A life by chocolate entails finding sweetness in the light and dark. Moreso, it's about addiction to cocoa. An insatiable sweet tooth doesn't hurt. Well, not until the yucky tartar buildup and stuff. To the point, I strive to entertain with topics such as the utter hilarity and cuteness of children; the challenges of dating, my related rationale for celibacy; and chocolate as a precious remedy for it all. Thanks for sampling Life by Chocolate. I hope you keep coming back for more.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Out of the Darkness & I'm on TV!

Everything went beautifully with Chico's 5th Annual Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention this past Saturday. Approximately 450 locals joined our fight to raise awareness about mental illness, depression, and suicide, and we raised close to $11,000.

Most important to me is the fact that many people who, like me, have been carrying deep, dark, burdensome, ugly pains related to suicide losses, had a place to go for healing, compassion, support, and to take a steps towards a world without suicide.

I'd been terribly nervous about all the speaking I was going to be doing. I don't know why, but I was relaxed when on stage. I guess I liked the power of wielding a cordless microphone. Today, I thought about how empowering it would feel to carry a microphone everywhere I go...but enough about me.
Our fearless leader.

Photo by Jodi Rives

First, more about me. I'm on TV below. Channel 12's Local Action News reporter Vanessa Vasconcelos was kind enough to attend unsolicited. She filmed parts of the Walk, did a very nice job editing and commenting, and interviewed me. It's VERY BRIEF, if you decide to view it.

You can see me here, a tad after 1 minute.

I'm (re)posting the poem I ended my speech with. I wrote this for the Out of the Darkness participants, and I'd posted it several months ago here.

Please Believe
You're Not Alone

Please believe
I know your pain
Your broken soul
That smile you feign
You say "I'm fine"
But it's a lie
You dare not share
Your urge to die

I know your rage
And hate
And shame
The burn that set your heart aflame
Consumed by grief
Your life a curse
Cold lonely days
Still nights are worse

Please believe me when I say
Keep holding tight
You'll be okay
Beastly ills, you cannot halt
Go gentle now
It's not your fault
Mental illness has no cure
You're human with a heart that's pure

I know not how
I know not when
But you'll reclaim your life again
Embrace a faith you never knew
You'll be so glad you wrestled through

Please believe
And hold on tight
As strands of pain fade into light
And tender hues transform your sight

You're not alone
Please know it's true
I'm right here
Holding tight 
with you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Coming Out of the Darkness to Save Lives

            Photo taken out my car's back window, the morning of last year's Out of the Darkness Chico

I love to laugh and make people laugh. This wasn't always the case. I was terribly depressed as a child, due to heredity (depression runs in my family) and circumstances (neglectful parents, family traumas...). I've shared with you over the years about my mother's death by cancer when she was 49 and I was 18.

Two years ago, I wrote a semi-mysterious blogpost about the death of my ex-husband. I kept the circumstances dubious because...he died by suicide. There's so much shame, guilt, and stigma related to suicide, I didn't want to go that dark here. Losing my ex-husband, though, doesn't compare to a loss I experienced more than 25 years ago. It's one I've mostly kept in the dark all these years.  It's been wrapped up in layers of shame and guilt. Siblings are like our other-selves. This heavy dark truth is that my brother, Glenn-David (my parents couldn't decide between Glenn or David, so they used both names), was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1988. He died by suicide shortly thereafter. We'd had a tense relationship, fraught with animosity, and that's been the most painful aspect to grapple with.

I'm sharing this with you now because I'm coming out of the darkness in a big way these days -- in hopes of helping others. For the past several months, I've been organizing Chico's annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk for suicide prevention. I'm Event Chair, and it all happens this coming Saturday, 9/27. I've recently participated in local radio show interviews and worked on a newspaper segment on suicide. I'll be giving a speech on Saturday, during which I tell my story.

Here's the last paragraph of my speech, which summarizes my main points:
There's no singular way to respond to this tremendously complicated crisis of suicide. What we need to do, though, is exactly what we've gathered here to do today - to connect with compassion; to talk openly about our pains and losses related to mental illness, depression, and suicide; to chip away at the monstrous levels of stigma that poison our cause; to take care of ourselves and each other - which means not harboring the often suffocating force of guilt- so that we can continue this all-important mission of creating a world without suicide, one step at a time.

So I won't have much time or energy to devote to blogland this week, and you may've already noticed my scaling back a bit. Sorry. Thank you for understanding. Thanks, Alex, for your support and forgiveness of my dropping out of the Blogfest...This event is a biggie. We've already raised more money than we did in past years, and we hope to have 500 people join the fight. It's pretty exciting.

Sometimes along the edge of trauma, we find beauty. This event is truly beautiful and uplifting.

Life is worth living -- for the chocolate, for the laughter, 
and to help pull each other out of the darkness.

Have a great week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Big C Hop for our Dear Melissa Bradley!

My dear friend, Melissa Bradley, wrote this:  
My hugest thanks to Michael Di Gesu, who organized this. You are an amazing friend and I wouldn't know what to do without you.
As many of you know, I am currently locked in battle with the Big C...Cancer. Today I am celebrating the fight with my wonderful fellow bloggers on this Big C Cancer Blog hop. We are telling stories of the humor found in dealing with this disease. Humor helps a lot in this battle, it is a very effective weapon in keeping one's spirits up and at the ready.
Money is also an important part of the fight, so these entries you read are all going to be published in an anthology to help me in my fight. Whatever I do not use of the proceeds will be donated to Gilda's Club Chicago, a very important place for women fighting this terrible disease.
Thanks for reading. You can find all the incredible, wonderful participants here.

I'm sharing a snippet from Chapter 5 of Woman on the Verge of Paradise: Young Teachers and True Love. Here's the start of my story of Brianne, a four year old I was matched with when, during Freshman year at UCLA, I volunteered at the UCLA Medical Center. (The entire segment is too long for a blogpost, but I'll introduce you to Brianne.)
     I entered quietly, slipping by an empty bed to my left. Beyond it, a small girl popped her head up. She flashed a smile so glowingly it seemed Brianne hadn’t seen another human in months.
    “Hi Brianne. I’m Robyn.”
    “Hi,” she blurted, scooting into a sitting position.
    Brianne’s eyes struck me – the same deep blue as Mom’s, and with beautiful long, dark lashes. Otherwise, she lacked color. Brianne bore only a bit of peach fuzz on her head; her body, pale and depleted; and her heartbeat, dependent upon an IV stuck into her right hand.
    “It’s great to meet you sweetie,” I smiled. “How are you?”
    She pasted a half-smile-half-frown on her face. “So-so,” Brianne replied, adult-like. “Can we play?” Her mood lifted.
    “Sure! What would you like to play?”
    Brianne’s shoulders shot up and down, her mood shifting to sad again. “Do you know how much more I have to be in here?”
    “Oh, sweetie, I wish I knew. I’m sorry, but” —I switched to a low-pitched, manly voice, “I’m Doctor Seuss-opotamus,” I said. “Now let’s see, Miss Brianne.” I pulled my glass frames up and rested the lenses on my head. “Wait a minute. Miss Brianne?” I turned around and pretended to be looking out the window.
    “Where’d you go? I can’t see you.” I turned around and stuck my hand into my front pants pocket, as if to peer into my pocket for her. “Brianne? Where are you?”
    “I’m right here!” She laughed heartily.
    “Oh,” I said, setting my glasses back in place. “Oh, there you are! You must have been tricking me! Now, let’s see.” She giggled, a faint snort mixed in.
    I got close to Brianne, as if to perform an inspection. “It looks like you have two arms and, yep, looks like you’ve got two feet too! And there’s a pretty face on your neck.” She chortled again.
    “So I promise you, Miss Brianne, you are going to be alright. It might take a long time, much longer than we want it to. Those cancer cells are meanie booger monsters, aren’t they?”
    She nodded in affirmation, still giggling.
    “Well we’re gonna get rid of all of those meanie booger monsters. So can I give you a shot with magic medicine in it?”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reasons for Celibacy, #312-319, and Old Broad Winner, #hangingwithbutters

It's time once again to explore the various dating options for a single straight gal like me. Thus it's time once again to affirm that abstinence is the most safe, sane option for a single straight gal like me. Here are reasons #312-319 for celibacy, embellished by my italicized commentary. What you are about to read is real. I don't make this sh*t up. They're from fairly current on-line dating ads. Enjoy!
REASON #312: There's truth in loves eye's
Oh, honey, I think you need new glasses.

REASON #313: I used to understand, now I overstand...
You overestimate your wit, sweetie. It’s underwhelming.

REASON #314: First and foremost, I am a 118% involved dad with my two beautiful daughters. I'm not the "every other Saturday to the park and McDonalds" kind of dad. I have them 55% of the time and I go to every event they are involved in, so we can get very busy. First of all, I find your mathematical skills fascinating. I’ve done some calculations too. I’m negative 173% attracted to you. It’s not personal; statistics never are. Second of all, what’s wrong with a bi-monthly trip to the park and McD’s?

REASON #315: I want to hangout with butters
Butters? Whipped, cultured, or churned? Saffola? Mrs. Butterfield? I Can’t Believe It’s Not? You mean like things that are real fatty and spread easily?

REASON #316: lets get to know each other friends firs
I don’t know, babe. While I’m not a staunch PETA advocate, I prefer not to touch your friends’ firs.

This one messaged me (and possibly you too) on facebook.
REASON #317: Hello dear how are you doing today , your profile put's much thought in me , I ask for your friendship if you wouldn't mind. Max is my name , thanks
I’m sorry my profile put’s anything in you. To be clear, babe, that wasn’t ever and never will be my intention. I do wonder something about men who put apostrophes before every s: What’s the 'sex like?

REASON #318: First off I'm 64 not 44. Cant change it.
Whoa, dude! Was that like a magical Freaky Friday switcheruni with your adult child? Like did it happen when the two of you went for dinner at a Chinese Restaurant and read your fortunes from a pair of fortune cookies? I'm sorry you can't change it, but since you lost your Ross senior discount Tuesdays, I'm going to have to pass.

REASON #319: Ready, willing and able!!
You might be my best prospect. Kindly tell me, for how long are you able?
Stephen T. McCarthy won our Old Broad contest for his stories about his favorite old broad, his Ma! Here's only a small part of his very entertaining Mom stories:
    She was a baseball fanatic and knew more about the sport than most guys do. She even worked professionally for the MLB teams the California Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
   I remember one time she and I went to a Dodgers Vs. Angels pre-season exhibition game. Pitching for the Angels was Jim Abbott, a man who had been born without a right hand (and who years later, as a Yankee, pitched a 'No-Hitter' against the Cleveland Indians).
   There were two twenty-something-year-old guys in the seats next to ours. At one point in the game, Abbott pitched his way out of a jam and one of the two guys said, "Give that pitcher a hand."
    Ooooohhh! My Ma verbally lit into that guy like you wouldn't believe, right in front of all the other fans. That guy started stammering, and backpedaling like crazy, insisting he didn't mean it "that way" (which of course was a bunch of B.S.) When my Ma got done with that guy, he was embarrassed to hell and you could tell he would have crawled into any convenient hole he could find.

How can you not laugh at this story, while admiring Stephen's feisty, favorite old broad? Impossible. Congratulations, Stephen! We hope you enjoy Old Broads Waxing Poetic.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunflowers for Tina Downey

 In memory of Tina Downey,  the A to Z Team is hosting a sunflower tribute on September 8, 2014 – Remembering Tina Downey.
  They wrote, "Tina loved her sunflowers, and we want to splash the blogging world with sunflowers that day and honor a truly amazing woman who was friend and family to so many."

Sunflowers for Tina Downey,
whose spirits lives on
                                                       and in every 
                               blossoming sunflower.

Your memory is forever a blessing, Tina.
May you rest in peace.