Friday, December 24, 2010

And To All A Good Night!

Happy Christmas Eve!    A quiet day for me because this is going to be a low-key Christmas.    Today I replaced the strike plate on my front door (after it fell off yesterday and slipped through a crack).     Now I don't have to worry about the door blowing open in the wind.

I did laundry, I fussed and straightened.   (Trying not to end up on Santa's naughty list!)

I made pignolata the way great grandma used to make it (back in Sicily she didn't add the sugar and citrus that appears in many recipes, so I don't either).    I'll put it together with the chocolate and powdered sugar in the morning.   If I made it tonight, it wouldn't last until then.
 I got my car washed and filled the tank.    I made the beignet dough and set it in the refrigerator to proof.   I did the dishes and put them away.    And then I moved as much as I could to NEXT year's To Do list!   I talked to my daughter on the phone -- her gifts finally arrived this afternoon, just in time!    A "friend" of hers, occasionally violent, wanted to talk to me to let me know he is "trying so hard to do good."    I was not harsh with him but I told him in no uncertain terms that he will have to do better.   I talked briefly to my sister, who is doing too much, wearing herself out, and showing it in her voice.    I talked to Dr. Cranky who wanted me to feel guilty that he is alone.

I watched enough television news to learn that the oldest Santa School, where people train to be "stand-in Santas" to help Santa out, is in Midland, Michigan, just a few miles from me.     The newscaster said it's not as cold there as the North Pole, but almost.  

I watched a little of "It's a Wonderful Life," but got pulled away by CSI.   I drank a toast to myself with gin and tonic, and wished that I'd bought potato chips.    And yes, I confess, I spent way too much time on Facebook!

Now it's time to snuggle into the covers of my bed and listen for Santa's reindeer bells (as they pass by my house again, lol)!     I might dream of my freezer-full of sugar plums, or their equivalent, but I am hoping for a stocking-full of healthy friends and family.   In other respects,  I already have more than I need.

I hope you all have a warm and wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seriously, Doctor? What makes you think I eat too much sugar?

Only the tip of the proverbial iceberg is visible here because there is stuff underneath and more in my kitchen -- this week I received one box of See's chocolates and three boxes of baked goods from Zingerman's.    I live alone.    You do the math.

Theoretically Speaking

Just a hypothetical question.    If you had (for instance) a child who has a drug addiction, and a mental illness (or two), and has suffered brain damage, and if (just suppose) that child told you that she is (again) asking her social worker to put her into a drug rehab program, would you tell her that you are sick of hearing about it because she has claimed a million times that she was going to get help but never follows through, and that you don't believe for one minute that she will follow through this time, and that she is just wasting your time?    

I didn't think so.

And I really, really hope that, despite what I have been told, that no one else told her that, either.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


 It has been snowing, on and off, which adds to the Christmas feeling.    Christmas music playing at all the malls and on the radio.   So of course, although I have so little to do, I have been getting into the spirit of the season by being -- FRANTIC!    I decided to save a few minutes today by using a postal machine to mail my final (I hope) packages.   Everything went well, no lines, easy-peasy -- until I tried to put the boxes into the mail chute, which was LOCKED!     I drove all over town trying to find an open chute that would accept my packages, before I finally just drove home, went on line and requested a package pickup from my front porch sometime tomorrow.    So, even though my decorations are up and my presents have long been purchased and wrapped, I finally got to have a little Holiday Hysteria.    Life is good.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Even though it was not a great shelling trip compared to years past, I found some nice shells.  In fact, when I got them all out and spread out, I wondered why I had complained at all!   Truth is, I probably should have only picked up half a dozen, but here is what I brought home.

Some were tiny:
 Some were a little bigger (and I found a nice operculum):
 There were lots of bubble shells:
 There were whelks (including one pretty nice one):
 And venus sunrays:
 And coral:

And the stuff I found at Blind Pass -- including some cones and a bit of junonia!:
And of course I always pick up things that are orange:
And some were gifts from a Sanibel friend who has a shell collection as beautiful as her warm and generous spirit:
 Wow, that's the good thing about taking pictures!   What a wonderful shelling trip -- who knew?!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From Cold to Colder

It seemed really cold in Florida when I woke up to 31 degrees, but when I returned to a 9 degree morning at home, Florida didn't seem so cold anymore!   It is good to be home, but it was nice to be on Sanibel.

Now that I am back on my laptop, I can download a few of my photos -- unfortunately, I STILL don't know how to get the pictures from my iPod.   I might have to break down and read the manual.

Here are a few bits and pieces of my trip:

Of course I went shelling, and some days were better than others:

I found some wentletraps :

I ate:

I drank:

I met the Amazing Katie:

And I saw wild things eating wild things:

All in all, the cold didn't prevent it from being a very nice trip.    I'll try to post a picture of the shells I brought home as soon as I find out which of them survived the journey home!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cold and wet, Florida style

My rental car said it was 31 degrees when i went to Blind Pass this morning. The water felt even colder and it was windy. But I had my heart set on finding an alphabet cone so I climbed over the railing and down the rocks. My optmism sunk a bit when I saw that several shellers were already climbing over the pile. One woman was using the kick and smash method of shelling, digging her boots into the pile and grinding away. We really need a shellers' etiquette book! I kept to the water's edge as is my wont and found the best shells of the week -- nice olives, a lovely nutmeg, an orange turban, some coral (including a piece of branch coral), 2 alphabet cones, some other cone and a piece of junonia. I wanted to keep looking but I wanted to feel my fingers and toes again even more so I went back to the condo for some coffee. Why does cold and wet feel so much better on Sanibel than it will tomorrow in Saginaw?!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Ever since I learned last year that there are wentletraps shells on Sanibel, it's been my mission to find them. Today I finally developed enough 'shell eye' to see them. Happy day! Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to post a blog-photo from my iPod yet!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Yesterday morning brought a fluffy covering of snow, a dark and gloomy day, and strips of black ice on the freeway.    I passed countless accidents, at least 8 cars that had gone off into the drop-offs on the side of the road, and one that was flipped entirely upside down in the middle of the road.    Today looks about the same.     It's beginning to look a lot like winter.    I am not smiling.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

Many years ago, I facilitated an AIDS support group for families, friends and partners of those infected with HIV/AIDS.    Today, on World AIDS Day, I remember my little group.

Mary was one of the earliest members of our group.    She was 86, she was tiny and absolutely beautiful, and she was every inch a lady.  She was always nicely dressed, she was sweet tempered, she had a halo of white hair and eyes as bright as stars. She was also, as little old ladies in my community tended to be, traditional, very religious and politically conservative. Mary had always been adored and protected. She was a respected member of her church, loved by all, a wonderful wife and mother, and gratefully living a privileged, picture-perfect life. Except that she had just learned two things about her youngest son, an extremely handsome man in his 40s, a successful businessman, husband and the father of Mary’s grandchild. Mary had just learned that her son was gay, and that he was rapidly dying of AIDS.

This was in the days when homophobia was open and acceptable. People were really terrified of AIDS, and having a homosexual in the family was reason enough to be condemned and shunned by neighbors and friends.  AIDS was almost universally considered more a judgment than a disease.   (People were also confused in those days about the distinction between adult homosexuality and pedophilia, and many were unaware that child molestation, whether hetero or homosexual, is a crime and a disorder, and never part of a healthy sexuality.)  People with AIDS routinely lost their jobs, their friends, and their families.  And their families, in turn, routinely lost the support of their friends, their family and their church.   So our group was the rare safe place for families who were dealing with multiple levels of pain, and the place where they were able to first admit out loud that there was homosexuality in their family, and that their child or spouse or friend had been diagnosed as HIV positive.   

Anyway, as Mary tried to wrap her mind around her new reality, she quietly and privately struggled with many things. Her son and his family had been living out of the country but they were in frequent contact, and Mary wondered what signals of her son’s suffering she had missed. She sought out what little information there was about her son’s disease, and took steps to help care for her grandchild and daughter-in-law. She did not talk to her priest, her neighbors, or her extended family, because, as was perfectly reasonable for those times, she felt certain of their reactions., certain of their rejection. 

In our little support group, Mary sat and listened for several meetings without saying a word. Finally, she approached me privately and said that she had never wondered about these things before, but now she wanted to know why people hated and feared homosexuals. What is it that they do, she wondered, that was so universally condemned as evil. And so Mary and I talked about sexuality.  More specifically, because of the circumstances in Mary's life, we talked about male homosexuality.  

I should explain that this was not as unnerving for me as it might have been had I not spent my career presenting objective descriptions and analyses of legal matters, including details of criminal sexual conduct. I have been called on to describe explicit sexual allegations dozens of times, to judges and even a priest or two, so I had overcome some of the normal reticence in discussing intimate matters. And I brought those skills to bear in my conversation with Mary, who sat there looking like an angel. I told her that homosexuals are drawn by affection and attraction to people of their own sex, and  at her insistence I described, in unflinching detail,  every variety of adult gay sex I could think of.  I tried to tell her everything I knew because I didn't want her to  hear about it elsewhere, in a hostile conversation.  As always, Mary listened quietly and intently, asking questions to be sure she understood everything I was telling her.

Finally Mary looked at me with her clear blue eyes. “Are you telling me that the Church, the government and my neighbors all hate a group of people because they don’t like the  people they choose as lovers and the kind of sex they are having? Are you sure? Because that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.” Mary shook her head and said, “now I’ve lived to see everything.” 

In those days, there was a funeral almost every week and I led the services for many of them.   Almost half of the HIV-infected people I met were women, and two were children.   Mary's son was one of the casualties, and our group suffered repeated, unimaginable loss.  We cried rivers of tears.    Ironically, we also laughed more than most people laugh in their lifetime, as families were able to share, without censor, some of their fondest memories of their loved ones.    The new drug cocktails became available in time to save the child, a daughter, of only one of our group's members.   

Much has changed since then, but not everything.   The drug therapies have provided new hope, but HIV is still a health threat and people who are infected or affected continue to suffer from stigma, poverty and ignorance.   I recently heard on npr that 2/3 of the people who need the anti-viral drugs, worldwide, are not getting them.   We still need more research, more education and a lot more compassion.