Archive for December, 2013

Celebrations and (sigh) Resolutions

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

 By Jeffrey Page

 Do we all agree that New Years resolutions – to do things better, indeed to be better – are a waste of time? Does anyone actually follow through and keep these promises for more than a week or so?

 In fact, some of us resolved a year ago to just stop making resolutions. Or at least to make them when the spirit moves us, and not wait for Jan. 1. August, after all, is a fine time to stop smoking or to be a better dad. You know what I mean.

But there is temptation in that brand new calendar tacked to the wall with all its clean little boxes to note our progress through the year. There are no erasures yet, no inky cross-outs, no canceled appointments. To look at a new calendar, like the one with the Norman Rockwell illustrations I got free of charge at the drug store, is to see a chance to start fresh, to renew hope, to tell ourselves that, damn it, this will be the year when I lose the weight, when we will call a long-lost cousin, the year that I’ll keep the promises I make to myself and others.

So while I assume you agree with me that making resolutions is just a silly exercise in wishful thinking, I must tell you I’m caught and am sitting here at my desk looking at the nice blank calendar. And sure enough, here I am resolving to do better. I’m thinking about the year just ended and the promises I forgot to keep, and I’m thinking about the year that starts today.

In so special order, here’s what I’ve decided so far.

I’m going to try and not take people for granted. I won’t allow the curse of great distance between my friends and me to keep me from the important people of my life. I will make the effort to stay in touch, to make the phone call, to send the birthday card, to make the visit.

–I’m not a Catholic but I intend to pay close attention to Pope Francis and strive to never forget this great man’s thinking. Great? So soon into his papacy? Yes. After all, he said this: “Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers.”

I will continue my relationship with the scales of Weight Watchers. This program, I think, had added years to my life. To make the program work, all I had to was take it seriously. Not always easy, but when it is worked, it works.

–I’ll remember Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom in 1990 after 27 years in prison. I will marvel at his survival, and will wonder if I could have withstood 27 days in prison, let alone 27 years.

–I’ll remember my father-in-law’s great act of grandfatherly love when he drove from home on Long Island to our house in Sullivan County to take my daughter out for an ice cream soda. I want to repeat that with my own granddaughter, probably not this year. Will she choose chocolate? Strawberry? Does it matter?

–My admiration for Malala Yousafzai will continue undiminished. Malala is the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for the crime of encouraging other children to learn to read. She survived the shooting. She was 15; she survived. “Our books and pens are the most powerful weapons,” she has said.

–I’ll eliminate spider-solitaire from my computer because I waste entirely too much time playing this mindless game.

I’ll offer my services as an infielder to the Mets and as a point guard for the Knicks because, God knows, both teams need me in their starting lineups.

Best wishes for a healthy and peaceful 2014.


Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 12/27/13

Thursday, December 26th, 2013
Cowboy Up! Oil on canvas, 6x6

Cowboy Up! Oil on canvas, 6×6

By Carrie Jacobson

In the spirit of the season, and with inspiration from Marc and Angel  and, yes, I admit it, tags from my Yogi tea, I’ve come up with a list of five things you can give yourself, now that Christmas is over. These are all free, and when you’re in the right place, they’re easy.

1. Believe in yourself. What you feel, what attracts you, what inspires you, this is all legitimate. If you’re drawn to a person, an idea, a pursuit, go with it. If you can’t make time for it, if doing it seems difficult or insurmountable, whatever it is is probably not for you. Do what you’re good at, and what feels good.

 2. Tell the truth – or as my mother would say, tell your truth. Whenever you can, no matter how scary it is, you’re better off telling the truth – especially to yourself. If telling the truth is going to hurt someone else, and you don’t want to do that, then stay silent. Do anything but lie.

3. Forgive yourself. Whatever you did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, promised or didn’t promise, it was then. It was in the past. You can’t change it. What matters is this moment. What you can change is this moment. What you can participate in is this moment.

4. Forgive the other guy. Forgiveness is liberation. It frees you from the bad feelings. It keeps you from living in the past. Forgiveness lets your forget, or at least minimize anger, hate, bad feelings. And without them, believe me, today looks much better.

5. Accept who you are and where you are in life. You are perfect. It might not seem so, from time to time, but you are. The things you think of as failures, they are learning experiences. They are growing pains. The things you think of as shortcomings, they are motivating opportunities. The things you don’t like about yourself, someone else loves. So today, take this moment to accept yourself.

What would you add to the list? What gifts are you giving yourself today? Please use the comments below.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 12/20/13

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
We Three Kings

We Three Kings

By Carrie Jacobson

I’ve not been feeling very Christmasy.
I’ve been painting hard, and am excited about my new pieces, “We Three Kings” top among them. (I love the black canvas!) I’ve been thinking about what I need to do, what I need to paint and what I need to buy for the California Calling Painting Extravaganza, coming up soon!!! (Click here to find out how to sponsor me – and please consider it!)
I have been, and am always, moved by the real celebration of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, but that is a personal thing for me, and not one generally marked by what I think of as “the Christmas spirit.”
I’ve been thinking about the troubles our now-oldest dog is having, and how tough it’s going to be for Peter when I’m on the road. I’ve been thinking about one family member’s recovery from hip-replacement surgery, and the sad and sudden dissolution of another family member’s marriage.
My birth family, the Coopers, had our holiday gathering weeks ago, and it was great, but it was weeks ago. In my own little family here, the season has difficult emotionally for a few years, and Peter and I have not done much for each other for Christmas.
I told a friend about all this, and she shared with me that she really begins feeling the spirit when she focuses on giving. So that’s what I did. I put on my Santa hat (thanks, Ronet Noe!) made some donations, got a couple others ready to go (stuff for the animal shelter and for a church second-hand store).
Then I put up our Christmas tree, and I went out and went shopping and bought a couple small presents. And it was fun!
Since I left my regularly paying job, I haven’t “gone shopping,” except at local thrift stores. You know, I haven’t cruised around, looked at everything, tried stuff on, imagined how this or that would look on me, or on him, or on that friend; how this person would delight in using that; how we don’t really need this, but wouldn’t it be nice… I haven’t been a consumer in spirit or in deed.
But on Tuesday, I was, and it was fun.

From the Virtual Mailbag

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

A couple of days ago Bob Gaydos forwarded fellow Zesters an email message from Kerry Clair at Arrow Web Design under the heading, “Outgoing Mail Server change for website.”

“This is an FYI for any clients using their websites for email (in other words you have and use an email

“Due to a server upgrade and server certificate change, the outgoing mail server should now be changed to be:

“Depending on your mail server you may then also need to permanently “TRUST” the new certificate. Please contact us, or open a ticket if you have any issues or trouble and we will walk you through this change.”

Well I have no idea what this means, and the tech-savvy Bob forwarded the email without comment, perhaps assuming that no explanation was necessary. But I know that whenever someone tells me they’ll walk me through something if I have “any issues or trouble,” I’m going to need to be walked. So I’ll just trust Bob and our other tech savvy Zesters to address the situation.

But as long as we’re on the subject of email, I will take this opportunity to some of the email messages that have recently come my way:

Dear Ms. Gaddafi,

First, please accept my belated condolences on the loss of your husband. And thank you so much for offering to share 40 percent of the $12.5 million you succeeded in removing from his underground safe before fleeing to Algeria. Rest assured that I will never reveal your intention to share this money with me in a manner that would in any way put you “at risk of being burned alive with your entire family.”

But I’m afraid I cannot accept your offer. I would never be able to live with myself if I took advantage of your predicament to make a quick $5 million or so. A simple 10% would more than suffice.

Warm regards,

Dear Christian Mingles,

Thank you for your offer to help arrange dates for me with single Christian women. I’m not sure who gave you my address (probably one of my crazy old high-school friends) but I am neither single nor Christian, although if I were single I certainly would not rule out the possibility of dating a woman of the Christian persuasion.


Dear Chen Yu (or should I call you “Rick” or “Jeff?”),

Frankly I am sick and tired of receiving messages from you touting your “digital image retouching and refinishing, photo retouching, video editing, and a host of other services from your “state of the art” facility in China. I have been deleting your messages from my Zest of Orange mailbox for months now. They have become so annoying that earlier today I did some online searching and found the following information at a site that keeps a registry of email spammers:

“No website or other Internet assets of his own, Changshu-based Chen Yu relies on throwaway webmail accounts, open proxies and open relay sending sources since at least Spring 2010. He hijacked several thousand servers all over the world to have his spam delivered, inflicting massive costs to thousands of companies across the world.”

Gotcha, Chen. If you think you’re going to inflict massive costs to Zest of Orange, you’ve got another think coming!

Very truly yours,

Michael may or may not be reached at


An Obamacare Success Story

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

By Lenore Poggioli

Despite listening to all the Obamacare naysayers I’m here to say that I had a very decent experience obtaining coverage. Perhaps I’m magical? I doubt it. I’m sure the website had problems depending on whether the person trying to subscribe was living in a red or blue state. I feel lucky to now be living in a blue state after 12 years in a red one.

I went to during the first week of October, around the 5th. Getting on the site was not a problem, perhaps because I’m a night owl; at 2 a.m. most of the country was asleep.

Initially I was asked for my name, date of birth, zip code, and if I presently have any medical coverage. Now needed to make a decision. The wait was more than one would expect online when ordering books or clothing, but it wasn’t so long that I wanted to just scrap the whole experience. The screen came back to life advising me that because I lived in New York, I needed to go to to review and register in its Marketplace choices.  It also provided me with a link to that website.

Unfortunately, the link did not work for me. Apparently, the problem was with the federal website, not the state site. After waiting a frustrating 15 minutes, I gave up and just typed in the URL and got to the state site without any problem.

Once on the NYS Marketplace site everything went beautifully. I was able to complete the application in approximately 30 minutes and there were drop-down boxes along the way to provide definitions and explanations of what was needed to complete the questionnaire. There also was a phone number to call if you wanted to speak with someone in person. And you could save the application along the way so that you could stop and go back the next day to complete it. This was a great feature since you needed to have specific income information and current premium costs if you were replacing your existing insurance.

The site provided very clear information for the various plans available and I was able to click on the choices I wanted to compare. Depending on the coverage level (bronze, silver, gold or platinum) you choose, the premium would change, as would the deductible and the co-insurance. Since the Affordable Care Act has set up specific requirements for health insurance, you are always matching apples to apples when shopping for coverage. What a breath of fresh air.

Six and one-half weeks after completing my application on line, I got a phone call from Affinity Healthcare advising me that they received information from NY State of Health that I enrolled with them. They provided me with a customer service phone number, the approximate date I would receive my enrollment information, and the date I would need to provide my first premium payment if I wanted coverage by Jan. 1.

Overall, this was not a painful process. Previous health insurance experiences had been far worse and more expensive for me. Obamacare is saving me $301.22 a month in my premiums, $1,900 in my annual deductible. My office visits under my Affinity plan are in flat-dollar amounts rather than the percentage amounts for my present insurance. For example: Flat rate Primary Care visits will be $25, under the percentage plan of 20 percent paid by me if the bill came to $250 my cost was $50. This is also true for my medications.

As a Registered Nurse, I saw through the years of my career the increasing need for medical coverage for people who had lost their insurance and were unable to obtain coverage either because they had pre-existing conditions or couldn’t afford it. Obamacare isn’t perfect but it is a giant step forward. It will help not only those who need affordable health care but also will assist hospital emergency rooms by relieving them of uninsured patients who use the ER in place of seeing primary care physicians.

Lenore Poggioli is a Registered Nurse and former member and vice president of the Warwick School Board from 1987 to 1993.  She currently lives in Monroe.

When Christmas Gets Nasty

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

Christmas is supposed to be a time of happiness and caring, calm and peace. But sometimes at this time of year we come across astonishing stories of cruelty and pettiness, not to mention staggering ignorance.

Often, the story is about what adults inflict on one another such as the classic and apparently never-ending tale of people being stomped by uncaring crowds as the doors open to a store offering great prices.

I did one such story in Paramus when a mob of about 200 – make it 199 – surged through the doors of a toy store, shoving a pregnant woman to one side and down to the floor. No one stopped to help. She was lucky; neither she nor her unborn baby was seriously hurt.

The worst abuse is that directed against children.

Here’s the 2013 version of the contest to see who can make life most miserable for a kid. The high school in Rio Rancho, N.M. recently held its annual Christmas costume day, and one freshman came dressed up as Santa Claus, complete with a red outfit and a big white beard. The kid is black.

His teacher reportedly took one look and declared, “Santa Claus is white. What are you doing wearing that?” This, in front of the rest of the class, leaving the black student shamed and humiliated. How can there be a skin color to a man who never existed?

The teacher reportedly informed the office himself of what he had been said and was suspended with pay pending the result of an investigation.

The teacher also called the boy’s home to apologize. Is there any apology that would suffice in a situation like this? As Harry Shearer has demonstrated with his apologies-of-the-week segment of his Le Show on NPR, “I’m sorry I embarrassed your son” is just a little too facile.

How would you handle it if the kid had been your son? The father of this particular black pupil says he’s not interested in apologies; he wants the teacher fired. Can you blame him?

Bear in mind the matter of racism, and also of the fact that teachers aren’t hired for the purpose of insulting, demeaning or disrespecting their students.

This racial poison never ends.

Elsewhere, Megyn Kelly, a news reader at Fox News, proclaimed to viewers that Santa Claus is white. This came after an objection by a Slate blogger, Aisha Harris, that Santa always being portrayed as white effectively alienates black kids. This, by the way, is something that corporations came to understand years ago when they began using black models and actors in their advertising.

This Kelly business at Fox gets more outrageous as it progresses. Again it is an argument over the race of someone who never was and isn’t now. Moreover Kelly said her story was “verifiable,” and I’d love to see her back it up with something a little more substantial than her word for it.

Clearly, Kelly needed an editor; someone to ask her where she got her information, someone who would examine her copy before she’s allowed to put such trash on the cable and make fools of Fox and of herself – and us for watching it.

Embarrassments never end when it comes to Fox News. Not only is Santa Claus a white man, Kelly noted in her essay, so was Jesus.

Editor? She needs a team of them.

Where did Kelly get this startling information about Jesus’s race? Maybe she looked at depictions of the Nativity by Caravaggio, Botticelli and Leonardo – three white Europeans – who all show the baby Jesus as white, and then maybe she assumed they were correct; hence the “verifiable fact.” I’d love to see the verification but I doubt it exists.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 12/13/13

Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Bank of Waves, oil on canvas, 20x40

Bank of Waves, oil on canvas, 20×40

By Carrie Jacobson

I’m thinking about summer.

Thinking about summer, and warm places, and sunshine and open skies.

Thinking about wearing sandals and seeing my hair get summer-blonde highlights. I’m thinking of seeing my wrinkling face warm from this awful winter pallor and start to look alive – and perhaps a year or two less old.

I start my show season in Indio, California, in late January. I’ve never been to California, so this is exciting – and doubly exciting as it’s the first stop on my second sponsored painting trip (click here to find out what I’m talking about…) . From there, I start painting my way east, stopping for a show and a nice long visit in Tubac, Arizona, where my dad and stepmother live, before trekking east, to a show in Albuquerque in early March, and then home to Virginia, painting the whole time .

Sure, it’s cold, even here in Virginia. It’s winter, the days are short, and it’s as it should be. I’m grateful that it’s nowhere near as cold here as it is in other places I’ve lived… Maine, Connecticut, the mid-Hudson Valley.

The wheels turn, and winter will thaw into spring for all of us. And even before that, I’ll get some sun and some scenery and some adventure. I can’t wait!



Hypocrisy 101

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

All you needed to know was that President Obama was in South Africa for the final tribute to Nelson Mandela and that no matter what he said or did, he would be mocked and dismissed by Limbaugh and his fawning acolytes.

Sure enough, President Obama spoke movingly about what Mandela had achieved for his country after 27 years in prison, having been convicted of the South African felonies of being black and wanting freedom and equality. President Obama’s described the love the South African people have for Mandela, and for this Limbaugh savaged him. The First Amendment says you can do this; common decency forbids it.

Limbaugh’s hypocrisy is astonishing. For example, he spoke for the hard conservative core in his contempt for the Johannesburg handshake, the one between President Obama and Raul Castro, president of you-know-what and brother of you-know-who.

The handshake served as the catalyst for Limbaugh’s millionth dismissal of President Obama as “a socialist” and/or “a narcissist.” How does he make this connection? “He doesn’t get a thrill shaking Raul Castro’s hand,” Limbaugh said. “He’s hoping Castro gets a thrill shaking his hand.” (That’s been a Limbaugh trademark; to inform his listeners precisely what the people he loathes are thinking at any given moment.)

The Limbaugh line of course is that good people don’t go around shaking the hand of a guy named Castro from an island called Cuba. But let’s see just how consistent Limbaugh is.

In 1985, President Reagan agreed to lay a wreath at the Bitburg Cemetery in Germany, the last resting place of about 2,000 German soldiers who died in World War II. All right, time heals many wounds and 40 years after the war ended, the United States and Germany were allies and remain so.

But there were other interments at Bitburg, such as the graves of 49 members of the Waffen-SS, which was essentially the 1 million-member private army of the Nazi party commanded by Heinrich Himmler. These were the troops that provided the military muscle to carry out the Holocaust.

Americans were aghast that President Reagan would go anywhere near the SS graves, but he rejected their pleas.

The Limbaugh connection to Bitburg? There was none. I checked the internet, The New York Times and other sites looking for a cautionary word from Limbaugh condemning, or merely questioning Reagan’s judgment. But from 1985 through yesterday Limbaugh apparently had nothing to say. What I did find was that 11 Republican senators (and 42 Democrats), plus 84 Republican House members (and 173 Democrats) condemned Reagan’s planned trip to Bitburg, which, incidentally, was scheduled to be made immediately after an earlier stop at the Bergen-Belsen death camp, where the Nazis murdered 50,000 Jews. If anyone can point out a negative reference by Limbaugh to Reagan’s Bitburg atrocity, I’ll be happy to print it.

So, President Obama shaking hands with President Castro, or President Reagan laying a wreath for some SS troops? For Americans there are two questions: Which is more offensive, which is more nauseating?

The answers are not complicated.

A Tofurkey Thanksgiving? Excellent

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

By Bob Gaydos

The decision to celebrate a Tofurkey Thanksgiving was driven in large part by the price of salmon. With the traditional turkey-and-all-the-trimmings (and calories) extravaganza already off the table in my more health-conscious life style, fresh salmon sounded like a tempting alternative — and one that was probably more in keeping with the original get-togethers. But at $9.99 a pound, fresh salmon quickly lost its appeal.

Hence, Tofurkey. Knock off the smirking out there. I see you. This is the real deal.

The no-meat Thanksgiving-with-all-the-trimmings turned out to be delicious, more than filling, and incredibly healthful. And it was nothing like the “Everybody Loves Raymond” TV episode that grabbed laughs at the expense of a mother trying to improve her family’s health by serving a bunch of tofu shaped like a turkey.

For one thing, the Tofurkey roast is not shaped like a turkey. It’s shaped like a roast. It’s also stuffed with wild rice and bread crumbs and the recipe tells you to add apple slices to it. It comes with its own soy-based gravy. No animal fat. The whole roast cost just a buck more than a pound of salmon.

Of course, the secret to serving a successfully scrumptious Thanksgiving meal is what surrounds the “main” dish. Ours had lots of vegetables, all roasted in special sauces garnished with rosemary, sage and thyme and and topped with gravy. Two large baking potatoes, two large sweet potatoes and a butternut squash, all cut into big chunks, went in the pan with the roast. A second roasting pan accommodated a bunch of carrots, a bunch of broccoli and a red cabbage. We also had traditional cranberry sauce and cranberry/apple cider to finish it all off. You can check with Google to find out how nourishing all that was.

Everything came out of the oven looking and smelling great. So far, so good. On to the next step.

Trust me, it was with trepidation that I assumed the role of carver. I’ve done this plenty of times in the past, with electric and regular carving knives, and usually managed to slice up a lot of turkey relatively neatly. But would the tofu let me carve it, or would it crumble under the influence of a large, serrated knife?

Success! Following directions to make quarter-inch slices, the roast carved easily and neatly. The stuffing held up, too. The rest was easy. Spoon a bunch of vegetables — that were mouth-wateringly good — on the plate, top everything with meatless gravy (enhanced with some maple syrup and honey) and enjoy.

There was easily enough to serve four people, which means, in keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, there were plenty of leftovers. Indeed, the feast provided two more satisfying meals, one enhanced with plenty of brown rice.

I write about this not to toot my own horn. Rather, because I think there is still an attitude of condescension in this country about people who want to do something as foolish as to eat food that is not only good tasting, but good for them. As if it is somehow elitist to want to not fill one’s body with known killers such as salt, sugar and fat or dumb to want to live as long as possible in the best health possible.

I’m no food snob and I don’t think I’m dumb. I haven’t sworn off red meat for life and I haven’t said I’ll never eat another potato chip. Right now, though, I’ve found plenty of tasty alternatives that, along with a workout regimen, have helped me to lower my blood pressure, reduce my sugar and cholesterol numbers as well as my weight, all while enabling me to improve my energy, strength and endurance. I am becoming fit, not fat. Smirk all you want, but that sounds pretty good to a guy collecting Social Security.

Actually, I know that I’m not alone in this renewed interest in eating more healthful foods. Social media is awash in groups dedicated to more healthful eating. And supermarkets suddenly are offering dozens of varieties of chips and and other snack foods that are not just potatoes laced with salt. There are growing sections of organic, gluten-free and low-fat, low-salt, low-sugar products. Change is happening.

Of course, price remains a problem for some, which is not an accident. The chemical companies that control the world’s food supply are not interested in having consumers switch from the addictive, salt, sugar, fat and chemical-filled products they advertise widely and sell cheaply in large quantities. In fact, they don’t even want consumers to know what’s in their products, or else why would they spend so much money fighting efforts to make them honestly label their goods, including whether they contain genetically modified ingredients? Healthy consumers are not good for the companies’ bottom lines.

Yes, it can be a challenge reading labels these days to make sure what’s being promised on the package is what’s really inside. But like anything else regarding a significant change in how we live, a little bit of effort can bring big rewards.

I do not claim to be anything special with regard to this change in life style. If anything, this is a selfish decision on my part. I don’t deny myself the joys of eating good food. I love pizza (just not as often as before and without pepperoni). I am a huge fan of frozen yogurt. Salsa and chips (no salt or low-salt) is still one of my favorites. Guacamole is a new one. Chicken, turkey (yes, I’ll still accept a drumstick), seafood, sushi, beans, rice, yogurt and lots of greens, fruits and vegetables keep the menu from getting boring and keep me looking forward to many more years of healthy living.

So that’s where I am today. And yes, Tofurkey will be on the menu again.





Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 12/06/13

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Bank of Waves

Bank of Waves

By Carrie Jacobson

Autumn has spun off into winter, even here in the south. If our mornings are not surprisingly cold, and smelling insistently – and falsely – of snow, then they are thick with fog and quiet.

Our little town empties out in winter. One day last week, I think we were the only ones at home on the whole street.

And that’s OK. It is a breath out, an exhalation, a quieting of soul and life and air, and the very town.

I have shows already for 2014, and find my mind drifting ahead, to California in January, Arizona in February, New Mexico in March. A wide roundup of the southwest, with visiting and family and painting, and sun and open skies and the wide adventures of the west.

But here in Wachapreague, it is now, and it is winter, and I will exhale, and I will paint and I will treasure this quiet life.