Wednesday, August 25, 2010



A week or so ago, I did a post about Ramazan (Ramadan) and the comments to the blog were few, but I did get a number of emails about the post.

As most folks who know me at all know that I used to live in Turkey and that I have traveled extensively throughout the Middle East. I have a number of close Turkish friends here on the Shore. There are several restaurants here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia that are owned by Turks. I can think of 8 without straining my brain all that hard…

Anyway, my Turkish friends seem to appreciate my pitiful attempts at speaking their language (which I had not spoken for nearly 50 years, except for a selection of cuss words when needed – that my boss could not understand) and they appreciate my love of their country, food, and understanding and acceptance of their customs. So, I and some friends that I hang out with were invited to a Break Fast at an American Turkish cultural center in Georgetown, Delaware. If you read my post on Ramazan, you will remember that they do not eat or drink during daylight hours, which is a long stretch when Ramazan falls in the summer months. Remember Ramazan is based on the lunar calendar, so it is about 11 days earlier every year. Next year the days will be even longer as Ramazan will start about the 1st of August. So, last night, our dinner was served at 8 PM, just after sunset.

Most of the women were dressed in their finest headscarves and long sleeved, floor length dresses. Most of the women and children sat on one side of the room, most of the men and visitors on the other. It just seemed to work that way for ease in feeding and caring for the children, not as a segregation thing. Think about your home at Thanksgiving, the men in front of the TV set or hanging out on the porch or gazebo, the women gathered around in the kitchen… I remember G-ma threatening the men with a spatula if they did not get out of her way… the gazebo was the escape from work or just being underfoot. DSC_0920

Our host, Asher, served us.


DSC_0919 My friend, Mehmet, sat with me. My friends, Beatrice and Grenville, who kindly drove me to the dinner – a wonderful thing since I don’t drive after dark - and sat across from me.

We had a delicious dinner, lentil soup and fresh baked rolls, Turkish meatballs (Köfte – pronounced kind of like Kurftah), pilaf with beef and chickpeas, and a salad, and a sauce to eat with the pilaf. The sauce is a mixture of yogurt, cucumbers, onion and light garlic. All this was followed by fresh made baklava and çay (chai).

It was an emotional experience for me.

If you’ve read much of my blog or if you have known me for a while, you will know I dearly loved the few years I spent in Turkey, I was treated like royalty wherever I went, and I was most fortunate to be able to travel throughout much of the country. That might not look like much on the map, but back in the early 60s, the only paved roads were in the major cities, and there were often no bridges over the shallower rivers, one drove thru them. So travel was slow and yet it gave one a chance to experience the country in a way today’s tourists will miss whizzing by things at 70 mph. Part of my dad’s job was to help set up facilities for building roads and bridges. And being young (I graduated high school in Ankara) I picked up a bit of the language – enough to get in or out of trouble, get something to eat or drink, and find the bathroom! For some reason some of the words have always been part of my thinking vocabulary and just pop out from time to time and I don’t even realize it. I learned to eat eggplant in Turkey, so I learned it as patlican (pot-la-john) and still have to pause and think of the English for it, which in my old age can take some time.

An imam called us to prayer. It has been 46 years since I have heard an actual live voice do the call to prayer. It brought tears to my eyes. I felt very homesick for Turkey. There was prayer both before and after dinner giving thanks for the food and fellowship.

DSC_0111 I got to visit with my dear friend, Ülkü, and her daughter I will call Bebek. You might remember them from the post about visiting the Virginia Museum of Marine Science.

So I want to thank my dear friend, Asher, for inviting me and my friends, Grenville for offering to drive, Beatrice for her company, Mehmet for being my dinner companion, Ülkü and her friends for preparing a wonderful dinner, and the Turkish community for sharing a special occasion with us.

I am still smiling. Çok teşekkür ederim.

Friday, August 20, 2010



Over a year ago, I started to post about Lymes Disease… I just never got it finished, then I started it again. The information seemed a bit overwhelming, so, once again, I abandoned the project, for indeed, it is a major project. However, I feel compelled to try it once again. Bear with me; especially if you have any aches, pains, fatigue, if you have been diagnosed with ALS, fibromyalgia, arthritis, oh, the list is so great… I could go on forever. Hang in there, it may be the post that saves your life!

Here is what I wrote over a year ago:

The other day I had a conversation with a friend of many years, and, as with people our age, the topic got around to health issues. We had been talking about Gratitude, as with a capital G, one of my favorite subjects and the label on my biggest soapbox, and I stated how grateful I was to finally have my diagnosis for Lyme’s disease. She (I will call her Sally) asked me how I could be grateful for having a diagnosis of Lyme’s! I answered, “well, now I finally know what is wrong and I have a fighting chance to do something about it”. Also, it helps to know for sure that whatever is wrong is going to get better… and it might be not so great again from time to time as the disease cycles, but I no longer get in a panic when I have a “bad” day. There are days when my brain is clouded with fog and I have had to learn to sit it out – tomorrow will be better, and it is. I struggle with the nausea from the bucket loads of pills I am taking – antibiotics 3 times a day for 3 months… pro-biotics 2 hours after taking the antibiotics… special cleansers to get all the bad stuff out of my system… and, my usual thyroid and BP meds, B12 and my baby aspirin. Whoops, I forgot my Glucosamine for my arthritis. I am trying to find the right combinations and to make sure I eat enough food with the pills. I have lost my appetite – not a bad thing – and have to force myself to eat – but am not losing any weight – go figure! (actually, I ultimately lost 28 lbs!)

I have always been grateful for the days when I can walk around and get a few things done, whether in the house or in the yard as I had had days when I could not completely dress myself and had to wait 8 hours for someone to come and help me put my socks on – and by then it was almost time to get ready for bed – I am grateful to be able to do the simple things for myself that we all take so for granted.

I learned to sleep with socks on. I learned never to go anywhere without a phone on me or within a few feet. I have 9 phones in 7 rooms, and a cell phone in the van.

And the hardest one of all – I have learned to ask for help. Not often, true… and I might sit on my butt out in the yard for a half an hour before I lift that 4 ton phone to my ear… No, stubbornness is not a symptom. Or stupidity… though brain fog can be.

I got thru that series and a different series of medicines and the results were amazing. Am I 100% cured? No. Can I go out and play soccer? Not hardly. But I can be on my feet for more than 10 minutes without collapsing in a heap in a chair somewhere… or on the ground. I have been able to get some yard work done. I can breathe better. I can sleep at night without 4 pillows under my head or getting up and sitting in the recliner so I don’t feel like I am being suffocated. Or coughing, coughing, coughing, trying to remove something that was just living in my chest and could not be coughed out.

And from another post I tried to write:

A LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT LYMES DISEASE… not that I claim to be any kind of an expert – not even close. But, I do have Lymes disease. I have learned that it appears in several forms, of which I have two. I will give you some information from: or, of course, you can do your own research.

Lyme Disease and Humans

A Disturbing Sequence of Changes © Albert Burchsted Jul 14, 2008

Borrelia burgdorferi exhibits complex activity when infecting people. If allowed to occur, these changes make it difficult to cure the disease.

Lyme disease is probably the most common vectored disease in the world. Its causative agent is a spirochete: Borrelia burgdorferi. Borrelia normally requires both a tick host of the Ixodes genus and a warm-blooded host to complete its infectious cycle, but insects may occasionally also be vectors, transmitting Borrelia from one host to another.

Spirochetes undergo multiple changes as the ticks are biting their warm-blooded host. But these pale in comparison with the changes that occur inside a human.

Inside the Human

If left alone once inside a warm-blooded host, spirochetes move through the blood stream, reproduce slowly, produce blebs, change shape, and move into the host's organs and tissues where they give off toxins that often reduce host mobility. Reduced host mobility increases the probability that new ticks will find and bite the infected host and transfer the spirochetes to more vertebrates.

Spirochetes Release “Cluster Bombs”

Each active bacterium releases into the body thousands of infectious packages, called blebs. Although the bacteria reproduce only about once every two weeks, these blebs are produced almost continuously, are hyper infective and appear to cause most of the symptoms of LD. Blebs are a sort of smoke screen against the immune system. As immune cells and antibodies are attacking the blebs, the bacteria (hidden inside other cells) can continue to release more blebs without injury. Since blebs are not true cells, they may be destroyed without eliminating the actual bacteria.

Borrelia Attacks our Immune System

Our immune response is slowed down and even rendered ineffective by bacteria that can rapidly change their surface characteristics. Borrelia's ability to swiftly generate new combinations of surface proteins while the tick is feeding makes it important to remove I. scapularis ticks early in the feeding bout. But it is even more important to be treated as soon after infection begins as possible. If Borrelia are given time to change their surface proteins and develop other defenses against our immune systems and antibiotics, Borrelia may become able to escape our most concerted efforts to eradicate them.

Spirochetes are Shape Shifters

As if the arsenal of attack by ticks and spirochetes does not perplex the host's immune system enough, the bacteria will change their characteristics when the host marshalls defenses against the spirochetes. They seem to have programs that instruct them to:

Produce new forms of both surface protein groups (vlsE and Osp).

Change shape and discard surface proteins.

Move from the blood stream into body fluids.

Enter cells and become invisible to antibodies and killer T-cells.

Destroy immune system cells.

Hide behind the blood-brain barrier where many antibiotics cannot penetrate.

There are no fewer than three shapes of Borrelia, two of which are highly infective:

the spirochetal form, an L-form that discards its cell wall and integrated surface proteins, and

a cystic form that enters cells and becomes inactive.

The infective shapes of Borrelia disrupt cell function, destroy connections between them, and eventually kill the cells. Being inactive, the cystic form is resistant to antibiotics, does not present antigens to the immune system, and escapes destruction from most medications. The few medications that are active against the cystic forms are dangerous.

Neurological Damage

Most neurological damage in the body is caused by the L-form of Borrelia. This form easily enters cells, can break into small round cells (cocci), and in the nervous system, disrupts connections (synapses), destroys neurons and their supporting tissues, and produce holes (lesions) in the brain that cannot be repaired. These changes become manifest as:

altered sensory perception, forgetfulness, muscle weakness, slow or rapid heartbeat, low or high blood pressure, personality changes, dementia – sometimes extreme, “Lyme rage,” and many others.

A full blown disease with these characteristics needs a multi-pronged attack to be eliminated.

And then there is the co-infection, babesiosis… This is the one I am currently fighting. From


The tick that carries Lyme disease and human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) can also carry babesiosis. Babesiosis is caused by a parasite called protozoa. It has been detected in about 10% of Lyme disease patients, and has been reported in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia, California, Washington, and now Virginia.

When babesiosis is acquired from ticks, the infection occurs only in the summer. However, unlike in Lyme disease, blood transfusions have also been known to transmit babesiosis, so it can also occur other times of the year. The disease is still very rare, but people in tick-infested areas should be aware of it.

Symptoms of Babesiosis

Symptoms of babesiosis occur 1 - 4 weeks after a tick bite and are similar to those of malaria. Most cases are very mild and nearly unrecognizable. More severe symptoms may resemble those in malaria and include:

Headache, Fever and chills, with night sweats, Nausea and vomiting, Muscle aches, Anemia

Complications of Babesiosis

In healthy people, babesiosis generally causes only mild and temporary problems, but research indicates that the infection might persist in some people and may be spreading faster than previously reported. In rare cases, it can be severe and even life threatening, particularly in elderly people or those with chronic health problems or compromised immune systems. In such cases, the infection can cause altered mental states, anemia and other blood abnormalities, very low blood pressure, respiratory distress, and kidney insufficiency. Co-infection with Lyme disease may also increase its severity. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to diagnose.

Treatment of Babesiosis

Babesiosis is caused by a protozoon parasite, not a bacteria, so antibiotics alone won’t cure the disease. Treatment involves a two-drug combination of an anti-malaria medication and an antibiotic. The standard drug combinations are atovaquone (Mepron) plus azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) or clindamycin plus quinine. About 25% of patients cannot tolerate quinine. Adverse effects associated with quinine include hearing loss, tinnitus, stomach upset, diarrhea, and dizziness.

That Mepron is a fun medicine. (NOT) It looks like thick, bright yellow paint. It costs over $1,200 a bottle, usually a month’s worth. Most insurance companies won’t pay for more than the first month. It makes you nauseated to the point that you just don’t want to eat which really helps since the Lyme’s diet is so strict – no sugar, very little caffeine, no gluten products, no pasta (gluten). It is suggested you eat as much organic, non-processed foods as possible. They suggest you eliminate white potatoes, also, and meats that contain all those chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones. Imagine eating beef that has actually been allowed to graze in a pasture and was not raised in a stall being fed corn products and even processed meat (this is where Mad Cow disease comes from) but was actually allowed to freely walk around in a field and eat what nature intended. Ditto for chickens. What a radical thought! Cage free animals eating what nature intended so they don’t NEED all those medicines. And you don’t need to ingest them second hand.

Most people don’t take Mepron more than 3 months in a row as it tends to do kidney damage (note the blood in the urine) and liver damage (note the lack of appetite and nausea) and so, you pretty much need to quit taking it before it kills you. Of course, it is busy killing those nasty spirochetes, and that is a good thing, so it is important that you have a doctor who is carefully monitoring your progress. It is important to note at this point that there are doctors – general practitioners – who do not believe any of this stuff because it was not known about when they studied to become doctors. They prefer a wrong diagnosis like Lou Gehrig’s disease or fibromyalgia.

Living with Lymes is a test of endurance. As I mentioned before, the disease cycles as the spirochetes morph from one stage to another with a dormant period in-between. They thrive on sugar – hence the strict diet. But certain natural sugars are OK, especially honey, pure maple syrup and Stevia. Artificial sweeteners are just a different form of poison and must also be avoided.

I forgot to mention that one must avoid alcohol and tobacco products. I haven’t used either of those in nearly 30 years so I tend to forget about avoiding them. It just does not occur to me any more than drinking yellow paint would occur to you!

I had planned on teaching for 40 years. That was my magic number. By year 34 or 35, I was struggling to just get into the building from my van and to stay on my feet as much as possible thru the school day. Walking around the room was exhausting, it became hard to give kids the individual attention they wanted. I began to feel like a failure, I could not physically keep up with what I wanted and needed to do. And then the days came when I felt like I just could not think – or at least not as quickly as I used to. Writing pages of lesson plans, thinking of innovative ways to incorporate all the crap we had to incorporate in order to teach English, math and social studies in an art setting some days was just more than my brain could handle. The Lymes people call it brain fog. Year 36, I did not see how I could make it any further. I got Drs notes to keep me from having to do the walking others did. Year 37 was a year of total exhaustion. I prepared myself to hang it up. To tell the truth, I was scared. I thought I was dying – but I did not know of what. And I was, I was dying slowly of Lymes disease.

Retirement was not a lot of fun. I felt like a lazy slug. I’ve never had a lot of tolerance for lazy people and I thought I was becoming one of them. All the house work and yard work I promised myself that I was going to do once I had time just sat and waited, got dustier, weedier, more overgrown… sigh. Dust bunnies held a convention in my living room and multiplied rapidly in my bedroom and spread throughout the house. The effort it took to clean even so much as one kitchen cabinet or one drawer was enough to put me in the recliner for a week after.

So, I redoubled my efforts in my studies. If I could not walk, I could at least keep my brain from rotting away. I doubled my class load and managed to keep my QPA. I was offered a full scholarship to the University of Cairo. I had to turn it down as I knew my body would never stand the strain. If nothing else, graduate student housing was 6 blocks from the building where my classes would be held, and I knew I could not walk it. I even bought a bicycle thinking I could relearn riding a bike and buy a bike over there. Could not ride one. I did not have the strength or the balance any longer. Gave the bike away. Then again, my brain was having trouble separating my Arabic from my Turkish. I was sure I would say the wrong thing and commit some unforgivable international faux pas. Can’t you see the headlines? Granny student expelled from Egypt for telling the president of Egypt to go ____ himself. My dad’s good connections with the Egyptian brass would not be able to get me out of this one, and at 93, he wouldn’t have the energy, either. Oh, languages are so much fun when you screw them up.

Anyway, a friend, who had been diagnosed a few months earlier got on my case, told me she was convinced I had Lymes, and begged me to get tested. The rest is history, part of which is mentioned above.

I remember after the first 3 months of pills, pills, pills (28 a day) – I was able to climb a set of steps into the old train station without anyone holding on to me. OK, so maybe it was slower than I would have liked it to be, but, I did it myself. What a feeling of accomplishment! I was able to do all my grocery shopping in one trip. I still need a powered cart to do Wal-Mart, though. I have learned my limits. Well, most of the time, sorta… pretty much…

And so, as I mentioned up in the beginning, it has also changed my outlook in the gratitude department. I am so grateful for those good days, but, even on a slower day, what a blessing to be able to dress myself, to be able to think (at least enough that everybody seems to want me on their board of directors so I am in meetings all the time), to cut my own grass and pull a few weeds. My stand-uppity garden means I can actually raise a crop of beans and pick them myself – the back thing is not part of Lymes – that was a car accident. I can take care of the cats myself. I have finished a few jobs I had figured I would never get done.

So if you think there might be a possibility that you have Lymes, go find a Lymes specialist who will give you the blood test needed to find babesia and borrelia. And please, please, PLEASE, NEVER use Vaseline, alcohol or liquid soap to get a tick to let go of your skin. Remove it, preferably with tweezers, but pull it straight off quickly. If the tick has Lymes and you suffocate it, it basically regurgitates your blood and the Lymes bacteria back into your system and you are infected.

I know there is an email that has been going around for some time supposedly from a nurse telling you to use liquid soap and the tick will back out. This is how I got my infection, I know it. Our school nurse coated the tick with thick liquid antiseptic soap. A couple of weeks later, I had a huge bull’s eye on my back. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

Read all the information on the Lymes sites. It is true, there are still medical people who don’t believe in the research. My GP told me I was wasting my time and money going to a specialist, but she has to admit I am a hundred times better than I was. So look for the Lymes experts.

There are those with Lymes that claim the medicine does not work. My question to them is, did you follow the diet, too? I’ll bet they ignored that part, especially those hooked on alcohol, tobacco or sugar products. If you want to get better, life can not go on as usual, but we Americans, especially, think we can eat and drink anything we want and never have to pay any price health-wise, but that is not so, especially when we have parasites that thrive on sugars, or we impair our own immune systems with tobacco, or more correctly, the chemicals now put in tobacco to keep people addicted.

Get tested. Get well. For most of us, it is not too late.

An excellent reference is The Lyme Disease Solution by Kenneth Singleton, MD, MPH. It costs about $30, but if you have Lymes, it might be the best $30 you ever spent.

There are now Lymes support groups springing up around the country. See if you can find one. Go. If you have a loved one suffering, get them checked. Do your research. Do something. It does not heal itself.

And thanks for wading thru all this.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I AM JUST A TAD STOVE UP, folks. What? You don’t know what that means? Well, it means (at least in my case) I didn’t know when to quit the other day, and kept working out in the yard long after the warning signals… shaky legs, achy back… but it was cool – at least by comparison to the previous days in the 90s, and there was so much to get done, and it felt real good getting things done. Sigh. But my 25 year old brain forgot about the 60something year old body that had not been taking the appropriate breaks, and, well… I made an unscheduled landing out in the back yard. I am wondering how many washings it will take to get the hackberry stains out of my jeans. I have a feeling they are permanent. Anyway, my legs gave out and down I went, and the old things would not let me get up again… Sooooo, there I sat for a while. After about a half an hour, I called a friend. He and his wife got my walker out of the van and pulled me to my feet. Sigh. And so I am pretty stiff and sore today, but I sure got a lot of work done while it was cool! It is 91 degrees as I write this. Sigh.

Anyway, before I took my unscheduled sit in the back yard, I did take a few pictures of what is happening in my little corner… besides squashing berries with my butt. DSC_0599 The Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica) is in full bloom. This is the first year for the true red one to bloom. Most of them are more of a magenta color, and I have one light lavender shade. DSC_0607 DSC_0605

The redbud looks like it is dying… it has been so dry. The leaves are a bit withered and some are even changing color. DSC_0595

The Althea (Rose of Sharon) looks good, but even it shows signs of the drought. DSC_0600 DSC_0603

Have you ever seen Russian (blue) Sage? DSC_0608

St Francis is nearly buried in Persian Shield and coleus. DSC_0597 DSC_0596

A friend gave me a couple butterfly bushes… my old ones died. This one is white and seems to do its butterfly thing. It is always feeding one or two butterflies.DSC_0601 DSC_0602 Don’t you love that translucent look?

Friday, August 13, 2010



Ramadan, or Ramazan as I learned it many years ago, started August 11th this year. It made the news the other night because of some football player who is a Muslim is going to be observing Ramadan, and they are concerned with his ability to play during the fast. Of course… football… we can’t have someone impaired and not entertaining us, can we? But, I must look at the good side and shut that cynical self up… The good side is, it brings up the concept of Ramadan and thus the meaning is there for those who want to learn from it. So, a number of my friends have asked me about it knowing that I have many Muslim friends and Muslim family members.

For many, it is just seen as a time of fasting, from sunrise to sunset. But it is so much more than that. I will include a link to an excellent site for anyone who wants to learn more about Islam – not the fundamentalist jerks, who, like most any other fundamentalist group take holy words and distort them into a license for violence, but the true Islam which is a religion of peace. I know it is not perceived that way in this country anymore, but we often judge an entire people by the actions of a radical few. And another truth is, many of us in the USA see “them” in exactly the same way as they see us – after all, we have troops on the ground in several Muslim countries, we have bombed wedding parties, innocent villagers, farmers in their fields, women, children and babies in their mother’s arms… and we have a reputation for “occupying” countries, keeping a military presence after we are no longer being openly called the enemy.

If you have an open mind and wish to learn more, I suggest you visit . It is an excellent site if you wish to be educated about Islam.

The following are excerpts from Islamicity on Ramadan. I have included a few things folks don’t expect to see… things beyond the usual fasting rules and prayer.

Eat, drink and be moderate

Almost all of us do it - once [the sun sets], we just keep plowing food and drink into our mouths till it's hard to move afterwards. And those of us who do it know this is totally contrary to the spirit of Ramadan, through which we're supposed to learn self-control not self-indulgence. Let's try to stick to the Prophetic rule on eating: fill our stomachs with one-third food, one-third water and one-third breathing space, even in Ramadan.

Give a dollar a day in charity...or five or ten

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was always generous but even more so in Ramadan. Let's open our hearts and dig a little deeper in our wallets this year. Even less than a dollar a day adds up. Whatever you can give, it's the intention that counts.

Stop swearing and/or backbiting - with a special box

It's hard not to shoot our mouths off when someone's upset us. Whether we utter those four-letter words or backbite about someone to our family and friends, we know this isn't the God-approved way of letting off steam. In Ramadan, when we want to build our spirituality, we've got to [fight] our bad habits.

Try this: get a box [or jar] and every time you catch yourself swearing or backbiting put some money in it. It could be a buck or less. The point is to choose an amount that makes it feel like punishment.

At the end of the month send the money to a charity or buy a gift for the person whom you've backbitten the most against.

Call/email your relatives

You'd think that given the easy access to email, competitive long-distance calling rates, phone cards, etc. these days, we'd keep in touch with family and friends more often. But the opposite seems to be the case, as we get caught up in life's "busyness."

Strengthening ties with family members and keeping in touch with friends is part of our way of life and an act Allah is very pleased with. This Ramadan, call family and friends or at least email them a Ramadan card and ask them how their fasting is going.

Go on a technology diet

Even if you work in the IT industry, you can do this. Avoid checking personal email and surfing the web during your fast. After [the sun sets], instead of plopping yourself in front of the screen, pray. The same goes for the television. The point is to try to give our full attention to spiritual elevation this month.

Forgive everyone who has hurt you

Still got a festering wound from the fight with your friend last year? Still upset about something your spouse said during a heated argument? Or are you still bitter about the way your parents sometimes treated you as a kid? Let go of the anger and pain this Ramadan and forgive those who have hurt you. Forgiving someone is not only good for the body, but it's also great for the soul. And in Ramadan, ten days of which are devoted to Allah's forgiveness, shouldn't we lesser beings forgive too?  

If you find it very difficult to forgive everyone, forgive at least three people.

Q: Why does Ramadan begin on a different day each year?

Because Ramadan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year. Throughout a Muslim's lifetime, Ramadan will fall both during winter months, when the days are short, and summer months, when the days are long and the fast is more difficult. In this way, the difficulty of the fast is evenly distributed between Muslims living in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Q: What do Muslims believe they gain from fasting?

One of the main benefits of Ramadan is an increased compassion for those in need of the necessities of life, a sense of self-purification and reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality. Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practical benefit is the yearly lesson in self-restraint and discipline that can carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim's life such as work and education.

Q: Are there any exemptions from fasting?

Some of these exemptions are optional. 

Children under the age of puberty (Young children are encouraged to fast as much as they are able.) 

People who are mentally incapacitated or not responsible for their actions

The elderly

The sick

Travelers who are on journeys of more than about fifty miles

Pregnant women and nursing mothers

Women who are menstruating

Those who are temporarily unable to fast must make up the missed days at another time or feed the poor.

Q: Is fasting just about not eating and drinking during daylight hours?

Despite what many may think Ramadan is just not about restraining from food and drink. Muslims must also refrain from things such as verbal abuse, fighting, eavesdropping, backbiting, lying and slander as these acts render the fast as worthless. In essence Muslims must be model human beings during the fast. The act of abstinence is not meant to starve you; it is an act of worship like prayer. It enables people with plenty to empathize with those who have very little in this world.

To all my Muslim friends and relatives, Have a Happy and Blessed Ramazan. Peace be with you.sulymanNight

Tuesday, August 10, 2010



I hate cleaning out closets, barns, attics… the storage bins of long ago memories, wading thru what some call nostalgic moments. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some wonderful experiences, been to some amazing places, done some exciting things, but at this stage of my life, most of my memories are bittersweet. I guess that happens when you are the survivor, and all of the folks you shared those experiences with are gone. I am not going into all that to depress anyone, no one needs to read someone’s whining about their losses, but this one took me by surprise. A gazillion years ago, back when I was working on my Art Ed degree, I had the good fortune to land a summer job (of sorts) as a lowly assistant to an assistant at a summer playhouse. I got to do all kinds of fascinating things… I learned how to make a castle so cold and damp and forbidding looking that sitting out in the audience, you were glad you did not live in that age and time… or a palace room so beautiful you never wanted to leave. Manor libraries, business offices, tenement kitchens, cozy living rooms with just enough hiding space for a corpse or two… ah, the theatre. From Sweeney Todd’s barber shop to the bed room in the Sound of Music, to the café in La Cage aux Folles… we whipped up scenery in a couple days or so that would have been good enough for Broadway, I swear. And really, it had to be. OK, our stage was smaller and the house only sat 500, but we had real stars playing on our stage. Real ones… where was this? About 30 miles from our house in the Poconos is a little town called Mountainhome, and in the middle of its tinyness is a little road called Playhouse Lane, and on that lane stood the Pocono Playhouse.pocono playhouse In searching for some old pictures of the Playhouse, I found the following quotes… probably in the Pocono Record????? I was in such a state of shock, I forgot to make note of the source…

“Pocono Playhouse—theatrical home since 1947 to such heralded actors as Betty Grable, Walter Matthau, Jean Stapleton, Steve McQueen, Shelley Winters, Hal Linden, Gloria Vanderbilt, Larry Hagman, Cybill Shepherd, Richard Kiley, Kaye Ballard, Ted Knight, Bonnie Franklin, and John Travolta.” burned down last night….playhouse fire

And… “Gloria Vanderbilt and Margaret Truman made their debuts at Pocono Playhouse in the 1950s,” said longtime resident Maryann Miller, who owns Theo B. Price store in Cresco with her husband, Warren “Mickey” Miller.”

And… “Stars who played there over the years included: John Travolta, Walter Matthau, Larry Hagman, Cybill Shepherd, Jean Stapleton, Shelley Winters, Ted Knight, Hal Linden, Bonnie Franklin and Kaye Ballard.”

To this I can add dozens of names, the names of the people I remember working with, some fondly, some disappointing to the point of tears. I remember Gary Moore, and Gary Burghoff, Angela Lansbury, Imogene Coca and her husband, King Donovan. Gary Moore was funnier off stage than on – not to say he was not a good actor, just that he was a nut! Probably the funniest people to work around were Imogene Coca and King Donovan. We had to do frequent quickie repair work to the set because they often improvised during a scene and sometimes the set did not handle it very well. When cement blocks are really Styrofoam… well, you get the idea. They were gracious people and actually considered us human, unlike one or two others I won’t mention.

Does anyone remember Betsy Palmer? She was probably the nicest person to be around – a genuinely warm and unpretentious kind person. I always smiled when I arrived at the Playhouse and saw the Mercedes parked out back with the BP license plate. I knew it was going to be a good day. She was like sunshine on legs!

On the other hand, I was so excited anticipating the arrival of Eve Arden, having grown up on Our Miss Brookes, and then I became a teacher myself… well, I was just excited meeting the voice that convinced me that being a teacher would be a great and wonderful thing – and all I can say is – life is full of disappointments, and I will say nothing more.

Anyway, the point of this post, along with general reminiscing, is to pay tribute to one of the greatest little summer jobs I ever had, and one of the neatest places I have ever had the opportunity to visit, let alone “hang out.” The Playhouse used to be the highlight of my summers in the Poconos… In later years, we planned our vacation around what was playing – or often, who was playing, but that came to an end – first when the theatre was sold and it became… um, well, I am at a loss for words… lets say it lost its class. The performers were unknowns, and even though some of the performances were really enjoyable, I guess I always just felt a bit cheated. Several years ago, I wondered why we were even driving 30 miles to see anything. The quality of the performances left so much to be desired… and I guess lots of other folks felt the same way, too. I think the last time I attended a show there, there were empty seats all thru the house. It was sad, I just hoped someone would buy the place and bring it back to the Playhouse it was when Rowena Stevens owned it.

Anyway, I was cleaning out a box of “stuff” the other day, and I found my old make-up kit, my kit from a gazillion years ago. As I said, we all had to learn how to do EVERYTHING, and make up was included. After tossing the kit in the trash can, I came in the house to check on the whether the Playhouse was even open this year or not. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pictures. It is like losing a family member, really. I read the story and shook my head in sorrow. playhouse2

If you are interested, google the Pocono Playhouse, the Pocono Record has a great story on the history of the place and the history of the last owner Ralph Miller and his “trail of fire” –

“In this special report, the Pocono Record, Times Herald-Record and Cape Cod Times collaborate to uncover the string of broken promises, questionable business dealings and trail of suspicious fires that have followed Ralph Miller across three states over 21 years. The owner of Pocono Playhouse was also the one-time owner of the Woodstock Playhouse in New York and Falmouth Playhouse in Massachusetts. Every time that Miller or his playhouses have gotten into trouble, fire destroyed a theater or Miller declared bankruptcy.”

It is sad, like losing a dear old family member… and even though the shows were no longer as great as they used to be, I miss knowing I can’t even drive by and look at the old place, let alone buy a ticket and sit for a couple hours and have some live entertainment. The last few years, props were trucked in, unloaded, and the stage crew traveled around to a few different sites in the summer. Nothing was done on site anymore. I guess they were used to working on small stages, so things did not have to be custom built to fit.

I used to love to watch the show, often standing in the back of the house because there were seldom any empty seats. Some shows were sold out at the beginning of the season, a month or 2 before the curtain went up. But I would have to watch the show a couple of times… once to see the show, but initially, to see how the scenery worked. Sometimes we reworked a scene after the opening night to make it look a little better, or to make movement a little more realistic.

Several of us would stand in the back with ice cream cones in our hands as the curtain went up. The sign of a good show was forgetting to eat the ice cream and having a handful of runny glop as we got caught up in the show. I always kept a pocketful of paper towels in hopes of an excellent show! playhouse night

Friday, August 06, 2010


THERE IS A GREAT little place up in a village called Bear Creek about 10 miles from our house in White Haven (PA) where I love to go for breakfast or lunch. It is called the Bear Creek Cafe. All I can say is, I have never been disappointed by their food. DSC_0578

They do a lot of great container gardening – a nice way to keep people from parking in the real convenient spots. They have NO handicapped spots that I could find, and dropping someone off out in the street is risky at best.  

DSC_0579The Cafe also has a nice little gift shop where, over the years, we have spent considerable amounts of money. This year, however, we found the prices were just a bit too steep and the selection too limited to spend much. Plus the music got on our nerves, so we cut the shopping short this summer.

Part of the fun of eating here is, besides the excellent food, the scenery is also terrific. If you are lucky enough to get a window seat in the back, you get to look out on a great little creek splashing by as well as some nice trees and wildflowers. But, we got stuck in the lower part of the cafe this year, so I took pictures of their stained glass windows instead. Enjoy!

DSC_0580 DSC_0581 DSC_0582 DSC_0584 The furniture is also interesting… not overly comfortable, but interesting. Then again, I don’t think they want you too comfortable as there is often a waiting line to get seated. Of course, that is good for shopping… as I said, it is also a gift shop.

Then, the good thing about it being so crowded is it drowns out the music which we have always found to be most irritating. If it were not for the excellent food and view, I don’t think I could sit thru it. It was the same CD playing over and over this year as last year, and the kind of music that is not to everybody’s taste. Next year, we might see if we can eat in the gazebo. Hopefully they don’t have speakers out there. We usually go there several times and take friends with us, but, one visit was it for us this year.

I guess I am getting old and crotchety, and obviously there are enough people who can tune out the music, but it is a serious distraction from an otherwise great place to eat. We left this year with  contented tummies but splitting headaches. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


A BUDDHA IN THE BUSH - and other news from PA...
As I have said before, this blog is a very personal thing. I don’t worry about how many comments I get, etc. Many folks read it who do not have blogger accounts or choose not to use them but let me know they are checking in anyway in my private email. In one sense, it is a personal record of where I’ve been or what is going on, what things look like. As I have also said, I try to keep religion and politics out of it, though sometimes some things just kind of sneak in. I am not on here to preach or push my religious views on anyone, but, if you have looked at my blog for a while, you will notice the occasional Buddha sitting here or there. I like having Buddha around… he is not there for me to worship, that is not what I do, he is there to remind me that, even though I am just human as he was, if I take the time to sit and think or sit and maybe NOT think, just be quiet, maybe I will be a better person, and maybe I will be of benefit to others in the process. So there you have my religious and political views. As the Dalai Lama says, "My religion is kindness." My daily prayer is to do no harm. That is my political view also.

At our house in PA, there have been 2 Buddha's sitting on the mountain side for many, many years. The one sitting closest to the house is in bad shape,

but, he still sits there over looking the house, there to remind one to be peaceful and loving, compassionate and caring. See him at the base of the tree? He was hidden in weeds last year. The other Buddha kind of disappeared some years ago. He was on a big rock behind the house my Uncle now owns next door, the house where I stayed this summer so I did not have to climb up and down those wicked stone steps to get in and out of the big house. But, one morning, as I was talking to a friend on the phone, I went up back a ways and sat on a rock just inside the edge of the woods. As I looked around, what did I see but a head sticking up above some weeds? I did a little weed removal, mostly goldenrod, and there he was. Apparently he had been keeping an eye on my bedroom window all along! It was like finding an old friend. I don’t know who moved him or why, but it doesn’t matter… there he is. Maybe next year I can repair the one by the steps to the Big house…

Last year I had a problem with our caretaker not being much of a caretaker and the back yard was over grown with poison sumac that was over 6 feet tall and wisteria that was growing out of a wall into the grassy area.

I bought a hedge trimmer, weed whacker and, I am sad to admit, a big container of Round-up. I guess it did the job as it was all cut over this year. This is an area big enough to park my big van in and still have space for loading and unloading. It eliminated one set of steps for me when I stayed at the Big house.

And, for the record, the front porch has been repaired, also. I guess they didn't like those ugly pieces of plywood I put over the hole last year. But, they tore the porch up when they dropped a stove they were moving out... so I guess they fixed it. I am too old to do those things anymore. Getting the plywood down there was a big enough chore - and, even tho it looked mighty bad, it beat a law suit by someone falling thru the hole!
Sometimes I wish I could live up there again. But I have gotten spoiled by the flat land down here in VA, minimum snow fall, temps that almost never go below zero - a temperature in the teens is news! But, it is nice having a house where one doesn't need an air conditioner. On a day like today, it is hard to imagine... but it is in the low 70s up there right now, mid 80s here - cooler than expected because of the heavy cloud cover (but no rain, sigh.) The humidity is 98%.

I will miss the old house if we sell it. But my brother has absolutely no interest in it. It has been in our family for 3 generations. And it is more than I can take care of, especially if I am living 6 hours away. And, as I have mentioned many times before, those steps just do me in!
One of my fondest memories is sitting on this porch, way at the other end in an old swing with my grandfather (he died in 1954) and listening to the thunder. He taught me to count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder and to figure just where the storm was. I measured miles by landmarks. "Oh, that lightning was over in Freeland," or Blakeslee, or up in Mountaintop, or at Shorty's garage.
I bet Grandpa would have taken better care of the Buddhas if he'd been here... Yep, I'll have to mix some cement and do some patching next year...