Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Beginnings and Happy Endings

It has been that sort of week, fraught with drama, emergencies, and deadlines.  We are down to four attorneys this week (in a six attorney office), and still missing one paralegal (it has been months).  So nobody is filing their nails or indulging in long lunches.  Despite the never-ending work, the dead and dying elevators, and my head cold, I am happy.  Singing-in-the-car happy (apparently Lady Gaga and I sing in the same key.)

I was going to comment on the Dr. Phil interviews of Cindy and George Anthony, but I decided that none of them, including Dr. Phil, deserve any of my time.  Idiots.

I'm seeing a couple of books I want to read on Kindle.  Patricia Cornwell's Port Mortuary has reached a price I consider fair (I will not pay $14.99 for a Kindle book, even if I can read it on all of my electronic devices).  I also accidentally discovered a book by actor Michael Tucker, Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent, that I think I want to read, as it addresses senile dementia.  I have been avoiding reading from my not-inconsiderable stash of hardcore murder mysteries lately, simply because I am not seeing the entertainment value in serial killer insanity or detailed descriptions of unspeakable torture.  I love those types of books, but sometimes I need the kinder, gentler murders described in the Golden Age Mysteries by Ellery Queen and Rex Stout.  Kindle versions of my beloved Ellery Queen remain few and far between, and I have read most of the Rex Stout novels currently available.  Still waiting for Ngaio Marsh and my favorite Heinleins to show up in Kindle format.  Hello, Amazon? 

I also have not been reading much these last few weeks because I am knitting.  Lots of knitting.  Knitting with a view, when I can steal a few minutes to gaze out the window of my office during a truncated lunch break.  Still working on the circular baby blanket and the baby surprise jacket.  They don't match and are not intended for the same recipient, but they are delightful to work on.

Good grief, Charlie Brown, it has been over a week since I drafted that incomplete lead off to a blog post that never occurred.  The baby blanket is completed, and so is the baby:  My Number One Niece gave birth to her daughter, Bailey Rose, on September 21, 2011.   Time for me to pull in the ends, sew in the zipper, wash and block and prepare for shipping.

We have been beyond busy in our office, and all of us are walking around looking like the walking wounded.  Our numbers are up, which is a sad commentary on human beings in general and parents in particular.  I was finally reduced to tears, but because they were happy tears, I want to share that story with you.

Yesterday I was privileged to attend an adoption.  The child is turning 18 on Sunday, but it was vitally important to him that this adoption take place while he was still legally a child.  The new father, who is a friend, a colleague, and a coworker, happens to be gay.  The child spent 5 years in our foster care system, and until a little less than a year ago, my friend would not have been able to adopt the child because of a retarded - and I use that word correctly - provision of Chapter 63, Florida Statutes. 

I am so proud and happy at so many different levels that I am having difficulty expressing it.  I am unable to go into the details of the work and worry that consumed a few of us as the eleventh hour approached, so I will thank all of you, and if you happen to read this, you know who you are.

I have not cooked anything worth blogging about in quite a while.  On the other hand, I did finish knitting the crumpled bath mat  manta ray  baby surprise jacket, and it is quite adorable and amazing.  I will put it away for the future, so that if I hit a knitting slump, I will still have something handmade to present.  Someone is always having babies, so it seems.

We have a lot of leftover Chinese food in the fridge - hey, we gotta eat, even when I don't cook - but I will have to spend some time in the kitchen tomorrow.  Maybe lasagna, maybe fish, maybe beef stew.  Inspiration, anyone?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Resistance is, after all, futile

Thank you for the Baby Borg - now knit me a sweater!  I did cast on for the BSJ (baby surprise jacket) Sunday night, but apparently I have trouble counting up to 160 and had to frog it (rip it, rip it) after one row.  I mean, dude!  I was off by 19 stitches, what is that about?  When I got ready to re-cast, I realized that I was using one needle size 5, the other size 6.  What else could have gone wrong?  It was a total do-ever.  Apparently both love and knitting is better the second time around.  I made lavish use of stitch markers to help me keep count, and I think this time I've got it.  However, if you have ever knit anything created from the mind of the late, great Elizabeth Zimmermann, you know how loosey-goosey her instructions can be.  I have been knitting long enough, I think - coming up on half a century - to figure it out.  But if not, just remember that those anguished shrieks you are hearing coming from Orlando may NOT be people riding on Space Mountain for the first time.

I have never been accused of being a spontaneous person.  Never.  But I am here to tell you that I did something utterly spontaneous, without much forethought.  Or maybe there was forethought but it was all subliminal.  Or subcutaneous.  Or subconscious.  Yeah, that's the right word, subconscious.  Most of the time the subconscious is an evil little parasite, but on Sunday night it made me happy.

I booked a cruise, just like that.  Found it, liked it, ran it by Rob, and booked it online, all within the space of a half hour.  Usually, I agonize for months, but this was absolutely serendipitous, meaning the dates, the price, the port, and the cruise line were all exactly what I would have wanted, had I gone on a long determined search for the perfect cruise.  I know I've told you that I live from vacation to vacation, and this is going to be a goody.  I would do the Happy Dance, but my knees are hurting and besides, I can't dance worth a damn.

Off and running now.  I haven't forgotten the rest of the food tour of Panama City Beach.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday, A Zen Day

Maybe the iron pills are starting to work.  Because now that it is later in the day I am feeling better - not dancing-in-the-street better, but a bit more normal, as odd as it seems to apply that word to myself.  That low grade, free floating depression seems to have drifted off, and my ch'i is vaguely cheerful.  Imagine that.

Before I left work on Friday, I took some pictures of my office, which is for all intents and purposes, done.  I still have to hang a few things, but that can happen in good time.  Although the office is just a tad bigger than my walk-in closet at home, it is a comfortable place to work in, so I guess my feng shui state of mind was successful. 

We have successfully relocated to Downtown Kissimmee

Unfortunately, all of the work followed us there

The CPIs and case managers seem to like the staffing accommodations

Apparently the curtains are a big hit.  Gotta love Wal-Mart.

I have been enjoying my cooking today, having chosen a batch of recipes that are pleasantly mindless to prepare.  Nothing as trauma-inducing as the Family Chicken Tamales, which my son has apparently coveted for his own consumption.  Sausage and Pepper Cacciatore, Sweet and Sassy Platanos Maduros, Chicken Livers and Caramelized Onions is a Sage Cream Sauce, Macaroni, Ham and Cheese Casserole, and Creamed Spinach.  Believe it or not, it was easier to prepare these five dishes than that one batch of tamales. You can check out the recipes at the It's All About the Food blog.

UPDATE:  Cory still hates liver.  Sigh.

Didn't I tell you I had gotten a lot of knitting done?

Pay no attention to the handmade sock-clad feet sticking out at the top.  I realize this looks more like a baby sack than a baby blanket, but trust me, it's a circular blanket.  I am at the point of completing the last set of rows for the Old Shale edging, and then I can cast off and get it ready for it's journey north.  And can pick up my mohair pi shawl and give it a whirl.  Literally, as it is circular as well.  And then, I think I have to segue back to socks.  Need more socks.  But!  I find myself inexplicably drawn to quick-knit one of these cute and utterly adorable baby surprise jackets.  I was feeling that way even before the Harlot put up her post, and now it's just gotten worse.  For me, not her.

So the bottom line here is that it was a peaceful, enjoyable Sunday, in a zen sort of way.  I am sitting here sipping my 2010 Schmitt Sohne Riesling, relaxing with my home boys, Ira and Anakin.  I've managed to trick Romeo into swallowing his Clavamox.  Twice.  My family is well-fed, and I'm about to retrieve my copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop to check out the pattern for her Baby Surprise Jacket.  The surprise will be whether I can resist casting on the stitches to get it started.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts from my dark side

On September 11 ...
I highly recommend my friend Mark Fendrick's blog, Thoughts from the Dark Side, for a series of really beautiful and thoughtful posts about the events of September 11, and how it affected our lives, our country, and the world.

Some of you may know that I worked for Alexander & Alexander, a very large insurance broker, back in the seventies and eighties.  After I left, through a series of mergers, A&A was absorbed by Aon Corporation, one of the companies suffering a high number of terrible losses on September 11, 2001.  On this day, my thoughts always turn to two people.  Rest in peace, Mike.  And Denise, you keep kicking my butt on Words with Friends.

I haven't done any cooking in over a week, but I have done some fine eating, and I would like to share those meals with you.

Last week, Rob and I headed up to Panama City Beach for a long Labor Day weekend and Grand Master Soon Ho Lee's legendary "Battle on the Beach."  Actually the battle takes place in the Edgewater Conference Center, but the rest of the weekend is All Beach, All the Time.  Except in the case of hurricanes, like this weekend.

Bad weather did not stop us from enjoying some old and new restaurants, and since I've already posted ad nauseum about my day in the ER, I am going to focus on the food, best symbol of what was still an enjoyable vacation.

Thursday was our travel day, and we arrived early enough to have dinner at a normal hour.  On the way up, I played with my Trip Advisor app looking for new places to add to our list of PCB favorites.  Thursday night turned out to be barbecue night, but the kind of barbecue we had never had before.  It was so good, Rob is planning on emailing Guy Fieri to try to get this place a guest shot on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Because it is a dive, as are most good barbecue places.

Sweet Racks, 2920 Thomas Drive, PCB
(850) 230-1777

Let me tell you about the ribs ... they were smoked within an inch of their life, but not oversmoked.  Tender and toothsome.  The sauce is called "tocino" and it is apparently a Filipino thing.  Lucky Filipinos!  So the sauce is closer to Asian but not quite teriyaki, and it compliments the smoked meat in a way I could not have imagined.  The tocino chicken was just as wonderful, as were the side dishes we ordered.  Rob had the baked beans and I had the cucumber salad.  Next time I'm ordering the fried plantains as well.  I did not share my leftovers with Cory.  It was that good.  Apparently, I was so busy shkoffing ribs I did the unthinkable and forgot to take a picture. 

Friday was a free day for us - no competition, no traveling, nor other obligations.  We had already planned our breakfast stop, and it was all about the beignets.

David's New Orleans Style Sno-Balls
13913 Panama City Beach Parkway, PCB
(850) 236-1998

When Rob and I were in New Orleans this past January, we made a point to stop at Cafe Du Monde for beignets, and for me, chicory coffee.  Incredible experience, except for the fact it was almost too cold to enjoy it.  We seem to alway get to NOLA when it is too hot or too cold.  Which is also the reason we weren't able to hang around to snag a muffuletta at Central Grocery.  I make a pretty mean muffuletta, including my own olive salad, but I would have loved to taste The Original.  As it turns out, David's is a little piece of New Orleans right there in the Florida panhandle.  Still a shlep, but a lot closer than New Orleans.  We had the beignets and I had the chicory coffee, and there was peace in my soul.  Just as good as Cafe Du Monde and that, my friends, is saying something.  If not for my side trip to Bay Medical ER, we had plans to head back there to try their sno-balls and perhaps other NOLA treats, including po boys and muffulettas.  We will definitely be back.

We hit up Publix for supplies - juice, bread, dishwashing liquid and stuff like that - and then decided to try the Panama City Beach Winery.  No idea what to expect, and we were surprised to find this little treasure in a strip mall.

Wine tasting.  All of the wines are fruit based (excluding grape) and are anything but the sweet, syrupy stuff you might expect if you grew up on Manischewitz.  Crisp, clean, lovely wine.  The tastings were a well-designed throroughly enjoyable experience.

8730 Thomas Drive, Suite 1103B, PCB

The tasting is done up at the counter, as you can see by the "row of butts", as my friend Annie so very succinctly described it.  Fortunately, we had gotten there a bit early, and had the counter and the attentions of that delightful lady with dark hair, barely visible behind the counter, third from the left in this photo.  This is a really fun way to spend part of an afternoon.  Of course we bought some wine.  It was so good I wish I could have bought more.  Damn the economy and all that.

I still have some fine PCB dining experiences to share, but I'll hold them for another blog post.  Since it is now Sunday, I do have some cooking on the horizon, and since I am making a conscious effort to avoid all 9/11-related television, I will be concentrating on turning out some mindless, tasty recipes.  Sauteed chicken livers with onion, bacon, and sage; Italian sausage and peppers; maduros (sweet plantains); creamed spinach; and macaroni, ham, and cheese.  Fortunately I adore chicken livers and spinach, because my hemoglobin count is still in the basement, based on the way I feel.

Yesterday we had to take our baby Romeo back to the vet.  It seems he had a bad reaction to the microchip, so our vet drained some fluid and he is now on antibiotics.

It's hard to see but that's Romeo sleeping on my lap, with Indiana and Woody in the foreground.  Not a great picture, but totally representative of how I have been feeling lately.

Now to the kitchen.  Check the recipe blog later today, especially if you are a tad iron deficient.  Tasty and good for you too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Prayers for the Dead, and for the Living

You know you've seen it on Facebook:

Due to "lack of room", NYC Police & Port Authority Police Officers & FDNY Firefighters are not "invited" to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero. Funny - they weren't invited on that day in 2001, either - they just "showed up" and became heroes. Please re-post if you think they belong there MORE than the politicians who ARE invited.

According to Snopes, the self-appointed arbiters of Truth on the Internet, this is true, along with the report that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned all clergy from the memorial ceremony.  A Bloomberg spokesperson has stated that this tenth anniversary ceremony is for the victim's family members.

What I would like to know is how does the Mayor's office define victims?

Now, as to the clergy issue ... heck, we all know what that's about.  No Muslim Imams to draw the undiluted fury of the American people.  I've got a better idea.  Let a representative of all groups appear, including atheists and agnostics, Wiccans and Scientologists.  Let New Age stand next to the fire-and-brimstone Christian fundamentalists.  Let an Orthodox rabbi stand next to a Reform rabbi.  Ha ha.  Seriously, I think an appearance by clergy is important, because on that terrible day, we all turned to some Greater Power.  Let them all stand there and be silent.

And the politicians?  Get rid of all of them except for the current mayor.  I'd get rid of him too, but someone has to wave the baton.

To conclude this rather depressing mini-post, there is one particular ritual that is observed in Israel on Yom HaShoah that I would like to see made part of any memorial ceremony on September 11:

At 10:00 am on Yom HaShoah, sirens are sounded throughout Israel for two minutes. During this time, people cease from action and stand at attention; cars stop, even on the highways; and the whole country comes to a standstill as people pay silent tribute to the dead.

I do not know how much of the televised ceremonies I will be able to tolerate, but tomorrow morning at 8:46, I will silently recite the Mourner's Kaddish for the dead and a Misheberach for the survivors, including the first responders who gave their hearts and health, because contrary to the warped thinking of political hacks, they are all victims of the September 11 attacks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Whoa, really dude?

I've been a lawyer for 20 years this November 22 (yes, the anniversary of JFK's assassination) and during most of that time, at least until I embraced my "fly beneath the radar" philosophy, I was asked when I was going to run for judge.  The answer has always been "never."  Although I served as a Teen Court judge for several years, I never liked to wear the black robe.  It wasn't me.  I would sit up on a real judge's bench, and play with the paper clips between cases.  I used to neaten up Judge Legendre's bench, and I would leave notes for Judge Draper. Although I enjoyed working with the Teen Court program, I never took the judge thing too seriously.  As a judge, I had to adopt a certain personna for the benefit of the kids, and I didn't like the person I had to become for those few hours.

I have been before enough judges in my career to constitute a statistical universe.  I would like to think that each one represented a positive experience, but that would be a crazy fantasy.  Some of them have been terrific, some average, and others have been one long headache.  And no, I'm not naming names, and don't even try to guess because I've practiced in at least 5 Florida counties including circuit, county, and appellate courts.  And I am admitted to a couple of Federal courts as well, including The Big One.  Let's just say that my undergraduate background in psychology makes me supremely qualified to observe judicial behavior and misbehavior.

It seems that judicial behavior is not all that removed from political behavior, and I have, more than once, mentioned my unscientific belief that most politicians are low-grade antisocial personality disorders.  While I think the percentage of nutsy judges is far less than nutsy politicians, there is still a significant number who take the joy out of the practice of law.  Me, I'm still pretty happy.  I've been lucky - mostly - with the judges before whom I have regularly appeared.  Which is why I really feel for my colleagues who have to practice on a daily basis in front of judges who are not quite so - how shall I put this? - balanced.

What brought this to mind, and therefore to blog, are a couple of articles in the local online newspaper.  First, from one of today's headlines:

Beleaguered Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge James Turner went to the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, trying to save his job. Instead, justices hammered his lawyer with questions and accused Turner of being a stalker, a judge who engaged in "bizarre" behavior and one who had made a "mockery" of the court system.  Here is the link for the rest of the article.

Whoa, really dude?  You're still asking for your job back?

The number of judges who have had to be reprimanded or even removed from the bench seems to have risen alarmingly in the last few years.  Or maybe it just seems that way here in the Ninth Circuit.  Because that article redirected me to a link from a June 2011 article:

Time and again Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Tim Shea publicly insulted and yelled at prosecutors in his courtroom, once asking one woman to get coffee for everyone in the room, according to a formal complaint that accuses him of judicial misconduct...

Once he screamed so loudly in court that deputes in the hallway outside could hear, according to the complaint.

Another time he came off the bench, red faced and yelling, and physically intimidated a male assistant state attorney, according to the complaint.

But most of the incidents involved female prosecutors, who complained that he yelled, insulted them or made vaguely sexist insults.

What is it with these guys?  Not that this is a new phenomenon.

An Orange Circuit Court judge who is the focus of a judicial investigation acknowledged that he accepted an attorney's fee to represent a woman while he was a county judge, but in a court filing said he never urged her, or two others, to flee the country to avoid charges.

Judge Jim Henson, who served as a county judge from 1997 to 2001, on Monday answered the formal charges filed against him by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. The charges alleged, in part, that he accepted private legal work while sitting as a county judge and encouraged clients to flee to avoid prosecution. The commission said the charges could be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct applicable to county judges and lawyers' rules of professional conduct.

Ya think?  Okay, this isn't just a Ninth Circuit thing, it only feels that way sometime.  And it's not just the guys who are acting badly.  Don't ask me how I know.  I'm just glad I've worked for DCF for so many years, as developing a thick skin and broad shoulders has been extraordinarily useful.

This one totally floored me:

Judge James Hauser is under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Committee in Tallahassee because a law student claimed he performed inappropriate sex acts in front of her.

Coming right on the heels of this story about the same judge:

A judge who was trusted to protect the most vulnerable families had a restraining order taken out against him and has been accused of making violent threats and more.  In court records, Judge Hauser's estranged wife said she's had to call Maitland police twice for help, but never spoke up about abuse because of the judge's position in the community.

I was only in Judge Hauser's court one time, and I came away with a very favorable impression.  He presented as a very thoughtful and intelligent judge. I wonder if these troubled judges become that way on the bench, or use the bench as a bully pulpit for their already antisocial personalities.  Maybe they're all taking crazy pills.  I have no intention of finding out through personal experience, however.  Running for office is number four on my list of things I plan never to do before I die.  Jumping out of an airplane is number one.  Bungee jumping is number two.  Ziplining is number three.  Maybe running for office should come before ziplining. 

Enough Sturm und Drang.  I'm going back to my happy place, and I'm going to take you there with me. 

Oops, wrong happy place.

Anyway, for the past seven years we have been spending Labor Day weekend at the Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City Beach.  For an extremely reasonable rate, we have rented a two bedroom golf condo within easy walking distance of the most beautiful beach in the world, and the Edgewater Conference Center.  The beach is for me, and the conference center is for Rob and all the other ATA competitors.  We always have a fine time.  Rob always manages to kick butt and bring home a few medals, and I get to sleep late, check up on Hobby Lobby, knit until the cows come home, and hang out on the beach a bit.  We spend some time with our friends from home, Betty and Frank and Elaine, always capping off the long weekend at Another Broken Egg for a great breakfast before setting off for the long trip home.

Thanks to the wonders of smartphones and Facebook, I can show you last year's photo ... because there is no this year's photo.  We made it to PCB and staged a send-off breakfast, but our friends could not make it this year and they were sorely missed.  Also, Cory is usually with us, but this year his school obligations made it impossible for him to get away. 

This year, Rob's brother and sister in law came up and shared our condo, so that Charles could compete (he is following their family tradition by becoming a black belt) and Diane could enjoy the beach.  Boy, did we show them a good time!  Got to spend the day with us at the ER.  Who wouldn't drive seven hours for that little bit of excitement?

Both of the Rothfeld men brought home the glory, although the medals are "in the mail", like my latest check from the JAC.  And we got to share some really fine meals, which I will cheerfully detail in tomorrow's post.  Last day of the Summit, and I'm heading out.  Third day of iron pills, and I am feeling nothing but tired.  No stomach upset, but no energy boost either.  I learned a lot about pill mills and prescription drug addiction yesterday, and I need some time to absorb the knowledge and put it to good use in my cases.

What a drag it is getting old ...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hurricane Syncope

Honey, I'm home!

It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to blog, and a lot has happened. Right now I am at the JW Marriott in Orlando for the 2011 Dependency Summit, which appears to have been renamed "Pathways to Independence Summit" in my absence. Since this is a BIG event for people in my highly specific field, I must have missed the memo. The Summit is an annual statewide gathering of professionals in the field of child welfare, and I've attended most of them over the past eleven years. Last year I stayed home and wrote petitions, but this year my presence has been respectfully requested. I still have to write petitions, but it looks like that is going to become tonight's homework assignment. I am officially tied up.

The content of these sessions is vitally important to what we do, and the only downside is having the system focussed on one subject for an entire year or more. That generally results in repetitive trainings, like the 12 almost identical classes we were required to attend on the subject of domestic violence. When it comes to the Summit I have learned to arrive after the opening plenary, armed for bear. Which translates to a venti black coffee from Starbucks clutched in one hand, which I will sip continuously, letting the blessed caffeine keep me from committing the cardinal sin of falling into a stupor in full view of the State Director of Children's Legal Services.

This year is all about helping our kids who age out of foster care to become independent while maintaining a permanent connection with an adult who will be there for them. Ideally, that should be with an adoptive parent. We're working on it. No one should have to be alone on their birthday, or Christmas.

I'm hoping I can skip the reception tonight. I'm way past the point of needing to network, and pursuant to my personal goal of flying under the radar, the more people who do not know my name, the better. And speaking of falling into stupors, I had QUITE a weekend in Panama City Beach. Oy Oy Oy.

So I got a note on Facebook from our friend, neighbor, and ATA taekwando pal, Elaine, who asked, "how was Another Broken Egg without us?" Well, Elaine, not so good. In fact, I missed you all so much, you and Betty and Frank, that I passed out. Twice. Once in the restaurant while waiting for a table, and once in the parking lot on the way back to the car to lie down. Boom. Spent the rest of the day in the emergency room at Bay Medical Center, trying to return to the world of the living, instead of hanging out on the world's best beach with my sister in law.

Despite that consummate disappointment, there was a lot that was good about the long weekend (but that's another blog post.  We hit a lot of new food places, and they deserve their own post). I needed that mini vacay desperately, as our office move turned out to be ridiculously stressful for me. Now that we are all settled, I am loving it, but getting there took too long with too many glitches.

Why yes, those are beignets!

Incidentally, it turns out I'm anemic.  I knew that, but somehow failed to connect it with my chronic fatigue and lingering low grade depression.  The ER doc was very kind and helpful, and explained that if my red cell count was any lower, he would have had to transfuse me.  Ick.  The anemia and my lack of protein that morning probably contributed to the faint, but I am certain that the blame lies squarely at the feet of Hurricane Lee.  "Hurricane Syncope", the ER nurse called it, although I'm not sure he was joking or not.  But I've been passing out from hurricanes since Gloria hit New York in 1985, so it's no joke to me.  Hurricane Syncope.  I like the way that sounds.  I just don't like the way it feels.

Got a lot of knitting done.  Very happy about that.