousands of dollars by earning an associate degree and then transferring – guaranteed – to a four-year institution.

NOVA graduates are eligible for admissions agreements that guarantee acceptance at dozens of four-year colleges and universities, including all the well-known Virginia schools. That means NOVA graduates transfer as juniors and earn the same bachelor’s degree as students who started as freshmen.

NOVA’s tuition is the best educational value in the area. In addition, all students are encouraged to pursue financial aid to make college even more affordable. During the 2007-2008 academic year, NOVA administered more than $33 million in grants, scholarships, loans and student employment.

Registration is taking place now for the fall semester that begins Aug. 24. Students may enroll at or 703-323-3770. In-person assistance is available at NOVA’s campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge. Students can register now to ensure they get the classes they want and defer tuition payment until July 31.

For more information, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s Web site at

# # #

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America’s largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 60,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s Web site,


Carlene Mackereth

Public Information Officer

Northern Virginia Community College


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Community Leadership Institute--Class Dismissed

Tonight I graduated.

That sounds strange, considering it has been many years since I have attended a formal class. So when I looked at tonight's Community Leadership Institute's agenda and saw "graduation," I smiled.

And then I saw who would be conducting the formalities--none other than County Executive, Mr. Craig Gerhart, soon to be retired after almost 30 years of service.

The class facilitator, Citizen Participation Coordinator Nikki Brown, an enthusiastic professional, had a tough time holding back the tears as she mentioned Mr. Gerhart's impending career move from PWC to Amtrak.
And while I don't know Mr. Gerhart, I can see why it might be difficult to have him leave.

From hearing him speak, reading about him and just observing his mannerisms, I decided a few years ago that Mr. Gerhart was, if nothing else, honest. He struck me as approachable and human. And after listening to him tonight, my belief is only strengthened that this man must have been an inspiring person to work for.

It's hard to write about perceptions based on gut reactions and instincts. So I will try to substantiate mine at least a little.

Mr. Gerhart said we were the last CLI class he would see graduate. He talked a little about how proud he has been to work in the county. He referred to "people who are smarter than I am." In that one phrase, I heard healthy humility and intelligence. It was like he didn't have to prove himself or be perfect or brag. I didn't get the bloated-ego-alert I get with many higher ups.

But even more laudable, he didn't try to hide the elephant in the room. Mr. Gerhart said the bid rigging scandal was shameful. He didn't have to over-emphasize the words to communicate his disdain. Then he said the county would overcome it in time.

It wasn't so much his words--it was his mannerism that convinced me of his honesty without any attempt on his part to do so. He had no shame, nothing to hide, no reason to even so much as stutter. And it wasn't rehearsed. It was just....I don't know. Simply being? A statement of fact and feeling? Strength? I don't know. But even if he made mistakes, this must be a man plenty of people were proud to work with.

Mr. Gerhart asked what the class had learned. Some said learning how the budget was developed was most interesting. For others, it was economic development. For others, housing.

This was a difficult question because throughout the class, we met county personnel who had more than their employer in common. They were people willing to spend time with a group of about 25 citizens interested in learning more about the place where they live and how that place operates.

We met Elijah Johnson, Director of Housing and Community Development. We met Lisa Marrom, Community Services Board Community Support Division Manager. We met Debbie Carter, Administrative Analyst for Social Services. We met Courtney Tierney, Director for the Area Agency on Aging. They explained what they did and how their agencies operated. They answered questions and addressed concerns. They exemplified public service.

Who else took the time to speak with us?

Melissa Peacor, Assistant County Executive.
David Tyeryar, Budget Director.
Jason Grant, Public Information Speicalist for Economic Development.
Rick Canizales, Transportation Planning Manager.
Pat Thomas, Planner IV from Planning.
Chief Kevin McGee, Department of Fire and Rescue.
Captain Fred Miller, Police Department.
Liz Bahrns, Director of Communications.
Michelle Casciato, Division Chief for Neighborhood Services.

Like Mr. Gerhart, these employees seemed to exude one of the most important qualities a government employee can offer: honesty.

This sounds naive, doesn't it, considering the bid rigging scandal?

Well then, it sounds naive.

But consider I'm not one to say I feel people are honest if I do not believe they are. I have named people I believe are dishonest.

I do not have obligations to any of the people I listed above. I have no reason to say any of this other than because I wish to. That's one of the wonders of blogging.

What's interesting is that government doesn't have to be your thing for anyone to get a lot out of this class. Receiving contact information, learning who does what and where to get more help is well worth the time. Our class ran five Thursday evenings from 6:30-9 at the County Complex on Prince William Parkway. The time passed quickly, so quickly that I didn't even realize tonight was the last night.

I think we should be proud that most of our county employees are dedicated to their jobs and to us. Unfortunately, it only takes a handful to make us all look bad, and the ones who do that do a good job at it.

But the people who presented at CLI are not those people.

For that, I am thankful.

I'm tired.

Seems I've been tired all week. I have a doc's appointment next Friday which is good because my hair is also falling out. I will soon be a tenacious baldy.

Plus, I've been waking up nauseous.

But I've lost 43 pounds and four sizes. So that is good.

When I lose 30 more pounds, I will be temporarily satisfied because I will have returned to the weight I was when I last lost all that weight four years ago. The rest will be superficial, vain gravy.

As it stand now, I can feel the port tube connected to the lap band. The port is where the doc injects saline to tighten the band. Feeling the port is kind of gross, but it's a good sign because it means my ribs have made a comeback.

It's easy to lose lots of weight when you give up bread, pasta, rice, cake, cookies, popcorn and pretty much anything else with bread--especially if you are a bread addict like me.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my friend who was asking me about the surgery. I explained that I had to give up all those things because that kind of food swells and gets stuck. It has been an incredible, drastic, life change. She said she could never do that. A lot of people have said that to me.

But if you get desperate enough, you might decide surgery is the only way to go. For me, I knew if I continued to gain and lose and gain and lose--and I'm talking lots of weight--I would die at an early age. And if I didn't die from a heart attack, I would probably die of diabetes which runs in my family. And I wouldn't be able to walk because my knees have been crap since I was 20 or so. Excess weight doesn't exactly cure bad knees, now, does it?

I've heard you can put the weight back on if you do things like eat tons of ice cream and the insides of jelly donuts. This scares me, and I hope consistent fills will prevent this. Exercise, of course, will also help prevent weight gain. But it scares me anyway because I've gained weight back before. And I've seen people go through more drastic surgeries and put the weight back on. I just cannot afford to be one of those people.

So I sit here, tired, and rather rambling.

Last night's thunder storm was wonderful, though. David and I opened the kitchen windows, snuggled on the couch and just watched it, similar to the way my father used to, standing behind the half-screen door, the kind with metal on the bottom. The rain came through the screen.

We had an aluminum awning and similar siding. It deluged and clattered, and he taught me to watch, listen and marvel and not be afraid.

And last night's glorious sound of pouring also brought me back to tent camping in the rain.

Sure, you get wet. But that sound is worth it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Help a lady out--buy some quilting squares!

Here ya easy, cheap way to make someone's day:

quilt squares for sale

Blogging out flip-flops

One problem with summer is I don't feel like doing anything. Well, not exactly nothing. (Is that a double negative?) I just don't feel like working or thinking.

I feel like sipping sun, swimming drinkless, kayaking close to the treeline, hitting tennis balls too hard, listening to birds who never feel overheated, breathing early moist air and throwing basketballs into a non-compliant net--not necessarily all in that order.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate my jobs, especially in this economy. And I write every day because I must, not just for my jobs, but because writing is a signature of my soul.

But I don't feel like doing any heavy lifting, as my professors used to put it when we were assigned an easy-to-read piece.

I never felt like doing much over the summer even in college. I recall writing a journal entry that in part said "I don't want to do much more than file my fingernails."

I sympathize with my kids who must attend summer school, even though I know they need to in order to succeed in the forthcoming school year.

These are some of the reasons I am a proponent of year-round school with longer vacations in the middle. We train our children that summer is for lounging, staying up late, and if possible, doing nothing more constructive than having fun. We are conditioned to be lazy in the summer which makes work all the less palatable. We take as much leave as we can, like vacation hoarders.

Just now, Sallie the dog started chewing on Alexandra's flip-flop.

What an odd metaphor.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Window Questions

I haven't had a lot of time to blog, but I'm wondering...

When did curtains become "window treatments"?

Are curtains a kind of spa for windows?

Or do they have medicinal value?

Do they cure cracking panes or heal peeling sills?

I'm just wondering.

Call for Nominations for Special Ed Committee

Call for Nominations for State Special Education Advisory Committee: 2009-2012 Term


Department of Education

The Virginia Board of Education is seeking nominees to serve a three-year term on the State Special Education Advisory Committee, appointed by the Board. The terms will begin in July 2009 and end in June 2012.

Please note that specific categories of expertise or geographic representation are required by state or federal law or regulation. The six current vacancies and their categories are listed below. It is indicated if the current incumbent is eligible for reappointment.

Teacher: incumbent is eligible for reappointment

Parent, Region I: incumbent is eligible for reappointment

Parent, Region III

Parent, Region IV

Parent, Region VII

Parent, Region VIII

Article nine, Section 2, of the Bylaws of the Virginia Board of Education adopted in September 2004, states that advisory committees shall be composed of persons who represent the views and interests of the general public and who are known to be qualified to perform their duties. All appointments to an advisory committee shall be made by the Board upon the recommendations of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Findings and recommendations are provided to the Board of Education in a manner and at a time prescribed by the Board.

Superintendents and other individuals and organizations are invited to recommend nominees to fill current vacancies for each advisory committee as noted above. Nominee qualifications will be reviewed and a slate of recommended members will be submitted to the Board of Education in July 2009.

Nominations may be made by completing the recommendation form available at All nominations must be received by Monday, June 15, 2009.

For more information or to submit a completed nomination form, contact:

Dr. Margaret N. Roberts, Executive Assistant to the Board of Education
P.O. Box 2120
Richmond, VA 23218-2120
Voice: (804) 225-2924
Fax: (804) 225-2524


The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities’ ABLE TO CHOOSE campaign is about changing individual attitudes and actions, business practices, community and civic activities, and public policy to make all aspects of community life accessible, inclusive, and welcoming to people with disabilities. This public awareness campaign showcases the personal stories of Virginians with disabilities at work and play, their relationships with family and friends, community and civic involvement, volunteerism and advocacy, and all other aspects of daily living. To learn more about the campaign, about individuals with disabilities living successfully in communities of their own choice, and about how you can get involved and pledge your support visit


For more information about the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, please visit our website at or contact:

Tom Driscoll
Strategic Planning & Marketing Manager
Virginia Board for People with Disabilities
Washington Building, Capitol Square
1100 Bank Street, 7th Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219
804-786-9380 (voice & TTY)
800-846-4464 (toll-free, voice & TTY)
804-786-1118 (fax)