Friday, January 31, 2014

Tough Love

Marvel, we need to talk. 

You know I love you.  I've watched The Avengers about 400 times (three times in theaters, approx 398 between DVD and Netflix), I've pleaded with you to give my favorite character some love, and so on.  I've even tried to deal with the fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is kind of disappointing (though there's a related issue there that we'll get back to in a minute).  And I couldn't possibly be more excited for Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier.  Which is why we need to talk about this poster: 

 

This thing is a hot mess.  But we're not even going to talk about the orange and blue-ness, or the fact that an aircraft is careening straight for Robert Redford, or the general ADD-chihuahua-on-meth business of it all.  We have bigger fish to fry.  Two pretty big fish, in fact. 


Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Island

A terrible thing happened today. 

It didn't happen to me, but it's touched a lot of people I know.  Someone much beloved by many of my friends is gone and he left in a terrible, difficult to understand way. 

I'm not going to tell you about my feelings because this isn't my tragedy.  I never met Justin.  We spoke once or twice in the RDA chat, but that's about it.  I'm not going to claim ownership of this pain though I sympathize with that of his friends and family. 

Instead, I'm going to talk about pain.  The kind of pain that exists inside you like some terrible island on which you're marooned alone with someone who hates you and knows all your soft targets. 

Maybe you don't know that place.  Maybe you can't even imagine what kind of pain could make somebody want to take their life.  I hope you don't. 

I've written about depression a lot here.  I've written about my personal battle with it, which is one I still fight every day.  And the circumstances of my life of late – which I won't go into here – have left me in that place more than once lately.  That horrible, "please don't let me wake up tomorrow, they'd be so much better off without me, I can't take it anymore" place. 

What gets me out of that place?  Different things.  Sometimes a friend helps me, sometimes my family.  Sometimes I just ride it out and hate myself for it. But part of me is always stuck on that island.  Even on good days, the Smoke Monster* is lurking somewhere in that jungle waiting to reflect all my greatest failures back at me until I crack. 

If you don't know that place, it's hard to even fathom it.  Even if you do – if you live there yourself – it doesn't fully make sense.  I know why I should be gone, but anyone else?  It's insane.  

And it is.  It's insane.  But it's also real. 

Some of you do know that place.  Some of you are there right now.  And to you, I beg:  don't suffer alone.  Don't let that monster inside you who hates you be the only voice with whom you converse.  Talk to someone.  Reach out to a friend, or to family, or to a hotline.  Because however hopeless it seems and however alone you feel, somebody in this world loves you.  Somebody wants you here.  Somebody will be devastated to lose you. 

Don't get caught up in trying to get off the island for good.  If you're like me, you'll wind up back there many times in your life.  But what I've learned is that getting back there isn't failure – you just have to know that it isn't forever. 

A lot of days right now my situation seems too much to bear.  A lot of days I wake up only able to look forward to going back to sleep.  I know how it feels to look down the tunnel and see no light.  But I also know that my brain hates me and I can't always trust it.  I know I have to ask other people for help sometimes.  I know that if I can find it in me to fight it can get better. 

If any good is to come from this, it's in the people who loved Justin (whether as a friend or as a personality) learning from the loss of him. 

Don't suffer alone.  Don't hide.  Don't let it win.






*Sorry.  Once the island metaphor happened, a LOST reference became inevitable.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Catherine the Great

Catherine Deenihan, 1941-2013.
My mother passed on Saturday, on what my sister Nancy says were her own terms: privately, with her loved ones nearby.  She left to the sound of her grandchildren laughing outside, one of her favorite sounds in this world.

After a hard-fought year of unsuccessful treatments for the leukemia in her bones, and even after ceasing treatment and handing her life over to God, she still found the strength (and perhaps the stubbornness) to do it her way. 

That was my mom.  She was both fiercely independent ("Don't 'should' on me!" was one of her mantras) and made of grace.  And she died the way she lived – with quiet resolve.

Mom (Kitchie to close friends and family, otherwise Catherine – never Cathy) was born in Islip, NY in May of 1941, the youngest of her parents' four children.  Being the youngest child of a widowed mother who worked as a nurse taught her the value of service and hard work, and as an adult she became a social worker.  (Independent even then, she rebutted my father's proposals of marriage until she could finish her degree at Misericordia University.)  She worked in family services for years before spending most of my life working as a substance abuse counselor, first in county clinics and then in the county jail.

She had a special combination of hard and soft that made her able to do her job – my mom was one of the toughest people I have ever known, and I can barely recall her ever fearing much of anything.  But she also possessed a heart filled with compassion and kindness and a faith that could fill a church on its own.

When Mom first got sick, I was beside myself with anger.  It's so unfair, I said to her.  You've barely had time to deal with losing Dad.  Couldn't God give you a break?  I'll never forget her reply: she told me not to be upset, that she was grateful for her many blessings.

"I only ever asked for the strength to take care of your father," she said.  She told me that she had gotten that, and trips to Maine and Ireland after his death, and that she was going to be getting excellent care.

That was my mom too.  No matter how bad things got, she was always grateful for what she had.  And she always had faith that things happened for a reason, and that God would keep her on the right path.  "God provides," she'd always tell me.

Mom taught me so much that I still carry with me, and so much more that I try to emulate with middling success.  She raised my sisters and I to be ladylike but strong, to be compassionate and always consider the feelings of others, to be self-sufficient but charitable.  She taught etiquette and decorum with such effect that to this day I cringe to see what most of my friends consider old-fashioned norms eschewed.  (I'm the ninny who insists on covering my shoulders at a church wedding no matter how liberal the parish, because if I don't my mother will know.) If my mother knew you, she knew your birthday, anniversary, and any other pertinent occasions, and would make every possible effort to properly commemorate them and make sure you felt special. 

And she was fun.  She had a quick and often wicked sense of humor.  She loved to laugh – and no one could make her laugh like her grandchildren, who she prized above any possible treasure this world could offer.
Mom with her four favorite people:
Holly, Patrick, Keira, and Dan.

It's funny the little details you remember of a person.  I remember riding in the car with my mom years ago – I've long since forgotten where we were going, but I remember her singing along to the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" on the oldies station.  I remember how much fun she had imitating the Bopper's deep voice.  And a ponytail, hanging doowwwnn...

The past year was a trial for her.  But what's struck me more than anything is how calm, how strong, how grateful she remained all along.  She didn't give up and she didn't linger in despair.  Instead she gave thanks and clung to her faith for strength.  She took comfort in her family and friends, and fought every second to live with dignity and grace to her last breath.  And she left on her own terms, at peace with her life and with her death.

Watching her has made me want to follow her example.  I try.  I don't know if anyone can ever truly fill my mother's mold, but the best way I can think of to honor her is to try.  And to always be thankful for the many blessings life has given to me.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Show Must Go On!

It really must! 

Last year many of you were generous enough to support my IndieGogo campaign to buy equipment to start my own webseries.  With that money I got a camera, software, a microphone, and some other accessories.  (I already have a green screen and am trying to figure out what one does with footage shot in front of it.)

Since then a lot of you have asked me when the show will be up and running.  And the answer is... I hope very soon. 

I could tell you that I started a new job a month ago and have been adjusting to a new schedule, and that I'm trying to do home repairs and eventually move, and that there have been various other distractions.  And all of that is true.  But the simple truth is that the hold up boils down to one thing:

I have no idea what I'm doing. 

I've never done this before!  I've never used a camera this advanced, or edited footage beyond that one vlog that one time, or used a green screen, or converted screencaptures to footage, or, or or... and it's all sort of intimidating and overwhelming.  And when I get intimidated and overwhelmed I have this awful habit of procrastinating.  Aaaaaaand that's really what's been going on.  I've been looking at all this stuff and tinkering with it and then going OMG SCARY! and backing off. 

Which is pretty silly, isn't it?  There's only one way to figure out how to do this, and that's by doing it. 

So I'm making a game plan.  I'm making up a list of dumb questions to ask the producers I know.  I'm reading user's manuals (exciting!).  I may do some off-the-cuff livestreaming to try and tinker at some point. 

And with any luck this will yield a web series for all of you to heckle and/or enjoy pretty soon.  My goal date is to have something to show you by the 4th of July.  That gives me a month and a half to do some studying and make something.  And maybe that something will even be half decent! 

I also have about six or seven blog posts kicking around my head that I haven't written because I don't spend nearly as much time at the computer as I used to these days. (And yes, the meatspace is scary.  But sometimes it's also fun and sometimes it also pays you money.  Sometimes both.)  But I'm going to try and update this little corner of the internet more often as well. 

All of that said, thank you again for your generosity and patience.  I shall endeavor to make it worth your while in as many non-porny ways as I can muster. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Oz is so pretty, oh so pretty... vacant.

"We're off to see the witches, the wonderful witches of Oz," I sung to myself as I settled in for an opening night showing of Oz, The Great and Powerful.  And there were witches... but not much wonder to be had. 

It's rare for me to go to a movie and not enjoy something about it.  I'll happily re-watch movies I know to be terrible because they're aesthetically interesting to me (see: Hannibal), or because the lead actor makes great eye candy and there are some great performances wrapped in crap (see: Wolverine: Origins), or because they're just ridiculous and fun (see: Shoot 'Em Up, Bring It On, Transporter 2).  Most of the time I can find something about a movie to enjoy.  So it was a weird feeling to be sitting in that theater last night feeling completely disconnected.  Bored, even.  The Land of Oz should never be boring, and neither should anything involving Sam Raimi and/or Rachel Weisz.  But this movie somehow manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

From here on in there will be spoilers, so consider the page break your warning.  Follow the yellow brick road at your own peril...


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Irish Fairy Tales

I mentioned in an earlier post that I took a trip to Ireland late last year.  If you're lucky enough to have been to Ireland you know what a beautiful place it is.  But even if you haven't visited you're probably aware of Ireland's rich history of folklore and storytelling.  And it just so happens that on our trip, we created a few stories of our own.

I promised my mother I would write these down for her.  I've been slacking on doing so.  So, Mom:  sorry this took so long!  I hope I did justice to these fun anecdotes from our trip.

The Gruber Ghost of Adare

The cemetery is very old, and sits in a quiet little section of Adare away from the tourist destinations and shops.  The church around which the graveyard sits has long since crumbled to ruins, and for years the place was overgrown with brush and greenery.

Only recently has the old cemetery been cleared – and that is, perhaps, how the Ghost escaped.

You wouldn't expect a German ghost in a small Irish cemetery.  And though you'll hear many stories of how he came to be there, no one person can say for sure.  All that is known is that on one grey, windy day, the tumbled tombstones inside the crumbled church were disturbed.

It was quiet enough at first that you could easily think you had imagined the sound, or that the wind had rattled something and caused the noise. But soon the quiet mutterings grew louder and there could be no mistake.  Something was awake inside...

The clouds darkened, and the wind whipped, and a lonely face appeared between the stones of one long-fallen wall.

"I'm a long way from home," you might have heard him say, if you were close enough. (Or you might not.  The voices of ghosts are soft and easily carried away on the breeze.)  "How will I get out of here?"

And the Gruber Ghost began to climb.  He tested each wall, until finally he found a very tiny opening that spilled out onto a very tiny path.

And the Gruber Ghost began to crawl, and to squeeze, and finally he tumbled to the ground.

And had you been there, you may have seen the clouds part just the slightest bit.  You may have seen the sun break through for a few seconds between drizzles of rain.  You may have felt the gusts calm to a quiet whisper of a breeze carrying a lost traveler home.   

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Brief Interlude

I do not like you, 50 Shades.
There are far superior marital aids.

I do not like your hacky prose,
In fact I think it really blows.

And though I would like slimmer hips,
I doubt I'll get them by biting my lips.

So take this "workout" thing and shove it –
even if the sheltered housewives love it.

I do not like you, 50 Shades of Grey,
When oh when will you go away?!



(Actual content coming later this week.  Promise.)