Exoskeletons look better on bugs

BugHello Darlings,

LaDiva here.

I recently had one of kids I work with give me that “You don’t know me” look.  And I thought, “You are probably right.  But, you don’t know me either.”

For those of you who have read much of this blog know that I work at a residential treatment facility for teens with anger management issues.  Most have been sent by the court because their families and caregivers can no longer handle them and the violence that surrounds their lives.  Most have been through many therapies or other facilities that feel this child needs more help and structure.  So, they are sent to us.  We house and feed them, have a small school so they can continue their education and offer individual and group therapy.  We work on creating better coping skills, reuniting with family whether foster, adoptive or biological and give them support to develop a better life.  These kids know the street and their amount of trust in people who look like part of the system, like me, is minimal.

Later, on my drive home, about 2 hours, I was thinking about this kid’s face.  He was so sure of my reaction, of how I would be intimidated and how hard he would look to me to show I am oblivious to his emotional state.  In his mind, if he looks tough enough I will back down out of fear.  But I saw it differently.

Most people will tell you I am very fun and have no problem being the center of attention.  But I used to be a small, fearful observer of life with a hard exterior – like a bug.  I wore my skeleton on the outside to protect all the terrified mush inside.

Now, I am still small and fearful, but with experience I know that having mush makes you human.  The ability to show some of my mush shows my strength.  That’s what I wanted to show my tough friend.  What I want to share with the world is more than feeding people healthy food.  I want to feed inspiration – being able to inspire people who were like me.  The idea that my inspiration stops at chocolate pudding is frustrating.

Sometimes I look at these kids and I think, Feed off my insecurities, my screw ups, my life lessons.  And I know that these kids and other people who are going through their own exoskeleton lives would feed on it because I am honest and open about what I have done and what was done to me and what I allowed to be done to me.

I know this because I used to feast off others who had the honesty and openness to tell their stories of screw ups and life lessons.  That let me see that I was not alone or stupid or any worse a person than anyone else. That allowed me to put my bones and nervous system back under my skin.  Skin that is more pliable, softer and took far less energy to move through life.  Feasting off others’ stories allowed me to do what I now want for this kid – The chance to re-write his own.


Cooking Demo Ultimate – Forget the food


The only photo from the demo featuring my better side.

Hello Darlings, LaDiva here.

Yesterday I had the ultimate cooking demo.  It was for a FAB fundraising group.  This was their regional conference and they hired me to be the comic relief.  Of course, I was NOT going to disappoint so I got two LaDiva dancers to come along and the Incredible Mr. Fitz.

Since it is nigh on Mother’s Day, I decided to make some dishes someone could use to avoid the restaurant scene.  Mom’s day is the WORST day of the year in a restaurant.

The demo has three recipes: Almost Fatless Flapjacks [brunch], Insta’ Party Bean Dip [cocktail appetizers] and Vital Vanilla Creme [dessert].  I would tell the group to fill in the dinner course with take out.

The dancers were new to the LaDiva gig, but they were smart and enthusiastic.  The day before I filled 75 goodie bags with a business card, LaDiva button, 1/4 page advertisement about my book with blurbs of the reviews by authors, Victoria Moran, Dr. Neal Barnard and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist, Lenny Kaye as well as 2 ginger snap cookies I had made that morning to give it a ‘homemade’ touch.  These were sealed with a LaDiva sticker thanking the receiver for coming to the demo.

All of the equipment was labeled with the recipe for which it was needed – spatulas, skillet, 2 food processors – down to the smallest detail.  All the ingredients were measured out into containers also labeled as to which recipe needed them – 2 types of flour, baking soda, flax meal, black beans, salsa, silken tofu, vanilla extract, sugar, 2 different containers for salt used in 2 different recipes, etc.  You name it, it was labeled and coordinated.  Everything that could be packed was packed the night before.  I showed the dancers the food and the equipment and explained the recipe codes when they gathered at my house. They would only have to put their recipe’s components on the demo table.  I had three crew people and three recipes.  Easy-peasy.

Earlier in the week, my music was sent to the fundraiser AV staff along with my photo for the screen which would be behind me.  I wrote when the music would be used for the program.

While at my house, the dancers learned the dance and how to throw leis at the crowd, got their costumes and we left.  We got to the venue at 1:38pm for a 2:30 show.  All we had to do was meet the AV guy and set up the demo table.  My makeup was on and I just needed 5 minutes to get ready.  My male dancer was already dressed and the female would take about 5 minutes.

We ran through the sequence of intro, music, dancers, my entrance and exit with the AV guy – Arnold.  Arnold showed me where he had my music cued and said that he was excited to see the cooking demo.  The introducer, Mr. Introducer, was charming.  I even had a separate room across the hall from the event in which to change.  I told the crew to start setting up and I left to set up the dressing table.

That’s when it hit me.  Where was the food?  That’s right.  In packing the car, we had taken everything from the kitchen, but by-passed the refrigerator on the back porch where the ingredients were twiddling their thumbs ready to go.

Panic set in for about 10 seconds.  “Mr. Fitz, what time is it?”

“Two o’clock.”

We had 30 minutes to get food.  Could I buy it?  Where was a store?  Okay, there were no samples going out so could I get food that LOOKED like our ingredients?

I told Mr. Fitz to set up the equipment table and I would think of something.  I went out to the hallway to see if anyone could tell me how close a grocery store was.  Then, I saw a hotel server and stopped her in her tracks.

“Hi, my name is LaDiva Dietitian.  I have a food demo in 25 minutes and I have no food.  Do you have any beans, like black beans on your menu?”

“Wow, no food?”

“No.  But maybe you have something in your kitchen.”

“Okay, come on in the kitchen.”  She wasn’t sure what to do with me, but whatever I needed was not in the hallway.

She introduced me to a manager, “This woman needs some help.”

“I’m an event manager, how can I help you.”

“I have a cooking demo and I forgot all the food.”

“Well, I’m sure we can help somehow.  I can set up a meeting with our chef and we can see if we can sort anything out.”  She was very nice and manager-y and I truly appreciated her intent, but was not the conversation I needed.

“Um, I have this cooking demo in 25 minutes, so I don’t really have time to set up meetings.”


Just then, Jared the Wonderful, passed by.  “Jared, could you help this person?  She has a cooking demo and need some things from the kitchen.”

Jared is a chef that should be from a surfer community.  He was very laid back and said,”Yeah.”  I began to tell him my plight.  He not only said yes to having legumes, he opened a #10 can – one of those big, industrial-sized suckers for me.  Then, he asked the prep cooks about leftover salsa.  Insta’ Party Bean Dip – Done!

Next we had to figure out the pancakes.  He had a pancake mix that we could put in bowls to look like flour, then some small ramekins with salt, salt to represent sugar, high protein gluten flour to represent flax meal, an actual small amount of vanilla extract, an empty bowl to be my “magic” bowl with all other ingredients that I needed, but was for the moment forgetting.  Now, silken tofu?  He was at a loss.

I said, “Do you have any vanilla pudding?”  Close enough for jazz.

I, quickly, amassed my goodies on to a full sheet tray and walked into the event ballroom.  Except, that I didn’t know how to get out of the kitchen.  Oh, and, the tray was astonishingly heavy.  I finally found a door to the hallway, but it had a door handle that had to be turned.  Balancing the tray on one knee, I steadied it with one hand and used the other to turn the handle.  I flung it open about 10 inches, turned my foot into the open space and slammed the door into my foot in to keep it open. I put my knee holding the tray down.  Turning my torso towards the door, I used my other foot to open it enough to get my leg through.  My rear end bumped it wide enough to get the tray through.

The Incredible Mr. Fitz had the table set up and figured out how I could use the extension cord for all three electric pieces of equipment.  Great!  This was going to move right along.

I grabbed the female dancer and told her to come with me to get dressed.  We whipped ourselves into shape and I sent her to get my mic and tell Mr. Fitz we were ready to ROCK!!

She returned with the mic pack and left to get ready for the music cue.  We bad!

That’s when we found that he speaker who was before the food demo decided to give the War and Peace version of his slide show about water.  Now, I like water as much as the next person, but at 2:30 I had risen above all challenges and was prepped for launch.  The dancers had the plastic leis on their arms, wigs on, but no where to go.

So, I stood in the hallway learning about – and I do appreciate what this guy does – water filtration in third world countries via watching through a crack between the double doors.  For 20 minutes.  Having no idea when he would run out of slides of various world leaders exonerating his program and the wonderful things it did for their nations.  Oh, but wait, there is another president.  And another prime minister.  And this is how much cash the group, for whom I was being paid, could raise for this very useful filtration project.

I should have been interested.  I should have thought, “How amazing that this project is doing so much good in the world.”  But I kept thinking, “Dude, I have one crew member who has to leave at 3pm for another gig, and two people who know nothing about breaking down a cooking demo and the skillet behind you is getting hotter by the second even though it is on medium HEAT.  I hope it doesn’t start smoking.”

Finally, Mr. Filtration realized what Tolstoy did, that even War and Peace had to end. Cue the applause.  It is now 3pm.

Mr. Introduction takes the stage.  I can’t really hear what he’s saying, but I know it is about me.  The dancers are by the doors ready to start as soon as Arnold hits music.  Mr. Introduction finishes, AND… nothing happens.  Finally, through some freak of nature, Arnold starts the music.  The dancers start throwing leis at the folks at the tables and encouraging them to get up and dance.  The crowd thinks this should be an after lunch polite chat.  Zumba was at 1pm.

Then, I come in with more energy than the Sun and get folks on their feet.  YAY!  We all swim and back stroke and then hold our noses and pretend to go underwater.

“That’s great everybody.  Let’s get started.”  All of us applaud ourselves to the music playing. The crowd begins to sit.  And the music keeps going.  I finally look at Arnold and give him the international-“Cut the music”-hand-slicing-across-the-throat-sign.  The music stops.

I decide to be honest with the folks about the lack of demonstration ingredients and they laugh.  This is a good sign.

“How many of you have worked in a restaurant?”  A few hands go up.  “What is the worst day to work at a restaurant?”  One woman pipes up, Mother’s day.  Another good sign.

So, I start into my spiel hoping I won’t forget anything really pertinent because I don’t have the recipes with me.  I use the ingredients to remind me what goes into what, but those ingredients are at home in the back porch refrigerator.  Snickering at me.

The pancake batter is going swimmingly.  People are giggling when I use the same white powder for flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  They are really listening when I am describing the need of fiber in the diet and how it works with diabetes.

Everyone smiles or laughs each time I sing out “I want to keep My Girl-ish Fig-ure!”

Then, poof, I have ready-made batter to pour in the skillet, [mixed up by Jared the Wonderful, I told you he was wonderful], from a little pitcher.  The skillet which I turn off because it starts to smoke.  Then, I realize I have no oil for the skillet and the batter I have just poured onto the skillet is going to stick like crazy.

I blather on about how you can decrease the sugar on pancakes by mashing fresh fruit with a little bit of maple syrup.  This compensates for the inevitable berries that are over-ripe or just not good tasting.  Everyone plays along with me when I ask them to put on their “pretend hats” and see the blackberries in this empty plastic bowl.  Then, I begin using a real potato masher to mash imaginary berries.  I get so caught up in pretend-land, that when I am done talking about the berries and mashing them, I tap the masher on the side of the bowl as if there were berries stuck to it.  No one noticed.  Yay team.

Then, I have to get the pancake off the skillet.  Comedy ensues, but I manage to wrestle it on to a plate.

Next is the bean dip, easy because I have bean and salsa.  Slide right through the information about legumes and blood sugar stability.  And on to Vanilla Creme.

This is really going well.  I finish the vanilla creme with miming smooshing a strawberry in the creme and eating it.

I give a shout out to the LaDiva Dancers.  I give a shout out to the Incredible Mr. Fitz.  I turn to Arnold.  “Hit it, Arnold.”

Arnold is nowhere to be seen.  In fact, there is NO ONE at the sound board.

Do this with me.  Let your jaw drop and leave your mouth open for 10 seconds.  While your mouth is attracting flies, think about the fact that you have no idea on how to get off this stage.  You don’t have a pithy tag line.  You don’t have anyone else to thank.  You can’t grab anything to eat or hand out as you leave.  You have just blown the momentum of the entire demo.

Close your mouth and move on.  “Wow, so thank you so much for coming to this.  Ta-ta, Darlings.”  Grab your boa and shake it around your shoulders viciously as you leave the stage and head for the door.

Oh, you forgot to tell everyone to get goodie bags as they leave.

Now it is time for a martini or a hot bath or 75 stabs from LaDiva buttons followed by 150 cookies.  Screw your girl-ish figure.





Why don’t journeys have escalators?


ImageOpened my season of cooking demonstrations June 7th with the next June 14th.  My mustard sauces were a big hit and the vendors told me they saw an increase in sales.  FAB!  I use ingredients from as many vendors as possible for my cooking demos.  The point is to have customers LUV a recipe and then be able to take all the yummy fixin’s home with them.  The bok choy gal sold out.

So, I’m feeling pretty good.  Then, I read a note from myself, posted in March, in my calendar.  Today is the day I have to write to a possible publisher for my book, You’re Not Dead, Yet and find out if they are going to #%& or get off the pot.  Now, this is not some schlump publisher.  We had many emails about my book and they were very positive.  They had lots of good questions about where I was going with the material.  I knew they had actually read the chapters and other recipe materials I had sent.

In speaking to a well-known book author, I was told that the publisher has had enough time to make a decision.  They need to make a deal or let me move to the next step.  I thought about it and agreed.  Time to jump without a parachute, again.

Most of my life and successes have been things I did by myself or I was the reluctant leader.  I was so hoping that some professional person would edit my material, hold my feet to the fire and show me how to get this done.  Doesn’t look promising.  Also, I need to have something to sell at cooking demos, conferences and other events.  The real cash is in product, not speaking fees.

I have a big conference coming up, The North American Vegetarian Society Summerfest.  This is where you go to learn all things plant-based.  I learned more there in 5 days than my whole year in grad school about biochemistry and nutrition.  The audience is WAY smart and will ask the most detailed questions.  They also buy product.  Thus, I thought my book would have a release date by now and I could get a pre-sales going.  Not going to happen.  I am putting together a one-day Summer Cooking Intensive at the LaDiva studio kitchen.  That is one thing to sell, but these people buy books.

It is true that I have not heard back from my email of “Maybe we don’t have a fit” to the publishers.   On the other hand, if history repeats itself, I will be self-publishing, creating an E-book, figuring out how to link videos, designing covers and whatever else it takes.  I’m almost finished with the first draft of the entire thing.

I do want to roll my eyes, exhale and say, Who really cares whether I do this or not?

What I was running to during the last 1/2 mile

What I was running to during the last 1/2 mile

Then that annoying voice says, You wrote it.  Publish it.  Who cares if no one buys it.  You can say, just like when you finished the marathon, I did it and I don’t ever have to do it again.  You are going to get older, anyway.  You are going to write other stuff, anyway.  Get it done anyway.

Gee, I can’t wait to get on another untraveled road to possibly nowhere.  But I won’t know if I don’t put on my walking shoes.

Here’s a sigh and a nod to Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.


Fix the foundation first


I have to fill you in on what I have been doing – Remodeling my bedroom and work space.  Actually, Marty has been.  

Writing was so unfocused that I thought, What are you doing?  Why aren’t you writing?  You are at the last full chapter of your book?”  Then, it hit me.  I HATE my space.  

Visions of patching the plaster, getting rid of my awful closet, painting the walls are REAL color kept filling my head and nothing was filling my pages.  So, I thought, okay honor this.  

I have a lot of writing, video editing and presentation work to do this month.  I need to feel that I am in my element and not in a before photo from the TV show, This Old House.  Plus, a VERY good friend said, “LaDiva, you have been working almost daily on that book since November.  Give your brain a break and allow your ideas to simmer for a couple of weeks.  You are just writing to write and can’t see the project.”  She is a very good friend to be able to call it as it is. 

Marty came in with her FAV sledge hammer and started whacking away.  Today is plaster and sewing the curtains for my new closet.  Plastering takes a few days, for those of you uninitiated.

I have an end date to when I have to get back to the full grind, so I don’t go completely off the tracks.  And even though the room is a bunch of plastic sheets and plaster dust, it feels better.

Can’t wait to show you the photos when we are done.  


FDA approves Zohydro, more dangerous and addictive than Oxycotin. Good Job!


I just wanted you to know that, although I bought another laptop after the robbery, my laptop is in the shop.  I am writing this on some close’n’play type Barbie-sized laptop thing that was bought in 2009 for a ten-year old.  

There is a quick note about the drug, Zohydro.  This is a new pain killer being approved by the FDA.  Many health service organizations are against the release of this drug.  Mainly for 2 reasons, an adult can overdose on 2 capsules and children can overdose on 1 capsule.  According to Boston Children’s Hospital, 70,000 kids under age 18 are accidentally poisoned by medications.  These ER visits have gone up 36% over the last 10 years.  By the time you know your toddler ate the pretty blue and white or red and white pills, they may be blue.

There were two doctors who that were paid thousands of dollars to sit in on meetings between the drug company and the FDA officials.  Other stakeholders in this approval period were not allowed in the room.  The doctors pushed approval.

Drug enforcement agencies and drug treatment centers are among the organizations wanting to trash the approval.  As a medical professional, I know kids take parents medications.  Some kids know that they are taking drugs they shouldn’t.  Some little kids take parents medications by error.  This drug is too scary to take those types of chances.  

Zohydro is an opiate.  Opiate use is one of the major reasons we have the uptick on drug abuse.  I know opiate drug abusers.  This drug looks like a Christmas present.  

Here’s what the FDA said about abuse of these types of drugs, in particular the combination drugs such as Zohydro:

. The abuse ratio for hydrocodone combination products was 14 ED visits per million tablets dispensed. The abuse ratio for oxycodone combination products was 24 ED visits per million tablets dispensed, compared to 85 ED visits per million tablets dispensed for oxycodone single-entity ER products. This difference is substantial and it is likely that similar patterns will be observed between hydrocodone combination products and Zohydro ER

Here’s what the FDA said about abuse of this drug:  

will be associated with higher levels of abuse than the hydrocodone combination products. These expected higher levels of abuse are based on what has been observed for oxycodone products. Like hydrocodone, oxycodone is also marketed as a combination product, but there are also single-entity, extended release (ER) products available

The current version of Zohydro is crushable, therefore, snortable.  You and I will pay for their ER visits, incarceration or burials.

Please let the FDA know you do not agree with the approval of this drug. 

Round Peg, Square Hole – Again


As promised, I went on the Healthcare.gov website to enroll since I will be losing my healthcare in April.

The online part was easy and quick.  Except that if you currently have health insurance, you need to take a form into your employer and have them fill it out. I get my insurance through the Screen Actors Guild.  The work is done via many employers.  They are usually based in California or New York.  So, you can’t go to one employer and have them fill it out.  One year I worked on 60 projects.

Let’s call someone and figure this out.  We call and a happy phone machine gal answers.  She asks what state we are calling about.  I am put on hold for a short time.  Great.  The rep has a heavy southern, yet comprehendible accent.  Fine.  She asks for phone number, name and address.

I explain that the healthcare is via a union.  The rep says go ask the employer to fill out the form.

“But this is Screen Actors Guild.  My husband is an actor.”

“Tell him to speak with his employer.”

“Do you understand how Screen Actors Guild health insurance works?”  I figured she wouldn’t and I could get someone who may know or at least some resolution.


“Then, you know he would work for lots of employers.”

“Ma’am, what do you mean by actor?”

“He works as an actor.  Do you have a television set?”

“Yes, ma’am.  I watch some housewife show [sic] and football.”

“Have you ever seen a film?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“He is an actor in films.  So, I guess you don’t know how artistic unions work.”

She hung up the phone.  I had previously agreed to answer a survey on customer service.  One, on a scale of one = bad, was not a lonely number.

I tried again.  I cut right through the beginning for phone call two and stated ‘representative’ at the first prompt upon the happy phone machine gal answering the call.

Okay, Bambi was trying to be helpful.  [Real name] She put me on hold to try and figure out where to send the call.  She had one suggestion- call the union.  They must be fielding this from a lot of actors losing their insurance on a quarterly basis.  Well, at least that is a next step.  She also explained that although the insurance need would be past the regular enrollment period [ends March 31, 2014], I would qualify for extenuating life changes such as death, birth and loss of insurance.

Off to call the union.  Will a union based in California and New York, where they have their own state programs, understand what we need to do in Pennsylvania?

Stay tuned.