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alienAre you creative, interested in extraterrestrials and would like to win one million dollars? Read on.  Now that Yuri Milner, Russian Billionaire, has pledged $100,000,000 in “Breakthrough Listen” to increase our telescope time in the the hunt for extraterriestials, I’m hoping we will find some little green men or some big pink women.  This new grant was announced by Stephen Hawking, who said in his TED talk that the biggest hope for our planet is to find another planet to inhabit.

There are two other interesting aspects to the story, one very exciting, and one not so much.

Some people may think that the idea of finding life on other planets is a little creepy, and that is certainly a part of this story, but in a way that may surprise many.  Geoff Marcy,  a former Professor of Astronomy at University of California,Berkeley was initially the Principal Investigator of “Breakthrough Listen,” until he was required to step down October 14, 2015 due to sexual harassment accusations.  Buzzfeed broke the story on October 9.  Four women came forward with allegations starting in 2010, and according to the newsletter for women astrologists, it was a known fact in the field that he is not a mentor that a female astrologist should have.

No news yet on the new PI for Breakthrough Listen, who reported only one line on their site,  “On October 12, 2015 Geoff Marcy resigned as Principal Investigator of the Breakthrough Listen project. His resignation has been accepted.” There has been no news either on the effect all this has had on Marcy’s marriage.

The exciting news about Breakthrough Listen is that they are now looking for people to create the  messages that could be read by an advanced civilization. The message must be in digital format, and should be representative of humanity and planet Earth.  The competition rules have yet to be announced, but what has been announced is that the prize for this is approximately $1,000,000.

You may remember the plaque designed for extraterrestrials from 1972, shown here.  What will the new message be?  I’m just hoping whatever it is, the message will be to respect women.  And hopefully the response won’t be like that old Twilight Zone episode about the extraterrestrial book found called “How to Serve Man.”  That turned out to be a cookbook.



November 9, 2015.  Before I saw Arlo Guthrie on stage for his 50th Anniversary Alice’s Restaurant Tour at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater, I had a fantasy. I imagined that someone on stage introducing the concert might say, “Debbie Merion, will you stand up and wave?” I’d sheepishly smile and wave to 1400 folks sitting behind us as I thought “dreams really do come true.”

My dream to bring Arlo Guthrie (famous for singing “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”) to Ann Arbor started when I was in Florida in January. I saw an ad that Arlo was going to be performing at the 500 seat Lyric Theater in Stewart, Florida, but when I called the Lyric to get seats, Arlo was sold out.

When the Lyric called me weeks later to offer me two seats in row B off the waiting list, that’s when I said one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said. “I’ll call you right back.  I’m going to see if I can find a friend to go with me.” I didn’t have a date because Bob wasn’t in Florida.

When I called back ten minutes later, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t found a friend to go with me. Only one ticket was left.I considered myself lucky.

When Arlo took the stage the next night, he was wearing all black, highlighting his shoulder-length white hair that curled on its ends like a whisp of smoke. But there was no smokiness in his voice– it sounded nearly the same as in his 1969 recording that I listen to often as I jog.

2015-11-09 Arlo

Maybe he had forgotten some things (“I think you need to forget things  to open up more room in your mind for the new stuff”) or maybe that was just his self-effacing humor. He seems to have no end to stories. There was a long story about helicoptering into Woodstock (“I only remember getting there”) before he broke into “Coming in from London from over the pole, flying in a big air liner…” And he talked about his father, Woody Guthrie, before leading a sing-a-long with his most famous song, “This land is your land.”

Behind the band (including Arlo’s son on keyboard) was mounted a huge movie screen where we saw a pickle on a motorcycle fly through the air as he sang “I don’t want a pickle. ” The Alice’s Restaurant song opened the second act. How poignant to watch the 19 year old Arlo on the screen from the movie, as 69 year old Arlo sang. “If I knew this song was going to be such as hit, I’d have made it shorter,” he said.

2015-11-09 young arlo 2015-11-09 Alice lyrics

I liked the show so much that I emailed my friend Lee Berry at the Michigan Theater in January to see if he could book Arlo Guthrie in Ann Arbor. (After all, Arlo only sing’s Alice’s Restaurant in public during these once a decade tours). Lee said he’d have to ask the 400 seat Ark for permission, because they usually host Arlo here. The Ark said “OK,” and with months more of a wait there was finally a date on the calendar! Nov. 9!

My dream came true. “Absolutely the best evening I’ve had in a long time,” said one of my friends after the show last night. Although no one motioned to me from stage, I relished my open secret (that I shared with everyone I talked to!) Arlo’s daughter Sarah Lee Guthrie opened the show this time, and it was easy to fall in love with her. Her lithe body swayed in a shimmering dress, and her clever stories and pure voice showed she was her father’s daughter. Maybe I hadn’t gotten a friend to go with me in Stewart, but last night I had my husband Bob, and friends Susan, Nan, Steve, Bob W, Cathy and Annie with me, in the audience of 1400 Ann Arborites. Thank you, Lee Berry, The Ark, The Michigan Theater, and Arlo Guthrie and band for making last night so amazing. Congrats to both The Ark and Arlo Guthrie for celebrating “50 folkin’ years!”  What follows are some more photos from the event.

2015-11-09 Arlo band

2015-11-09 my peace

Arlo poster

Read the USA Today story about Alice’s Restaurant Here

Do You Want a Date?

date“Do you want a date?” That was the question I asked everyone when I walked into my Toastmasters meeting last night. In my hand I had a plastic container filled with soft and sticky pitted Deglet dates that I had just purchased from the co-op. I was going to use them to make my famous ginger tea, which I spike with dates to give a little bit of sweetness.  As it turned out no one around me actually wanted a date– everyone declined.   But  simply bringing these dates and asking that question generated conversation and stories for the entire meeting.
When Annie heard the question, she said “Yes, Chop House?” And then went on busying herself with getting ready for the meeting. I started chatting with Megan next to me, saying that I do like to go to the Ann Arbor Chop House for happy hour, especially because I love their lamb chops appetizer. “Have you ever gone to the Chop House for happy hour?” I asked Megan and as Megan was saying, “no,” then Liz walked by, handing out the 3 x 5” papers on which we scribble our evaluation for a speech. Liz said,”Happy hour at the Chop House? I love it there. I also really like to go to Chris Ruth Chris happy hour too. “

The meeting started, and although no one had eaten a date, the dates were not forgotten. When it came time for table topics, Liz didn’t like the prompt that she was given, so she decided to instead tell us a story involving –you guessed it–dates. It was a wonderful story, but of course any story would be that begins with, “When I was in Egypt working with a battalion that was clearing the fields of buried mines…” She had told our Toastmaster’s club that she had graduated from West Point and served, but stories like this still tend to amaze me. She told the entire story in the two minute limit that we have for table topics speeches.

It went like this: they were so tired and hot after five hours of mine sweeping with the Egyptians in the desert that the Egyptians invited the American soldiers to come and have dinner with them. Egyptians are very generous with food she said, but there were items on the table that were totally unknown to the soldiers. Liz said that they started eating the foods they know: “OK, I see an apple, I’ll have some apple slices. And those olives look good. “ But she said there was something soft and brown in the center of the table and she didn’t know what it was, so she “pulled rank” and told another soldier to try it. The brown soft stuff turned out to be dates, and that was pretty much the end of the story, except for Rena’s comment after Liz sat down.

Rena said, “Now, I have a date story to tell too!” She decided to not use her table topics time to tell her story, but told us briefly after the meeting. Her story went like this, and also took place in the Middle East, but in Israel, not Egypt. Rena said she worked in a kibbutz after college, and her favorite job was to prune the date trees. To do that, she had to get up very early in the morning before it got hot, and she would need to climb the trees like a ladder and snip them here and there. She said it was just a beautiful way to be outside and to interact with trees and dates, and that was her association with dates.

Why mention all of this? Here is what I take away from the stories:
One. Bring snacks to meetings whenever you can because they seem to make people happy and evoke stories to tell.

Two. It turned out the dates were a particularly good snack to bring since one could make a joke about the word “date,” which has two meanings, both of which fit well into the sentence: “Would you like a date?”  This doesn’t work as well if, for example, if you bring cookies. Because the joke associated with “would you like a cookie?” usually will engender something along the lines of “No thanks, I have my Internet browser set to not accept cookies.” Ha, anemic ha.

Three.  Food and any and all sensory products  (anything that evokes our sense of taste, smell, hearing, feeling, or seeing) are likely to prompt stories. This is because we perceive the world through our senses, so the more pungent, crisp, salty, or loud the story prompt is, the more likely we are to come up with an immediate or past experience to talk about in response to that.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to have a cup of homemade ginger tea. (Recipe–Take a spoon and remove the brown outside from half a hand of ginger.  Cut up into small slices, and put into a boiling pot of water with some dates. Boil for an hour or two.  Add lemon as needed.  Strain and drink! Save the rest in your fridge in a pitcher for later. Yum. Drink it hot or cold.)

Have you ever blown bubbles as an adult (on purpose)?  With no children around. And no other adults.  Which is advisable, because then there is no one to witness you looking what Julia Cameron would call “An Artist.”  ( Full disclosure–I did this  in order to fulfill my week’s requirement for an Artist Date, as dictated by The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.)

“An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers.”–Julia Cameron in The Artist Way

Part 1 of Artist Date. Buy bubbles. Off to Toys R Us, which I haven’t been to for at least 10 years, I’m sorry to say, because it is an awesome place. The good news is you can still buy bubbles for $1. The bad news is that they now sell dozens of bubble-blowing products that require batteries.

I am taking a stand. I for one am not too lazy to blow my own bubbles.   These two bubble products that don’t require batteries:


Part 2 of Artist Date. Blow Bubbles

Jar one: Sponge Bob bubbles—The same formula and bottle type used by cavemen.  About 5 or 6 little bubbles when you blow into the little wand you remember from being a kid.


Jar two—Fubbles Squeeze and Blow = Pop-Up Bubbles.  You squeeze the bottle and the little wand pops up.  Theoretically you don’t get bubble slime all over your manicured digits. Blow and learn. Fubbles works really well! Dozens of bubbles. Watch them float onto your tan house, your pink flowers, your brown deck, your blue jeans, all bubbles are in technicolor.   I love this poup innovation! It was totally worth the extra dollar.

Fubbles blew me away!  Have you taken an artist date lately? What did you do?



When I asked my boyfriend TED (his last name is Talk) to surprise me this morning, he surprised me twice—not only with the talk he selected, but how he gave me my surprise. Instead of asking me if I wanted to see a totally random talk (I would have gone for that) or to pick a topic (there are 3 on Ants, 2 on meditation, and 9 on yesallwomen—which I didn’t understand was a twitter hashtag about misogyny and violence about women until I looked it up one minute ago), TED asked me how I wanted to feel.

I love how sensitive a guy TED is.

He asked, “What kind of talk do you want?”

Beautiful? Courageous? Funny? Ingenious? Inspiring? Fascinating? Jaw-Dropping? Persuasive?

I picked Inspiring. Then TED, ever considerate, asked me how much time I had.

TED served up “One Inspiring TED Talk in under 5 minutes.” Teacher Clint Smith @ClintSmithIII spoke on “The Nature of Silence.”

clint smith

TED knows that short can be good. I tell my students that if a talk or paper is short, it’s easier to reread or replay. Repetition is one of the keys to memory. I needed to replay Clint’s talk to remember the four phrases he displays to inspire his students. I could only remember 3:

Read Critically

Write Consciously

Tell Your Truth.

Want to know what the fourth is? Clint can tell you himself as he tells his truth.

Clint inspired me by simply standing there with his hands in his pockets and speaking about his mistakes. Mistakes are compelling. Especially when they bring about change.  Maybe next time I’ll ask TED for a 10 minute talk.

What did you hear in what Clint said, or didn’t say?



It’s not easy to take yourself on a date. In fact, even though Julia Cameron suggests you do this in The Artist’s Way, (which I’ve been dutifully following since January by writing daily morning pages)  she also knows that you (and when I say you, I mean I) will try and weasel out of it.

Walking through the arboretum on Ann Arbor's first hot day.

Walking through the arboretum on Ann Arbor’s first hot day.

Oh, let me define, in Cameron’s words:

An artist’s date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.  It might be a visit to a great junk store, a solo trip to the beach, a visit to an aquarium or an art gallery— these cost time, not money.  It might be a long country walk, a solitary expedition to the beach for a sunrise or sunset, a sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music, to an ethnic neighborhood to taste foreign sights and sounds— your artist might enjoy any of these. Or your artist might like bowling.

How did Cameron figure me out so quickly, even though she had never met me? She says:

Commit yourself to a weekly artist’s date, and then watch your killjoy side try to wriggle out of it. Watch how this sacred time gets easily encroached upon.

But I knew I was meeting a friend to talk about The Artist’s Way. I HAD to have an artist’s date to report. I am so grateful for this. Otherwise I would never have gotten my buttskie out the doorskie. Little did I know I’d be able to write around 300 words illustrated by six or so photos in just 15 minutes.

After the recent rains, I thought we might be getting close to having the Peony Garden in the Ann Arbor Arboretum in bloom.  I read the “Peony Garden Countdown.”

“The peonies are getting taller. Recent rain and more to come plus much warmer temps mean accelerated growth for the plants. What does this mean? The garden is likely on schedule unless we get cold weather later in May—not unknown in Michigan. Stay tuned for more frequent updates as May unfolds.”

Peonies looking like red licorice.

Peonies looking like red licorice.

I took a walk there yesterday from my office–about 25 minutes to get there.

When I got there, I spoke into my phone and recorded what I saw and thought:

I know at this point I only have minutes to record my story. When I walked into the park, I saw a redheaded young man in purple shorts and no shirt staring at his phone either pre-run or post run and then another young man run by that looks similar to him except he has dark hair and he’s wearing UM shorts, okay really he looks nothing like the first guy except he also happens to be a fit male shirtless runner. My face is wet with sweat and there is not a cloud in the sky.   The patches of peonies are between 6 inches high to knee-high. The red ones look a lot like red licorice, and the green ones look a lot like skinny celery. A few people were sitting around on blankets. Some young women are with babies. Another woman is holding a yoga mat and walking her little dog. Some other people are sitting on a bench across from me, and a young couple are walking down a path, holding hands. There is no way that I would possibly be here if I wasn’t going to be meeting with someone, and no way that I would be doing this also if I didn’t feel like I needed to schedule an artist date. She’s absolutely right (Cameron)– I can’t believe that I might’ve missed this. Everyone around me is wearing shorts or dresses. I think I might be the only idiot here actually wearing long jeans, okay I rolled them up, but they are still long jeans. Sweat is dripping down my back. But at least I’m out and about. The biggest peony buds are the size of Hershey’s kisses.


A bud the size of a Hershey's kiss.

A bud the size of a Hershey’s kiss.

Long pants rolled up on a hot day are not my best look.

Long pants rolled up on a hot day are not my best look.

Flowers that are not quite in bloom are like a pregnant woman—healthy and full of promise for the future. Exciting in a way, and different from seeing the fragile flowers that eventually emerge, and who will eventually wrinkle (the human analogy is annoyingly obvious.)

So see the flowers BEFORE they bloom.  Then, when you see them AFTER they bloom, you can say to them, “I knew you when you were just this tall!”

And if you are curious, go to the Ann Arbor District Library and listen to this talk on May 19 at 7:30.  Fleeting Beauty, Enduring Value: the Peony Garden at the Nichols Arboretum.

Have you seen Ann Arbor’s Peony Garden?  It’s worth the trip.


Are you a black and white kind of person? Do you like to bifurcate concepts for simplicity’s sake?  I can be yin/yang kind of gal, which is why I am putting forward here my theory of the Two Reasons Most People Write. (By the way, being a black and white kind of person is not necessarily a good or bad thing, just like fifty-two shades of grey.)

Erica Jong Writing Advice from Buzzfeed

Erica Jong Writing Advice from Buzzfeed

If you think I am being socially incorrect or you are annoyed at the very concept of dividing up anything into two categories, remember that you are reading more than letters now. You are reading digital letters, which at their heart are hexadecimal values, which are made up of only 0’s and 1’s.

Two Reasons Most People Write—We write…
For our soul For our ego
To learn our story To share our unique story with others
To scribble in our journal To be published
To become better writers To be more widely read by others
For insight For impact
To explore inwardly To explore outwardly
Yin Yang
Because we are searching for our own value in a world of 7 billion people Because we are obsessed with sharing.We want others to know who our lips have touched. We want to talk about our own tastebuds, fingertips, hairstyles, belt size, brain doodles, brainstorms, and opinions.


Why do you write? Please comment after this blog.


I spoke about these two reasons for writing at the meeting of WXW of Washtenaw County last Thurs, April 16, when I spoke about how to create a one minute introductory video. Which category does the one minute introductory video fall into?

Trick question. I’d say both.  We have to spend some time writing for our soul–digging into our own past experiences and playing with words to come up with something we feel good about. But how do people hear our ideas, which may differ from the meaning inside our head?  For example, if you say “I’m crazy about helping writers,” will people hear the words “I’m crazy” and consciously or unconsciously feel a teensy bit wary of the sanity of the writer?

Because our words affect others, this workshop had group support built in so we could give each other feedback. On Thursday April 16, this is what happened in a nutshell at the WXW meeting, after I said we were going to “Have Fun and Get it Done!”:

  1. I had fun discussing the three basic concepts here for about 15 min.
  2. We broke into groups of 4 (or 5 is OK too), exchanged contact information, and named our groups with an animal or food in the title. Some fun names so far that I can recall (please help me add to this list!) include Chocolate Monkeys, Caffeinated Achievers, Wilderness Explorers and the Hot Tamales.
  3. We filled in the blanks in the one-pager I handed out. (20 min.)
  4. We each read our “0 draft” to our group mates, and the listeners only gave non-judgmental feedback (by merely repeating exact words or phrases heard).
  5. Demonstration from Meg Fairchild on how to upload from your phone video to youtube, with a brief description of the youtube editing and subtitle tools.
  6. Wrap up and request to keep me up to date on any video intro you produce.

Do you have a favorite one minute video introduction (filmed or still in the script stage) to share? I’d like to post it here.  Please write to me at debbiemerion@gmail.com, or include it in a comment below.

Thank you to Lori Byron at FamousinYourField, Meg Fairchild at Torrance Learning, Carole Baker at SolutionsFirst, and Heidi Weise at Clearly Aligned for their support with the April 16, 2015 WXW event, and thank you to all of the lovely women (and the one brave guy) who attended.

Debbie Merion accidentally giving herself the finger, while explaining at WXW "Say It and Show it" how to thwart the editor in your elbow who squelches your creativity.

Debbie Merion accidentally giving herself the finger, while explaining at WXW “Say It and Show it” how to thwart the editor in your elbow who squelches your creativity.

Erica Jong image was originally here.

Yin Yang image was originally here.


I’m one of those realistic writers who knows what people mean when they see an article you’ve published, and they say, “it looks good.”

They usually mean that literally, i.e. it looks good—there is a nice (printed or web) page layout, maybe an interesting photo with a helpful caption, the words are arranged attractively on the page.

That makes sense. Images transmit information faster. Try this example.

text vs. graphics

So when introducing yourself or your business on your web page, why don’t you try a one minute video introduction in addition to posting your story or bibliography? This is a rather new concept. Everyone knows the phrase ”elevator talk,” but google “one minute video introduction” and you’ll see some mighty slim pickings indeed.

(There is indeed one bright spot. This introduction is great, but also was likely done by a professional.)



Here’s my own video, shot on my cellphone, which was held on a tripod:

Video Intro or Bio?

Academic Bio for Debbie Merion

Debbie Merion, MFA, MSW is the founder of Essay Coaching (essaycoaching.com), where she coaches student and adult writers to grab their pens and laptops and write to a level of excellence. She is the eBook Editor at Solstice Literary Magazine, and the author of Solving the College Admissions Puzzle. Her work has appeared in the Barnes and Noble Review, Solstice, The Bear River Review, Hour Detroit, the Ann Arbor Observer, and Choice Magazine. She has received a Gold Medal in the Global Ebook Awards, and an Excellence in Journalism Award from the Detroit Society of Professional Journalists.


This blog covers the WXW workshop on April 16, 2015 called “How to Write a One-Minute Script to Introduce Yourself by Video” AKA Say AND Show it.  “The event is at Mediterrano Restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 11:30am-1:30pm.  Read more about this event here.

If all goes as planned (the event hasn’t happened yet) this is what was said.


Three Major Points to Remember When Writing


1.  Repetition can be your friend.



2 Images make more of an impact than words.  

Write word pictures.



3  Saying you are awesome isn’t awesome.

We pay attention to (and remember) examples.


What We Remember

  • Pictures and Metaphors—Readers form images in their minds of the situations and people you describe in your essay.  “I think of myself as a sneaker” was a metaphor used as a theme in a college essay that remained memorable over the years to one college admissions counselor.  Make sure that a metaphor is explained and fits well for the idea you want to communicate.
  • Names—names of people, places, books.
  • Sensory details—colors, smells, sounds, textures, tastes.
  • Nouns—Interesting things, things that mean something to you.  For example, your piano, your ice skates, your grandfather’s watch.
  • Dialogue—Phrases said that are pithy, wise, honest, funny, or perfect for the moment and the speaker.
  • Emotions—Either described in the essay, or aroused in the readers. See The Emotion Thesaurus.
  • Surprises—Story surprises can delight us, just like surprise parties and gift surprises do.
  • Numbers and values—For example, the above list provided eight ways to make your essay memorable.


Two truths and a Lie

  • People can remember 1000 images at an average of 63% after two years
  • The longer the video, the less the attention of the watcher
  • 87% of statistics are made up on the spot


Memory, Vision and Attention images from Brain Rules Illustrated

Graphic description image courtesy of  info.shiftelearning.com

Pinterest folder of informative images supporting my talk

For a chuckle read my latest story, published by Barnes and Noble:  Dear Sapphire Cross, . My other published stories are here at debbiemerion.com.


Demonstration of Uploading the Video

IMG_0879 IMG_0880 IMG_0881 IMG_0883 IMG_0884


 Additional Videos

A 10 second video

A two minute video

Meg Fairchild



 The End.

2012-12-15 13.41.27



I am a Capricorn with science geek rising. So when I watched the movie “The Theory of Everything,” I became a teensy-bit obsessed with Stephen Hawking. Then I picked up (can you say you picked up a book if you really just ordered it on your iPad from the Kindle store?) and read his autobiography, My Brief History. It was one of those books short enough to read in a few hours, if you don’t spend too much time pondering his explanations of how he has figured out the beginning and end of the universe. I was curious to learn a little more about his voice. Because his electronic voice isn’t really his own and cannot emote like ours can, for example getting louder, faster or higher when excited, the best way to understand his voice is to read his autobiography. What makes him desirable enough to have marriages with two lovely women, one of which he attracted when he was severely debilitated, and father three children? I think most of these qualities were also apparent in the movie, but it was interesting to read his own words, which I’ve quoted here from the book.

1 Focus. His intense ability to focus is demonstrated by the fact that he has written seven books and a number of scientific papers at the speed of three words a minute. He writes via a gizmo on his glasses picking up microscopic movements of his cheek. So when he turns that attention to his family, I’m sure they feel it intensely.

From http://whoisstephenhawking.com/

From http://whoisstephenhawking.com/

2 Fun loving – He has fun with life. He is clearly fond of making bets – and enjoyed the fact that he was the subject of them. For example, “When I was twelve, one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never amount to anything. I don’t know if this bet was ever settled, and if so, which way it was decided.” In the 70s he bet scientist Kip Thorne that a certain star did not contain a black hole. In a way he bet against himself, because he had “made a big intellectual investment in black holes.” But he was clever, because he said if he won, he’d get the consolation of a four-year subscription to Private Eye magazine (which is an English magazine with a humorous take on the news). But if he lost, he could give a subscription of Penthouse to his friend Kip. (Kip eventually won, “much to the displeasure of his wife.”) To see Hawking and his family having fun, watch this video of his family taking the ALS ice bucket challenge for him.


3. Doesn’t pity himself—When he was in college at Cambridge, he was in the hospital for two weeks just before his twenty-first birthday, and doctors did a series of medical tests on him to determine what was wrong. But the anecdote he told of these days reveal one way he has kept his own spirits up:  “The realization that I had an incurable disease that was likely to kill me in a few years was a bit of a shock. How could something like this happen to me? However, while I was in the hospital, I had seen a boy I vaguely knew die of leukemia in the bed opposite me, and it had not been a pretty sight. Clearly there were people who were worse off than me—at least my condition didn’t make me feel sick. Whenever I feel inclined to be sorry for myself, I remember that boy.”

Hawking is really quite a guy. Did his positive outlook and focus help him find love and outlive his prognosis by 50 years? I’d guess it did.

Visit the ALS Association to donate or read more about how you can make an ice bucket challenge.  This blog is in memory of my college roommate Sarah Phillips, who died of ALS while Bob and I were living in Cambridge, England in the early 80s, just miles away from Stephen Hawking.

June 20, 2014.    On June 9,2014 I gave up sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol, (all of which I usually  enjoy a great deal.  I’m the type who grabs a handful of free restaurant mints.) Although this is only for 21 days, a friend still called this “a torturous diet.”  “Why?” she asked.  A good question indeed.   The reason is that I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to live without all of these consumables that I know change my moods.  Also, my dentist told me again I shouldn’t have sugar, which I think is kind of crazy since his livelihood is only helped by my teeth disintegration.  I’ve also noticed I have the beginnings of what these days is politely called  “a muffin top,” and I just wanted to see if I could let my liver have a nice few weeks without wine.   And I was bored with my usual food and cooking.  And I found a friend of a friend who is a knowledgeable professional and supervises these diets and I like her, and I could never do this without supervision. I’d cave in a day.

And… and… and, every day I keep finding more interesting things about why to do this goofy thing.   Food is tasting better.  I ate out twice this weekend and was not totally annoying when talking with the waitperson. No one seems surprised; everyone is picky these gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, recovering-alcoholic days. I realized I could still have a nice dinner at Gratzi’s while watching everyone at the table order a martini and eat the warm bread except me. Our waitress at Zingerman’s Roadhouse was totally into this diet as soon as I told her (she asked me if I had allergies so I had to explain what I was doing), and recommended I could order a fruit salad, even though it isn’t even on the menu!

Three things I can’t do with you for the next 21 days (until June 30).


waffles   1.  Eat waffles.





Full disclosure, I can’t remember the last time I ate waffles. But I do like them. So please don’t walk up to me and pull a warm waffle out of one pocket and blueberry syrup out of the other and offer them to me. The reboot eliminates gluten—which is in waffles, Zingerman’s rye toast, and that fabulous soft warm bread they present to you in Knight’s restaurant wrapped up inside a basket like a present, when you have just sat down and are starving. No more breaking bread for me for three weeks, although I know it is rude to refuse a present. Gluten is known to cause stomach problems. So far giving it up has mostly meant for me that I can’t have my morning bowl of Smart Bran. We will see how smart an idea going gluten-free was in 21 days.

wine 2.  Have a glass of Kendall Jackson chardonnay.

The reboot really doesn’t specify which kind of wine or alcohol to give up—the reboot means giving it ALL up, including my favorite KJ. No Glenfiddich, grey goose martinis, Bell’s Oberon. Truthfully, I didn’t miss a glass of wine yesterday with dinner, because cooking dinner was so much work I couldn’t think of anything else but.

450px-Ice_cream_cone_  3.  Stop by Dairy Queen.







DQ has two no-no’s in it for me: dairy and sugar, which as a child were my two major food groups, along with gluten. (I didn’t eat any meat, fish, chicken fruits or vegetables as a child. For the next few weeks that is all I am going to eat. Oh, the irony. ) I now will give up my twice-a-day yogurt and close to a gallon of milk each week. Will cows be standing around the water cooler wondering why they don’t seem so popular for the next 21 days? I doubt they’ll miss me. But I’ll miss them. And by the way, if you are wondering if there really is milk in DQ, there is. Here are the ingredients in chocolate DQ softserve, so you can see there is plenty of ingredients in there worth giving up for 21 days(e.g. artificial flavor): Milkfat and nonfat milk, sugar, corn syrup, whey, cocoa (processed with alkalai), mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, artificial flavor, polysorbate 80, carrageen, vitamin A. Palmitate.  I found that out here.

Will you send me any good recipes if you like to eat this way? Or just a nice beet. Which I will try to eat.

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