Books Breast Cancer Firsts No Whining Soulful Too Long For Twitter

Gauging Interest on Stories for Charity

Edit – March 3, 2011 – This project is definitely moving forward. I’m fine tuning details now and will post an official announcement with submission guidelines shortly. Thank you for your interest. ~Viv

~~~~Original Post~~~~

I am contemplating seeking out the rights from my father to publish a story my mother wrote about the death of her beloved grandmother.  I don’t want to make money off of it, I just want to share it. Chooch and I discussed podcasting it, but I think I would prefer something Greater be done with it.

It’s the only complete story of hers that I’ve found, or likely ever will find, so I can’t do a collection of her stories. I’m considering making it the centerpiece in a book I hope to write about her. For this I would need time and distance from the subject to not feel overwhelmed and never finish it.

The other idea is to do a compilation of stories from other people that have been impacted, preferably on breast cancer but may include a wider variety of cancers. All profits would go to fund cancer research, if any are made. What I would need for this is submissions from folks that have a story to tell regarding breast cancer. While the story can be fictional, my preference would be that the author has either battled the disease or knows someone that did and was impacted by their struggle.

Again, my preference would be breast cancer stories since it has devastated my mother’s and my own life so profoundly with the loss of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great aunts. It also looms greatly over my sister and I. That said, having lost my husband’s beloved brother to a different form of cancer, let alone several others, I’m not going to rule out including other cancer stories if I don’t have enough breast cancer stories to make a nicely sized anthology.

Let me be specific here, the story doesn’t have to be about the disease itself. For example, my mother’s story is in the voice of a child, and mentions aspects of the disease but is not clinical in nature. I envision a paragraph at the beginning of each story by the author, and this is where the inclusion of the story can be explained if not directly obvious.

Also, I plan on accepted works being paid an extremely modest fee.

What I’m asking is for anyone interested in submitting a short story to send an email to and include:

  • Your level of interest (Definite, unsure)
  • What type of cancer your story will involve (so I can determine how many breast cancer stories are out there)
  • The expected length of your submission. I’m willing to consider anything up to 30k words, be it flash fiction, poetry, short story or novella.
  • An estimate of how quickly you think you can submit the work.

Please do not make submissions at this time.

If I move forward, this will likely either be a long-term project (as long as 16 months) or a short-term project (preferred – as short as 5 months), depending on the response that I get, so please be honest about your turn around estimate.

Please note, this will likely be the first publication in the publishing house that Chooch and I have been planning to start for over three years now.

And if you are someone that has never written beyond work or school requirements before, be fearless! If I move forward, I will accept submissions from anyone, regardless of experience level.

I humbly request that you share this post far and wide, even if you are not interested in participating yourself.

~~~I’m closing comments here, as I prefer that all discussion occur via email. ~~~

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World Nutella Day: The Reckoning

Events were such that we actually cracked open the Nutella tub on Friday night. I baked some yummy vegan brownies (Thanks, Andrea!) to take to Chooch‘s band practice. (He’s the super sexy bassist for Ditched By Kate, dontchaknow!) While I’ve had these brownies before, I’d never made them so I took the Nutella as insurance against failure. Sure, Nutella isn’t vegan, but I didn’t spread it on the brownies. Rather I just set it beside the brownies for folks to use if they liked. Needless to say, the pan was empty before we left for home and the Nutella was a hit.

Too few hours later, World Nutella Day had officially started so I broke my fast with Bloom bakery croissants that I lightly toasted in the oven. I spread Nutella on top and it was crispy, gooey and heavenly. I had hoped to make crepes or waffles, but just didn’t have time during this super-full weekend.

Lunch found us at a dear friend Grailwolf’s birthday party at Hard Times Cafe somewhere in Maryland (Chooch drove). I brought along my trusty tub of Nutella and cookies to set out for folks to enjoy. Lorna Doone’s were my favorite with Nutella, but the oatmeal chocolate chip and chocolate graham crackers were also enjoyed. It seems the hands down favorite was the Nilla Wafers, especially in the “Reverse Oreo” configuration that Andrea invented – Nutella sandwiched between two wafers.

At dinner (and after a tasty cocktail), I felt a bit more adventurous and decided to push the envelope of my pledge to incorporate Nutella into every meal. Pre-dinner nosh included blue tortilla chips, and being a lover of pretzel or potato chips with chocolate I couldn’t resist. It was pretty good, but nothing I’d specifically seek out. I have a feeling that Nutella covered pretzels would be much better and will be testing that theory at a later date.

During dinner itself, I mixed a small amount of Nutella in with fettuccine noodles. The noodles were un-sauced, and I’d enjoyed chocolate pasta in the past. It’s a bit odd, but as another carbohydrate-Nutella-delivery-system it served well.

I then pushed beyond the limits of decorum by spreading Nutella on garlic seasoned broccoli. Judge me all you like, but I was not alone in thinking it was not unpleasantly interesting.

I redeemed myself at dessert, having prepared a cupcake bar of sorts. Chocolate cupcakes, which I hollowed out the top for filling with a small variety – cherry preserves, Nutella (natch), banana slices, chocolate frosting and a last minute addition of peanut butter.  Several iterations were created, but my very favorite was a smidge of Nutella on a banana slice inside a cupcake with a thin layer of Nutella on top.

I’d say the day was a success, except that I got on the scales this morning and am dealing with a Reckoning of another sort.

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The Great, The Meh, and the *So* Not Cute

As life is a roller coaster, I thought I’d bundle up some recent events into one post and call it “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” I did slightly modifiy it to better fit my situation. Now let’s start with The Great because I’m DYING to share this news.

Setting the scene:
Two years ago, my then 12 year old son L.T. moved far away to be closer to his younger siblings and to have more time with his dad and get to know him better. (After our divorce, his dad moved away when he was 5, remarried, and had two more children.) At the same time, my 19 year old son, Naughty Bear, moved about an hour away from me to live with his dad’s parents and begin college. His grandfather is a university professor, and by living with him as “a dependent,” Naughty Bear gets a radically reduced tuition. While I was thrilled for the boys and what this meant for them, it was extremely hard on Chooch and I to suddenly turn around and have an “empty nest.”

While seeing L.T. now means flying or spending two long days of driving, Naughty Bear was close by and we still got to see him quite a bit. Then last fall, after seeing how much L.T. had changed between Christmas and summer break (much taller and a deep voice), he realized how much he was missing with his younger siblings and wanted to spend more time with them before they are all grown up. He rented a house in the city where his dad lives, got a room mate, and continued with studies with online classes through his grandfather’s university. A few months ago he also started working at a grocery store.

The Great: Last week, he told me that he had decided to move back to Virginia! He’ll move back in with his grandparents and return to school full-time in order to focus more on his studies and graduate soonest. While he was greatly enjoying the freedom out there, he realized that it was detrimental to his college and life goals with all the distractions that come along with the freedom. The details are still being worked out, but he will hopefully be back here before the end of this month. Obviously, I’m overjoyed at having him close by again and also at the maturity of his decision. I think he realized the opportunity offered him and he didn’t want to waste it.

Edit: I will be flying to Arkansas, helping him close out his apartment, spending time with LT, and then driving back with Naughty Bear. Yee haw!


The Meh…

At a joyous birthday party yesterday that was literally packed with magnificent old and new friends, I realized that I hadn’t updated on my health stuff in over a month. Well, I did start the recommended medications, and it’s definitely better than being on nothing at all. I still have frequent migraines and dizziness and break down in certain stressful situations, however they are not as often, nor do I have the extremely uncomfortable side effects of the previous medications. There are a few new side effects that I’m trying to wrangle, but they are much less troubling than the previous ones. I’m still significantly diminished from what I was like before any of this started, but  honestly that was so long ago that “normal” has kind of reset for me now. If I get three days of productivity (household and paper work) a week, it feels like I can keep things current, although any more than that and I can actually work on projects that sorely need attention. I’m not taking classes this semester and am now working to finish a class that I got an extension for last semester when things were so very bad. So while it’s an improvement, it’s not a huge one that lets me resume life to what it once was. So, meh…


Finally, my poor Twitter followers have been forced to suffer through my whining about my recent dental woes. After having a few months of intermittent pain, I finally broke down and went to the dentist. Money has been tight, so I had been unable to go back after an exam almost two years ago to get the recommended dental work of replacing a filling from my childhood and also deal with a cavity. Pain makes you find money, so back I went to finally overcome my dental terrors that exist because of my wisdom tooth removal when I was 19 or so. Yes, I’d been going for cleanings, just put off the recent drill work required because of my horrible experience.

I screwed up the courage to face the drill by taking two Valium, laughing gas and I had my headphones blasting the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack during the entire procedure. It was still AWFUL, but I did it, Brave Little Toaster that I am. Two weeks later, I returned to the dentist because I could no longer stand the terrible pain and temperature sensitivity. I was waiting for it to heal and stop hurting and when I was told by multiple people that it shouldn’t hurt, I finally screwed up the courage again and returned. He “filed down” some “high points” in the fillings (more traumatizing than having the fillings done) and gave me a muscle relaxer for bed time and some kind of low level pain killer. Those helped, but I still had extreme pain and sensitivity all over my mouth which made no sense. I was waking up in agony in the wee hours of the morning every night, possibly caused by rolling onto my side without ensuring there was no pressure on my jaws.

Going back last week, he determined that I’ve either started grinding my teeth or clenching my jaw in my sleep. It’s definitely recent, as I’m pretty sure the sleep study I did at the beginning in 2010 would have uncovered it.  Plus, there doesn’t seem to be any damage to the enamel from grinding.

So now, I have dental guard that I have to sleep in every night. Add to this the ankle brace I sleep in (helps prevent soreness when running) and the occasional carpal tunnel wrist brace and you get a full picture of the sexiness that I display at bedtime. You should feel very sorry for Chooch as it is *So* Not Cute…

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Love Tangents

There are so many people that want to define love and when you can feel it. Some want to tell you that you can’t love someone from another race. Or from another religion. Or from another “social class.” It seems that their issues with people that are different mean that you can’t love them. Unless you love someone that is the same gender as you. That’s even MORE taboo.

And some people even think that love can’t exist long distance. My marriage is proof that it can. Chooch and I fell in love on the phone, and didn’t have our first date until well after our hearts were given to each other. Yet eight years later, I love him more now than I did then. Sickeningly so, some might say. And my sister and her husband will celebrate their seventh year of marriage on Valentine’s Day, and they met online. To hell with those that say that it’s not possible to find love that way, because they clearly did.

Lookit, love is precious when you find someone to give it to and rare when it’s given freely back to you. I’ve always believed that definitions of love and happiness are up to each individual. What I think is happiness, others may not agree and vice versa. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, and neither should you.

Growing up in a military community may have helped my view, because even though it was a small town in Texas I was surrounded by “mixed race” marriages. I played with the children of those marriages, so trust me they are no different. As we grew, some friends discovered their homosexuality and I accepted it as natural. I feel really blessed to hold these points of view and pity those who don’t. They miss out on some magnificent people, and it’s solely their loss.

After all that, I am simply writing to announce that I’m in love with my great-niece. The only hitch in our relationship is that she hasn’t been born yet. Not only that, but my pregnant niece is a couple thousand miles away and I haven’t gotten so much as a rub on her growing belly. Because of financial issues, I won’t see them until after Baby M. is born. We’re hoping for summer. It’s breaking my heart into pieces to not be there for my niece to make sure she’s eating enough and to help out with Baby J. to make sure she’s getting plenty of rest. He’s 2 1/2 now, and a smart and funny handful.

Happily, my niece did as I begged and has been posting belly pictures. One candid photo of Baby J. and Baby M. (in her belly, natch) had me tearing up in December. (Click here to see it.) The most recent one (below) blew me away, even though it was actually another candid shot of Baby J. When I look at these two photos in particular, my heart swells with joy at the little life growing in there. Baby M. will have existed for at least a year, with a few months of that as a separate life from her mother, before I get to embrace her. This saddens me greatly. It also excites me for the future and what summer will bring.

A dear family friend is planning a long distance/Skype baby shower for her, and I’m helping. This wonderful woman is more like a mom to my niece, and Baby J. even calls her Grandma. We’re sending her presents, party food and decorations and her husband will handle things on that end. We’re going to gather on our end and watch her open gifts and celebrate the joyous occasion. We are gearing up now, since Baby M. is due the end of March.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s a very joyful time. I’m full of hope for the future and my heart is literally overflowing.

If you’ve made it this far after trying to follow tangent after tangent as I ramble on about love, then I would ask one thing of you:

Forget the things that aren’t going right in your life, just for a little while. Take that time to embrace and celebrate the hundred little things that are.

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Sixteen Candles for Valentine’s Day

I’d planned on giving a review of the documentary Don’t You Forget About Me after watching it with Chooch this past weekend. It’s about John Hughes and his effect on film makers, actors and audiences over the last 20 plus years. If you’re a fan of his movies, I highly recommend you watch it, as I think you may be as surprised as I was just how many other folks feel still warm and fuzzy over his movies. Particularly his “teen movies” in which you got the feeling that he really got what high school was like. He was an adult and he hadn’t lost touch with what it was like being a teenager, and that is a rare thing, even today. The really surprising thing, was the number of teenagers in this 2009 film that felt the same way I did, but over 20 years later.

In a strange twist of fate, I discovered a special return to the big screen of my own personal favorite of John Hughes’ catalog. Twenty-seven years after its original release, Sixteen Candles will be shown on Sunday, February 13 and Monday, February 14 at 7pm in limited release at AMC theaters. No, really! Here’s the link to the press release!

I’m ecstatic over this and hope that the shows sell out early. I can think of no better message to send to Hollywood as we are inundated with reboots of beloved movies. This classic cannot be improved upon, in my humble opinion, and I can’t wait to sit in a darkened theater with others just as excited as I am to see it again on the big screen. If you want to see it, I’m providing the AMC Theater link for you to search your location.

Ya know, there really should be a “squee” font for things like this…

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Nutella Day (Don’t Judge Me)

I love Nutella. It’s a recent favorite, as I first tasted the insanely delicious chocolate and hazlenut spread about 6 or 7 years ago. If you haven’t tried it, think peanut butter, but sweeter and deeply chocolatey. In fact, it’s typically stocked next to peanut butter in the grocery store. It’s also pretty close calorie and fat-wise, but the sugar is much higher in Nutella than in peanut butter.

I occasionally buy a jar, but it’s a dangerous purchase since I’m the only one that likes it. Because I’m focusing on eating healthier I haven’t had it for awhile, and the craving has grown to obsession. Did I say obsession? I meant to say OBSESSION.

I’ve decided the only solution to purge this frantic desire is to have a Nutella free-for-all. One day where I can have as much Nutella as I want until I’m sickened at the sight of it. What? It could happen.

I’ve chosen this Saturday since my regular weigh-in day is Friday. That allows almost a week to undo all the damage a 20 ton vat of Nutella will do to my weight loss efforts.

I was debating writing this post in order to proclaim Saturday, February 5th as Viv’s Nutella Day and invite folks to indulge as I am. But I hesitated because big girls don’t like to trumpet their fatty-fatty-bo-batty indulgences. On a lark, I did a search and discovered that there is already an established Nutella Day. In fact, the 5th World Nutella Day is … wait for it … Saturday, February 5th! The same day I’m doing mine! How could I not post and encourage folks to join me?

So if you’re interested in this foolishness, you may enjoy the links I’m providing below:

World Nutella Day Website – includes links to 400 Nutella recipes and information.

World Nutella Day Twitter Account

World Nutella Day Facebook Page

Let me know in the comments if you’ll be indulging in any way on Saturday, as I’m curious to see who else is a fan of the sticky, dark deliciousness that *is* Nutella.

Now, does anyone know where I can find a 20 ton vat of Nutella?