Saturday, October 31, 2009

Non Sequitur Takes a Poke at Social Networking

I love the comics. I read them every day. Well, almost every day, if I have to be utterly honest. One of my favorites is Non Sequitur.

Wiley Miller, the cartoonist for Non Sequitur has an outrageous sense of humor and sees our world as no one else does absurdities and all.

A few days ago, he jumped into the world of social networking by taking a poke at Facebook.

So, what is social networking? It's the grouping of individuals into specific groups. Huh? Here's a website that can explain it easily. WHAT IS SOCIAL NETWORKING?

Facebook is just one of those social networks. Myspace is another. LinkedIn is another. Those are the top three. And, they're all used for very different reasons by very different people.

I'm going to be VERY basic here. One size does not FIT ALL!!!!

Myspace is used by the younger crowd and the artists groups: authors, muscians, artists, etc.

Facebook is used by slightly older crowd and you still have the artists groups as well as more business people. It's also used by the families and schoolmates looking to reconnect.

LinkedIn is probably the only one that has the majority of business people on it and does nearly all business, no socializing.

I purposely left out the Tweeters mostly because I don't understand them, and I don't exactly know how they fit into a stable social network.

So, enjoy the cartoons and have fun on your social networking site of choice.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Weird but Brilliant?

This column appeared in our Tampa St Petersburg Times Newspaper

The Annals of Improbable Research magazine bestowed the 2009 Ig Nobels last Thursday in a ceremony at Harvard. The awards honor scientific research that seems odd but has serious practical application. The awards were handed out by Nobel laureates.

And the winners are:

Veterinary Medicine: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson for showing that cows with names give more milk than unnamed cows.

Peace: Stephan Bolliger, Stefen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Micheal Thali, and Beat Kneubuehl for investigating whether it is better to be struck over the head with a full or empty beer bottle.

Economics: Executives of four Icelandic banks for showing how tiny banks can become huge, and then become tiny again.

Chemistry: Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga, and Victor Castano for creating diamonds out of tequila.

Medicine: Donals Unger for cracking the knuckles on his left hand for 60 years to see if it contributes to arthritis.

Physics: Katherine Whitcome, Liza Shapiro and Daniel Lieberman for figuring out why pregnant women don't tip over.

Literature: Irish police for issuing 50 tickets to Prawo Jazdy, which in Polish means "driver's license."

Public health: Elena Bodnar, Raphael Lee, and Sandra Marijan for inventing a bra that can be converted into a gas mask. Actually, two gas masks.

Mathematics: The Zimbabwean Reserve Bank for printing notes in denominations from 1 cent tot $100 trillion.

Biology: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei for demonstrating that bacteria in panda poop can help reduce kitchen waste by 90 percent.


All I can say, is "So that's where our Research and Development grant $$ are going?"

What the "Fragglerock" is that all about?

Monday, September 21, 2009

E-Reader Future Has Hit the Comics!

E-Readers are here to stay. And, that means e-books are here to stay as well. As much as we boomers would like to protest, using excuses like "but I love the smell of a book" and "there's nothing like holding a book in my hand", we're no longer the target market.

It's a whole new world out there, and like it or not, it's time we embraced it. My husband has dragged me into it. Okay, not literally "dragged" me. More like nudged me in the current electronic world's general direction.

In our family, he was the first to purchase an iPhone. He expounded on all the cool applications and how easy they were to use and how easy they made his life.

Uh huh. I know what you're thinking. How could a phone make his life easier, right? I was thinking the same thing.

But, then he started showing me, because skeptic that I am, I started asking for proof.

Well, I wouldn't believe it at first, but he was right. Some of the applications he had were amazing. He had his e-mail right on his phone - send and receive. And, all of his mail folders were there too! Now that was slick! And they synced with his desktop at home.

Then, there was the Internet application. Safari. Well, that sold me right there. I could surf the Internet from my phone!!

And, don't get me started on the Facebook and MySpace applications that link directly to your pages and profiles so you can access your pages and update them as if you were sitting at your desktop.

Of course, I digress, another great application I downloaded? eReader! I can read books on my iPhone. How sweet is that?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Know You're a True Floridian...

You know you're a TRUE Floridian if.... Your Socks are only for bowling....

You never use an umbrella because you know the rain will be over in five minutes.

A 'good parking place' has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.

Your winter coat is made of denim.

You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites.

You're younger than -50- but some of your friends are over -65-

Anything under 70 degrees is chilly

You've driven through Yee Haw Junction.

You know that no other grocery store can really compare to Publix.

Every other house in your neighborhood had blue roofs in 2004-2005.

You know that anything hurricane under a Category 3 just isn't worth waking up for

You dread "love bug" season (and you know what "love bugs" are!)

You are on a first name basis with the Hurricane list. They aren't Hurricane Charley or Hurricane Frances. You know them as just Andrew, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne & Wilma......

You know what a "snowbird" is and, more importantly when they'll leave.

You think a six-foot alligator is actually pretty 'average'.

'Down South' really means Key West

Flip-flops are everyday wear. Shoes are for business meetings and church, but you HAVE worn flip flops to church before! Ties... we don't need no stinkin' ties!

You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and just one sweatshirt (and it is on the hanger in the closet)

You get annoyed at the tourists who feed seagulls.

A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level (even at DisneyWorld)

You know the four -4- seasons really are: hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season & Summer

You've actually hosted a hurricane party.

You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee , Withlacoochee and Micanopy.

You understand why it's better to have a friend with a boat, than have a boat yourself.

You were 25 when you first met someone who couldn't swim.

You've worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas and New Years (oh yeah!)

You recognize Miami-Dade as 'Northern Cuba.'

***** Thank you, anonymous donor!! *****

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Midlife - In all its GLORY!!!

Sent anonymously through e-mail!!! What a hoot!!! I had to share it with you!!

I've seen two shows lately that went on and on about how mid-life is a great time for women. Just last week Oprah had a whole show on how great menopause will be . . . Puhleeeeeeeze! I've had a few thoughts of my own and would like to share them with you. Whether you are pushing 40, 50, 60 (or maybe even just pushing your luck), you'll probably relate.

Mid-life is when the growth of hair on our legs slows down. This gives us plenty of time to care for our newly acquired mustache.

In mid-life women no longer have upper arms, we have wing spans. We are no longer women in sleeveless shirts, we are flying squirrels in drag.

Mid-life is when you can stand naked in front of a mirror and you can see your rear without turning around.

Mid-life is when you go for a mammogram and you realize that this is the only time someone will ask you to appear topless.

Mid-life is when you want to grab every firm young lovely in a tube top and scream, "Listen honey, even the Roman empire fell and those will too."

Mid-life brings wisdom to know that life throws us curves and we're sitting on our biggest ones.

Mid-life is when you look at your know-it-all, beeper-wearing teenager and think: "For this I have stretch marks?"

In mid-life your memory starts to go. In fact the only thing we can retain is water.

Mid-life means that your Body By Jake now includes Legs By Rand McNally -- more red and blue lines than an accurately scaled map of Wisconsin.

Mid-life means that you become more reflective... You start pondering the "big" questions. What is life? Why am I here? How much Healthy Choice ice cream can I eat before it's no longer a healthy choice?

But mid-life also brings with it an appreciation for what is important. We realize that breasts sag, hips expand and chins double, but our loved ones make the journey worth while. Would any of you trade the knowledge that you have now, for the body you had way back when? Maybe our bodies simply have to expand to hold all the wisdom and love we've acquired. That's my philosophy and I'm sticking to it!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

10 Best Movies About Fathers

Nell Minow put together a "10 Best" list that I think truly depicts the 10 best "movies dads" of all time. Of course, you may have other opinions, and you're quite welcome to share them here.

Click HERE to read the article.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This is an anonymous message that I found circulating the Internet.

To Those of You Born

1930 - 1979

At the end of this email is a quote of the month by Jay Leno.. If you don't read anything else, please
read what he said.


1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes..

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon.. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight. WHY?

Because we were always outside playing...that's why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If YOU are one of them?


You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids.

While you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.

The quote of the month is by Jay Leno:

'With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?'

For those that prefer to think that God is not watching over us....go ahead and delete this.

For the rest of us...pass this on.


Subject: 2009 our new year

There comes a point in your life when you realize
who matters,
who never did,
who won't anymore...
and who always will.
So, don't worry about people from your past,
there's a reason why they didn't make it to your future.

'Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. '

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wizards of Words 2009 Conference

Fifth Annual



♦ Accelerate your Career as a Writer ♦

Keynote Banquet Speaker – JACK WHYTE

Award-winning Poet & World Renown Historical Fiction Writer

Luncheon Speaker - JERRY SIMMONS

Author – Literary Consultant - Creator of “” and “”

Nineteen WOW Workshops in Two Days

FACULTY: Jack Whyte, William Bernhardt, Mary Sue Seymour David S. Rosenberg, Penny C. Sansevieri,

Jennifer Thompson, Virginia Nosky, Patricia Brooks, Morgan St. James, Chantelle Osman, Brenda Hill, Rebecca Buckley

ROUND ROBIN SESSIONS: Consisting of Publishers, Keynotes, Editors

10-MINUTE INTERVIEWS: Pitch your manuscripts – Advance Reservations – Attendees Only

Friday & Saturday - October 16 & 17, 2009

The Plaza Hotel/Casino – Downtown Las Vegas NV

Full Conference Registration Fee:

WOW Member $179

Non Member $259

(To get the WOW Member Rate, you must join WOW and register for conference before August 1.)

For more information and to pay by PayPal or Credit Card go to:

-OR- send check and appropriate forms (download from website)

to R.J. Buckley, 1451 E. Poncho Lane, Queen Creek AZ, 85243

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Six Word Memoirs

Six-Word Memoirs: The Legend

Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Starting in 2006, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking their readers for their own six-word memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”).

It's fun. It's addicting. Can you scrunch your story into six words? Try it and see. Here's the site. Six-Word Memoirs at SMITH Magazine.

And, to get you started, here's a few of my own:

* Bank funds low. No movie night.

* Grownup dreams of motherhood. My inspiration.

* Hearts flutter from heaven sent angels.

So, what is your six-word memoir?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fashion Sense or Nonsense?

I started out reading an article on the 6 Rules of Cleavage and it led me to the Top Ten Items You're Too Old to Wear which led me to a book on Amazon titled How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp. Back at the articles, I followed another link to Mom Jeans, Visible Panty Lines and 8 other Fashion Disasters, when it occurred to me, how in the heck did I ever survive dressing myself without the help of these women all my life?

Seriously ... NOT!!

I mean, come on. It's all a matter of common sense, really, isn't it? But, apparently not. There are still women out there, everyday, who want to dress like they're still in their teenage years, and they're pushing 40, 50, or older. I shudder just thinking about it.

I'm mean, come'on. Give it up, ladies!

There's "Daytime Cleavage" and there's "Nighttime Cleavage" right? Be respectful and the older you get, the more support you need, am I right? No one needs to see granny au'natural! I know that my "twins" have changed shape and size many times over the years and I'm giving them all the support I can -- they appreciate it and I do too. Gravity has not been kind. Not to mention, I'm sure someone like the grocery clerk appreciates it as well, not having to see me "hanging" in the wind, if you know what I mean.

When it comes down to it, though, if there's a list of don'ts, then there's a reason for them. Someone had to be told, "Hey, I think you're too old to wear Mickey Mouse barrettes in your hair." Or, "Mom, you can't borrow my Mary-Kate & Ashley glitter nail polish anymore!"

Do we need the Fashion Police to measure the number of inches of cleavage we show or announce to the world that everyone over 30 must now wear boot cut jeans to compensate for our "mom" butts?


All we need are just some good common sense fashion tips and we can still look trendy without looking like the last lonely "Material Girl" from a Madonna video.

Take t-shirts with messages on them. There's an age and body for glitter and shine on t-shirts. Especially with flirty messages like "CUTIE PIE!" and "I'M A FOX" And, sorry, but that age has to have a one or maybe a two in front of it. Any older and you're just a cry for help.

The same goes for those micro-mini skirts! Oh my God, I saw one on a woman at a concert the other night. Please, if you have to keep pulling on it to make it longer, then it's TOO SHORT! When she sat down, the skirt completely disappeared! Hello! Nobody wants to see that! According to the "Top 10 Items You're Too Old to Wear" the cut off age is 40 for micro-mini skirts, I say that's pushing it, but then that's me.

Like I said before, it's just a matter of common sense. But, just in case, read the articles. If anything, they're good for a few chuckles.

And, ladies.. watch those VPL's!!

Monday, March 09, 2009

My Favorite Pet

Won't you please help my American Eskimo, Jack win in Redbook's Furry Face-Off ??!! Jack's the one posing in the Easter Bunny ears!! Isn't he such a cutie??

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Never Too Late

I'm a Red Cross Volunteer at my local hospital. During our break the volunteers would get together in the hospital cafeteria and have a snack and something to drink. We'd talk about this and that and the other. We'd share stories about our lives, past and present.

One day an older woman, another volunteer, came to me and asked me when I started writing. I'd made mention in passing at one of our breaks that I was an author. I told her that since 2000 and she was surprised I had not been writing my whole life. I explained that I actually was a technical writer for fifteen years before I started writing fiction, but I really had only been writing novels for less than ten years.

I asked her why, and she told me she had a story in her but she said it was too late to write it. She looked so woe-be-gone that I felt instant sympathy for her.

Again, I asked her why, and she said she was too "old".

"Old" is such a relative term. To her it meant she was too used up; too late to start something new; especially something "long term" like writing.

She felt so overwhelmed with the daunting task of putting words to paper. All of the words locked inside of her. She didn't know where to begin and she turned to me to help her. She sighed that all of those words in side of her would be lost forever. I asked her why and she said she would never have the time to write her story.

I'll tell you what I told her. It's never too late. I asked her to start small. Only a few minutes each day. Write a few words, a sentence or two, and that's it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just something to get her started.

She didn't know where to begin. I told her that she didn't have to start at the beginning of anything. Just sit down. Get quiet. And start writing whatever comes to mind first. Take it from there.

She seemed hesitant but said she'd try.

The next day she was like an eager schoolgirl wanting to show her best report card. She had actually written something and best of all she sent it to her family in an email and they enjoyed it! She couldn't wait to get back home and try again. What she had written had spurred more memories that she was eager to capture. She's more organized now, keeping her memories tucked away in electronic document files, but she still sends them to her family to read. It gives her so much joy.

Her interest in writing and the small steps she took gave her the incentive to start and to continue. And that is how she's writing her memoir to her children.

It wasn't too late for her, and it's not too late for you.

It's never too late to start writing.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Laws of English - NOT!

This came across my e-mail in-box recently and I though I'd share it with you. I'm not sure who the original author is, but thank you.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce .

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row ...

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick' ?

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP ! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP .. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP...

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, is time to shut UP!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

If Today Was Your Last Day Contest Entries

I'm pleased to announce the finalists in the "If Today was Your Last Day" writing contest. Each contestant had to write their entry based on the theme of the song (If Today was Your Last Day) written by Nickelback.

I've listed the finalists below. Please read them. Then go to my writers forum and vote for your favorite. That will choose our winner. The polls will stay open for 14 days.

Thank you to everyone who entered. It was a close contest and I had a difficult time choosing the finalists.


Sandra rushed from the bus to the sidewalk, head down, arms wrapped possessively around the brown bakery package. Tonight, she would curl up with the latest Toni Morrison novel accompanied by a plate of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Her steps quickened at the thought. Food was her one indulgence. She didn’t window shop for trendy clothes or the latest home fashion. Her hair was cut in a short, practical style. Her clothes were sensible; her furnishings functional. Adornment was for people who were blessed with good looks and an active social life. She even gave up trying to watch her weight, once she entered middle age. What was the point?

One more block and she would be at her aged brick apartment building. The black iron posts of Oak Lawn Cemetery striped passersby in deep afternoon shadow. As Sandra neared the cemetery gate, a large funeral party poured out on the sidewalk. She noted the black limousine ahead of a long line of cars parked on the street. She sighed impatiently and waited for the gathering to move on. The crowd huddled protectively around a young woman so ashen faced and hollow eyed, that Sandra couldn’t bear to look at her. Her gaze dropped instead to the top of a girl’s blond head. The child chose that moment to look up; her blue eyes flooded with unrestrained tears. Grief and despair emanated from the crowd in a palpable wave that forced Sandra to step back from the black coated figures.

She hugged the bakery package, longing to find warmth there, but the sugary treasure had cooled. Despair niggled at the edges of her mind. No, she would not let it in. She would reheat the rolls in the oven. She stamped her feet to fight off the cold. The last of the mourners finally exited the gate and the crowd slowly inched its way forward. Sandra trudged behind and tried to revive the image of the cozy evening she had planned. It escaped her. She railed at her timing. If only she had been one minute earlier, she would have passed the cemetery gate before the funeral exited. If the person ahead of her in the bakery line hadn’t changed her order; she wouldn’t have missed the 5:00 bus.

At last, the path in front of her cleared. The mourners were opening car doors; leaving the dead behind. She would heat up these rolls. The yeasty dough would loose some of its delicate softness, but the cinnamon sugar thrill would still be there. She reached the crosswalk to her apartment and waited for the long line of traffic to pass. She glanced down. There at her feet was a pamphlet. She had no idea why she picked it up. She had to shuffle the package to one arm and reach down with the other. It was a funeral announcement. It must have fallen from a mourner’s hand and been blown her way by the brisk winter wind. She opened it and was struck solemn by the picture inside. A cherubic boy’s face beamed at her. Under the photo was the inscription: Joshua Burns, January 14, 2007 – January 12, 2008.

She stood frozen. The traffic cleared and pedestrians rushed by her to cross the street. She turned back to the bench on the sidewalk where the thin, homeless man slept at night. She sank down on the seat; her eyes riveted to the child’s face. Not even a year he lived. Three hundred and sixty three days. Just long enough to capture the hearts of his family. To weave his life with theirs in a way that would make his departure immensely painful. She pictured the face of the young mother and the little girl by her side. Joshua’s sister, perhaps?

Today was Joshua’s birthday. What would he have been like? Her niece’s child was about a year old. On Sondra’s last visit, the child babbled senselessly and pulled himself upright, then walked towards her; his hands grasping a tabletop. Before he reached her, he fell backwards on his rump and exploded into peals of laughter. She’d felt awkward and incompetent around such exuberance.

Three hundred and sixty three days. She studied Joshua’s face. She had lived 48 years. What had she done with those years? Nothing nearly as important as learning to walk or capturing hearts. She thought of her small life: the dull office job, her cloistered apartment, and the mean minutes she spent alone. All ruled by fear and insecurity. She looked down at her body. It was a perfectly functional body. Her hands clasped and felt. Her feet carried her where she wanted to go. Her eyes saw; her ears heard; her nose smelled and her tongue tasted. Soft snowflakes began to fall. She rose and made her way slowly across the street to her apartment. She clutched the funeral pamphlet as if it were a talisman; sensing its profound importance to the rest of her days.

Behind on the bench, a brown package is covered by snow. An hour later, a thin homeless man will brush the snow off the bench and delight in his discovery of the frozen sweet rolls.


The curtain of night rain obscured her view of the garden where she had planted fledging impatiens the day before. She wondered how they were handling the deluge, those delicate paper-thin petals and tender leaves. If she could be any flower in the universe, she would be a bright fuchsia impatiens. Yep, that’s what she would be, but it seems powers beyond her own had decided that she should be a human being who planted and cared for the pretty sun-shy impatiens.
“Come back to bed.” His deep voice bounced on her bare back and then slid over her shoulders to quiver near her heart. She turned and smiled in the darkness.
“I love you,” she said. She felt the silence in the room slide over her like swaddling clothes, binding her to those three fateful words never spoken before, at least to the one who now lay in her rumpled bed. The rain pounded on the window as if to say, you idiot, why did you say that.
“I know” is all he said.

She sat at her workstation staring at the computer screen, hands poised on the keyboard as if ready for immediate takeoff but needing the go-ahead from the control tower. She couldn’t manage the meanderings of her usually disciplined mind. She couldn’t concentrate on inputting the data needed for the next project. She couldn’t eat or sleep either. Why had she said that? Why? Why? Why?
“Hey, Dana, you lost in lalaland or something? Bossman is asking for the specifications.” Shakira leaned against the cubicle wall, grinning like a border collie after it had successfully herded its charges into the sheep pen. Against her own paleness, Shakira’s dark skin shone like fine chocolate and her flamboyant clothing made Dana’s attire look like Auntie Em’s farmhouse drab.
“I’m doing it right now.”
“Well, bossman needs it yesterday. Now, ain’t that a surprise. I’ll stall him for an hour or so, but then you’re on your own. Ciao, chick.”
She watched Shakira’s tallness diminish down the long hall and then looked back at the computer screen. There were days when all she wanted to do was scream, and this was one of them. But, like a dutiful child, she squelched the screech clawing up her throat and recommenced the adult thing called work. She watched her practiced fingers fly across the keyboard as she half-scrutinized the paperwork on her desk. If only she had a window, she could watch the leaves of the trees tremble in the breeze, glimpse a bird or two as it journeyed to wherever, see a jet leaving a white trail of smoke in the cloudless azure blue sky. Instead, her only view was grey cloth cubicle walls and the photo of him taken in Curaçao last summer. Tall, muscular, tanned, sun-bleached hair, dark beard stubble, Ray-Bans covering his amazing hazel eyes, he looked straight at her with that smile, with those full lips that kissed her every night, every morning, and now seemed so cold because they hadn’t whispered those three words back to her. She had no idea what to do now. Here she was, a summa cum laude college graduate, and she was clueless about this he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not state of affairs. Ain’t that a gas, as Shakira would say.

He called her. “Hey, lover, you want to go to dinner? There’s a new place everyone’s talking about in the Village.”
Lover? Yes, she was that. How about just plain old love? Was she loved? She was going to ask him. Yep, she sure was…if her thundering heart would stop strangling her voice.
“Do you love me?” she asked quietly, almost hoping he couldn’t hear her.
Again, the silence. She listened to his soft breathing over the distant sound of a siren. Someone’s in trouble. She’s in trouble too. Do they send ambulances for broken hearts?
“Not the way you want me to” is what he said.
“I see” is all she said.

Dana stood on the crest of the hill, watching the waves bellow and bash their crowns on the ragged rocks below. She could feel the strength, the fierceness, the incompatibility of ocean and granite coming together, forever linked in a lover’s dance of love and hate, neither one winning. She breathed in the fresh salty air and relished the semi-wild outdoors.
Summer in Oregon. So different than summer in Curaçao. He wasn’t here. She heard from a friend of hers that he had moved in with a red-headed architect from Dallas and seemed to be very happy. There was a small crying part of her that wanted to slash the expensive tires on his new white BMW (another tidbit from her friend) and pull every red hair out of his new girlfriend’s scalp, but that wouldn’t heal the pain of their breakup. That would just land her in jail. And, really, what did it matter anyway? You can’t coerce someone into loving you. Either they do or they don’t. Simple as that. She was only 32 years old; there would be other men in her life and through them she might find the love she wanted. But right now, this very second, her body and spirit tingled with the roar of the waves, the lonesome cry of a hawk overhead, the breeze whistling through the trees, the twitter of squirrels hiding in foliage, the hard earth under her hiking boots. Looking down, she saw a red flower a couple of feet away that had broken off its parent bush. She picked it up and gently pushed it behind her ear.
“Hey, Dana, come on. We’re hungry and there’s still a mile to go.” Dana glanced one more time at the confluence of rock and water in the cove below, and then turned to her friends and smiled.
“I’m ready now” is what she said.


“Ms. Myers, thank you for coming in,” the doctor says.
The plush leather seat should feel comforting with its supple, body-enveloping leather, yet it feels as hostile as the paper-sheet covered exam tables I’d lain on so many times in recent months.
My temple throbs. My stomach wants to re-gift me with my half-digested meal. Why had I even bothered to eat? The news isn’t going to be good. Why had I come? Why couldn’t they just tell me over the phone? Do I really need to hear the words?
“I have the results of the biopsy,” she says.
I nod. My mouth is too dry to swallow.
She gathers a cool and clammy hand between her warm, full-of-life hands. I gag at the contrast.
“Claire, we talked about the possibilities.”
I open my mouth to speak, but a loud sob bursts out, and once I start to cry, I can’t stop.
She holds the box of tissues and sits patiently while rubbing my arm, my back. Her touch soothes.
I finally settle a little and say the only thought I can grasp. “But, I don’t feel sick.”
She speaks and I only catch phrases. “…quite advanced…inoperable…sudden.”
Something clicks inside me and I stand. I take a deep breath and let it out. “I guess I should get busy dying, then, now that it’s official.”
Anger floods me until the elevator doors slide shut, then emptiness washes over me and I barely have the strength to hold myself up. Only a few days to live. What can I possibly do in a few days that I haven’t done in over forty years?
An icy wind freezes the moisture on my face as I step outside. I wince, but then smile. Pain. I can still feel. I’m suddenly aware of every precious breath.
I raise my face to bask in the warmth of the sun as it peeks out.
No more forcing myself to go to a job I don’t enjoy, sitting in traffic, inhaling secondhand smoke, or cleaning the toilet.
I attract attention, but who cares? I half-jog to my favorite café. I smile at everyone I encounter and am amazed at how many won’t make eye contact. That was me, until I got the news. Now I feel free, alive. How ironic.
At the café I order a large slice of the triple layer, chocolate-dipped raspberry cake and savor every morsel as it touches my tongue.
Oh, how I should have indulged sooner.
Should have.
There are so many things I put off for someday, for retirement. Well, now, here I am with only a couple of ‘some’ days left. I choke back a sob. Why did I wait? Why didn’t I follow my dreams?
I scoop up decadent chocolate remnants with my finger, close my eyes, and stick the finger in my mouth. Heavenly.
I’m going to savor all my final moments like this. No more time to waste or take for granted. I call the office and say I won’t be back. The attorney expresses his condolences at my situation and helps me sort out the final details of my life. My steps feel lighter as I leave his office. There is truly nothing holding me to this life now.
I take in all the colors, the people, the textures of the buildings. I inhale deeply and give thanks to whatever being may exist, for allowing me the ability to smell, see, touch, taste, and hear. How precious these gifts are. How sad it is that I didn’t feel blessed and notice these things until now.
I toy with spending hours being pampered at a spa, but realize I want to be outside as much as possible. I walk the deserted winter beach. I splurge on my last meals. I think about my one true love, lost in the shuffle of life. I hope he’s found the love he couldn’t find with me.
I don’t pay attention and my feet slip. I manage to do crazy gyrations with my arms and stay upright. I may be hysterical, but oh, it feels so great to laugh. Don’t they say laughter is the best medicine? Maybe if I laugh a lot I’ll get a few more hours, or days. Do I want more time?
I sober. I love these precious final moments. But, what if? After all, I don’t feel sick. In fact, I’ve never felt better. No. The doctor is sure. Nothing is tying me to this earthly life any more except a few more breaths. I need to enjoy everything I can in these last brief moments of my life. There’s no time to follow my dreams.
I eventually get home. The light on my answering machine is blinking. I ignore it and turn the ringer off. No disruptions.
I indulge myself with a hot tub overflowing with bubbles. I grab an entire bottle of chardonnay, set out cheese and crackers and grapes. I decide to read the half-finished novel beside my bed. I wonder if I’ll remember anything when I pass from this life to the next. I sleep soundly and wake up feeling refreshed.
I continue to indulge and savor the fleeting minutes. I don’t know which will be my last. I write letters to old friends and loved ones. I sit and give thanks for the life I was given. Time. I regret squandering it, and not having enough now to pursue my interest in the saxophone, salsa dancing, and traveling the world. I want more time.
Days pass. I let messages, dishes, and dirty laundry pile up. I want my last breath to come while I’m cherishing something I used to take for granted, not doing chores.
I wake up to yet another beautiful sunrise. My cash has run out. I still feel fine.
I call the doctor.
“Ms. Myers, we’ve been trying to get in touch with you. There was a mistake….”


As a company of United States Marines hunkers in on a no name piece of sand in the Iraqi desert. One young Marine looked out at the sand for the umpteenth time and wondered.

When they coming? Man, the old guys like Sarge and Maxie, they seemed to be taking it easy, but most of the guys are like me, scared shitless, even if they won't admit it. It won't be long before dark. I thought I heard the chow trucks pull in, maybe some hot food for a change.

Getting a hot meal was at the top of every Marines wish list.

Great, Sarge just gave the all clear sign. Maybe I can get some of that warm chow. If I hurry, I can get a spot under one of the trucks and catch some Z's. Man wouldn't a shower be nice. Actually getting my hair clean, washing it with shampoo, not just a rinse with cold water. But as Grandma use to say, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

“Blaine, Maxwell?” the Sergeant called.

This can't be good.

“Yeah Sarge?” I replied.
“Blaine, Maxwell, here on the east, stay alert and call me if you see anything. And I mean any damn thing, got it? The rest of you, clear your weapons and hit the chow line,” he said.
“Yeah, got it Sarge,” I said to his back as he hurried off to the next bunker.

Shit, I have to stand guard. All the hot chow will be gone again. Man it seems like I can never catch a break.

Behind the sand bag revetments, somebody turned on a boom box and they heard 'If today was your last day,' blast away.

Ain't that some something, Nickelback, I sure hope that's not an omen. Grandma believed in omens, not that I do, but she was scary right sometimes. The stuff she would come up with, like dropping a fork meant you were getting company or a ladybug was good luck. Man, what wouldn't I give for a boatload of ladybugs right now?

As dusk drifts to dark, Marines watch a silent desert that seems to change with every glance.

It's awfully quiet out there. I know the mooks are out there, we saw some dust clouds earlier. They ain't all that bright and they’re cowards to boot. Come on out and do a one on one with us man. We are ready to kick ass and take names, don't you know. Seems like a waste to put Marines out here in this dump when the candy ass Army could do something this chicken shit. But, we be Gyrenes, the few, the proud and the horny. We go where we are told, from the halls of Montezuma to infinity and beyond, hee, hee, hee.

“Something funny?” Maxie asked.
“No, just thinking about something Maxie,” I replied.

“Well think with your eyes open Marine,” he said.
“Yeah sure,” I said as I looked back out on the sand.

I know what I would do if today was my last day. First, I sure as hell wouldn't spend it here, no way. I would be home with Mama. I would get up early, really early like around four or so and take a long hot bubble bath. I would soak for an hour and drink some hot tea. Then I would put on my best dress and flats. Jesus, I sure as hell wouldn't want to spend my last damn day in heels. I would dress to the nines and then some. I would take Mama and we would spend my last day doing…
Holy shit! Was that something moving out there?

“Maxie! Eleven o'clock, see anything?” I asked.
“Jesus Diana! You scared the hell out of me. No, just sand and shadows is all. Christ all mighty, take it easy, will you?” Maxie replied.
“Yeah sorry, just a bit jumpy I guess,” I said looking out at the darkening sand.

I wish they would have never played that friggen song. Now it will be stuck in my head forever. I don't hear the boom box anymore. Somebody must have told them to knock it off. I'd bet it was Jamal, he has a sick ass sense of humor. I could see him playing that last day shit and laughing about it, yeah, probably Jamal.

She watched the desert shadows ebb and flow and as time crept by unhurried, her thoughts caught up with her.

I would spend the day with Mama and we would go do all the things we said we would do when I come home. We would go down to the Emporium and try on every pair of shoes they had. Then we would eat until we burst and shop some more. Then just before midnight, I would find me some big strapping hunk with a hairy chest and get laid, right and proper. I would go out with a big smile on my face, you can bet your ass on that. Then I would go home to my bed, lay down, and wait for sweet Jesus to…

“Blaine?” Corporal Papas said, breaking my thoughts.
“Yeah Corporal?” I replied.
“Waitsfield is going to spell you so you can get some hot chow,” he said as Billy Waitsfield jumped down in the hole besides me.
“Nothing happing Billy, it's as quite as a church out there,” I told him as I cleared my piece. Corporal Papas held his hand out to help me out of the hole. As he pulled me up he said, “Get that money maker moving girl. You got thirty minutes and I want your ass back here, got it?”
“You bet Corporal,” I replied as I beat feet to the mess line.

Hot damn, hot chow. God does love me.


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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Peanut Butter Recall

FDA Warns Consumers Not to Eat Peanut Butter Products
Agency advises against everything but jars of peanut butter as salmonella probe widens; Kellogg recalls Famous Amos and Keebler peanut butter cookies; toll at 453 sickened, 6 dead, in 43 states and Canada

SATURDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday warned consumers not to eat peanut butter products containing peanut butter or peanut butter paste, as the investigation into the widespread salmonella outbreak continues.

The health warning focused on products made with peanut butter, like crackers, not jars of peanut butter on store shelves, the agency said.

"We are urging people not to eat products that have peanut butter until we have better information, and they can make an informed choice," Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said at a Saturday teleconference, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The official toll from the outbreak across 43 states and Canada still stands at 453 people sickened, with six deaths that have been linked.

Meanwhile, cereal giant Kellogg recalled 16 products containing peanut butter late Friday. The recall involved 33,000 cases of cookies and 7 million cases of crackers on grocery shelves, according to the Journal-Constitution.

Kellogg's recall included Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers and Keebler and Famous Amos peanut butter cookies.

The company had asked stores on Wednesday to stop selling its popular Keebler and Austin brand peanut butter crackers while it investigated any possible salmonella connection.

Friday's formal recall took the company's action one step further.

"The actions we are taking today are in keeping with our more than 100-year commitment to providing consumers with safe, high-quality products," David Mackay, Kellogg president and CEO, told the Associated Press. "We apologize for this unfortunate situation."

Kellogg's recall also followed a request from the FDA for salmonella testing by food companies around the country that may have bought peanut butter or peanut paste from a Georgia facility owned by the Peanut Corp. of America.

U.S. health officials late Friday said at least 85 companies had purchased peanut products from the Georgia plant and 30 had been "urged" to run their own tests for the bacteria, the AP reported.

Sundlof told a late Friday teleconference: "We have traced one likely source of salmonella contamination to a plant owned by the Peanut Corp. of America in Georgia, which makes both a brand of peanut butter distributed in bulk to large institutions like nursing homes, and also produces a peanut paste that is distributed to food manufacturers to be used as an ingredient in many products, including cookies, crackers, cereal and ice cream."

Although salmonella was found at the plant, it's not yet known whether it's the same strain behind the outbreak, Sundlof said, adding that testing continues.

Sundlof said the FDA doesn't know all the peanut butter brands or foods containing peanut butter that might be affected. "We don't have specific information about what brands or products consumers should avoid," he said.

But AP, quoting consumer representatives who took part in an earlier-Friday conference call with federal officials, said companies producing products with peanut butter were being asked to consider halting sales.

The concern is that peanut paste is used in dozens of products, from baked goods to cooking sauces. Initially, federal and state investigators had focused on bulk containers of peanut butter sold to institutions such as nursing homes, but not to supermarkets, the AP said.

"Now it turns out, it's not just institutions," said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union.

On Wednesday, Kellogg, of Battle Creek, Mich., said it took its stop-sale action as a "precautionary measure" after Peanut Corp., one of its suppliers, announced a nationwide recall of peanut butter made at the Georgia plant.

The company recall now includes: Austin and Keebler brand Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, as well as some snack-size packs of Famous Amos Peanut Butter Cookies and Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies.

The strain of salmonella involved with the outbreak has been identified as Salmonella Typhimurium, the most common of the more than 2,500 types of salmonella bacteria in the United States. It's often found in uncooked eggs and meats, officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The most recent death linked to the outbreak was an elderly man in North Carolina, according to state health officials.

On Wednesday, health officials in Minnesota and Idaho said that one death in each state had been linked to the outbreak. Another death in Minnesota and two in Virginia were confirmed Tuesday, the AP reported.

Although the causes of death haven't been determined, all six adults had salmonella infection when they died. CDC officials said the salmonella outbreak may have contributed to their deaths.

Peanut Corp., based in Lynchburg, Va., issued its own recall Tuesday of 21 lots of peanut butter for possible salmonella contamination. The product was made at the plant in Blakely, Ga., on or after July 1, 2008, and sold under the brand name Parnell's Pride and by the King Nut Company as King Nut, the AP said.

Peanut Corp., which also has plants in Virginia and Texas, makes the product for bulk distribution to institutions, food service industries and private label food companies.

The recall and the potential link to the multi-state outbreak came two years after ConAgra recalled its Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which had been linked to at least 625 salmonella cases in 47 states.

More information

Here is a list of the peanut butter products recalled by Kellogg.

SOURCE: Jan. 16, 2009, teleconference with Stephen Sundlof, D.V.M., director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Jan. 14, 2009, news release, Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich.; Jan. 12, 2009, news release, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture; Jan. 12, 2009, news release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jan 10, 2009, online statement, Peanut Corp. of America; Associated Press; Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Last Updated: Jan. 17, 2009

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