About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Opioid Epidemic (no humor here)

     We are reading and hearing more frequently that this country is in crisis regarding opioid use. What are opioids?

     "Opioid" is a "blanket term used for any drug which binds to the opioid receptors in the central nerous system or gastrointestinal tract" (Yahoo Answers:  difference between opioids, opiates, and benzodiazepines).
Opioids are used primarily to relieve pain.

Natural opiates are Morphine, Codiene, and Thebaine.
Semi-synthetic opioids are Heroin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Dihydrocodene, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Buprenorphine, Etorphine, Naloxone, and Nicomorphine.
Synthetic opioids include Methadone, Pethidine (Demerol), Fentanyl Alfentanil, Sufentanil, Remifentanil, Carfentanyl, Pentazocine, Phenazocine, Tramadol, and Loperamide.

     Before there were pain relievers, humans relied on the natural world to ease suffering.  The Sumerians used opium from the poppy by 3400 B..C.  They shared the pain-relieving potential of this plant with the Assyrians, who passed it to the Egyptians.  Alexander the Great took it to India, and from there opiates spread around the world.

     Opium, opiates, and opioids all produce similar effects.  At low doses they make effective painkillers.  At medium to high doses they produce euphoria, nausea, sleepiness, a sense of peace. They can be extremely addictive mentally and physically, the body craving more and more to reach the same state of euphoria over time. All are depressants.

     On August 31, 2016, the FDA announced it would require boxed warnings on prescription opioid analgesics, opioid-containing cough products, and a class of drugs called benzodiazepines regarding the serious risks when these medications are used together.  Overdose deaths tripled involving concomitant use of these drugs between 2004-2011 (AmericanAssociationFamilyPhysicians.org/news/health-of-the-public). For patients taking both classes of medications, there are non-sedating anti-depressants that can be used in place of benzodiazepines.

     What are benzodiazepines?  Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly prescribed depressant medications in the U.S. today.  More than fifteen different types exist to treat a wide array of psychological and physical maladies, whose treatment might be used for:  anxiety relief; hypnotic; muscle relaxant; anti-convulsant; or amnesiatic (mild memory-loss inducer).  These drugs affect a key neurotransmitter in the brain, slowing or stopping neuronal (nerve) impulses throughout the body. A short-acting benzodiazepine is cleaned from the body in a short time, whereas long-acting benzodiazepines may either accumulate in the bloodstream or take a much longer time to leave the body.

     The DEA has cracked down on the medical use of synthetic narcotics such as OxyContin and Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, and Vicodin.  Therefore, many physicians have been scared to prescribe such medications.  However, opioids play a key role in easing pain for people at the end of life.

     The controversy focuses on the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain.  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has drafted a policy that would make it difficult or impossible for these patients to get prescriptions for such medications. Many of the chronic-pain patients are now suffering withdrawal symptoms because they can no longer access medications that allowed them to function (Palm Beach Post, "Health and Beauty," March 19, 2017, pg. F5).

     Palm Beach County, Florida, is in the midst of an opioid crisis. A person died every other day of a heroin-related overdose in 2015 - more than all fatal car crashes and double the number of homicides. In 2016, there were more than 500 deaths in the County from heroin (Palm Beach Post, "Opioid Crisis Puts County in Spotlight," pgs. 1 & 5, February 27, 2017).  At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., community leaders from across the nation shared horror stories and solutions. The most common recommendation was for all first-responders, including police and deputies, to carry and use the overdose antidote naloxone.

     In Palm Beach County, a few police departments use naloxone, but P.B.C. Sheriff Bradshaw refuses to let his deputies carry it, citing liability issues.

     "It still shocks me when I hear of jurisdictions that don't have a Narcan or naloxone program. There's no downside to it," said Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamill from Montgomery County, Md. "You're not going to hurt anybody."








Monday, February 27, 2017

Sea Level Rise

Charley and I live twenty-two feet above the Atlantic Ocean in Florida.  In Massachusetts, we live half a mile from Buzzard's Bay, the body of water between Rhode Island Sound and Cape Cod. To say we are concerned about global warming and rising seas is an understatement.

Delray Beach, Florida

Westport, Massachusetts

National Geographic Magazine has written in "Sea Level Rise" (an internet document) that samples, tide gauge readings, and satellite measurements tell us the sea level has risen eight inches in the last 100 years.

There can no longer be any doubt that fossil-fuel burning and human and natural activities have released enormous heat-trapping gases into our atmosphere.  The earth saw its third straight year of record-high temperatures in 2016 (hottest ever recorded), and its surface temperature has risen by more than a full degree Fahrenheit over the last 100 years. Oceans absorb 80% of this additional heat.  In May, '16, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 400 parts/million, the highest since 3,000,000 years ago ("Rising Seas" by Tim Folger, National Geographic Magazine internet document).

What does this mean for us humans?  First, warmer oceans occupy more space. Thus, a rise in sea level.

Second, melting glaciers and melting polar ice caps produce a rise in sea level. Greenland's and West Antarctica's massive ice sheets are diminishing at an accelerated pace, having lost on average 50 cubic miles of ice/year since 1992 ("Rising Seas," Tim Folger).  At Palmer Station, Antarctica, local island census-taking over the last 43 years has recorded an 85% decline in penguins due to a lack of sea ice, where the penguins find nourishment (CBS News internet "Climate Diaries" by Mark Phillips, Feb. 15, 2017).

African Penguins near Cape of Good Hope

Radley Horton, a research scientist at Columbia University stated, "If acceleration continues, by the end of the 21st century the sea level could rise as much as six feet globally."  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends planners consider a conservative  "high-rise" scenario of five feet by the end of the 21st century.

The result would not only be destructive coastal erosion and wetland flooding, but soil contamination and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.

In addition, bigger, more powerful storm surges (like Hurricane Sandy) might occur every decade or less by 2100.  The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that by 2070, 150 million people in the world's port cities will risk coastal flooding, along with $35 trillion worth of property being jeopardized ("Rising Seas," Tim Folger).

New York City is essentially defenseless to hurricanes and floods.  London, Rotterdam, New Orleans (where a levee was breached in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina), St. Petersburg, and Shanghai have all built levees and storm barriers in the last decades.  In New Orleans, eleven diesel pumps in a new storm-surge barrier south of the city, built in 2011, can discharge 150,000 gallons of flood water/second.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, New York City

"Twenty-five percent of New York harbor used to be oyster beds," according to Kate Orff, NYC landscape architect ("Rising Seas," Tim Folger). The reefs of oysters and other shellfish grew as sea levels rose, buffering storm waves.  The shellfish, filter feeders, cleaned the harbor.

Last June, Mayor Bloomberg outlined a $19.5 billion plan to defend NYC against rising tides: levees, storm-surge barriers, dunes, oyster reefs, etc.  Meanwhile, development in the city's flood zone continues.

Amsterdam Harbor, with railroad station in foreground and white Museum of Film across Amstel River
One-quarter of The Netherlands sits below sea level.  On January 31, 1953, The Netherlands experienced a storm that transformed that country.  Dikes failed and 1836 people died.  A $6 billion project called "The Delta Works" began, consisting of dikes and barriers.  The last component was a movable barrier protecting Rotterdam Harbor, finished in 1997.

The prospect for low-lying cities is dire.  Among the most vulnerable is Miami. Han Wanless, Chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Miami, stated, "I cannot envision southeastern Florida having many people at the end of this century." ("Rising Seas" by Tim Folger, National Geographic Magazine on-line)  With a minimal projected four-foot rise in seas possible by 2100, two-thirds of southeast Florida would be inundated and Miami would be an island ("Rising Seas," Tim Folger).

Key West, Florida

Miami and most of Florida sit on a foundation of highly porous limestone.  A barrier would be pointless, since water would flow through the limestone.

Another problem is salinity control.  There are about thirty salinity-control structures in South Florida at present.  At times, however, the sea level is higher than the fresh water level in canals.  This accelerates the saltwater intrusion and prevents discharge of flood waters.  Already during unusual high tides, seawater spouts from sewers in Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and other cities, flooding streets.

Typical canal scene, Amsterdam
What better advisor for low-lying U.S. cities than Special Envoy for Water Affairs of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Henk Ovink?  It is Ovink's job to help the world figure out how to cope with sea-rise. It is Ovink's plan that will be put into effect later this year in New York City for $920 million:  six massive projects around lower Manhattan, the Bronx, New Jersey shorelines, Long Island, and Staten Island, consisting of belts of landscaped parks, restored swamp lands, and oyster reefs.

During a three-day tour of South Florida, Ovink (a senior advisor to Obama's Hurricane Sandy Recovery Task Force) inspected Miami's incremental approach to save itself:  raising streets (starting with Dade Boulevard) and sidewalks, installing pumps, rewriting building and zoning codes.  Ovink declared Miami's attempt, "Exemplary...but not enough."

"Never stop thinking about living with water," Ovink advised ("Miami Beach Receives Advice on Sea Level Rise," The Palm Beach Post, February 12, 2017, pg. B2).

Assistant City of Miami Engineer Roger Buell stated, "Miami is buying twenty years, possibly thirty."

"Building as usual in South Florida won't cut it," Ovink stated.  "Miami is at the edge."  ("Miami Beach Receives Advice on Sea Level Rise, The Palm Beach Post, February 12, 2017, B2)
Westport, Massachusetts



Monday, February 13, 2017

Self-Promotion in 2017

     Obviously an author has to do a lot of self-promotion.  He/she can write an award-winner or a self-published phenom (as with 50 Shades of Grey), but unless readers hear about it, who knows?  Of course, if an author has an agent and a publicist and a major publishing house, he'll have a lot of help doing the promotion.  Most authors don't ever reach that level, and even the big publishing houses expect the author to get out there and market himself.  The big houses have very small budgets for publicity in this era of downsizing and self-publishing.

     It's not an easy thing to put your name out there and splash your photo on the internet. Photo-ops for someone who didn't buy her first flip Razr phone until 2008 (me) didn't feel comfortable.

     After Minor League Mom:  A Mother's Journey through the Red Sox Farm Teams appeared in 2009, I spent a year speaking and doing interviews - almost all of which I arranged myself.  My publisher often set up the acoustics or introduced me, but didn't make the cold calls or underwrite the cost of food and drink at the book signings. I did.  In addition, I had to be comfortable speaking before an audience - or on radio or TV.  If I hadn't been, very few would have heard about my book. But I was a high school English teacher, and what I'd taught my students - public speaking - was easier than seeing my photo on posters or in social media.

     When Elderly Parents with All Their Marbles: A Survival Guide for the Kids appeared in 2014, at least I'd had some experience.  I spent another year speaking through doors that opened because of my first book. Signings and interviews followed, many of which were arranged by a publicist I paid.  She got me a second live television interview in Providence, R.I., but told me I was not "TV-worthy" for the big-time -  The Today Show.  I was not animated enough!  I promised to do everything but stand on the table and even brought a cardboard sign I used in the interview.  Although the topic was news-worthy (the "Oreo Generation," squeezed between taking care of kids and taking care of aging parents), I never made The Today Show!

     All of which leads me to the question:  Where do we draw the line between self-promotion and oversharing?
My Writers,Diners,Winers group at the book release party for Elderly Parents with All Their Marbles.

Book signing Boynton Beach, Fl., Public Library
Book signing Portsmouth, N.H., Public Library 

     We throw our lives into the black hole of the World Wide Web day in and day out, rummaging obsessively through the lives of others.  Don't misunderstand - an author has to have a web page, a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and selfies. They are necessary evils for any author today. But do we really care what restaurant our friend is in, what her dog is doing, or what song she's listening to?  My answer is, "No." Likewise, people do not care how wonderfully my granddaughter sings. The only exception may be the interest readers show in the books I recommend.

     A lot of social media is the old "look-at-me" thing.  Isn't my body, my croissant, my family, gorgeous (and better than yours)? Yet I have to believe there's more to "sharing" than that.  There's a joy in reconnecting and learning from each other.  The number of times I've gotten a "thank-you" for a post has encouraged this belief.  A picture still speaks a thousand words for those who haven't been in touch.

     Nevertheless, the act of capturing every move is often obsessive and offensive. We've all been in a restaurant when someone stands nearby while the waiter snaps away for a Facebook post. Or someone poses provocatively near us for a selfie, complete with a selfie-stick. There are those like my husband who mumble about the vapidity of self-promotion on social media. Yet he can't deny enjoying our friends' and relatives' posts when I (selectively) parade them before his eyeballs (he doesn't own a cell phone).  It seems the world is divided between those who can't keep their phones tucked away and those who are repelled.  I lie somewhere in the middle, finding it a necessary evil to sell my books. But believe me, I've had some publicity shots I'd rather forget!  Here are a few:
Looks like I needed some work on my roots!
Bug eyes and chicken neck
Was I asking for divine intervention?

     I recently read an article by Elisabeth Von Thurn Und Taxis (really!) on www.Vogue.com/living titled, "The Modern Woman's Guide to the Art of Self-Promotion."  Elisabeth listed tips for snapping and posting:

          1.  Know your place.  Be aware of where you are and whether your picture-snapping will offend.
          2.  Be judicious.  Ask yourself if you're uploading something funny, beautiful, or informative.  Your grandson's first steps and your new shoes may not interest the rest of the world.
          3.  Double-check.  Even with the best intentions, sarcasm may be misinterpreted, as may a provocative pose.
          4. Put your cell phone away and stay in the present moment.  The event you are enjoying may only happen once!  Don't edit or filter amid other guests to stop conversation or party-ing.
          5.  Don't put yourself in jeopardy.  Kim K. found out the cost of too much publicity.  Stay safe without posting personal information or risking your well-being. If you find yourself standing in traffic so the light can hit your face perfectly and the wind can fluff your brand new chiffon gown, you have a problem!

     Here you can see why I don't take selfies!






Monday, January 30, 2017

Snapshots from Europe - Strikes

While we were on the Italian island of Ischia in June, we'd been reading the NY Times International Edition every day at our hotel.  On a Monday, no paper appeared. "What happened to the newspaper today?" Charley asked at the front desk.

"Who knows!" said Salvatore.  "There is a strike."

In Italy, strikes occur at any time.  One year the ferries weren't running to/from Ischia on the day we were to fly home.  The ferry strike was much publicized in advance, so we caught the last boat at 5:00 a.m. to make our plane at 4:00 that afternoon.

In Paris we were caught in a "manifestation" (protest demonstration) that shut down the Left Bank of the City.  Workers were protesting proposed changes in French Parliament that would mean longer working hours and reduced benefits.  Before our arrival this year, Air France and French garbage workers had been on strike.

In Naples in 2007 we witnessed a garbage strike.  Foul-smelling piles reached to the second floor of apartment buildings and the stench spilled clear across the city to the harbor.  Since the Camorra controlled garbage pickup with their ownership of transportation (trucks), dumping land, and rights to industrial waste disposal, the strike lasted well beyond our quick departure.  The Camorra has ruled Naples and Campania for decades and is one of three major mafia organizations.  Its profits reach into the billions from legitimate and illegitimate businesses, including toxic waste disposal across southern Italy.

Alex Pasternack, editor-at-large for www.vice.com/Motherboard, reported on February 3, 2014, that the Italian national environmentalist group Legambiente had confirmed the Camorra had dumped, burned, or buried ten million tons of toxic waste since 1991 from factories in northern Italy.  The factories complied with the Camorra to defray the costs of legitimate waste disposal.

Fertile farmlands in what is known as the region of olive oil and bufala mozzarella (home to 500,000) have now become known for buried acres of rubble, mutated farm animals, and high cancer rates.  Dr. Alfredo Mazza, a cardiologist who published a cancer study of the Campania region in 2004, noted tumors had increased among men by 47% within two decades and the region led the country in its infertility rate and cases of severe autism.

Under the cover of night, millions of tons of toxic garbage from as far away as Germany are dumped and guarded by Mafiosi wearing military police uniforms. Since testimony by mob informants implicated officials of Italian government at the highest levels, the testimony was kept secret until 2012.

General Sergio Costa was Naples' environmental cop in 2014.  He insisted no contamination had occurred in recent years with new controls and testing.  However, in December, 2013, Costa listed thirteen farm irrigation wells with higher-than-permissible levels.

According to editor-at-large Pasternack, as of 2014 the Camorra shifted toxic shipments to Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and tourist-friendly Florence.  They also began shipping to China and Hong Kong, solidifying their relationship with the Chinese mafia in making and selling pirated designer clothes.

In 2014 police swept down on the Camorra and seized $337 million in business assets.  In Naples the same year, 100,000 residents protested the "biocide" of their region.

Today 49-year-old mayor Luigi de Magistris, a former prosecutor and member of the European Parliament, is trying to clean up Naples.  Before becoming mayor, Luigi had the unwelcome task of investigating the link between the mob and kingpins in business. Although he was removed from one widely-publicized case because he leaked two defendants' names, he has somehow survived the mafia's assassins!

In a further report titled "New Generation of Young Mafia Members Terrorizing Naples" on www.vice.com/read (Sept. 30, '15), Raffaella Ferre reported the anti-mafia campaign in Naples included massive posters in the central Piazza of those murdered by the mob.  However, young "Camorrists" have taken up the cause as descendants of powerful local families weakened by arrests and defectors.  In June, 2015, sixty kids affiliated with the Giuliano, Sibillo, Brunetti, and Almirante mafia families were arrested. Their actions had been unpredictable, "following no rationality," making police action more difficult.
Luigi de Magistris, Mayor of Naples, Italy

Whereas the "muschilli" (disposable little flies) used to begin as drug dealers or young couriers for the kingpins, today they are far more involved in gangs as freelancers who don't need to work their way up or prove themselves by committing 'o piezzo (murder).  According to reporter Ferre, gangs now fight over every single street in the city.

Information on the Camorra in this blog was obtained from "Home of Olive Oil and Mozzarella Is Still the Mafia's Toxic Wasteland" by Alex Pasternack at www.vice.com/blog/Motherboard (Feb. 3, 2014) and from "New Generation of Young Mafia Members Terrorizing Naples" by Raffaella Ferre at www.vice.com/read (Sept. 30, 2015).

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Skier's First Attempt

This is the story I heard from the back seat of a van on the way to the airport after Christmas.


Our friends had a place at Attatash Mountain in the Mt. Washington Valley of New Hampshire. They kept bugging us to come up to visit and take a ski lesson, with a few brews and laughs thrown in. They went on and on about the unbelievable views for twenty miles across white peaks. I figured if I wanted to see that much white I could book a trip to Antarctica.  The brews I could get at home.

But my wife persisted that we never went anywhere or tried anything different.  Her friend Gloria kept calling from New Hampshire and finally both women wore me down.

The trip up wasn't so bad...just three hours in the car and the weather held without any black ice.  Their house was on the side of the mountain, so it's a good thing we didn't get hit by a storm or we'd never have gotten out of there.  I was ready to go after day one.

Marilyn, my wife, signed us up for a lesson on the bunny slope.  First we had to rent the gear.  I couldn't walk more than two steps in the boots, but the guy in the shop said I'd get used to them. At least the skis were short and wide.  I could put them together and ride them down on my belly in a pinch.

At 10:00 we went from the rental shop to meet the class on the mountain.  I had my skis and poles on my shoulder but Marilyn had to show me up and put the contraptions on.

After he introduced himself, our 125-pound instructor Adolf (my name for him - his was Jake) began sidestepping up to a large rock platform.  "Follow me!" he said. The rock was in front of a glass window where I could see some hungover dudes enjoying their meal inside.

What the hell am I doing here? I thought.  I could be in there enjoying myself!  But I kept walking up to the rock with my skis and poles on my shoulder.  Needless to say, my boots sank into the snow the lightweight Mr. A  (no longer "A" for Adolf, but "A" for Ass****) had NOT packed for us.  I lost sight of my feet till he came and pulled me out.  I would never have guessed he had that kind of strength in those chicken legs.

"OK, folks, now I want everyone on their skis.  You're going to practice sidestepping down to where we met."

Was he serious?  My thighs were already burning.  I stood in the middle of the rock and put the things on.  I didn't care how much wax got scraped off the bottoms.  I felt like Sylvester Stallone from "Rocky" up there on the side of the bunny slope in front of that window.  I gave the guys inside a wave.

"Now take a few steps sideways off the rock," Mr. A said. "Dig in those edges and you'll keep  from falling."

Enough, already!  But I didn't want to disappoint Marilyn.  She was already down at the meeting place.  I placed my first ski sideways below the rock.  Unfortunately, it didn't stay there.  I could feel it sliding down toward Marilyn and it started to get away from me.  Since my other leg was still on the rock, I thought my privates were each going in a separate direction. I did the only thing a wimp could do... I collapsed like a deck of cards. The guys in the window were giving me the thumbs-up.

Mr. A pulled me upright.  "Try it again," he said.  "Lean IN toward the mountain. Make the mountain your friend."

Did this guy  hear himself?  My friend, Attatash?  He was Mr. A, all right!  I tried again and got the same result.  He had to tow me down to the rest of the class.

"Next I want you in a circle," he said to us. "I'm going to demonstrate the snow plow turn."

At that moment we heard a woman screaming above us on the bunny slope.  "Help!  I can't stop!  Help!"

The red pompom  on her ski hat bobbed with each thrust of her head while her poles plunged through the air toward the skiers in her path.  Some of them took off right into the woods. Her straight run created more speed as she got closer and closer.

"Fall down!" Mr. A yelled.  "Fall, fall!" all of us began yelling.

It was too late.  Her path headed right for our circle, which parted like the Red Sea. She whizzed past toward the parking lot. We unlocked our boots (the first thing I'd learned!) and ran after her.

"My God, don't hit a car!" Mr. A yelled.

She didn't.  Instead, she went across the snow-packed lot right for the mammoth pile the plows had made. That's where she ended up, with all of us running after her.

When we arrived, her legs stuck straight up in the air but we couldn't see her arms. She must have used them to stop her fall.  They were somewhere under the snowbank.  Mr. A dislodged her head and neck and the ski patrol was right behind us with a toboggan.  "That's it for me," I said to Marilyn.  "I'll see you inside for lunch."

She found me at the bar.  By then I'd made real good friends with a bottle of Scotch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Cycle of Life in Tennis

I began playing tennis in Rhode Island while our sons were toddlers.  As often as we young mothers could arrange a game at the summer pool and courts, we’d put the kids in an expandable wooden fence and hope they’d make some new BFF’s with the kids penned up with them, while they slung mud at each other or wailed about a bully who'd grabbed one of the toys dumped inside.  Our games seldom lasted an hour.

When the kids grew old enough to use the pool under the supervision of a lifeguard, I graduated to games every day – sometimes twice a day.  My friends and I used to call the players who’d never invite us to join them “the biggies.”

The next step was to join an indoor tennis club from September to May.  We deposited our kids in an upstairs play room with a staff member and began to take lessons. Our friendships grew; so did the kids, who began playing tennis themselves, sometimes better than we did. 

This group of ladies became my network.  We enjoyed get-away's at the beach and in the mountains, while our husbands babysat.  We supported each other through diseases, deaths, and kids' divorces. 
One is still my best friend (see photo below). We discovered tennis wasn't the most important thing in life.

At the indoor club we tried out for a Division 3 team that competed throughout R.I.  We attended drills.  Although many of us had successful careers, we had to learn to control our nerves. Some had diarrhea the night before a match; some had tears afterward.  

When Charley and I retired to Florida for eight months a year, I tried out for a Division 4 team that competed throughout South Palm Beach County. There were eight levels in each league, with eight to twelve teams at each level. Floridians played year-round, despite the heat. These ladies were tough and competitive.
Some with injections and
facial surgeries didn't show the wear and tear.
Tennis buddies

Under-forty opponents showed up with diamond necklaces layered over their POWER RED bra-lettes.  They announced before matches they’d have to finish in two hours because they had to pick their kids up from kindergarten.  They stood in a huddle to chant a middle-school cheer before the match and asked us why our club didn’t have a juice bar or hot towels. 

In their hands they had protein shakes instead of water bottles and some were hung over from the weekend.  If we called their ball “Out!” that hit two feet beyond our baseline, they’d respond from the other side of the net, “You’re calling it out?  Really???”
If we hit an overhead in their direction, we would get a long, cold stare and “That wasn’t necessary.”  Their pony tails swung from side to side as they hit the ball with what sounded like a horse giving birth.  At the end of the match they avoided our eyes while they did a “drive-by,” shaking hands by bumping fists (to avoid germs, right?) or grazing our fingertips.

Afterward, we had soup and sandwiches at our clubhouse.  After a match at their club the buffet consisted of roast beef, turkey, or ham at carving stations; omelette creations whipped up by a chef; tri-colored sauces cooked to order over al dente pastas; and desserts that filled a 12-foot table.

A match at Trump's Mar-a-Lago
Our team moved up to Division 3.

Now I play in an over-55 league in Florida.  It’s called “55Love” to promote a feeling of camaraderie while we go out to kill each other with lobs that bounce over the fence or spin serves that no-one our age can reach.  With braces hiding our knees and ankles bound in support tape, we say  “Nice shot”  to anything we can't chase and we mean it.  We’ve spent decades practicing putting the ball where they ain’t.

Here’s a poem I wrote about my tennis life these days.

We 55-Love’s
Have plenty of “cool,”
We’re on-the-go grandmas
And we ain’t no fools.

We wear ‘lastics and braces,
Sun-block without traces.
Our bras must have wire,
And we’re always on fire (inside and out)!

Our few Facebook friends
Are all on our team.
Our talk is of grand kids,
Not how to get lean.

We can’t run five miles
So we get on machines,
Till laundry’s in piles
And the knees get real mean.

Our uniforms don’t match,
We choose from three colors.
Our bodies have patches
Our faces…well, duller!

We eat healthy fruits
And veggies galore,
No colas or caffeine,
But no wine???  What a bore!

“It’s my shoulder!” we say.
“I didn’t sleep” from another.
“I don’t like this gear,
I’ve got bunions like mother’s!”

“Nice to meet you,” we say,
With a smile for their team.
Our 55Love Team's Sportsmanship Trophy for the League 2016
They all match in gray
As they shake hands and beam.

We don’t check the internet
For all the league scores.
“What team have we met?
I can’t hear anymore.”

“Out??  Are you sure?
The ball hit the line.”
There’s no yelling, no gore.
“It’s yours,” we say, “fine!”

Spectators and noise
Don’t bother at all.
Our sportsmanship trophies
Sit on a wall.

It’s not wins or losses –
We’ve learned what will glue.
It’s laughter and memories
And friends who are true!

To those past five-five
And to those even more,
Raise a glass!  We're alive,
There’s more LOVE in store!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cooking the Turkey

     Growing up, I didn't help my mother cook.  There was a good reason  - my mother hated cooking and the dinners she served consisted of things like frozen fish sticks warmed in the oven or creamed eggs on toast. These were not things I enjoyed eating, let alone cooking!

     For holidays,  we usually went to my father's side of the family in New Jersey.  There, my mother didn't have to cook anything.  My grandfather, Lucius  (can you believe that name?), and his wife (whom we called "Aunt Marion," since he was a widower and she was his third wife but we adored her!) hired a cook and her son and daughter-in-law to run everything in the kitchen.  We had both sets of grandparents there, and sometimes my two aunts with their families.  When Mary sent word came from the kitchen that the turkey was ready for carving, we all gathered in the dining room at a large mahogany table with wall paneling to match. My grandfather disappeared into the kitchen and re-emerged to "Ooh"-ing and "Ahh"-ing with a platter boasting the gigantic turkey, browned and crisp that Mary had put in the oven at 5 a.m.. Lucius placed the platter on a sideboard and flourished his weapons (carving knife and fork), telling us to watch his time-honored method.  As he sliced deep next to the breastbone, white juices followed the sluice. Our mouths salivated.  After each slice, he raised the shimmering knife and fork head-high and brought them down again into the tender breast. When the slices and dressing covered a serving platter, Mary's son appeared to hold the platter so each of us could help himself.  My grandfather stepped on a button in the floor and the side dishes began to appear, Mary's daughter-in-law rotating through the swinging kitchen door with her husband.

     So when I got married, Charley knew he'd be my guinea pig.  He married me anyway.  I tried simple meals first, like baked boneless chicken breast with a slice of orange on top (I called it "chicken a l'orange") or omelettes, usually burned on the bottom but runny in the center.  Somehow, Charley forgave me and kept eating whatever was put before him.

     On our first Thanksgiving we were stationed at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. One of Charley's four brothers came down for a visit.  I attempted my first turkey - a boneless roast.  I didn't dare attempt cooking the entire bird.  I took the roast out of the freezer Thanksgiving morning, put it in the oven in the early afternoon, and proceeded to make the apple pie, mashed potatoes, and beans.

     When I put the browned roast on a platter for carving, Charley's flourish of weapons didn't exactly resemble my grandfather's.  In fact, his knife got stuck in the center, where it was still frozen solid.  I put the boneless breast back in the oven and we continued drinking.

     After the meal, I asked Charley's brother how he liked the apple pie.  He said, "Well, the apples were good" (meaning the crust was a soggy pile of dough). That taught me never to ask a guest's opinion of my cooking!
Someone else's apple pie without soggy crust

     After that, I bought Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It taught me a lot about sauces and what wines to serve with what, but didn't teach me how to cook a turkey.  This was in the dark ages, before I could Google "How do I cook a turkey?"

     After a couple of more years in the Air Force, we lived in New England.  We went to Charley's parents' house for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. All I had to do was buy some pies.

     Then we had kids.  I'd already graduated to chicken parmesan, rib roasts, and lasagna, so I brazenly bought my first whole turkey to cook on Christmas.  I made the stuffing and put it in a casserole dish because one of my girlfriends had told me it was unsafe (bacteria-wise) to put it in the cavity of the turkey.  I weaved together the legs and tail with metal skewers and dutifully basted the bird every hour. Charley brandished his weapons to carve, reading from instructions on a sheet I'd picked up at the grocery store.  It was a repeat of Delaware.  The center inside was still frozen, where the bag of unthawed giblets hid.

     It was The Joy of Cooking that finally gave me specific instructions, but to this day my kids claim they suffered with my cooking.  I blame it on my mom, who can't answer.

This year's side dishes