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Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Starting Over ~ Dive Right In

I’m one of those people who eat to live, not live to eat. So I wouldn’t call myself a foodie. Niko's counterBut there are definite exceptions to my take-it-or-leave-it  eating habits. Why is it that I find the very best meals, meals that I would become a foodie for, in the small, elbows-on-the-table kind of places. You know the ones I mean. No tablecloths. Order at the counter. Grab your own plastic utensils and drinks. And then wait for your order to appear on giant paper plates.

When I discover a dive that sets my taste buds singing, I’m in heaven. At that moment, it’s all about the food. These place don’t depend on ambiance because there isn’t any. But the food…? OMG!  Whether ethnic, American, breakfasts, lunches or dinners, I don’t care. When I find an eatery that makes we want to keep it on my list of “regulars,” I’m so happy.

I love Greek food. In Houston, I ate at Niko Niko’s, which i think I mentioned in an earlier post. I lunched there every week, never minding the wait to order. You can imagine that I sure wasn’t the only one in the place at lunchtime. The meal was worth the wait. Eventually, long after I discovered it and long after the owners enlarged it, the Food Network discovered it, too. It was featured on Drive-Ins, Diners, and Dives. But I get a kick out of know that I was there first!

Niko's

I never, ever thought I’d find another Niko’s in Florida. But…drum roll please — I did!

Leave it to my golfer guy to drag me to this little place where the restrooms are in the outside of the building. What the H…?  But clean inside. And the gyros…freshly sliced meat, and oh, oh, oh! The homemade tzatziiki sauce..(picture me kissing my finger tips). Delicious! The Greek salad, always one of my choices was delicious, too. So, now I’ll got to Peck’s for a real gyro and Greek salad. A new great dive. Maybe one day, it will be discovered by the Food Network. In the meantime, they’ve opened a second location – same family ownership – and everyone who goes there raves about it.

Just for the record, I’m picky about Italian food, too. There’s Italian and then there’s ITALIAN–when that first forkful of lasagna almost melts in your mouth, and you know you’re in Italy. This goes for pizza joints, too. I will try any pizza joint once. But it’s got to be way above average to land on my list of regulars.

Now, let’s switch gears and talk about pancakes. Why? Because I love them! I had a place in Houston called Frank’s. For $5.75, you ordered from a big breakfast menu…which was available throughout the day. Frank’s pancakes with a side of thick bacon slices got me through the weeks of chemo and visits to the plastic surgeon when my expanders were being filled in order to get me ready for implants. That experience was worse than the chemo, which in hindsight wasn’t too bad. I really looked forward to my pancakes at Frank’s as my reward for the fills. The portions of food were bigger than my stomach could hold. The pancakes, themselves, were the size of the dinner plate. But again, I was in heaven. Have I mentioned that I love pancakes?  French toast, too. And Belgian waffles.

Once more in Florida, my sweetie took me for a ride. First, of course, we have to accomplish something. We never just “go for a ride.”  In this case, we dropped off donations at Goodwill, which was a bit self-serving as we got to clean out the garage a bit. After unloading the car, my golfer guy says, “I know a place…for pancakes.”  Well, he didn’t have to ask me twice. Off we drove to Poppi’s.

Pancakes and sausage at Frank's.

Pancakes and sausage at Frank’s.

It might have been Franks. It looked so similar with the casual booths and tables–no cloths–and with the efficient and friendly waitstaff. Windows all around.  But the true test is always measured by the food. The pancakes matched the circumference of the plate. Oh, yeah. Three strips of bacon sat on the side dish. My heart started doing a tango. I drizzled the maple syrup just on the part I would cut. My fork slipped through the two layers, and I ladled it into my mouth.The outside of the pancake had a slight crispy coat–unusual and delicious. Rapture! Another OMG moment for me. I’d found home. In Florida.

I won’t embarrass myself in a high class French restaurant. But I’m basically a low maintenance gal who appreciates quality in the basics. I can usually take it or leave it in regard to food. Truly, I’m not a foodie. But if I visit some good dives on a regular basis, I just might become one.

How about you? Do you have a favorite inexpensive restaurant that sets your palette singing? A favorite food style that you MUST have from time to time?  Let me know in the comment section.

As always, that so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books written by the award-winning writers of On Fire Fiction, plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these stories are hot, hot, hot, while others…not so much.  Your choice!

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Starting Over ~ Solving the Mystery

When cancer hit the first time, I chalked it up to randomness. I was that one in eight statistic we allBr Ca Blog icon 1 hear about: one in eight American women will get breast cancer at some time in their lives.  That’s 12.5%. Doesn’t that number seem large?  Random or not, after receiving the diagnosis, I drove myself crazy trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Somehow that random statistic became personal when it applied to me.

Was it the food I ate? The water I drank? The air I breathed? In every general way, I was healthy-not overweight, exercising several times a week at the gym, I ate mostly healthy foods. I had nursed my youngest child, and at the same time appreciated that  nursing was one of those factors that lowers the risk for breast cancer.

Accepting this new fact in my life took time. Several months into treatment (lumpectomy, chemo, radiation), I was still trying to make sense out of what can’t be explained. We, humans, like order in our world. We like to solve mysteries and puzzles. We’re uneasy with open endings and dangling threads–we’re itchy about unfinished books! We want to make rational those situations that have no reason, to understand what we don’t know. One plus one must equal two in our ordered world.

Acceptance of my situation did happen in time. Soon I was able to say, “I guess I was just that one-in-eight statistic.” I’d shrug, then chuckle. “Somebody has to be unlucky.”  I certainly wouldn’t wish this on anyone else.

Nine years later, when breast cancer hit the second time, no one in my orbit accepted that this was a random act of unkindness. How unlucky can one gal get? I certainly wanted to solve this mystery. Without any fanfare, my blood was drawn to be tested for the BRCA gene mutations.

BINGO! My mystery was solved. The culprit was the deleterious BRCA 1 gene. Shedding this light certainly brought closure, but also brought up a new set of issues. Facing a bi-lateral mastectomy would seem to top the list. But figuring out what, where and how to tell the children…ah-h, that  broke my heart. Genetic mutations are inherited, so my kids might be affected too.

No one in a family with this gene escapes the stress of waiting for the test results. No one escapes the fear or sadness, that terrible bellyache, that comes after being diagnosed as a gene carrier. I took comfort not in the diagnosis, but in the prognosis. A great prognosis…if I took action. If? If? Did I not want to live? With children, grandchildren and a wonderful, loving husband, the answer was easy. I had everything to live for!

So here I am, celebrating every day with Mike, my kids, and wonderful friends in a lovely place for “55 and better” I call the day camp. I will admit, however, that it’s great being on the other side of the diagnosis and treatment. I like living hopefully ever after.

If cancer seems to “run in your family” or if you have any questions about inherited breast or ovarian cancer, I highly recommend the only non-profit in American totally focused on inherited cancer:  FORCE – Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. Log onto their website for all kinds of information about this subject:

www.facingourrisk.org

FORCE LOGO

FORCE LOGO

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see your for the next edition of Starting Over.

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books, written by the award-winning authors of On Fire Fiction, plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, hot, while others…not so much.  Your choice!

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Starting Over ~ Family Stories, Part II

WORDS AND PICTURES FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION – file0001743539956

As promised, today I’m giving you concrete examples to help you write stories about your family. Whether you have a large family or a small one, you’ve got stories to share. Funny stories. Poignant stories. Life-changing events. Family traditions. And characters. Oh, yes, we can’t forget the characters. And one of them is you! I think writing family stories is not only fun, but important. How else will your children and grandchildren know who they are?

Last time at Starting Over, I suggested a number of topics for you to consider writing about. Of course, a dozen of your own ideas might have sprung to mind, and that’s wonderful. For those of you needing suggestions, however, I offered the gamut from family recipes, to holidays, to life cycle events, to particular family members. Everything is fodder. Just reach in and grab an idea.

Today we’re going to figure out some specific ways to start your story. Even for professional writers, choosing the right opening is very challenging if not the hardest part of the work. I’m here to make life easy for you!  Here are three different ways to begin your tale–examples from my own stories are included:

SETTING — Using this option, you start by revealing such items as time, place  and weather. The goal here is for your children to see and feel what you saw and felt at the time the real event took place. Use the real dates and places. After all, these stories are not fiction. If this is a story about your parents or grandparents, gather the information now.

Example:  “Houston’s so flat,” I protested, “and the houses have no basements.” Too disappointed to hide my feelings, I looked at my husband with dismay and wondered if my friends up north were right. “Too hot and humid,” they’d warned. “Don’t go.” But I hadn’t cared, In fact, I’d looked forward to getting away from New England winters…until now.

Home of the Houston Astros! Beautiful park.

Minute Maid Park — Home of the Houston Astros!   I always think of it as a happy
place.

ACTION — Using this option, you start with an event, then go back in time to explain how and why this event happened.

Example:  I often tell people that Michael and I met by accident, but that’s not quite true. My uncle Sid introduced us. On our very first date, however, we did hit a telephone pole head on. The car was totally wrecked. Fortunately, we weren’t.   (I then explained where we were, why we were out so late and what my dad’s reaction was–oh, yes, that made for a story 🙂

CHARACTERS — these are your family members, Using this option, it’s fun to describe how the personality affected you and others. The person you choose to write about can be quiet or larger- than-life or somewhere in between. Everyone is unique and worthy.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Example:  Aunt Ethel had a reputation among the kids. She was the doctor. In deference to the medical profession, however, we called her “half-a-doctor.”  She could make “it” better, whatever “it” was, but her specialties were splinters and specs-in-the-eyes. The combination of her infinite patience and excellent eyesight earned her the reward of fixing us.

I hope you’ll make a stab at writing your family stories. If you have any questions, just ask them in the comment section. And if you want to share something you’ve written, you can do that in the comment section, too. I’ll post your efforts in a later blog as a “follow-up” if you’d like. You don’t have to be Mark Twain or Hemmingway or Dostoyevsky to write for yourself. You just have to pick up a pencil and get started.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot hot, while Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resothers…not so book coverMA25EC~1Release-MeNewJpgmuch. Your choice!

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