Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Debt of Gratitude

Bluffton Today column
April 27, 2011

I shook his hand and thanked him for all he had done. When he humbly responded, “I was just doing my job ma’am,” I thanked him again and turned away before the tears welling in my eyes slid down my face.

I had been listening to him tell his story, along the 18th green at Harbourtown, on Friday afternoon. A story that covered 17 years as a US Army sniper, a traumatic brain injury, and a life now in which his service dog, Jefferson, never leaves his side.

“He alerts me when I am about to have a seizure. And, he’ll wake me up when I am having a nightmare. He puts his paws on my chest to shake me from my sleep.”

Those sixty seconds in this wounded warriors presence had an enormous impact on me. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as I had planned to write this column about the upcoming Wounded Warriors benefit golf outing at Hampton Hall slated for May 23rd.

Allow me to back up just a bit. Last November, the Wounded Warrior Foundation of the Lowcountry (WWFLC) was established by a group of area veterans and concerned citizens. The founders of the 501(c)(3) organization, an offshoot of the national Wounded Warrior Project, saw a clear need for local fundraising and a community-involvement mechanism to help returning warriors suffering with catastrophic injuries to receive tangible support as they readjust to civilian life.

About 60 days ago I got a call asking if I would be interested in writing about the golf event, in the works. I was immediately interested and took the committee up on their invitation to attend one of their meetings. Frankly, when I arrived I was shocked to find a room full of a couple dozen men. Nothing against the men folk, but in my experience a few women mixed in the pot helps a committee meeting, and an event to go off super smooth.

My prejudices aside, I gave the guys a chance to wow me. And they did. My question for the room was simple – why are you doing this?

Russ Spicer, committee chair talked to me about his initial involvement, which began as he learned of the plight of his neighbor, Jim Miller’s son, who after being “blown up” in Afghanistan and suffering extensive burns, and enduring more than 40 surgeries, still perseveres. Miller is chairman of WWFLC, and says, “As a community, we have an undeniable and urgent responsibility to support those who return home severely injured or maimed.”

That paired with Spicer’s experience when he returned from Vietnam in 1971 -- “When I came back the guys I served with didn’t get the welcome they deserved,” -- moved him to do something to say, “We appreciate you.”

Peter Dukas told me, “During a time of war, you hope that the country is asked to sacrifice too. We are doing this because we don’t want soldiers to fall by the wayside, if they do we are doing them an injustice.”

Mark and Linda Larsen (Linda is the sole women on the committee , drafted to keep the guys in line) spoke of driving past the Marine Corps Air Station, and truly recognizing and understanding the sound of freedom, and the responsibility that soldiers have 24 hours a day. “We watch the news clips and fifteen minutes later we forget that men and women are risking their lives,” Linda said, “That is why we are doing this.”

Doug Meyers is a veteran, and is involved because, “It is the absolute right thing to do.”

A year ago, a group of golf buddies in Hampton Hall had an idea. In three and a half weeks their idea will become reality as Hampton Hall plays host to The Inaugural Wounded Warrior Foundation of the Lowcountry Golf Classic, with all proceeds benefiting the WWFLC.

Open to golfers throughout the Lowcountry, teams of four will participate in a Captain’s Choice format. Entry Fee is $150 for an individual and in addition to golf, the event includes a celebratory dinner, silent and live auctions (committee member Pete Demarco has scored donations of golf from more than thirty local golf courses), appearances by local media celebrities, representatives from the PGA and the military, and area government officials, and an official proclamation of “Wounded Warriors of the Lowcountry Day” by Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka. The field is 75 percent full, so register now, to confirm your spot.

The slogan of the national Wounded Warrior Project is, “The greatest casualty is being forgotten.” The founders of WWFLC are doing everything possible to ensure that the wounded veterans of the Lowcountry will always be remembered.

For more information visit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Swimsuit: Why Do You Forsake Me?

Bluffton Today column
April 13, 2011

I know no misery greater than attempting to find the perfect swimsuit.

Public speaking – pfff, easy. Dentist’s chair – surely you jest. Realizing I’ve sent an email to the wrong person, whilst bitching about said person – eh, I’ll bounce back. But swimsuit shopping - oh the horror!

Oddly, I don’t mind wearing the bathing suit. It is the journey toward the perfect swimsuit that makes my heart palpitate.

As I throw open the closet this year – having lost some inches of late – I shudder at the thought of having to start from scratch. Yes, I’m smaller. Yes, I’m healthier. But heck, one day of bathing suit shopping will likely set my mental health back years. (And, I’ve worked so hard to become sane, despite myself.)

But alas, successive 80 degree weekends demand a bathing suit, so in I go.

How the heck did I accumulate this many bathing suits? I have more than a dozen tops, bottoms, and one-pieces. I’m a third of the way through this dismal “fashion” show and the only thought running through my head is - who in the hell designed this house? There is no central air vent in my walk-in closet, the master bath seems to get hotter with each tug, and I don’t want to expose my lovely bedroom to this torturous ritual. As I sweat and struggle into suit number four, I silently curse this primal need to actually care about how I look.

Nylon and Lycra are not the airiest of fabrics and of course their sole purpose is to suck-in some trouble spots, so I might as well be trying to jump into a sausage casing, all the while overheating in this darn bathroom, in essence rendering this task a 7.5 on the difficulty scale.

Swimsuit! Why do you forsake me?

Now I’m a dozen pieces in and my favorite find is the black bottoms with the cute tie-string-sides. Front view, adorable. Back view, not so much. Apparently my weeks of boot camp have shrunk my bottom, because I look like I could add a diaper and still not fill out the butt. (Note to self: buy adult diapers just in case this doesn’t work out.)

The top-tier-search goes no better. I just can’t get the support I am looking for, if you know what I mean. Perhaps wearing the same suits for two years has finally stretched the chests beyond their means. Ironically, even though the bathing suits are too large, I remain drenched in my own sweat and I struggle to remove this last once piece.

This means just one thing. I need to shop for a few new suits.

I’ve already ruled out going to an actual store. I mean the thought of standing in the harsh light (of self-disgust), with hip-widening mirrors at each angle, and the size four skinny chick calling out for a size two from three dressing rooms down is less than appealing.

Add to this the fact that I would actually like to see what the bathing suit will look like without my underwear on underneath. And, OCD Courtney may also have a slight aversion to the little peel and stick crotch protectors. I mean paper being so sanitary and all. (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit…)

So, online shopping it is, but I already know how this is going to end. I have no idea what actual size to buy (I know it ain’t two or four -- ok, ok, or six.), so I will order multiple sizes, pay for expedited shipping (because I just can’t wait for round two of the heat box fiasco), and go through the exact same scenario that I described above. I will find one suit that I like. Then I will have to pay to ship back those that didn’t make the cut. Worth every penny, if it means avoiding a fitting room.

Despite my trepidation and ignoring the impending shipping costs, I began the online search. Sadly my “go to” suits from my friends at Lands End appear to have forgotten the better endowed this season. Where is the support? How about a little underwire for the girls?

With a heavy heart, I must continue the search. Sadly, I am seven websites in and I’ve got nada. I’m losing patience and time. There has got to be a nude beach around here somewhere…

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Zerbini Family Circus

CB/CH2 April issue

Close your eyes. Wait, you’re going to have to open them to read this, silly. Ok, pretend your eyes are closed … and you are a kid again. The sounds, smells, and sights of the circus are all around you -- hot buttered popcorn; bright silk tents; peals of laughter; sweet, sticky, cotton candy; shrieks of surprise; exaggerated clown faces; and acrobats flying over head.

When the Zerbini Family Circus made a stop in Bluffton last October what many of us saw as purely entertainment, was actually a family legacy. In fact, the Zerbini family has been flying through the air, with the greatest of ease, since 1817. Eight generations of circus folk have descended from this family tree, with strong roots in the circus life. The family tradition started in Europe. Alain Zerbini, patriarch of the modern day Zerbini Family Circus was born in Marseilles, France. At fourteen, he and his brother quit school to join the circus, as was family practice. In 1968, his father Julian Zerbini, moved the family to the United States, where they all continued to perform in circuses around the country.

In 1991, as Alain Zerbini was recovering from a devastating high-wire fall, doctors told him he would never walk again. Determined to prove them wrong, Zerbini did indeed walk again, and for good measure decided to start his own circus, to boot.

The Zerbini Family Circus started in the United States in 1992.Then, the “the small big top” seated just 500. In twenty years, the show has tripled in size and the big top now seats 1,500. Zerbini is happy with the growth. Yet, he also values the fact that a crowd of 1,500 is still manageable. After all, one of his favorite parts of traveling the country is talking with the crowd before and after the show, and giving them a little “peek under the tent,” he says.

On the road April through late October, the show is constantly in motion. Sometimes staying in a town for a week, other days, they roll in, set up, perform, and shut down again that night. And then it’s on to the next location. Zerbini estimates they visit more than 100 towns each year. Often invited back year after year, Zerbini works with his team in the off months, to make sure that they keep their acts fresh, and always bring something new to the crowds.

Zerbini’s extended circus-family is comprised of 22 performers, from all around the world. And, four from his own nuclear family -- his wife and two of his seven children are a part of the show. “We’re like one big family,” Zerbini says. After all, they travel together 200 days a year, if that doesn’t force the family dynamic, what does?

Well Zerbini says, “Every member of the circus maintains multiple roles,” which forces them to act as a family. Everyone helps with the set-up and staging, they each perform, and when the show is on hiatus in the off-season, they are all still together working on improving the performance for the next extended road trip. All of this, under the leadership of Zerbini, who oversees and manages all parts of the circus from the time they roll into town until circus day is just a memory.

The Zerbini Family Circus will be back in Bluffton this fall, for an encore performance. There is no doubt you will see it all -- acrobats, high-wire acts, trampoline, trapeze, and some clowning around. And the animals they bring are beyond what you might expect -- buffalo, ponies, camels, and even the Zerbini family’s dogs, rescued from local shelters, and now getting plenty of attention everywhere they go.

A family legacy. A spectacle under the tent. A one-ring circus that appears to runs circles around the rest.

Friday, April 01, 2011

A Master Debater

This month, C2 mag launches my monthly column featuring friendly debate and fodder for all. I go head to head, idea by idea, with fellow writer Frank Dunne. In this issue, we start by disagreeing about what to call the darn thing ... off to a great start aren't we?

Here's my opinion. You can read Frank's retort here.

I’m addicted to Chapstick. I deplore clip art. I wear flip flops once the weather clears 50 degrees. I love a good party, but not a Tea Party. I’m not a lawyer, but I like to play one in magazines. If I believe something or someone to be true and just, I will support that person, idea, organization, ‘til the cows come home or the margaritas run dry. I’ll study the opposition’s logic, mount a campaign and argue for what I believe. Almost every time.

Sometimes I will play devil’s advocate just for the heck of it. Because sometimes I love nothing more than getting a rise out of someone. I like to make people think (and get a little hot under the collar).

Let me give you an example. If you and I were dating and you were to reveal to me that you “have to look at online pornography,” I would --- 1. Walk out of the restaurant we were dining in. 2. Spend the next 24 hours, before dumping your behind, grilling you in an effort to understand exactly what you mean by “have to.” Oh yes, I’d ask that question 2,000 ways to Tuesday, to try to get a real understanding of what exactly it was you were telling me. (True story.) For me, it was about the choice of words and the non-existent-logic that followed said choice of words. Game was on!

So, when my worthy opponent, Frank, and I were approached with idea of a monthly duel of rhetoric, I was intrigued. I immediately began channeling my inner Jane Curtin ala Saturday Night Live, and pitched a name for this monthly masterpiece – Point/Counterpoint. Frank immediately disagreed with my suggestion (foreshadowing), and later sent a list of 100 other potential column names. All of which I dismissed.

Allow me to provide some reference, for our readers born after the creation of the internet. “Point / Counterpoint” was a segment on Saturday Night Live, in the late seventies. "Point / Counterpoint" featured Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd making personal attacks on each other's positions on a variety of topics. Aykroyd regularly began his reply with "Jane, you ignorant slut,” and Curtin frequently began her reply with "Dan, you pompous ass.”
Now, I’m not telling you this because I find Frank to be a pompous ass. (That may very well come with time …) Nor, do I consider myself ignorant or loose, however I do find the title – and the “historical” reference - to be significant because it suggests a certain sarcasm and levity, which allows two people to disagree on a topic, yet still have fun in the process. And if there are two things I love more than a debate, they are sarcasm and laughter.
Alas, here we are at our first column and we can’t even agree on what to call the dang thing. Frank will argue that the name Point/Counterpoint has been over-used, and frankly, I cannot disagree. But, that doesn’t make me like it any less.

I’m not going to fall on my sword for this one. There will be plenty of time for that.

This is where you come in. Help us pick a name for our monthly clash and if you’re up for it, go ahead and suggest some possible topics as well. Just don’t throw me any softballs like – paper vs. plastic, second-hand smoke, or dog poop scooping. Those answers are so obvious -- paper; kill yourself don’t kill me; and if I can do it, so can you.

I want a challenge.

Because let’s face it. I am a master –(de)bater. (Just like my ex-boyfriend.)