Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Author, Diane Craver

Today's guest is Diane Craver, fellow Sweeter Romantic Notions author. I met Diane last year at the Lori Foster Readers and Writers Get Together, and she is a delightful woman. So sit back, relax, and enjoy an interview with this busy mother of six!
Who are you?
Hi! Liana, thank you for having me here today. I'm Diane Craver, wife to Tom (just celebrated our 34th anniversary), mother of 6, and the youngest sister with three older sisters, which you'll learn later here why that means anything. :)

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I write chick-lit mystery, inspirational romance, contemporary romance, and women's fiction.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I like to read contemporary romance, romantic comedy, mysteries, romantic suspense, historical romances, inspirational romances, and women's fiction.

When do you write?

I'm an early riser so I write a little before I get our two daughters with special needs up in the morning. After I get them to their programs, I'll do a few loads of laundry and etc., then I get busy again on my writing. On some days I might only have short periods to write, but other days I might have longer chunks of time.

When do you read? Where?

I read at different times but probably mostly in the evening or on weekends. If it's in the summer, I'll take a book with me to read outside after I go swimming. Sometimes I might read a little in bed before going to sleep or curled up in a comfy chair. I do buy quite a few ebooks but I don't like to read them from the computer so print them on the back of my rough drafts. I'd love to buy an electronic reader someday.

Where did you get the inspiration for Whitney in Charge?

I wrote Whitney in Charge because I thought it'd be fun to write a story about sisters. I wanted the focus on Whitney, the youngest sis, since I'm the little sis in my family. I decided to have Shannon and Regan, the older sisters, play matchmakers to help Whitney meet a new man.
How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

The title came to me when Whitney expresses to Shannon and Regan how she wants the three to start a new business, but she wants to be in charge of it. She plans on putting the most time and money into their new venture, but all three will have a say about everything. However, when final decisions have to be made, Whitney wants to be the one to make them.
I chose the main characters' names by first checking to see what names were popular in the year the characters were born. There's an online search under social security for the most popular names in each decade. I also looked at baby name books, and tried different names out before I chose Whitney, Shannon, and Regan. When I chose the guy names, I asked my daughters for suggestions. Then I had to make sure the first names sounded right with the last names.

Why do you write?

I can't imagine not writing. I love reading and writing. I'm constantly thinking of future story lines. When something happens in my real life or if I hear something on the news, I think about putting a different outcome or spin on it. I ask myself, would that be a good story? I also love developing my characters into warm and vulnerable people.

As the youngest in the family, growing up on a farm in Findlay, Ohio, Diane often acted out characters from her own stories in the backyard. Before embarking on her writing career, Diane was a school teacher and play director.
Diane enjoys her life with her husband and six children in southwestern Ohio. Her husband of thirty-four years is very supportive, as well as her awesome children. Her novels are published by Desert Breeze Publishing and Samhain Publishing. Learn more about Diane Craver and her books at or read her blog at

Whitney in Charge

Whitney Benson is tired of her older sisters’ attempts to fix her up with every single male they meet. Shannon and Regan cross the line when they arrange for her to go skydiving with the simple excuse that more guys like to float in the air than women. Whitney needs to find something else to keep them busy.

When she suggests that the three of them start a family business, the fun begins in their small town. And she thought being a TV producer in New York had been exciting.

Without going skydiving, Whitney meets two eligible bachelors, Jack and Ben, who constantly battle for her affection. Which one will she choose? Both men make Whitney realize, even a heart shattered by her husband’s death, can once again be made whole.

But did she have to fall off a cliff to learn that?

Shannon and Regan entered the room with determined looks, immediately making her wonder what they were up to. With her being widowed and their mother gone, both felt she needed direction and had told her so more than once.

“Whitney, we need to talk,” Shannon said.

“But first, let’s go into the kitchen.” Regan smiled, carrying Chinese food. “I brought your favorite.”

“And fortune cookies,” Shannon added.

Well, that wasn’t a good sign. When they wanted her to cooperate with their plans, Regan always thought food was necessary in winning an argument against the youngest sister. Two years ago, she’d been a television news producer for a popular morning program, but those two still treated her like the baby sister. Maybe if she’d had children with Rob, things would’ve been different. Probably not. She’d always be their little sis.

What plans did they have for her? She loved Shannon and Regan but at times they overwhelmed her. Whitney followed them into the kitchen, getting plates from the cupboard while Shannon made coffee.

Regan opened up the containers of food. “We think it’s time you get out of the house and do something exciting. Mom would want you to go on with your life. And…” She grinned as she scooped out fried rice. “We thought of something to do for you.”

Whitney shook her head. “That’s not necessary—”

“Yes, it is.” Shannon put a spoonful of sugar in her coffee. “You quit your job and came back to take care of Mom.”

“I didn’t mind. Both of you have families, and I didn’t have any reason to stay in New York.” Please don’t mention Rob.

Shannon carried the cups of coffee to the table. “Regan and I have thought of the perfect thing for you to experience.”

Whitney broke open a fortune cookie and read from the slip of paper, “You will soon fall in love with a handsome stranger.”

Shannon thumped Whitney on the back before joining them at the table. “That fortune fits right in with our plans for you.”

“I think it fits in with any single woman’s hopeful plans,” Whitney said. “But certainly not mine.”

“It’s a sign,” Regan said in an eager voice. “You’ll see.”

“Not a cruise. Remember, I told you I don’t want to go on another cruise.” Several months earlier, they made her go on a three-day trip while both took turns staying with their mother. They had meant well but going by herself and being surrounded by couples hadn’t been much fun. Shannon and Regan were disappointed that Whitney hadn’t fallen in love on the ship. The only available guy she might have been interested in was the recreational director and he was too short.

“We knew you’d say that, and we’ve heard you say how you’ve done it all.” Regan put a lock of auburn hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “But we thought of something you haven’t done and will be a thrill of a lifetime.”

“And when we tell you what it is, please don’t say no,” Shannon said. “We already paid for it.”

Whitney stared at them. “Okay, you have me curious now. What is it?”

Regan set forks down on the table and mumbled, “Skydiving.”

Whitney gasped, spilling coffee on her hand. Why in the world would they pay for her to go skydiving? Had they lost their minds? “You can’t be serious. Are you trying to kill me?”

“You won’t be jumping by yourself. We talked to the owner about signing you up for a tandem skydive for your first jump. You’ll meet fun people.” Shannon patted Whitney’s hand. “And the female-male ratio is good…”

Regan nodded. “There are more guys than women skydiving. And the men are hot and love any woman who drops from the sky.”

With raised eyebrows, Whitney asked, “How would you two know?”

“We checked it all out before we got it for you,” Shannon said.

Regan grinned. “Shannon, you’re skipping the best part of our visit. We drooled over all the instructors before we signed you up. I did mention I thought you’d be the most comfortable with Nate.”

“Why Nate?” Whitney asked.

Shannon laughed. “Regan couldn’t take her eyes off him. He’s drop-dead gorgeous.”

Whitney swallowed a forkful of rice. If her sisters were correct and there was an overabundance of men, she knew why. Men wanted to act macho, but how many brain cells did they have to think jumping out of a plane made them tough? That wasn’t fair. Just because she wasn’t into skydiving didn’t mean it was stupid. When had she become so critical? She knew when. After Rob’s death, the optimistic, open-minded part of her died with him.

“Maybe you two should go skydiving instead of me.”

Regan shook her head. “No way. We want you to go.”

“But I’m afraid of heights.”

“It’s time for you to overcome your fear of flying.” Shannon took a bite of shrimp. “We want to go to Hawaii sometime. Remember how we promised Mom we would? Just the three of us.”

Whitney shrugged. “That’s different. I can fly to Hawaii without doing skydiving first.”

“I don’t think so.” Regan scooped a heaping spoonful of chow mien onto her plate. “You drove me crazy when we flew to Wisconsin for Aunt Martha’s funeral. You had such terrible anxiety attacks.”

Why did she have to have such stubborn sisters? The last thing she felt like doing was something stupid like skydiving, but she knew they’d never give up on her. They always thought they knew best because they were older and married. Big deal they were a bit older. Shannon just turned thirty-nine, and at thirty-four Regan was only three years older than Whitney.

Shannon nudged Regan, grinning with her eyebrows arched high. “Tell her about Jack.”

Regan shook her head. “Not a good idea.”

“Who’s Jack? Another skydiver?” Whitney asked.

“He’s a paramedic and single. He’s worked with Casey, but Jack’s not a firefighter. He’s not interested in meeting you.” Regan gave Whitney an apologetic shrug. “Sorry. It’s a shame because Jack’s a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey.”

Shannon raised her eyebrows. “What did Casey tell Jack about Whitney?”

“Not enough obviously,” Regan said. “But I’ll─”

“No.” Whitney put her hand on Regan’s arm. “Don’t say anything. I don’t want to go out with someone who feels pressured.” She grinned. “Although resembling McConaughey might change my mind.”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Changing Lives - One Person at a Time

Today's entry is on the power of one person to change the life of another, sent to me this week by a friend. You never know how something you will do will affect the life of another, be it something positive or negative. We all have pivotal moments in our lives, where the words of or actions of another changed things around completely.

A few years ago, I made the effort to contact those people who had had such a powerful impact on my life, and thank them. In many cases, they didn't even remember the moment that so clearly defined a change in perspective for me. But that doesn't matter. That simply goes to prove that you never know, and when an opportunity arises, if you respond with compassion and kindness, there's a chance that you can literally turn a person's life around. (The opposite is also true, but that's not what I'm talking about.)

I woke up this morning to the realization that we're all connected. Of course I've known that for years, but this morning the feeling is especially strong and at the forefront of my mind. Probably since for the first time this summer, yesterday I got out into the streets at a festival, and had the opportunity to listen to some great music and do some focused people watching. And as I did so, I thought, "I live in a world that is seriously disconnected from all of this."

But I don't, and that's why the feeling of connection is so strong this morning. It just took me a little time to put it all in perspective.
Even as I logged onto the internet this morning, and waited while that little sign said "Connecting..." I thought, "How true. The internet is allowing me to connect with you, my blog readers."
Who knows how what you read in these blogs will affect your life, and then go on to affect the lives of others? From the emails I get, I am having an effect, and that's a good feeling all around. I don't do it for the warm fuzzies, though. As I said when I started this blog I'm doing it simply because I'm 50 years old and figured I have a few things to say, and if I don't say them now, they may never get said. 
But the decision to post them here has had some remarkable results. And not just in my life.

That said, I'm going to share with you this story of how one person changed the life of another. I don't know these people, and Snopes doesn't have anything saying its untrue, but whether it is or not is not the point. The point is that yes, it is that simple.
The power of one sentence!
The man slowly looked up. This was a woman clearly accustomed to the finer things of life. Her coat was new. She looked like she had never missed a meal in her life. His first thought was that she wanted to make fun of him, like so many others had done before.
"Leave me alone," he growled... To his amazement, the woman continued standing. She was smiling -- her even white teeth displayed in dazzling rows.
"Are you hungry?" she asked.
"No," he answered sarcastically. "I've just come from dining with the President.. Now go away."
The woman's smile became even broader. Suddenly the man felt a gentle hand under his arm.
"What are you doing, Lady?" the man asked angrily. "I said to leave me alone."
Just then a policeman came up. "Is there any problem, ma'am?" he asked.
"No problem here, officer," the woman answered. "I'm just trying to get this man to his feet. Will you help me?"
The officer scratched his head. "That's old Jack. He's been a fixture around here for a couple of years. What do you want with him?"
"See that cafeteria over there?" she asked. "I'm going to get him something to eat and get him out of the cold for awhile."
"Are you crazy, lady?" the homeless man resisted. "I don't want to go in there!" Then he felt strong hands grab his other arm and lift him up. "Let me go, officer. I didn't do anything.."
"This is a good deal for you, Jack," the officer answered. "Don't blow it."
Finally, and with some difficulty, the woman and the police officer got Jack into the cafeteria and sat him at a table in a remote corner. It was the middle of the morning, so most of the breakfast crowd had already left and the lunch bunch had not yet arrived. The manager strode across the cafeteria and stood by his table.
"What's going on here, officer?" he asked. "What is all this, is this man in trouble?"
"This lady brought this man in here to be fed," the policeman answered.
"Not in here!" the manager replied angrily. "Having a person like that here is bad for business."
Old Jack smiled a toothless grin. "See, lady. I told you so. Now if you'll let me go. I didn't want to come here in the first place."
The woman turned to the cafeteria manager and smiled.
"Sir, are you familiar with Eddy and Associates, the banking firm down the street?"
"Of course I am," the manager answered impatiently. "They hold their weekly meetings in one of my banquet rooms."
"And do you make a goodly amount of money providing food at these weekly meetings?"
"What business is that of yours?"
"I, sir, am Penelope Eddy, president and CEO of the company."
The woman smiled again. "I thought that might make a difference." She glanced at the cop who was busy stifling a laugh. "Would you like to join us in a cup of coffee and a meal, officer?"
"No thanks, ma'am," the officer replied. "I'm on duty."
"Then, perhaps, a cup of coffee to go?"
"Yes, ma'am. That would be very nice."
The cafeteria manager turned on his heel. "I'll get your coffee for you right away, officer."
The officer watched him walk away. "You certainly put him in his place," he said.
"That was not my intent....Believe it or not, I have a reason for all this." She sat down at the table across from her amazed dinner guest. She stared at him intently. "Jack, do you remember me?"
Old Jack searched her face with his old, rheumy eyes. "I think so -- I mean you do look familiar."
"I'm a little older perhaps," she said. "Maybe I've even filled out more than in my younger days when you worked here, and I came through that very door, cold and hungry."
"Ma'am?" the officer said questioningly. He couldn't believe that such a magnificently turned out woman could ever have been hungry."
"I was just out of college," the woman began. "I had come to the city looking for a job, but I couldn't find anything. Finally I was down to my last few cents and had been kicked out of my apartment. I walked the streets for days. It was February and I was cold and nearly starving. I saw this place and walked in on the off chance that I could get something to eat."
Jack lit up with a smile. "Now I remember," he said. "I was behind the serving counter. You came up and asked me if you could work for something to eat. I said that it was against company policy."
"I know," the woman continued. "Then you made me the biggest roast beef sandwich that I had ever seen, gave me a cup of coffee, and told me to go over to a corner table and enjoy it. I was afraid that you would get into trouble. Then, when I looked over and saw you put the price of my food in the cash register, I knew then that everything would be allright."
"So you started your own business?" Old Jack asked.
"I got a job that very afternoon. I worked my way up. Eventually I started my own business that, with the help of God, prospered." She opened her purse and pulled out a business card. "When you are finished here, I want you to pay a visit to a Mr. Lyons. He's the personnel director of my company. I'll go talk to him now and I'm certain he'll find something for you to do around the office." She smiled. "I think he might even find the funds to give you a little advance so that you can buy some clothes and get a place to live until you get on your feet. If you ever need anything, my door is always open to you.
"There were tears in the old man's eyes. "How can I ever thank you?" he asked.
"Don't thank me," the woman answered. "To God goes the glory. He led me to you."
Outside the cafeteria, the officer and the woman paused at the entrance before going their separate ways.
"Thank you for all your help, officer," she said.
"On the contrary, Ms. Eddy," he answered. "Thank you. I saw a miracle today, something that I will never forget. And...And thank you for the coffee."
Have a Wonderful Day. May God Bless You Always and don't forget that when you "cast your bread upon the waters," you never know how it will be returned to you. God is so big He can cover the whole world with his Love and so small He can curl up inside your heart. When God leads you to the edge of the cliff, trust Him fully and let go. Only 1 of 2 things will happen, either He'll catch you when you fall, or He'll teach you how to fly!

Me, I'm learning how to fly. So have a blessed day and remember to be a blessing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Author, Christine Clemetson

Today's Guest Author is Christine Clemetson, fellow Wild Rose Press Author and part of the Goddess Fish book tour. Welcome, Christine!

Who are you?

Hi Liana! Thanks so much for having me! I’m a writer who loves writing romance as much as I love reading it! I write every chance I get. Recently, I even had to jot down ideas on a placemat at a local pizzeria. The server thought I was a little nuts, but you do what you have to do! My first book, A Daughter’s Promise, came out from the Wild Rose Press recently. And I yelled it from the rooftops. Besides my kids and hubby, that day was the proudest moment of my life. I literally felt my whole body beaming.

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I love writing romance and creating relationships between people. Writing how the characters change as they grow with one another is like going on a journey and discovering new places.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

My favorite stories are romances that grab the reader from the beginning of the story and don’t let go. There is nothing on earth quite like getting absorbed in a story that makes you forget about cooking dinner, or makes you forget where you are.

When do you write?

I write whenever I can. I fit it in between work and the kids, and everything in between. I’ve gotten chapters written during lunch hours as well as pieces of dialogue when I’m at the gas station. I’ve learned that whenever the time works, I’ll take it! I stopped being picky after my first son was born. LOL. But, I have to say that the time when I feel the most creative is in the morning.

When do you read? Where?

Usually at night before going to sleep, either in bed or downstairs on the couch. At night, the house is quiet, so it feels like “me” time when I can get absorbed in a good book.

Where did you get the inspiration for A Daughter's Promise?

I saw a newspaper article that talked about all the soldiers the US lost during a battle on Anzio beachhead during WWII. I wanted to give a voice to people that lived during this time period, and their stories of survival and hope to be heard by others. So I decided to place an American soldier right in the middle of Italy on Anzio beach head and the only chance of his survival would be through a local woman. When they find love, they ultimately look to each other for hope. I wanted to capture that inspiration on paper.

Where do you go to think?

That’s a wonderful question. I think everyone should have a spot to just think. For me, it’s usually in my living room or in my car. I have a funny story about that question too. When I was in 5th grade, moving up to the middle school, all of us had to decide nicknames for each other that were to show our most endearing qualities. My nickname? Thinker! LOL. Do you think that was a pre-cursor to how much I should think? My family still chuckles over that one.

How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

I tried to capture the core of the conflict in the title. The names came from a combination of the books, and searches on popular names in Italy during that time. I tried to fit the name to the personality of the character.

How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

I started seriously submitted after college and then I had my family and kept writing, but not submitting. In the last few years I started submitting again.

Why do you write?

I write because I can’t imagine life without it. If I didn’t write, my head would be jam packed with all these characters, and they’d have no one to tell their stories. So I write for them. J

Thank you so much Liana! Your questions were so inspiring!

Growing up in a small beach town in New Jersey, Christine wouldn’t have been caught on her beach towel without a good book. Through all this, she caught the fire of creativity and discovered she had her own story to tell. Not just one, but many!

Blurb and Excerpt from A Daughter's Promise

A Daughter’s Promise, by debut novelist Christine Clemetson, is a sweeping love story of sacrifice and unexpected hope. In war torn Italy, 1944, Serene Moneto made a promise to her dying mother—a promise so haunting that it directs the course of her life. When she chooses to save an American soldier from death, she risks everything—her name, her life, and capture by the Germans. Finding forbidden love with this soldier tears her world apart. Against the backdrop of a war raging right outside her door, can she choose happiness? Despite the promise she made those years ago?
See the trailer at


They both knew Serene’s turn had come. She took in a deep breath and touched his arms in a stiff embrace. She hugged him the way she had rehearsed in her head over and over, the way a mother would hug her son going off to war.

“I don’t care who sees,” he said gruffly, pulling her closer. He pushed her chin up with his
fingertips, and bent his head to kiss her.

She took his lips, his body, all of him, into her heart for the last time. Feeling the rapid beating in his chest, she fought the urge to mold her most intimate part against his.

When their lips parted, his warm breath on her neck made her body shiver. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she buried her face into his jacket. “I’m not ashamed about
what I said to you last night or what happened between us.” Her voice cracked. “It’s a sin, I know, but it was the most beautiful—”

“Ashamed? I don’t think I’ll ever have that kind of love again.”

Trembling, she stood back a little, clinging to her emotions with the delicacy of a spider web. “But you were right. We made the most logical decision.”

“Jesus, Serry. I want to tell you so bad that I—”

“You’re all set, then?” Sam said, coming back into the house.

Serene let go of Miles, letting her one finger intertwine with one of his pinky fingers. She couldn’t let him go.

Slowly, he released her and went to the door, putting one foot on the outside pavement before hesitating and turning back. His eyes were red, and she clutched the stair banister to keep from running to him. How much she loved him would be a secret
she’d take to the grave.

Carrying a bottle of whiskey, Marcus passed him at the door and gave him a friendly slap on the back. “I came to give you a goodbye, Coulson.”

Serene stood up straight and froze.

Miles jerked himself away. “Change of heart about me?”

His answer was Marcus’ deep kiss on Serene’s cheek and an arm around her waist. “I realized, Coulson, that I’m proud of her for taking the responsibility for you. I thought it was about time that I offered my apologies for the undiplomatic way I acted. We’re all in this for a cause, no? Why don’t we share a bottle to celebrate?”

“No, your change of heart doesn’t rub me the right way.” Miles offered an apologetic glance to Serene and then shifted his gaze back to Marcus. “You hurt her, and I’ll hurt you. You understand me?”

“Have a safe trip,” Marcus drawled.

Serene watched the driver help him in and her knees weakened. As the truck’s engine started, she braced herself against the wall.

“Don’t worry. Serene. Just think of this as a wedding present from me. No more worries about your American. He is well now and gone for good. Your only thanks is to marry me.”

She couldn’t hear him. Her throat ached and she made no effort to wipe the tears spilling freely from her eyes. She started for the door, but he grabbed her by the shoulders.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On PMDD and Cravings -- and All Chocolate is Not Equal

I have no guest author scheduled for today, so you're stuck with me and what's on my mind :). So sit back, have some cyber chocolate and enjoy!

Having come freshly off a week of spending up close and personal time with The Alien, who kicked my butt so badly the last day she was here I had to take a three-hour nap in the middle of the day, on top of getting a full night’s sleep, today I feel uber-qualified to write about how it feels to experience PMDD. The thing is, now that the episode (aka her latest visit) is over, it’s the last thing I want to think about.

I look around and see all that didn’t get done over the last week, the laundry piling up, the floors that need to be cleaned, the clutter of all I didn’t feel up to coping with and simply set aside, and would much rather regain some semblance of control over my life--if only its external appearance--than write about the dark place I inhabited for eight full days and change this time around.

Why such a long visit this time? I think I know. I think it had something to do with the stress of travel, the staying up later than usual, sleeping in strange environments, the change in diet, the miniscule amount of alcohol consumed, although in comparison to my usual alcohol intake, it was a big jump. Let’s see…over the course of two weeks I had three beers, one glass of wine and a glass of Bailey’s Irish cream. More than I’ve had in the last 6 months, since the cruise, and more than I had in the year or so before that.

Still, it was a toxic substance my system isn’t used to. Add that to the copious amounts of caffeine I consumed during the conference and while on the road, the pasta-heavy fare at the conference, and I think I’m getting the picture. At home, I’m usually caffeine free—or close to it. No coffee, maybe a cup of caffeinated tea in the morning, if I feel the need, and chocolate only when “the cravings” come. And I hadn’t had pasta or bread in weeks before the conference.

Why? All of these are bad for women with PMDD, or anyone with a neurotransmitter imbalance. Caffiene, alcohol, sugar, flour, hence the bread and pasta. But why am I so sensitive to their effects? I know women who practically live on caffeine and sugar, others who drink freely, others who love their bread and pasta. Is it possible they feel as miserable as I do, or more so, but deny their misery and continue to self-medicate with food and drink?

Because attempts to self-medicate is what these addictions (for lack of a better word) are. My research is showing there are very few true physical addictions in life. Most compulsions are emotionally or psychologically based. Only in rare cases is an addiction physiological.

That’s not to say we can’t get cravings. But cravings are cravings, temporary urges for some kind of substance to relieve our mental, emotional, or physical discomfort. Cravings are not addictions, although when you are in the throes of one, it can feel like an addiction. But as someone writing a book on dealing with addiction recently pointed out to me, “You’re not going to stick a gun in someone’s face for a piece of cake.”

Cravings are the body’s signals that some physiological need is not being met. You’re low on some vital nutrient, to be exact. Your body is saying, for instance, “I’m low on magnesium,” and you feel a sudden urge to eat a banana, or some almonds, maybe some oatmeal, or, yes, some chocolate.

Chocolate is one of the best known substances we crave. What confuses the issue with chocolate is not only its physical healing properties (of which there are many), but its emotional associations. We associate chocolate with feeling good. But not all chocolate is equal. Some are better for us than others. Much better. Others are almost useless, physiologically speaking. In the example above, a banana would provide as much magnesium as a 1.5 ounce chocolate candy bar, but a handful of almonds or cashews would provide almost three times as much magnesium as either the banana or candy bar.

So why do we reach for the chocolate? It’s as much for the emotional fix as the nutrient needed. More confusion arises when we don’t know the difference between types of chocolate, due to the marketing and advertising claims of their manufacturers. Manufacturers is the key word here. Quality chocolates from true chocolatiers abound with the beneficial properties of chocolate. True dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanoids and antioxidants, with the cacao bean containing more than twice as many antioxidants the so-called superfoods like blueberries, kale, spinach or broccoli.

It’s the cheap, mass-marketed brands that--while they may contain miniscule amounts of chocolate’s beneficial properties—have processed most of the antioxidants and flavanoids right out of the chocolate. To derive any benefit from eating these lower quality chocolates, you need to eat way more than is healthy for you. When this happens, the negatives outweigh the positives—and you could end up outweighing all your friends.

If that’s not enough, did you know that adding milk to your chocolate, or even drinking milk with your chocolate totally nullifies its good effects?

Meanwhile you’re bewildered, thinking chocolate is supposed to be good for me, right? Milk is healthy for me. Isn’t that what the ads say? By eating chocolate and drinking milk, I’m doing something good for my body, right? So why do I feel so miserable?

Because all the chocolate in the world isn’t going to solve your problems, honey, and while I may crave it like mad at times, neither is it going to make my PMDD, or Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, go away. For all its mood-enhancing abilities, even the finest Belgian chocolate won’t “cure” dysphoria.

Dysphoric is the opposite of euphoric. Euphoric means happy, dysphoric means depressed. As in depression. But only pre-menstrually, which I suppose can be considered a blessing.

In some atypical cases, however, the dsyphoria can come AFTER a woman begins her period. Lucky me, I’m atypical. Mine usually starts on Day 3, if it’s going to come. It doesn’t always come. Which is what drives me batty, trying to keep on top of what I need to do--or to avoid--to keep it from returning. I lead too full and rich a life to keep being knocked flat by this unwelcome change in my body. It makes me feel like I’m constantly behind—on everything.

As women, we all know “it will never all get done,” but to have something come along and steal a full week or more out of your month, something that no matter what you do or don’t do seems to be totally beyond your control…it’s more than frustrating. It’s crazymaking.

I’m here to tell you you’re not crazy. I’m here to tell you there are scientifically proven physiological reasons for why you crave the things you do—like carbs--and what happens to your body as a result of that. I’m here to tell you there’s help, and hope, but it’s far from easy, living in a body that seems to have a will of its own at times, and a manufacturing and marketing culture that promotes unhealthy foods as healthy because of their base ingredients, while completely ignoring the toxic effects of their processing processes.

That said, the first step is to forgive yourself for falling short of your own expectations, and to understand that what is happening to you is as involuntary a response as an allergic reaction. You can not control it. You can try to mitigate it, to be sure, by living a universally healthy lifestyle, once you understand what that truly is, but you can not control it.

Nor can you deny it and simply plow through it, as most women do. We have commitments, responsibilities, schedules and deadlines. We have people counting on us to be there for them.

But first, we have to learn how to be there for ourselves.

More on this, when I get a chance.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

In Gratitude for Friendship

"The friendship that can cease has never been real." - Saint Jerome

Okay, as promised, part two of my eight day sojourn south. I left my friends and their new black lab puppy and headed around the beltway to Springfield, where I met up with more friends from childhood. Can you say Chicago/Beach Boys concert? We were there, whatever summer that was—1974, I think it was, maybe 1975. Anyway, the three of us went out to dinner at their favorite restaurant, a wonderfully trendy place where I had the tastiest filet mignon and real mashed potatoes made from red-skinned potatoes.

I’m the kind of girl who would rather have a second helping of mashed potatoes than dessert, so I was in hog heaven. Those potatoes were my dessert! Afterward, we went back to their house, where they invited me to try out their new wireless internet thingy---it wasn’t a computer, but you could check your email and surf the internet on it--so check my email I did, for the first time in four days.

Amazing how quickly it piles up—and how quickly you can forget all about it—which is what I did at the conference. Totally. Didn’t give the internet a second thought. I was on vacation. The lobby of my floor, however, was a mysterious pocket of free wireless in a hotel that charged $12.95 a day for internet use, and $3.95 for 15 minutes of use down in the lobby, ka-ching ka-ching, so every time I stepped off the elevator, there were people left and right hunched over as many laptops as in a computer showroom. Over the course of four days, I watched our floor’s secret grow and grow. Nearly 2000 writers and free internet? do the math.

My friend’s husband went to bed and she and I sat up late into the night, talking books and trips. She’s a librarian and had attended the RWA booksellers and librarians luncheon the day before the conference, so we’d missed each other at the hotel. The national conference is known for passing out free books—each publisher hosts an autographing of their authors and provides the books for it—but the booksellers luncheon is a true bonanza. My friend came home with four shopping bags full of books.

Fortunately, she can donate the booty where she works, so even more readers will be able to enjoy them. Me, I managed to keep my take down to only a dozen books I don’t have time to read, knowing I’d just have to carry them back on the subway. But if you plan to attend a RWA conference, I’d suggest bringing a second carry-on size suitcase (empty) just to take home the free books. Every time we sat down to a meal there were free books on our seats. We also got free books in our free extra-sturdy tote bags provided by Harlequin, celebrating its 60th year in business.

Anyway, my friend and I talked about going to the RWA conference in Nashville together next year (still up in the air), and made tentative plans to take a trip to Ireland together in about eighteen months or so. Just enough time to save up for it and go. She’s on her way to London in the fall, but I’ve already been to Florida and DC this year, so it’s time to step back and save my pennies for a while.

The next morning we had breakfast, I checked my email again, and headed off toward the Chesapeake Bay for my next stop, the home of another childhood friend, the sister of my friend in Rockville (their brother was my 6th grade boyfriend.). She lives in a delightful beach community. Before I was even out of the car, the neighbor across the street was over offering to help if I needed anything. I just handed the phone out to him so he could talk to my friend directly, whom I had called to let her know I’d arrived.

My friend recently lost her husband, so I’m glad she lives in a community where they look out for each other. I spent the afternoon reading and resting and catching up on my laundry, an unexpected bonus, since I was now out of my conference clothes and into my casual wear. That night we went out to dinner at a steak and seafood restaurant on a pier at a marina. We sat on a picnic bench outside, ate our broiled scallops and fried oysters in the balmy breeze, and watched the lights come on in the boats on the water and the array of stately homes that lined the waterfront.

We also had a beer, my second of the year. For that story, read my blog post from the Florida cruise. After I ordered mine she looked at me knowingly and asked, “When’s the last time you had a beer?” I smiled proudly… “January.”

I’m such a wild woman, I know. We sat there, two friends of 40 years, sipped our beers, and talked about life and love and loss, until it was time to go. Then we went home and made peach tea with fresh mint and stayed up late talking some more, while she showed me the bead jewelry she makes and sells at craft fairs. She asked me to pick something out and I went to bed with six bracelets and a necklace, undecided. The next day I chose one bracelet and bought two more.

The following day, another friend from our childhood arrived. (I told you there were three of them, remember?) I’d called her the day before and asked if we could get together for lunch. Said I’d be happy to meet her half way or even drive all the way down to the county where we grew up and she still lives. But no, she wanted to come up and see everybody, so she all but dropped everything and came right up—on crutches, no less. She fell off a ladder cleaning windows and has been on crutches for two months.

We spent the afternoon catching up—I hadn’t seen her in three years, since my high school reunion—until my hostess got home from work. Then the Rockville contingent arrived (including the new puppy and its sleep-deprived family) and we all went back to the same steak and seafood restaurant on the water for dinner. Theirs was not the only dog present on the pier as we ate and took pictures and teased and reminisced. The Rockville group left right after dinner, no doubt to go home and catch some Zzzz’s. A sound plan, as long as the puppy didn’t sleep all the way home :).

Back to my friend’s house, where the three remaining women stayed up too late again, once again drinking tea and talking about love and loss—and faith. How faith gets you through. Both of my friends are overnight widows. One minute they had husbands and the next---they did not. One killed by a drunk driver, another lost to a heart attack. Then there’s me, divorced after 16 years of marriage. As one of them asked, “Who would have thought that three out of four of us would end up single in our fifties?”

You never know. And that is why friendships like ours are so important. So that you have someone in your life who will tack a couple of days onto a trip and come and have a beer with you at a picnic table on a pier. Or one who will drop everything and borrow a car (hers was in the shop) and drive a couple of hours (while on crutches!) to see you.

Here’s to 40 years of friendship, ladies, through good times and bad. I love you.