Saturday, 31 May 2008

2 large boys on a compact couch

ooooh they're playin' my song!

Will you look at that kitchen? It's just amazing what they do with these trailers nowadays.

Ceramic and wood flooring, solid wood paneling,'Normal' windows. Lookee there. Special downsized trailer furniture tailored to fit any single or double wide. Very comfortable living! I hear the newer models, like the one featured here, are made with this special grade fireproof foam insulation for optimal climate control, superior soundproofing, and the ultimate protection against inclement weather. Gives the owners a greater sense of privacy and security. Pride. 'Trailer' No more. Must be nice not to be able to feel the wind kicking up. Not being able to hear the sirens shouldn't be a problem, so long they have those basements everyone can run to.

They do, right? They must.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

what's your personality cocktail?

How to make a G Clair

5 parts intelligence

5 parts ambition

3 parts joy
Layer ingredientes in a shot glass. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of lustfulness


Personality cocktail

How to make a I G Clair

1 part anger

5 parts self-sufficiency

5 parts instinct
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Top it off with a sprinkle of wisdom and enjoy!


Personality cocktail

How to make a Goofus Nimrod

1 part success

3 parts brilliance

5 parts leadership
Layer ingredientes in a shot glass. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of caring


Personality cocktail

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

the painfully tiresome autobiography of g clair

Chapter 100- The Smartest One

My brother, Damian, is an intelligent man. Someone who listens and considers the various sides of an issue, educating himself in the process, before drawing his conclusions. He is an excellent debater. Articulate, without pretense, Damian is not about making an impression of eloquence. He's just real, and he really just wants to discuss the facts. Frankly, he makes me nervous, since I am so rarely informed. So frequently in error. Enough about me.

For some reason, Damian may have just recently come to the realization that I am not that bright shining intellectual star of a sister he he's imagined me to be all these years. I suspect that it was our brief conversation about the upcoming presidential election? After all, I hate politics. Hate 'em.

Out of guilt over not having adequate knowledge. maybe 'cause I don't care, I had purchased a copy of Obama's 'Audacity of Hope'. Months later, as I turn the first few pages, I find my mind wandering to more 'important' issues. Whether I can get some tomato plants and start a garden growing on my porch. Whether my Gardenia will do better in a larger pot. I am catapulted into the world of natural beauty and suddenly at the reservoir striving to keep up with the relaxed stride of ML, painfully hurling myself along, trying to stay ahead of the Hacitic couple pushing the stroller. They made the uphill look so easy. Then I am back here, trying to read the next sentence, trying to forgive myself for complete lack of interest. Feigning interest. Now I have one of those eyestrain headaches coming on. The day is getting away from me. I've got bills to pay and shutters to paint and a bike to retrieve from Dad's shed. I need to get out to the beach, start looking at foreclosures. See? Add it up. It's ADD!

I believe it was Mother's Day. My brother, his wife and the kids were over at my parent's house. We were all sitting around the table, having coffee and cake/cannolis. A nice afternoon with Mom, Dad, Aunt Amelia, light with conversation, a few laughs, reminiscing. My brother makes a comment, adding something about my being the 'smartest' one in the family. I heard that. That slightly sarcastic tone in the word, "smartest'. I am smiling, since you and I already know how my mind was just flipping through the channels while they are talking away, until he said that.

Ah- The smartest one. That's right! Ha! Forgot about that!

Back in the 60's Mom and Dad had five children, and somewhere along the line, early in the program I guess, maybe 5th grade, I happened to have gotten a higher score in one area of the California Achievement Test. She said it was in the area of my reading and language skills. No mention of where I was just average or bombed. Nothing about my lower comprehension scores, that I had to read things over and over to get it. It didn't matter. Of course, my Mother was thrilled with these higher marks. Any indication that her children were performing higher in any area was encouraging to hear. I never ever considered how it would effect the rest of us. But there it was. The natural response of a child hearing this kind of thing, might be to feel in some way.... 'thwarted', is the word I want to use. Prolly not the right word.

" Oh c'mon Dame, you know that's not right. You are WAY smarter than me!" He is.
He made that George Costanza smiling face, "but Mom always said that you were the smartest one."
" Oh c'mon, she didn't know for nothing what was going on in my brain. I just happened to like reading. Doesn't make me any smarter than anyone. Look at me now! I can hardly get past the first chapter of a book! ( nothing to be proud of). You are definitely the smarter one."

We both know it, now, but I remember Mom saying things like " Gina is the smartest in language/reading skills" never the 'smart-est one', as if to make comparisons. I am also sure that it must have come out that way from time to time; comments having to with my 'college level' language skills. College level. Back then 'college level' meant something, and hearing that all of the time made me a believer.

"You're going to college", my mother used to say. "You are going to get a career, like I did, and be able to support yourself and have the life you want."
"Of course, Mom, I'm on it."
Meanwhile the other side of my brain was picking flowers in a field of dreams.
There really wasn't any section in the CATs which measured the creative mind. Why bother with that? Starving artists will tell you they wished they had been more diligent in school. This CAT thing must have bee a personal reassurance for Mom, considering the teacher's comment on the back of my report cards always seemed to reference my daydreaming.

It made me happy to have pleased my mother in some way. And I would have loved to keep that whole 'smartest one' facade going except that you can't ride the California Test wave of 1973 forever. And Mother's Day was the day of reckoning. I was about to wipe out.

Families being what they are, children vying for the attention and approval of their parents, I suppose it would only be natural for siblings, especially those who are close in age to compare themselves on various levels.
Unfortunately, Mom's comment about my being the 'smartest one' had been burned into Damian's psyche for the rest of his life. I had no idea. Poor kid was way smarter. I knew it from the moment my mother brought him home. That serious, contemplative look in his eyes. Always thinking, considering the facts. He was the baby. Statistically, the favored one. Last in line, first in the heart of Mom and Dad.

I remember him hiding behind my mothers leg, a cookie in each hand and one in his mouth. He didn't HAVE to talk if he didn't want to. He could just watch and learn from the mistakes of his older brother and sisters, and never have to work at anything. Life was good. And then had heard those words, "Gina's the smartest one". The skies darkened. 5 years old, barely able to write his own last name, slighted at the starting gate. Never had a chance to prove his own aptitude. He knew he was at college material in the cradle, without those test scores to prove it, nothing could be verified. And now, with those words echoing in his head..."the smarter one...Gina's the smarter one", his work was cut out. Drat it all! This was going to be an uphill battle.

He must have been in kindy-garten when he got the news of my high score. Poor kid. By the time he took his 5th grade test, and aced it, no doubt, it was like,.. no big deal. We expected as much. Oh the pain. I have no idea if he got a party. All I know that I was always 5 years ahead and by the time he'd get to the table the excitement wore off. Standing in the shadows of his big sister's glorious college level reading and language skills, Damian's best effort to be recognized as gifted in reading/language would never quite measure up the the 'Smartest' one. Damian would have to blaze his own trail and that he did, and continues to do. I sat there, across from him at our Mother's Day table and listened to him get it off his chest, 35 years to bring it to the table. More embarrassing, I think, for me. Exposed after all these years. And here it is...I AM NOT THE SMARTEST ONE. NEVER HAVE BEEN.

The truth hurts but it's also cleansing. Fact is, my comprehension skills were low. I KNEW something was wrong in the third grade, when assigned to do a book report I handed in a sheet of tracing paper with the words from the story card, as best as I could copy them. How hard it was to see the words to trace them...this was a difficult assignment! She handed it back to me.

" No Gina, you've got to read the story and put it in your own words. Sum it up. Keep it brief."

WHAT? Why? It's already there on the SAR card. Short and shweet. The writer already used the best words. Ask me to write a poem about snow or and essay on fire prevention. Ask me carve some Ivory soap into a bust of Abraham Lincoln! Give me a part in the class play and I AM 'ANNIE ALLIGATOR'!
I daydreamed and wrote poetry, loved to run and build forts, and hang out alone down at the creek, and sang songs from musicals. Reading was an escape, so I read mystery fiction on my own time. Book reports. Who needs em? nothing of intellectual value. ADD was never addressed. So there you go. Not the smartest, but the books to disprove it.

Back to the California test. Parents often don't realize how much weight is placed on their words of praise and punishment, and how ironic it can be that the 'smartest one' would later become the laughing stock of the family in light of her comment. God knows my self esteem would need a boost of confidence later in life. Knowing that I was at least good in 5th grade language arts, somehow made the subsequent looks from my Dad every time I've screwed up, alittle easer.

I never heard about anyone else's test scores but I had my own impressions of my siblings, growing up. Elena was incredibly artistic, daring and intense, a bit tough, but cool as a teenager. Vincent was energetic, thoughtful/curious, and comical. He could make me laugh. Laura was just a hugest crack up. Streetwise. The funniest person I've ever known to this day. And Damian, the only one who probably remembers mom's comment, was the kid with the mind for understanding computers, electronics and mechanics. Truly the smartest one.

A child prodigy is amazing to watch. From a very young age, Damian could and would take things apart and put them back together. There were wires and components of all kinds of electronics devices, all over his bedroom floor. The kid needed to know how things worked and knew that he could fix broken things by retrieving the innards of other broken things. He later went to DeVry for electronics, however realized his interests went beyond the wire, and proceeded on to Ramapo College where he sought a well rounded education. Political Science. To this day he is an avid reader, great listener and interesting conversationalist.

Damian is also a pretty good drummer, and guitarist. Back in the day, he and his friends formed " Mr Know-It-All", a popular rock-n-roll cover band on the local bar scene in the late 80s and 90s. Damian has a voice like He continues to play for the rock of ages in his church, and strives to be a great husband and father and mentor to his 4 children. It goes without that the man is and smart. It might just insult him that I would have to enumerate his many giftings and how he has been a blessing in the lives of his family, friends and people he comes across in his field of expertise. Saying nothing of his home improvement skills. My cornball Christmas update letter here would no doubt arouse his nausea, but it needed to be said. Yep. He is a complex person, my brother. Not, 'the smartest one', but complex.

Back to the Mother's Day table talk.

"Yep, Mom, always said that you were the smartest one, and I never forgot it."

Mom was left to defend the well-meaning thing she had said many many years ago. To try to correct something that stuck in the kid's head, the very thing ignited his passion for learning, which fueled the fire to achieve a measure of greatness in his own right. To overtake my position as the 'smartest one' in my mother's mind. To read and comprehend fat books in a single day. Yes.

To wrap it up, I believe my 1973 California scores pushed my brother to the 'A Bit Smarter Than Me' level he is today. Little did I know that at the time of that test I was reaching my maximum capacity, while little brother was just warming up. Damian is an intellectual man, yes, but he's also got a warm heart. I hope he doesn't mind that I took liberties here with my memories. All those years, I truly enjoyed making believe I was the smartest. As for mom, I am sure she knew the truth all along and as time passed, just felt so sorry for my situation. She kept the lie going since it was all I had. Thanks Mom. Sorry Dame.

" All the same, everyone the same" - Loretta 'Nonna' Morrone

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

what the...

i am still at work! trying to wrap it up. off tomorrow. new person walked in the door for a tour and was interested, so I had to sit down with them and do all the paperwork. oh no.... just glanced at the clock here and it's going for nine! yikes. I'm gonna miss my show if I don't get outta here!!!!! Oh just started raining...gee whiz. lightning and thunder tonight ought cool things down a bit. I love that.

Monday, 26 May 2008

so you think you can be a grandma mom

I am 46. I've always hoped and believed that somewhere along the line I would meet the father of my children and raise a family. At 35 I married a friend and we tried to bear children without success. We tried fertility drugs and artificial insemination hoping for more than one, you know, to get it over with.

With the exception of one miscarriage, the treatments were unsuccessful. I looked into adoption, however my husband did not share in my enthusiasm. We had a lot of other problems anyway. After the divorce, I continued to hope for a child, adoption or otherwise, thinking that it would happen after I sold my house. Of course there was not enough money at the time to start over AND have a child. As it were I had to rent a place, which did not allow for children.

Eventually I let my dream of motherhood go the way of all of my dreams. Kiss it to God. Not meant to be. On the spiritual and practical side I just accepted the reality. No Mother's Day, No artwork on the fridge, no ceramic chatckees to put around. No school pictures...and on and on. God's will be done.
I found comfort in the single life and eventually stopped the dating altogether. I decided to just stay in the present moment and stop pining over what could have been. Depressing is what it was. Watching every other family as if through a plate glass window.

Living my life like a nun.

I said A NUN.


And this was my state of being until 2 days ago when it started in again. The nagging desire for a family. For a little girl from China. From anywhere really. A little boy would be nice but I understand that boys are in demand in China. Not so with little girl babies. Anyway. I would LOVE a child, male or female and thought I would move to another home and start the process of adopting my daughter. Or Son.
And so, I started to talk about it again. I have told several people. Most of them have been encouraging. Today I went for a walk with my friend Mike L,
a man who I can always count on for level-headed advice. Shoots straight from the hip, whatever that means.

"I'm thinking about adopting a little girl from China".
Mike reminded me that I've been thinking about that for years. He then reminded me that would be a 'Grandma Mom'.

Oh yeah. I forgot about that. I'm sure he was sort of kidding but it was a valid point. Something to consider. We talked a little about it, but mostly I just pooh-poohed the whole notion of being too old to have young children. I pondered it all afternoon. Seriously. Do I really have the strength and stamina to care for a grow old as the kid grows up into a teeeeenager?

Challenging my authority? Coming in at all hours? Hiding boys in her closet? Slapping me around in my old age? Heaven forbid! Seriously. PMS and hormones can reek havoc.

Depending on the age of the child I could wind up being a grandma mom. An OLD MOTHER. My #1 eX's mother was 40 something when she had him. When we met she was 68 and extremely wrinkled with white hair. She was also an Estonian immigrant who sent him to school with Bratwurst in a paper bag for lunch. He lost his dad at 2, which meant he was left with his old mother and no dad. Maybe being the daughter of an grandma mom isn't as hard on a daughter as it is on a son.

Grandma mom. Is this something I need to think about? Will I be able to keep up with my child's activities? Attend her prom, her graduations? See her uncle walk her down the aisle? Will my child shrink in embarrassment at my wrinkles and gray hair when I am with her? Will my child harbor a grudge that her mother isn't in the same shape as her friends mom? That her mother has at least 20 years and pounds on her friend's mom? Or maybe, if I can work it out, her friends mother will ALSO be a grandma mom. Oh my... So many questions to consider. And what of the love and other things that I can offer this child? The things I could teach her. Weaving and such. Kidding. She would keep me young. Healthy. At least until she hits the teenage years which we can deal with when we get there. 60 year old mom when she is 13? Oi I am starting to get it. much to think about. But somewhere there is a little girl coming into the world who would not have the her momma around to hold her and be there when she needs her...does any of this matter, really? Age? AM I too old for a young child?

I was thinking that if I was a black woman it wouldn't really matter since black women seem to remain youthful way beyond 100.


I think I am more concerned with where I am going to get the money to adopt a child. Worry about the grandma mom thing later. The whole thing just give me a headache.

Time will tell if I ever get to be a grandma Mom or not...

Give Becky A Chance

Lavender Diamond- Open Your Heart

Saturday, 24 May 2008

The Color Purple

Guardian Angel. The color was a very pale lavender. Hmm...the makers of these paints know how a name can influence the buyer. Precisely why I changed the name of the last gallon I purchased from 'Cabbage', which brings to mind unpleasant odors, to 'Ocean Bluff'. Dad did not need to know. As it turned out, I went with the color "Apothacary Jar" for his room. I liked the sound of 'Apothecary'. It has a certain Ivy League feel. Perhaps this was the room of an Author. Of course when I mentioned the name, Dad immediately associated it with the pharmacy and his medications. Great. I was trying for that country golf course on the ocean theme. I should have went with Torre Pines or stuck with the Ocean Bluff.

But 'Guardian Angel' worked for Mom. She liked the color. So that's what we are going with. A Light Purple. More like Lavender. Pale Lavender fields.

I love that scent.

I feel like I am painting a child's room.

I like this look, actually, though the closet really ought to stay white, don't you think?

I asked my dad last night if he had any memories of his grandfather, also named Vincent .

"Did he ever hug you or pat you on the head?"

" Not really, but he had this cigarette thing he used to do. (gesture of putting out a cigarette). He was pretty funny."

Guess you had to be there.

Mom stuck her head in the door and told me that she was up until 2AM.

"There was about a hundred and fifty dollars there. My machine conked out after the first 20 cents and I had to count it by hand, actually pouring them into tube which measures 50 cents. I was starting to get drowsy but made myself stay awake until all of the pennies were counted."

"What are you gonna challange the machine?"

"I just don't trust them."

" I know. But you have to. Really. Otherwise it's a scene. Over pennies."

I have a nasty frontal headache again. My sister told me that the majority of headaches are caused by Mineral Oil in soaps and lotions. Could be. I've been showering with this stuff by Soft Soap called Cashmere. Not a real bar soap, which I had stopped using on account of the residual sludge in the soapdish.

I am pretty sure it's made with oil, since it leaves a thick drape of Cashmere on you. Like being dipped in Cashmere.
Not so sure it's a pleasant feeling. Kind of like the idea of stripping off the oils with the dirt. I don't know. She suggested I get rid of everything with mineral oil. Good idea. At first I thought this might have been a hangover from a glass of wine I had 2 nights ago, but it's back again after 2 ES Tylenol. I hear a drop of Lavender oil to the temples is supposed to ease tension headaches.
Time to get back to painting the walls while I still have daylight. Guardian Angel.Peaceful.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Unknown Legend- Neil Young

re: stuffed peppers

I have 6 large peppers on my kitchen counter. They've been there since last Thursday. I was going to make stuffed peppers for my parents, but wound up making the eggplant parm and bringing that over a week ago. The folks went away last weekend while I had the floors refinished and walls painted. It all came out really nice. Like a new home. I am going back again to paint the other bedroom today. Anyway, for the past week I've been meaning to get to them. I worked the first 3 days and had yesterday and today off. Started in on them last night. Hmm...not that fresh anymore. Hmm...i don't know. They aren't all mushy. Still. I hate to use stuff that's been sitting around. What a waste. Maybe I will just go out and buy 6 fresh peppers for this dish and do the sausage pepper and onion thing with these aging beauties. Cut away anything questionable.

That settles it. Get to the gym, toss in the laundry, buy the peppers and get over there to paint. Ready Set Go.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Natural Disasters

Another monster tornado just cut a path of devastation through the Greely/Windsor Colorado, north of Denver. Watching television footage of the actual storm with the golf ball sized hail gave me the chills. My sister lives with her family in Colorado Springs about 60 miles south of Denver. She and her husband are in California right now. No answer at the house. On my last visit to Colorado Springs 2006, I remember seeing the type of cloud formations from which tornadoes spring, but never any actual tornadoes. The footage on TV is quite frightening to watch. 1 confirmed death. Meanwhile in China and Burma over 100,000 killed by cyclone and earthquake. Very overwhelming. I have a headache. Need to go take a nap.

Dive- Steven Curtis Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman's Daughter Killed in SUV Accident
May 22, 2008
The 5-year-old daughter of contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman died after being struck by an SUV in the driveway of the family's Nashville-area home late Wednesday afternoon (May 21). Maria Sue Chapman was playing in the area with several other children. Her teenaged brother did not see her in the driveway when he struck her with the Toyota Land Cruiser he was driving. A spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol termed it "a terrible accident" and said no charges are expected to be filed. The child was the youngest in the family and one of three daughters adopted by Chapman and wife Mary Beth. The entire family was home at the time of the accident. Steven Curtis Chapman, 45, has won 51 Dove awards from the Gospel Music Association and five Grammys.

My Arms Are Broken- Tim Hawkins

Tim Hawkins on Church

Tim Hawkins on Marriage

I will be here and I don't drink beer

'I will be Here' by Steven Curtis Chapman, was my wedding song in 1997:

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

a taste of honey - Herb Alpert

what's going on in my mind most of the time.

My brother Vinny just reminded me of this song. My Dad had Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass on vinyl, and we got to hear it over and over for years. It became a large part of the soundtrack of my childhood. Mom mostly listened to Soundtracks from Musicals and Movies. We had a neighbor next door, who used to put his speakers in the windows and blast his music, especially in the summer months. That was really the only exposure to pop/rock music we had in the 60s. He also played the same songs over and over. I can only remember: These Boots are made for walkin', Satisfaction, and Lara's Theme.

Kid's Rock!

cleatus take the reel

we're prayin' a hedge of protection

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

my prediction


MYFML- Bob Dylan

that's it. i'm ready for my next bob dylan concert.

Stevia instead

Stevia: Natural, No Calories, and Sweeter than Sugar

We all know the average American diet contains far more sugar, hidden and outright, than it ought. We are advised to forego processed foods for whole foods, but still, they could often use a bit of enhancement. So how to sweeten a cup of tea, a bowl of raspberries or oatmeal, in a healthy way?

The answer is Stevia. It appears there is a God, and a fair one at that. After all, if He-She as going to give us a sweet tooth, the least He-She could do is also give us a no-calorie, all-natural sweetener. This gift is the Stevia leaf, which is some 300 times sweeter than sugar and contains not a single calorie. How's that for small miracles?

It gets better. Stevia is nutritious, too, containing magnesium, niacin, potassium, and vitamin C. It has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels. Remember that when you reach for your next dose of refined sugar, which can throw your blood sugar out of whack and then suppress your immune system by up to 50%. And I won't even go into the range of side effects associated with the artificial sweeteners.

Stevia has earned its place at the top of my "if I'm ever stranded on a desert isle" list of "must haves" (along with a really good moisturizer and a good book.) For the last few years, I've used it daily. It enhances the taste of tea, which I'm drinking even more of since reading that 5 cups of black or green tea (at only 4 calories a cup) has the same nutrition benefits as two servings of fruit and vegetables, and guards against cancer and heart disease. If you are weaning yourself from soft drinks, try a bit of Stevia extract in carbonated water. Anywhere you might use a bit of sugar, try Stevia instead. You can also bake with it.

Pronounced "Steve-ee-ah" or "Steh-vee-ah," (first syllable accented) this leafy green plant has a long history of use. For centuries South American tribes used it internally as a digestive aid or externally as a dressing for skin wounds. Sixteenth century Spanish Conquistadors wrote home about it. Native to Paraguay, Stevia is also grown commercially in Brazil, Central America, Israel, India, Thailand, Korea and China. Here in the U.S., there are a few test plots, and some nurseries offer Stevia plants for kitchen herb gardens.

Food manufacturers should be happy. Stevia is inexpensive compared to chemical sweeteners. Extracts of the sweet tasting phytochemicals, called steviosides, come in powdered and liquid form. This versatile botanical has been widely used for thirty years in Japan, where Stevia extracts comprise over 40% of the market for sweeteners, added to everything from pickles to soy sauce to beverages, including commercial soft drinks.

Logic would dictate, if logic and the American public's best interests ruled, that American food manufacturers would be jumping on this bandwagon too. Considering the well-established popularity of all things natural and health oriented, you may be wondering why you are not sipping on a Stevia-sweetened beverage right now. Suffice to say that economics rule. No surprise there. Stevia is legal in the US, but only as a nutritional supplement, not as a sweetener. To call it a sweetener would put it into the realm of the food additive. And food additives are the FDA's business.

The FDA's attempt to halt the use of Stevia began in 1986, with a raid on the warehouse of Celestial Seasonings, the popular tea brand. They were told they could no longer include Stevia in their herbal tea blends. In 1987, FDA inspectors began visiting other herb companies, telling them to stop using this "unapproved food additive". In 1991 came the official ban as the FDA declared Stevia "an unsafe food additive" and imposed an import alert.

Some in the health and natural products industry suspected collusion. The big pharmaceuticals who manufacture the artificial sweeteners like to play to win. Might Stevia's many advantages -- it's safe, contains no calories, and has health benefits, not risks -- threaten sales of laboratory-bred sweeteners? The Herb Research Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence between the FDA and the manufacturer of NutraSweet regarding Stevia. The information was a year in coming, and identification of the company that instigated the FDA ban was blocked.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) commissioned its own professional review of the scientific literature on Stevia, peer-reviewed by several plant safety experts. They all agreed on Stevia's safety. The AHPA then petitioned the FDA to rescind the ban on Stevia, arguing that Stevia is a food with a long record of safety and not a food additive.

The FDA has all the studies, yet insists that there is insufficient evidence to approve Stevia as "generally recognized and regarded as safe." That leaves some wondering how it could be of questionable safety here in the US, yet of proven safety in Japan, where extensive research provided more sound scientific evidence of Stevia's safety than for most foods and additives, and convinced the Japanese government to approve Stevia for wide use.

While the FDA claimed that Stevia is a chemical food additive, the AHPA argued that the intent of Congress was never to regulate the natural constituents of food itself. The legislation was intended to apply only to chemical additives to food. Therefore Stevia, a natural plant used for food and medicine, and with a long history of safe use, should automatically be exempt from the lab tests required to test new food chemicals.

By this time the FDA's attempts to regulate herbs and nutritional supplements in general prompted the American public to write to their Congress. An avalanche of demand for continued freedom of choice and access to Mother Nature's medicine chest, the one humankind has used for millennia, resulted in the passing of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 (DSHEA). This prevents the FDA from regulating herbs and botanicals under the guise of "food additives."

It is under the protection of DSHEA that Stevia can be used in the US, but only as a nutritional supplement. (Interesting, the reverse is true in Canada; there Stevia is marketed only as a sweetener and not as a dietary supplement.) Consequently, US food processors cannot use Stevia as an ingredient in foods simply to sweeten as they can in Japan. Stevia and its extracts can be marketed only as dietary supplements, not as sweeteners, and any product listing Stevia as an ingredient can only be marketed only as a dietary supplement. Tea companies may once again add finely cut whole leaf Stevia to their tea blends, as long as they are marketed as health supplements. But your everyday herbal tea formulas cannot include Stevia, with the word "sweet" or "naturally sweet" on the box. Stevia is found in some meal-replacement bars, protein powders and chewing gums touted for their health benefits.

Perhaps the FDA reasons that if you cannot suppress the item itself, the next best suppression is information on that item. (Still hard to comprehend book banning in the land of free speech and free choice.) In 1998 the FDA threatened the Stevita Company of Texas, which imports Stevia, with legal action for distributing books and literature about their products. The FDA's Compliance Officer also faxed the Stevita Company a letter requesting the destruction of 2,500 books he considered "offensive." The books in question featured information on Stevia's history and use, as well as scientific studies.

Two recent reforms show promise. The FDA must now respond to applications within six months of submission, and must also accept foreign studies, if peer-reviewed and from reputable science institutes. Change is in the air.

Some in the industry predict the FDA will suddenly approve Stevia for wide use as a sweetener the moment the big players come up with their own patent-pending process of extracting the steviocides within the Stevia leaf.

Linda Sadler, President of Traditional Medicinals, another popular tea brand, points out that most of the health benefits on Stevia were conducted on the traditional use of the leaf, in its whole state. Once the food manufacturers begin to refine and isolate the steviocides, you loose some of the buffered balance and nutritional benefits of the whole herb.

The Japanese have demonstrated over the last three decades that even highly refined Stevia extract is still safe. And they use Stevia to full advantage for their health, refined and otherwise. Anywhere you find high fructose corn syrup (or the many names of those hidden sugars) you find Stevia in Japanese products. Popular too is some combination of Stevia and sugar, which maintains that real sugar taste while reducing the sugar, calorie, and carbohydrate count by up to 75%. An added benefit is avoiding the problems associated with other sugar substitutes, while maintaining that all important, 'all natural' status. Just what Americans need -- diet gurus are now telling us low-carb and low-cal should be joining low-fat if we are ever to succeed in the slimming of America. US food manufacturers of all categories ought to be lobbying for Stevia's wide use as sweetener.

In the meantime, I'm trying to stay away from processed foods. And a touch of Stevia sure helps replace a lot of sugar in everyday use.

Monday, 19 May 2008

that's me in the corner

What type of partier are you?
Your Result: The Lurker

You like to go out and party, go to bars, concerts, etc - but stay more on the sidelines. You and part of the action, but people have to approach you more than you jumping into the middle of the action. You typically don't get 'hammered', just buzzed enough to come out of your shell and talk to a few people, usually other 'lurkers'. Large groups of people talking at once intimidate you and you tend to drift away from the pack often.

Hardcore drunk
Bar Social Butterfly
The Socialite
Bar Slut
The rock-star party animal
The designated driver
What type of partier are you?
Make Your Own Quiz

and where are all these geeks I'm supposed to be attracting?!

What type of person do you attract?
Your Result: You attract geeks!

Your stunning intellect and love of sci-fi and video games allures the geeks like nothing else. Maybe it is the sparkle in your eye that makes them want to text you, who knows. Geeks make good partners, but tend to be arguementative. If you are a TRUE geek magnet, you will know if that was spelled correctly, and actually care. If it is a bad-boy/bad-girl you are seeking, you are barking up the wrong tree, unless they are just 'bad' behind a PS2 console.

You attract Yuppies!
You attract models!
You attract rednecks!
You attract artsy people!
You attract unstable people!
What type of person do you attract?
Quizzes for MySpace
What mental disorder do you have?
Your Result: ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

You have a very hard time focusing, and you find it difficult to stay on task without your mind wandering. You probably zone in and out of conversations and tend to miss out on directions because you cannot focus

Manic Depressive
GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
What mental disorder do you have?

a fat sandwich off a grease truck? not in my neck of the woods.

You Are 76% New Jersey!

You are definitely Jersey. Well done, my friend. You are most likely from this great state, and you fit right in. Odds are, you love being Jersey!

How New Jersey Are You?
Make Your Own Quiz

What Beatles Song Are You?

Which Beatles song are you?
Your Result: All You Need is Love

You're an idealist, but you never let it endanger your grasp on life or humanity. Emotion, experience, and objectivity are essential to your lifestyle. You live peacefully and compassionately, and you do not place unnecessary importance on trivial details.

Here Comes the Sun
The Space Between
Eleanor Rigby
Twist and Shout
Yellow Submarine
Hey Jude
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Which Beatles song are you?
Quizzes for MySpace

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Goodbye, Farewell -Larry Norman

what's in YOUR closet?

"Holding out on me are ya? Why I oughta...."

My first thought, as I dragged the 50 lb sack of pennies out of Dad's closet.

"I'm rich!" The bag tore under the weight of the loot, spilling it's contents all over the floor. "My cup runneth over!" I quickly scraped the pennies off the floor and shoved the bag back in it's hiding place.

My parents and I recently decided that the 22 year old wall to wall carpet on the upper level of their home had to go. It was way overdue. Actually, my dad couldn't have cared less. His motto? 'Don't get me involved'. Dad is a laid back dude; an intelligent man who is perfectly content to stick it out in his room and let the chips fall where they may. If it ain't broke, don't call the guy'. While he has always been the one to mow the lawn and trim up the hedges, he is not at all interested in internal affairs and leaves the home improvements to my mother. Mom gripes about his lack of participation, and usually just goes ahead with her plans. They have a guy for everything so it all works out. My mother has no idea how miserable it could have been had she married a control freak or worse, a man who is truly lazy, but finds the time to write and publish a book about it.

Dad is just the kind of guy who likes to enjoy his life and not get caught up with appearances. At 79 and 8 months, the man has earned the right not to have to be bothered with home improvements. Especially when you can just call a guy. A natural peacemaker, he will go along Mom's brilliant ideas
as long as it makes her happy. I find this kind of personality type a joy to work with. They are usually willing to foot the bill, and enthusiastic after the project is finished.

The folks had planned a trip to Delaware this weekend. The annual Midlantic Competition for the SPEBSQSA. Barbershop Harmony. Singing Barbershop is Dad's main thing, especially since his back pain has kept Dad from golfing for the past 6 months.


This weekend is the perfect time to get it done. I had ripped out the rugs last weekend and in the process needed to get into his closet. Not something I am comfortable with. While I have been falsely accused of 'snooping', fact is, I'm not at all at ease with other people's drawers and closets. Even when the snooping is called for, I am somewhat uncomfortable pawing around. You just never know what you're going to find. Seriously.

I have always felt a certain taboo when it came to my parents bedroom(s). Anyone's bedroom. It's an acute awareness of entering into some else's private domain. There is a certain sense of the sacred, a mix of awe and fear, an idiosyncrasy which I am happy to say is on the healthier side of the boundary issues. Unlike George Costanza, I prefer not to become too familiar with other people's bedrooms/stuff, especially that of my parents. That said, I was well into the back of his closet, feeling along the floor, trying to move things out of the way in order to make space for some shelving. That's when I hit upon the sack of spare change. That was last weekend. Yesterday, I had slept over in order to get as much time up there as possible. Dad, Ant (24, nephew) and I were sitting around talking...

Dad: You've got some mail in there. Something from the

Me: Probably the letter about the stimulus.

(opening the envelope). Says here, I should get it on May 9. What is it May 16. Hmm.. No check here. Maybe it was directly deposited into my account.

Ant: They spent millions on paper and postage for those letters. I'd rather they added the 41 cents to my check.

Dad: Did you give them your bank information?

Me: No but they have it already. You know, the IRS.

Anthony: Did you have your tax return directly deposited into your bank account?

Me: Yeah

Anthony: Then they'll do the same with your check.

Me: Did you get yours, Dad?

Dad: Not yet. I didn't have direct deposit with my tax. I want the check in my hands.

Me: You need to see it first.

Dad: That's right.I want to take it to the bank myself.

Me: I used to be that way. You know, Dad, I am starting to think you are the kind of guy who'd put his money in a pillow case.

Dad: I might.

Gina: No, you ARE that kind of guy! Ahem...the stash up your closet?

Dad: Oh yeah... I had forgotten about them. Do you know where those pennies came from?

Me: Years and years of dumping them out of your sock drawer?

Dad: Yeah. I just figured that no one uses pennies. I'd throw them in the top drawer. they'd get to be too heavy and I would pour them into the bag.

Elena discovered Dad's pennies way back in early 70s. She must have been looking to borrow a pair of socks. You see, Dad's ALWAYS got tons of black or navy nylon socks. Paired or loose, the odds of finding a match were much higher than digging though the sock basket every morning. In a house with 5 kids, mom was not about to sort and partner socks. To make her life bearable, she'd toss em right out of the dryer into a large picnic/sock basket. Unisex sock basket. At least the girls could wear the tube socks.
Dad's were the only socks that got to stay in a drawer since he was the big man. The Dad. The rest of us monkeys had the sock basket, and you'd have to get there pretty early in the morning to be guaranteed your favorite tube socks. Otherwise, it was slim pickins. A mismatch for me could wreck my whole self concept for that day.
Blown out, dingy and matchelss singles only added to bulk and slowed the hunt. Why were they permitted to remain? Could we just thin out and face out dim prospects without the confusion?

Sure, on in a while we would need a single sock for a craft or puppet, which was the only hope for the singles. Every possible color and style of Tuber was thrown in for the ultimate in hysterics as time drew near to leave for school. Tormenting is what it was. When faced with the dilemma of color vs number of stripes...

I remember settling for a two and three navy striper to the matching red stripe. Ronald McDonald ruined red tube socks for me. Imagine the tube sock with Earth shoes.

Can we talk? I'm tired of being last to the sock basket. tired.

Dear God, Please help us with the sock situation here. Dear Santa, pleaaaaase bring decent socks. Sure enough, More tube socks would come pouring in. How the boys could ruin those things with their sweaty filthy feet. I need my own sock drawer, Mom. It's affecting my schoolwork. Eventually, my mom's hand was moved by the overabundance of unwearables, and she did away with the communal system. Or maybe we just all moved out. To this day, I struggle with finding matching pairs and am tempted to throw them all out and start fresh with one style per drawer. Imagine the time and frustration that would save the world. Simplify.

I don't know if she was just desperate for a comfortable and quick solution to the morning sock hunt, but it seemed that my elder sister had no fear of the big man. I will have to ask her about that. To me, helping yourself to a pair of Dad's socks is just taboo. Not even considering the gender issues most young girls would have with manly sock. Your father's socks. As it were my other sister and i have this long running joke about wearing your father's belt to the prom. I think we were 9 and 13 respectively when we created the "poor soul" character. It was a coping mechanism I believe.

But wearing my dad's socks didn't seem to phase the eldest child. maybe they were just more comfortable and fit with her shoe style. They certainly blended better than the white socks with whatever she was wearing at the time. No one was looking. They matched. Not like she was wearing them as knee highs which would have been hysterical. I just think need to match outweighed the potential consequences of getting caught gold toed in black nylon. Git em off. Something She probably never considered. Seemed to me the girl and I were cut from a different cloth. She didn't run like a bat out of hell, never had that deer in the headlight expression. She was and still is generally calm, when she's not laughing hysterically, deliberate, and always extremely artistic. Artistic talent is a gift which requires a sense of freedom and daring. My sister has those qualities, as well as a certain coolness. Maybe it was because she was wearing Dad's socks.

I think she was a size 9 or 10 shoe. Flat feet, like dad. Maybe there was a sense of entitlement on account of the flat feet. The bond of a similiar footprint in the sand. Hmm... After losing her baby chub, my sister grew into what I can only describe as a thorough bred. Legs like a woman GI Joe. Beautiful face and Farah Fawcett bangs. Physically fit strong willed and defiant. Capable of rendering a good pounding if you caught her on a bad day. I tried to keep her as a friend mostly, but as hormones kicked in, I would, from time to time, face the Betty Joe Fist side of my sister.

Thinking back, I guess my sister was no stranger to exploration of the outer limits. I figure, by the size of me, it must have been in late 60s that she had her first look-see into the drawer. She must have been no more than 10. Maybe 8. I would have been 7. We roomed together and she confided things in me in late night season. As long as I could remember, we would have conversations in the dark, until we fell asleep. When she finally got her own room, as a teen, the quality of our relationship deteriorated and with that the innocence of first times. But thinking back, we were still rooming together the day she discovered Dad's pennies...I remember it clearly. she HAD to tell me about it. Swore me to secrecy. It went sort of this way. She whispered it in my ear-

"Pssst....I have to show you something but don't tell. Promise".

My eyes would bug out at anything good.

"What!? What did you do?"

She was always doing something.

"Sshhhh. Gina, Listen.( closing our bedroom door).

" Dad has all kinds of pennies in his sock drawer."

" Really? How do you know? Did you go IN there?"

" Shhhh..."

" You went into Dad's drawer?!"

" I was just curious."

" You could get in BIG TROUBLE for that. OMGosh. I can't believe you did that.
I want to see them too."

" OK, be quiet. Make sure the coast is clear. You look out."

" Ok, all clear, Come on in." ]

She led me into their room and slid the left hand top drawer open and pulled out a sock stuffed with pennies.

I gasped. "Oh My Gosh. Put it down. What if he comes? "

"Shh!" ( hand over my mouth)

(whispering) " Are there more?"

" Yes. Look..hurry." She moved aside while I reached my hand up and over, into the drawer, feeling around.

"There's tons of 'em! Where does he get em all from?...I have to see this."

I remember having to get a chair to look into the bottom of the shallow sock drawer.
The drawer on the right was more of a junk drawer. Full of watches and lighters and screws, odds and ends. We were just so excited over the number of pennies Dad had in that drawer. A lot of ice cream money. A LOT. I don't think we ever saw more than a dollar in silver, and usually a nickel and penny for milk each day. All of these pennies together was just an awesome sight. On top of the dresser was the St. Joseph statue, holding the baby Jesus. I remember feeling a church like aura about their room. Rosary beads mounted on the wall. That was style of the average Catholic couple back then. The bedroom WAS very holy and dignified place. You DON'T just go in there and touch people's stuff. I was the voice of reason. Just don't ever take them. Leave them right there! He'll know if you touch them. Lets just get out of here! I don't like sneaking around! Don't wanna get in trouble! I remember her sliding the drawer closed with that serious excited look on her face. Let's get out of here...i don't feel right.

See? There's that taboo thing. Off Limits. Breaking and entering. A crime scene. There were things that we children did not need to know about the adult bedroom; Discoveries that could be dangerous to our sensitive souls. Who knew what strange customs and rituals went on here; what led my father to keep an inordinate number of pennies in his sock drawer; what madness lurked in the drawers of adults? EEEWwwwwww...I couldn't cope with discovery, and Elena had no business in there either. What if we were caught? Certain death. At least that was my perspective. She had her own ideas.

'Penny for your thoughts?"
Meanwhile Mom had also been 'collecting' pennies on the sly. She had bought a battery operated change roller and must have been working late into the night rolling those pennies, packing them into her tins. Storing them out of view in an obscure corner of the guest room closet. While cleaning out that closet just last night, I came upon her private reserve. More than I had expected, it seems as if she may be ahead of the old man. Sheesh...not just one tin. Many Tins.

Brimming with rolled and to be rolled pennies and penny rollers. At least 50 lbs of them. Who knew? I think when my grandfather passed it was the same thing. Bottles and bottles and coffee cans full of pennies. Why not quarters? One of my earliest memories of my grandfather was him making a bank for me out of a margarine container. He put a slice in the lid and started my brother Vinny and I out with 26 cents. I never really could save money and have no problem spending my pennies at the gas tank. Ohhhh no Lady!

Dad: You can have those pennies. I don't need 'em.

Me: NO WAY! I am NOT taking your pennies, Dad. I am not going to spoil that moment...Let's go down to Commerce together one day and pour them into the counter. You have to be there. Mom can take hers too!

'Pennies from Heaven"