Humpty-Dumpty Vital Signs: How to put the GOP back together again…

Truth Time

“Saudi Arabia rejects seat on U.N. Security Council”

Sometimes the real news is the stuff found on page A11 of a humble local newspaper like the Palm Beach Post where an Associated Press article compiled by Edith M. Ledere and Aya Batrawy describes the unique tale of how a country like Saudi Arabia likes to outline how the United States has really lost its credibility on Friday when it refused the first-time offer of a two year term seat on the U.N. Security Council–a most coveted position for most nations, especially Arab ones. “The Saudis were displeased that the U.S. backed off threats of military strikes against Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons.”

President Obama was quoted the day before (Thursday 10/17) as saying that the 16-day partial government shutdown was primarily the Republican’s fault and risked exposing the United States as a poor leader or in his words, the “shutdown hurt U.S. credibility as leader.

Tea Party Resurgence

Yesterday afternoon I’m driving north on Interstate I-95 in Palm Beach County and approach an overpass for Okeechobee Boulevard–there are signs and people and for a few seconds my eyes register what they’re seeing.  “Impeach Obama”, “Honk…Obamacare” It occurs to me that these folks might be delusional because there is a way we can work out of this lethargy or apathy when it comes to the government as it stands today: get involved and take personal responsibility!

Why Blame Senator Ted Cruz?

Senator Ted Cruz’s last name can easily conjure the image of the Santa Cruz surfing coast in California where a slip on the board can mean death of a surfer on the unforgiving rocks.  It seems this was a similar fate endured by Speaker John Boehner and the GOP this past week–but why do we have to believe that?

Perception is Peculiar

Here’s the reality: neither the Democrat or the Republican party are perfect, unified or fit to govern.  The two main parties in our nation actually need each other just like most of our electronic gadgets require the positive and negative charge in the batteries that power them.  Duality in physical nature as well as spiritual/theological exegesis all encompass the existence and general necessity of  having two different parts both entangle and empower the other.

I’m not proposing that we break up the GOP to make a new one.  I’m also not proposing that we annihilate the Democratic party–I have both friends and colleagues that I respect and care about who are Democrats and I know their heart is in the right place for our nation.  What I do believe Americans are sick of is the arguing about which party is right all of the time.  What’s wrong with trying to accept that both parties are trying to find what’s the right direction for our country?

For instance, did you know that Obamacare was really a regurgitated version of RomneyCare–it is “inherently a compromise because it is a health insurance reform law rather than an overhaul of the structure of our nation’s health-care system.” (see Jane Mansbridge’s ‘Obama already compromised big-time’,0,7930456.story)

Humpty-Dumpty GOP: Can It Be Put Together Again?

I do believe that if the Democrats can keep it together after recent years of hardships for our nation, the Republicans can as well.  The key is to stop focusing on what divides and instead focus on what unites the party.  What are the GOP’s priority issues? (hint: drop the gay marriage and abortion flagships)  After that’s established, then Republicans need to pick out what issues they think they can best work toward compromises with Democrats and others.  The United States really does have a great system in place when there is a balance between the two major parties–our political health will not be demonstrated in how well people stay within the party line, rather it will be how often both sides can show the ability to cross the line to find each other and help our nation progress.

God Bless America,

Ramona V.S.B.








Poetry After Pause: A reflection often precedes a restart

Note:  To friends and family who are gracious enough to follow my blog site here at , I apologize for the long absence since my last post a couple of months ago.  After being involved in a car accident in late July that spared the lives of my children and I…I have found the business of living life to be more important and even critical at times than writing or creating art by visual or written means.  However, I’m ready once again to openly share reflections, lessons and philosophical rants with the world again.

“A Few Moments”

A breath sweet,

peak retreat.

Touch of snow,

silence no foe.

Craving a pause,

refine my cause.

So much to do,

Ah, to take a few.


The Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading this blog right now,please consider watching this now or later, a TEDS talk clip:

State of Education

Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws.  As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless.  We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.


Why has it all shifted?  Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives.  Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.

These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more.  There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else.  Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of

I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow.   What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: ) that my children should love to learn.  I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.


The Palm Beach Post printed an article today highlighting a place in Delray Beach, Florida called “Space of Mind” written by Allison Ross, read more at:

Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution.  There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?

Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave.  With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.

We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone.  What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones.  The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.

Plenty of Resources

Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students.  Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area.  For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.

Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s).  May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.


My sources:

Once, Twice, Three Times a Turtle: A Local Reflection

Bees, Trees and Turtles

Along with rain forest deforestation and honeybee colony-collapse disorder talk in recent decades, the plight of the sea turtles has come onto our radar as a serious environmental concern.  Deforestation affects many other species of plants and animals—not to mention the oxygen supply and possible overall weather patterns.  The honeybee issue is atrocious in its severity although much of the general human population hasn’t realized it yet but may if our food supply is abruptly altered one of these days.   Meanwhile I live in south Florida where it so happens that a few endangered species of sea turtles come to nest annually including the Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtle.  As a child growing up on the east coast here in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to come across a nest of turtle eggs and there were no public pushes to “save them”—little did I know that one day I’d be a grown-up where turtle talk would be critical to our survival in addition to those of other plants animals such as the bees and trees.

Turtle Walk: Not What First Comes to Mind

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is located in Juno Beach, Florida and their website is .  It turns out they have something called a “Turtle Walk” where attendees arrive on a scheduled evening and learn more about the details of the sea turtles’ habits and the kind of research and direct assistance to the sea turtles that the LMC provides through generous donation of volunteer time and public donations.  At the same time, there are “spotters” in communication with staff indoors as to whether there is a turtle sighting—they inform if is there a female turtle approaching the shore in order to lay her eggs in the dark.   If a turtle comes ashore that matches the species allowed by state permit for LMC to view with a tour then the visitors are chaperoned down to the shore in the nighttime with the assistance of red flashlights that will not hamper or scare the turtle.  The general purpose of this Turtle Walk is to educate visitors through education and viewing in real-time the tedious work of a sea turtle to try against many odds to secure the next generation’s survival.

Last Tuesday: No Turtle Show

I had the opportunity to participate in a Turtle Walk event last Tuesday at the LMC in Juno Beach.  Unfortunately our group didn’t have the chance to view a turtle laying in real-time, however, the information I was able to learn in a couple of hours from some of the staff that evening was really enlightening.  Among my favorites: learning that the water evacuating from the pipe from rehabilitation turtle tanks has been treated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that affirms my intuition that has allowed my children and I to enjoy the water play by the shore from it, the fact that leatherback turtles are our best friends because they eat their weight in jellyfish(!) and that LMC’s presence in our area has helped to make significant changes that benefit humans as well as turtles with keeping the nearby beaches cleaner and calmer with less ambient light.  Also, “hot chicks, cool dudes” was the phrase coined to describe the fact in the 1980s biologists realized that sea turtles undergo temperature-dependent sex determination–i.e. the temperature of the sand encloses the egg nests on the shore will sway whether an egg hatches a male or female sea turtle.

Mean Green Clean

If you have had the opportunity to read some of my earlier blog posts you will already understand my anger about our shorelines being treated as an open sand landfill or ashtray—seriously, what possesses us humans to think it’s okay to discard our trash on purpose in a place we all share with each other and the other animal and plants?  On July 5th the LMC organized a beach cleanup and invited the public to come out and utilize tools to pick up any and all trash that could be found after a major holiday.  I brought one of my young children along and when faced with a tantrum I gently sang to him as to why we needed to clean up—for the turtles, for the trees, for the bees and for you and me.  It was both impressive and sad to see how much the public had left in the sands only inches and feet away from wooden markers indicating a sea turtle nest.  Although it is great to have public beach cleanups organized, I feel it’s incumbent upon anyone who steps on a beach to refrain from littering and to pick up any rubbish they see and properly discard.

Local Paper Highlights

Within the same week of attending a LMC Turtle Walk night and participating in a public beach clean up our local paper The Palm Beach Post had a fun Accent front page story entitled “On the trail of turtles” written by Barbara Marshall and photographs by Greg Lovett:  It was a fun piece that highlighted a snippet of what volunteers, biologists and physicians do at the LMC to help ensure that the leatherback turtles who nest on our shores are able to continue their calling as part of our ecological balance in the ocean–did you know they may actually be natives of the Asian oceans? Also, they eat jellyfish, I repeat: THEY EAT JELLYFISH.  There is more to be written on the need to assist the sea turtles, of course, but it is good to see that the information continues to come out no matter how big or small.

Turtle Time

It is understandable that we can get so overwhelmed by any news that affects the survival of animal species, plants and the frightful fluctuations of our climate on this Earth—so that we actually are moved to not move, we become paralyzed and apathetic.  My hope is that we can at the very least become more aware of our immediate environment where we respectively live and do our best to assist outstanding issues with wildlife other concerns.  We cannot disassociate ourselves from the fact that we depend on each other and other building blocks in our physical world to survive and thrive as we strive to become a better human race overall.


Some newsworthy links:

recent article on honeybee CCD:

recent article on rainforest destruction:

Price of Privacy: Isolation or Ignorance?

price of privacy june 24 2013

Follow the Rabbit

Thanks to Edward J. Snowden’s current life adventure, the question of our privacy in 2013 and beyond has come into question again. Mr. Snowden isn’t so special, however, as there’s weekly news bulletins that highlight how transparent we’ve become whether we know or like it—hardly anything is a secret.

Remember the Red Seal?

There was a time when official state or personal correspondence was sealed with a wax imprint to ensure the privacy of its contents. Today we may have certified mail or services like FedEx for direct correspondence but the majority of us conduct both professional and personal discourse through the internet and phone texts. There’s no guarantee that these interactions are safe from unwanted monitoring or hacking.

Blame the Governments?

The fact remains that the U.S. government is unable to truly “spy” on everyone’s conversations or internet blah-blah: there simply isn’t enough manpower and the computer algorithms in place are just barely keeping up with the real terrorist/hostile enemy threats to U.S. citizens and interests. Personal responsibility remains the ugly elephant in the room—when you log in or have your phone on, you are placing yourself in a vulnerable position.

Perception is Revealing

The next time you post photos on your social media website of choice, try to imagine that you just ran them on one of the huge screens at New York City’s Time Square and any other major metropolis in the world. Let’s take that a step further and consider that the text you sent earlier today blasting your boss was retrieved by your human resources department at the job—oops. An entire article could respectively be devoted to the exposure of our financial, medical and other very personal assets in this “connected” world.

Concede or Recede?

I personally don’t know what the answer is to this question of our privacy in the 21st century. It must be a conversation we continue to have without too much malice for one group or another–respect for each other is the best foundation to find what’s our common ground.  Please remember that those who work in the government are still people just like you and me. In order to live freely in America we’ve had compromise through the decades of contentious things like the Civil War, Civil Rights and now access to information–personal or public.


note: for those catching up on news of Mr. Snowden, a recent New York Times article found here

and I recommend watching Ben Affleck’s “Argo” for a Hollywood-style reality check on just how deadly information in the wrong hands can be (I’m sure there are many other films in this category, this was the most recent I’ve watched-cheers!)

Father’s Day: Meaningful Even to the Fatherless

Everclear’s “Father of Mine” :

My brother, sister and I are usually oblivious to the arrival of Father’s Day every year because our most immediate father by blood was abusive and absent to his family.  Thankfully our mother was able to take us under her arms along with the help of good people and escape that destructive household when I was about 11 years old. 

Over the past couple of decades I’ve gone through every emotion on the matter and settled on neutral in order to enjoy the blessings of the other “fathers” in our lives.

Father God: thank you. Spiritual fathers in the priesthood and pastors: thank you.  Coaches in Physical Education, basketball, track & field, cross-country: thank you. Teachers in high school and professors in universities: thank you.  Friends: thank you. Fathers through marriage (including grandparents and uncles): thank you. Father of my children: endless thanks…

As I noted in my Mother’s Day post earlier this year:

Every man out there in the world has the opportunity to give fatherly love to others through gentle but firm leadership in positive matters, providing safety, encouraging through praise and giving peace through unconditional love and never trampling the spirit of child.

Newsboys’ “Always” :

Ever grateful,



Herb Hints for Summer 2013: Part 1

herb hints part one june 3 2013

Herb Hints for Summer 2013: Part 1

As summer literally begins to heat up later this month in North America, many plants will be bursting with bountiful harvests. I’m happy to share with you some hints and fun information for cultivating specifically herb plants that I’ve gathered through personal experience and various research sources to assist you whether you have an in-ground garden, a raised-bed planter or simply a pot or two on your kitchen windowsill. In this particular post I will focus on three herbs that I’ve kept over the years most consistently for culinary uses.

Basil: Who isn’t acquainted with the burst of flavor and scent that basil affords? My first memory of this herb was as a little girl in my great-grandfather’s garden south of Athens, Greece when he cut some for me to smell and take to the kitchen for our meal. The large-leafed varieties produce great foliage for pasta sauces and fresh salads. Basil is also a great companion plant for tomatoes. Lemon basil and sweet basil are my personal favorites for usage in home cooking and herbal bouquets as gifts for loved ones. “The name “basil” is derived from the old Greek word basilikohn, which means “royal,” reflecting that ancient culture’s attitudes towards an herb that they held to be very noble and sacred.”

Mint: O’Brien’s in New Orleans serves a strong concoction called the Mint Julep, a mix of bourbon whiskey and crushed mint in a sugary punch that impressed my palate and sense of fun. Later I would have a Mohito in a South Florida restaurant that inspired me to keep this herb in my garden rotation permanently. It turns out I can also use mint to make fresh hot tea that works as a non-alcoholic calming force on its own. A common favorite for garnish in iced teas, lemonade or cocktails—this plant (and its many varieties) is very aggressive and spreads quickly in its root system. This can be great if you are into propagation (just stick a cutting in water and watch roots grow over time) but if not then it is advisable to keep it in a container. As a side note, mint is also a natural repellant for flies and ants.

Parsley:  This herb is readily available for purchase at grocery stores in the produce department and I recommend you just buy the plant since growing from parsley from seed is no easy feat–I just achieved success at starting parsley from seed after over 5 years of trying. “Cut up flat-leaf parsley to use in soups and stews. Add parsley to warm foods just before serving so the herb maintains its flavor and bright green color.” (from the premier issue of Herb Gardening through ) Personally I love having fresh parsley around for fresh visual garnish on dishes presented to your family and friends at the dinner table. It’s been known for centuries as a breath freshener after dinner when you nibble on it and in old folklore a robust parsley plant at a residence represented a strong woman of the house inside.


It turns out that you can store these herbs either by drying them (I use a dehydrator but there are methods for drying them appropriately if you research) or freezing them. I haven’t tried it but “Herb Gardening” magazine suggests: “Grind and freeze-wash and pat dry large-leafed herbs such as basil and parsley. In a food processor, combine each herb with oil and grind into a paste. Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays to use later in soups, stews and sauces.”

Recipe to Boot: From June 2013 Good Housekeeping magazine,
30 minutes or less-Weeknight Easy

Minted Chicken with Asparagus
Note: Makes 4 main dish servings

• 1 lime
• 1 ½ cup packed fresh mint leaves
• 1 clove garlic
• 2 tsp brown sugar
• ½ ground coriander
• 3 tbsp canola oil (I believe any oil you choose is fine)
• 1 ¼ lbs thin chicken cutlets
• 1 bunch thin asparagus trimmed
• 8 cups mixed baby greens

1. Prepare outdoor grill for covered direct grilling on medium.
2. From lime, grate ½ tsp peel and squeeze 2 tbsp juice.
3. In food processor, pulse mint, grated lime peel, garlic, sugar, coriander and 2 tsp oil until smooth, occasionally scraping down side of bowl then transfer to small bowl.
4. Rub chicken with 2 tbsp mint mixture; sprinkle with ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Grill, covered, 6 to 8 minutes or until cooked through, turning over once.
5. Meanwhile, toss asparagus with 1 tsp oil; sprinkle with 1/8 tsp salt. Grill, covered, 5-6 min, turning occasionally. Grill bread 1-2 minutes per side.
6. To bowl with reserved mint mixture, add lime juice, remaining 2 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp salt, whisking to combine. Thinly slice chicken. Divide greens among 4 serving plates; top with chicken and asparagus. Drizzle with mint dressing and serve with grilled bread.

Happy Herbing! 

Stay tuned for Herb Hints for Summer 2013: Part 2,

Additional Sources: “The Beginner’s Guide to Edible Herbs- 26 Herbs Everyone Should Grow and Enjoy” by Charles W.G. Smith, Storey Publishing

Recipes to Share: Florida Orange Rice

florida orange rice May 2013

Florida Orange Rice

Note: A special thanks to  “Florida Citrus Treasure Cookbook-A Collection of Heritage Treasures”, a great University of Florida IFAS Extension book that contains a collection of recipes handed down by UF Extension employees and their friends.

3 tablespoons butter, margarine or olive oil

1 cup uncooked rice

2/3 diced celery with leaves

1/8 thyme (dried is fine)

2 tablespoons chopped onion

2 tablespoons slivered orange rind

1  1/2 cups water

1  1/4 teaspoons salt

1 cup orange juice

Melt butter (margarine or heat oil) in heavy saucepan. Add celery and onion; cook until onion is tender, but not brown. Add water, orange juice, rind, salt and thyme.  Bring to a boil; add rice slowly. Cover; reduce heat and cook at a low heat for 25 minutes.

My notes: I found this to be a delicious side dish to accompany citrus broiled lamb with brown sugar glaze and steamed artichokes.  Wonderful summer rice and it has room for experimentation, garnish with fresh parsley, cilantro and orange slices!



florida orange rice with meal May 2013

Mother’s Day: A Day Open for Interpretation

Attention all women: Happy Mother’s Day! (belated as it was technically yesterday-wrote this just before midnight)

Several years ago I sat alone in a greek Orthodox church in Falls Church, Virginia listening to the priest deliver his homily message on a spring Mother’s Day.   Although I can’t recall his specific words, I do recall that he said they would be giving out a single stem flower afterwards to every girl and woman in the room after the church service–this interested me greatly as at the time I wasn’t a mother yet.  He explained that the purpose doing this wasn’t just to avoid any awkward questions as to who was a mother but to also honor the nurturing role that females play in our human society.

This morning I was crawling on my knees between pews and following a darting flash of golden hair and giggles as my youngest demonstrated his toddler skills in another greek Orthodox church here in south Florida.  The priest was delivering his Mother’s Day message by making fun statements that “without mothers nothing would get done” and also alluding that whether any woman was a mother via birth/adoption of children, this day was meant to honor us regardless of being a mother or not.  It was a pleasant deja-vu moment to have the priest announce that a single rose would be given to each female exiting the church in celebration of Mother’s Day.

It was my pleasure to reach out today and wish a “Happy Mother’s Day” greeting to my family and friends whom I know are called “mother” by their roles in their families and rank.  At the same time, it was equally natural to me to recognize and express gratitude to the other women in my life whom I know or have met in passing who have also fulfilled the role as a mother through their selfless giving of themselves to me or my own children.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Ramona's cell phone download 930

Recipes to Share: Florida Fresh Salsa and Fun Drinks for Kids (and adults too!)

Salsa and Tropical Drinks for kids

Recipes to Share: Florida Fresh Salsa and Fun Drinks for Kids (and adults too!)

Note: As I’d like to start sharing more recipes on my blog here at, I invite readers to share their ideas too if you have made similar recipe and want to add or offer more ideas through comments–happy meal-making!

The summer heat for Floridians makes fresh, cool produce an appealing choice for snacks and meals–especially for our children who can get easily overheated after playing outside during days that easily see air temperatures in the 80s-90s and humidity levels consistently over 70%. Here’s a fun pairing of fresh options for a light lunch, in-between snack or anything else.

Florida Fresh Salsa

4-6 ripe tomatoes (any kind or color you prefer–except green of course, those are generally for frying!)

1 sweet onion (I prefer sweets for milder flavor for children, purple are good too)

1 jalapeno (banana pepper or cubanelle can be substituted for those sensitive to spicy)

1/4 to 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon or lime (or both and adjust amount to taste)

1/2 cup of cut fresh cilantro

Dice tomatoes, onions and pepper in a bowl, drizzle juice on top and mix cilantro in. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, I personally love either Garden of Eating organic blue corn chips, Late July or Florida Gourmet Chips found at many of our south Florida produce stands. Note to Parents: it is advisable to serve your young children the salsa by placing it on top of each chip arranged on a plate. Tostitos brand has the Scoop chips that are perfect for little ones as well.

Non-alcoholic Tropical Drink

Crushed ice – or any ice

Kennesaw’s lemonade (or fresh lemon juice or other lemonade)

Florida orange juice

Spritzy or sparkling water

citrus wedges (lemon, lime, orange…)

colored sugar (in photo above it’s red)

This is a refreshing drink that can be manifested in so many different ways–mix the above ingredients together as you see fit in whatever fun cups you have and straws are always a hit for little ones. Garnish with wedges and top the drink with colored sugar. I’ve even used a little splash of Pom juice to help the color for visual enjoyment.