Helping Animals Talk

At least one pup and several humans spoke up for all animals today on WMNF's Talking Animals program. 

My animal rights activist musician husband performed two songs live, his original Nothing About Heartache about his friend's late cat, and a cover of Larry Murray's Dakota. 

You can listen online in the archives and catch Ronny and bunches of other Tampa Bay musicians and animal-loving do-gooders this Sunday (for free!) at Lowry Park from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Pets welcome!

Volunteers are still needed if you want to be an active part of the fun. Sign up here or email the lovely other Dawn "Do-gooder" Dickens at 


HEAL is a new networking group for young professionals (in any field) sponsored by the University Community Hospital's Foundation Center. 

Tuesday morning the group met for a breakfast lecture at Pepin Heart Hospital with medical director Dr. Charles Lambert. It was an amazing opportunity not only to chat with other professionals but also get a morning biology lesson from one of Tampa's top medical minds.

It was eye opening to hear Dr. Lambert say, "exercise is just as effective as cholesterol lowering medication." He also talked about how overweight our country has become, especially our children, and the costs we'll all face in a few years when their health care problems will cost us all. 

Some causes Lambert cited are the cancellation of P.E. and health classes, unhealthy school lunches and overall lack of physical activity. 

When Dr. Lambert started to make a connection between health and education I realized I had interviewed his wife, Bonnie Lambert of Madison Middle School, last December for the St. Petersburg Times.

It's a small, small world with a web of interconnected problems.

The next HEAL meeting is Tuesday, April 5 at 12pm.  It's a lunch & learn at Pepin Heart hospital. For more information email Foundation Coordinator Rachel Coleman at


Tampa's New Mayor

Bob from the block 

I went to sleep last night before checking the news of who won the mayoral run-off election. But I knew what the outcome was when I heard a steady stream of cars honking all night long for my neighbor Bob Buckhorn.

This morning his yard was bombarded with signage.  

24th Annual Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference

Russian researcher Irina Vainer 
If a conference has health, research or policy in its title, I'm usually drooling with excitement at the thought. I love learning about what other people are learning about, and innovating and creating.

I'm happily doing a couple of stories this week for WMNF on USF's 24th Annual Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference. I produced one story so far on Monday's newscast, and the next should air on Friday, barring any more natural disasters. 

Educator & HCZ's CEO Geoffrey Canada
I'm not an academic by any means, but I'm so curious about the process of how research grows from one person's neat idea to something real and useful, and if the idea/person is really lucky and perseveres, how it (eventually) weaves itself into the structure of our daily lives.

Not all research, of course, hits the real world. But being around all those concepts and creative thinkers/inventors is still such a thrill.

USF Pres. Judy Genshaft introduces Keynote Speaker Geoffrey Canada. Also pictured, L-R: Dr. Mario Hernandez and his two mentees Kristen Robinson Carolissa Salcedo, Canada, Sandra Spencer, MaryEllen Elia, Luann Panacek 


Give a Little

I recently came across the book Give a Little by Wendy Smith. It reminds me of one of my first fundraising experiences in high school Key Club

I had helped organize a Bowl-a-thon with the local branch of the Boys & Girls Club. Several of us volunteers went door to door one Saturday to raise money, and we bypassed our middle class town and headed to the more affluent neighborhoods. Mostly they didn't answer their doors, and when one guy did, he told us: "I leave donations up to my wife and accountant." 

We didn't collect a dime. We were disheartened, but we didn't give up. On our way back to our town, we tried the smaller houses bordering dangerous thoroughfares. The first house told us they didn't have a lot to give, then they gave us a buck. That was back in the early 90's when one dollar would buy you more than a gallon of gas or half a gallon of milk.

Driving around today burning gas that cost 3X as much, I was listening to the radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge. The topic was austerity, and if it's actually necessary now when social safety nets are more essential than ever. Hmm...corporate welfare, yea. Feed the poor kids, nay. It doesn't take an investigative journalist to follow this money trail, folks. 

But anyway, back to trying to stay positive. (Which is often harder than it looks.) In Give a Little, Smith writes: 
"Research shows the majority of total giving by individuals comes from households with incomes under $100,000." 
She also reports that after the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, one quarter of Americans donated money to the relief efforts with a "median donation of $50." And while the federal government sent over a nice sized aid check for $841 million, all those ordinary Americans with their $50 donations ended up giving 3.7 times more. 

[Maybe that whole trickle down economy idea is right after all? Poor people will just give their money away to poorer people.] 

I'm tired of thinking I can't do enough, or anything, because I don't have much to give financially. Sure I can give my talents and time, but there are some cases where money is what's most needed. 

I love Give A Little because it's all about giving your handful of bucks wisely, and it teaches how important it is to give what you can. 


Good Dogs

My friends Glen and Kelly were both laid off from their respective corporate jobs at various points in this recession. 

But they were good savers and planners, and had enough to start a business of their own. 

Both animal lovers (and volunteers at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay), they opened a Home Buddies franchise. 

Most people would rather work for love than money, and I'm so happy Glen & Kelly were able to find both with their new gig! 

Recently they took in an abandoned (and very skinny) dog, Heidi, and her 10 newborn puppies. 

When the puppies are just a bit older and Heidi a little healthier, all will be up for adoption. You can follow their progress on their blog Heidi and Her Pups


Blame the Rapist Not the Victim

Funny (not ha ha) how within a week of my stories on sexual assault, which focused in part on how the media (mis)handles such horrors, the New York Times fell on its face by reporting on the gang rape of an 11-year old from the perspective of the (18!) rapists as the real victims.  

Florida's freshman Rep. Kathleen Passidomo followed suit by citing a quote from the article, that the victim could have prevented the multiple sexual assaults from 18 males aged preteen to 27 if only she hadn't been dressed like "a woman in her 20s."

Let's examine that statement. Do women in their 20's deserve to be raped? Just the slutty ones? 

What about nudists? Are they asking for it? And if that's true, someone please explain to me why Muslim women, especially in nations that require them to wear the head-to-toe burqa, are sexually assaulted as much if not more than women in the U.S.? 

Thank goodness the public editor had the heart AND sense to call the NYT's mistake because no one else at the paper stood up. When our media "gatekeepers" are uneducated and insensitive about an issue, how can we expect the public to be any better?

Let's demand a smarter media. And a smarter U.S. 


Jesus Was Homeless

 One of my (many) jobs includes working p/t at the library. I interact with homeless people daily. Some crazy, some awesome, some crazy awesome. 

A few keep to themselves but most wave to me and smile as I go about my duties. So many of the familiar faces are happy to chat when we pass on downtown streets or even when I'm stopped at a red light in my car and they're on the corner panhandling. 
Isn't there a famous quote that goes something like: the value of a nation is reflected in how they treat their most vulnerable citizens...?
With all the hubbub in the past few months on banning panhandling in Tampa, there sure has been a shortage of voices from homeless folks. I was determined to change that. 

So I called a few social service agencies around town. Metropolitan Ministries referred me to a young single mother of two who was near graduation from their transitional housing program. 

As far as I can see the family is now getting the chance to live their happy ending, which is very heartening considering the hell they've lived through. 

When your life does not provide you with a safety net, thank goodness we have places like Metro Min. 

You can get your hands on my story in Friday's St. Petersburg Times (Tampa edition). Or online here

Also, Metro Min is always looking to build relationships with new landlords offering affordable rent. For more info, contact Kelly Fuller at 813-209-1053 or email 


Inspired Week

The fruit of several weeks of hard work aired on 88.5 WMNF on March 8th, International Women's Day. I produced the 30 minute documentary I Am Someone and an author interview with Jaclyn Friedman

Tuesday evening I went to the Urban Cantina  to celebrate a friend's upcoming nuptials and ended up in a scene from Billy Elliot. Lovely Awakening of the State. It's about time voters started paying attention. 

On Wednesday Duncan Strauss, friend to animal and man, interviewed Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson on WMNF 88.5.

That night I went to my very first Conversations & Cocktails, a networking inspiration from the folks at OPBI (soon to be renamed Frameworks).  
Jane Spector, Annette Namath, Liz Helmer, April,
and Executive Director of OPBI/Frameworks Robin Rose.

There were about 50 women in attendance, eight at my table, and we had excellent discussions on the night's theme of age & relationships. 

Friday I was at lunch with my hubby downtown on Tampa street when I looked into a trucker's window and saw the cutest passenger.


One in Six

I remember sixth grade like it happened yesterday, instead of 1988. We were the oldest kids at Garfield East Elementary, and one of the privileges of our seniority was getting to switch classes for the first time (even though it was only for three periods).

It was a baby step to prep us for junior high, or maybe just something that entertained our three 6th grade teachers.

Mrs. J. was my teacher and she had also been my teacher the previous year. There were three of us girls who were special enough (or randomly selected) to be in her classroom two years straight.

The three of us weren't particularly close, but we were all nice and non-trouble makers. One was super mature for her age, a lovely piano player and the class (or school) brain. 

The other, whom I'll call Kelly, now reminds me of a young Whoopi Goldberg when I look back: dark complexion, wild hair, and the funniest kid in class.

Me, I was quiet and pronounced kilometer like a European. I was fresh off the boat, er, Lufthansa from Germany. My classmates didn't know the meaning of "Nazi" but that's what they liked to call me on the playground.

That wasn't nearly the meanest they could be. They saved that for Kelly, who seemed like she could take it, being a budding young comedienne and all. What they tormented her about was unspeakable to me then, and unfathomable to me now. 

Even though I remember feeling grown up in the 6th grade, now I look back on a class full of babies. 
Kelly was raped by a high schooler, or older, I think the summer before 5th grade. She once told me every single detail when no one else was around. 
RAINN, the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network reports that one out of six women has been sexually assaulted in their lives. 
She was happy at the end of our 6th grade year because she was moving south. She cried when she told me about the new life she'd start where no know would know what she did, even though she had been violently forced to do it. 

I was a very naive kid but I knew it wasn't her fault. I knew there was no way for it to have been her fault, yet she earned herself the reputation of slutty girl before anyone had a clue what that word meant. My abuse, which happened a couple of years prior to meeting Kelly, also was not my fault. But it hadn't been as "bad" as Kelly's abuse, and I'd often cry for her instead of me. Perhaps the guilty beginning to my long history of "altruism"? 

Back then, I didn't speak up for either one of us. But in the past three weeks that I've had to prepare for this International Women's Day radio special, to air tomorrow from 10 - 10:30 a.m. EST on 88.5 WMNF in Tampa or online at, I've held myself, Kelly, and the new survivors I've recently met and interviewed very dear. 

I hemmed and hawed and tried to write different scripts that had no room for me, wasting time writing around my own story. But today as I tied up the loose ends, I found I fit right in. 

Although I'm often guilty of wanting to befriend the people, groups, and organizations I write & report about, I have to say that the one group I have never wanted to be a part of was this survivor's group.

Not because I don't want to be strong and get on with my life, but because I've wanted to stay with my head in the sand and get on with my life. But once you've discovered you've got sand in your eyes and mouth, you kind of have to take responsibility for yourself from that point. 

I realize now that it was a little crazy of me to try reporting on a topic I'm still very emotional about. Last week I cried through almost every interview, but I regained myself in editing (that's usually the place I generally lose it, in the privacy of a small, dark room). 

Now that it's almost done, I do feel like I did this for myself. And for the survivors I met, the ones I haven't, and tonight Kelly especially comes to mind. 

Concert Report

As always, thanks to Bev at WMNF for compiling. 

Tues 3/8 

Wed 3/9   

RA RA RIOT in-studio w/ Scott Elliott on WMNF 88.5. at 2 p.m. and at the Crowbar in Ybor at 8 p.m.

Thurs 3/10 

Singer Songwriter night  7:30 at  The Bunker  1907 19th Street N 

Murder by death   Fake Problems Orpheum

Dean Johanesen at the Starkeeper Cafe - Sarasota

Friday 3/11

The Human Condition and Not Tuna at Flying Dog Cafe - Sarasota

Chris McCarty w/The Groves Skippers 8pm

Have Gun, Will Travel w/ the Semis & DJ Marcos Udagawa   Local 622

Sat 3/12  

Tim Reynolds & TR3  Skippers

Sun 3/13  

Tennis,  Dum Dum Girls, La Sera  Orpheum

Say Hi  w/ Yellow Ostrich, Alexander And The Grapes  7 p.m


Bark in the Park

Our happy dog Jamaica, former Humane Society orphan

This morning while I was waiting for one of my interviews to show up at the radio station, I looked in on Duncan Strauss, live in the studio with his show Talking Animals

He was chatting with a couple of ladies from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay about their upcoming fundraiser Bark in the Park, this Saturday morning at Al Lopez Park. 

They had a Siamese kitten and two puppies, all adoptable. It wasn't long before random WMNF'ers closed in on the puppies, wondering if their spouses would mind one more. (Okay, so maybe it was just me.) 

For the entire month of March, The Humane Society of Tampa Bay is having a half price special on adult cat adoptions. See their website or call 876-7138 for more info. 

Our cat Angel, rescued by my husband from a gas station in St. Pete