snow crab

My husband and I were  dining at an all you could eat Seafood Buffet in Reno, California.  This was the most delicious fresh, snow crab we had eaten in years. We aggressively cracked the crab and ate every delicious morsel of this outstanding crustacean.  I wasn’t always successful and became quite entertainingly frustrated – just couldn’t get the crab quick enough.  A waitress took pity on me and gave me a different set of “crab crackers” to speed up the process.  My husband’s shirt was saturated with hot butter and peppered with crab shards. Bits and pieces of crab were scattered on our booth and the floor beneath us. As we brushed off our dinner from our clothing, the sweet smell of butter and crab remained with us.  We gave that particular waitress a special tip.  She earned it.

“This isn’t the depression.  Stop worrying about getting every little piece.  Just grab another” my husband stated with a full mouth of crab.

Have you ever noticed the difference between people who are born to working class, or adults who were born to parents who survived the Great Depression, or people who immigrated to the US?

I was raised in a home where food did not go to waste.  My parents were raised during the depression.  Their parents grew up in Europe and immigrated to the United States.  They were all involved in WWI, WWII, Vietnam and the Korean Wars, in one way or another.  Two of my grandparents had 10 brothers and sisters.  No food ever went to waste in those households.  Nothing went to waste in their households.

We, as Americans, have a history of recycling going back to the 1700s.  The colonists collected rags to make paper money.  In WWI, people ate “meatless and wheat less”  before the words, vegan and gluten free, became the trend it is today.  Unfortunately, by the the 1920s, recycling was considered low class.  ( Star Tribune.  Star Tribune.com has an interesting timeline.)

As a result, we learned to conserve before recycling became the “thing” to do to protect the environment.  It was part of their survival and became part of our every day life. We bought fresh milk and bread daily or just enough food to eat so nothing would go bad.  This was a waste of money we did not have.  We also ate all the food on our plates because we always thought of the hungry children in Africa who didn’t have any food.  By the way no one in my family is overweight.

We had cloth napkins and table clothes; some of which still survive today. I remember seeing balls of rubber bands and string in my grandparents’ drawer. They threw nothing away.

When we received gifts, we carefully removed the wrapping paper, peeled off the tape, smoothed the wrinkles, and folded the paper.  We reused to wrap another gift in the future or to make collages.

Ah, my favorite memory was Christmas cards.  We would receive dozens of Christmas cards each year.  Now I get ten, maybe.  We would read the poetry and then string the cards up around the entrance to our living room.  When the season was over, we would save and cut the cards up and make as collages or make new cards.

When Reynolds foil was introduced into our household, it was used more than once.  I think silver foil came first and then the plastic containers.  Recall the one word Mr. McGuire told Benjamin to think of in “The Graduate” in 1967 — “Plastics”.  We wrapped the item up in foil or covered a glass bowl of food and placed it in the frig.  We cleaned and folded the foil and used it for another time.

Simple things, like we turned off the water when we brushed our teeth.  We had been through several droughts and water was and is precious. It was also expensive. In a family of six with one bathroom, we learned to take showers quickly and efficiently.  There was always a line to get in. We were conserving although we didn’t know it.

Grandma used tea bags more than once as I do now.  I noticed my Japanese daughter in law doing the same.

We didn’t have lunch bags, we had lunch boxes.  Sadly, I have seen some of them for sale in antique shops.

We didn’t have a clothes dryer – we hung our clothes up.  This was a challenge during  the east coast winter months.  It is the also the one habit I do not follow.

We also lived in a suburban area close to all transportation, delis and grocery stores.  We had one car and my father took it to work. My mother did not drive, she didn’t have to.  I did not get my license until I was 20 and moved away.  Imagine, we walked everywhere.  The gas we saved; the cars we saved; the money we saved by not going to the gym.

Most of these habits I followed until I became a working, single mother with two boys.  The hectic and complex life led to paper napkins, lunch bags, fast dinners, two bathrooms.  Living in California suburbia, each one of us had a car.  Who had time for tea?   We did the best we could under the circumstances.  Our mantra when cleaning up after dinner was “We recycle”.

Life has changed and money is short,  we are returning to the basics.  Our recycling is at least three times larger than our garbage.  While our garbage is picked up, we drive to the recycling center to drop off.  Since we are living in a California rural area with little or no public transportation, we drive everywhere.  So we make weekly runs to do errands, recycling, buy groceries and then enjoy a nice lunch together.

This all makes a difference, you make a difference.

   How long does it take things to break down when sent to the landfill?

GARBAGE DUMPTin – 100 years

Aluminum – 500 years

Glass – 1 million years.

                                  REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE


  1.      In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage.  This means that each adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs. of trash for his or her children.

2.      Each of us generates on an average 4.4 pounds of waste per day per person.

3.      Enough energy is saved by recycling one aluminum can to run a TV set for three hours or to light one 100 watt bulb for 20 hours.

4.      Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.

5.      Annually, enough energy is saved by recycling steel to supply Los Angeles with electricity for almost 10 years.

6.      You can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one new one.

7.      Five recycled plastic bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.

8.      Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates 1 job, land filling the same amount creates 6 jobs, recycling the same 10,000 tons creates 36 jobs.

9.      Every Sunday, the US wastes nearly 90% of the recyclable newspapers.  This wastes about 500,000 trees.

10.   American’s throw away enough office and writing paper annually to build a wall 12 feet high stretching from Los Angeles to New York City.

11.   If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 94 were laid end to end, they’d reach the moon and half way back to earth.

12.   Recycled steel cans are used to make new steel products including cars, bridges, lawnmowers, stoves, and construction materials.

13.   Every time a ton of steel is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1000 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestone are preserved.

14.   We throw away enough iron and steel to continuously supply all the nation’s automakers.

15.   Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them from raw materials.

16.   Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day. Every minute of the day, more than 9,000 tin cans are recovered from the trash with magnets.

17.   The average American throws out about 61 pounds of tin cans every month.

18.   Glass containers recycled in 94 would fill 103,333 tractor trailers. Bumper to bumper, they’d stretch from Dallas to Los Angeles.

19.   Each year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups.

20.   Even 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill.

21.   It takes 2 plastic soft drink bottles to make enough polyester fiber to make a baseball cap.

From:  www.indstate.edu/facilities/recycle/docs/funrecyclefact


Mixed Family Blues

“Susan, please do the dishes, it is your turn.”

Mother Gothel & Rapunzl

Mother Gothel & Rapunzl

I am standing in front of the kitchen sink stacking and clearing the plates. Frantically, I’m trying to get it all done before we go out for the evening. My back is facing the rest of the kitchen and dining room. Susan, my fifteen year old stepdaughter, is sitting on the floor between the kitchen and dining room. Her attention focused on her (as usual) self. Head bent over, one hand is holding her foot and the other is holding the nail clippers. She is showing more skin than clothes.

Without turning my head, I calmly state, “Susan, I have asked you many times not to do that in the kitchen. Who would want to eat your toenails?” My voice might have been calm outside; however, my insides were comparable to an atom bomb that is in place to explode on the count of ten. I wonder to myself if anyone else is hot in this air-conditioned room.

“It’s not my turn to do dishes. I do them all the time, why don’t you ask your son to do them.”

The phone rings several times. Since, no one hears it or they do not know how to answer it, I step over Susan and walk past my husband who is sitting nearby on the couch reading the newspaper. After I finish speaking on the phone, I walk by my husband, step over my step daughter, and return to the sink stacking and clearing the plates so she can do the dishes. If either one of them raised their heads to look at me, they might have noticed my hair is a different color.

“Bob that was your sister letting us know they will meet us in twenty minutes at the movie theater.” Bob has not moved except to flip the paper to the sports section.

“OK, hon, but let’s get going. I don’t like to keep them waiting.” I really think he is singing the words while an atom bomb is ticking in my body.

Susan, still focused on her feet, asserts that she is picking up her toe nails as she is clipping them. I know she is here physically, but mentally she is nowhere to be found. She swings her long, beautiful head of blond hair. I hear her say, “I am pretty sure it is not my turn. We went out last night, so that counts as my turn.”

“Hon” my husband again sings from behind the newspaper. “Hon, are you ready to go? You know I don’t like to keep my sister and her husband waiting.” Didn’t he just say that so Susan and I could hear? My inner bomb is starting the final, final countdown.

I can hear her mumble something about someone being so lame.

“Susan, please do the dishes quickly. You have not done them all week and it is your turn.” The bomb is ready for takeoff. My husband is standing in the doorway, jackets in hand ready to go.

Susan jumps to her feet, tilts her head and puts one hand on her hip. “Fine, but I can’t do the dishes now. My toenails are drying. ”


The six of us sat in the Thai restaurant eating dinner while discussing our current book selection “My Name is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira. It is a well researched fiction about a young midwife determined to break the barrier against women in medicine. During the Civil War she practiced as a doctor and you should read this passionate, riveting novel. I don’t want to give it away.

Eating seafood pumpkin curry and about six other scrumptious dishes, we discussed highlights of the book. Each one of us contributed something about the passion and dedication Mary Sutter possessed to be who she was and who she became. We recognized the sacrifices experienced to learn her craft, and her passion for healing.

It is refreshing to speak with this group of educated, articulate women. All of us are or have been successful career women. Many of us are mothers. I enjoy this monthly meeting, sharing viewpoints, and I usually depart with more knowledge than when I arrived.

However, this particular evening was different. It went something like this:

Book Club Question: “Women’s rights have greatly expanded since Mary’s time, but do you believe that women are still limited by prejudice as to what they can or should do professionally? Do you believe men and women should have different roles or responsibilities within society? “

“What women in today’s world can compare to Mary Sutter?”

Silently we sat, sipping water (some of us drank wine), looking at each other as we searched our brains for an answer.

“Of course, we shouldn’t have different roles,” firmly stated the woman seated at my left. “Indira Gandhi. Gawd that was one ugly lady” another stated.

Cringe: The first and only female Prime Minister of India and that’s all that can be said. But while I know she overcame many obstacles and eventually died for them, I could not recall any of her accomplishments.

“Mother Theresa” the sweetest woman in the club said. We all folded our hands and nodded in agreement.

Lastly, and the point of this article, one of us asked: “What about Hillary Clinton.”

“Have you seen her lately? She looks tired,” blurted the woman on the right end of the table.

“Uglier than Indira?” (I kept that remark to myself.)

“She is the most traveled political figure. She recently had a health scare….”

“She looks old and tired. She should really do something,” wink, wink.

Here, where least expected, women were evaluating a strong female political figure on her looks. If Hillary is going to be judged, let it not be on her age, looks, and wrinkles; and let us not forget her hairstyle. It must be on her experience, achievements, ethics and tenacity; the same yardstick we use to measure her male counterparts. “Negative stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning.”

Disturbed by my silence and inaction, I immediately set upon researching everything Hillary. This was not only about Hillary; it was about stereotyping a woman who has earned the right to be remembered for more than her looks.

Hillary has been involved in politics as early as 1964 when she campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. She was inspired to become more involved with public service after hearing a speech by Rev Martin Luther King. She became a democrat in 1968. From that time on she has worked on committees with then Senator Walter Mondale; campaigned for George McGovern. She was a member of an impeachment inquiry during the Watergate Scandal. She has relentlessly pursued human rights, women’s rights, health care reform. This “It Takes a Village” author is a passionate children’s advocate.

My panties get twisted when I hear she is too old. Ten men were in their 60s when they were President of United States. Vice President, Joe Biden, is 70. World leaders such as the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and Raul Castro, President of Cuba are in their 70s. Again, disagree with their politics if you please, but discrediting them because of age is discrimination.

Along with age comes experience. Hillary is the only political figure that can claim she was First Lady (1993-2001), US Senator (New York 2001-2009), Secretary of State (2009-2013).

Impressive resume, don’t you think?

She is not without controversy. Name any government figure with 45 years experience that is not. It cost $60 million to investigate Whitewater. Riddled with conflicted information and intense media coverage, Ken Starr and his counsel could not find sufficient evidence linking the Clintons with criminal intent, therefore, they escaped formal charges. The year was 1998 and the name Lewinsky changed politics and cigars forever. I do not condone affairs, but what presidents and their families have paid this high price for having affairs while in office? Unfortunately, we all know at least one woman whose husband has had an affair. However, I cannot name one that has been so criticized for “standing by her man”. Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy come to mind. Like our heroine and protagonist, Mary Sutter, Hillary has dared to breach the political barrier and shatter the glass ceiling.

Listening, while eating my dinner, could be perceived as acceptance. I firmly believe negative stereotyping such as this was is ignorant and damaging. Like the N word, which is the apex of hatred and ignorance, these words are not acceptable.

So what do I do now? I take my pen in hand to spread the word and make a personal vow not to be so passive in the future. I (we) don’t need to get on a pedestal with fire and brimstone. Neither, do I (we) need to accept this injurious banter.

Data from bio.true story, “Hillary’s Choice” by Gail Sheehy, Wikipedia




After all the dishes are cleared and washed, I walk out onto my screened porch. I breathe in the quiet, peacefulness and exhale the frustrations of the day; listen to the hum of the wind whistling through the trees; the low music of our wind chimes; the cacophony of the toads and crickets singing and the occasional squawk of the turkeys.

And then my eyes open to the total blackness. There is no light, not even a moon beam. My neighbors are acres away in this rural part of Northern California. At times I seek solace in the glimpse of their lights shining in the windows. Tonight there is no glow.

The silence and heavenly peacefulness I cherished moments ago have been replaced with overwhelming fear and intense angst in the blink of an eye. The calm breathing quickly transitions into hyperventilation. The once peaceful heart is pounding at record speed.

Why am I afraid of the dark? The majority of children have a fear of the dark and then they grow up. As an independent adult woman, this fear remains with me to this day. Unlike Mack in “Where the Wild Things Are”, I am unable to conquer my demons. Being one of the 5% of adults who admit they are afraid of the dark, I do suffer terribly from insomnia. There is even a name for this condition: achluophopia or nyctophobia. It is “a phobia characterized by an acute fear of the darkness; it is triggered by the minds disfigured perception of what would or could happen in a dark environment” (definition from Wikipedia).

Some scientists believe this phobia is coded in our DNA. Remember the movie where the lions enter the African village and take their human prey willy-nilly? Freud believed fear of darkness is linked to separation anxiety or absence of our mothers converted to fear of darkness.

Personally as a youth, when I had nightmares, Supergirl (the brave me) would fly through the air, hair and blue cape flapping in the wind, and save the day. It was around the time of Super Man reruns on TV.

On business trips I sleep with the lights on. After I have locked the door, I place a chair under the doorknob. Never do I watch “Law and Order” or “Twilight Zone” alone.

Warm baths, glow in the dark stars, night lights, classical music and other tools to eliminate this fear and insomnia leave me restless and irritable. I’ve counted up to 1000 sheep jump that fence. My brain never stops thinking.

But I do know where this adult insomnia stems from. Nine years ago I stoically and heroically conquered breast cancer. The doctor gave me a sleep enhancer because sleeping is imperative to maintaining a healthy immune system.

Fortunately for me, there have been no side effects even when I have stopped taking them for periods of time. However, attempts to not use this medication, leave me bumping into Freddy Krueger in the middle of the night or waking up to Hannibal Lecter sleeping next to me licking his lips “Well Clarice have the lambs stopped screaming” or “How about some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.

My last thought as I leave the porch and prepare for bed is a scene in the book and movie, “The Road” by Carmac McCarthy. Charlize Theron is tearfully saying goodbye to her husband and slowly walks into the darkness. Unable to deal with this new apocalyptic world, she chooses to walk into the cold dark night, the land of no light, the land of cannibalism, and the land of the unknown.

So I take my pill and sleep like a baby. I do not want to be Charlize.


lushI am thinking of taking a part of this essay and adding to a short story I am writing. Please leave your constructive criticisms and advise. It would be greatly appreciated and will be paid forward.

Sada glances at the blank page on her lap. Pen to paper she is thinking about the story she has to write for the next day’s assignment. 

Her mind empty as the document that lay before her, she quickly looks at the baseball game on TV.  Score is 0 to 1; third inning; San Francisco Giants against Colorado Rockies.  Favor Giants, Aaron Rowand up, no one on base. What is up with Brian Wilson and that beard? The hum of the clothes dryer can be heard in the background.

“What do I have to say” she thinks with opened eyes and wrinkled forehead as she sits in the overstuffed chair, wrapped in a blanket hoping for the epiphany to arrive.  She notices the shadow of her pen in hand as it skates across the lined tablet.  Written words make little sense but could be the birth of a new person or split personality. She rereads the assigned chapter “Juggling” for inspiration.  Jerome Stern, the author advises “use actions you can describe authoritatively”.  She outlines a list of her specialties.  Long career in stocks and bonds; motherhood; spouse; divorce; fencing; racket ball, now golf and other usual life experiences. Oh, the disappointment this essay is not flowing with words and ideas, vivid descriptions, detailed and deep expressions that all would enjoy reading.  Pamela Houston, a recent speaker in the class, emphasized writing is not easy, it is incredibly hard.  Sada smiles at that thought because Pam is a talented, experienced awarded writer, and she has the same issues.  What would Amy Tan do?

“Buster Posey up at bat, bottom of fourth, no one on base” screeches the TV announcer.

Frustration increases, distress increases.  Her stomach muscles tighten.  Her throat becomes parched.  She is on the third bowl of stoned ground white tortilla chips.  She pauses for the right theme to race from her brain to her hand and onto that lined tablet.   Every topic that comes to mind simply does not make sense and is not good enough.  The sound of the clock ticks a second, a minute, an hour has passed. Sada closes her eyes, holds her head in her hands and tries to visualize the story. 

She sees a scared little girl sitting in the second seat, third row in the large Catholic city school classroom.  The black board walls and tin lockers surround the 60 little girls dressed in the same navy blue plaid jumpers over white blouses with puffy sleeves.  The eight year old students stare at a large crucifix that hangs on the wall they face daily.  There is a man’s figure suspended on a cross.  He is scantily dressed with blood on his body and thorns crowning his head.  There are nails in his hands and feet supporting him on the cross.  All the eyes are down and hands folded neatly on their desks.  Sister Mary Margaret, dressed in the Sister of Charity habit, stands before the class.  Her fingers fondle one of the large rosary beads wrapped around her waist.  The nun’s eyes scan the classroom back and forth looking for the unfortunate child to answer the question.  Please, dear God, don’t let it be me.  No matter what answer I give, it simply won’t be good enough.

Hello – Let Me Introduce Myself

Have you ever read a book and there is one line that jumps out at you like an omen or warning.  In her book,  The Last Days of Dogtown, Anita Diamont,  had that one line that screamed:  “If you are going to do it, you must begin”.

She WAS talking to me about pursuing a dream to write short stories, essays and humorous articles.  The last two years have been attempts to write or attempts to paint or simply attempts.  Much of my time is spent writing or thinking about writing.  Today, I am doing — establishing a blog as a way to improve my writing.

And so I begin.  Hope you enjoy or at least walk away with something to think about.  Look forward to hearing from you soon.

Longislandpen  has attended college, workshops, belongs to writing and book clubs.  She written financial articles for the Contra Costa Time and Diablo Magazine, job descriptions, flow charts, financial recommendations and letters.  Her career in the investment field included public speaking and business meetings.

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