January 2014

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Pariah – As difficult as it can be to navigate the waters of high school, imagine the added burden of being lesbian in a community generally not accepting of gay people. The poignant rendering of crushes and confusion, love and family, of caring for those who matter most, and being rejected by them, too. It broke my heart and put it back together again.

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 – This was not my top choice, by any stretch of the imagination, but the hubster l o v e s them, and I love a good documentary, so there you go. Watch the band tour the world in their very own 757, piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson (No kidding! And he’s quite serious about it, too) and called, rather appropriately, Ed Force One, after their mascot of sorts, if you aren’t in the know. These are terrific men and musicians. Case in point, to quote guitarist Janick Gers, “If you like our music, God bless you. And if you don’t like our music, God bless you, too.” All class. They care deeply about each other, the music, and their legions of fans. I had no idea there were so many. From Mumbai to Columbia (!), they sell out shows, delivering joy and hope along with some seriously rockin’ tunes.

Starbuck – Kindhearted and a bit of a baffoon, David Wozniak is in a bit of a bind. His girlfriend is pregnant, he owes some serious money to a loan shark, and he’s just learned that he is the father of more than 500 children, via sperm bank donations as a youth. Determined to change and be a good parent to his unborn child, he begins to secretly help the 142 now adult children who’ve filed a class action lawsuit against him to learn his identity. Silly and sweet and very touching, too!

Upstream Color – A woman comes under the spell of a thief and loses all that she has, nearly all that she is, too. Later, she meets a man on a train with the same affliction. They fall in love and unravel the mystery of their meeting and strange bond. Beautiful and wild and one heck of a mind bender. Oh golly, Shane Carruth, do I ever love your fil-ums!!

Fat Kid Rules the World – Fat kid Troy nearly takes his life by jumping in front of a bus. His effort is thwarted by Marcus, a drug addict from his high school. They become friends and form a band, despite the fact that Troy knows nothing about music or how to play the drums, online gaming being more his shtick. Hijinks, much drumming, disappointment, and redemption ensue. A new twist on an old story, I suppose, and I liked it.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? follows the career of Norman Foster, from his very humble beginning on the wrong side of the tracks (literally) to designing some of the world’s most iconic structures. How I love to see great minds at work. And then there are the buildings, swoon!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – filled with every possible cliché about being young, gay, depressed, and misunderstood, but delivered in such a fine package that I did not care.

Kon-Tiki follows the true story of Thor Heyerdahl (plus four crew men and a parrot) on his 1947 quest to prove that Peruvians sailed the South Pacific to discover Polynesia. This is a great example of what can be done without the aid of modern implements and a good head on one’s shoulders, however frightening and stressful. As a matter of fact, I kept shouting, “this movie is so stressful!” at the television while we watched. Yeah, I’m dorky like that.

Everybody’s Fine – Frank Goode, bored and lonely after losing his wife, decides to take to the road to visit his four children, though he only manages to see three. Their love is awkward and strange, now that their mother, the glue of the family, is gone, and each, in their own way, lies to him, about who they are, their own lives, and the whereabouts of their missing brother. A splendid tale of coming to terms with who we really are. A side note: the fact that I am now middle aged and that Robert DeNiro sometimes moves and gestures like my dad had me pondering the big questions and balling like a baby, too.

And now, for something completely different –  I was walking behind this couple, heard snippets of their conversation and saw the way their arms were entwined, the way they leaned in and laughed, and it made me so happy to witness. My pace can be fierce and I passed them, nearly all the way, but then I turned and remarked on how adorable they were and asked for a picture. I am so glad they obliged!


Hello, and happy Monday to you!

I’m gonna make this lickety-split quick because I need to exercise, specifically push-ups with Shiva Rea for my challenge.

If you are a local and like the arts, more specifically, modern dance, please do yourself a ginormous favor and buy tickets to POV Dance 3×3! I went last weekend and was dazzled, truly. It was unlike anything I have ever seen, beautiful and evocative, like a dream:

You converge with other people, small groups of them. It’s a modern space in an old building, exposed brick and beams. There is a film playing, of dancers using the very walls that surround you. Suddenly you realize the dancers are there, behind you, next to you, so close you can hear the slap of feet and sigh of exertion and movement. You share a moment, eye to eye. They use their bodies to climb walls and banisters. They tangle, fly, slither. It is glorious, exquisite. They beckon you to follow, down dimly lit hallways, up stairs, around corners. More dancers appear. They change partners, seamlessly, beautifully. The air is charged with wonder, music, and their ceaseless dance. It’s is a mystery and a delight.

Here’s a little preview, too.

I liked it so much that I am going back with the hubster. Maybe we will see you there!





Isn’t it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience? Isn’t it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I’m alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky—as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.

Mary Oliver


So that post yesterday, maybe you liked it, which would delight me. Maybe you didn’t, maybe because you suffer from depression and want to smash my face for having the audacity say that shit will even work. You know what? Sixteen years ago, I would have been right there with you.

You see, I suffer from depression and have for my whole life. It has taken me to dark and horrid places, including first wanting to kill myself at the ripe old age of eight. I even started, with this blue and yellow jump rope. I wrapped it around my neck and pulled, tight as I could, until I realized I didn’t have the strength to finish and had no idea how to tie a noose. Thank goodness there was no such thing as an internet tutorial back then.

The depression waxed and waned, and the next time I felt suicidal was in high school, which is difficult enough, but I had a LOT of drama at home. The final straw on my fragile camel’s back happened when a “friend” super-glued all of my folders together in the library. In theory it is funny, and I would like to laugh about it, but, even some twenty-five years later, I am overwhelmed with the same feeling I had when it happened. The body remembers. I flipped out and was wise enough to tell my parents I needed counseling. It helped, and I actually felt good for a while.

Most often, my depression manifests itself as a gloomy heaviness and negativity with mind-blowing head aches. What actually led me to discovering that I suffered from it and not something else was a doozy of a head-splitter in my early twenties that lasted two years. My doctor gave me every medication and shot imaginable, but nothing helped. Which made me worry and feel heavier and my head ache more. It was an awful cycle.

I finally saw a neurologist to eliminate the possibility of a brain tumor. My first MRI, and it was scary! The doctor found no tumor but rather matter-of-factly gave me a prescription for anti-depressants and a referral to a psychiatrist. Zing!

She didn’t do a lot to help me, including putting me on lithium (very bad news for my body), save confirm the fact that I was indeed depressed (ah, the DSM IV), and from my history and that of my family, had likely suffered, on and off, since I was a wee sprout.

In some ways, the diagnosis was freeing. I did not have a brain tumor! I was not dying! My head was feeling better! But it did nothing for the heaviness, the inability to escape the couch, bathe, even blink. I remember my eyes burning from staring intently at the wall and me actually telling myself that it would be okay to do it, that it was better than the pain I was feeling. So sometimes I blinked, and sometimes I didn’t, preferring the pain and feeling like I deserved it, for some unknown sin (damned childhood Catholicism).

I should also mention that much of this happened in the first years of my marriage. How about them apples? More reason to extol the virtues of that hubster of mine because he helped me (and continues to do so) in ways beyond measure and tolerated a shit storm of wicked behavior on my part.

After giving up on my first psychiatrist, my neighbor, Judy, who also suffered from depression, recommended that I get a counselor and a psychiatrist; one for talking, the other for prescribing. “Because psychiatrists are lousy with feelings.”  My counselor’s name was Nancy, plump and pretty, with a sweet voice. I did not like her. She told me things like, “Take a bubble bath!” and “Make a list of what makes you happy!” Maybe like you yesterday, all I wanted to do was smash her face. She had not one fucking clue. So I stopped seeing her, stuck with my new psychiatrist, and coped as best I could.

I finally knew what was happening and had my meds. They had some wretched side effects, like hair loss, seeing stars all the time, and being dizzy while lying down. But, at least I wasn’t suicidal and my head didn’t hurt like it had before, though I still got migraines from time to time.

Then we moved to Oregon, I found a new doctor, and my life began to change. I asked him to renew my meds, and he suggested otherwise. I listened (and have not taken medication since). He had other suggestions, too, like lying to myself. “I don’t feel so bad.” “I can do this.” “It’s okay.” “That animal is not dead but, rather, sleeping.” He suggested exercising more, too, and I did.

That’s when I found yoga. And as much as this will sound like treacle to some, it changed my life. That first class was the first time I didn’t hear all the voices in my head telling me how worthless I was. Oh, gosh, I guess I forgot to mention that, the inner critic. Well, mine, like the amp in Spinal Tap, went to eleven. So imagine that, from eleven to quiet! And it helped with the pain of my endometriosis, too. I found my holy grail! Praise be to everything stretchy and bendy!

After that, yesterday’s list started to take shape. I read books and searched my soul. I saw another counselor. Flash forward to today. I now practice yoga at least five times a week. I walk. I dance. I lie to myself. I do everything on that list and more. So, sorry Nancy, maybe you did have a clue.

And, yet. I still get depressed and even suicidal, for though my nature is happy, my chemistry is not. I recently discovered that I have a genetic mutation that predisposes me to this, but I will tell you about that later. The fact is, I choose happiness (people hate that one, too), every single day, and work my ass off to keep the claws of depression from digging too deeply, from swallowing me whole.

How to Be Happy

I was recently asked if I was for real. At first I didn’t know what the question meant. Flesh? Blood? And thought, just to be cheeky, “Nope, I am the best fucking hologram you’ve ever seen. I’m just missing the tell-tale H.” Then I realized it was a matter of my personality, my happiness, my positivity that was being questioned. How do I do it? The world is so wretched and filled with inequity, cruelty, horror. There’s hardly reason to be so blithe. I beg to differ, from the depths of my being, with all I’ve got. I do. I do. I do.

So, much like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I’ve been counting the ways and whys, my modus operandi to happy.

1. Dance – Every single day. Around the house and yard. In the produce section. Naked, after a bath, laughing at the jiggly bits. In the car, radio at full volume. With a child, your sweetheart, best friend, a cat, ferret, or bunny. On tip toe. Do it, and be glad!

2. Be grateful. For every morning. I get to do it again! For every kindness and breath. For love. For friends. For hugs. For dust motes swirling in slanting beams of light. For bold type on crisp paper. For the truth (it is out there!). For lies. For barking dogs. For music. For food, water, and whiskey, a cup of steaming tea. For faded photographs and crystal clear memories.

3. Love your body. Love its failings, the throbbing temples, squinting eyes, fat thighs and bottom, the ache of neck and back. Love its beauty, the silken hair, the soft lips, the arced brows, the rosy, freckled cheeks. Love its strengths, to hold a soul, a pencil, a thought on the tip of the tongue.

4. Make friends with pain, of war, smashed fingers, murderous rampages, heartache, cruelty, never-ending endometriosis and ovaries that have failed. Treat it with affection and reverence.

5. Acknowledge feelings. Kindly sit with them. All of them, in still patience, no need for gestures or words. Let them BE – fiery, heavy, soft, and sweet, then watch them fly.

6. Be yourself. Do what you like and love. Examine, write, curse, ride, race, guffaw!

7. Listen. To others (wholeheartedly). To birds. To children. To Thom, Ella, or Jim belting out a song. To the rush of the earth spinning.

8. Look up and out. Flowers, insects, a universe await your wide and wondrous eyes.

9. Be kind and generous, to creatures great and small. Extend a hand. Say hello. Compliment.

10. Laugh. At farts, dumb jokes, and old-fashioned silliness. Most especially at yourself, when times are rough and good and grand.

11. Let go of all you don’t truly need. Treasures, knickknacks, humiliation, the unkind, the selfish, the drama queens. Send them away with love, if you can.

12. Surround yourself with happy. Books, movies, people, and thoughts. Happiness, everywhere happiness, and so it will be!


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