When chocolate disturbs


I like chocolate dark, three taste buds shy of bitter. One small bite and I start getting messages from my brain saying, “Thank you,” and “More, please.” As food, it delights my tongue, and as medicine, it soothes my brain.


I have liked chocolate since I was a small child and discovered that the Easter bunny laid small chocolate eggs in my Easter basket. I later learned that rabbits do not lay eggs; they do, however, extrude something that is eerily similar to little chocolate pellets. I lived with that disturbing juxtaposition of ideas for years, but eventually got over it and continued trying to consume my allotted 11.64 pounds of chocolate each year. That’s how much each American averages. The Swiss eat almost twice that. Clearly, I was born in the wrong country.


Divine choclate easter eggs


As an adult I have lived a relatively undisturbed life as far as chocolate goes. However, these last few years, an uncomfortable truth has been knocking on the door of my brain. It has pamphlets, which is always a bad sign. Opening the door means I must listen to a prepared speech, sign a petition, and probably donate some money. Maybe even the money I would use to buy chocolate.


For me, the best chocolate has at least 70% cocoa. That’s the ingredient that has so many health benefits, including helping to protect my heart. Cocoa makes my brain happy; and like so many gifts, it grows on trees.


The cocoa plant is delicate, especially when it is young. It requires attention, care, and nurture to develop properly. If a plant is tended carefully, it can start bearing fruit when it is four or five years old and produce for several decades.


Cocoa plants sound a lot like children, don’t they? Children need care and nurture to grow properly, too. And that’s the problem. Many cocoa farms employ children, and some farmers enslave children, making them work 12 hours a day without pay or much to eat.  At night, the children are locked up. If they try to run away, they are beaten.


I don’t want to eat chocolate that has someone’s childhood as its main ingredient. No amount of sweetener can make that kind of bitterness palatable. And if I know that the price on my candy bar is low because some children are forced to pay the real price by spending their childhood enslaved on farms, no amount of inexpensive chocolate is going to make me happy. My tongue doesn’t mind at all; it likes chocolate no matter what, unlike my brain, which has nothing better to do than gossip with my heart.  Once my heart gets involved, the two of them always insist that I do something.



Refusing to buy chocolate might make me feel good, but that’s about all it will do. It won’t help the thousands of smallholder farmers in West Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, and Ecuador who grow cocoa. They deserve a living wage; however, they receive only a pittance of what I pay for chocolate. Some of these farmers resort to forced labor to make growing cocoa worth their while. If I’m going to enjoy eating chocolate, I can’t ignore these facts.


Ignorance is bliss until it isn’t. Now I have to pay attention, read labels, and check up on the companies I buy from. I have to sign petitions. And I have to pay more money for chocolate that doesn’t have “essence of childhood” as an ingredient. But I don’t mind because then I can start listening again when my brain says, “More, please.” And it will make my heart happy again in more ways than one.


To see the places I have been that knocked the bliss out of my ignorance, go here, here, here, and here. To see the places my heart and brain conspired to send me, go here, here, or here to see what people are doing about it.



(Chocolate kisses go to Wikipedia and <http://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/2310156154/ > for the pictures.)

The treatment


I know why you’re here today.


As your circle of blog friends has increased, so has your girth. The more time you give to writing, reading, and commenting on blogs, the less time you have for so-called living. It seems primitive somehow the way those other people use vocal cords to communicate. You would rather “not-so-instant message” to static little faces or pictures of cats than to people with arms and legs, who sometimes burp.


You need help.


First, I recommend chocolate. Nine out of ten internet-trained health professionals do. In a rigorous study of online headlines and article titles, I have proof that chocolate is good for you. Because my rigor knows no bounds, and I am dedicated to providing you with reliable and accurate information, I am willing to publish a partial list of specific data sources to assure you that sound scientific procedures were followed.


      • Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
      • A Dark Chocolate a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
      • Once Again Chocolate Found To Be Good For You
      • 9 Health Benefits of Chocolate
      • 10 Health Benefits of Chocolate
      • 11 Reasons Chocolate Is Good for Your Health
      • Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled
      • Chocolate’s Startling Health Benefits
      • Chocolate as Health Food

If you would like to verify my work, copy and paste one of the headlines into a search engine. If you are also the rigorous type and prefer to do a double-blind study, just close your eyes while performing the copy and paste procedure.


Okay, you say. Chocolate for what ails you. That is old news.



You’re right. But I believe that people also need exercise. And after hours of thought, I came up with the revolutionary new idea called Exercise with Chocolate.


For years people have been exercising their jaws with chocolate and using the rest of their bodies merely as repositories for the non-chocolate components of chocolate. So I put one and three together and asked myself: Why not use the rest of the body to consume chocolate?


I originally developed these exercises for the garden-variety couch potato. It requires a couch, a remote control, and up to a half cup of chocolate chips. I will share a few of them with you here on this blog for free. The complete set of exercises, including the advanced levels that include how to use melted chocolate  will be available for download as soon as I secure funding.

The Shrug

Place a chocolate chip on each shoulder. Slowly raise your left shoulder, turn your head, and try to eat the chocolate chip. Repeat on the right side. Do this as many times as you want. You should feel a stretch in your neck.

The Gate

Place a chocolate chip on top of each hand. Lean slightly forward and extend your arms out to the side. Now bend one arm, bringing it toward your mouth, but keeping it parallel to the couch. Eat the chocolate chip, and do the same with the other arm. Once you become adept at this, you can increase the number of chocolate chips on each hand. Imagine your arms are little gates that open and close into rooms of chocolate. Push into the stretch.

The Couch Lunge

This is one of the more difficult moves, but it also gives your back a nice stretch. Sit upright. Place a chocolate chip on each knee. As you lift your left leg up, bend forward to reach the chocolate. Repeat on the other side. If you find it too difficult, place a pillow on your knees, put the chocolate chips on that, and just fall forward.


As with all exercise routines, you have to remember not to strain yourself. At some point, you will run out of chocolate chips. When that happens, you can try these exercises:

Congratulatory neck turns

Place a pillow on each side of your spot on the couch. Close your eyes and hide the remote under one of the pillows. Open your eyes. Slowly look right and left, 5 times. Find the remote. Do imaginary high-fives 5 times with each hand.

Perpendicular arm lifts

Carefully position your body in the middle of the couch. If you are unaccustomed to moving, just inch your way toward the middle. Avoid strain of any kind. If there is a large indentation in the couch where you normally sit, place a pillow there, and no one will notice. Sit upright and place the remote on your knees. Reach forward with your right hand and grab the remote. Lift it straight up, over your head. Now lower it perpendicular to your knee and parallel to the back of the couch. Place the remote on the couch or end table (depending on the size of the couch). Switch hands and repeat. If this tires you, trying switching channels.

Ottoman leg lifts

Place the ottoman, coffee table, or other sturdy piece of furniture directly in front on you and at least six inches from the couch. Raise one leg, place it on the ottoman, then the other. Do sets of one, three times. Stop and rehydrate.


(CAUTION: Check with your doctor before beginning rigorous exercise routines!)


On the soon-to-be-released DVDs, you will see how you can adapt these exercises using a laptop or a large computer and mouse. You’ll be amazed at what happens to your body if you incorporate these exercises into your daily sitting.

Just the medicine for the winter doldrums


Do you suffer from the winter doldrums? Did you know you can’t suffer from just one doldrum? Did you realize that the doldrums also refers to a kind of weather that has baffling winds? Has your hair ever been baffled after you were out in the wind? Are you sometimes baffled about why you read this blog?


If you answered yes to any of those questions, particularly the last one, then, indeed, you are suffering. I don’t mean to alarm you friend, but you most certainly have the winter doldrums.


Up until now I have only hinted at my medical condition, trying to make light of it, but today I want to tell the whole sad story; a story of bafflement, suffering, survival, and chocolate.


A baffling wind blew on the day of my birth, or perhaps fate had nothing better to do that day than to ruin my life, but I was born with the tantrums. Unless you have a medical background, you probably don’t know that the doldrums come from the tantrums. Back in the early 1800s, an etymological virus blew in on a baffling wind and infected the word “tantrum,” replicating the second syllable. People who were feeling dull and listless were highly susceptible to this second syllable and soon started coming down with what came to be known as the doldrums.


I was born with a particularly virulent form of the tantrums, and anyone who comes in contact with me is almost guaranteed to get the doldrums and break out in bafflement, unless I take my medication.


From birth, I cried all night and slept all day. Nothing pleased me, and no amount of soothing, rocking, or holding calmed me. My mother, an unlicensed non-nurse, came down with the doldrums and immediately suspected that I wasn’t hers. However, the hospital refused to take me back, so she knew she had to do something. She did what any mother who loved her child and feared for her own sanity would do; she started medicating me with caffeine through my feeding tube (AKA baby bottle). If you’re into heartbreak and tragedy, you can read about it here.


Photo from http://ghirardelli.com/about/ (Personal note to Ghiradelli: How many times do I have to promote you to get some love back?)

Having discovered that administering caffeine to me reduced her suffering significantly, my mother began giving me Easter baskets filled with even more medication, cleverly wrapped in foil to look like little brown eggs. I thought it was candy!


As I grew, so did my tantrums, and I finally had to face the fact that I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life. I’ve come to terms with it now, partly because my family is so understanding and supportive. No matter what the occasion, at least one of my loved ones presents me with coffee or chocolate. None of them ever uses the word “medicine,” but I see the suffering behind their smiles. They take my condition very seriously.


This past Christmas my brother bought me a machine that prepares my liquid medicine called a Keurig. It’s pronounced “cure rig,” and that’s exactly what it does; it’s the rig that delivers the cure. This month to commemorate the baffling wind that blew that fateful day so many years ago, my sister sent me a supply of medicine from Ghiradelli, the well-known pharmaceutical company.


How do you do it, you may be asking. Frankly it’s hard. But I manage. I think the hardest part is when the grandchild comes over. The little one sees my medicine container and doesn’t understand. No, darling, I have to say, that’s grandma’s medicine. The poor little thing thinks it’s candy. So like myself when I was young.


I had to make my own medicine reminder box because the tablets are so large. However, they are surprisingly easy to swallow.

My medicine box helps remind me to take a minimum of one tablet per day.

To prevent my tantrums from infecting others, I must take two kinds of medication: one in liquid form, the other in tablet form. (I won't be offended if you feel sorry for me.)


I have more to say on this subject because medication alone cannot beat the winter doldrums; you also need exercise. However, my cup is empty. Literally. I’m off to find the cure.


(Disclaimer: The statements made on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA, the FBI, the CIA, the NEA, or anything other three-letter acronymized organization. Use of chocolate requires supervision and who knows more about super vision than Superman. Unsupervised use of chocolate for the doldrums or tantrums can cause stupor, hyperactivity, enlarged hips, and/or sticky fingers, which can earn you jail time in some states. Some chocolates have been known to melt in your hands, the leading cause of finger-licking and wrapper-licking. If this happens to you, go wash your hands and face. Yearstricken cannot be sued, defamed, made fun of, or held responsible for any reader overmedicating. If, however, you experience relief from your symptoms, Yearstricken should be given credit and/or monetary reward. Mention of Ghiradelli is in no way an endorsement of their products, unless they would like to send me products to endorse because I have written about them twice now.)


Cosmetic surgery for words


I like to think of myself as an Italian cosmetic surgeon for words. Let’s say a word walks into my office and says, “Doctor, I’ve been a noun all of my life. People look at me and think of me as nothing more than a thing. But inside, I feel like I’m a poet. I see things and I want to describe them. Can you help me be an adjective?” Then I say, “You’va come to the right a-place. I’m-a gonna affix you.”

Okay. I know what you are thinking: when did she learn Italian? Well, I was there for three weeks two years ago. Plenty of time to learn the basics.

Prefixes and suffixes are the two most familiar affixes in English, but they shouldn’t be used willy-nilly. You must also know when not to use them. So let’s start with that.

Let’s suppose you have some chocolate and someone in your family discovers where you have hidden it. You have hidden it because you want to protect that person from avarice. We all know that avarice means “an insatiable desire for gain,” and if that family member were to have access to your chocolate, that insatiable desire would cause him or her to gain weight. You hide your chocolate, not because you are greedy, but because you don’t want that person to get any fluffier, and you don’t want to be forced to attach the suffix “-icious” to avarice and call that person avaricious. In this case, you have saved your loved one from being called an ugly name, and equally if not more importantly, you have saved your chocolate.

In our second scenario, your loved one has gone to the store for milk. You are almost out and that makes you anxious because you need it for your next cup of coffee. To deal with the anxiety, you remove your chocolate from the new hiding place in the bottom pull-out drawer in the pantry, take it out of the empty coffee can, which your loved one never opens because he doesn’t like coffee, and savor it with your coffee and the last of the milk. In your chocolate euphoria, you search your mind for a word to describe what you are feeling, and there is “-icious,” whispering to you that it means “full of.” You savor the word; you are chocolicious. You are full of it.

Are you dealing with the loss of imaginary friends this season?


I am. As you may or may not know or care, I once had 265,194 imaginary Facebook followers. I checked in on them on Friday, December 16, at 2:28 p.m. and all seemed well. Tragically, one day later, they were gone.


Saturday morning, I woke up early and made coffee, confident that my tribe of imaginary followers had grown by the thousands during the night. I was even thinking of having a contest to let my readers guess when I would reach half a million. After checking the news on my computer, I reached for my phone for my Facebook follower fix.


At first, I didn’t believe it. Not one FB follower! I kept refreshing the website, expecting them to be there for me. Not having a Facebook account had lulled me into thinking I would always be popular on Facebook. When they weren’t there, I wailed, “Why me?” When that brought no response from my husband, I wailed louder. He, however, is used to my wailing and  didn’t even look up from his laptop.


Crushed by the loss, I called out in my most anguished voice, “The whole world is against me!” At this point, my husband looked up from his apparently-more-interesting-than-me laptop and pointed out that most of the smaller countries are neutral, so my statement was not technically true. He may have meant well, but I was not going to let logic or reason cheat me out of my imaginary sorrow.


Normally I do not eat chocolate early in the day nor do I recommend it. That is a slippery slope, friends, a dark chocolaty slope, almost bitter but still sweet, with extra chocolate drizzle on top. However, the magnitude of grief from losing that many imaginary followers drove me straight to the box of chocolate truffles that my husband bought for our anniversary. That plus another cup of coffee assuaged my pain, and I was able to move on. I did inform my husband that I might not be able to do any dishes on Saturday. Or cook. I still needed time (and chocolate) before I could look at my site stats again.


Losing over a quarter of a million followers isn’t easy; however, when they are imaginary, it is easier than I imagined.


I’m over them now. I know they’re out there, pretending to be friends with someone else. If you see them, say “hi,” and tell them I miss them.



Sadly, One of My Students is Failing


First, it’s important that you understand that as a teacher I try my hardest to help my students succeed.

Yesterday, one of my top students asked me what I was going to do for Halloween. I told him that I planned on staying home and passing out candy. Then he asked if I was going to dress up. “No,” I said, “every Halloween is the same; I always just go as myself.”

Later in the hall, I overhead this once bright student tell another student, “Teacher goes as a witch every Halloween.”

It makes me sad to see a student’s grade plummet like that.

Thankfully, I had lots of chocolate at home to console myself.


Tears for the Student Who is Failing