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Repeat After Me: Mike-lers NOT Mick-lers

16 Feb

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to hear folks mispronounce my family’s name as “Mick-ler” rather than the proper pronunciation of “Mike-ler.” It is our mission to ensure that future generations know how to pronounce “Mickler’s Landing” in Ponte Vedra Beach.  It really is pronounced Mike-lers, even if it’s not spelled that way.

Just last week I heard two people refer to it as “Mick-lers.” One has been here nearly 25 years and never knew there was another pronunciation.

I am part of the Mickler clan that was one of the pioneer families that settled Palm Valley back in the mid-1800s. My mother Nettinell Mickler Altee was cousin to Sydney Mickler who once owned the beach now known as Mickler’s Landing and where Mickler’s Pier once stood, as well as surrounding property.

People will often argue the pronunciation until they are told it was named after our family. Most folks are smart enough to believe us.

There was the time, however, that a boss of mine went into a full-fledged tantrum because I wouldn’t agree to mispronounce my family name.  During college I was a news intern at WTLV in Jacksonville. While in the editing bay one day voicing a piece, it chanced to contain the name in question.  The executive producer popped his head in to be “helpful” and let me know I had mispronounced the landmark’s name, that it was in fact pronounced “Mick-ler.” When I very nicely explained how I knew my pronunciation was correct – I thought his head was going to explode.

 I swear to God, these were his words, “I’m the executive producer, and if I say it’s Mick-ler’s, it’s Mick-lers!”  He stomped off  leaving all of us speechless. I continued on by pronouncing it the only way I could without my mama reaching down from heaven and slapping me upside the head.

I thought for sure there would be hell to pay, but he never said a word. The news director at the time, Howard Kelly, later acknowledged I was correct while giving me a knowing wink. I suspect he informed Mr. Executive Producer how foolish he had been.

You’ll  see the Mickler name throughout this area  including the stone obelisk monument in the Plaza in St. Augustine that includes the names of local war heroes.

As one of the ninth generation of the original Mickler family in Florida,  I’m just doing my part to ensure the honor of the correct pronunciation continues.

Just Saying

2 Jan

I Was a Woman Marine Trailblazer

2 Dec

I only have two government issue items from my two years of active duty in the Marine Corps:  sable haired make-up brushes. That’s right government issue.

I went though boot camp in the summer of 1974 at Parris Island. That was when we soon found out that it was evidently the year of the lady in the Marine Corps. I look at all the real women now defending our country and marvel that the most important thing we had to worry about was if our lipstick matched our cap cord.

We were issued a makeup kit with eye shadow, foundation, blush and lipstick and expected to wear it – in boot camp, in August, in Parris Island, South Carolina.  Why I saved the make-up brushes that are now thirty-six years old, I simply do not know. It became a game of how long I could hang onto them. Well, I did use them for a good 20 years. Really. And they now are still in my make-up basket in my bathroom. The Marine Corps believes in quality.

Thirty six years later it still bothers this ex-Marine that she had on the wrong color of hose.

We Women Marines had etiquette classes and were taught that when in a skirted uniform  we must always  wear or carry white gloves (really), wear girdles (really) full slips (really) and high heels. Pantyhose were a given.  Women Marines didn’t smoke while walking and certainly didn’t call each other “you guys.”

We heard through the grapevine that the reason for all of this was because the Marine Corps wanted to change the masculine image the public saw of its women. 

One interesting thing is the way in which women’s uniforms were made for maintenance compared to men’s. Women were given those little cloth nametags with our names printed on them and required to  sew them into every piece of uniform clothing. Men got a black ink stamp. In boot camp we had to wash every piece of clothing  by hand. Somehow I can’t see the men doing that. Women’s uniforms were specifically made for home ironing. Except for the wool ones; if we sent them to the cleaners, they came back with all sorts of unacceptable creases.  All mens’ uniforms were sent to the laundry. If they had a weird crease, well it was the laundry.

My platoon in boot camp in August 1974 was the last to be awarded the Vietnam Era ribbon, and Saigon had not yet even fallen.  It never occurred to me that we were trailblazers.

My career Navy pilot father tried to convince me to enter the Naval Academy when they began accepting women and my two years were up. I had gone into the Marine Corps specifically to get the GI Bill.  No way I was attending a military academy. Now those women were true trailblazers.

There are only two real trailblazing events that I remember during my two years of active duty. One was that women from my bootcamp platoon were chosen to be the first women military police in the Marine Corps. Even then they selected a rainbow of ethnic women including our one Cherokee Indian named Little One Foot who taught me how to cuss in Cherokee. She also shared her contraband M&Ms with me in the head, but that’s another story.

The other event was that there were about five of us women assigned to an off base dispersing office/warehouse. That meant enlisted men had to stand duty more often because we didn’t carry weapons. So they fixed that; we were taken to Quantico to qualify with .45 automatic pistols.  This was big stuff in 1975. Very few women ever did this. We had a blast, except then we had to stand duty all night. No fun at all. There was the time, however, that in a skirt and high heels, I was required to put a holster  and pistol on my hip and escort the finance officer to the bank to count and retrieve cash. 

When I first entered the Marine Corps, I was absolutely amazed at the level of responsibility we were given in little time. There wasn’t much that scared this 18-year-old southern girl, except maybe that great big dark warehouse at 3 a.m.

Women of my era considered the women of the WWII era the trailblazers, taking care of all the duties at home while the men were away.  We had our own trailblazing moments in the 70s. But it’s the women of today’s military who are trailblazing at warp speed and proving what women are capable of.

This post was originally written for the American Women Veteran‘s website. They were requesting photos, so I sent mine in of my make-up brushes, and they asked me to write more in a blog for them. This is the result.

Two Truths and a Lie

21 Oct


See if you can pick out the two truths and one lie in each of these questions:

1.  Two brushes with fame I had were when…..

      a)  Madonna asked me what color lipstick I was wearing 
      b)   I accidentally punched Andy Rooney in the mouth 
      c)  George Hamilton invited me to have a drink when I was underage

2.  I once…

       a) Was groped by Bill Clinton after a fundraiser
       b)  Helped pick out the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
       c) Told Don Imus I wanted to be a bridesmaid in his wedding

3.   Two weird job duties I’ve had were….

       a)  Strip searching female marines who were arrested
       b)  Helping Mickey and Minnie put on their costumes    
       c)  Guarding the marine finance officer with a gun on my hip

3.   In a market research job, I tallied comments from women who tested the birth control sponge. They said…

      a)  When I tried to remove it, I think an elf was in there
             tugging on the other side.
      b)  Was like putting a marshmallow into a piggy bank
      c)  I think it became vacuum sealed.

4.  Two of the most ridiculous statements ever said to me….

      a)   We require all our female employees to wear push up bras
      b)   Don’t take this job is you are offended by me making comments
             about your body parts
      c)   University of Florida has a journalism school? 

Scroll down for the answers.





All the lies are  A.   B and C are true.

Let me know how many you got right!

Getting to Know Me

7 Oct

This  “getting-to-know” you game is making the rounds in the blogosphere and one of my fellow Skirt! bloggers challenged the others to play along. So here goes, more than you ever probably wanted to know about me with the game’s questions.

 1) What is your dream occupation?
Movie director – it’s the ultimate of creativity with making everyone do what you want.

2) What is the best dish that you can cook?
Shrimp creole is my signature dish. I always add clam juice to the sauce and ALWAYS top it with gumbo file powder before serving.  My kids think the best thing I cook is similar to what I loved of my mothers – one of those casseroles full of brown rice, cheese, hamburger and assorted veggies. Comfort food at its best.

3) Have you ever been mentioned in the newspaper? What for? I guess the best was when I was featured in the back of the Jacksonville Business Journal for the weekly profile. The first time I was in the paper, however, was when I was in 2nd grade and I won a fishing contest for my age. They had a group photo and half of me showed up in the paper. Of course I saved it.

4) What’s the worst and/or most memorable job you’ve ever had?
Worst and most memorable was when I was in the Marine Corps. It was during the 70s with a bunch of Marines with no war to fight. I was a payroll clerk and numbers were not my thing.  It was memorable for the obvious reasons, plus I was stationed at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., which wasn’t bad duty.  A learning experience to be sure.

5) When you were a teenager, at what age did you envision yourself getting married?
In my late 20’s although I didn’t think about it that much. I thought more about my career. It wasn’t until I was near 30 that I started getting marriage ideas and didn’t actually get married until I was 34.

6) What’s your most hated household chore? What’s your favorite?
Most hated is doing bathrooms. Favorite is ironing. When I was in Marine Corps boot camp, I used to trade out having someone else polish my shoes for doing their ironing. Nothing like a clean crisp ironed cotton shirt.

   7) What’s your earliest memory? 
When I was about 4 years old, moving back to Jacksonville from Monterey, California. We stopped at Disneyland and there was some terrifying gorilla thing on an island beating his chest with fire around him while we drove by in a boat.  Have never forgotten that!

That’s all folks. Try it yourself and tell us about you.

To know me better you can also follow me on Twitter at:

I’m Just Wild About Harry

18 Sep

I celebrated the day my ex-husband left the house by announcing, “Come on kids, we’re going to the Humane Society to get a dog!”  The kids had been begging for a dog for some time, but their father didn’t want an animal in the house. 

Me at 15 years old with Rosie.

I had grown up with a beloved doggie — Rosie — and wanted that for my children. My mother says that every time one of us got in trouble, we would stand at the top of the stairs and call for Rosie. She always chose to sleep with me, for I was the only kid that had a double bed. Rosie was just a mutt that my uncle got from “the ice man” but was also one of those awesome dogs that you remember for a lifetime and tell your own kids about. 

As it turned out, my son Stuart was borderline allergic to dogs and the doctor suggested holding off on getting a dog. I asked about allergy shots. He told me they can actually throw a child into anaphylactic shock. He knew because he had done it to his own son. He says he saves those for people who had their dog before their child and are ready to give up the child. 

My son’s allergies eventually subsided and we went to just “look” one day. And we came home with Harry.  The rescue folks had named him “Hairy.” For some reason rescue dogs all seem to be given people names. Never could figure that out. We kept the name, but changed the spelling. We also had a guinea pig named Howie, and my daughter’s name is Hayden, so we evidently like the H sound. 

At the rescue give away Harry was 8-months-old and all calm and collected. When we got him home, however, his “issues” appeared and we found he was terrified to leave the house. The dog I envisioned getting miles and miles of exercise with would pull and tug and choke himself to go back home. The only way I could give him, and myself, a decent walk was to put him in the car, take him to somewhere he didn’t recognize, and walk him. Crazy dog. 

Harry is our dog that always appears to be smiling.

He became my son’s dog. He was the one who fed him and let him curl up in his bed. As Harry became more trusting that we, too, weren’t going to abandon him, life settled down. A tad. 

We were temporarily in a home we were renting for three months and weren’t supposed to have any pets. One day I heard the landlord drive up unexpectedly to do the lawn, and I hollered to my son to get Harry over to the neighbor’s house and put him in the backyard. He went out one door as the landlord came in the other. As I was talking to the landlord I heard a knock on the door, opened it up and Harry dashed into the house and danced around. “Crazy neighbor’s dog.” I said. “Stuart, take him back next door.”  Life with Harry has been like that for the last three years. Appropriately, when we estimated when his birthday was, we proclaimed it to be on April Fools Day. 

My son’s favorite trick is to walk up and hug me because he knows when Harry spots us, he comes running up and wants to join a group hug. I fall for it every time, forgetting I’m about to get a hairy paw on my back. 

Owning a pet and being able to give someone besides your mama unconditional love is important for children. So is knowing that if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, such as feed and walk your pet, something you love suffers. My children have been mortified more than once when I have made concrete plans for us to go out of town and then forgot to make arrangements for Harry. 

I’m not sure Harry is to my children what Rosie was to me, but one thing is for sure, and that’s that we are definitely wild about Harry.

Princess Fat Butt

18 Sep

A friend referred me to another blog today –  All I can say is – she stole my title! I aspire to be all things her blog is. And that title. Just ask my family, they’ll say she stole it from me too. I just hadn’t thought of it yet.   I’m still trying to come up with something appropriate to replace “Beach Journal,” as lovely as that is.

As a blogging neophyte, I’m still developing exactly what direction my blog will take. It’s easy enough to share one’s thoughts and observations as they bubble up, however, most people look for focus when deciding to whom to give their valuable online time.   My forte is the observation of life’s ironies. As PrincessKnowItAll says, life takes it toll and we find out that we indeed don’t know it all after all.

I was talking with my sister today who has in the last year had shed most of the unwanted weight she held for many, many years. She did it all by herself in a way that none of us would ever believed.  She ate right and exercised.  Her refrigerator and pantry look like a Whole Foods aisle.

A number of years ago when her daughter was trying to lose weight, and also doing it the right way, my sister was beside herself that her daughter might be anorexic. “She doesn’t even put salad dressing on her salad! And she won’t even touch a french fry!” she lamented. Well, yeah. She was not then and hasn’t ever been anorexic. She was just doing what her mother didn’t know how to help her do.

So I was talking to my sister today about possibly getting a gastric band – you know those bands they put on your stomach that simply limit how much can go in.  Her first remark was, “Well don’t tell anyone if you do it because that’s all anyone will talk about, that you got a band.”  Before, I would have agreed with her wholeheartedly, but today – who cares. It’s not like no one knows I’m fat. They probably know it more than I do. I feel one way and then look at photos and think, “Holy moly, who is that woman?”  It’s like I felt when I finally succumbed this year to a babydoll bathing suit, with the empire waisted skirt. I spent all those years with sarongs and swim shorts  trying to hide life’s insults. I went with my babydoll suit this year and I feel free for the first time in years. This is me and I’m representing.

My sister echoed the feeling many people still have – that losing weight with any “assistance” is paramount to admitting defeat.   Well let me make this loud, clear and simply – I have been defeated.  After 45 years of dieting, I am willing to admit defeat.

I was always a big girl and  looked older than my sister who is 18 months older. It was when I was 8 years old and my mother died that I first acquired a real weight problem. It wasn’t eating from depression; it was from having no one watching what I was eating. We had a morning maid and an afternoon maid.  While they went about their business, I was collecting Coke bottles with friends to cash in during multiple trips to the neighorhood 7-Eleven for all sorts of pure sugar sweets. I was addicted, to be sure. And it showed.

I had a decent figure as the years went on, but was alway just a bit bigger than all my willowy friends. When I went into the Marine Corps in 1974, I was

Circa 1975 and at my maximum weight allowed by the USMC


 5’8″ and 150 lbs.  And I was over my maximum weight allowed of 144.  The drill instructor threatened us with being held back if we didn’t drop the weight. We were put on the “diet line” in the mess hall and had no choices over the food we ate. 

What was interesting, however, is that the drill instructors would let me off the diet line when I hit my maximum weight, but they made all the other women get ten pounds below their maximums.  As soon as I went back on the regular line — boom, I’d gain a couple of pounds. All sixty of my fellow women marines were eating the same quantities of food and doing the same exercise and drills every day. And while little tiny girls lost weight, I would gain weight.

This was one of those life defeating moments when I realized that life was certainly not fair.

About eight years ago, I lost 80 lbs all on my own, the very same way my sister did. I’m not one to follow plans and measurements. I’m more of a concept girl, and then just get on with life and pay attention. I read Dr. Bob Arnot’s Revolutionary Weight Control Program (which I highly recommend) and applied all the principles in it to my food choices. And I walked on the beach at least five times a week for an hour. Within nine months it came off. And I kept it off for more than a year. My cholesterol went from 270 to 195 without drugs.

But when my children both became very ill, and my life became chaotic times ten, it all went out the window. It started with a medication a physician gave me that put on 30-40 pounds, and then it was Katie bar the door.

My cholesterol is back up to 270. My physician recommended statins to me, and I told her definitely not because they put weight on you. I said that I would rather be dead than be any fatter than I am now. And that’s the truth.

Today I met a bariatric physician while doing a cover photo shoot for MD News MagazineMichael Baptista, MD,  has the sultry voice of Antonio Banderas mixed with all the adorable charm of Hugh Jackman.  What he told me was: “You don’t need me to lose weight; you need me to help you keep the weight off.”  Bingo.  That’s what every woman knows who has ever felt victorious over her weight battle only to see it creep back on. Keeping it off is often harder than losing it. 

What we also know is that once we’ve been  defeated by weight for a period of time, we’ve got the fat cells that always want us to be that weight. We’ve also got the leptin levels that scream at our bodies like drill instructors, “You’re hungry maggot. Dammit do something about it. Eat. EAT NOW!”

All the corn syrup is gone from my house, I don’t often eat meat, except fish, few dairy products, yada, yada, yada. I know how to do it because I’ve done it. And I have managed to lose 25 lbs after finally recovering from a broken ankle followed by knee surgery. At least I’m walking now. I can’t, however, exercise like I used to. The pain in my legs and hips makes it difficult sometimes to simply walk the dog. I try to get in the pool when I can and ride the recumbant bike in the gym.

So this Princess Fat Butt – hey there’s a name — continues on so that she doesn’t give up, as they say, before the miracle happens.

Princess Fat Butt has a plan.


27 Aug

Experts say that a child removed from his mother, by death or other reasons,  before the age of three years old never recovers from the psychic trauma. Imagine a world where that one person who was driven to care for your every need and desire wasn’t there. And never sufficiently replaced.

Many know the pain of parental divorce. Imagine the pain of no mother. The pain is surely more than ten fold that of divorce.

My youngest brother is one of those people. Our mother died when he was about a year old, leaving my father with seven children under the age of 12. And my brother has never recovered from that loss.  It lives with him daily and is apparent in his actions.

I pray for my brother today as he recklessly fights his demons and our family struggles to make sense out of it. He will eventually find peace, but we worry at what cost?