Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams: The Death of a Funnyman | Why Suicide Prevention Hotlines Aren't Enough

Everybody is talking about Robin Williams.  He took his own life three days ago, and it shook the world.  We find it difficult to understand how someone who made all of us laugh so hard could have had so much despair in his own life.

As a person who has suffered with Depression for over two decades, I feel compelled to answer some of the questions and respond to some of the comments I've read and heard in the past couple of days.

I think something that people are beginning to understand from this tragedy is that Depression does not discriminate.  It doesn't matter how much money a person has, how successful a person is or how many admirers they have, Depression is a clinical illness that can affect anyone.  Unfortunately there are still those with the uneducated opinion that Robin Williams was "selfish" and that there are people worse off than he was.  To those people I say: It's just not that easy.  I will elaborate further in this entry.

In the past few days there have been many people with their hearts in the right place tweeting, Facebooking and blogging the advice to talk to someone, call a suicide prevention hotline, reach out if you're depressed.  That is really good advice for those who can take it.  The problem with severe Depression is that it changes our way of thinking and feeling.  When we are going through a bout of Depression, we hate the way that we are.  We feel burdened by ourselves.  We don't want to burden anyone else with what we are experiencing.  We believe the lies in our heads that we are unlovable, unworthy and we don't belong.  We tend to feel that others with Depression are more worthy of help than we are ourselves.  This creates a barrier which makes it incredibly difficult to reach out.

Many people have said things along the lines of, "If only Robin Williams had known how many people loved him," or "If only he could have had the joy in his life that he gave to all of us."  Depression is a strange beast.  A person can have much love and joy in their life, but when a bout takes over all of that love and joy is unreachable.  We don't forget it, we just don't believe it.  It doesn't fit in our state of being.  It's incomprehensible to us that such things could have ever existed or could ever again exist for us.  So, even though we have the memories of happy times, we do not believe that they were real.

Scientifically, Depression is caused by misfiring of chemicals within the brain.  When going through a bout we are physically incapable of experiencing emotion the way the average person would.  Saying that someone is selfish for the way that Depression took their life is akin to blaming a person for dying of cancer.  Do I condone suicide?  Absolutely not.  Do I understand suicide?  Absolutely.  Just as a severe bout of Depression strips one of the ability to experience positive emotion, those moments before one commits or attempts suicide are void of anything aside from pain and desperation.  Nothing else exists in those moments.  A person who is in those depths of Depression is enveloped in despair, fear and hopelessness.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel in sight.  It is as though the person is already dead, but it is up to the person to stop their own heart from beating.  When I look back at those deepest depths of my Depression I can literally see nothing but darkness.  There is no light in those memories because nothing outside of the despair existed.

So, what advice can I give to someone with Depression?  The most important thing is to establish a support system.  Talk to your friends and family when you are not going through a bout (or before a bout takes such a hold on you that you are not able to reach out).  Find out who you can count on and turn to when you do need support.  Not everyone is going to be someone to turn to, and that's okay.  It is essential to know this ahead of time.  Remember that when you need people the most is when it will be the most difficult to reach out to them.  No matter what your Depression is telling you, go to your support system -- that is what they are there for.  It can be hard to put into words what you are feeling when going through a bout, but even if you tell someone in your support system that you are feeling confused, they can help you through it.  If you are experiencing Depression for the first time you may not recognize it as such.  If you feel hopeless, worthless or begin to not recognize your own emotions, please see a doctor.

If someone you care about begins to act differently -- withdrawn, overly pessimistic, change in appetite and/or sleeping pattern, sad often, difficulty making decisions -- reach out to them.  Let them know that you are there for them.  It may be easier for someone who is Depressed to accept an invitation to talk than it is for them to take that leap on their own.  If someone you know is Depressed, don't wait for them to "snap out of it."  Urge them to see a doctor, remind them that you are there for them and let them cry on your shoulder.  If you think that someone you know is suicidal, don't ignore it.  Call an ambulance and don't leave them alone.  Depression is a serious illness.  Compassion and understanding can save lives.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dear Michael

A lovely lady named Willa has created a wonderful tribute for the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson's passing.  She has put together a Hope Chest full of letters, cards, photos, etc. from fans.  Today she brought the tribute to Neverland, where security keeps tributes for a while before passing it along to Michael's family.  I'd like to share with you the letter that I sent for inclusion in the Hope Chest.


This is not the first letter I’ve written to you.  The first was about twenty-eight years ago when I was eight-years-old.  I know that it never made its way to you, because I didn’t put a stamp on it and I simply wrote “Michael Jackson” on the envelope.  I wrote to you about how I was bullied in school and I felt lonely.  I’m not sure why, at such an early time in my life, I felt I should write to you about this.  At that time I mainly knew you for the music that I loved. 

As I got older, I began to learn and understand more about you.  By the time I was in my early teens I knew about your giving, caring and loving nature.  And I also saw that you were bullied by the media, despite all of the good that you did.  I couldn’t understand why people wanted to treat you so badly when you’d done nothing to deserve it, and I also empathized with you.  I knew the same pain, and I knew that you had to have felt it on a much greater scale than I did. 

I will never forget the first time I saw you perform Will You Be There.  It was on the MTV 10th Anniversary special.  Your emotion was raw and honest.  Your vulnerability was on display, and I melted as I saw a tear creep from your eye and slip down your cheek. 

When I was fifteen, I was shocked to hear the allegations against you.  I had friends who—although they didn’t believe the allegations—said that they weren’t really surprised by them, because of the time that you spent with children.  Nothing had ever entered my mind other than childlike innocence.  It pained me that something so innocent, pure and selfless on your part was turned around on you in such a cruel way.  I felt (and still feel) the need to defend you, because those lies were terribly unfair. 

I’ve suffered with pain.  Bullied throughout school, I always felt lonely, like an outsider, and that I didn’t belong.  Coming home was never better, as there wasn’t love in my family.  When people were yelling at each other, I would hide in my bedroom and listen to your music.  Your music could always help me escape.  A lot of people don’t really understand why my heart is so full of you, but for me it’s easy.  Although you could have never known, you were there for me when no one else was.  I saw your beauty and all of the love that shone from you.  I couldn’t understand how so many were so blind to it. 

You were an amazing person in so many ways.  As time went on all of the hurt and betrayal against you began to take its toll; your sadness showed, but you never stopped giving and you never stopped loving.  You took every ounce of what God gave you and you gave it to us. 

My heart broke when you left us.  I cried that day and for many days afterward.  Your presence in this world was gone, and it was so hard to accept that.  You left us far too soon, but as a whole, we didn’t deserve you.  Your heart was far too kind, and we broke it.  Your love and kindness were of a magnitude that most people could not understand, and so you were so deeply misunderstood. 


Although you tried so hard you couldn’t fix the world, but you left an undeniable mark on it.  You have inspired positive change in thousands and thousands of people, whether it be by giving, environmental awareness, kindness toward animals, inspiration to work our hardest, or simply doing things with love.  The world is far from perfect, but it is a better place because you were in it.  You were God’s glow.

I also sent a photo from Patience:



Another lovely lady named Rita went to Holly Terrace at Forest Lawn, where Michael is interred, and she brought a tribute that I made for Michael.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Micah Isaacs | a chat with a Michael Jackson tribute artist

Micah Isaacs, a Canadian Michael Jackson tribute artist, kindly agreed to let me interview him recently for an article in my blog.  I've chosen today to share the article in the spirit of today's release of Michael Jackson's Xscape.


In December of 2013, Regina's Applause Dinner Theatre hosted a two week residency with Michael Jackson tribute artist, Toronto based Micah Isaacs.  The event was a first of its kind at the venue, as well as a first for Micah.  "It might surprise people," Micah said, "but I actually only do three to five shows a year.  It was a great experience and I met some wonderful people."  Among those wonderful people were the members of local dance crew, Continual Surrender, who were Micah's back-up dancers for the Applause shows.  "The owner of Applause saw the girls perform at a local event," he explained how the dance crew got involved with the show.  "She got in contact with them and asked if they would be interested."  Choreography was worked out while Micah was in Toronto and the back-up dancers were in Regina.  "I talked to the girls through Facebook; sent them my instrumental tracks and tour footage from MJ.  The girls came up with the majority of it on their own in a very short amount of time.  They are very talented," he praised.

Micah's tribute show is very true to Michael Jackson's live shows.  He not only chooses the same songs that Michael played in his concerts (including a perhaps unexpected Jacksons throwback, This Place Hotel, and Jackson 5 medley of I Want You Back, The Love You Save and I'll Be There), but he also sticks to Michael Jackson's order of performance, perhaps most notably opening with Jam and closing with Man in the Mirror.  During Micah's performance of She's Out of My Life, he comes out into the audience and holds the hand of a fan while he serenades her, a nod to Michael's tradition of pulling one lucky fan onstage and dancing with her during his performance of She's Out of My Life during the Bad and Dangerous World Tours and You Are Not Alone during the HIStory World Tour.  Micah even asks, "Can I come down there?" the way Michael did during 1984's Victory Tour before descending the stage stairs to get closer to the audience.  Michael's fans will appreciate Micah's show as a perfect combination of Michael's concerts from the 1980's onward.  "I try to keep my performances very close to what MJ does," Micah said.  "I feel if I'm going to impersonate MJ I want it to be as close as possible, especially for [Michael's] fans.  MJ, for me, is all about attitude.  When I get on stage I try to put as much fire into my performance as I can.  I give all I have on stage."

Micah's ability to sing like Michael is an unacquired talent.  "It came pretty naturally," he revealed.  "I've been listening to his music all my life; maybe I learned to sing like him subconsciously."  Micah's replication of Michael's moves is amazing, but he didn't start to dance until he was 17-years-old.  "I have watched hundreds of hours of MJ footage and his moves just stick in my mind," he told me.  It was both Micah's abilities to sing and dance like Michael which drove him to become a tribute artist and his desire to become a tribute artist which drove him to work on his abilities.  "Even if I wasn't performing on stage, I would still be singing and dancing around the house because I just love doing it," he said.  "MJ is such a big part of my life.  I just try to imitate him as much as possible."  Micah's path as a Michael Jackson tribute artist began in 2002 when he auditioned for a reenactment of the Thriller video on the streets of Lexington, Kentucky and he got the role of Michael.  "I haven't stopped since," he said.

Micah has been a fan of Michael Jackson for the majority of his life.  "I have a drawing I did of MJ for Black History Month.  I was only five-years-old," he said.  "What draws me most to MJ is his personality.  He was such an amazing human being.  I can listen to him talk all day."  Like many Michael Jackson fans, Michael's untimely death on June 25th, 2009 affected Micah deeply.  "I was at home, checking the news," he told me of how he heard the news.  "It was hard for me to believe at first because I know how the news likes to make up stories, but the story seemed to not let up until they confirmed that he had passed away.  Honestly, since he passed I haven't felt the same.  I feel a sadness that I have never felt before.  There is definitely something missing."

Michael Jackson fans around the world have felt that void and even a sense of disbelief since his passing.  Days like today, with the release of Michael's second posthumous CD, Xscape, give us something to look forward to; some new songs to listen to.  His spirit shines through tribute artists like Micah Isaacs and gives us something to hold on to.   

Friday, April 25, 2014

I Won a Writing Contest!



The LOCKDOWN LOLITA Writing Contest was hosted by Cenobyet.ca.  The challenge was to write a postcard story or poem with the theme of Roller Derby.  Bonus points for working in dreadlocks.

I wrote a postcard story called "Unretired".  The winner was announced today, and it was me!

I won a pair of tickets to the Pile O' Bones Derby Club season opener and a meeting with one of the newest Derby Girls, Parks N' Wreck.  And bragging rights, which I am using right now!

Read my winning postcard story here:  Unretired.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shooting the Moon {Photos of an Eclipse}

I love the skies.  I love everything about staring at the stars, a sunset, a storm, clouds or the moon.  With ordinary point and shoot cameras I have taken many photos of the sky, but haven't been able to take a photo of the moon that doesn't look like a round, white blob -- even when the moon is low and big enough to eat your face.  Now that I have my first more than point and shoot camera, I could hardly to wait to try it out on last Monday night/Tuesday morning's total lunar eclipse.  I went out to my backyard and took the following photos.




























I took this photo within the first few minutes of the penumbral eclipse, just as the earth's penumbra was starting to touch the moon.  You can see the beginning of the pale shadow on the left side.  





























I took this photo when the moon was completely covered by the earth's penumbra, before the total eclipse began.  What I like most about this photo is how you can see a large reflection higher in the sky, like a moondog.  Mars is also visible just above and to the right of the moon.  A better camera would have gotten a higher quality photo, but I still quite like this photo.  





























I took this photo when the earth's shadow was covering almost half of the moon.  Again, a more expensive camera could have gotten a clearer photo, but I am quite pleased with my little camera that could.  

Unfortunately by the time the moon was totally eclipsed, and "blood red", the cloud cover was so thick that I could not get one decent photo of the moon.  I could barely see with the naked eye a few slivers of red through the thick clouds and fog, which made it extraordinarily difficult to find through a camera viewfinder.  The cold wind was also gusting so hard at this point that I woke up with windburn on my face on Tuesday morning.  

There are better lunar eclipse photos out there for sure, but honestly these are not too shabby for my first time photographing one.  My camera is a Fujifilm FinePix SL280, which is by no means a professional camera, but it's a pretty darn good starter camera for someone who is just beginning to get serious about photography but can't afford a DSLR yet.  I plan to gradually upgrade my cameras when I can afford to do so.  In the meantime, I love my little FinePix.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm a Girl Who Likes Cars

I don't know a thing about what makes a car run, or makes it stop running for that matter.  What I do know, though, is a pretty car when I see one.  I've been an admirer of classic cars since I was a young girl (no, they weren't new then -- I was a young girl in the 1980's).

This past Sunday I spent the day at our city's Majestics Car Show with my husband, my brother and my sister-in-law.  Kings Park Speedway had some cars in the show, so we spent some time at the display, but we also took the time to oooh and aaah over all the other pretty cars in the show.  I took photos of all of my favourite cars at Majestics and am happy to share them with you, so that you can oooh and aaah as well.































































































































































































Awesome cars weren't the only things on display.  There were also some pretty cool memorabilia collections on display, such as these Mork & Mindy, The Flintstones and Corner Gas collections:




























While you're here, I'll give you a quick look-see at Kings Park Speedway's display at Majestics.


Before I go, I'm just going to show you one more thing.  Anyone could sign Joe Yanoshewski's race car for the upcoming Tow-N-Go race with a small donation toward KidSport.  I plunked some money in the jar so I could scribble this little beaut on the trunk of the car:  


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Grilled PB & Apple Sandwich and a Better Bacon Cheeseburger

I want to share with you a couple of things I've cooked up this past week.  The first was something that I thought up for a quick lunch over the weekend; a grilled peanut butter and apple sandwich.  It was an absolute hit with my husband and daughter.


Ingredients:
  • 2 slices of Weight Watchers bread
  • 2 tbsp of Kraft Whipped Peanut Butter
  • sliced apple
  • light cooking spray

Spread a tbsp of peanut butter on each slice of bread, stick a few apple slices on there (I sliced my apple perfectly with the very handy dandy Simple Slicer from Pampered Chef), and close the sandwich.  Lightly spray the outsides of the sandwich with the cooking spray and grill in a frying pan until both sides are nicely browned.  That's it!  Quick, tasty and good for you!

You may be tempted to substitute the Kraft Whipped Peanut Butter with Kraft Light Peanut Butter.  Don't do it.  The light PB is more calories and carbs than the whipped.  The fat and protein are the same in both.  Whipped PB is your better choice for a truly light PB.


The second thing I want to share with you is Tuesday night's supper.  I have never in my life made hamburgers from scratch, and it's something that I really wanted to give a try since the majority of pre-prepared hamburger patties are shockingly fattening.  I tossed a few things together and the result was an absolutely delicious burger which is far more satisfying than any burger you'll find in a fast food restaurant or in the frozen section in your local supermarket.  Instead of fries for the side, I made Roasted Carrots & Parsnips, a Weight Watchers recipe.  They worked perfectly, because they are fry-like, but much more colourful, and tastier!


For 4 burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb extra lean beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Franks Red Hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 Weight Watchers hamburger buns
  • 4 tbsp Helmann's Light mayonnaise 
  • 6 slices Maple Leaf Ready Crisp bacon
  • 8 thin slices of light marble or cheddar cheese 
  • mustard 

Throw the beef, egg, garlic powder, Franks Red Hot and black pepper together in a mixing bowl.  Smoosh all of it together and mix it up with your hands.  I use disposable vinyl gloves for this.  Shape 4 burger patties and throw them on the frying pan.  I cook them one at a time.  Lightly spray the frying pan first if needed.  I use Pampered Chef's Executive Cookware Saute Pan so I don't need the spray, 'cause nothing sticks to that baby.  Put a lid on the pan.  Keep an eye on the burgers and flip as needed.  The burgers are done when there is no more red -- poke a little hole in them if you need to.

Put the burgers on the Weight Watchers buns and top each with 1 tbsp mayonnaise, 2 thin slices of light cheese, mustard and 1 1/2 slices (all cut in half) of Ready Crisp bacon prepared according to the directions on the box.  Enjoy!


The benefits of making your own hamburgers at home are endless.  This is a true quarter pound of lean beef.  McDonald's Quarter Pounder is a quarter pound of beef before some of the grease is cooked away.  A fast food burger still tastes greasy.  A homemade burger is pure flavour.  

A typical restaurant bacon cheeseburger is around 24 PointsPlus, and the smaller fast food bacon cheeseburgers average 13 PointsPlus.  And the medium fries that you get to supplement the unsatisfying fast food burger averages 10 PointsPlus.   

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm a Grown Ass Woman Who Loves Stickers

So, hi... it's been a while.  I'm gonna be honest with you; I didn't start the weight loss journey right away.  In fact, I gained a few pounds in between the last time I wrote and when I actually actively started trying to lose weight.  But that's okay.  It's okay because now I'm doing it, and it's better late than not at all.

I used to be a pack a day smoker.  I smoked all of the time: I smoked when I was socializing, I smoked when I was bored, I smoked when I was walking, I even took a smoke break when I was halfway done eating a meal.  I was a hardcore smoker, and I hated smoking.  I can't even tell you how many times I tried quitting.  There were times that I'd actually quit smoking for months, but the temptation to have just one cigarette was too much and I'd start all over again.  There were other times when I'd cut down to just a few a day, but I couldn't quite push myself to give them up completely.  For years, the cigarette was my best frenemy.  Then one day I decided call in some back-up and I bought the patch.  The patch gave me that extra push I needed.  I quit smoking, and I reached ten years of being a non-smoker this past October.  Giving up smoking was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but with a little help I was able to do it and not look back.  For this reason, I know that I can and will succeed at my weight loss.

Like quitting smoking, I've tried for so long to try to lose weight by myself.  My attitude was, "It's my weight, it's my problem."  But the fact is that there are so many people out there who are supportive, whether they are going through the same thing, have gone through it, or have never experienced it but support your efforts to change for the better. 

My in-laws have been on Weight Watchers for just over a year and they have lost 50 and 80 pounds so far.  Kinda awesome (and by "kinda" I mean "a lot").  So in December I asked my husband if he would join Weight Watchers with me.  On top of the support of the weekly meetings, we would support each other by doing this thing together.  Without hesitation he said yes. 

Adam and I each signed up for the Monthly Pass, which allows us to go to the meetings and use the online tools.  We go to the Thursday night weigh-in and meeting, the same as Adam's parents.  On the first Thursday of the month I have board meetings at the co-op where I live, so we go get weighed and come home before the meeting, and then go to the Saturday morning WW meeting that week instead. 

I think when it comes to anything, people have to find what works for them.  I know, it's cliche, but it's also true.  Not everything works for everyone, but something works for each person.  I love Weight Watchers because of the support and encouragement.  It's exactly what I need to keep on going.  Our first meeting was on January 23, so we are on our third week now.  The first week I lost 2 lbs, the second week I lost 2.8 lbs for a total of 4.8 lbs so far.  Only 0.2 lb to go to get my first 5 sticker! 

Yes, my 36-year-old grown-ass self just told you that I'm looking forward to getting a sticker.  At the meetings we get stickers to encourage us and give us little pats on the back for sharing our successes with the group.  And sometimes our leader just gives us a sticker when she feels we deserve them.  We are a room full of grown-ass people who love our stickers.  I got myself a little notebook that I can keep all of my stickers in, as well as write down what I got them for.  We don't love only the stickers in the meetings.  We also love the keychains and charms.  And the people and encouragement.