The light and saving grace of truth

This past Tuesday, the editor of The Lancaster News called after reading my blog entry “Born this Way.” He asked if I would be willing to publish it in the paper as a column. Without hesitation, I said yes. I agreed to share my truth in hopes that maybe somewhere in this little southern town someone might need to know that they are not alone and that they are not wrong. So here is my touched-up version that ran in The Lancaster News June 19. 

Born this way: Glad to have employer who welcomes all

I’ll never forget her storming into Starbucks dripping wet from the rain.

She had just bought two gift cards from me at the drive-through window. I had taken extra time to gather several different gift cards to offer her a good selection to pick from.

She marched to the front register asking for a refund. I asked as I passed by what was wrong. She said, “I don’t need them anymore.”

I was totally confused. She had just bought them three minutes ago. She was so out of sorts. She had only brought one of the two cards back in. So she ran back out in the rain to her car to find it. She returned and the cashier refunded her money.

As she left, she said it was because she was a Christian and was offended by my gay pride pin. Wonder if she thought I was gay? Wonder why it matters….

She was angry and self-righteous and would not look at me once she was inside the store. Wow.

This is not about whether or not I am gay, but since the subject has been broached, yes I am. Most people who know me know this.

And I wish it were a non-issue, but it isn’t. That woman’s judgment and the look on her face won’t go away. I know it is about the intolerance in her and has nothing to do with me. So, it’s her issue. Not mine.

Yet, it brings up ugly remnants of a rough road I traveled over four decades to get here. I have sometimes envied the acceptance offered to the younger generation, but I fear it is not as available as I thought it was.

It reminds me of the times a cousin of mine has seen me out in public with my partner and she will talk to me and look at me but will not look at or acknowledge my partner. It’s not that hard, people.

Maybe she didn’t really know the nature of my relationship with this person, or maybe she did. But as the Christian she claims to be, would she not speak to that person just because she is a friend of mine? And to no surprise, her daughter later saw us out and did the same thing.

After work, I came home and turned on the news and saw a bloody lesbian couple that were beaten up on a double-decker bus in London. They were young. One’s nose was broken.

I’ve been harassed. I’ve tiptoed around the issue. But I’ve never lied about who I am. I’ve been called names – really bad names. These women reported similar harassment before they were attacked. My heart breaks because I thought human consciousness was evolving.

June is gay pride month at Starbucks. On any given day this month, we will all be wearing gay pride shirts with a Lady Gaga quote on the back: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” On the front are the words “All Together Now.” One sleeve has the Starbucks logo with the word PRIDE underneath it. The other sleeve has “Born This Way Foundation” printed on it.

I do believe I was born this way. And I have made a choice to live my truth. Sadly, I have friends who are in their 50s who hide who they are because of backlash from people like this woman. They live their lives for people like that rather than for themselves. Some are waiting for their parents or grandparents to die, and some just move away.

As a rule, I don’t flag wave, and I’ve never been to a gay pride parade. But I do tell the truth. I’d rather you hate me for who I am rather than love me for being who you want me to be.

I’m grateful to Starbucks for the acceptance they offer to everyone – even those who choose to hate.

I wish I could have talked to the woman about love and inclusion and that she too is welcome at Starbucks. On Monday mornings, a men’s Bible Study group meets there. A member of the night shift tells me a prayer group sometimes meets in the evenings.

College students, blue-collar workers, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, atheists, Catholics, Baptists, lawyers, city officials, WNBA players, and the list goes on. Starbucks has a culture of inclusion.

All customers are the same. All are equal.

tshirt

This month, Starbucks celebrates gay pride month and some of the staff will wear T-shirts like this one. In addition to the slogan and a quote from Lady Gaga, one sleeve has the Starbucks logo with the word PRIDE underneath it while the other reads “Born This Way Foundation.”

pride_pin

Mandy Catoe’s barista cap includes an official Starbucks Pride Alliance pin.

Mandy Catoe is an award-winning former TLN reporter, a yoga instructor and a Starbucks barista. She lives in Lancaster.

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Love at Starbucks

I wish I could have talked to the woman about love and inclusion and that she too is welcome at Starbucks. On Monday mornings, a men’s Bible Study group meets. A member of the night shift tells me a prayer group sometimes meets in the evenings. College students, blue collar workers, democrats, republicans, atheists, lawyers, WNBA players, city officials, libertarians, Catholics, Baptists, believers, nonbelievers, and the list goes on. Insert any label that divides us. And then remove it. Here at Starbucks, we have a culture of inclusion. All customers are the same. All are equal.

Born This Way

I’ll never forget her self-righteously storming into Starbucks dripping wet from the rain. She had just bought two gift cards from me at the drive-through window.  I had taken extra time to gather several different gift cards to offer her a good selection to pick from. She marched to the front register asking for a refund.  I asked as I passed by what was wrong.   She said “ I don’t need them anymore.” I was totally confused. She had just bought them three minutes ago.  She was so out of sorts. She had only brought one of the two cards back in.  So she ran back out in the rain to her car to find it. She returned and the cashier refunded her money.  As she left, she said it was because she was a Christian and was offended by my gay pride pin. Hope she goes to Chick-fil-A.  Wonder if she thought I was gay? Wonder why it matters…

 

IMG_0725

The Pride Pin

She was angry and self-righteous and would not look at me once she was inside the store. Wow. 

This is not about whether or not I am gay, but since the subject has been broached, yes I am. Most know this. And I wish it were a non-issue, but it isn’t. That woman’s judgment and the look on her face won’t go away. I know it is about the ugliness in her and has nothing to do with me. So, it’s her issue. Not mine. Yet, it brings up ugly remnants of a rough road I traveled to get here. I have sometimes envied the acceptance offered to the younger generation, but I fear it is not as available as I thought it was.

It reminds me of the times a cousin of mine has seen me out in public with my partner and she will talk to me and look at me but will not look at or acknowledge my partner. It’s not that hard, people. Maybe she didn’t really know the nature of my relationship with this person, or maybe she did. But as the Christian she claims to be, would she not speak to that person just because they are a friend of mine?  And to no surprise, her daughter later saw us out and did the same thing. 

After work, I came home and turned on the news and saw a bloody lesbian couple that were beaten up on a double-decker bus in London. They were young. One’s nose was broken. I’ve been harassed. I’ve tiptoed around the issue. But I’ve never lied about who I am. I’ve been called names – really bad names. These women reported similar harassment before they were attacked. My heart breaks because I thought human consciousness was evolving. 

melania-geymonat-copy

Melania Geymonat, 28, originally from Uruguay, and her girlfriend, only identified as Chris, an American.

Ironically, June is gay pride month at Starbucks. On any given day this month, we will all be wearing gay pride shirts with a Lady Gaga quote on the back: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” On the front are the words “All Together Now.” One sleeve has the Starbucks logo with the word PRIDE underneath it. The other sleeve has “Born This Way Foundation” printed on it. 

 

 

I do believe I was born this way. And I have made a choice to live my truth. Sadly, I have friends who are in their fifties who hide who they are because of backlash from people like this woman. They live their lives for people like that rather than for themselves.  Some are waiting for their parents or grandparents to die and some just move away. As a rule, I don’t flag wave and I’ve never been to a gay pride parade. But I do tell the truth.  I’d rather you hate me for who I am rather than love me for being who you want me to be.  I’m grateful for Starbucks for the acceptance they offer to everyone – even those who choose to hate. It’s her choice and I can tell you from the look on her face, her insides are a mess.

And I want nothing of what she is selling.

Because I am an optimist and I want to end on a positive note, here’s to those no longer living in confinement:

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Seven Countries in 21 Days – European Tour Eye-Opening for Environmentalist

By Mandy Catoe

A version published in Today’s Kids, Summer 2019, The Lancaster News, June 5, 2019

Kaitlyn in Austria

It’s hard to believe Kaitlyn Vespe is just 18 years old. She speaks passionately and elegantly about climate change, environmental policy, collectivistic versus individualistic cultures and sustainability.

Listen to her long enough and you will be convinced she can change the world.

Sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor, Vespe talked about her recent trip to Europe. She had been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, stood on the beaches of Normandy, and visited the attic where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis during World War II.
The recent Buford High School grad lives with her mom, Jill Catoe Knight, and stepdad Robbie Knight in Tradesville.

WHIRLWIND TOUR

Last summer, Kaitlyn traveled with the People to People Ambassador program, which offers educational travel opportunities for high school students. She visited seven countries in three weeks: Austria, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Kaitlyn sat on a cliff overlooking the mountains in Austria watching the cloud shadows move across the valley. She said the colors were vibrant and surreal.36762827_1787449371320499_4379210347911839744_n

 

“It was just like ‘The Sound of Music’ movie,” Kaitlyn said.

The Mountains in Austria

Kaitlyn walks through a meadow in the mountains of Austria. “It was just like ‘The Sound of Music’ movie,” she said.

In England, she rode the London Eye, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. From its nearly 150-yard height on the banks of the River Thames, Kaitlyn could see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

As an environmentalist, she appreciated the European Union’s strict laws. Vespe said the hotel room lights in England would only come on if the room key was in a slot by the light switch, making it impossible to waste electricity in unoccupied rooms. In Germany, only cars with minimal pollution emissions are allowed to drive in the big cities.

In Paris, Kaitlyn visited the Louvre, the world’s largest art museum, and saw Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting. She lit a candle and said a prayer in the sacred cathedral of Notre Dame.

“It broke my heart to see the fire destroy it in April,” Kaitlyn said.

She rode a bicycle in a park with windmills in Kinderdijk in the Netherlands.Biking through the windmills in Kinderdijk, the Netherlands

But the air in Amsterdam aggravated her asthma. The air is hazy, both from air pollution and the common recreational use of marijuana.

“I had to take a lot of puffs from my inhaler during our visit there,” she said, laughing.

Kaitlyn said the most haunting and poignant moment of the trip came in central Amsterdam when she was standing in the secret annex where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis during World War II.

“We entered the house through the bottom level,” Kaitlyn said. “We then pushed the bookcase aside and went up a short staircase to the attic, just like Anne Frank did.”

In Belgium, she visited In Flanders Fields Museum, which is dedicated to the study of World War I.

“That was emotional,” Kaitlyn said. “There were uncensored gruesome photos of muti- lated faces of soldiers.”

Kaitlyn stayed three days with the Reefmanns, her host family in Heidelberg, Germany, a small town that “felt a lot like Tradesville.” The people were down-to-earth and trusting, she said.

Helen, Mrs. Birgit, & I

Kaitlyn poses with members of her host family, the Reefmans from Heidelberg, Germany. At left is Birgit Reefman, and right is Helen Reefman who will visit Kaitlyn later this summer. (Photo supplied).

She became “lifelong” friends with Helen Reefmann, who is a year younger than Kaitlyn. Later this summer, Helen is coming to spend two weeks with Vespe.

Caring for the Earth

Kaitlyn has been an environmental advo- cate since fourth grade, when she first played the video game “Endless Ocean: Blue World,” which allowed players to explore the ocean and interact with sea life. That led Kaitlyn to become a certified scuba diver two years ago and explore sunken ships for real. She also spent six months volunteering on weekends at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher near Wilmington.

Kaitlyn refuses to use plastic bags, utensils and packaging.

“I am fully aware that big changes start with small actions, so I do everything in my power to reduce my environmental footprint,” she said. “I also try to enlighten others about environmental consequences in a respectful, amiable manner.”

This fall, she will attend the College of Charleston to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marine biology.

“I’ve looked at other majors, and it always comes back to environmental studies,” Kaitlyn said. “That is what I am most passionate about and what I feel my pur- pose is.”

Kaitlyn plans to pursue advanced degrees in environmental studies and public administration. Her long-term goal is to become an environmental policy analyst.

“Policy changes can make sweeping improvements in so many lives,” Kaitlyn said. “A doctor can help one person in a particular situation, but policy can improve many lives.”

Kaitlyn’s vision was sharpened last year after completing an anthropology course at USC Lancaster.

“That class showed me that no matter how many different cultures exist and how different we are from each other, borders are only borders and every person still deserves respect and love,” Vespe said. “This made me develop a passion for helping others beyond my own culture in the broadest way I possibly could, and I soon realized that caring for the Earth – the home and life-giver of every human – was the way to do that.”

The people who know Kaitlyn have no doubt she will achieve her goals. Buford High guidance counselor Lisa Cauthen said Vespe is wise beyond her years and a stellar student. At press time, Kaitlyn, who is also senior class president, was at the top of her class academically.

“She has always known what she wants to do with her life and has sought out expe- riences throughout her life to support that,” Cauthen said.

“I am sure she will do well at the College of Charleston,” USCL professor Chris Judge said. “She sat in the front row of my class and took notes and interacted with me. Those (students) are few and far between, and you remember them.”

Jill Knight and daughter Kaitlyn Vespe at their home

Kaitlyn shares a story from her travel journal with her mom, Jill Catoe Knight, whom she calls her “hero.” The seven mugs, one from each country, were purchased on her trip. Photo by Mandy Catoe.

Finding a Balance

In mid-May, Kaitlyn talked about balance and how the little things add huge value to life. She said time with her mom, grandparents and friends are important to her.

She finds inspiration and peace running miles through the woods on land that has been in her family for five generations.

Kaitlyn shared her dreams as she sat on the  floor of her room. The walls are the color of the deep blue sea. Earlier in the month she rescued a little orange tabby kitten. She cuddled the tiny cat as she talked.

“You need the huge experiences and the little meaningful moments to really understand it all,” she said, flashing a huge bright smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Crumbs & Confetti – Mother-daughter duo bakes custom cookies

By Mandy Catoe

published in Today’s Woman (Summer 2019), The Lancaster News, June 5, 2019

Crumbs & Confetti cookie

Their cookies look like art and taste like love.

Mother and daughter, Wren Ridgeway and Randi Faile,work hard to ensure their custom cookies offer both.
The duo attended a cookie-baking class late last year. For the next few months, they spent a lot of time dabbling in dough. Word got around and orders started coming in. In May, they launched social media pages on Facebook and Instagram for their new business.
“It’s a dream job for me. This is my best friend,” Ridgeway said of her daughter. Faile, 27, feels the same way.
They come from a long line of women cooks. Ridgeway, 52, remembers standing in a chair to help her mother make biscuits. Faile learned how to make her grandmother’s cinnamon rolls when she was 5 years old. Ridgeway made wedding cakes for the public when her daughters – Faile and Samantha Hollis – were growing up.

“Cooking has always been a part of our family,” Faile said. “There is always something going on in the kitchen. It’s been the happiest moments in my life.”

Randi and Wren.png

Mother and daughter Wren Ridgeway and Randi Faile with some of the delightful treats they’ve made for their new custom cookie business, Crumbs and Confetti. “It’s a dream job for me,” Ridgeway said of working with her daughter.

Faile has a background as an events coordinator and fundraiser. She has a degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. She has an eye and talent for design. And her mother can create anything Faile dreams up.
“Mom is the color master,” Faile said. “I can say ‘I need that shade of yellow from the label on the vanilla flavoring bottle’ and Mom will match it perfectly.”

Faile sketches her visions on paper and together they create little masterpieces in Ridgeway’s kitchen. Two KitchenAid mixers sit on the counter on each side of the sink.

“We call them the ‘dueling mixers’ because they are always running,” Ridgeway said. One is for dough and one for icing.

They combine color, water and powdered sugar to create icing and cut shapes from stiff dough. Using a pen with edible ink, Faile flawlessly draws designs on freshly baked cookies. Then they trace a small line of piping icing and fill the lines with royal icing that hardens and dries with a nice sheen. When the cookies need a slight change of shade, the bakers get out their special airbrush gun.cookie

Faile, who has a knack for marketing, came up with the business name, Crumbs & Confetti. They had considered calling it Two Tough Cookies, but didn’t want to exclude Hollis, who helps out when she has a little time off from her pharmacy tech job.

Their decorated delights come in five flavors: basic sugar cookie, cookies and cream, chocolate chip, white chocolate and peanut but- ter. They also offer small chocolate chip cookie sandwiches filled with buttercream icing, pizza-sized chocolate chip cookies, and stacked cookie cakes that feature a chocolate cake layer.

They have filled orders for Nurses Week, Valentine’s Day and birthday parties. Each order is custom-designed. The treats are sold by the dozen and are perfect for any occasion – baby showers, weddings, graduation, retirement or simply as a way to share love. Prices vary based on the size of the order and the intricacy of the design, but a typical order is about $36 per dozen.

 

Jessica Catoe, a mental health technician at Rebound Behavioral Care, ordered four dozen to celebrate Nurses Week in May.

“When I picked up my order, it was in this big fancy box with a thank you note and an extra thank-you cookie,” Catoe said. “The cookies they made were so cute. At first, no one wanted to eat them because they were so pretty. And they were so good. They melted in my mouth.”

The thank-you cookie left more than a sweet taste. Catoe said she felt they really appreciated her business.

Faile reflected on her past fundraising jobs in larger cities. She longed for a meaningful connection with her clients.

“I knew there had to be a way to do what you love and do it with people you love and for people who will respect and appreciate you,” she said.

Ridgeway listened as her daughter talked in the kitchen. The countertops were covered with cookies. They had worked until 4 a.m. the night before. They talked about future orders and how to work a couple of glitches out. And they will.

They truly are two tough cookies with a lingering sweetness.

Crumbs & Confetti donated several dozen cookies to Relay for Life in April, and the mother-daughter cookie bakers will be at the Edgewater Charity Car Show in June.

For more information, call them at (803) 246-0275 or email crumbsandconfetticc@gmail.com.

Wren, Clydie, Randi photo supplied

Three generations of cooks – Wren Ridgeway, Clydia Knight and Randi Faile. (Photo supplied).

There is no quit in Casey Carnes

There is no quit in Casey Carnes: Fights back from bran injury,

wins Civil Air Patrol Award

by Mandy Catoe

as published in The Lancaster News, June 1, 2019

Casey Carnes is fiercely independent, self-reliant, smart and a bit stubborn. According to her dad, her first words as a toddler were “I do it myself.”
Those traits have served the 21-year-old Buford native well. As a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, she has endured the harsh winter of Alaska, where she trapped, skinned and cooked a rabbit to survive.

carnes_gives_speech_at_wreaths_across_america_dec_14_2014_in_waxhaw_nc.jpg

Casey gives speech at Wreaths Across America in Waxhaw in 2014. (Photo Supplied)

Her indomitable spirit helped her overcome a traumatic brain injury from a car wreck four years ago.

On May 12, she was presented the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, the highest honor granted to Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets ages 12-21.

civil_air_patrol_col_jayson_altieri_presents_the_general_carl_a._spaatz_award_to_casey_carnes_may_12

Civil Air Patrol Cadet Casey Carnes poses with a large dolphin statue in Palmer, Alaska. Carnes was there for training in 2013.

Only one in 200 cadets earn this award. Since the award’s inception in 1964, fewer than 2,300 have been given the honor. Of those, only 383 were female.
CAP Col. Jayson Altieri presented Carnes the award at the Wing Emergency Services School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The 39-year veteran and retired U.S. Army colonel said he was impressed with Carnes.
“We expect to see more from her in the future based on what she has accomplished, both academically and personally, given what she went through recently with a car accident that left her disabled for a short while,” he said. “It is a small minority of females who have been awarded this honor, and she joins a very illustrious group of cadets.”
When she joined CAP at age 14, she heard about the coveted Spaatz award and said to herself, “I’m going to get that.”
Carnes was on track to get the award four years ago, but everything changed on July 12, 2015. She was driving through Columbus, Ga., on her way to see a friend who had graduated from basic training at Fort Benning. Her car was T-boned at an intersection.
Carnes’ recovery included a 26-week memory-rehab program, therapists, a cardiologist and a neurologist.
The injury has left her with syncope – a temporary loss of consciousness or fainting spells. Since the accident she has also battled depression and anxiety. She had to relearn how to read and write. Her will to thrive was left fully intact.
Her father, Adrian Carnes, said he was amazed that his daughter won the award after her head injury.
“I encouraged her to at least try so she could say she gave it her best shot,” he said. “A few friends of hers had tried and failed.”
Last week she sat down to talk about the Civil Air Patrol, the award, the wreck and her dreams.
Carnes joined in December 2011. She expresses herself with ease and poise and a vocabulary of someone with an advanced degree. There is no visible sign of a brain injury, though she is still recovering.
CAP, the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, was established Dec. 1, 1941. It has three missions: emergency services including search and rescue, disaster relief, and aerospace education.
In 2018, CAP had more than 61,000 members in local units in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and at some overseas USAF bases.
Anyone over 12 can join, and there is no upper age limit. Cadets provide humanitarian and emergency services such as search and rescue and disaster relief. Some go on to pursue a military career, and others remain in CAP to serve their community as lifelong volunteers.
The Spaatz award is presented to cadets who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness and aerospace education. To qualify, the cadets progress through 16 levels or ranks that take about five years. The final step is a four-part exam including a physical-fitness test, an essay exam, and comprehensive tests on leadership and aerospace.
Carnes’ parents signed up shortly after she did. It was a perfect fit for the homeschooled teen and her family.

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Civil Air Patrol Cadet Casey Carnes poses with a large seal statue in Palmer, Alaska. Carnes was there for training in 2013. (Photo Supplied)

She teaches search and rescue at Wing Emergency Services School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and at the National Emergency Services Academy in Indiana. She teaches cadets how to use a compass, how to locate black boxes from airplanes, and how to be a part of a team.

carnes_teaching_a_cadet_in_basic_ground_search_and_rescue_school_in_alabama_nov_2014_carnes_on_left.jpg

Civil Air Patrol Cadet Casey Carnes poses with a large dolphin statue in Palmer, Alaska. Carnes was there for training in 2013. (Photo Supplied)

Carnes helped with recovery missions after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. She served as cadet commander for two squadrons and was the cadet operations officer for an encampment in 2016.
Carnes has a 4.0 GPA in her collegiate studies so far. She was a marine biology major at Eckerd University in St. Petersburg, Fla., but the head injury ruled out the required scuba diving. So she switched directions and is studying to become a nurse. She is currently taking prerequisites for the nursing program at York Tech.
She laughs about her current career track because her mom Grace Carnes is a hospice nurse, and as a youngster she said she was not going to be a nurse.
Her mom has always seen the fighter in her daughter and is not surprised by her success.
“I think Casey will be a good nurse, and I’m glad she chose to pursue that as long as it is truly what she wants to do,” Grace said.
Long-term, Casey sees herself as a college professor.
Carnes’ dad said her greatest strength is her ability to switch leadership styles based on the needs of her students.
“She can teach anybody anything,” he said.

casey_with_parents_adrian_and_grace_carnes_at_christmas_banquet_adj.jpg

Cadet Casey Carnes attends a Christmas banquet with her parents, Adrian and Grace Carnes. (Photo Supplied)

Carnes admits to a bit of obsessive compulsiveness and tends to categorize, color code and alphabetize almost everything. As a homeschooler, she said her mom would give her a calendar with assignments and expected her to turn things in on time.
Since the accident, she sometimes has to study 12 hours a day because of the brain injury. She said, “I know this is what I must do to get that. So I do it.”
For more information on CPA and to find a local squadron, visit http://www.civilairpatrol.com.

AJ’s Truesdale completes Boston Marathon

By Mandy Catoe

Local runner Marc Truesdale added an orange Volunteers flair to the 123rd Boston Marathon on Tuesday.
Truesdale, 39, sported the cross country colors of the Andrew Jackson High School team he coaches, completing the 26.2-mile course in 3:18:45. The Kershaw native teaches government and economics at AJHS.
The weather was warm and very humid, with Truesdale battling dehydration, nausea and fatigue at the end.
Immediately after the race Truesdale said, “It was a bad day and a good day. I struggled today, but I finished.”Home with the medal
For the first 18 miles, Trusedale was on pace to finish under three hours. He reached the halfway point with a time of 1:28:40.
Some have described the marathon by saying the halfway mark is at Mile 20 when the body has used up its glycogen stores and the runner feels intense pain in his legs, lower back and hips.

boston+marathon+course
The legendary Boston course has an incline at that critical 20th mile, known as Heartbreak Hill.
Truesdale said when he was running the hills between miles 16 and 21 the heat began to take its toll. He said he thought it was just the terrain and that he would be fine once he was back on level ground, but by Mile 22, Truesdale’s had depleted his physical reserves and had to rely on sheer will.
“Coming down Chestnut Hill which is after Heartbreak Hill, every step was so painful, I had to stop,” he said. “I hydrated, ate an orange slice and poured water on my head and tried to re-gather myself.”
The father of three then spotted his wife, Stephanie and daughter, Charlee, 9, on the side of the course next to their hotel. The Truesdales also have two sons, Denton, 7, and Connor, 4. Denton has been diagnosed with autism.
For a spit second, Truesdale thought about walking off the course into the comfortable room to end his agonizing pain.
“I thought about the AJ top I was wearing and how I was representing my community and all the hard work I had put in to just get here,” he said.
Then Truesdale told his wife that he would finish even if he had to walk the remaing distance.
He trudged ahead and began to slowly jog at a 9-to-10-minute pace and in the last mile he quickened to an 8-minute pace.
“My legs were hurting. Every step was so painful,” Truesdale said.

The Finisher's Medal

The Finisher’s Medal

Near the end, he spotted a photographer and hammed it up a bit.
“I saw that camera and I said I am going to act like I am happy and I am going to smile,” he said. “I put on a show.”
Looking back, Truesdale said he would have been wise to back off his pace earlier to keep “something in the tank” for the final miles.
“It feels great to finish,” he said. “I was humbled by the course.”

A little perspective
About 30,000 runners lined up to run the 26.2 miles. Truesdale was the 6,251st runner to finish. After he crossed the finish line, there were 24,000 runners still hoping to reach that point and get a finisher’s medal.

The first one to cross the finish line was Kenyan Lawrence Cherono with a time of 2:07:57. The last one was a lady named Red Hilton whose time was nearly nine hours.
One hour and 10 minutes after Truesdale finished the race, a marine, Micah Herndon, nine years his junior, crawled across the finish line.
For a runner, the Boston Marathon is the ultimate goal. It is one of the most challenging marathons in the world.
To run Boston, one must qualify based on age and gender. For Truesdale, that meant he had to run the 26.2 miles in three hours and 10 minutes. He ran the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, N.C., in March 2018 in 3:02:40 and came in under three hours (2:57:30) at the Kiawah Island Marathon this past December.

Boston Marathon Qualifying times
“It’s the holy grail of marathons in the United States,” Truesdale said.  “It’s a bucket list item that I knew I was capable of based on my past running times.”

Support system
Stephanie Truesdale had complete faith that her husband would finish the marathon. She shared her thoughts before the race.
“He has been training tirelessly for years now, while still finding time to coach the cross country team at AJ, be an amazing teacher, and a dedicated husband and father,” she said. “Most of the time that means getting up at 4:30 a.m. and running in the pitch-black dark and returning home in time to help me get the kids ready and off to school.”

Marc, Stephanie, Charlee, Denton, Connor

Marc, Stephanie, Charlee, Denton, Connor

Marc Truesdale said he owes a lot to running buddies Keith Crapps, Tony Yarborough, Michael Knight, Cole Horton, Brent Stogner, and Jareth Bailey.
Truesdale played soccer until his mid-30s.
As he and his friends began to raise families, he transitioned to running. He has won the last three annual Laps for Lancers, a local 10K. One of his most meaningful victories was when he won the Pacing for Pieces Autism Half Marathon this past March.
“I won that one for Denton,” he said.

MarcTruesdaleBoston

(Similar version published in The Lancaster News April 21, 2019. Photos supplied.)

Small Plays Big in Little League Dixie Baseball

By Mandy Catoe

It takes a bit of conniving to get Larry Small to stand in the limelight.

The Lancaster Dixie Baseball League board members lured Small to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on March 23, the opening day of LDB’s 61st season. 

After a long, but in no way complete list of what he has given local youth baseball, LDB secretary Jill Laney said, “Mr. Small from this day forward, Field 6 will be named the Larry Small Field.” 

Catcher gives Small the baseball he threw to open season

Briceson Hall, 11, returns ceremonial first pitch to Larry Small. Hall plays in Ozone League for 11-12 year olds. Hall who has played on the fields since he was 4 said “I understood what he has done and this was a tremendous honor. I felt that I was lucky that I got to catch it”

Small, 71, has served the local baseball community for 44 years and is still going strong.

He says the kids keep him young.

“I was very humbled and honored,” Small said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m usually the one in the back of everything and I am shocked that my people did this to me.”

Small constantly praises others. He understands and teaches teamwork.

“The gift of baseball is learning to work with other people,” he said. “The best pitcher in the world has to have someone to field that ground ball and throw the batter out.”

In addition to his time, Small shares his money and his faith. He has paid the registration fee for children who wanted to play but had no money. And he prays for all them. 

“We will not turn a child away from Dixie Ball,” Small said. “We never have. We will find a way.”

As a coach, he drafted a little boy with muscular dystrophy to play on his team. On the last game of the season, he did a little conniving of his own to make sure that kid knew what it felt like to make it safely to first base. 

Laney said Small is a reminder of what we should all strive to be.

Once word got out on facebook about the naming of Field 6, many former little leaguers began reminiscing and posting their decades-old Dixie Baseball pictures. 

Small has coached hundreds of little leaguers and affected thousands of kids. The league fields at least 300 kids every year and has had as many as 700 a couple of seasons. 

Every little boy in uniform dreams of making it to the big league. Small insists that they keep their focus on their grades. He coordinates with the school district to insure no games are scheduled the night before major academic testing.

He reminds the dreamers that only a tiny percentage will make the pros.

“Your education is more important than anything you will do,” he tells them.

His players have become lawyers, bankers, ministers, and all-around good young men.

Nearly 30 of the boys he coached played college or professional baseball.

One of the most famous is Pep Harris who pitched for the Anaheim Angels from 1996 to 1998.

“Larry was one of my first pitching coaches,” Harris said by phone last week. “He taught me to stay relaxed, not rush and just throw strikes.”

Harris, who now resides in Irmo, said Small is like family and he was happy to see Lancaster honor someone who gave so much to the youth.

Harris didn’t have a major league photo of himself to share for this story, but five minutes after the phone interview, he sent a text of a team photograph from the 80s. It was the Lancaster County Natural Gas team and a young Harris was standing next to Coach Larry Small.  

Pep team and coach

Pep and Larry Brown

A young Pep Harris stands next to Coach Larry Brown in the early 80s.

Pep Harris Annaheim Angels

Found online: Pep Harris in MLB uniform, Anaheim Angels in 96-98.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Howey, sports editor of The Lancaster News, played a little right field as a youngster at Wylie Park. 

He feels Small deserves the honor of having one of the fields named in his honor.

“If Lancaster Dixie Baseball had a hall of fame, Larry would be a first-time unanimous selection,” Howey said.

Dixie Baseball LogoSmall began coaching in 1971 after two years of military service in the army. Forty-eight seasons have come and gone since then. He took four years off to watch his son, Brad, play baseball for Erskine College in Due West, SC. Larry, his son Brad and grandson Blayne all learned the fundamentals of the game on the Dixie Baseball fields at Wylie Park. 

Small and his wife Gayle recently celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary. He still works as a licensed contractor and gets up before dawn to work at his daughter’s restaurant. 

His son Brad is Vice President at First Citizens Bank and his daughter Kelly Gibson owns and runs the South 200 Grill that has been in the family since 1965. The Smalls have five grandchildren.

Larry Small, wife Gayle and son Brad Small

Larry Small with his wife Gayle and son Brad.

The Dixie Baseball League fields have been quiet during spring break. The games will resume the week of the 22nd. Small will be back at the park, cooking in the concession stand, walking the grounds offering praise and encouragement and high-fiving the kids. 

Small summed up what he has learned and taught for nearly half a century. He took a second, gathered his thoughts and said, “You learn there is more than you in this world.”

 (All photos in this story were supplied. A version was published in The Lancaster News  April 19, 2019.)

From a reader Dianne T. Evans

Mandy Catoe’s Sept. 30, 2016, feature story “Gladys Cox steps aside after 65 years as organist at Unity ARP” was delightful. Such a heartwarming story of a remarkable “musical and religiously faithful family” is so welcomed amid the often destructive and discouraging news we receive in today’s world. May I attach some additional sweet memories to that story: When I was a little girl at Buford Elementary School, each time we were assembled into the school auditorium for some very special program, a high school girl was always seated at the piano. She brought us into the auditorium and dismissed us with a joyful, spirited musical arrangement that I loved. I remember humming that happy tune in my mind throughout the remainder of such school days as I tried to hold on to its revelry. When I asked my teacher the name of the girl at the piano, she told me it was Gladys Huey. Only after I began taking lessons from the legendary Mrs. Sarah Walker –who enthusiastically taught piano to many Buford students – did I learn that the song I enjoyed so much was Verdi’s “Triumphal March” from the opera “Aida.” I discovered that while rambling through “Young America’s Music,” a long-lasting set of books my parents brought for me soon after Santa delivered my first, much-requested piano. I was determined to learn to play that triumphal song myself. I did accomplish that, after many blissful hours at my piano. Yet, I could not then – nor can I still – deliver it in the splendid, flawless manner produced by that young high school girl who performed it as we marched in and out of the school auditorium. So in addition to the fine folks at Unity ARP Church and the many students whom Mrs. Cox has taught, there are others who have also been touched and inspired by – as Mandy described them – those “beautiful, nimble fingers gliding gracefully over the keys.” When talented people generously share their gifts, they may never know to what extent they have enriched the lives of others. I would just like for Mrs. Gladys Huey Cox to know that she enriched mine. She was the one who unknowingly brought me to my first piano bench as a child and, through her music, gave me the desire to stroke those wondrous keys. And what a joyful challenge it has added to my life! It is rewarding to know that her daughter Jennifer will continue to share this family’s amazing musical talent for many years to come. And I am hopeful that Mandy Catoe will continue to give us more of her inspirational, well-crafted stories. Such talent as she displays in her writing is also worthy of praise. Thanks to all who generously share their talents. It makes for a better world. 10/7/16

Dianne T. Evans is a Lancaster County resident and a retired psychology professor at the University of South Carolina Lancaster.