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.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cobh, Ireland (Queenstown from1849-1921 under English rule)

     Cobh, Ireland (pronounced "Cove"), is the second-largest natural harbor in the world after Sydney, Australia. Each year around sixty cruise liners visit the port. We visited the waterfront town for several other reasons.
Waterfront Cobh, Ireland
     For many years Cobh was the port for Cork, lying on a glittering estuary dotted with brightly colored houses and overlooked by the massive St. Colman's Cathedral high above the town. More on the Cathedral later.
     Charley's family history could be traced to County Kildare and later County Cork and the port of Cobh. From 1848 to 1950 no fewer than 2.5 million emigrants left the port for other lands. During the famine years (named "The Great Potato Famine," although there was a plentiful supply of potatoes but the English demanded the shipments), seventy thousand people left from Cobh to escape the ravages of starvation.
Statue of Annie Moore and children, representing all those who left to seek a better life.
     In 1838 the Sirius sailed from Cobh, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. In 1912 Cobh was the final port of call for the Titanic. And in 1915 the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Kinsale. Survivors were brought to Cobh and many victims were buried there.
     We visited "Cobh, the Queenstown Story" exhibit in the Cobh Heritage Center, where we saw convicts' quarters below deck on their way to Australia, "so airless that candles could not burn." We saw families of emigrants in steerage quarters and read their diaries. The howl of a storm almost knocked us off-balance. We saw photos of those who had crossed on the Lusitania before its fateful voyage.
A passenger documented her Atlantic crossing on the Lusitania 1913
We saw recreations of life aboard the Lusitania, complete with china, linen tablecloths, and drawing rooms that rivaled the finest mansions of the time.
     We went next door to the "Titanic Experience Cobh" in the original White Star Line offices, where 123 passengers embarked on the SS Titanic. The technical wizardry was impressive but more memorable was standing on the spot from which passengers were ferried to the waiting ship offshore, never to return.
     Before our trip to Ireland, Charley and I had both read Dead Wake by Erik Larson. It's the story of those who sailed on the Lusitania, as well as those who destroyed it, hour by hour from its sailing in New York to its sinking off the Irish coast. We paid a visit to the massive French Gothic St. Colman's Cathedral, out of all proportion to the town, where many of the bodies lay after tragedy struck.
Cobh waterfront 1880's with St. Colman's Cathedral in background
     Begun in 1868, the Cathedral was not completed until 1915, mostly through donations from nostalgic Irish communities in the US and Australia. We did not see or hear its famous 47-bell carillon, the largest in Ireland.
Inside St. Colman's Cathedral, Cobh
     In fact, we didn't examine much inside the Cathedral. A shrouded body lay beneath the altar waiting to go to its final resting place, apropos of the Lusitania story. Since we were the only ones inside the Cathedral, we abandoned our tour and let the soul journey in peace.



   
   
   

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

J.J.

After driving for thirty-plus years while traveling abroad, Charley got sick of it. We decided our new policy would be to hire someone local to get behind the wheel who could speak decent English, unless we were with a tour group (which we'd only done twice, when we couldn't make all the arrangements ourselves). If someone else were driving, we could relax and enjoy the surroundings without getting lost or having an argument.

John Jennings drove us from Kenmare, Ireland, on the southwest coast through the Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Lakes of Killarney, to Kinsale, Ardmore, Cobh, Blarney, and up to Dublin on the east coast.

A retired 6-foot Waterford police detective with bushy gray eyebrows overhanging piercing olive eyes, he showed up the first morning in a biker's jacket that matched his eyes. A trimmed gray mustache gave his squared face a rugged Sean Connery look. I could picture him in an interrogation, never taking his eyes off a suspect. "Call me J.J.," he said.

I asked him where he was from. "I'm from Waterford," he said, "but I spent last night in a B&B over the mountains. It's only about fifteen minutes from where I picked you up." We proceeded to retrace the exact route through the mountain passes that J.J. had traversed to meet us. It took us thirty minutes.

"Why didn't you stay closer?" I said.

"There was a gym in one of the hotels near where I booked, and I like to stay in shape. But the gym wasn't open. Besides, B&B's in Kenmare, where you stayed, are too dear (pricey)."

"What else do you do for excitement?" I asked.

"I climbed St. Patrick's Mountain to the shrine three times on my hands and knees in rock and gravel," he said.

"You must feel very blessed," I said.

I sat in the rear directly behind J.J., whose driver's seat was on the right but who was, of course, driving on the left side of the road. His gray hair was sheared to a stubble, police-style, surrounding his bald 60-year-old dome. A half-inch tentacle from his beard sprouted untended to the left.

J.J.'s right hand never strayed from the wheel, while the long fingers and soft flesh of his left hand gestured in the air to emphasize his constant tales. Strawberry-blond wisps of hair escaped the cuffs of his jacket. His hands belied his avocation as a rugby player throughout his thirties.

While maneuvering through fog on the Dingle Peninsula, weaving around banks of peat and through stone tunnels in the mountainous Killarney National Park, passing lorries and bikers on roads wide enough for a single car approaching Kinsale, and circling round-abouts outside Cork, J.J.'s left hand would scrunch together, supplicating for understanding, or jump up and down to imitate the actions he was describing. We learned of Gaelic Games in his youth on a pitch longer and wider than a soccer field, where'd he had to change afterward on the embankment into rained-out clothes to bike home; of his All-Ireland basketball championship game in the 60's representing County Mayo; of the farm his father owned, whose horses competed in local Sunday jumping competitions.

Since J.J. was so tall as a youth, he couldn't jump in competition on his own horse. "Dad told me to tend another horse while my best friend did the jumpin' in the ring on mine," he said. "My friend was shorter than me.

"'And whatever you do,' Dad said, 'don't let him eat the grass. It will give him a stomach ache.'

"For three hours I pulled that horse's neck up off the turf every time he tried to eat.  Ohh, my arm was achin'.

"Meanwhile, my best friend won first prize. He brought my Rory out to me and Dad said, 'Since you trained him, why don't you ride him to pick up the trophy?'

"I did just that. I rode up to the judge and took hold of that silver urn and turned Rory around to head out. Everyone was cheering like crazy. That's when Rory decided to buck and I went flying forward and landed on my arse. Managed to hold onto the trophy, though. I still have it.

"Now when we get to Blarney Castle, Pamela and Charles, the Stone is 100 steps up inside. You must go to the top and lean backwards while you hang over the wall to kiss the Stone. You'll be given the gift of eloquent speech." He turned in his seat to face us with the smile of a leprechaun.

Seems J.J. had been multiply blessed - three times by St. Patrick, and once by the Blarney Stone!















   

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Our Date on the Wild Side

     During our recent trip to Ireland, Charley and I had an experience we won't soon forget.  We had a date with birds of prey.

     It was something I'd wanted to do since a dear friend, now departed, described her experience bonding with a falcon as full of wonder and joy.  We tried to book with a falconer while staying at Ashford Castle in Cong, but our itinerary was too tight. We tried to arrange another date in Kenmare, near Killarney National Park, but the falconer was totally booked. We finally succeeded with "Willie the Birdman," a traveling falconer outside Waterford.
Willie the Birdman 

     Falconry has been around since 2000 B.C.  It became the most popular form of hunting in the aristocracy, both for sport and for supplementing the table. An aristocrat's status could be determined by his bird of prey - a king had a golden eagle, for example; a duke, a falcon.  Other birds used by falconers today are hawks, kites, and owls.  Owls, however, are very difficult to hunt with because they find their prey with their hearing and hunt at night. They are mortal enemies of diurnal (daytime) raptors.

     We met Willie outside the mews he'd built for his birds, their chambers where they remain tethered unless they're in the falconer's house. The mews looked like over-sized open cages. Eagles had blocks or stumps on which to stand; owls and falcons had limbs or branches.

     There are stringent laws regulating falconry in the U.S. A falconer must pass an exam, build facilities, get them inspected, serve a 2-year apprenticeship, keep records on the birds, catch a wild bird, and get it licensed.  In the UK there is a lack of laws regarding the birds' mews. The only regulation states their mews must accommodate their wingspan.  Taking a bird from the wild is illegal in the UK. However, the survival rate of wild immature falcons is only 10-20%, compared to 90% for those captured and trained.

     One by one Willie introduced us to the owls, starting with an immature barn owl called a passager, which he tethered with a leather leash (jess) from the baby's anklet to my gauntlet by wrapping the jess round and round my little finger and securing the end into a ring on the gauntlet. The young one just sat there and stared at me. I stared back at him.  After a few minutes of mutual admiration, he started swiveling his head around in a circle.  "You can touch his back," Willie said. Touching his feathers was like sinking my hand into a bowl of white cotton.
 
     I wanted to take him back to the States with me, but Willie reminded me these are NOT pets, but birds of prey.  A full-grown owl eats mice, rats, or quail each day. Willie stocks three-month supplies in a freezer, along with shredded raw chicken for the larger species. The falconer must measure each bird's diet to control its weight. If it gets too heavy, it can't fly high and fast; too light-weight, it can't pick up the prey. Their beaks are hooked and their feet are either three or four talons, depending on the species.  Those with four have two talons facing forward and two backward.

Coming in for a landing for food on my glove
     The birds are trained to accept the falconer as a hunting partner who will facilitate his hunting for food, since birds of prey are carnivorous.  The falconer creates positive reinforcement with his voice and with offers of food in small bits at the blow of a whistle. When fully grown, the bird is given freedom from the glove while the falconer helps flush out prey and lets the raptor dive, sometimes up to 200 miles an hour. A bell on its leg alerts the falconer as to its position. At times the raptor is so high the falconer needs a radio tracking device. Sometimes the raptor doesn't come back at all.

     As each owl was released from its mews to my glove, my arm got heavier and heavier, especially with the Snowy White.
















          "You don't have to hold your arm out straight," Willie said. "You can bring your elbow against your side." The snowy got jittery, so Willie put him back in his mews.

     Charley was given the great horned owl, who put on a show after he was released by targeting fresh pieces of chicken on Charley's glove from across an indoor hanger when Willie called.

     Finally Willie took out a kestrel (small falcon) and removed its leather hood . Willie tethered him to my gauntlet while I stared at his beautiful yellow eyes and beak.  He wore an ID band and bell on his leg.  He just sat there immobile, as if he were waiting for me to ask, "What's up?"

   
     The time had arrived!  Willie took a lure (a simulated dead animal) and swung it round and round on a little lasso, then let go. That's when he released the kestrel's jess from my gauntlet. That falcon was in the air in a blur.  Within seconds he had the lure in its beak as Willie whistled him in.  He landed just where he'd begun, on my gauntlet, and was fed the real thing.

     What a thrill!  Nature is truly remarkable. That's my idea of a date on the wild side these days.
Red-tailed hawk, one of two species allowed trapped for falconry in NY State.
Photo courtesy of Alamy

   

   

   

   


Monday, May 29, 2017

The Missing Trophy


(Based on real events)...  

     Detective Fleming:  "What is the tennis captain's name and where was she on the day of the disappearance?"

     Tennis Player:  "Her name is Jones, as in James Earl.  But not the same heritage.  Her first name is Wendy, as in 'Peter Pan.'"

     Detective Fleming:  "And Ms. Jones did not accept the trophy?"

     Player:  "No.  You see, she had torn her Achilles over a year ago and was still in treatment.  She was undergoing acupuncture or she might have been at the doctor's that day.  Not sure which."

     Detective Fleming:  "Who accepted the trophy?"

     Player:  "A member of another team from our club.  Am I going to get her in trouble?"

     Detective Fleming:  "Not if she's innocent."

     Player:  "It was Denise Porter."

     Detective Fleming:  "Were you familiar with this player?"

     Player:  "Well, I know she has two grandchildren and she lives at our club and she has been on the Tennis Committee and received awards and was a captain of a team."

     Detective Fleming:  "Would you say her reputation is impeccable?"

     Player:  "I can't say what she does on her off-hours, but yes, I'd say so."

     Detective Fleming:  "Who else was seated at the table?"

     Player:  "We had other players from our club, including one captain and another member of the tennis committee."

     Detective Fleming:  "But Denise was the one who received the trophy?"

     Player:  "That is correct."

     Detective Fleming:  "What happened to the trophy after it was presented to Ms. Porter?"

     Player:  "She brought it to the table and placed it in the middle, while we all yelled and hollered.  We got a little loud but everyone else did, too, if they won something."

     Detective Fleming:  "Is there reason to believe any other club might have wanted the trophy?"

     Player:  "Every club wants the Sportsmanship Trophy, but it has to be earned and voted on."

     Detective Fleming:  "When did you realize the trophy was missing?"

     Player:  "When we decided to leave. We'd had a good time and the banquet was over."

     Detective Fleming:  "Was there drinking involved?"

     Player:  "We all had a glass of wine, if that's what you mean.  In the middle of the afternoon, most of us can't handle more than that."

     Detective Fleming:  "What happened between the time the trophy was placed on the table and the end of the banquet?"

     Player:  "We were talking to other players at other tables. We were all so glad to get up from our chairs after a long banquet!  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about if you've gone to kids' banquets, Inspector."

     Detective Fleming:  "And when you returned to the table it was gone?"

     Player:  "That is correct."

     Detective Fleming:  "What was the trophy made of?"

     Player:  "It was made of crystal.  Nothing fake, like some banquet awards."

     Detective Fleming:  "Would you say it was valuable?"

     Player:  "Its value lay in the honor to our club and Wendy's team. Do you want me to guess a monetary value?"

     Detective Fleming:  "That won't be necessary. We're investigating everyone on the closed circuit tape who exited the premises.  At the moment a person owning a white SUV is under consideration for something she carried to her car."

     Player:  "A white SUV?  One of our club captains has a white SUV.  As a matter of fact, she was sitting with us."

     Detective Fleming:  "Her name, please?"

     Player:  "Will I get her in trouble?"

     Detective Fleming:  "Not if she's innocent."

     Player:  "Joanne Grubman."

     Detective Fleming:  "I'll look into Ms. Grubman's departure.  Thank you for your time."


Ms. Grubman's cell phone rings.



     Detective Fleming:  "Ms. Grubman?"

     J. Grubman:  "Yes?"

     Detective Fleming:  "This is Detective Felming of the Boca Raton Police Department.  I'm investigating the theft of a crystal trophy from the South Palm Beach County Tennis banquet this afternoon. Specifically, the Sportsmanship trophy won by Wendy Jones' 55Love team."

     J. Grubman:  "Theft?  What theft?  I'm looking at the trophy right now!"

     Detective Fleming:  "Where are you precisely, Ms. Grubman?"

     J. Grubman:  "At Quail Ridge Country Club in the tennis clubhouse. In front of the trophy case, where I put the trophy."

     Detective Fleming:  "Please remain there until I arrive."

     J. Grubman:  "The captain couldn't attend so I brought it to our clubhouse for her."

     Detective Fleming:  "Very thoughtful."

     J. Grubman:  "I have to pick up my children at school, Inspector."

     Detective Fleming:  "I'll be sure to put my lights and siren on for you, Ms. Grubman."

 Thirty minutes later...Ms. Grubman, Detective Fleming, three pros, two pro shop employees, and a court maintenance employee stared at the trophy.

     Detective Fleming:  "It's a beauty, isn't it?"

     Ms. Grubman (on the phone):  "Can my kids stay at your house till I can pick them up?  No, I'm not under arrest.  No, I don't need you to bail me out.  No, don't call my husband.  And not a word to the kids!"

   



     

   



   



   

   

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Inheritance from My Dad

     My father commuted from Connecticut on the train every day to NYC till he was in his mid-seventies.  On weekends he transformed the wily brook on our property into a tamed stream and built a bridge; he sowed and reaped vegetables and fruits; he mowed two acres; he planted, then transplanted, a nursery of evergreens.  He never lacked exercise.

     Dad would slather mayonnaise on his sandwiches and layer each piece of toast or muffin with several swipes of margarine before adding the jelly.  Every evening after dinner he would enjoy a frozen yogurt.

     After their move to Florida in their eighties, Dad's new doctor suggested a cholesterol test.  The total reading was around 350 - off the charts.

     The doctor prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin pill.  Dad began the treatment but within a short time resembled Big Bird.  His liver was malfunctioning.  The doctor prescribed another statin and another.  Dad couldn't tolerate any of them, and there weren't many to choose from back then. Both he and the doc gave up and Dad went back to his routine -  a bowl of cereal for breakfast with toast (covered in margarine) and banana, a sandwich for lunch (with mayonnaise), and whatever Healthy Choice frozen dinner my mother stuck in the microwave, followed by frozen yogurt.

     He lived to be 95.

     I am my father's daughter.  My body is on overdrive producing cholesterol.

     What is cholesterol?

     Cholesterol is a type of fat found in our blood.  The body needs cholesterol to function.  It occurs naturally in every cell of the body.

     HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) or "good" cholesterol is one of five major groups which enable fats to be carried in the blood stream.  Other lipoproteins which enable fats to be carried include LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol).  In healthy adults, approximately 30% of cholesterol in the blood is carried by HDL.

     LDL's function lies in its use in cell membranes, as well as the making of hormones and Vitamin D. However, since our cells take only what they need, excess levels of LDL can enter blood vessel walls and build up under the lining.  Deposits are called plaques.  The "good" cholesterol or HDL acts as a scavenger, picking up excess LDL "bad" cholesterol and delivering it to the liver, where it's broken down. If there is too much excess, deposits can clog arteries, restricting blood flow (hardening of the arteries).  A blood clot may eventually result in a heart attack or stroke.

     I have always lived a healthy lifestyle.  I've played tennis for forty years.  I go to the fitness center and use cardio machines, free weights, and long-and-short muscle machines twice a week.  As a New Englander I eat fish regularly - sometimes more than three times a week.  I enjoy fruits and I mix a fiber drink every night.  I am a lifetime Weight Watcher and panic when I'm five pounds overweight. Sometimes I'm so sick of salads for lunch that I rebel and eat a wrap.

     My HDL "good" cholesterol is very good.  Although it fluctuates, at this moment my LDL "bad" cholesterol is very bad.

     I had no discipline while the grandchildren visited.  I ate Easter candy, frozen yogurt (with hot fudge), cheeses, pastas, and cake.  I ate nuts and homemade breads and chocolate chip waffles with syrup.

      After many trials, the doctor found a statin I could tolerate without resembling my father's sunflower yellow.  It will have to suffice while I revert to my healthy diet.

     The doctor told me there's a monthly shot that's been developed which he's testing on a few patients.  It costs $800/shot.  Seriously??

     Thanks, Dad, for the inheritance.  I'll take my chances with your longevity any day.





Friday, April 28, 2017

A Doctor's Office in Florida

     One November a doctor (not my primary-care) ordered an ultrasound - a simple outpatient procedure at the hospital which lasts approximately twenty to thirty minutes.  I wasn't scheduled to have the test until the following April, and in-between I lost the prescription I needed to take with me.

     I called the doctor's office two days before the scheduled date to request another written prescription. "Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and the nurse will return your call," the answering machine told me.  I did as I was told.  No return call that day.

     I called back the next day to make the same request. Again I heard, "Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and the nurse will return your call."  I explained what I needed and described the urgency for the ultrasound test the next day.  If the doctor couldn't fax me the paper, I was prepared to go pick it up.  No return call that day.

     Since my hospital appointment wasn't scheduled until the afternoon, I jumped in the car the day of the test and headed to the doctor's office in the morning. I signed in and knocked on the closed window. A sign on the glass read, "Please do no knock on the glass."

     "Yes?" the receptionist said.

     "I don't have an appointment but have left messages for two days that I have an ultrasound scheduled this afternoon and have lost my script.  I haven't heard a word."

     "Your name?  (I answered.)  Take a seat, please."  The glass window slid closed and I found an empty chair.

     "I don't know why anyone comes here, but their reputation is so good," the patient sitting next to me said, her long braid following her as she shook her head back and forth.  "There are too many doctors in here.  I had a reaction to a medication and I called this morning, but the doctor's gone on vacation. So now I'm supposed to see another one, but I've got to get back to work in an hour.  They told me on the phone there would be no problem.  I've already waited thirty minutes."  Her mouth turned down as she got up to approach the glass fortification at the window.

     Just then we heard pounding from the outside hall against the waiting room door.  "Let us in!" someone shouted.

     "We're stuck out here and can't get in," another voice yelled.  The pounding continued.

     The patient closest to the door rose to help.  His helpful willingness camouflaged his sallow complexion and sagging Bermuda shorts.  He fiddled with the door knob but couldn't disengage the lock.  The next patient in the row jumped up. "Let me see what I can do, old-timer," he said. When the lock disengaged, a torrent of patients poured in and lined up behind the closed glass doors.

     The woman with the time issue stood at the front of the line.  "Excuse me," she said, knocking on the glass till it shivered in its tracks.  "I'm sorry to cut in," she said to the person signing in, "but I have to get back to work."

     The glass slid open.  "Mrs. Carey?" I heard.

     "Yes," I said, out of my seat like a kid's jack-in-the-box.

     "Here's another copy of your script," the receptionist said, handing me the paper and swiveling an evil eye toward the woman who'd knocked.

     "Thanks," I said, spinning in place for a quick retreat.

     "You're next," the receptionist said to the irritated patient who'd spoiled her day. "Please enter the door to the left. The rest of you, please sign in," she said, slamming the glass shut.

     When I got home, I found the original script buried in my calendar.

     On my follow-up visit, I bit the bullet.  "I've been coming here a long time," I said to the doctor. "May I have a private conversation with you?"  I proceeded to explain the situations that had arisen in one day's visit.

     "If you don't tell us the issues, we'll never know," the doctor said.  "Would you be willing to explain all this to our office manager?"  He led me down the hall.

     The day before I visited that doctor the following year, I got a personalized message on my answering machine confirming my appointment.  When I arrived, the glass doors above the sign-in sheet stood open. Inside the office, one staff member was answering the phone, another writing receipts and scripts for patients exiting. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Carey," the receptionist said with a smile.  "The doctor will be seeing you in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, please sign in and let me know if there's anything I can do for you."

   

   

   

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.