Taking the Long Way

A celebration of late bloomers.

Archive for May 2011

Memorial Day Film Fest

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In honor of Memorial Day, I’ve made a list of my favorite war movies. That might seem like a strange thing to do, but I find that the news fails to bring the stories into our homes often enough and well enough for us to understand the sacrifice…but I find films – ones done well and not as propaganda pieces and that really seek to find the humanity within the stories of the soldiers as well as the one’s who remain at home – make us more aware.

Note: This list is by no means a comprehensive one. Pleas share with me the ones that matter to you.


1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Director: William Wyler

Truly the first movie ever to deal with post traumatic stress syndrome as well as how hard it is for service people and the ones holding down the fort to readjust to life together.

2. Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Director: Clint Eastwood

These back-to-back films illuminated how both the Americans and the Japanese – bitter enemies – weren’t so different after all. They play upon our concepts of “the other” and reveals that the Japanese soldiers, who knew Iwo Jima was a suicide mission, thought about their moms, wrote letters to their wives…same as the Americans.

3. To Hell and Back (1955)

The story of the most decorated soldier of World War II – a Texas boy named Audie Murphy. Interesting to note, actor Charles Durning was the second most decorated and the most decorated living veteran.

4. Platoon (1986)

Director: Oliver Stone

I remember seeing this film in college and walking into the lobby to find Vietnam vets crying, as if finally someone understood.

5. Hurt Locker (2009)

Director: Katheryn Bigelow

I had the good fortune of seeing this film at the Savannah Film Festival and of meeting the film’s cast, including Jeremy Renner. I found myself white-knuckled and unable to breath through much of the film…and that final scene, when you know he’s forever altered by battle.

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

That first half hour and those last five minutes…they earned it.

7. A Few Good Men (1992)

Director: Rob Reiner

What I love about this film, which isn’t directly a war film, is that the writer Aaron Sorkin allows each of his characters to actually be right. That scene between Demi Moore and Jason Pollock sums it up: the deep need to feel protected versus picking on someone weaker.

Worth Mentioning: The television series China Beach, Schindler’s List, Beautiful, Patton…


Written by The Long Way

May 31, 2011 at 3:13 am

A letter to me

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I just love this Brad Paisley song and video that he wrote from his famous self to his high school self.

So, I thought I might just try my hand at writing a letter to myself and to share it with you. (I know it seems long, but it’s a quick read. Pretend it’s poetry.)

Verse 1:

If I could write a letter to me

I’d send it back in time when I was sweet 16

To prove it, I would say look inside the desk

There’s a journal of your writing that proves you’re one hot mess.

But then I’d say I know it’s tough to feel like you’re never enough

But trust me you’ve got heart and Mel just thinks you’re awesome

By sophomore year of college, you’re really gonna blossom

Chorus 1:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

You’re not thin like the other girls

You’ve got curves and boys seem to like heroin chic

You’ll make it through the wonder years and see

You’re still around to write this letter to me.

Verse 2:

When you get the chance to sub in that play

Don’t shut down, be your freaky self and unafraid.

And when Mike kisses you in Laurie’s pool, don’t get shy and swim away

Homecoming was coming up and you might’ve had a date.

Each and every time you have a fight

Let Mom think she’s sometimes right.

And you should really thank your teachers;

You were blessed with quite a few

Who saw beneath your holding back and knew what you could do

Chorus 2:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

You’re so unsure of yourself and if you’ll find true love

Don’t worry; you’ll make it through high school

And college then you’ll see

You’re still around to write this letter to me.


You’ve got so much to look forward to,

You’ve got the bestest friends

And you’re going to make a lovely bride.

And I’d end by saying, have no fear,

This life’s one joyful, wild ride.

I guess I’ll you in the mirror in about 25 years.

Remember to find the laughter even through your tears.

Final chorus:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

I wish you’d learn another language

And never be afraid to fly.

Open up your heart and you will see

It all falls into place eventually.

If I could write a letter to me.

To me.

Written by The Long Way

May 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Three cheese coins in the fountain

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This is a picture of me, circa 1968, after a massive throwdown with chocolate cake.

This is a picture of me, circa 1969, after indulging in a plate of spaghetti.

As you can see, I wore my food, which means I really enjoyed it. Sometimes even today, my husband will walk by me and point to peanut butter in my hair or a bread crumb on my cheek or barbecue sauce on my shirt.

I’m what “they” call a “foodie.”

I like to cook. I like to bake. I like to eat. I like to throw dinner parties. I like to write about food. Strangely, though, I didn’t want to write a food blog. But someone said the other day, “I’m really surprised you didn’t write about food because you talk about it a LOT…and I was really hoping for the cheese coin recipe.”

Well, my friend, you are correct. I talk a LOT about food. And your wish is granted…

Three Cheese Coins

1 loaf Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread

1 three-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

3 ounces feta cheese, preferably tomato-basil

3 ounces parmesan cheese, finely shredded

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon course ground black pepper

1. Using a 1-inch round biscuit cutter, cut 48 circles out of the bread slices. Set aside. Save the bread remainders for homemade croutons or stuffing.

2. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper.

3. In a food processor, blend together the cheeses, the egg, the peppers and salt until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

4. Using a small flat spatula, mound a bit of the cheese mixture, approximately 2 teaspoons, onto a bread round – higher in the center and smooth at the edges – then place onto the prepared cookie sheet.

5. Once you have covered all of the bread rounds with the cheese, place the cookie sheet in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the coins are golden brown on top and a little puffy.

6. Serve immediately with sliced pears, roasted almonds and a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio. These make a great appetizer for a party or as part of cheese course after the main entrée.

P.S. I’ll post a picture of the cheese coins once I get them baked. They usually don’t last long.


Written by The Long Way

May 29, 2011 at 12:40 am

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The Big C

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I’m not that in to writing my blog this week…so forgive me this one. I’m warning you that it’s not a particularly happy one. It doesn’t have links or fun pictures or cartoons. I just can’t bring myself…

Instead of thinking about songs or food or jobs or clothes, I have been reading blogs from women undergoing treatment for uterine cancer. Some people whisper that word – cancer – as if saying it lightly will mitigate its power. Unfortunately, whispers give it strength. As far as I’m concerned, we need to say it like any other word so we strip it of its power to bring us to our knees.

I am heartened and heartbroken in equal measure reading the words of these other women, as I search for clues to what lies ahead. I feel more like a lazy Susan, though: scared, fighting mad, hopeful, sad, wounded, weepy, peaceful, pissed.

I am trying to get up-to-speed on Uterine Serous Papillary Carcinoma. My mother was diagnosed with this type of cancer on Wednesday of this week, so I’m learning an entirely new vocabulary, all about CA125 counts, taxol chemotherapy, radiotherapy, abdominal washes, and staging.

Mom’s cancer is Stage III. (There are only four stages.) She has one tumor in her uterus and another near her stomach. We’ll know after her surgery in two weeks whether it has metastasized.

I have learned that it is incurable, but can be treated as a chronic disease. This particular cancer has a high rate of recurrence.

Mom and I have held some odd conversations this week, about life, death and belief. But, we’ve found room for laughter amid talk about wishes, regrets, and hospice – should that need arise. Instead of working on homework, I’ve been writing her Last Will and Testament, Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney.

This is one of those times I hate being the writer in the family.

Written by The Long Way

May 22, 2011 at 11:30 pm

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All creatures great and small

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This afternoon we gathered in Bill Peterson’s back yard in Parkside within view of the fireworks of Grayson Stadium to give Bill our love and support as he said a farewell to his beloved Blake.

Those of you who read my profile of Bill and his yellow lab in “St. Francis of Savannah” (published in Document this past winter) know well the story of their spiritual bond, strengthened over 16 and a half years of friendship. Blake died last week, quietly and peacefully in Bill’s arms.

Blake was on death row at the Atlanta Humane Society when Bill found him in the back of a kennel. Blake was nine months old, couldn’t stand upright, and was sick with an every orifice complex. Nobody wanted him…until Bill walked through the doors.

Bill nursed Blake back to health, and that gesture of love and caring blossomed into something unbreakable.

Bill was the first person we met when Brian and I first moved to Savannah. He managed the antique shop where Brian first set up shop. I casually mentioned I’d like to adopt a pet, and Bill began scouring websites for me and sending me pictures of dogs looking for a home.

When we picked up Harper and Barkley from the Savannah Humane Society, we stopped at Bill’s so that he could be the first person to meet our babies. They were shaking and rattled, but he had a way of just calming them. He helped us so much those first few weeks when we were as unsure as any new parents would be.

Today, Bill’s friends piled into his back yard. We brought food. We brought gifts and cards. One by one we stood beside the fresh dirt, sang hymns, prayed then told each other our stories about the pets we had loved and lost. We laid flowers for each one upon Blake’s grave.

I brought four sunflowers with me. One each for our little family. I told Bill that Brian and I would not have had the courage to bring home two puppies without his encouragement, and that they were so much a part of our lives now that I couldn’t imagine a day without them…that sometimes I ached with love for the way Harper lays her head on my leg while I read, and how Barkley wishes me good morning before I begin to write.

And I thanked him for allowing me to tell his and Blake’s story, so that Blake could live on in our hearts and our imaginations.

We all cried and hugged, brought together by our singular love for sloppy, wet kisses and cold noses, soft fur and sleepy sighs, unconditional loyalty, and the utter joy of loving and being loved by such wonderful creatures.

All farewells should be this tender.

Written by The Long Way

May 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Will write for food

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When I graduated from college in 1990, an article in Time magazine ran with the headline – if I recall correctly – “Graduating to unemployment.”

Fast forward two decades later and the story reads pretty much about the same, but instead of the savings and loan crisis, substitute Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. Instead of a record number of newbies unleashed on the work force, especially women, substitute millions of people out of work for more than one year, who are overqualified for most of the work being offered by employers. Instead of benefits packages, substitute employee-shared costs.

I was full of youthful hubris at the dawn of a new decade back then. I’m trying to play blissfully ignorant now as I write my cover letters and polish the resume, trying to play up what I have to offer without a neon-encrusted arrow pointing toward the fact that I am someone with “experience” (e.g., a few years of wear and tear).

Employers grow concerned when they do the math and realize you are not in your 20s. They think you might want a higher starting salary, more authority and a greater number of perks. This wrong-headed thinking prevents your even getting an interview.

And now there’s the whole pressure of being beautiful and thin – the beauty advantage – because those are the people who get hired over the potentially more capable and more personable, who also might be carrying a little extra weight from all the stress eating.

So, now I not only need to show what I can do, I need to flaunt my smile with the help of some White Strips, get a few facials and some expensive wrinkle cream (even though I still get blemishes), and hire a personal trainer to get me in stellar shape for my round of interviews (should they come a’ calling). All of this, of course, on top of all the money I just spent getting an MFA.

In Cambodia, there’s a saying: “Same, same, but different.”

I finally understand.

Written by The Long Way

May 15, 2011 at 11:50 am

Here’s your sign

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So today I was following a big, black gas-guzzling SUV on President Street. Not because I was stalking him. We just happened to be going in the same direction.

Made in the USA.

He had pressed a preponderance of bumper stickers across his tinted rear window, and I wondered how he could even see out the back.

Although his line of sight may not have been clear, he was clearly showing the world who he is.

One read: Jet noise – the sound of freedom. (I simply thought jet noise meant you lived in the fly way of the airport. I thought the sound of freedom was casting a vote.)

You can get it in a tee shirt, too.

Another pictured an M16 machine gun surrounded by the words: Peace, the American Way. (I could just hear the strains of Toby Keith singing about a boot in the ass.) 

Another sign, covered in camo announced that he had served in the Gulf War. (The first one, under the other Bush.)

Another sticker urged all of us followers to STOP SOCIALISM, with a line drawing of President Barack Obama. (Define socialism, please. Oh, and fascism, capitalism, nationalism…and can I have my privacy back? Y’know the one that got gutted under, what was that called? Oh, yeah. The Patriot Act.)

You get the picture. (I was basically carrying on a one-sided conversation with this guy’s back end.)

It got me thinking, though, how I’ve never seen Vietnam, Korean or World War II veterans with such war-whoop stickers.

But, I have heard them speak through Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation,” and Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, “The War,” and through “Letters Home from Vietnam,” and from “M*A*S*H.”

The older veterans spoke of hoping to create a world where a war like that would never have to be fought again and with a weariness from which they could not recover.

The Boomer vets from Vietnam still seemed to be seeking peace – of mind, of soul and spirit. Some sort of absolution that reconciled the horror with the sacrifice.

It seems as if the positive affirmations of the Reagan era, the tough talk of the Bushes, and the hawkish winds of the last few Pentagons has turned us into a bunch of trash-talkers. Might makes right. The best defense is a strong offense and all that jazz.

Maybe it’s easy to talk loudly and carry big sticks because we’ve sanitized ourselves about the real casualty of war…our soul.

Written by The Long Way

May 15, 2011 at 1:13 am