Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sexually Transmitted Disease Rate Rising

A local school district is using “abstinence only” as it’s sex-ed class guidance. Has abstinence, among any population, ever worked? Give our hormone-ridden teens some information, please! Tell them that if they are going to have sex, how to use a condom, and explain a wide variety of contraceptives which will prevent an unwanted pregnancy. How many teens do you know who are ready to become parents? Teens are greatly at the mercy of their bodies, teach them to use their bodies responsibly.

It’s not just teen-agers in the US.

One recent fact I read recently is not included in this article; one of the greatest increases in STD’s in our population is among adults 55 and older, and people in retirement homes and nursing homes. We need to get these grown-ups some sex-ed, too!

Sex diseases in US surge to record high

AFP
"All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartach," said Gail Bolan, director of CDC's Division of STD Prevention, of STDs that are passed from mother to child
“All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartach,” said Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, of STDs that are passed from mother to child (AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)
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Washington (AFP) – Sexually transmitted diseases surged to a record high in the United States last year, with more than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis nationwide, officials said Tuesday.

This was “the highest number ever,” said the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report released today by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most of the new cases — 1.6 million in 2016 — involved chlamydia, a bacterial infection that affects both men and women.

Gonorrhea also increased among men and women last year, but the steepest rise was among men (22 percent), said the report.

Nationwide, gonorrhea cases reached 470,000, with a large share of new gonorrhea cases among men who have sex with men.

These trends are “particularly alarming” because of the growing threat of gonorrhea becoming resistant to the last recommended treatment, according to the CDC report.

Syphilis cases numbered 28,000, a rate that increased nearly 18 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Most cases of syphilis occur among men — mainly gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

But women too saw a 36 percent increase in rates of syphilis.

There were more than 600 cases of syphilis among newborns — known as congenital syphilis — a 28 percent increase in a single year.

These syphilis cases led to “more than 40 deaths and severe health complications among newborns,” said the report.

“Every baby born with syphilis represents a tragic systems failure,” said Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

“All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartache and help assure a healthy start for the next generation of Americans.”

Experts say despite growing concerns about antibiotic resistance, these three STDs can all be cured with antibiotic treatment.

If left untreated, however, they can lead to infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth in infants, and increased risk for HIV transmission.

“Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

“STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond.”

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September 27, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Survival, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

A Dramatic Beginning to The Wake of the Vikings

It’s not that I am THAT compulsive, but I do like to plan ahead, and things that happen at the last minute that require attention can disturb my sleep.

This is a trip we’ve had planned for over a year and a half. We didn’t plan for Hurricane Harvey, and we are flying out of Houston. We didn’t plan on Hurricane Irma, another all-time historical hurricane, headed toward Florida, and possibly into the Gulf. Possibly into Pensacola.

 

We have a wonderful couple who take care of our house and our cats while we are gone. She called the day before we were leaving to ask if we had any plans for the hurricane she needed to know about. Hmmmm. No, I didn’t. I planned not to worry about it. And . . . at the same time, all around me, people are stocking up on propane, and Sam’s has run out of water, and . . . . some people are preparing to hunker down and some to leave home, heading north.

We got moving. I had an hour before my last meeting, and spent that hour figuring out what really mattered to me (photo albums) and putting photo albums up high and in cupboards, and fragile things, like the crystal candelabra AdventureMan gave me for our first anniversary in the safest place I could think of.

Law and Order Man (our son) said he would take Ragnar and Uhtred, our very young cats, to a safe place, if needed.

AdventureMan braced the garage doors with huge specially made steel beams that bolt into place, and we called our contractor who said if it looked like Irma was heading our way, he would put up all the ballistic window and door covers.

It’s not everything, but it’s something. We all felt a lot better.

And thanks to the ‘net, we know that Houston is up and running, and our flights into Houston and out of Houston will fly.

Around eleven, we hear the front door opening (? ! ? ! ? !)  and it is the couple who are coming to stay with the house and cats; they thought we were leaving at night, not the next morning. We all laughed, got them settled, and went to sleep peacefully.

 

The flight into Houston was the best kind, uneventful. We love uneventful flights. You can still see a lot of standing water, and water damage, but the greatest part of the upswell of waters appears to have subsided.

 

 

“Today is the first day that the airport is 100% up and running,” a Houstonian tells us. We are good listeners, and he tells us that the worst part of all this drama is that the death count continues to mount as rescue-workers go into places where people thought they could shelter in safety. The mold is also hitting hard and fast, and emergency facilities are strapped. They are functioning, and they are prepared, and some things are beginning to run out.

The best, he followed up with, is that “you know how divided we have all been? Once the storm hit, it didn’t matter if you were black or white or Mexican or Confederate, we were all just people, and we helped our neighbors, we helped each other. In that way, it was one of the best things that has ever happened in Houston.”

Who would have thought? Houston-strong!

September 6, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Hurricanes, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

What to Tell Your Senator About Health Care

God bless the League of Women Voters! They register new voters, and they keep a sharp eye on issues, and how they will effect us, the people. They do their homework, and they share what they learn with others. Today I received a notification about telling our US Senators how we feel about health care, and that we want protection for the poor, those with pre-existing conditions, and for women.

Remember – the promise was that any replacement was going to be even better, and cheaper, and that all would have access. The bill passed by the house penalizes women, the poor, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

The League shares words we can use:

 

LWV FLORIDA SUGGESTED LETTER TEMPLATES

Dear Senator ____, I join many Americans to oppose the Senate from adopting a health care bill that was not good enough for the Congress that passed it and not good enough for Congressional staffers who work for Congress as the newly passed bill, American Health Care Act (AHCA) exempts these two groups of people from its coverage. They get to keep Obamacare for themselves while they force an inadequate product on the rest of us.

Perhaps Congress gave itself preferential treatment because it wanted the better, broader, and less expensive health care overage that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided.

Perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be threatened by the new bill’s potential for skyrocketing costs for pre-existing conditions, and for the elderly who are often on fixed incomes.

Perhaps Congress wanted to shield themselves from the new bill’s threat that their state may seek a waiver and choose not to keep costs for pre-existing conditions within the reach of most Americans.

Or, perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be part of the 14 million Americans who would lose insurance in 2018 due to President Trump’s new health care bill.

I know my__________ who has diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer and these family members and friends will suffer dire consequences and may not survive if their health insurance or Medicaid is taken away.

Bottom line, if the newly passed AHCA is not good enough for Congress, then it is not good enough for me and other Americans. Vote no on the new health care bill.
I usually paraphrase a little, but these are really good guidelines. So now, get busy.
Remember Resistbot, too – text Resist to 50409.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

“You Go Into Southern Belle Mode”

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I’ve added a new category; I’ve written so many posts in this vein, and it looks like I will continue so to do. Might as well add it as a staple:  Stranger in a Strange Land.

Probably the first mention of that phrase in literature is in Genesis; Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert where he meets a nice girl and marries her. He refers to himself as an alien, a stranger in a strange land. Both Jewish culture and Islamic culture put a high value on taking care of the stranger. Our bible is full of references to taking care of the alien.

Here is one of my favorite stories about what my friend Donald Rumsfeld calls those “unknown unknowns. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you into trouble.

I was at a party, and in a conversation with two women who are widows. We were talking about some of the difficulties, and what has caught them by surprise.

I said I didn’t know how they got through it, that I had a feeling if AdventureMan goes before I go, I’m going to be really really angry, tearing my hair out and shrieking angry, shredding my clothes angry, not wanting to be around other people angry, so so so so angry because if I let myself feel sad I don’t know if I can ever pull myself out of that abyss.

The newest widow just looked at me like I had said something culturally inappropriate, which, it turns out, I had. There was one of those brief silences, you know, it may only be seconds but it feels like it goes on forever because you don’t know what you said.

“If you were from around here,” she said, “You’d know what to do. You go into Southern Belle mode. We’ve all seen it all our lives, so we know how to do it. You pick out your clothes. You smile and shake hands. You put your guests first. You stand and smile until the last guest has gone.”

I was stunned. “You hold yourself together through all that?” I asked.

“Well,” she said with a smile, “You have a plan. You know where you can go with a friend or cousin after the funeral, a place where you are safe and where you can get knee-walking drunk and do your wailing where you need to and no one will ever know.”

She didn’t even have to say “You must not be from around here” but I heard it, loud and clear. There are standards. No weeping and wailing, no public display of emotion, no lack of self-control, oh-my-goodness, I think I must be back in the Middle East. I am in my own country, and still, very much a stranger in a strange land.

 

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Local Lore, Pensacola, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | 2 Comments

Sunset Cruise, Dolphin Cruise and Moonlight Cruise in Destin

It was our house guests’ last night in our area, and we wanted to do something special and memorable with them, so we booked on Olin Marler’s Sunset Cruise out of Destin. We found this trip several years ago, and while our guests enjoy it, we do, too!

 

It is mid-season in Destin. The Spring Break craziness has just ended, and the Summer Madness has not yet begun. A boat for forty holds ten of us tonight, plus the crew, and the crew knock themselves out to show us a good time.

 

We had a gorgeous sunset, with dolphins

SunsetDolphins

We had a whole bunch of dolphins, grown ones and little ones, and they were having a great time. They stuck around, and we watched for about half an hour, no other boats in sight.

DolphinsPlaying

As we were leaving, the full moon rose and gave us a glorious ride home:

MoonightOverDestin

We can’t promise future house guests this experience. We’ve never had it this good. Maybe our guests brought this good luck?

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Entertainment, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Photos, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Wildlife | | 2 Comments

The Carolina Wrens

Several months ago, we noticed a wren flying close to our house, flying out, flying back, flying out, flying back, and she was always carrying something.

 

“I think she might be building a nest in our watering can,” I told AdventureMan. He checked the can, and sure enough, it was full of little straw and twigs and pieces of string. Her mate showed up, also bringing strings and twigs and grass clippings.

 

Weeks went by, and we enjoyed their company. We gave the plenty of space.

 

CarolinaWrenBabies

 

We had houseguests, and as we were about to leave one day,  AdventureMan spotted four tiny little wrens, trying their wings for the first time. He quickly snapped a shot with his iPhone of the two not yet flying. It is a good thing; by the next day, they were gone. We were just so thankful we got to see them, and our house guests got to see them, too!

 

What fun! We hope they will come back and nest with us again next year!

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Birds, Circle of Life and Death, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Gardens, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Shoot Out in Pensacola with the new Bonnie and Clyde

 

We’d been up late. This was the first text I received, early this morning, as we entered our day a little more slowly than usual.

 

“Shoot-out in Pensacola! Are you OK?”

 

Yes, we are OK, and we were in the thick of things last night. We’d both had long days, and we were headed to bed a little earlier than usual. I had just finished my prayers when I heard a very loud screech of wheels going around a nearby corner. Usually when the screech is that loud, it is followed by a crash or a thud, but this time the car seemed to be OK. Very soon after that, however, I noticed flashing lights on the ceiling, flashing and dancing in red and blue.

 

I know those lights. When we lived in Kuwait, we lived on a busy corner, a corner where the Kuwait police frequently set up check-points to check people’s residence cards. AdventureMan could sleep right through them, but sometimes I was wakeful, and would watch. There was a lot of drama as the cars had no where they could go, there was no where they could turn off, they were trapped. Many people who lived in Kuwait illegally, or whose visas had expired were caught and taken in to be processed and, if they couldn’t prove someone was sponsoring them, deported.

 

It was ugly, and heartbreaking, and sometimes . . . comical. Ancient Arab men would talk to the police, it was begging of a different sort, and kiss the policeman. Kissing a policeman is just something that would never occur to me, so to me, it looks absurd, but in the context of Kuwaiti culture, it is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes the old Arab man would get a pass, just as a pretty girl in the US will sometimes get a pass.

 

So I “arose from my bed to see what was the matter.”  There were big SUVs with flashing lights blocking traffic to the south, seven or eight cars in an array to the north, cars blocking entrances to several streets to the east. The only traffic were Sheriff’s department cars, trucks and SUV’s, some with flashing lights, some unmarked. They were all working together.

 

I called the Police Department.

“I live at blah blah,” I said, “and there appears to be a lot of activity, flashing lights and stuff, is there something I should know?”

“We’re looking for some suspects,” the officer answered tersely.

“OK, thanks!” I chirped, not knowing any more than I knew before.

There have been gangs of kids who come through the neighborhoods from time to time, looking for unlocked cars to steal cash, guns, or even the cars if the owner leaves the keys in them. Recently three young teens in Pensacola stole a school bus and drove it for about three hours before being stopped. This response seemed a little extreme for neighborhood looters, even more grown burgers. There were a lot of resources involved, people, cars, canines, a lot of man-hours and teams of people going door to door, searching the backyards with flashlights and the dogs.

They searched our yard twice.

We have a high fence and keep our gates locked. When I saw the team methodically making their way towards our house, I called out to AdventureMan to go down and unlock the gates. As the team was trying to get in, I opened the window, and flashlights zipped up to illuminate my face.

“My husband is on his way now to unlock the gates to let you in,” I said.

One of the guardians of the law looked at me, astounded, and said “You lock your gates?”

It seemed very funny to me at the time, considering the activity, but I didn’t dare laugh, clearly this was serious business, and around then AdventureMan opened the gate for them.

It was a cold cold night in Pensacola, near freezing, and I felt sorry for the pure, hard work of searching house-to-house in the very cold temperatures.

A part of me also felt sorry for whoever was being chased, hunkered down somewhere, being chased by dogs, and, once the adrenalin wears off, being really cold.

Cars raced here and there, the teams continued their searches and we kept watch. We heard a helicopter, briefly, and we don’t know if it was a police helicopter or a news helicopter. Then, around 12:30, all the cars raced off. Somewhere. It was very quiet, and we gratefully went back to bed.

This morning I didn’t feel quite so sorry for the couple, who had invaded a house in our neighborhood, held a couple hostage, and then stole their car to escape. Those were the last few minutes of a man’s life, and he spent them terrorizing and stealing that which was not his. After another – their third – dangerous fast car chase, they were trapped, and a gunfight ensued, killing the man. During this final gunfight, Blake Fitzgerald used his girlfriend, Brittany Harper, as a shield.

I was never afraid. If you had seen the number of police / sheriff’s deputies out last night, you would understand. They were focused and professional. They were given an opportunity to practice their skills. They performed as a team, and you could feel that they were excited to be doing the job, on a grand scale, that they are trained to do. They stopped a couple on an interstate spree of kidnapping, abducting, robbing, invading houses, burglarizing and terrorizing. They can feel good today, about what they accomplished last night.

And I was just telling you in my last entry what a quiet life we lead . . . 🙂

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving at the Sunset Inn

Back in Panama City for our annual gathering with our sweet daughter-in-law’s family, we check in at the Sunset Inn on a glorious day in late November. The view that greets us thrills our hearts:

00ViewSunsetInn

There aren’t too many people staying at the beach, go figure, it’s Thanksgiving and families are gathering, but this is a GREAT time to be here. We have a full kitchen, so I can still roast my garlic-broccoli, make my Mom’s Cranberry Salad and make the topping for the Soused Apple Cake all while having the door wide open and listening to the waves roaring to the shore. This is one of my happiest places on earth.

These small surf boards give a lot of pleasure on smaller waves:

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I thought I was back in Kuwait, overlooking the family park in Fintas:

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00SunsetAtSunsetInn

I can see things slipping a little at the Sunset Inn, carpets not being replaced, linens getting thinner from so many washings, small repairs not being made – and I know our days there are numbered. Sigh. What they can’t replace in the personal character of the management – I can run down and beg a couple pieces of tinfoil to cover my broccoli; it is their motel, they manage it personally. There are countless soulless condos and motel rooms in Panama City Beach, but only one Sunset Inn.

December 6, 2014 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Thanksgiving, Travel, Weather | , | 2 Comments

Meeting For Lunch on the Bayou Texar

We are having a streak of amazing weather, cool cool nights with lovely mornings and warm, but not steaming afternoons. Yesterday, on the way back from lunch, we saw a gathering of hundreds of pelicans on Bayou Texar, munching away on whatever was plentiful at that neck of the Bayou. I really like pelicans; refugees from another era, looking like little pterodactyls . . .

00LunchMeetingBayouTexar2

00LunchMeetingOnBayouTexar

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Beauty, Birds, Florida, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Weather | Leave a comment

Domestic Violence: What is Wrong With this Picture?

Screen shot 2014-10-09 at 5.58.15 PM

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At first, I thought oh, that is amazing, Florida has the lowest rate of all the states. Then, I looked a little closer . . . no data? No data on homicides related to male partners?

Here is what the report summarizes:

The States Where Women Are Most Likely to Be Killed By Men

Every year, the Violence Policy Center tracks which states have the highest rate of incidents in which one man kills one woman, a typical indicator of domestic homicide. The Huffington Post crunched the data to find the worst offenders over the past decade. Between 2003 and 2012, Nevada had the highest rate, at 2.447 women killed per 100,000. In 2012, however, the most recent year for which data is available, Nevada’s rate dropped to 1.83, and Alaska took the top spot with 2.57 women killed per 100,000.

It is horrifying in Florida; men killing their wives, their live-ins, their daughters, men and women striking or burning their children, or shooting them . . . but it is also horrifying that Florida can’t – or won’t – provide the statistics when every other state has.

It all goes back to the idea of women as property. Arrrgh, I am speechless with frustration.

October 9, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Quality of Life Issues, Statistics, Women's Issues | | 3 Comments