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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

That’s our hope for you in 2017

Self-Care 101 was not in my college curriculum. I graduated knowing more about forms of poetry — I especially liked terza rima — than how to live healthy, let alone wealthy or wise. (Though the latter was supposed to be the road to which my liberal arts education led.)
    Not in high school or elementary school either did I learn when a cold was contagious, how to survive nausea or how to enjoy exercise and make it part of my life. Even motherhood left me clueless, so it’s a good thing my children played hard outdoors and had pets to desensitize them to life’s everyday germs.
    The knowledge I’ve acquired of basic survival skills I pretty much picked up on the go. Among those tidbits were folk remedies easily dismissed. A world away from my immigrant grandmother, my mother’s description of her prescriptions seemed pretty silly. Now I see that garlic does have healing properties and that a rub of olive oil and a warm cloth can soothe a stiff neck.
    Those are not among the wellness tips you’ll read in Bay Weekly’s first paper of our 24th year, Vol. XXV, No. 1. (Unless you take my word for it.)
    What you will find is a nice Whitman’s Sampler of ways to consider as you set out on the self-improvement campaign that’s comes with each new year’s jolt, whether or not we make formal resolutions.
    Our tips pop up all along the spectrum of well-being. They range from fitness to finance, wellness to wealth, bodywork to body care — and touch on food for our and our pets’ health.
    Do you want to find medical care that helps you stay well as well as get well? Owensville Primary Care makes you that promise in these pages.
    Do you want to stop smoking in 2017? You’ll read here how to take a first step with Anne Arundel County’s Learn to Live program.
    Is your resolution America’s third most popular: losing weight? Doctor James M. Wagner offers insight into that annual challenge.
    Are you ignoring what the sun may have done to your skin because you can’t find a dermatologist who has time for you? Maybe Calvert Dermatology is the one. I’m going to see for myself.
    Do you need to know where to go when you feel too bad to wait for your doctor? Maybe AFC Urgent Care is right for you.
    Is it finally time to learn CPR or upgrade your First Aid knowledge? Much of our community made that decision when a walker was stricken on our roads. Carrie Duvall of Duvall CPR & First Aid offers group and individual classes when and where you want.
    Just how sick is your kid — and when should you seek help? Dr. Azam Baig of South River Pediatrics gives you tips I wish I’d known way back when.
    Is fitness your goal? Get the help you need to succeed from Chesapeake Health & Fitness, Pilates Plus or Poston’s Fitness for Life.
    In assembling these tips, we partnered with local businesses that have a stake in your well-being. We’ve not sought to be comprehensive or conclusive. Our purpose has been introducing you to people, places and programs in our own community that guide you in making wise wellness choices. Each of our well-being partners promises you not only a service but also information and expert help in making your 2017 healthier, wealthier and wiser.
    I send you my best wishes in achieving those goals.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

My favorite stories of 2016

Together, we read a lot of stories over the course of a year. Many of them give you a moment’s insight or delight. Others tell you just what you need to know. Some of them stay in your mind, even after all those words have come between you and them all that time ago. So I can still recount stories we ran five, or 10 or 23 years ago.
    Before I close the book on 2016 (yes, I really do have a large, heavy book labeled Vol. XXIV), I want to revisit some of my favorites this year.
    Following the pattern of this Best of the Bay edition, I’m awarding them categorical bests. Some categories have more than one winner.


Best Story on a New ­Technology — and How to Use It
Bob Melamud’s Printing in Three Dimensions: How I learned to make my own cookie cutter at the library: www.bayweekly.com/node/36221

Best Heart Warmers ~ TIE
• Victoria Clarkson’s Mary Francis Christmas: www.bayweekly.com/node/36240
• Kelsey Cochrane’s Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Cut Off Your Hair: I couldn’t cure anyone, but I hoped my hair would give hope: www.bayweekly.com/node/35827

Best Halloween with a Little History Story
Diana Dinsick’s The Haunting of Crownsville’s Rising Sun Inn: ­www.bayweekly.com/node/35438

Best Profiles ~ TIE
• Robyn Bell’s Shooting for Fun, Bringing Home the Gold: ­www.bayweekly.com/node/33556
• Diana Dinsick’s The Two Faces of Tom Plott: www.bayweekly.com/node/35016
• Alka Bromiley’s Balloon Man of Annapolis: www.bayweekly.com/node/34431

Best Animal-Related Story
Karen Holmes’ Easy to Bee Passionate: www.bayweekly.com/node/32566

Most Useful Story
Kathy Knotts’ 8 Days a Week, plus Summer Fun Guide and Season’s Bounty Holiday Guide

Most Helpful in Your Own Backyard
Dr. Francis’ Gouin’s weekly Bay Gardener column

Best Reason to Get Out on the Water
Dennis Doyle’s weekly The Sporting Life column

Best New Feature
Christine Gardener’s weekly Chesapeake Curiosities

Best Play Reviewers on the Bay
Jane Elkin and Jim Reiter

Best Reason to Go to the Movies
Diana Beechener’s The Moviegoer

Most Likely to Keep Bay Weekly in Your Hands
Coloring Corner artists Sophia Openshaw and Brad Wells

Best Bay Weekly Cover of 2016
Joe Barsin’s Blue Angels cover of May 19: citizenpride.com

Most Missed Feature
J. Alex Knoll’s Sky Watch, on sabatical

Best thanks to all these writers for bringing us good stories in 2016:
Kelsey Cochrane, Beth Dumesco, Laura Dunaj, Jerri Anne Hopkins,
Diana Knaus, Karen Lambert, Aries Matheos, Kristen Minogue,
Mary-Anne ­Nelligan, Susan Nolan, B.J. Poss, Elisavietta Ritchie,
Mike Ruckinski, Selene San Felice, Caiti Sullivan and Peggy Traband.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Scout lures wood ducks to Franklin Point State Park

Wood ducks are swamp-loving birds, so Shady Side, with its historical nickname The Great Swamp, ought to be the kind of place they’d like. All the more so Franklin Point State Park, 477 acres of wood and waterfront on the Shady Side Peninsula, where humans are welcome but not common.
    Wood ducks are welcome, too. To add curb appeal to the park, Boy Scout Reggie Scerbo, 18, of West River, has built and installed seven nesting boxes that satisfy the requirements of the picky and distinctive species.
    The medium-size dabblers have heads shaped like helmets and thick, upright tails. The males stand out like brilliantly colored harlequins. Less visible are the clawed toes that enable them to climb trees to nest in cavities. Lacking trees, they settle for nesting boxes built to just the right specifications.
    “The entrance hole had to face the water, regardless of compass direction,” Scerbo explained. “The height from the ground had to be about six feet, with an oval hole with a diameter of three by four inches. It is also important to put bedding inside the boxes, since wood ducks rely on the rotten wood that would be in a dead or dying tree. A predator guard is also important to keep out snakes, raccoons and other predators.”  
    Reproductive survival is low as the newly hatched ducklings are driven by instinct to flop out of the nest and follow their mother to the water. Nearly 90 percent of wood ducklings die within the first two weeks, mostly due to predation, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program. The vulnerable species was hunted nearly to extinction a century ago.
    Now humans are helping the species recover.
    Scerbo’s box is one of about 1,800 on Maryland public lands, from which some 8,000 chicks were anticipated in 2016.
    The Maryland Wood Duck Initiative recruits volunteers like Scerbo, offering training, site review and box location help as well as providing materials — cypress for the boxes and street sign poles for the supports.
    “Reggie figured out how to make it happen,” said West/Rhode Riverkeeper Jeff Holland. “He worked with experts from the Maryland Wood Duck Initiative to get technical support, cleared the location with the Maryland Park Service and got the help of the Scouts of Troop 249 of Edgewater in assembling and putting in the right place.”
    The ducks helped Scerbo earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
    “We expect a wonderful impact on resurgence of this species in our habitat,” Holland said.

Maybe, just maybe, you will

We expect great things this time of year.    
    No wonder, for the winter holidays set expectations high.
    December 21’s winter solstice promises us that, Big Picture, everything will turn out all right. Despite the gathering chill, we will not spin off into the frozen blackness of space. Light now begins its slow gain. Sunset moves later day by day from its earliest, 4:44pm on December 12, until by January 1 we have gained 10 minutes of evening light. Sunrise soon moves earlier each morning from its latest, 7:25am on December 30, until by January 31 we have gained 12 minutes of morning daylight. Warmth will return with the light. By vernal equinox in March, Earth quickens with life.
    Christmas on December 25 makes an even bigger promise. That holiday celebrates God’s coming to Earth in the form of a human baby. Growing into a man, he knew our joys and sorrows even until death. Rising from the dead, he promised to lift us up with him. Nowadays, even on the feast of his birth, Christians know what’s coming at Easter — and into eternity.
    As if that’s not enough, here comes Santa Claus, flaunting the laws of physics to ride down from the North Pole in a reindeer-drawn sleigh filled with toys destined to be delivered — in one long night — to every girl and boy the whole world over.
    Next comes Hanukkah, beginning at sunset on December 24 this year, illuminating the Jewish world with its own miracles: victory over oppressors and enduring light, symbolized by the eight days of the feast. Nowadays, that’s eight more reasons to bring out the gifts.
    Not to mention New Year’s Day, when we agree to believe that we, too, will change for the better.
    No other time of year sets such high stakes. Or makes such high demands. So try as we might, our holidays do not always live up to our expectations. Your festive efforts mean less to everybody else than they do to you. One side of the family feels slighted comparing their share of your attentions to the share on the other side. The people who join your celebration don’t join you in values. The wrong present breaks somebody’s heart. The plum pudding falls. Or worse, sets the kitchen on fire. You’re all alone on Christmas.
    Try as you might, the transformative promise of the season doesn’t trickle down to you.
    Disappointment is the pivot point of the annual Christmas story you’ll read in this very paper, written this year with heart, skill and humor by Victoria Clarkson.
    Christmas morning, she writes, “found me sitting in holiday traffic on a two-hour journey to my mother’s house, crammed in the minivan with six cranky kids, listening to holiday music for the sixth week in a row. Three of the children had already asked Are we there yet? One child had to go to the bathroom, and another was torturing her baby sister.
    “Christmas at Mom’s house was never going to be like the homecoming at the Walton’s or George Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life.”
    Read it and rejoice with her in that holiday’s redemption from a most unlikely source.
    Victoria’s story is truth, not fiction, and therein is cause for wider hope.
    It’s solstice hope, of the sort that comes in tiny steps — steps as small as one minute a day — but stealthily reaches a critical mass as when winter yields to spring.
    That’s how I expect the light — the rebirth of hope — to come.
    May you have a bright solstice. A blessed Christmas. An illuminating Hanukkah. And a happy new year!

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

They’ll keep us company till the osprey return

Right on time, tundra swans
have dropped from the skies over Chesapeake Country like giant snowflakes. They are big birds, weighing 20 pounds or so in maturity with a six-foot wingspan.
    About December 1, perhaps I heard their raucous cries cutting through the dark of night. Four or five days later on Fairhaven pond, I saw a pair of white birds so big that they couldn’t have been gulls. December 10 the evidence was incontrovertible: a pair flapping over the pond, a couple pair more paddling through the water, skirting the skin of ice.
    That’s modern swan time; used to be they’d arrive reliably for Veterans Day, just as the osprey arrive reliably for St. Patrick’s Day.
    Tundra swans are creatures of cold weather, but the freeze in their Canadian nesting grounds sends them south in search of food. They come as families, parents and a cygnet or two, only four months old and making this two-month flight of thousands of miles from above the Arctic Circle. The big birds fly at about 50mph; they follow the freeze south through Canada, feeling along the way.
    The Chesapeake is a historic wintering spot, and they’ll stay with us from now until earliest spring. So you’ve lots of opportunity to meet them.
    See their loose Vs passing overhead, hear their bark and spy the huge birds close up as small flocks float on Bay marsh ponds and coves, long necks stretched to the muddy bottoms to harvest grasses, clams and other small mollusks. Long-distance flying is hard, hungry work, so it may take a while before those elegant, long necks rise to show you the species-signature black beak.

When you think about it, a homemade Christmas cookie is quite the thing

As a taste treat, it’s hard to complain about an Oreo. Still, you’ll find in these pages reason after reason why store-bought cookies — even Oreos — can’t compare with homemade. Especially at Christmas, which is for cookies what Thanksgiving is for pumpkin pie and Hanukkah is for latkes.
    Taking advantage of that season — and under the influence of my fondness for Christmas cookies — we’ve made this issue the Bay Weekly Cookie Exchange. Just as in a person-to-person cookie exchange, it brings you into the good company of a friendly gathering of Chesapeake Country bakers sharing their cookie traditions, memories and recipes.
    For each of us, Christmas cookies come with memories. If you come from a baking family, you surely have yours. Over the years, your memories grow into stories.
    Those stories enrich our cookie exchange. Reading them is almost as satisfying as tasting the cookie.
    Stretching from a spring boat trip as a child in Texas to gather the fruit for jelly-making to the Christmas baking to gift-giving, the story of Linda Davis’ Mayhaw Thumbprint Cookies is the essence of this season.
    John Janosky’s memories, and cookies, come from Poland. Audrey Broomfield’s Buttergebäck are German. My girlhood cookies, baked by my mother’s friend Margaret, were Sicilian. Where we come from is another part of the story that lives on in our Christmas cookie traditions.
    Your memories are an ingredient — maybe the butter — in who you are. Sharing them, like giving a tin of homemade cookies, extends your family circle to include us lucky recipients.
    Love is another ingredient baked into homemade cookies. Maybe it’s the sugar.
    “I bake to show people I care,” Marion Graham told us for this story.
    Words like those make cookie sharing downright philosophical, one person reaching out to another in the intimate connection theologian Martin Buber described as the I-Thou relationship. Plus, cookies taste good.
    Ingredients are another distinction.
    “I don’t like artificial ingredients,” Marion tells us, “so I bake cookies from scratch and try to make them healthier.”
    Healthier for her means oatmeal, the substitution of egg whites for whole eggs and adding Sugar in the Raw into the mix.
    Whole wheat pastry flour is another step to healthier cookies, as are honey, molasses and, in a couple of recipes I use, olive oil instead of butter. Strange as that may seem, the cookies are delicious.
    Local ingredients from neighborhood chickens and regional cows and wheat fields are another way that at home we can bake a philosophy of living into our cookies.
    Are those reasons enough? They are for me. It’s time for me to get home and bake the spice cookies, made with olive oil, that have been chilling in the fridge. My husband is looking forward to eating some tonight.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Once upon a time …

Step into the ancient Chesapeake, and you could have become a crocodile’s dinner. So it’s a good thing all those crocodiles were creature of the Miocene epoch (23 to five million years ago), gone long before Homo sapiens discovered the modern Chesapeake.
    Their remains, however, are still here, along the Calvert Cliffs, as well as in coastal states down to Florida.
    There avid fossil collector George Klein, of Chapel Hill, NC, got to know these ancient crocodiles, called ­Thecachampsa, whose length may have approached 30 feet. He’s gotten to know them in such detail — down to each of the 19 bones that compose their skulls, excluding the lower jaw — that he’s published a book on the beasts and their comparison to living American alligators.
    His book, published in digital and hard copies by Calvert Marine Museum, is of necessity skeletal, as bony fossils are all our two species of large crocodiles — Thecachampsa sericodon and Thecachampsa antiquus — left behind. Skeletal Anatomy of Alligator and Comparison with Thecachampsa is the kind of book you’d read as a fossil collector seeking to identify your finds.
    “I expect that this work will inspire on several fronts and further our understanding of extinct alligators and crocodiles by bringing new finds to light,” says Dr. Stephen Godfrey, curator of paleontology at the museum — and sponsor of its Fossil Club.
    That’s where you’d go to get to know crocodiles, great white sharks and many other ancient denizens of the oceanic pre-Chesapeake. You’d also meet human enthusiasts near and far as the club works with fossil collectors all over the world to advance the field of paleontology and grow the museum’s collection.
    Or you could wait a while and maybe see the real thing.
    “Although crocodilians have not inhabited northeastern North America in several million years, as global climates warm,” writes Godfrey, “perhaps they will someday re-inhabit coastal Maryland.”
    Take a look at all that remains of Thecachampsa at www.calvertmarinemuseum.com/276/CMM-Publications.

Could that be the season’s best gift?

Help! I shouted as the tide of all I had to do threatened to overwhelm me.
    My to-do list is so long that I expect it to outlive me. That’s the way it is in my family. My mother never forgave her third husband, John Allison, for dying — with dirt on his hands — before he’d finished planting her rose bed, leaving her in burgeoning spring with a legacy of chores undone. Any new season piles more on the list, none more than this holiday season.
    What I really want for Christmas, I said to myself, is someone who loves me enough to give me a couple of hours help.
    Then I heard the retort of the nail gun my home-improver par excellence was deploying to lay my new wood floor. And up the stairs came my husband, serving as errand boy, with another load of wood. As they worked, my job — removing carpet tacks and nail strips — shrunk to proper size.
    Comfortable as self-pity occasionally feels, it is not a woe I deserve. In managing my home and in doing my newspaper business, I have people I can rely on.
    For at Bay Weekly, as at home, the work is endless. Like a hungry family, Bay Weekly barely digests one meal before it needs another. I’d never manage even my part — just the writing and editing — by myself.
    Nor do I have to. 2016 is no different from 2006 … or 1996 … or 1993. In every one of our 23 years, good people have stepped up to help. Writers continue to find such satisfaction in making stories — and in all the learning this craft takes — that they write for love, certainly more than for wages.
    In all the other jobs it takes to make a paper, that run of good fortune continues. Sales people step up to keep us going, convinced — and convincing buyers — that advertising in Bay Weekly helps a business thrive. Drivers keep their routes for decades, bringing each new edition of Bay Weekly to just the spot you expect to find it.
    If anybody deserves self-pity, it’s Betsy Kehne, who’s done her job unassisted for most of her two decades as Bay Weekly’s production manager. And general manager Alex Knoll, who ought to be an inch or two shorter after carrying it all on his shoulders these many years.
    Not me. I am a woman fortunate in people on whom I can depend.
    Not everybody has the luck of people they can call on to join in seeing their projects through.
    That’s why I want to spend a few words in this gift-giving issue on Partners in Care, a helping organization unique to Maryland. In four regions, including Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, it’s the place to turn when you need a little help but don’t know who to ask.
    Partners in Care (www.partnersincare.org) is an exchange community. Members exchange services — rides, errands, chores both heavy and light, professional services like tax advice and grant writing, even friendly visits or a game of Scrabble. Amazingly, there’s no cost but participation in whatever way you can.
    “Our expectation is that each member will contribute time (volunteer), talent or treasure (money),” says Barbara Huston Partners in Care founder.
    Gently used clothing and household items are resold at Partners in Care’s Upscale Resale Boutique at 6 South Ritchie Highway, Pasadena. That’s where Patricia Caldwell, who you’ll meet in All I Want for Christmas, volunteers. Sales and monetary donations support all Partners in Care programs.
    Age complicates both managing your own to-do list and finding helpers. So many people needing help are older. Members are 50 and older, with volunteers of any age welcome. Often families join together. In 2015, for example, Partners in Care exchanged more than 500 services each week.
    Partners in Care Anne Arundel’s Linda Dennis talks to Southern Anne Arundel residents hoping to age at home Sunday, December 11 at 1:30pm at Captain Avery Museum. You’re welcome to learn more.
    Beyond Partners in Care, you may decide, as you seek to please people you love with gifts this holiday season, that help may be the gift they’ll most appreciate.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

How Chesapeake Country turns winter from darkness into fun

This season of year, we count on divine intervention to brighten the sun, warm up the days and fertilize the earth. But to assure that the powers that be — the good hand of God or the harmony of the spheres — know we’re paying attention, we pile on human intervention.
    We fire up our lights to combat the darkness.
    We strike up the bands to both cheer ourselves and knock on heaven’s door.
    We feast, give gifts and play out stories that remind us of our good intentions.
    Our contrivances get pretty elaborate as, over the years, we refine them into traditions on which we come to depend.
    These are our winter pageants.
    This issue, Bay Weekly writers report on pageants to which they’re tied by sentiment or amazement.
    Jim Reiter, for one, acts out his love of theater in more ways than one. You know his Bay Weekly play reviews. You may not recognize him as an oft-disguised character — or behind-the-scenes director — in Colonial Players’ productions. This week, he tells you what it’s like to look out on the audience as a character in Colonial’s 35-year homegrown tradition, A Christmas Carol.
    Reporting on another theatrical tradition, staff writer Kathy Knotts tell how Twin Beach Players’ The Best Christmas Pageant Ever turned her doubting sons into theater lovers.
    Music inspires writer Louise Vest, who reports on the friendly competition between Annapolis’ two Messiah productions: those of the U.S. Naval Academy’s and the Annapolis Chorale’s.
    For the secret behind another musical phenomenon, how a 10-story-high Christmas tree bursts into song, read Victoria Clarkson on Riverdale Baptist Church’s Living Christmas Tree.
    For holiday gifts that give twice, Kathy Knotts directs you to the ALS Artisan Boutique, which may be the oldest show around featuring locally made gifts and which, in its 14 years, has raised more than $300,000 to fight ALS, all in memory of one of its victims, Nancy Wright.
    Of course we don’t leave out the lights, for they are the force field we set up to draw the sun back to our side. In Chesapeake Country’s enthusiastic wave of brightness, homes, boats, parks, gardens and whole towns glow in lights. In this issue you’ll read how five hotspots do it.
    We want to leave room for you. Write your own appreciation (100 to 300 words) for publication in one of our next issues: editor@bayweekly.com.
    For now, read with pleasure and book the date you’ll see, hear and delight in these spectacles first-hand.
    Remind yourself, as you enjoy them, that each sound and sight sprang from the imaginations, hands and voices of your Chesapeake neighbors, responding as we all do to the deep and ancient urgings to lighten winter’s long night.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com
Plus a life in stories: www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Santa down the chimney, pests at the door

To give Santa a friendly welcome, have your chimney swept before he slides down on Christmas Eve.
    Other seasonal visitors to your home are likely to evoke less hospitable greetings. For as the chill comes on, creatures come in. Mice, for example. And the creatures that like to eat mice.
    There’s not much you can do to keep out a determined mouse. Mice can squeeze through the smallest of openings, gaps you never imagined and will likely never find. They’ll be happily active in the warmth of your home and will likely set up housekeeping before you notice them. Even if one doesn’t run over your foot, there will be signs: chewed linens in tightly packed drawers and, alas, tiny mouse turds.
    How to get rid of them?
    If your cats are anything like mine, don’t depend on them. After no luck with live traps, we’ve had to resort to spring traps. The Bay Gardener advises baiting the trap with sunflower seeds attached with a drop of glue from a glue gun.
    Winged invaders are trying to get in, too.
    Stinkbugs are much reduced by cold winters since the memorable invasion of 2011, when they came by the thousands. They derive their name from the foul odor they release when squeezed. Mostly harmless — though they do bite — they are a determined nuisance.
    Box elder bugs are also out and wanting in this time of year. With red bodies and black wings, they’re a prettier bug than the stink bug. They get their name from their favorite food, the juices of the female box elder tree, which may be covered with the bugs in early summer. Now, they want warmth. But if they come in, they’ll most likely have given up the ghost before Santa’s arrival.