Sunday, September 16, 2018

My First Book By: Candice Smith

When a dream comes to fruition it is a heady experience! Dreams make life worth living. And when a dream that has seemed out of reach comes into focus and is on the verge of being realized, it’s shout-worthy!

Next month my dream, my life-long dream, becomes reality!

I’ve written and am now publishing my first book!

Since I was a child I have been “writing”.

First it was trying to create words for a Wonder Woman comic I had in my head. Then it became writing a romance novel. I tried writing my autobiography in my late teens.

Nothing got finished.

Blogging became an excellent way for me to write. It started with Motorsports, morphed into personal topics, went back to Motorsports, and now teeter totters between the two genres.

Leaving the world of Motorsports in 2016 – I had created and helmed Drafting the Circuits, a Motorsports website with original articles, an Internet radio weekly program, and a site that provided me media credentials from the Indianapolis 500, Circuit of the Americas for Formula One, and Pocono International Raceway among many others – gave me the time to write my book.

Many thought the topic of my book would center on Motorsports. That would have been most logical with the thousands of articles I’d written in my life in this category.

My strength and experience, however, actually lies in a different topic:  Christmas.

For over thirty years I have been gathering knowledge and information on how to prepare a fabulous Christmas.

I employ year-round techniques that make Christmas and other holidays more manageable, more affordable, and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

I’ve packaged my tips, recipes, gift-guides, how-tos, and personal anecdotes into my first book entitled Christmas Candi:  A Guide to Year-Round Holiday Bliss!

Offered as both a print book and a fully-colored eBook, Christmas Candi:  A Guide to Year-Round Holiday Bliss will become a go-to resource in the home.

It’s useful, informational, packed with easy and quick recipes that look and taste fabulous, fantastic gift guides for all types of people, stocking stuffers ideas, and stories that are humorous as well as poignant.

There is so much packed into this book!

Be sure to get it for your home, and, remember, it makes an awesome gift!

Since I began my Internet career, the support I’ve had has been overwhelming in the best of ways. It humbles me greatly.

With the publication of Christmas Candi:  A Guide to Year-Round Holiday Bliss, I hope I can continue to count on your support.

I believe you will truly read and use this book each and every year and throughout the year as well.

Thank you! 

Stay tuned for release date coming October 2018!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Tim Richmond

Recently I’ve been reading about one of NASCAR’s fallen heroes, a driver from the 1980s whose star shown very brightly for an all too brief period of time. His name was Tim Richmond.

If you missed his era you may not know a lot or anything about him. I became a fan of NASCAR in 1990 and missed everything about Richmond. While I was filling my coffers of NASCAR history, NASCAR past and present, and NASCAR now, Richmond’s name was rarely if ever mentioned.

Once I became active on Facebook NASCAR and racing fan sites his name came up more regularly.

I knew Richmond had a reputation for being a man women wanted to be with and men wanted to emulate. His racing prowess was enviable as was his reputation as a lothario.

At a time when jeans, cowboy hats, and big belt buckles were the dress uniform for many drivers and crew men in and around the garage, Richmond showed up in Italian suits, feathered and coiffed long hair, and a devil-may-care attitude.

There was no mistaking his intensity. He was, forgive the pun, totally driven in a racecar. Whether it was IndyCar or a NASCAR Winston Cup Car, Richmond drove it to the outer limits. He won many poles in his short NASCAR Winston Cup career, running hard and fast, some say even recklessly, but found it difficult initially to win races. Richmond’s first two years in Cup, 1980 and 1981, he had no poles, wins, or Top Fives, but did earn six Top 10s.

Paired with a legendary crew chief, Harry Hyde, in 1986 in Rick Hendrick’s fledgling stable, Richmond learned to rein in his talent just enough to produce wins and challenge for a championship. He challenged alright, but he was denied the championship in that year by his good friend Dale Earnhardt. Regardless, in that one season Richmond’s statistics were very impressive. He won eight poles, seven races, and earned 13 Top Fives and 17 Top 10s. Richmond finished third that year, only six points behind Darrell Waltrip in second.

That was the pinnacle of Richmond’s career. Unbeknownst to many a disease was riddling Richmond’s body, weakening him and stealing his thunder in the sport he so desperately loved.

Richmond, it’s now known, had contracted HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. This happened at a time when hysteria was high about the disease and knowledge was pathetically little.

Masking his illness with lies and bravado, Richmond was able to return to a partial schedule of racing in the Cup scene. With eight races run in 1987, Richmond captured one pole, two wins, and three Top Fives and four Top 10s. But those were the last glimpses of Richmond’s greatness.

By summer 1987 Richmond’s erratic behavior akin to drunkenness and/or drug abuse caused uproar among many of NASCAR’s elite, drivers, crew members, and NASCAR officials. Not knowing or understanding the true cause of Richmond’s behaviors – manic moods one moment and sleeping for hours after that regardless of what appearances were on his itinerary – gave concern to those he was in close competition.

Drug tests were implemented, results were mishandled, and judgments were made, right or wrong. All the while Richmond continued to hide the fact he was fallen with AIDS, desperately taking the only medicinal cocktail available at the time, AZT. He went so far as to take himself off AZT to make certain he passed NASCAR’s drug test.

But it was too late. The prejudice against Richmond was palpable. His career was over in NASCAR. Unfortunately, his health was deteriorating at a rapid pace as well.

Richmond shook thinks up dramatically in NASCAR. The mostly Southeastern sport full of good ol’ boys was not sure how to handle the slick Midwesterner who was a natty dresser, had “pretty hair”, and ran his racecar at 11/10s at every outing on a track.

Richmond not only brought a Hollywood feel to NASCAR for the time he was present, but he would posthumously bring a discussion to the table about AIDS affecting the NASCAR community, not just the homosexual or Hollywood ones.

That conversation has only gone so far. Even after noted journalist David Poole wrote a book about Richmond, who died on August 13, 1989, entitled “Tim Richmond: The Fast Life And Remarkable Times Of NASCAR’s Top Gun” (2005) I still heard remarkably little about this man in the sport I had grown to love.

If nothing else, I’d love to read what others think, remember, and reminisce about Tim Richmond from those who actually saw him race. So, I’m opening the comments up to you all to do just that.

Teach me about the Tim Richmond I cannot access through books and YouTube clips. I’d love to learn more about NASCAR’s most dynamic driver.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Remembering Davey Allison

Today is bittersweet as it is the 25th Anniversary of losing Davey Allison.

For those of you who don’t remember this son of racing legend Bobby Allison, he was the real deal in NASCAR.

Although he never won a Cup, Davey Allison was in the middle of a very promising and successful career in NASCAR’s top level of competition when he was killed in a helicopter crash in Talladega, Alabama.

Along with his famous racing father Bobby and uncle Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett, and Red Farmer, Davey Allison was a famed member of the Alabama Gang.

Allison began his Cup career in 1987 winning Rookie of the Year honors. He was the only rookie ever to win two Winston Cup races.

At the start of the 1988 season Davey Allison finished second to his father Bobby Allison’s victory at the Great American Race. This was the first father/son one/two finish in the Daytona 500.

Life changed irreversibly in June of 1988 when father Bobby Allison was involved in a career-ending accident that propelled Davey Allison, the oldest of four children, into the role of decision-making man of the family.

In October 1988 Robert Yates bought the #28 team from Harry Ranier landing Yates as Allison’s team owner. 

In addition to the added stresses and family responsibility, Davey Allison went on to win his third and fourth Winston Cup races landing eighth in points for his second season in the circuit.

His four year marriage quietly ended by the end of the 1988 season.

1989 was a fabulous year personally and professionally for Davey Allison.  Earning his fifth and sixth wins in Cup, including the Talladega victory that was his second at the track, Allison finished eleventh in points. He also claimed his second wife, “Liz”, and welcomed his first child, Krista Marie.

Davey Allison racked up a couple more wins in 1990 bringing his total Cup wins up to eight. He finished thirteenth in points.

When Larry McReynolds took over crew chief responsibility for Davey Allison in 1991, the team really gelled. In that season Davey Allison had five wins, 12 top-five and 16 top-ten finishes, and three pole positions.

Finishing third for the year, Allison told champion Dale Earnhardt at the Winston Cup Awards Banquet at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City that the next year, “I’ll be sitting at the head table!”

Davey and Liz welcomed their second child, a son, Robert Grey in that same year.

Adding his name to the NASCAR history books once again, Davey Allison won the 1992 Daytona 500. This feat was the second time a father and son had each won at the historic track.

Injuries and tragedies plagued Davey Allison in the 1992 season, losing his paternal grandfather and later in the year his younger brother Clifford who was involved in a horrific accident in Brooklyn, Michigan at the Michigan International Speedway during a Busch Race practice session.

But despite these trying events, Davey’s heart-breaking situation did not tarnish his place in the Winston Cup point’s standings.

Coming out of Phoenix with a win and the points lead, Davey Allison was primed to win the 1992 Winston Cup, but fate was to intervene.

An accident involving Ernie Irvan, who had lost control of his car and spun in front of Davey Allison with less than a hundred laps to go, ended Davey’s chances at winning the Cup at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the last race of the 1992 season.

Alan Kulwicki would take that championship beating runner up Bill Elliot and leaving a disappointed Davey Allison third in points to end the season.

A frustrating start to the 1993 season found Davey Allison, who was used to excelling at Daytona, finishing a dismal 28th in the Great American Race. The following week in Rockingham Davey Allison posted a 16th.

A win in Richmond would turn out to be the last of the young Davey Allison’s life. The first half of the 1993 season would be decent landing him fifth in points and determined to claw his way back into championship contention in the second half of the season.

But that was not to be.

Davey Allison, a novice helicopter pilot, wanted to support his fellow Alabama Gang friend Neil Bonnett and his son David as David was testing a car for his Busch Series debut at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on July 12, 1993.

Allison, who had also picked up legendary racer Red Farmer, family friend and member of the Alabama Gang, tried to land his helicopter at the track but crashed instead.

Neil Bonnett heroically rescued a semi-conscious Red Farmer from the wreckage but was unable to reach Davey Allison. Rescue workers arrived on the scene, freed Allison, and rushed him to the hospital with serious head injuries.

Davey Allison was pronounced dead on July 13, 1993, the day after the accident, leaving a family and a NASCAR Nation reeling.

In his stunted career Davey Allison posted 19 wins, 66 top-five and 92 top-ten finishes. He captured 14 poles and earned $6,724,174. He was survived by his wife Liz and their children Krista Marie and Robert Grey.

His death also left a gaping hole in NASCAR.

On the cusp of superstardom and potentially a candidate to win several Winston Cups, Davey Allison could well have cut into Dale Earnhardt’s record-setting seven championships, Jeff Gordon’s sensational debut in the series, and could have carried on the dynasty created by his father Bobby and uncle Donnie Allison.

The Alabama Gang is now mostly a memory with the loss of Clifford, Davey, and Neil Bonnett.

I was not a Davey Allison fan, but I saw his talent firsthand. When he passed it hit me hard. I mourned not only for a great racecar driver, but for a wife who had lost her husband, young children who had lost and would never know their father, a mother and father who would mourn the unnatural and punishing reality of laying to rest not one but two sons, and a NASCAR Family that would never see true greatness reach its full potential.

I often think about Davey Allison, Neil Bonnett, Adam Petty, and Dale Earnhardt palling around together, exchanging war stories with the likes of “Big” Bill France, Roy Hall, Red Byron, and Lee Petty.

NASCAR has given us many great heroes and stars to look up to, and many have been taken far too early.

Davey Allison was one of those stars that shown fiercely for a short while.

And a quarter century later we still remember him.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Vote Ryan Smith 2018

Why vote for Ryan Smith? Isn’t he like ‘the rest of them’?

Absolutely not. He is so far better than the rest of them. Ryan Smith is extraordinary and he deserves to be your next Hopatcong Borough Council member.

Ryan Smith is the proverbial best neighbor. He is seeking, helpful, and a great listener. He is a go-getter, a doer, a problem solver, and someone who works for Everyman/woman, not ever in it for himself.

Why am I an authority on Ryan Smith? He’s been my husband for 25 years and my forever love for 32 years.

I’ve been a front row observer of Ryan’s character, actions, and motivations for over three decades and can attest that there is no one better for Hopatcong than Ryan Smith.

As a teenager Ryan was active in the Boy Scouts earning his Life Scout rank, all of the merit badges necessary to earn an Eagle Scout, and worked tirelessly on a positive community service project any Eagle Scout candidate would have been heartily congratulated for taking on and completing. Unfortunately, a SNAFU resulted in Ryan NOT earning his Eagle Scout rank. No adult went to bat for him. Ryan finished his childhood career as a Life Scout.

Most would have turned their back on the program that turned its back on them. Not Ryan. Ryan always spoke positively about the Boy Scouts of America program and told me from Day One that whether or not God blessed him with sons, he would volunteer for BSA so he could do for others what others had selflessly done for him.

As luck and God’s blessing would have it, we have two sons and Ryan has been as good as his word and better. He’s mentored boys and adult leaders good-naturedly and steadily, never wavering from answering questions, guiding, leading, mentoring, and encouraging.

“Everything cool I ever learned, I learned in Boy Scouts,” Ryan has said throughout his life. And Ryan can do just about ANYTHING.

Ryan has earned all of his college degrees as an adult. While holding a full time job, raising a young family, and being a positive member of the community, Ryan earned two bachelor degrees and one master’s. As difficult as those years were, Ryan never gave up, never stopped, and always put 100% of himself into all aspects of his academic and non-academic lives.

As a Professional Engineer and Professional Land-Surveyor – an uncommon dual license – Ryan has always been the man who can understand/fix/communicate/draw/problem-solve anything that came to his desk. He is invaluable.

Recently, Ryan was appointed to the Hopatcong Land Use Board and has shared his expertise at the community level. This is a volunteer post that takes hours of his time per month. He does it proudly and pours over the work that needs his attention.

Now Ryan wants to serve you and me as a Hopatcong Borough Council member. His unbiased approach to problem-solving is so necessary. His vision for a better tomorrow for Hopatcong can become a reality if we – you and I – vote him into office.

Please, take a sign, post it on your property, share his information card, share this post, and let people far and wide in Hopatcong know that Ryan Smith is the right person for the job.

Please vote Ryan Smith for Hopatcong Borough Council on Tuesday, June 5th in the Republican Primary. It’s the best decision you can make for Hopatcong.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Four C's of Dale Earnhardt By: Candice Smith

Twenty years after Dale Earnhardt died I still remember him fondly daily, but especially on his birthday.
For those who never saw Earnhardt drive or be interviewed in their lifetime I’d like to explain, if possible, why Earnhardt’s mystique remains so potent so long after his departure.
As I pondered the question myself I came up with the Four C’s of Earnhardt, just like the 4 C’s of buying a diamond!
Because that’s what Earnhardt was, a diamond. Sometimes he was one in the rough, but in the later years Earnhardt was dazzling, rare, unique, and most precious.
And now, without further ado, are the Four C’s of Dale Earnhardt.
Charisma. A few definitions of the word charisma come from and are the following:
  1. Theology. a divinely conferred gift or power.
  2. a spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.
  3. the special virtue of an office, function, position, etc., that confers or is thought to confer on the person holding it an unusual ability for leadership, worthiness of veneration, or the like.
Earnhardt most certainly exuded charisma and definitely seemed to have been conferred a gift or power. His influence is so strong it has long outlasted his life on Earth. He was a leader and was and still is revered among a great many.
In addition, Earnhardt was a marketer’s dream. Tall, statuesque, strong physique, and with that ever-present signature mustache and twinkle in his eye, Earnhardt had that special something that led people to not only trust him but to like him, really like him.
People wanted to stand in a room with Earnhardt, be at his side when he was telling a story, and be the one he was hunting, fishing, boating, or partying. They wanted to wear what he wore, drive what he drove, fly his flag, and wear something with his colors, number, and signature.

Clever. In the world of NASCAR or racing of any kind, you have to be most clever to make a career. Earnhardt not only made a career but created an Empire for the Earnhardts.
Whether it was owning his signature and marketing it on everything from playing cards to nice jackets and everything in between, or grooming his son Dale Jr. to be in the same business, Earnhardt showed he was the cleverest in the garage.
Calculating. No doubt about it, Earnhardt was always figuring out how to use his racecar to win. That was the goal each and every week. I never remember Earnhardt talking about points unless his team was fixing the car in the garage and he was telling a reporter they were trying to get it back on the track to make up some points.

Earnhardt was about winning and doing anything and everything in his power to do so. He would scheme to find a way to use his car and his intimidation to his benefit.
Winning was important to Earnhardt. Winning poles, winning races, and, of course, winning championships, drove Earnhardt to stay focused and determined.
He finally won at the Daytona 500.
And, on the last day of his life, Earnhardt was calculating how to put his DEI drivers into Victory Lane at the Great American Race.
Character.  Earnhardt was, without a doubt, a character in the NASCAR community, in the world of sports, and simply in the universe. He was well-known, respected, feared, loved, and cherished by his family, friends, competitors, and fans.
There are some who still might malign the man’s actions on the track, but usually that’s because they rooted for the driver Earnhardt beat that week.
But the fact that Earnhardt’s memory is so palpable to so many, his claim on their hearts so strong and pure, proves that his character was and is immeasurable.
Many who knew him say that when Earnhardt put his arm around your shoulder you knew you were in for something – counseling, advice, constructive criticism, or maybe a joke or a good word.
If Earnhardt was mad at you, you were certain to make it right as soon as possible. The only thing more intimidating than The Intimidator was when The Intimidator had a beef with you.
But Earnhardt had a huge capacity for love, a reputation for true friendship, and modeled hard work paying off in spades.
Earnhardt’s character was unquestionably the reason folks from all around, from all walks of life, looked up to and cheered Earnhardt’s No. 3.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wear the Swimsuit

The other day I was spending my lunch with my favorite ladies at my new place of work. We have shared all kinds of conversations in the past few months and we have become fast friends. The topic of swimming came up and one of the lovely women at our table said she wouldn't don a swimsuit so it was a non-topic for her. This made me sad.

My whole life I have spent swimming. I cannot remember a time I didn't know how to swim and I know I was always happiest in the water. My mother, too, loves to swim. She scoured the stores for beautiful swimsuits to wear in what is now considered a "plus-size". She has had hundreds in my lifetime. No matter what her size she'd find lovely suits, sexy suits, colorful suits to wear so she could swim.

As a child I always had a bigger frame than a lot of my peers. But I didn't care, I loved to swim and so I put on my swim suit and lived in the water. As a teen, when body image was most acute, I mindlessly put on swimsuits - some one piece, occasionally a two piece encouraged by my then boyfriend/now husband.

Candice and husband Ryan
when they were teens

As my body morphed and evolved through pregnancies, childbirth, and, yes, weight gain in middle age, I had different feelings about my form, but I have always, always, always put on the swimsuit.

I read once that mothers stopped being in the pictures taken of their children and with the family. They became the always-photographer so they could step out of the frame. Consequently, children grew up without their mothers in memories captured on film. It saddened me.

When I got my first flip phone with camera I started taking "Selfies", the word that has a terrible connotation. Once I got my first iPhone, the selfies became far more numerous.

It wasn't about being stuck up, vain, or crass, it was about seeing myself and forcing myself to accept and love me. Every time I do a "selfie" photo shoot I pour over the pictures and force myself to choose ones to post that make me happy. I post them to teach myself to accept the me of now, flaws and all. It's not easy, still.

A few summers ago I saw a news story about a woman who was plus-sized like me, but who wore a swimsuit, took pictures of herself, and posted them on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. She, in essence, was trying to love herself in the here and now so she could have fun and be present with her children. Boy, did that resonate with me.

So, since then, I, too, have taken pictures of myself in my swimsuit and posted on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. Like my other "selfies", it still takes me a while to find ones that I like and I can tolerate sharing with the world, but I do it. It's my gift to me and ultimately to my children that I accept me and I am a participant in my/our lives.

Hearing this beautiful, thinner, younger woman at  my lunch table lament that she wasn't ever going to wear a swimsuit makes me sad because I know the feeling. We are bombarded - women and men - in society with what we are supposed to look like. It's crap.

What I did was follow women on social media I want to emulate and who make me happy to see their form. Ashley Graham is a favorite of mine. She's the first plus-size model to win the coveted cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a few years back. She's modeled for plus-size store Lane Bryant, and now has her own fashion line for full-figured women.

When you see images of smart, sexy people with a form similar to your own, you stop hating on yourself so much.

If posting my pictures on social media helps another woman, or man, feel better about themselves and gives them courage to be themselves, then I'm pleased, But I'm doing this for me and my family.

Life is happening now. We aren't born with termination dates so I have no idea how long I have. I'm going to continue to live in the moment, post my selfies, #WeartheSwimsuit, and continue to learn to love and accept myself because if I can't love me, no one can.

Cheers to us, no matter our size, our hair type, or our flaws. Let's simply embrace and celebrate our fabulous qualities!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

And Still We Remember By: Candice Smith

Time stood still.
No one moved or breathed.
No one believed that The Intimidator was mortal.
Certainly he’d walk away from what looked initially like an innocuous hit into the wall.
This was Daytona, the track that Earnhardt won consistently at and even had captured a 500 victory three years previously.
A collective gasp was heard.
Hearts sunk.
Mourning began.
A line was drawn – events that happened before February 18, 2001 and after.
The day Dale Earnhardt died.
Accidents happen, but he’d always walked away able to race the next time.
Lives forever changed that fateful day.
Healing began.
Dale Earnhardt will never be forgotten.
His indelible mark is as palpable today as it was then.
Perhaps more.
Then Earnhardt had as many detractors as fans. Fans would boo, jeer, and argue what a terrible competitor he was. A cheat, some would say, or a thug on the race track. Fans of Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, and many other drivers couldn’t stand Earnhardt.
But when he was gone the enormity of Earnhardt’s death reverberated across NASCAR Nation and beyond.
Flags still fly proudly with the “No. 3” and Dale Earnhardt signature. His fans – ardent, loyal, passionate – still remember.
He was so much more than a NASCAR star.
Earnhardt was a sports icon, a business entrepreneur, a  farmer, a sponsor’s dream, a winning driver, a champion who tied King Richard Petty’s seven championships.
Earnhardt was a jokester, a fierce competitor, and a loyal friend.
He was a husband, business partner, hunter, and a father.
His legacy has made him immortal.
The name Earnhardt will forever be associated with racing – NASCAR –  and a host of positive things in the world as his family’s reach is constantly expanding.
Seventeen years later and the landscape has changed immensely.
The one thing that has not changed is the allegiance shown by Earnhardt fans. There are endless stories of how Earnhardt touched their lives.
Others have entire rooms filled with Earnhardt memorabilia.
What every one of those fans has in common is their love, admiration, and adulation of Dale Earnhardt.
Seventeen years on, as much that has changed, the Earnhardt fans stay the same.