TSA Misconduct – It’s Personal

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The news this morning about misconduct of TSA screeners at airports brought back my own experience with a Transportation Security Administration screener back in 2011.

Before I relate what happened, I want to be clear. I believe airport security is a necessary part of our world today. I don’t mind going through the security checkpoints when I fly even though some of the rules seem ridiculous. However, my experience went beyond what keeps us safe and what one agent did that embarrassed and humiliated me.

It occurred at the Jacksonville Airport one Sunday morning when I was flying home to Pittsburgh. I wore leggings and a long shirt with a breast pocket. I went through the full body screen and something showed up in the breast pocket. I was asked to remove it, and I did. The dangerous tissue I’d used to blow my nose minutes before was discarded.

A female screener approached me and asked me to stand with my feet apart and my arms raised. I understood I was going to be patted down to discover if I harbored more  snot rags. She did the typical thing, and then while I stood in the middle of security with folks scurrying past me on all sides, she touched both of my breasts and felt around my chest. I jumped back, and she yelled at me to stand still.

“You could have told me you were going to touch my private body parts,” I said.

“If you don’t like it, I can take you in a back room, and I can start it all over again,” she said.

I shut my mouth, but I glanced at her badge.

“The name’s Sherry,” she said. She continued yelling, “That’s Sherry, S-h-e-r-r-y, Sherry,” as I grabbed my laptop and purse and shoes off the belt.

She followed me to the bench where I began putting on my shoes. “Did you get the name? It’s Sherry,” she said.

I was so upset and somewhat scared at this point. When out of sight of the security lines, I called my husband, but I was shaking so badly, I couldn’t talk.

By the time I was home and back into my life, I mostly forgot about the incident. When I did think about it, I was always further upset that I didn’t report the behavior. The news today reminded me once again of this incident.

I fly quite often – too often – so I know this is not the typical behavior, but it is behavior that must stop. I hope public awareness will curtail these folks in important positions of safety from using their power to the detriment of the passengers. And I hope those of us who do fly will remember out of the ten flights – that’s twenty security checks – I made in 2011, only once did I have a bad experience.



The Horses of Assateague Island


By Patricia Zick @PCZick

We traveled to the Maryland seashore recently, which allowed us to discover the wild horses of Assateague Island. We saw a movie about them in the visitor center. The horses roam the marsh seeking food and run on the beach to escape the mosquitoes. A nature walk led us to the marshes. There they were grazing and ignoring the tourists snapping photos from the boardwalk yards away. DSC02634DSC02631

DSC02633The stallion chooses his mare. But soon the family grows when another mare joins. One stallion usually ends up with five or six mares in his harem. The youngsters are set out to wander to form or find their own tribe. The folks at the Assateague Island National Seashore developed a unique program to keep the population stable. The horses love the grasses that help slow beach erosion. Controlling the number of horses born each year assists in conserving the habitat.DSC02632

Deja Vu – Rig on Fire

Macondo well - Deepwater Horizon By Patricia Zick @PCZick

As I sipped the aromatic brew, I glanced at the morning’s headlines before the television and George Stephanopoulos diverted my attention.

It was only a blip on the charts of the day’s news stories. I would have missed mention of it if I’d gone to the bathroom when George said an oil rig had caught on fire in the Gulf of Mexico the night before. On the morning of April 21, 2010, other news took precedence over this minor incident occurring miles off the coast of Louisiana.

As I flipped the channels to find more news, I learned that volcanic ash from a recently erupted volcano in Iceland was costing airlines $1.7 billion to combat the loss in flights. The day before the Supreme Court overturned a ban on videos depicting animal cruelty. Matt Laurer announced the death toll after the April 14 earthquake in China now topped 2,000.

CNN reported that a former coal miner at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia decided to give an interview detailing the unsafe conditions at the mine prior to the explosion two weeks earlier.

But nothing more on a little oil rig burning in the middle of the ocean. Since the fire occurred the night before, the morning newspapers contained no reports.

The above is an excerpt from my novel Trails in the Sand. I wrote this passage based on my very real experience the morning I first learned about BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

This morning, more than three years later, I again sat up in bed drinking my first cup of coffee and listening to the news on Good Morning America when Josh Elliott announced that a natural gas rig off the coast of Louisiana was burning out of control after an explosion on the rig. He announced that all forty-four workers could be accounted for this time. In the case of Deepwater Horizon, eleven men lost their lives.

Natural gas is now spewing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s the latest from CNN at http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/24/us/gulf-rig-explosion/index.html.

Here’s to this deja vu ending today and not four months from now.


A Florida environmental novel and family saga

A Florida environmental novel and family saga

Trails in the Sand has made it into the semi-finals in the Kindle Book Review contest. It’s available on Kindle, Nook, and in paperback.

Suffer the Garden

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

kitchen sink

kitchen window

We’ve been having a time with the weather so far this summer. For several weeks, the weather was hotter here in western Pennsylvania than in Florida. Then two weeks ago, the rains began. Our property sits on a plateau above the Ohio River and often our weather is different from what is reported on the local news station twenty miles away in Pittsburgh. This past week, we received heavy rainfall that wasn’t even recorded in the totals around the region. The weatherman said today that we’re double the average amount of July rainfall already. We might be triple that where we live.

Tomatoes do not enjoy soggy weather. They do best in dry soil. Right now, some are rotting on the vine. My husband must be vigilant in picking them before they fall. Also, we’re getting lots and lots of bugs on all the plants. Short of spraying with pesticides, we’re a little flummoxed with how to handle this invasion on everything from the raspberries to potatoes.

Alas, we do not starve. We’re eating something fresh almost every night. This past weekend I made our favorite bread and butter pickle chips.DSC02683Some of our plants love this weather.DSC02687 DSC02688Any suggestions for the bug situation that is wholesome for all living things? Hope your garden is producing and you’re enjoying the bounty of summer. Remember to eat local while the getting is good – local farmers’ markets are thriving right now.

For all your gardening needs - available on Kindle for $2.99

For all your gardening needs – available on Kindle for $2.99

A Natural Bird Feeder

By Patricia Zick @PCZick




My husband likes to plant sunflowers around the periphery of the garden. This beauty is a volunteer from years past. Soon it will develop seeds in the center and feed the songbirds in our yard.

We don’t leave out traditional bird feeders during spring and summer because it draws all kinds of wildlife who also love to munch on our garden produce. Instead, in the summer we have the sunflowers to give some natural food to my feathered friends.


The other flowers in the yard are flourishing as well. Some of them are perrenials and others are annuals I plant in pots around the patio. That way I can move them around for  sun, rain, and aesthetics.DSC02592 DSC02595







Happy summer.


Garden Overflow Madness

DSC02594By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The rest period is over for gardening here in western Pennsylvania. First, we had a very long winter. Then we went to hot and humid for a week. Now for at least two weeks, the weather pattern is stuck over us with showers nearly every day. It feels as if I’m back in a Florida summer with the high temperatures and humidity and afternoon showers. The garden loves it.

Last night I grilled zucchini and onions. My husband steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Also he shelled and cooked the last of the peas – I’ve already frozen more than twenty bags. We also had a few green beans.


But the freezer still overflows with produce. Later today I plan to freeze broccoli and cauliflower. Then I’m going to make my “soup starter” mess with zucchini and onions. I bag it up in two-three cup servings. Then when I want to make a soup or sauce, I pull out the freezer bag and have an instant starter.

We pulled onions this week, too. My husband tried to pull some potatoes but discovered they are far too small to pick right now. The cucumbers are coming in slowly, but we’re enjoying eating those we have. I slice them lengthwise and sprinkle with salt and pepper – it’s heaven. Lots of work, but lots of rewards, too.DSC02596

Here’s the recipe for Soup Starter in From Seed to Table.

Zucchini Mess or Soup Starter

Chop up zucchini, onions, garlic, peppers, yellow squash (whatever you have!). When tomatoes come in you can add chopped tomatoes, too. Add herbs of your choice, fresh and/or dried. I tend toward the Italian variety. For this batch I used fresh basil, dried oregano, thyme, tarragon and a good Italian dried herb mix. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute until just tender, but not overcooked. Cool and bag in two-cup portions (or whatever amount you’ll use in one recipe). During the winter months, when I want to start an easy soup in the crock pot, I pull out a bag and I have the “starter” ready to go and just add the other ingredients to make any type of soup you can imagine. I’ve also used it in chicken and seafood recipes. Bon appetit!

Available on Kindle $2.99

Available on Kindle $2.99

Standing Naked with Gators and Other Absurdities

Santa Fe River High Springs, Florida

Santa Fe River
High Springs, Florida

 By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I remember embarrassing moments of my youth with puzzlement. I’m unable to muster up the sheer mortification of my thirteen-year-old self whenever my father put on his new dark brown rubberized sandals over white crew socks. He only wore this atrocity on his feet when he donned shorts. We lived in Michigan so thankfully for an embarrassed teenager those summer months passed quickly.

Recently, as I set about to drink my coffee wearing a purple terry cloth robe and white crew socks, I decided to go outside for the newspaper in the driveway. I slipped on my sandals and ventured out to retrieve the paper. Neighbors whizzed by on their way to work, and I waved happily. I laughed to myself and remembered my father who passed away thirty years ago. I no longer felt embarrassment. Instead I longed to parade around my yard with him, both of us in white socks and sandals.

These days most of my embarrassing moments pass quickly and turn into stories embellished and fine-tuned, ready to pull out for any occasion that warrants a laugh or a place in one of my novels.

Here’s a story told to me by a friend that brings a smile every time I think of it because I know it could happen to anyone in similar circumstances.

This man, I shall call Tall because he is 6’5”. After a back surgery, doctors gave Tall a 50-50 chance of ever walking again. But walk he did, and on his first major excursion, Tall ventured to the grocery store. Dressing still remained a chore so he only managed shorts that morning – shorts now quite loose on his frame after the surgery. Walking down the crackers and cookies aisle, Tall felt a breeze and then almost tripped on the shorts now wrapped around his ankles. There he stood, all 6’5” of him, naked from the waist down and only a wire cart to hide his privates from Mrs. Cozy picking out a box of Triscuits.

How do you ask an eighty-year-old stranger of the opposite sex to pull up your pants gracefully? Tall determined he could not. Maneuvering his not-easy-to-hide body behind the cart, he managed to edge the shorts eventually up his legs because Tall still had trouble bending over. He walked proudly to the checkout counter after smiling at Mrs. Cozy and wishing her a very good morning.

As I age, it is not those physical moments that embarrass me. I fear those moments when I might stand naked to the world revealing more of myself than I ever intended.

One such “embarrassing” moment consisted of a combination of both types — physical and personal embarrassment. It happened during a kayak trip with a friend on the Santa Fe River in north Florida. I was the know-it-all guide to my friend who had never been in a kayak.

We stopped to visit with another friend who lives on the river. When we returned to the kayaks, I broke the No. 1 rule in boating. I attempted to get in the kayak while it was not secured but just floating on two-foot high water. Soon I was in the water and my kayak on top of me. I watched as my camera in a waterproof bag floated near the shore.

“Grab my camera bag,” I yelled to my friend who stood on the bank.

 “So that’s how I should get into the kayak?” she asked, not so innocently.

I extracted a promise from her not to  tell anyone about my fiasco, mostly because of my wounded pride. She agreed, although when we climbed into the shuttle van to return to our car, she announced to everyone she had successfully completed her first kayak trip without going in the water like some others she knew. The other canoers and kayakers looked at my wet clothes and smiled.

My friend kept her promise, but now I am going to tell the story my way — with the embellishments that all writers use.

After I righted my kayak and pulled it partially up on the bank, I noticed a gator sunning on the opposite bank. He lowered himself into the water to swim across the Santa Fe River to learn who interrupted his Saturday morning nap. I stood absolutely still as I held my kayak to prevent it from floating away.gator on duty

When he discovered it was only a human doing another embarrassing thing and disturbing his habitat, he floated away, leaving us in peace.

And I stood proudly in the water, naked to the world, not embarrassed in the least.

I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend. And if you decide to go kayaking,

  • go with at least one other person,
  • put the cell phone (and camera) in a water proof bag,
  • wear good water shoes,
  • wear a life jacket or at least keep one within easy reach,
  • avoid using an inflatable kayak in places where you might encounter wildlife such as alligators or sharks,
  • never feed the wildlife,
  • take what you brought back with you when you leave,
  • leave behind only the ripples from your oars or paddles,
  • enjoy the moment and give thanks for such beauty.DSC01113