Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fickle or Faithful?

From the Merriam-Webster free online dictionary:

fickle - adjective - marked by lack of steadfastness, constancy or stability; given to erratic changeableness.

In yesterday's post, my blog parter Lindy described herself as "likely to change especially due to irresolution or instability." I take issue with that assertion. I have known the Unstoppable Mrs. Start for some time now, and there is nothing irresolute or unstable about her.

Granted, we must adapt to the rapidly changing world around us in order to survive. But that doesn't make us fickle. I like this definition from Wiktionary even better:

fickle - adjective - quick to change one's opinion or allegiance; insincere; not loyal or reliable.

That DEFINITELY doesn't describe most of the amazing women I know. As a matter of fact, I can think of countless times have I been loyal to a fault. Remained on a committee that I no longer felt passionate about because I feared conflict. Stayed beside a friend who did not nurture me - who in fact sucked the lifeblood out of me - because I didn't want to hurt her feelings. Stayed in a relationship that was unsatisfactory - or worse, abusive - because I feared being alone.

Life is short, my friends. We deserve better.

Every breath we take could be our last. Every moment matters. Yes, it's hard, but sometimes the greatest kindness we can show ourselves is to simply say the word "no."

It gets easier with practice.

I have learned that I CAN be replaced on a committee, that the old friends will make new friends, that my next great love might be waiting right around the corner. That doesn't make me fickle; that makes me constant - at least to myself. And that is true integrity.


integrity - noun - the state of being whole, entire or undiminished

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

What do you think? Is being fickle a virtue or a vice? Have you ever been loyal to a fault?

Author: Pam Asberry

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fickle. Why not?

Yep. You better believe it. I am fickle. I must be. Are you questioning why someone would categorize themselves as (adj.) likely to change especially due to irresolution or instability (
Think about it:
  • Our Nation had a budget surplus under President Clinton from 1998 through 2001. Holy hell, look at us now. It took an act of Congress to increase the debt ceiling.
  • Following the September 11th attacks on our borders, President Bush launched the war on terror. US forces attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 which will make it the longest fought war in America’s history.
  • Gas prices were at a high, but reasonable, $2.60 per gallon before Katrina hit in 2005 then soared to $4.00 and have been low, then high, then low, then high…now, we just expect gas prices to be as erratic as the weather in Georgia and nothing short of ridiculous.
And this is the tiniest shard of ice from the tip of an ice cap that is melting in the Arctic. Folks, the world changes, the economy changes, and our circumstances change therefore we must change. We must go on living in a world filled with uncertainties. We must adapt to an economy that doesn’t support a person of simple means who wants only to drive a car to a job they are proud to have, feed and clothe his or her children and prayerfully keep a roof over their heads. We must deal with our emotions, put past failures to rest, and grow.
I realize the definition of fickle speaks more to one’s personality than his or her circumstances, but oft times our personality is shaped by our circumstances in how we respond to them.  Based on what we are dealing with in our world today I challenge you to be fickle. Don’t ebb and flow with the world’s tides; grow and change. Another word for fickle: diversification.
How are you fickle when facing today’s challenges? Have you ebbed and flowed or grown and changed?
Life in Penned Perspective by Lindy Chaffin Start

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Show & Tell

Lindy Chaffin Start - Decatur, GA

I'm melting...
This is our cat Pumpkin. She's a precious little dumpster rescue that at four years weighs all of eleven pounds. She may have been the runt of the litter, but she can belt out a heartfelt meow better than any Ella Catzgerald I know. Anyway, she made me laugh on Monday as she lay next to this newly fallen leaf on the deck. She looks like she is about to dissolve into the parched wood as she dreams of the coming Fall. Pumpkin, I'm with you kitty-sister. Come on cooler weather!


Pam Asberry * Dacula, GA

Meet Julee - a friend of mine who goes all the way back to high school - modeling the Writers Li.P.P. t-shirt she won in one of our very first drawings. Thank you, Julee, for your friendship and support. That shirt sure looks good on you!

* * * * *

Megan Stanish - Roswell, GA

I took this photo last year in early October.  It is currently a very warm late August, and I find myself looking at this photo often and dreaming of the cool, crisp air that September and October promise. Come on, Fall!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Life in Food

Nathan, October 29, 2005
Contemplating this blog post, it struck me how much the rhythm of my life has been associated with food, and I'm not just talking about special occasions. Sure, there have been plenty of birthday parties, holiday dinners, summer barbecues, and romantic restaurant meals. Food and celebration go hand in hand, right? But there's more to it than that. Come along and share some food memories with me.

Growing up: A bowlful of nuts in the shell and hard candy shaped like ribbons and an endless array of cookies and candies during the entire month of December. A round cake frosted in two separate layers for my brother and me, whose birthdays were just two days apart. Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizzas hot from the oven. Two McDonald's cheeseburgers, an order of fries, and strawberry shake for Friday night supper; pancakes on Sunday. Bridge mix hidden in my parents' bedroom.

At Grandmother Asberry's house: Eggs over easy, spicy country sausage and fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast. Ham with pineapple rings and a cake shaped like a lamb covered with fluffy white frosting and sparkling white coconut on Easter Sunday. Gooseberry pie with vanilla ice cream and preserves made with strawberries fresh from the garden. The best tuna salad on the planet and a moist lemon Bundt cake for my sixteenth birthday. 

At Grandma Kuntz's house: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and red jello with fruit cocktail,  banana slices and black walnuts after church on Sunday. Apples fried in butter and brown sugar, caramelized to the point they tasted more like candy than fruit, served with steaming hot homemade biscuits . Pot roast and potatoes and carrots and onions cooked to tender perfection. Watermelon and "muskmelon" with salt on the side. 

In high school: Homestyle fries with gallons of ketchup and ice cold Coca-Cola after school at Hadley's Cafe in Mt. Carmel. A hamburger cooked in a microwave oven at Deb's; turnips that made my mouth water at Corrie's. Beef stew and homemade hot rolls, Stewart ham and cheese sandwiches, and sundae cones from the school cafeteria. 

In college: Breakfast at Mary Lou's, sub sandwiches from Booby's, deep dish pizza and a tossed salad with French dressing from Quatro's, chocolate dipped vanilla soft serve ice cream cones from Dairy Queen on Tuesday nights. Spaghetti-o's, Kraft dinner and ramen noodles cooked in an electric pot in the dorm. My first sip of beer, homemade kahlua, chocolate brownies. 

Adulthood: Teaching my baby brother how to make pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Hours spent studying Betty Crocker and Fannie Farmer and later Laurel Robertson and Frances Moore Lappe, as my recipe preference shifted from traditional to semi-vegetarian. Beginning a lifelong love affair with baking. Learning to use a food processor, grain mill and heavy-duty mixer. Grinding wheat and baking homemade bread from scratch. Decorating birthday cakes with sprinkles for my kids, making heart-shaped cookies for Valentine's Day, chocolate "dirt" pudding and scary spiders for Halloween, and snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies for Christmas. Tupperware, Pampered Chef, and Food Network. Julia Child, Jeff Smith, Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray. My first experience with lobster, escargot, and Baked Alaska on a cruise ship. Sushi at Fusion, tiramisu at Maggiano's, chocolate croissants from La Madeleine. My recent birthday celebration at Ippolitos.

What are your favorite memories? Cooking with your mom and grandmother as a child? A romantic meal with your significant other? A special holiday event? Tell us all about it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I can't exist without recipes that bring me joy and remind me of days long passed with family who lived on the farm instead of in the city, who knew the benefits of reaping from the land not the grocery. One of my favorites is cobbler.

Now, you must understand that cobbler may be experienced year-round but seasonal fruits are still seasonal. That said, I encourage you to get creative. In this same basic recipe I have used: rhubarb and strawberries; blackberries, raspberries and peaches; and peaches alone. I challenge you to come up with a combination that works for you and your family. For this recipe I will use Georgia Peaches and  Rainer Cherries as they are in season.

© Aliced |

Lindy's Peach Cherry Cobbler

1/2 cup salted butter
2-1/2 cups fresh Georgia peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1-1/2 cups fresh Rainier cherries, pitted and chopped
1cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
vanilla ice cream

Pre-heat the over to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large baking dish (I prefer a cast iron skillet) for five or so minutes. Mash the blackberries (or your choice of fruit) in a large bowl to release some of the juice. Keep in mind that you can include a teaspoon of sugar with the fruit if the fruit you are using is tart. I tend to do this when I use rhubarb. In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar, milk and vanilla and blend until smooth. Take the skillet out of the oven and pour the melted butter into the batter and mix well. Pour the batter into the hot skillet then dump the fruit right in the middle. Don't stir it. Leave it be. Bake the cobbler for about an hour or until the crust is golden and a toothpick inserted in the batter comes out clean. Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!

What might your favorite seasonal combination be?

Life in Penned Perspective by Lindy Chaffin Start

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dad's Pasta

Do you love to cook?  I love to cook. Seriously. My husband has offered several times to share some of the dinner preparation “burden” with me, and while each time I thank him for his consideration, I think I would cry if he really did attempt to take on this task regularly.

This love of cooking is relatively new. I had about zero interest in cooking while I was growing up, and when one of my college roommates offered to be our evening meal chef, my other roomies and I didn’t hesitate to accept.

Then, several years ago, my dad found himself out of work. Now, now, don’t get all sympathetic toward him. His situation was entirely unlike that faced by millions around the world right now who are affected by this global recession. No, let’s just say his “out of work” period amounted to a very long paid vacation. Very long, very paid.

During this time, my father took a few classes, pursuing a few of his passions. One of these passions was cooking. And one of the dishes my father learned to cook became my very favorite dinner. I now cook it every couple of weeks and would serve it more often in my house if I didn’t worry about being disowned by my family.
Mmmmm... Rigatoni....

One of the best things about this dish is how easy it is to make!  It takes a long time to simmer down, but truly, once the cooking itself is underway, I often will stand by the stove, sipping a glass of wine, reading a book or magazine, occasionally stirring the sauce or adding the next ingredient. Just chillin’ and cookin’ and readin’ and relaxin’.

The ease of this dish and the resulting deliciousness of it, as well as the sense of calm and satisfaction I get while cooking, serving and eating it, inspired me to start to cook more and to learn more about cooking. I’m not accomplished by any means, but I embrace this new love, these new skills and the dishes my family and I get to enjoy now.

In the spirit of Pay It Forward, I now share with you Dad’s Pasta:

“Dad’s Pasta”
Feeds 4

  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 12 Roma or Plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise (recommendation: try to be sure they’re on the softer side, for better sauce)
  • ½ cup red wine (whatever you’re drinking… cabernet or merlot tend to work well)
  • 16 oz. Rigatoni
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • ½ cup fresh, grated parmesan
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

  • Heat large saucepan at medium high heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Sauté garlic until lightly browned.
  • Add tomatoes to saucepan. Salt & pepper to taste. Cook for around 20 minutes, stirring often. As the sauce cooks, the tomato skin will loosen from the tomato quarters – help it release but keep it in the sauce.
  • When you have a sauce-like, slightly thickened paste – after around 20 minutes – add wine and stir it in.
  • Continue to cook, stirring often, until the sauce has cooked down to a very thick paste (around another 10-15 minutes or so).
  • Remove from heat, set aside.
  • Cook pasta per box directions. Drain.
  • Place saucepan of tomato reduction over low heat. Add butter and sugar. Stir until fully melted and combined into sauce.
  • Add parmesan. Stir for a minute or so until combined into sauce, remove from heat.
  • Stir pasta and sauce together. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Show & Tell

Pam Asberry * Dacula, GA

Gutsy Smurf
I hadn't heard about the new Smurfs movie, but I practically jumped up and down when I found out that McDonalds had Smurfs Happy Meals on the menu. I was finishing college when the original Smurfs cartoon debuted so I have no idea why I have a childish attachment to these little blue creatures, but I do. It didn't take long for me to find an excuse to head to my nearest McDonalds and order a Cheeseburger Happy Meal; I squealed with delight when I found Gutsy Smurf inside, much to the amusement of the young woman who sold it to me. All I know about Gutsy is that he is a new character for the 2011 movie, apparently Scottish and "brave to a fault." I like his attitude. 

* * * * *

Megan Stanish - Roswell, GA

"Hi Margie!" "Hi Alice!" "What's the story morning glory?" "What's the word hummingbird?"

Do you remember when you were a young teenager and could not get enough of chattering on the phone? When I was in my early teens, we still had corded phones. We had one phone that had an extra long cord which could reach from our family room into my mom’s room, and I would squirrel myself away for hours in a tiny corner by her bed in an attempt to have semi-private conversations with my best friends. Clearly, my daughter (see above) is much more advanced… both in technology and in the timing of the phone-junky epoch of her evolution as a girl. 
(1. That's an iPhone in her hand. 2. She is on a real call, with a real person at the other end.)

* * * * *

Lindy Chaffin Start - Decatur, GA

My bookshelf!
I will NEVER let go! My dream of becoming a  pubbed novelist will be realized! (Insert vision of me dressed as Mel Gibson in Braveheart here, sturdily planted in saddle, spear in hand, with blue paint on my face.) This will be my bookshelf at my local Indie bookstore, Eagle Eye Books in Decatur and, as you can see, I will only be a couple of authors to the right of Haywood Smith which puts me in good company! Looking forward to seeing you Saturday, Haywood, at our Georgia Romance Writers meeting.
*insert battle cry here*

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of Heroes and Heroines

I felt quite heroic after ziplining through the rainforest canopy in Belize.

Above all, be the heroine of your own life, not the victim!
~Nora Ephron

My nineteen-year marriage ended in 2001. My boys are all but grown, busy with school and activities and friends and lives that have nothing to do with me. Boyfriends – so many boyfriends – have come and gone, proving themselves to be anything but heroic. And what do I have left?


I have choices.
I can cry into my pillow about the wasted years, the empty nest, the love lost. Or I can take a deep breath, straighten my shoulders, hold my head high, and seek out new opportunities.

I have family and friends who care about me.
And sometimes they include me in their holiday celebrations, dinner parties, and nights out at which I might be the only single person in a roomful of many. Sometimes it is hard to go solo, but it beats the heck out of staying home alone. Bonus: I usually meet someone interesting whom I probably wouldn’t have even noticed if I had been part of a couple.

I have myself.
I am teaching piano lessons. I am spending time with my boys. I am writing. I am blogging. I am beading. I am cooking and baking and sewing. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I love and accomplish all I want to accomplish. But I can stay up all night and sleep all morning if I want to. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission and I am not accountable to anyone except myself. I can take chances and no one tries to talk me out of it. Granted, when I fall flat on my face, there is no one there to grab my hand and pull me up. Usually, though, when I stumble I manage to stay on my feet. Whew.

* * *

This afternoon, one of my piano students asked me my favorite color; I told her it’s a tie between purple and pink. My piano studio walls are purple, and I shared that my bedspread is pink. She giggled and said, “I feel sorry for your poor husband who has to sleep under a pink bedspread.” When I explained that I don’t have a husband, she seemed confused and a little bit upset. She is just a little girl; I guess she missed the memo. But I assured her that I am okay.

There was a time when I yearned for a man to take care of me, but I have stopped waiting for my knight in shining armor to arrive. He might never show up, but I will be just fine; it turns out I don’t need rescuing. Maybe someday I will meet a man who will support me in my numerous endeavors, who won’t demand that I become some sort of appendage of his when we are together, who will encourage me to take risks and love me when I fail, maybe even love me even more because I tried. A man who won’t care if I dye my hair purple and paint my entire house pink.

That’s my definition of a hero.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eugene Fitzherbert!

Eugene Fitzherbert is the man of my romantic fantasies. Forget the Harry Connicks, the John Cusacks, the Mr. Darcys of the world; Eugene is my man. And, if you (no not you Megan Stanish) but you, the everyday Joe can tell me who Eugene Fitzherbert is I’ll send you a WritersLi.P.P. t-shirt in honor of your correct answer and the wonderful Pam Asberry’s birthday (August 15th). Of course, that makes talking about my favorite heroine impossible, but what the hey, let’s talk men for a minute.
Eugene travels the countryside under an assumed name. He lives on the constant cusp of being caught. For what, you ask? Well, my friends, Eugene is a criminal. So what if he’s sexy in his own cartoonish sort of way. Morals and values do not exist in this man. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s not afraid to try new things like singing and sharing his feelings. Though I imagine these to be foreign concepts to most men, Eugene is willing if only to win the love of the woman of his dreams.
Admit it ladies, if you had a man fighting for you, diving off a cliff to get to you, wouldn’t he be your prince charming in thief’s clothing? Imagine, if you will, a man who risks it all to rescue you more than once, who would take a dagger for you; wouldn’t you want to turn around and rescue him from his misgivings about adult life?  *insert ballad here*
And, can you tell me why codependence sheathed in romance is okay?
But seriously, if your romantic life could be contained in the pages of a novel that it takes a week to read, or a movie it takes an hour and twenty minutes to watch, then why wouldn’t you want your hero to be someone loathsome like Eugene.  Aren’t the ones you have to work for, and on, the most rewarding?
Have I stirred interest or opinion in you? Do share. And don’t forget, be the first to tell me who Eugene Fitzherbert is and the best looking t-shirt in the blogosphere is yours!
Life in Penned Perspective by Lindy Chaffin Start

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ashley, Oh Ashley

Who is your all-time favorite hero or heroine? This question is an absolute no-brainer for me. My most beloved heroine for all time is Scarlett O’Hara.

Scarlett has been my favorite female lead character since I was two years old. No joke. My mother likes to tell the story of how her best friend took me to a theater re-release of Gone With The Wind when I was two, expecting me to fall asleep by the second hour of the four-hour saga. Instead, I was riveted, watching in silent awe as the story unfolded. Silent except… the scene arrived where Rhett, in his drunken passion, picked up Scarlett – who was now his wife – and carried her up the sweeping stairway of their house. Apparently I, with my high-pitched, piercing voice, indignantly yelled, “Where’s dat man taking dat lady?!”

Posted with great respect to Warner Home Video.

I have been a Scarlett devotee ever since. I’m not sure what it says about me that my favorite heroine is stubborn, willful, prideful, somewhat lacking in empathy and egotistical. Also, while she is incredibly smart and a romantic at heart, she has dramatically poor instincts when it comes to men and love. Hmm… I must think on this more at a later date…

What I can tell you is what it says to me about literary heroes and heroines: flaws are an essential element to capture a reader’s interest and, ultimately, to win a reader’s support and loyalty for your hero or heroine. Think about it. Almost every hero or heroine – aside from those created for small children – has at least one major flaw to speak of. Even our superheroes have flaws and weaknesses, whether they are hindrances to their superpowers (Kryptonite) or personal sensitivities (love interests).

That being said, what lessons can our budding heroes and heroines learn from Miss O’Hara? Remember, I’m speaking directly to your characters now:

  1. Be who you are: silly or sharp, beautiful or beastly, proud or humble… embrace it and make your mark with it.
  2. Don’t overthink the mantel of “hero”: your reader should want you to win the day, not saint you (unless sainthood = winning… not the case for Charlie Sheen at least, though he’s no hero).
  3. It’s okay for your reader to be reluctant in their support of you. Sometimes that’s the fun of your character and your story.
  4. Show a little humanity. Even the most “evil” or alien or animal of heroes demonstrates a glimmer of something relatable now and again.

There are so many more lessons to learn, but for now, we’ll go with these. I’ll leave you with a list of some of my all-time favorite heroes and heroines from page and film… though none holds a candle to Scarlett.  (I know some/most of these don’t qualify as Romance, but the lesson remains the same.)

  • Elliot – E.T.
  • Jane – Jane Eyre
  • Ray Consella – Field of Dreams
  • Annie Consella (if you think she doesn’t qualify, I challenge you to watch the book-burning meeting scene again) – Field of Dreams
  • Aminata Diallo – Someone Knows My Name
  • Superman – Superman
  • Abilene – The Help
  • Coach Norman Dale – Hoosiers
  • Henry – The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Elizabeth – Pride and Prejudice

So to ask once again… who is your favorite hero or heroine of all time?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Show and Tell

Lindy - Decatur, GA
Gettin' her started early...
Just to show you how committed I am to girls knowing how to use tools, I wanted to share with you a picture of Red as she uses the screw gun for the first time. What can I say? I believe in early childhood education. I started each of the screws in this storage shelf for her, but she tightened eight on each side all by herself. It only took a seconds worth of instruction on my part and off she went. Red's a super helper!


Megan - Roswell, GA
A silverback and female in the gorilla enclosure at Zoo Miami.
Have you ever wondered what gorillas do during a torrential thunderstorm? Do they hide or cower or build an elaborate shelter? Wonder no more. I will tell you. They play. They frolic. They gallivant. My family and I were in Miami this past weekend and ended up "trapped" under a shelter at the Zoo during a heavy storm. As luck would have it, we were directly across from the gorillas, and they put on quite a show for us! In fact, we got to see how many animals behave in the rain, something we rarely get to experience, right? Don't we save zoo outings for clearer weather? Next time you see thunderclouds forming, I recommend you head straight for your local zoological society.


Pam - Dacula, GA
Sometimes my work is more like play.
This week it was back to school for Nathan and back to piano teaching for me. It was hard to say goodbye to the carefree days of summer vacation. But it was easy to say hello to my wonderful students. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Decadent Pleasures: Brownie in a Mug

Megan and Lindy have already extolled the virtues of some of their favorite decadent delights. A bubble bath and a glass of wine. Snuggle time with a beloved child, the painstaking preparation of a gourmet meal, whiling away an afternoon with friends.  All balms for the spirit, for sure.

I am also quite fond of a spa pedicure, a Sunday afternoon with a pot of coffee and a pile of old magazines, a week on a cruise ship. But when none of those are available, as is far too often the case, I am willing to settle for something chocolate.

On a good day, I have access to a variety of chocolate treats. A Hershey bar. A bag of Dove dark chocolate squares. A box of Nonni's Cioccolati Biscotti. On a bad day, a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips will do.

But there came a day when there was nothing chocolate in the house. Sure, I had ingredients for baking, but I didn't have time to wait for a cake or a batch of brownies. I didn't even have ten minutes to run to the store. I was a woman in crisis. I needed chocolate in five minutes or less.

Then I remembered a recipe that went around for a while, something about a five-minute microwave cake in a mug. I googled the recipe, gathered the ingredients, and gave it a try.

Blech! Yes, it resembled chocolate, but in a bland, rubbery sort of way. But I felt the idea had possibilities. So later I experimented with a few other recipes. Finally, I hit upon one that was rich, gooey and delicious.

Here are the instructions.

Microwave Chocolate Mug Brownie 

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Dash salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons flour

In a 12-ounce coffee mug, combine butter, water, vanilla and salt. Add sugar, cocoa and flour; mix well. Microwave on high for 60-90 seconds. Center will be molten; be careful not to overcook. Serves 1 generously.

A few chopped pecans tossed into the batter make it even better. Delicious topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

We are always on the lookout for new decadent pleasures to add to our repertoire. Have we missed any of your favorites?

Author: Pam Asberry

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Decadent Pleasures: The Joy of Self Indulgence May Surprise You

Self indulgent things that make you happy, otherwise known as decadent pleasures are what bring our lives peace, oft meaning, and teach us to appreciate solitude. Like Megan, the days of hot, candlelit baths with wine and a good book are long gone, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. In all honesty there was never really a day I could sit still in a tub, with or without companionship. And desserts, sure, they can be decadent and pleasurable, but in the end they are only different manipulations of sugar and caffeine no matter the vehicle. Sex can be self indulgent and make you happy but that’s another post for another day and certainly not to be posted on a PG blog. Are you laughing? I hope so.
Friends, the closest I can get to something self indulgent that makes me happy are these:
1)      A nap with my little girl should she ever decide to close her eyes in the afternoon. The obvious lack of a constant stream of “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy? Mommy!” can be pure bliss. Couple that with actual rest next to someone who you love and who loves you without condition, and well, that’s just pure happy.
2)      A home cooked meal that I make myself for the two of us or friends is always a joy. I love stretching my culinary wings and trying new combinations of flavors and textures that lead to the excited sounds of happy. After all, food is joy. Surprisingly, cooking is how I decompress.

      Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
      - Harriet Van Horne

3)      An hour or two surrounded by good friends, laughing heartily, sharing openly of themselves is like religion; you devote yourself to its pursuit and find your life filled with incomprehensible meaning (you’ll see me quoted on that someday).
4)      But I have to tell you that my latest decadent pleasure, please don’t laugh, is reclaiming my space. I spent all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday cleaning out my basement. I emptied the crawl space, organized tools, created a space for Red to play, one for crafting, another for sitting and watching a movie. I carried memories of my past life to the curb after setting aside a box of pictures and memorabilia for Red. At the close of the weekend I had a carport full of junk to be hauled off, a curb cluttered with more for the refuse engineers, and a basement that I am proud to call my (our) own. Ah, happy.
I’ll give you three guesses how I celebrated and it wasn't a hot bath. Ha! What is the self indulgent thing that makes you happy? Does it involve hard work or relaxation? How about recreating yourself? Tell me. I dare you. And you don’t even have to keep it PG.
Life in Penned Perspective by Lindy Chaffin Start

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Decadent Pleasures: Wine, Candlelight and Solitude

Picture this:

A 500-square-foot corner studio apartment, fully square in shape with clean, white walls. There are two windows on the front wall that open to the street (which it views from a second story vantage) and a vertical side window – one that likely is the same age as the early 20th century structure – that opens vertically and locks with a twist latch. 

The main room takes up a little more than half of the apartment, with original, small plank, hardwood floors. The remaining space is split evenly between a small kitchen and a very large bathroom. The kitchen floor is original, wide, black and white, checkerboard tile. Along with a full wall of sink and cabinets – broken only by a small window that opens onto another building – that connect the floor to the 11-foot ceiling, the kitchen contains a miniature 4-top stove and oven as well as a slightly small fridge that is straight out of the early ‘50’s, lever handle and all.

Are you with me so far?

The piece de resistance to this compact living space is the bathroom area. Immediately inside the doorway is a small, built-in make-up table complete with a large wall mirror. To the right another door leads to the spacious, dark red bathroom that includes more checkerboard floor tile, a full wall of wide storage cabinets, a high rear window that tilts at an angle to let in air and a large, deep, old bathtub.

What I have just described to you is the West Hollywood apartment I lived in from late 1998 until early 1999, just after I separated from my now-ex-husband. That time was among the happiest of my life for the simple fact that life was so… well… so simple.  Many people, women in particular, dislike being along. I, on the other hand, enjoy it immensely. I like to be in control of my time, and I have no problem filling my days and nights with a fine combination of rest and activity. Yes, I adore my family and wouldn’t trade them for anything. And no, my solitudinal ecstasy had nothing to do with my ex or with the separation in and of itself. Those post-separation days were simply filled with a very pure type of joy.

I will share that almost every night in that apartment I enjoyed a cherished decadent pleasure. Come with me as I relive it (don't worry... this is PG, or possibly PG-13):

The evening is very dark and late, and the lights are out throughout the tiny apartment. The vertical side window is open to the night, as is the high angled window in the dark red bathroom. The smell of fresh-baked cookies wafts through the space, though the cookies themselves have yet to cool. The “Practical Magic” soundtrack CD is playing just loud enough to drown out the street noise… or maybe it’s the soundtrack to “City of Angels”… 10 or 12 large, lit candles line the horizontal ledges throughout the dark red bathroom, lighting the room just enough to read while still creating an air of calm mystery. The breeze gently drifting in through the windows is cool, but the water in the bath is hot with a thick head of frothy, playful bubbles piled up to a foot high and more around the entire surface. As for me, I lay low in the water, one hand holding a glass of wine, the other holding a novel. And there I stay and read until the bath grows cold and the wine runs low and the bubbles deflate down to a fine, flat sheen on the water. 

Ahhhh... ecstasy.
Photo posted respectfully with thanks to Wikipedia.

These days, my evening decadence has been reduced to a small bowl of M&Ms and a glass of milk that I enjoy while folding my family’s laundry. The only bathtub in my house is in my children’s bathroom.

There are nights when I eye that tub, with my glass of wine in hand and my Kindle at the ready with whatever history or fiction I’m enjoying at the moment, and I think about re-instituting my evening bath ritual. Or at least reliving it again just once.

Just once.

What’s your favorite decadent memory or ritual? Share! We may want to give it a try!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Show & Tell

Pam Asberry * Dacula, GA

My son Nathan went to Vans Warped Tour on Monday. Being a typical 15-year old, he headed straight for the nearest mosh pit - and promptly fell and got his right toe stomped by a fellow at least twice his size. Naturally, that did not stop my boy from walking around at the concert all day. But by the time he got home, his toe was black and blue and swollen and looked progressively worse throughout Tuesday. By suppertime, I decided a trip to the doctor was in order. Turns out that big toe is broken clean across - hence the funky shoe and the propped foot. But that has not stopped Nathan from practicing his new didgeridoo every spare moment; he's had it only a week but he's really getting the hang of it. Yep - this budding rock star displays true dedication to his art.

Megan Stanish * Roswell, GA

Cheery bouquet at the condiments table at our La Quinta.
Whoever invented the concept of the complimentary hotel breakfast buffet should be sainted. 
Or knighted. 
Or simply hugged. A lot.


Lindy * Decatur, GA
We really can...
Yup. Installed it this week. Yes, I did it myself with my helper/mom handing me tools (God love her). Ladies, we really can do it all. Now, go ahead and ask me if I used the screw gun!

Until next week when we speak of those unspoken decadent pleasures, we remain Pam, Megan, and Lindy the writers, women, moms of WritersLi.P.P.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Black Bra Wisdom: Decide what to be, and go be it

Maybe the heat and humidity are wearing on me; simply taking the dog out to do his business is oppressive. Maybe it’s the knowledge that summer vacation is almost at an end; I’m one of those weird parents who actually LIKES having my kids around. Maybe it’s the nagging pain resulting from being consistent about going to the gym the past couple of weeks (attagirl, Pam). Maybe it’s the combination of many things. Whatever it is, I haven’t been quite myself the past few days.

Matter of fact, on Sunday I felt downright depressed. My boys were away, there were bills to pay and no money to pay them, and my to-do list seemed to be growing longer instead of shorter, regardless of how many frogs I ate.

Then I looked at this week’s list more closely and saw that I was scheduled to write a blog post called Black Bra Wisdom. “I have no such wisdom to share,” I confided to Lindy and Megan. “I feel old and frumpy and overwhelmed, not sleek and sexy and sophisticated.” But they didn’t offer to let me off the hook. Those young whippersnappers. So here goes.

Decide what to be and go be it.

I didn’t come up with that line. It’s from a song by the Avett Brothers (the music video appears at the end of this post). But I wish I had, because it succinctly summarizes my philosophy of life.

When I was seven years old, I decided I wanted to be a piano teacher when I grew up and I never let anything stand in my way. I figured out the means to overcome every obstacle that appeared in my path and worked relentlessly until I had achieved my goal of receiving a master’s degree in piano performance and piano pedagogy; within three years, I built a studio of over fifty piano students.

I’ll never understand exactly what happened after that. But gradually over a period of time - as I struggled in an abusive marriage, had my business uprooted repeatedly, and dealt with the challenges of raising children and home schooling them - I lost myself. I threw my heart and soul into taking care of my growing family, and got swallowed whole in the process.

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anais Nin

It took me twenty years to come to this realization, then I asked for a divorce. It was messy and complicated, but at last I was free. The problem was I no longer knew who I was. And my self-confidence was shattered. All I knew how to do was to be a mom and teach piano, but since I had to parent almost single handedly and earn a living, those were good things. Slowly, slowly, I began to piece myself back together.

Unfortunately, however, I was also under the illusion that I needed to be a part of a couple to be complete. Happily ever after, right? So I spent years playing the online dating game, jumping from relationship to relationship, morphing myself in chameleon-like fashion into whomever the flavor of the month - or year, or years - happened to need.

Finally, after a broken engagement and another broken heart, something clicked. Yes, there have been a couple of short-term things since then, but my learning curve is improving. And during every stint as a truly single woman – no matter how brief - I discovered unfulfilled desires. I chose to run with them. And I was reminded of the pleasure of spending a Saturday night having fun with girlfriends.

Honestly? Most men can’t compete with the amazing women I know.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as chidren do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~Marianne Williamson, from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Not counting a couple of nights on the town, I have been single for four months now. It wasn’t easy at first. But once I got past the fear of being home alone on a Friday or Saturday night, I was all right. As a matter of fact, I am rather starting to like it.

Mom. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Dog lover. Piano teacher. Blogger. Novelist. Reader. Jewelry designer. Artist. Seamstress. Cook. Baker. 

I am all this, and so much more. I discover new things about myself, find new roads to wander, every day. It is exhausting. It is exhilarating. It is real. For the first time in a long time, I am really living.

And most days I’m wearing a black bra while I’m doing it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cheeky But Honest Black Bra Wisdom

About a million years ago, back when the internet first launched and AOL was likely the only service provider; back when we had to listen to that horrid buzzing, whizzing, whirling dial tone sound before we finally got to hear those charmed three words, “You’ve got mail”, I got this e-mail that stuck out in my brain. It was when there were very few clever e-mails going around and connectivity was so unheard of that I got it more than once. That was probably, I may have to refer to Megan here because we were working together at the time at Cameron Newell Advertising, 1997. It was an e-mail about certain qualities, and items, women should possess. I wish I would’ve kept a copy of what was entitled, “Black Bra Wisdom.” If you remember it, fabulous! That was bloody fourteen years ago. If you have a copy, please share it because it was really funny. If not, here is my version:
What every woman in 2011 needs (Deserves? Has earned?):
Your own workshop – Be you a woodworker, a crafter, a tailor, an artist, a writer it is important to have your own space. In 1929, Virginia Woolf said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” You may not be a fiction writer, but in today’s world you absolutely need your own space. Take it. Make it your own.
Knowledge of our government – Girls, don’t rest wearily on your laurels because you’ve spent the day in the office only to come home to a house full of siblings screaming at one another and a spouse fussing at you about dinner. Make the time to read, or watch, the news. You cannot rely on the idle conversation you encounter around the water cooler. You need to read, or listen to, the facts and formulate your own ideas and opinions about our leadership. Take advantage of your right to vote, recall this is the right that took us until 1920 to earn, and get some of those close-minded “ole boys” out of office. I implore you.
A “black” bra and panties – Sadly, this advice has long since gone the way of the dodo. Though some women may still prefer black, go with what you love but make certain you have a bra and panties in the drawer for special occasions (i.e. a date night, just to feel good, a little luck for a job interview). There are so many cuts, styles and colors out there you could have your favorite. Mine is hot pink! Can I have an AMEN?
Tools – No, not just power tools, all tools. Talk to your dad, your granddad, or a good guy friend and begin to garner some idea of what you might need tools for and then start accumulating said tools. Here are some examples of things I have done and what you might need to complete the job:
  • Changing out water stops. Don’t know what a stop is? Know those little knobs under the kitchen and bath sink that cut off the water would you need to? That’s a stop. They typically come in copper and attach to copper so be prepared to break out the heavy equipment. You’ll need a torch, solder, solder paste, a wire brush, etc. Pick up the “How to do just about everything” book at Home Depot and you’ll get the idea. Same tools are needed for changing out a water heater just FYI. And, the answer to your next question is…yes, I have.
  • Switching out the kitchen faucet. This is not as complicated, but be prepared to take the sink out becasue you aren’t going to be able to get any torque behind that tight-ass, rusty nut that is holding the old faucet on. Get the screw gun (aka drill) and be prepared to take the entire sink out. You’ll need channel locks (looks like a wrench that you can make bigger or smaller), you’ll need a screw driver (yes, do-it-yourself faucets come with set screws – please tell me you know what a set screw is), and along with a few other things you’ll need patience. Hire a sitter because you cannot do this with a three year old underfoot.
  • Tacking the gutters back to the house. What? Your gutters don’t pull away from the fascia? Mine do. In order to fix them you will need gutter screws, not gutter nails, again with the screw gun, a long metal drill bit (long enough to get through both sides of the gutter – sorry I don’t know length off the top of my head but it’s probably six inches. Right boys?).
  • Trimming the hedges (not the personal kind). Electric hedge clippers that look a bit like alligator teeth and a really, really long extension cord, unless, of course, you don’t mind plugging and unplugging repeatedly. Be careful not to bite (I mean with the clippers) the cord whilst you are trimming said hedges otherwise you might be in for a bit of a bite yourself.
Contact cards – These are akin to business cards but instead are used for networking the more personal side of you. I have business cards and I have contact cards. They both come in handy in very different situations.
Your own money and knowledge of how to manage it (retirement, spending, savings) -  I believe that is all that needs to be said on this subject.
Knowledge – Every bit of education you have obtained in the umpteen years you’ve been around. It doesn’t matter if your knowledge came from a book, the street, an event, emotions, or drama what you know is what you have. Use it.
Fearlessness – In my opinion, the worst of all character traits is fear. It can paralyze you, create self-doubt, and even defeat you. Don’t let it! If you don’t know something then pick up a book, take a class, call a friend, or for goodness sake, just try it. What’s the worst that can happen? You might have to practice or try it again. You might hear “no” right out of the gate, but eventually, if you keep at it, you’ll hear a “yes!”
Friendship - Like Megan said in her post yesterday, connect with others and share yourself, and your wisdom. Life is too short to be experienced without good friends, fabulous wine, and rich dark chocolate. When you possess these things you need little else.
What do you think a woman needs to be empowered?
Life in Penned Perspective by Lindy Chaffin Start
Forgive me for today's excruciatingly long post, but these things had to be said. :-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Black Bra Wisdom: The Old Boys Club

I would start with “this one’s for the ladies,” but frankly I think the men can always learn a lot from anything that’s “for the ladies.” So this is for every reader we have of every age and gender, but it is going to be addressed to the ladies.

Alright, ladies, listen up! You know how for years we’ve been grumbling about The Old Boys Club? As a woman, it’s a bit aggravating (threatening? disheartening?) to hear about male colleagues going out with each other to play golf, grab a beer or even hit a strip club – oh, yes, this happens, and not just in movies – building tight relationships with each other that lead to close partnerships at work that in turn lead to growth opportunities, promotions and the like.  Well, the time to stop the grumbling is now! 

It’s our turn.

Before I explain, let me ask: Is it supposed to be The Old Boys Club as in “a club full of old boys”? Or is it The Old Boy’s Club as in “there’s some old guy who started this club”? Or perhaps it’s The Old Boys’ Club… but this even leaves room for interpretation. Is it the club that’s old or the boys in the club who are aged? No matter how you look at it, though, it’s old. Outdated. Going the way of the dinosaurs.

The new club is for us. I refer to it as The Soccer Mom Alliance. Before anyone becomes offended, of course this club is not limited to mothers or married women. I only temporarily named the club The Soccer Mom Alliance because the power of us hit me when my fellow soccer moms (bear in mind, my soccer child is 3 years old) started to reach out to each other to hook up via LinkedIn and to get together for a ladies' night. If you would prefer, we could call it simply The Alliance. Or anything else, really. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Here’s the deal. Up until late-ish in the 20th century, men held the cards. For years, the majority of women either worked as homemakers, which restricted their sphere of influence due to the technological limitations of the times, or worked outside the home within a very limited subset of roles. Men’s roles allowed more freedom and visibility, thus providing them the opportunity to establish that Old Boys Club in the ways now familiar to us all.

Recent times have provided us the foundation for the new order, our new Alliance:
  • A waning of the limitations on women in the workplace
  • Reinvigorated respect for the challenging work homemakers manage
  • Ever-more extracurricular activities in which children of ever-widening ages participate, with ever-greater parental attendance
  • Social media
In other words, we women are together more than ever, often in groups, with ever-widening circles of influence. And now, thanks to social media, a tool that reinforces and breathes life into our natural inclination to interact and socialize, our time has come. We can reach out to one another 24/7: for laughs, for fun, for a check-in, for an ear or a shoulder… and yes, for professional support.

Two future Alliance members, already supporting each other.
Professional support… Hm. No, that’s too wishy-washy, too old-school, too women-in-the-age-of-the-Old-Boys-Club and not Alliance enough. How’s this:  To build and reinforce our professional caché, to leverage an expansive advisory network, to impart our own expertise, and to establish and broaden our professional empires. 

There. That’s better.

How do we start? Well, there is one thing crucial thing we can learn from the boys: Ask.  Ask to connect – on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, via email, for a ladies’ night, for coffee…  And yes, ask for the opportunity to learn about what we can offer each other, personally and professionally. There’s power in asking, power in sharing and amazing power in building those bonds. What is it they say in those lottery commercials? You can’t win if you don’t play?

Sure, we might get No for an answer. But we won’t get to Yes if we don’t ask.

So, what do you think we should call this Alliance?