Thursday, December 13, 2012

And I'm ready to suffer, and I'm ready to hope.

This last week has been a total roller coaster.  And while I'd love to go into specifics, since writing about things is sort of how I process and organize them and make sense of this big crazy world as best I can, pretty much everything going on is of a nature too private for blogging.  (I know this seems like a weird thing to say given that I've written several detailed posts about the state of my mental illness.  But there are some things even I won't broadcast to the open internet.  Plus those posts had the capacity to incite helpful discussion, where going on about my current state of affairs would really just be airing dirty laundry.)  Suffice to say I've hit some euphoric highs and some crushing lows, and it's all been sort of mentally exhausting, especially coupled with working retail at The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

And all of that sort of got me thinking.  2012 has been a rough year.  I have this ridiculous apocalypse phobia – always have.  Since I was a kid I worried senselessly about seeing the End of Days and being crippled with fear as the skies go black and the seas boil.  (I was a melodramatic kid.)  So you can imagine how awesome all this Mayan calendar business has been for me.  And since I am also blessed with an advanced case of apophenia, every time some lunatic shoots up a public place or a massive hurricane devastates some place or someone starts making nuclear threats the shiny red CRAZY button in the back of my head gets hit. 

There's a point to this rambling, I promise.

Is the world ending?  Probably not.  But in a lot of ways, my personal world as I knew it ended in 2012.  I lost my father.  The end of my marriage was finalized.  Other little things along the way.  2012 was a year of (often painful) endings for me. 

So with that in mind, Ive decided to approach this "phoenix in the ashes" style and make 2013 a year of beginnings.  I've taken a few hits and been surprised at the fact that I was able to pick myself up and dust myself off.  But before my standard of living somehow gets stuck on survive, I want to take charge a little.  There are things I want to do.  There are things I need to do.

I've never been big on New Year's Resolutions.  There's no real reason for this; I'm not morally opposed to them or anything.  I just don't do them.  So this isn't a list of New Year's Resolutions.  This is just... a wish list of sorts, I guess.  But it's the kind of wish list where no one can really give you the gifts on it but yourself.

Tara's 2013 Wish List (in no particular order)

• I need to write more.  Since my father's death and the post I wrote for him, a lot of people have asked me "why aren't you a writer?"  The answer is simple and silly:  I have no idea how one becomes a writer.  But I'm going to write more and see if I can figure out some way to maybe claim I'm a professional at it.

• I need to move!  I'm too far from my family, and that needs to change.  This one involves a lot of work, but it's time to get to it.

• I have a web series to get off the ground!  This one terrifies me, as I know not the first thing about scripting, filming, or editing such a thing.  But I've got tons of support of which I shall endeavor to prove worthy.  First step is learn how to use this cool-looking camera I now own...

• I need to be a better daughter/sister/aunt.  Family, I love you.  I don't see you enough, or help you enough, or call enough.  You've all been there for me when I needed it and I can never really tell you how grateful I am to have you.  But I love you immensely and aim to be better at showing you that.


There are more things, but it gets all weird and way too personal and detailed and it's mostly stuff the open internet wouldn't care too much about anyway.  The long and short of it is this:  2012 put a period on a lot of things for me.  I'm looking to make 2013 the start of the next chapter.

There's a particular Counting Crows song that I always tend to listen to a lot this time of year.  It suits the frozen melancholy of a New England winter really well, and in my most depressed of states it speaks to a certain wistful hope for a better future.  But it's also a bit passive.  So this year I'm going back to my girl Florence.  (You can never go wrong with Florence.  This is a great truth of my life.)  This song lifted me up during some of my darkest moments this year, so it seems a more fitting theme going forward:

It's also where the title of this post comes from. 

Whatever kind of 2012 you had, I wish you a successful, awesome, and scary in the best of ways 2013.  That's the kind of year I'm aiming to have. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I'm (Not) A Slave 4 U

So I've already covered some helpful tips for making the holiday shopping season a less stressful experience for everyone.  That was the nice version.  This is the slightly less nice, perhaps a little bitter version. 

Somewhere along the line it became acceptable – at least in the States – to treat retail and other service workers as somehow less than ourselves.  I blame the "customer is always right" mentality.  This business strategy has led us to a point where the consumer knows that he or she can literally abuse the employees and rules of any given business and never face any retribution, because heaven forfend that business cost itself a sale or suffer a negative online review.  You can complain about almost anything, however ludicrous, and expect to receive an apology and probably a coupon or free item.  You can return items past the return date stated on your receipt, or without a receipt, or items that an employee saw you steal, and expect to get a refund.  Because if we say "no," you might not shop with us (or steal from us) again.

I'm not saying everyone abuses the system.  I'm not saying everyone is a bad customer.  But my experience has shown me that an appalling number of people have become so accustomed to being coddled that even the kindest souls simply seem to forget that retail workers are human.  So get ready to check your behavior – and if you're guilty of any of these things, think hard about how you'd feel if someone did any of them to you or about the hell you'd raise if a service employee acted similarly toward you.

Let's get into it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Merry Shopmas!

This is reposted from my now-dormant fashion blog.  Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm baaaaaaack!

Well, that's the plan anyway.  I work retail and it's late November, and that means my soul will belong to the mall gods for at least the next month, but my intention is to pull this blog back from the netherworld and get back to it.

And I mention the timing not just to make a blatant play for your sympathy, but also because it's topical!  Black Friday is staring us down and soon many of us will be fighting the crowds in search of gifts for our loved ones.  So in the hopes of making everyone's season a little more merry and a little less Grinchy, I give you:

Care and Maintenance of Your Retail Associate:  A Handy Guide for a Happier Holiday

No, this is not the new Romero movie.  This is your local mall.

 Before I start, let me say that this list is not just intended to be the grumpy rantings of a retail salesperson.  These tips will make your life easier too.  Some of them are common sense, some of them are common courtesy, but they're all good things to keep in mind.  That said, let's get into it:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nature abhors a vacuum but what's between your ears?

I have a crush on The Newsroom

The first few minutes went live on the web before the first episode aired, and I was quickly intrigued.  I was a huge fan of The West Wing and its "smart people talking really fast about smart things" formula, and I was excited to see this applied to broadcast journalism.

(Full disclosure:  I minored in journalism in college and considered a career in the industry.  I went a different direction partially because of exactly the media issues addressed by The Newsroom  – I say at the risk of getting ahead of myself – and partially because I wanted to do something more artsy.)

So that first clip is really well-known.  But the clip that reaches inside my chest and wraps its hand around my beating heart is this one: 

YES YES YES.  It's the speech I imagine my college journalism professor – a fantastic and smart man who taught his students to be diligent and meticulously ethical – would want to see on television news.  It's the speech I would love to see, and the speech that would get me watching a news show religiously (should I ever own a working TV again).

The show does fall victim to some trademark Sorkin pitfalls:  the male lead is a genius prodigy with daddy issues, there is angst aplenty about co-workers who can't admit they're in love, everyone is a super genius who talks a mile a minute, etc.  And the liberal bias is deep enough that you need a snorkeling mask.  But beneath all that, the show makes some very important points about the state of American journalism.

The graphic at the left circulated on Facebook not too long ago.  It's one of those "laugh because it's funny; cry because it's true" things for me.

I'm a self-confessed CNN junkie.  When I had a working TV or when I'm somewhere where I have access to and control of one, I'll happily leave CNN on all day.  I like seeing the different ways a story is presented based on the time of day and the demographic audience at that time, or the way the presentation is changed between daytime and prime time and the weekend.  But mostly I like a steady stream of information.  (It's the same reason I feel naked without my smart phone now – I can't stand feeling like there's something going on that I don't know about.  Maybe that's why I studied journalism.)

But I feel a little guilty for my CNN obsession, because I know that even though it's not as clearly biased as Fox News or MSNBC, it's still not presenting the highest form of discourse or anything close to a complete picture of the news.  (There are a few exceptions to this.  Fareed Zakaria has a Sunday morning show that deals with a lot of international news that the network at large ignores or under-covers... but it's hidden away on Sunday morning.)  I could listen to NPR or watch C-SPAN, but I don't.  I call myself a purist, but instead of going to the organic farmer's market I happily swallow the processed, preservative-laden canned vegetables from the local chain grocery store. 

So how do you fix the state of journalism when even those who love it fall into the trap of style over substance?  I don't know.  It's too late to put the advertising worms back in the can, so whether we like it or not, news and its presentation are a business.  Print journalism weakens with every passing day.  And while the rise of blogs and the internet provides a wider range of sources for information, it also skews the signal to noise ratio heavily.

For now, I'm content to get lost in Sorkin's idealistic little world once in a while and resolved to begin seeking different sources for my news fix. 

Post title is a line from this R.E.M. song.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Been Away Too Long

Well hi there, blog.  Remember me?  I don't really blame you if you don't.  I haven't visited much lately.  Sorry about that.

I started this blog because I wanted and intended to write more.  This was partially because thanks to certain online shenanigans I sort of have an audience now, but mostly because I like to write.  It's how I process things sometimes, it's how I express myself, it's how I'm most articulate.  And lord knows I've had things I wanted to write about the past few months... but I either didn't have the energy or the time or both, and I sort of lost the plot in there somewhere.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that my father passed away over the summer.  That, while not unexpected, was a tough time.  I still miss him a lot and I think about him all the time.  (When my car acts up I catch myself going, "OK Dad, I hear you.  I'll check the oil.")  For a while other things seemed less important in comparison.

I didn't write for a while because I didn't want the post I wrote about my dad scrolling off the page.  Or because I didn't think I could write anything else as good as I was told that post was.  But the number of people who told me I need to be writing suggests to me that the greater error would be letting myself stagnate.

So, here we are.

What's up with me?  Some of the same, some new.  My depression got really bad for a while, which is another thing that kept me from writing.  I got to a point where I felt totally overwhelmed by my life.  I felt trapped and alone and terrified and I didn't see a way out.  And then the weirdest thing happened...

I took a trip to Ireland with some of my immediate family.  Our family there had arranged a memorial mass for my dad since not all of them could come to the funeral.  The day we left I was hanging by a thread mentally and had no idea how I was even going to get through the week.  But something about that trip – maybe just being away from my life for seven days, maybe seeing family I never see, maybe being in such a beautiful place – helped me turn a corner.  When I came back I was amazed at how good I felt.  How calm and happy and weirdly zen.  It was like I just forgot to pack all the anxiety and melancholy that had been weighing me down and left it overseas.

For a few weeks I tread carefully, waiting for that high to dissipate, but it hasn't.  It's like someone ran an anti-virus program on my brain and gave me a fresh start.  Yes, I'm still on my meds.  Yes, I still need them.  But I'm in a better place now than I have been in a long time.

I feel stronger somehow, too.  I've spent a lot of time apologizing and/or carrying crosses that weren't mine to bear.  I feel more able to give that up now.  I feel like I can stand a little taller and look the world in the eye without flinching.  I feel better equipped to face my own problems and to not make anyone else's problems my own.

I don't know how or why it happened, but it's a pretty good place to be.

There's been a myriad of other things since then – family emergencies, car trouble, a million of the other random things that make up day-to-day life and would usually send me into a tailspin.  But I've been good.  I credit a lot of that to my mother, who has recently given me incomparable lessons in strength, dignity, and grace.  Some of it, though, I think is progress I made on my own. 

Anyway, that's sort of the State of the Tara.

I'm going to make an effort to write more, even if it's just silly pop culture crap.  In the coming year I'm starting a web show – a prospect which terrifies me, but about which I'm also very excited.  I'm sure I'll have things to write about that process as well.

I feel like I've finally gotten (mentally, anyway) the fresh start I've been seeking for so long.  There are still a lot of things I need to work out, but I feel a lot better about where I am than I have in a long time, and I'm incredibly grateful for that.  Right now I'm trying to channel all of that into progress.  And that includes this blog.

So in short, I'm back.  Nice to see you again! 

*Post title stolen from the new Soundgarden song.  Did you miss Soundgarden as much as I did? 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Open Letter To Mr. Joss Whedon

Dear Mr. Whedon, 

Firestar #1 cover art by Stephanie Hans
Since you're now officially on board to direct the sequel to The Avengers, and since you've mentioned how you'd like to add more female characters to the mix, I thought I'd take this opportunity to reach out into the internet ether to advocate on behalf of one of my favorite characters. 

And so I submit for your consideration:  Firestar.

Let me start with a little background: when I was a kid, my sister loved the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV show.  (Who didn't?)  Not being a comics fan until much later, Carter's Diana became the image in my mind for what a female superhero looked like.  Then I saw an episode of Spiderman and His Amazing Friends and was introduced to Miss Angelica Jones.  I was instantly enamored – a fellow redhead!  With superpowers!  This, to my child self, was the coolest thing ever. 

Years later I would discover a chewy nerd center beneath my ginger shell and would come to realize that while about 2% of the real world's population are redheads, about 40% of the comic book world's population are redheads.  But my sentimental attachment to Firestar remained. 

She's not the most appreciated of characters.  She's spent most of her career relegated to the background, a supporting character to the "real" heroes.  And since she was only ever a short-term Avenger, I'm not saying she needs to be added to the principal team.  She'd work well as a supporting character – someone on the level of a Maria Hill or (dare I suggest it?) a Phil Coulson.* 

Please don't hold the disco windbreaker
costume against her. She's a modest girl...

 In fact, given that poor Angel never developed a natural immunity to her abilities, you could even pull a Coulson on her and have her go down with radiation poisoning as a result of having to use her power during some random attack on S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ. (Because come on, we all know there's gonna be an attack on the HQ.)  That way she gets to do something cool, make a graceful exit in Act II, and perhaps drive the action of the principal team forward. 

I could go off on a tangent about how she could probably relate well to Bruce Banner as she'd share his reluctance to be a superhero and relate to the involuntary nature of his condition, or how she could provide a contrast to characters like Iron Man and Captain America for the same reason.  Or about how a Guardians of the Galaxy movie is confirmed and her ex-fiancee might be a bit connected to those guys. But that would make it seem like I've put way too much thought into this, and I wouldn't want to look like a crazy fangirl.  So we'll just skip all that business. 

Now I know what you've been thinking this whole time:  Firestar is a mutant, which means she's technically an X-Men property, which means she's owned by Fox, which means a Disney-Paramount owned property like the Avengers can't touch her.  And this is true.  But let's be honest here... I doubt Fox is itching to put her in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and nothing says you couldn't work around it by just referring to her as a "scientific anomaly" or something.  It's not like you'd be asking to pilfer Charles Xavier.  

...and she didn't want to wear this.
(It's my favorite of her costumes, though.)
There is also the question of canon, of course.  Firestar's involvement with the Avengers team comes along pretty late in their existence, and the movies have just picked up at the team's origin.  But if we were going to get that pedantic then the first movie would have involved Ant-Man and the Wasp instead of Black Widow and Hawkeye.**  Plus we'd be talking about Scarlet Witch right now which would bring us right back to that Fox problem anyway. 

And I realize that I keep going on about Angelica Jones, while technically the movie universe lines up with the Ultimates titles, and Ultimate Firestar is Liz Allan.   Call me a purist; I'd much rather see the original article up on the big screen.  

But back to the pitch. 

Angelica Jones/Firestar is the sort of character you don't see much in comic book movies.  She's quiet and modest.  Faced with the events of Civil War she chose to retire and lead the quiet life of a student.  She'd fit in well as a second-tier S.H.I.E.L.D. agent – someone who feels a responsibility to use her unique abilities to help people but who isn't interested in the spotlight.  She's the sort of character who would create a spin on the superhero genre you don't see very often.  Instead of someone who seeks out a certain destiny, she was handed a set of circumstances and chose to bloom where she was planted.  She's not dark or edgy, but she's still got potential to offer a fresh perspective on the definition of a hero. 

I might have some level of investment
in ginger Marvel heroines...
Plus, it would really help salve my rage after that whole Marvel Divas thing.  But I don't expect that to sway you overmuch. 

One of the things people discussed most about The Avengers was the way it managed to focus on the personal interactions between the characters without skimping on the action.  If you ask me, adding a character like Firestar helps this along, especially in the (assumed) absence of Coulson.  She's as close to an Everyman as you're likely to get in a super-powered heroine.  Added to the supporting cast, she could add some dimension to an already well-developed stable of characters.

And so, I write this overly long and perhaps too-researched diatribe in the vain hope that my old sentimental favorite will get her chance to shine on the silver screen.  I realize it's a long shot.  But heck, superhero movies are supposed to make us all gooey with wide-eyed wonder and belief, right?  You can't blame a girl for dreaming.

So... Viva La Firestar!  And if you just want to use her as a glorified extra,  I don't really have much in the way of acting experience, but I do have some limited experience with superhero-styled spandex.  Which I don't add in to be pathetically fangirly at all. 

Love and Kisses,
Ginger Fangirl At Large

*I'm still a little mad at you for what you did to Son of Coul, Joss.  That was cold. 
**But since we brought up Hank Pym, he did design the costume that would eventually protect Angelica from her radioactive powers, and there's rumors he'll be added to the next film... just sayin'.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fumbling Towards Byzantium

I haven't posted in a while.  Sorry about that.  But after writing about my dad, it's been a little hard for me to make myself post anything that will cause his image to scroll further down (and eventually off) the page. Something about it just seemed... wrong, somehow.  Like if I could just keep writing and let that post move through the queue I'd be erasing him or something. 

On the other hand, that post got such a response (both online and out in the meatspace) that I feel like I need to write more.  I've ignored that, whether out of lack of inspiration or out of fear of letting Dad's post go, or something else entirely.  But I want to get back into it. 

Some of what you may see here will be mindless drivel.  Or me babbling about pop culture, or me whining about why the Mets can't just play consistent baseball, or me scheming on how to get Firestar into Avengers 2.  Some of it will be higher quality content when the inspiration and ability strike me. 

And some of it will be continuing to talk about mental health.  I promise this is not going to become Tara's Depression Blog.  Pinky swear.  But some of you have said my posts on that topic really helped you, and writing things out always helps me to organize them in my brain, so I'm going to stick with that while trying to interject some other stuff as well. 

In a way I feel like I owe this to my dad a bit.  A lot of people at his wake and funeral asked me why I'm not a writer and I didn't have a good answer.  The best I could come up with was, "I don't really know how to be a writer."  But I'm reminded of the advice Neil Gaiman says he always gives to young writers:  "Write. Finish things."  So that's what I'm going to try to do.  Maybe it'll go somewhere, maybe it'll just help me keep my head organized and allow me to connect with all of you who read these things.  Either way I feel like it's a win. 

Post title is an unholy mashup of this Sarah McLachlan song and this William Butler Yeats poem.  Don't you judge me; I'm a complex woman.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Big Fellah

RIP Patrick Deenihan, 1931-2012.
My mom called this morning.  "Dad's gone home to Heaven," she said.   

Dad would have been 81 next week.  He's struggled with Alzheimer's, heart troubles, asthma, and a host of other ailments for years now.  He passed peacefully in his sleep; a blessing given how frail and disoriented he'd become.  

My dad was born in Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, Ireland in 1931.  He came to America in 1960, and he and my mom were married in 1967. I think it was hard from him always being so far from his family.  He and my mom worked very hard to make sure my sisters and I felt connected to our Irish family as much as we did our family in the States.  

Mom used to tell us, "All the kids think their dad is Superman.  Yours really is."  He was a brick wall of a man with what my friend Josh coined "Popeye arms," a former boxer who had worked farms and construction his whole life and could lift 50lbs. in each arm the way most of us could lift a baseball.  He was a titan with a thick Irish brogue and a voice made gravelly from years of smoking.  My friends would call the house and hang up in fear if he answered, and would stare at him with a mixture of fear and awe when they met him.  But once people got to know him they were always charmed by his witticisms ("Don't get smart, stupid;" "A shut mouth catches no flies."), his kind heart, and his generous nature.  He was a teddy bear wrapped in a grizzly's body.  

Which isn't to say he wasn't tough.  But he possessed the very Irish dichotomy between gruffness and sentimentality.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Running Up That Hill

So my last post didn't yield much of a response, which made me skeptical about continuing.  But someone suggested I keep going, and to be honest the process is sort of interesting to me, so I'm hoping that this doesn't get too boring or preachy or what have you. 

My intention writing these things is absolutely not to suggest that I'm an expert on mental illness of any type or how to deal with it.  I'm really only a journeyman at dealing with it myself.  But I've made concrete, trackable progress over the past year of which I'm very proud, and if what I've done and experienced can help anyone else, then I'd be thrilled.  If not... well, then I hope you don't mind too much reading what goes on in my addled little brain. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off.

After my last post (which got an amazing response, by the way, and I'm really grateful for all your kind words) someone asked me to write about how I deal with my depression.  I'm a little hesitant to do this for a few reasons:
1) I don't love giving advice.  I catch myself doing it, but I don't like it.  Unless someone specifically asks for my opinion I feel like it's not my place to assume I know better than they do what they should do – or that I know better about anything, really. 

2) I'm still a work in progress.  I've come leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, but I still have my ups and downs and I don't want to give the impression that I've got some kind of a miracle answer or that I've reached some great revelation of zen. 

3) Everyone is different.  What works for me may not work for you.  Every brain works differently, both chemically and psychologically, and the medications or devices that do great things for me might do terrible things to you. 
But bearing all that in mind, maybe I can still give some insight into what works for me and you can take it with a tablespoon of salt and adapt it to your own situation.   So here goes nothing...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Broken Bridge

Call this sort of a PSA if you like.  I've mentioned before that I have major depressive disorder.  I try to be pretty open about this and to be honest and public about how I deal with it and how it affects me because I feel like there's still such a stigma around mental illness (and such a belittling of depression in particular) that if I can do some small part by sharing my experience, I want to try.

So I'm passing along this study that I stumbled on tonight:
Crushing guilt is a common symptom of depression, an observation that dates back to Sigmund Freud. Now, a new study finds a communication breakdown between two guilt-associated brain regions in people who have had depression. This so-called "decoupling" of the regions may be why depressed people take small faux pas as evidence that they are complete failures.

Guilt plays a huge part in my depressive episodes.   I convince myself that the lives of those around me would be greatly improved by my absence, that every fight is my fault, that every mistake I make is a monumental failure.  And then I hate myself for being so narcissistic as to think I could have such an effect on the world around me.  I have my vicious cycle of self-loathing down to an art form.

The problem is figuring out scope:  everyone makes mistakes, hurts someone's feelings, scratches on the 8 ball.  But it's hard for me to figure out sometimes which setbacks are worth my anxiety, especially if someone is angry or disappointed with me over them.  So it's weirdly comforting to learn that there's a concrete reason for that.  It's even more comforting to see this:

"It's likely to be the sign of something that happened because of learned experiences, plus, of course, biology," Zahn said.
That means there is hope that people prone to depression could learn to overcome their guilty tendencies. Zahn and his colleagues are now collaborating with Jorge Moll, a scientist at the D'Or Institute for Research and Education in Rio de Janeiro, to try to train people's brains.

That's pretty amazing.  The brain, even when broken, is an astonishing thing. 

It's hard to explain depression to someone who doesn't have it.  It's hard to make someone with a functioning brain understand how much you're constantly fighting your own.  How no matter what you know rationally, there's always that nagging little voice that sows doubt.  How every failure is multiplied exponentially and every success is minimized.  How your own brain becomes your enemy. I told someone that it's almost like having an alter ego inside your brain who hates you.  A little tiny version of yourself, who knows your soft targets better than anyone, and has pinpoint precision when aiming for them. 

I've come so incredibly far and I'm fighting every single day.  I've seen concrete progress of which I'm incredibly proud, especially over the last year.  Yes, my brain is still disordered and sometimes I fall victim to it.  That will always be the case.  But most of the time I know how to compensate for it and/or bring in external help if I can't combat it on my own.  I've come to think of it like my bad knee:  I had to do PT to build up the muscles around my knee to compensate for what the joint can't do.  I've learned that I can deal with depression the same way.  When my brain starts to work against me, there are devices upon which I can call to pick up that slack.  It doesn't always work.  But as time goes on I find I'm able to make it work more and more. 

A few years ago the things that have happened to me over the last year would have killed me – psychologically if not literally. Now I feel like I'm much more able to handle things as they come.  I still have my meltdowns.  But I've come to accept that sometimes that's going to happen, and that if I let it in and let it pass, I won't waste energy trying to fight it off that I'll need later on. 

But it's hard to make someone who doesn't have my brain understand that progress.  It's hard to explain to my family what an accomplishment it is that I don't call out of work or cancel plans anymore just because I can't face the world.  It's hard to explain why I get so worked up over every little criticism or setback, even when I know it's irrational.

So when I see something like this, I spread it around.  Because every little bit of information helps.  Maybe it'll help someone who doesn't understand why they feel the way they do.  Maybe it'll just help the people around someone like me understand that we might not win every battle, but it doesn't mean we're not fighting. 

"I've come to embrace those parts of my mind that are peculiar and broken.  I understand now that's what makes my mind special."  -Walter Bishop, Fringe

Post title stolen from this song.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

All-Stars, baseball, nostalgia, and a little bit of regret.

I don't get it – that other team doesn't even have David Wright.
A press conference was held this morning at NYC's City Hall to announce that the 2013 MLB All-Star Game will be held at Citi Field.  This is pretty exciting to me as a life-long Mets fan who gets exhausted watching everyone in the free world tie themselves in knots with adoration for that other NY baseball team who shall remain nameless.

This means that next July, all of baseball will be abuzz about my team for a change.  For this reason I'm extra glad that the Wilpons (Worst.  Owners.  Ever.) have listened to fan rage and made changes to City Field in the past couple of years to make it a real Mets park instead of the Brooklyn Dodgers memorial it was when it first went up.  Do I wish it was called Bob Murphy Stadium?  Sure.  Do I think they should retire the numbers of guys like Carter, Hernandez, and Piazza and honor some of the team's more recent history?  Absolutely.  But I like seeing the old, battered Home Run Apple outside the main gate, and I like that they built a Mets Hall of Fame inside the stadium.  And as sentimental as I remain about Shea Stadium, I do like seeing home games in a place that isn't a total dump.

But I am sentimental.  Most baseball fans are, for varying reasons.  Mine has mostly to do with my dad.

My Dad
My dad took me to my first baseball game when I was 12 years old.  It was my present for graduating elementary school on the Honor Roll.  This was a big deal, because usually it was my mom who took us places – not because my dad wasn't involved with us, but he worked a lot and was active in the volunteer fire department, so most of our social calendar was handled by my mom. 

But this time it was just me and Dad and the Mets.  I borrowed my friend Jessica's jersey since I didn't have my own.  It was hot and sunny, and the Mets lost horribly to the St. Louis Cardinals, but I didn't care.  I got to see Kevin Elster hit a 2-run home run (and see that apple rise in person!), ad Doc Gooden broke his wrist.  The guys behind us got kicked out for getting drunk and mooning the crowd.  It was awesome.

That was also the day I realized for the first time just how much affection my dad expresses through food.  There is no greater tragedy to my father than someone not having enough to eat.  He constantly worries for whether his daughters are well-fed, and at that game I think he literally bought me every kind of food that walked by in a vendor's hands.  I ate pretzels and hot dogs and ice cream and had sips of my dad's beer.  I had mustard on a hot dog for the first time.  I probably gained five pounds in three hours.

That day is one of my favorite memories of my childhood and of my dad.  And in a weird bit of symmetry, the Citi Field All-Star Game is tentatively scheduled to take place on his 82nd birthday.  My first thought was, "Oh wow, I have to save up so I can take Dad to the game!"  Because I'd love to repay him for that experience, and for giving me a love of baseball.

But my dad isn't in great health, so it probably isn't a realistic dream.  It's too bad.  He still smiles when I talk about how the Mets did last night when I see him.  He still watches the games.  I think if he were up to it, he'd have a lot of fun.

A friend of mine suggested I make a little mini-All Star Game for him at home – get vendor-type food, a few cheesy souvenir cups and/or foam fingers, and watch the game with him at home.  That might be a good idea.

Whether I get to watch the game with my dad or not, I'm definitely looking forward to a week's worth of baseball festivities focused on my team.  I hope David Wright enters the Home Run Derby again.  I hope the National League wins, and that the World Series is at Citi Field too.  And I hope one way or another I get to experience all that fun with the man who made me the fan I am today. 

Mayor Bloomberg and the Mets ownership announcing the 2013 All Star Game with Mr. Met.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Walk Unafraid... and Unstupid.*

I've mentioned before that I work retail.  More specifically, I work retail in a mall.  This means that I spend an awful lot of time dealing with crowds of people.  This means that I spend an awful lot of time being really really frustrated at the appalling percentage of people who have no idea how to conduct themselves in public.  Somewhere along the line little things like etiquette, situational awareness, and the capacity for simple thought went out of vogue.  I miss them.

But today's rant/helpful guide is focused on one specific thing: walking.  Sounds simple, right?  One foot, then the other.  But my day-to-day has taught me that an appalling number of people are either unaware or unconcerned with the greater nuances of walking in a public space.

And so I bring you:

How to Walk In Public Without Being a Moron

Rule #1:  Watch where you're going, dammit.

Does this seem obvious?  I thought so too.  But experience has taught me otherwise.  Do us all a favor.  Put your phone down for a second (or at least don't get mad when we laugh at you if something like this happens to you).  Stop reading the receipt from whatever you just bought or searching through your purse for your keys or whatever the hell you're doing and look at where you're going and what's around you.  We'll all be happier for it and you'll be less likely to wind up in a fountain.

If you need to do something that diverts your attention for more than a few seconds, stop walking.  Which brings us to...

Rule #2:  Watch where you're STOPPING, dammit.

Places that are not OK to just stop suddenly and have a conversation/look for your keys/drool on yourself:

• entrances, exits and/or doorways of any kind
• the middle of the sidewalk
• any aisle or walkway not wide enough for people to easily get around you
• the top or bottom of the escalator
• right outside the elevator

Would you just stop your car in the middle of an intersection?  No.  Because your car would get hit and you would wind up in a neck brace paying for someone else's car repair.  But the fact that pedestrian collisions don't (usually) end in fiery balls of twisted metal is no excuse to act like an idiot.  Take a few steps out of the doorway or past the end of the stairway.  If you're in the middle of a mall, step to the side of the foot traffic area.  In short, get the hell out of the way.  Other people have places to go and having to suddenly change course because you are unaware that other people exist isn't fun.

Rule #3:  It's a small world.

You're out with your five best friends.**  You're walking.  You're each about a foot away from one another and you're weaving together and apart like some sort of semi-sentient giant amoeba.  You're doing this at a glacial pace.  I HATE YOU.

I know we all like our personal space, but sometimes you have to suck it up for the sake of not being a jerk.  Other people will want to move around you, and you taking up as much space as possible and moving to and fro in weird, unpredictable ways makes that annoying, if not impossible.  Be aware of how much space you're taking up.  (There's actually an old Goofus and Gallant strip that deals with this, but I can't find it.  Oh well.)

By the way, this goes for those enormous monstrosities we call strollers nowadays, too.

Rule #4:  Watch your kids.

Kids are fast.  Kids do not understand (or much care for) logic.  Kids, while aware that other people exist, often don't give a shit because they're laser-focused on any one of 400 other things at any given time.  So if you're in charge of a kid in a public place, keep them close.  Hold their hand.  React in some way when they dart out in a random direction suddenly, trip someone, or just up and run away from you.  (Honestly, I wonder how more kids don't wind up kidnapped or accidentally falling into meat grinders with the way parents seem to ignore them, but that's another post for another day.)

Sure, you're not going to catch them every time.  But even trying means that you're teaching them how to exist in public, and that would really do wonders for the next generation since so many adults ambling around now are basically a lost cause.

Rule #5:  Passing lanes aren't just for drivers.

There's sort of an unwritten rule of escalators:  walk left, stand right.  Some people like to walk up or down the escalator for extra speed.  Some people like to coast.  Obeying this simple rule makes both kinds of people happy.

Do you like to walk slow?  Do you just mosey along, letting your mind wander as you saunter along?  If so... well, I just don't understand you.  But more importantly, be aware that not everyone shares your zen world view and open schedule and please get to the side.

Are you a speed demon?  Do you zip to and from your destinations like you're training to be the first carless NASCAR champ?  (This is more like me.)  If so, be aware that not everyone is in such a rush.  Look for courteous opportunities to pass slower walkers, and don't bump people as you zip by because you're too busy rushing to pay attention (remember Rule #1!).

There are probably a million more ways we can all be less annoying to our fellow bipedals, but these are sort of my top five.  These are the things about which I mutter under my breath while zipping and weaving through the crowds on my lunch break.  Got any other suggestions/pet peeves?

*Post title is a bastardized R.E.M. song title. I'm sorry, Michael Stipe.
**You clicked that?  You fool!  You're welcome for the earworm.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I haven't been posting much, have I?  I need to get back to that.  Sorry.  My life of late mostly consists of working, worrying about money, sleeping, and procrastinating on cleaning my apartment.  It's very exciting. 

But in the interest of giving you something to smile at...

This is the best thing you will see all day. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The boys wanna fight, but the girls are happy to rock all night.*

Connecticut used to have this independent rock radio station that played classic, alternative, rap-metal, etc.  I'd listen to it now and again when the local modern rock station wasn't playing anything good.  One night as I zoomed down the highway in my car, the DJ started a rant.  His thesis?  Women can't rock.  Every "great" rock act ever has been fronted by men, and he defied his audience to prove him wrong and then spent the next hour taking calls and shooting down every retort he was given. 

Joan Jett, circa the Mullet Years.
Fuck you, buddy, I thought as my brain quickly rattled off the names:  Chrissy Hynde.  Shirley Manson.  Lita Ford.  Joan motherfucking Jett.  Ann and Nancy Wilson.  Debbie Harry.

I hate the idea that only men can be rock stars.  Not-so-secretly, I have always sort of dreamed of being the lead singer in a band.  (Nevermind that I haven't been able to sing very well since I quit chorus in junior high...)  I'd be somewhere in between Shirley, Tori Amos, Florence Welch, and Lita.  It would be amazing.  (Trust me on this because I almost never sing in public unless someone puts Rock Band in front of me.  That game is like my kryptonite.)

But I digress.  There has always been a soft spot in my heart for chicks who rock.  Maybe it's because I'm a child of the 90s and there were so many great girl bands then:  Elastica, Veruca Salt, Garbage, Letters to Cleo, Shakepear's Sister, Joydrop (whose record label has sadly taken most of their music off YouTube save a few live performances), and who knows how many others I'm forgetting now.  Everywhere you looked there were girls in babydoll Ts and clunky shoes with guitars. 

Shirley Manson,
my personal rock goddess.

Not that it started there.  I already mentioned Joan Jett and Heart and Blondie.  So the idea to me that "rock" is somehow exclusive to the Y chromosome is just stupid and sad.  Do men hold the patent on rage, or on pent up frustration, or on sexuality, or any of the things that create a rock song?  They certainly don't hold any sort of ownership over leather pants, and I defy you to show me the man who can rock a satin mini dress and combat boots like my girl Shirley over here.  (Why did that look have to go out of style, anyway?) 

To be fair, my definition of "rock' is probably wider than that idiot DJ's was.  I happily include Tori Amos in that definition, for instance.  While most people associate her with tinkly piano and sad girl songs, she's actually done a lot of work with electrical bands and you just haven't lived until you've seen her hump a piano stool.  

Debbie Harry of Blondie.
Because let's be honest:  the sex plays a big part in rock and roll.  but to tell me that women can't possess a brutal, feral, vicious sexuality is like telling me that flan isn't the best dessert ever invented.  (Do not tell me this.  Ever.)  Look at Debbie Harry, or even the sometimes absurd and terrifying sexiness of PJ Harvey.  Or the way Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde can sound gravelly, then smooth as silk, then terrifying, sometimes all in the same song. 

Really what brought this wave of chick rock adoration on was the fact that I randomly cued up my Joydrop albums on iTunes tonight.  One of those, "hey, haven't listened to this in an ice age or two..." moments.  And I got to thinking how much I miss hearing a lot of that music more often. 

And so in that spirit, I made a little something for myself and maybe for you.  It's a loooooooong Spotify playlist (sorry, foreigners) filled to the brim with women who are sexy, angry, loud, angsty, peppy, riot grrls, disco queens, wailers, and everything in between.  None of it is in any particular order, so I recommend you fire it up, hit "shuffle," and see what the Spotify gods give you.  Maybe you'll hear a song you forgot you loved or find something new.  Either way I hope you like it. 

*Title is a bastardized paraphrasing of a Garbage song.  Viva La Shirley.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In the wee small hours of the mourning...

I hate these hours of the night sometimes.  It's when I'm awake, because my circadian rhythms were apparently installed upside down, and I've pretty much adjusted to that and made my peace with the fact that most of the world thinks I'm some kind of psychotic.  I just can't be an "early to bed, early to rise" type.  I've tried.  If I go to bed before 1am I just lay and stare into space while my brain does acrobatics of anxiety and dread.  But that's not what I tell people – I tell people it's because I'm a genius

It's not new.  In high school and college I used to stay up all night listening to the local alternative/new wave station on my little pink boom box and reading until I heard my dad flip the kitchen light on at 5:30am.  The overnight DJ always played the best music anyway. 

But it's lonely some nights.  The AIM Buddy List dwindles down to nobody, and Twitter and Facebook stop updating, and suddenly I'm very aware that it's just me and iTunes and whatever web pages I haven't already read or a book or whatever.  And my brain. 

I really can't be left alone with my brain.  Too long without something to distract it and it turns on me.  Little voices filled with doubt and self-loathing creep in at the edges and start to whisper the kind of thoughts I try to keep buried under constant noise.  Nightmares get remembered, anxieties and paranoias analyzed into madness, and little nighttime noises turn into horror movie scenarios waiting to be played out. 

When I'm alone I rarely bother trying to sleep until I'm utterly exhausted.  The longer I lay there without something to do, the more I start tying myself in knots.  Half the time I don't even bother with my bed anymore; I just sit at the computer until I'm literally nodding off and stumble over to the couch.  It beats letting myself think. 

Are other people like this?  Are there other people who need some kind of external chaperone to keep their own mind from hacking them to bits?  Who have to constantly find ways to compensate for the fact that they can't just sit the fuck still and think without it all going sideways? 

This is sort of a downer post, I know.  Sorry about that.  But I'm somewhat fervent about being open about my depression because I feel like mental illness still gets such a stigma that any little tiny bit of light I can shed might help somehow.   Plus sometimes all that really helps is exorcising the stupid thoughts from my head into some external format – it's a temporary purge because they always come back, but when all you've got is a Band-Aid, that's what you put on the bullet hole. 

Anyway.  Sometimes I miss that little pink boom box and the assurance it offered me that someone else out there was awake too and that I could think about something else for a while.  But one way or another, the mind always catches up. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome, 2012.

Happy New Year, everyone!  I know, I'm a little late.  My internet was down for a few days so please forgive the tardiness of my sentiments.

I hope you all had a fun New Year's Eve, wherever you were.  I always view NYE as an excuse to wear as much glitter and sparkly stuff as I can possibly fit onto my person.  A night to let loose and guide the old year out the door with enough fanfare that you won't remember it all when the next year begins.  A night where the mayor of a major city can begin peace talks with the queen of our new alien overlords.  
Bloomberg later stated that the denizens of Planet Gaga presented him with
a tome entitled "To Serve Man," leaving him optimistic about future relations.