Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sunflowers for Tina - September 8, 2014



Sometimes, somehow, along the edge of trauma, we find beauty. We find it in large doses in the blogosphere. Thanks to Alex and the A-Z Team, here's another example.  Even if, like me, you didn't really know Tina, please join us in brightening up cyberspace.


 

In memory of
Tina Downey, the A to Z Team is hosting a sunflower tribute on September 8, 2014 – Remembering Tina Downey.

Prior to that date, purchase or plant a sunflower in her honor. (If you have to resort to plastic, that’s cool.) Take a photo of your sunflower and post in in her memory on Monday, September 8. Tina loved her sunflowers, and we want to splash the blogging world with sunflowers that day and honor a truly amazing woman who was friend and family to so many.

You can sign up now or add your link when you post your sunflower.

Please help us spread the word! Let’s brighten the Internet with sunflowers the way Tina brightened the lives of so many.
You are next... Click here to enter
This list will close in 12 days, 8 hrs, 27 min (9/8/2014 11:59 PM North America - Eastern Standard Time)
- See more at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/#sthash.i8gttZgR.dpuf

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Snapshots, Quotes, and Tina Downey



"Recognize that everything is art." -Author Alan Heathcock (Esalen Institute, Big Sur)

Did you have to look twice to see the pigeon? I love how it appears to have proudly settled atop of this fountain.
 
Jerky elk, anyone? (Somewhere between Saco. and Chico)

"It's [your voice is] as distinctive as a fingertip." - Samantha Dunn
                                 
My favorite Chico sight - water play in the downtown plaza.


"Surrender to your own mediocrity." - Cheryl Strayed
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    Very, very sadly, we lost a member of our blog family, Tina Downey, this weekend. I regret that I hardly knew Tina. We corresponded only a couple of times, commiserating about our respective struggles with depression. Tina recently messaged me to apologize for a delay in accepting my facebook friend request. I hadn't even noticed a delay. She explained that my name was similar to someone she had good reason to avoid, and we joked about a need to set clear boundaries with certain people. Tina was incredibly sweet and selfless. I had no idea she was contending with health problems, much less very serious ones. She wasn't one to ever complain. Her blog title, Life is Good, was clearly Tina's genuine philosophy.
     Our thoughts, love and prayers are with Tina's family. To those of you who were close to Tina too, I'm deeply sorry for your heartbreak.
     Her spirit lives on vibrantly, lovingly, and in every blossoming sunflower.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chocolate-Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda & Maple Bacon Taffy


   Whenever I enter my favorite local store, Powell's candies --which also serves wonderful gelato -- I give myself this speech: "You can look. That's all. Do not buy anything."
    So when I saw this the other day, I grabbed it and took it to the cashier. "Darn you for always having something I can't resist," I told the distinguished looking older man with white hair and a playful smile.
   "Let's see. What is this?" he asked.
   "It's a pretty label that says Chocolate-Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda. I'm a blogger. My blog is called Life by Chocolate and I'm pretty sure my readers will be curious about it. Do you know if it's good?"
   "Nobody's tried it yet. I can open it for you now," he offered. 
   I agreed. I sipped..."Mm, I like it," I sounded somewhat neutral. "It's sweet and smooth. It tastes like cream soda. And I taste the maple syrup. But-" I sipped again. "I have to fight to taste the bacon. It's in the aftertaste a bit."
   "Wait right there," he said. The man dashed away and returned with a piece of taffy. "Here, try this."
   I love taffy. This piece was mostly pink, with some brown and other light colors. 
   "It's similar to the soda, syrup and bacon. I think you'll like it."
   I unwrapped it, while he attended to other customers. Soon, a sweet but smokey bacon flavor delighted my system. "Wow, I really taste the bacon," I told him, as the other customers brushed by me. "It's REALLY good. Thank you!"

  If you come across bacon-maple-syrup flavored taffy, I highly recommend it. I'm not sure where you can find it besides Powell's. Sorry.
  As far as Real Soda's Chocolate-Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda, I recommend it for the novelty factor and its sweet, smooth taste, but not if you're craving bacon. I'll give it a 7 on a 1-10 scale, 10 being phenomenally good.

   Be well, and I hope the new week goes down smoothly for you.
   

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Memory of Robin Williams

A friend shared a story about Robin Williams. This friend's teen relative was in the hospital -- in a coma and on the brink of death. He'd accidentally taken a horrific fall. Robin Williams was at the same Northern California hospital visiting his mother. They spoke, and my friend told Robin about his relative. Robin went directly to the young patient's room, where he sat for forty-five minutes - holding his hand, talking to him, and joking with him. What a precious soul he was!
Dear Robin
Through the screen 
your gentle spark
Calms our view of worlds dark
The I.C.U. 
where kids fill beds
Your big red nose 
 heals more than meds
Though Vietnam 
 brings horrors near
You jolt us up 
 with morning cheer
And stuff your bra
then mop the floors
For a chance to see
those kids of yours
You're trained to sit
and use a fork.
"Come in, Orson!" Mork from Ork.
The laughs you give
seem without end
A comic genius
Humble friend
You teach and counsel
You're Popeye too
But there's one thing you couldn't do:
Win the war that stole your stage
Depression, drugs - a silent rage
Your fragile soul, beyond compare
A wit so sharp
A heart so rare
 May our love for you
Lift your loved ones through

Your legacy
Now ours to share.

"It is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions." - Susan Schneider, Robin Williams' Wife

None of us is alone. 
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S., 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chocolate Scare!


   The writer's conference that I've referenced in earlier posts spoiled me with an inexplicably gorgeous venue along the cliffs of Big Sur; hot mineral baths, in which I could luxuriate under the sun and stars; newly renovated, cozy, heated lodging with plush beds and a bathroom shared with only a few others; incredibly entertaining and informative workshops; and divine food. 
   There were locally harvested fruits and vegetables, homemade breads offered alongside a multitude of fresh berry spreads; raspberry-lemon iced tea; approximately sixteen flavors of soothing herbal and caffeinated teas; coffee, organic honey, fresh lemon, and much more.
   All of the staff and fellow attendees had been exceptionally nice thus far.
   "Excuse me, do you have hot chocolate?" I asked one of the kitchen staff, on my first morning there. 
   "No!" the man grunted, then abruptly turned away.
   Say what? Rude-ass! No chocolate? Am I being punked? How will I survive?  
   Somehow, I did. I suppose the Paradisial setting eased my five-day withdrawal.

    While driving home, my head started to flop slowly sideways, and I labored to keep my eyes open. So I decided to stay at a hotel. It was July 4th, and I didn't want to be in crazed traffic anyway.
   The young, cute hotel clerk said, "There's a party here too. Just for you! You can see fireworks from there." He pointed towards the outdoor patio to my right.
   A decent hotel room? A party? For me? Young, cute hotel clerk? View of fireworks? This place has it all!
   Incidentally, the party and fireworks were just alright. I was happy to watch a few bursts of color in the sky, dance a bit amongst college kids, and turn in early.
   The next morning, I was pleased with a variety of appealing breakfast options: corn puffs, corn pops, and frosted flakes; bacon; sausage; scrambled eggs; fresh apples and bananas; do-it-yourself waffles; yogurt; coffee, and Lipton tea.     
   "Excuse me, do you have hot chocolate?" I asked a hotel assistant, as she re-filled the milk dispenser. The woman looked at me, eyebrows slightly raised, as if curious as to why I'd ask. I admired her almond colored pupils, long curled black lashes, and generally compassionate demeanor. "No," she said. "No hot chocolate."
   No hot chocolate? Has the cocoa plant gone extinct? Is there a chocolate famine? Did I miss an important memo? Must I redefine my entire existence?
   
   Thankfully, I found chunks of sweet, dark goodness upon my return.
  oops, wrong photo. Here we go.
Have a sweet new week!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Interview with Joan Rivers: IWSG

First Wed of Every Month
   It's time again for Alex J Cavanaugh's extraordinary support group for insecure writers, the IWSG. The first Wednesday of each month, scholarly writers express their insecurities and lend each other support. I, a lesser person, mock someone famous as a means of boosting my self-esteem. I'm hopeful this tactic makes you feel better about yourselves too.
   Today's guest should truly help in that regard. She's a comedic icon who first stole the spotlight on Johnny Carson's Late Night show in 1965. This woman's had her own talk show, published 12 best-selling books, and has gone under the knife for plastic surgery more times than Bruce Jenner and the cast of Jersey Shore. Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome Joan Rivers!
 http://coolinterestingstuff.com/famous-hoax-or-real-alien-autopsy     Oops, wrong photo. Sorry.

      Come on out here, Joan! http://www.tvweek.com/tvbizwire/2014/04/what-did-joan-rivers-say-this-/
black = Robyn / blue = Joan

Oh Lord, can we get the alien back?
Joan walks out, oblivious to Robyn's comment. She's slightly hunched over and barely recognizable as a human. The audience, all plastic surgeons, toss business cards at her. Joan cackles and grabs cards that are flung her way, then stuffs them into the bra that secures her silicone chest.
Robyn gestures towards a plastic chair. Joan eyes Robyn as she takes a seat. Damn! What the f*k? You're shorter than I am. She cackles. And your boobs are starting to sag too honey. Can we talk? I've got seven hundred or so surgeons to hook you up with. She fondles her fake breasts. Cackle. Cackle.


Robyn takes a seat and mouths f*n b*tch, as Joan pulls business cards from her cleavage. So Joan, you wrote a book called "I Hate Everyone, Especially Me."
Um Hmm, Um Hmm. Yeah, I hate you too. I used to like you. I have no idea why. Now I find you over-the-top offensive, mean-spirited - an ugly person through and through.  You dedicated this book to, and I quote, "OJ Simpson, who deserves another chance. Maybe the lippy ex-wife had it coming." That's a horrific, hateful, misogynistic statement.


Honey, clearly you need to get laid. Robyn gives Joan the (middle) finger. Joan doesn't notice. Her eyelids aren't functioning properly due to all the Botox. I tell you, I do too. It's been so long, I forgot who has the shlong and who has the vagina. Cackle. Cackle. 

You wrote another horrible but best-selling book called "Men are stupid…and they like big boobs". Here's a quote from that one, "The truth is inner beauty might get you a promotion, or, for that matter, a raise, but inner beauty won’t get you a husband, or a lover." Uh Hmm, Uh hmm.

You reveal a lot by this, Joan. You're suggesting every woman's goal is to get a husband or get laid.  Well, moving on, you're also suggesting that you know about beauty. Because what? You're beautiful, Joan? Robyn cackles hysterically. And you imply that all men are superficial. Can we talk, Joan? Sure we can talk sweetie, but you're starting to get on my nerves. Get real. If you want sex, you gotta look good.  

Robyn raises her voice. No, you get real, 81 year old piece of sh-- plastic! If anyone does you, it's only because you have a vagina and no standards. Nor does he, she, or it. And humanly people, Joan, make connections based on things besides boob or nose size. And you're ugly. Really really ugly, inside and out. Now get the hell off my stage!

Joan looks at the camera as she prepares to exit the studio. She really needs to get laid!

Robyn leaves in search of a big, hot, dark, tall sundae and we cut to a commercial about the risks of eyelid surgery for people with no natural skin.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Swanson's TV Dinners and Expansive Brownies



Here's a bit from my novel, Woman on the Verge of Paradise. Give me six months to finish it. Fingers crossed I'll be done sooner.
  
   “Don’t stand too close to the microwave when you’re using it, kids.” Dad instructed. “It might cause brain damage. Essentially, we don’t know. It’s a new invention, and not enough research has been done.”
Image
   While Dad talked in four-syllable words like “essentially,” I didn’t care if I got brain damage.  Rather, I’d pull a black vinyl kitchen chair over to the microwave, toss in a Swanson’s TV dinner, and spy through the microwave door of the Amana Radar Range, gawking at how the once small brownie expanded rapidly to ten or fifteen times its original size. “What a deal!” I’d boast, when it was done. “Look,” I’d show my siblings. “I get this huuuge brownie!”
   They weren’t impressed. “Gross! Those things taste gnarly,” Dawn sneered. 
   She was right. It was usually burnt and did taste gnarly. I suppose I’ve always focused more on quantity, not quality of chocolate.

Do you remember when the microwave was invented? Did/do you nuke TV dinners and watch the brownies expand into the rest of the meal and off of the plate? Which meal was/is your favorite? This was mine. I wouldn't touch that stuff now. Except the brownie.
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May August and the new week treat you kindly!