Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Uncle Gary & George

Check out my Uncle Gary at today as he remembers his friend and mentor, George Harrison. The clip is taken from an interview for the Martin Scorsese documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World. 

Paying It Forward: Liebster Blog Awards & A Pat on the Back for Completing NaBloPoMo!

Today marks the end of NaBloPoMo and all I can say is WHEW! (cue hand sweeping across forehead) Through BlogHer I signed up for this crazy writing challenge to blog every day in the month of November, and I can happily say that I did it! But more than a pat on my own back it has opened me up to an entire community of people. The one thing we all have in common is the need to write and the other thing we have in common is this crazy journey called life. I have been so touched by the posts I have read, the comments and emails I have received and so grateful for participating in such a crazy challenge. Thanks for all the blog love and speaking of blog love...

On Monday I was informed by Steph at Educational Anarchy that she had given me the Liebster Blog Award! By reading her post, I learned that "Liebster" is a German word meaning dearest and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.  
[Copied & pasted from]  
This is how it works:
1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.

2. Reveal your Top 5 blogs (with under 200 followers) and let them know by leaving comments on their blogs.

3. Post the Award on your blog.

4. Enjoy the love of some of the most supportive people on the Internet.
The following are my five top favorite reads! Thank you bloggers! And pay it forward!

1. Sarah over at Desirous of Everything because she provides constant inspiration for all us writers who struggle with making it a daily discipline

2. The Brown Study -Redux I love this personal blog which balances between sharing the struggle of the everyday as well as finding gratitude for the everyday.

3. Jenn and Casey over at So This Is Love. I like this blog because it's just about as real it gets. Some of the posts I've read are about beating depression, weight loss and fun kid quotes. The posts are very vulnerable and isn't that what connects us all?

4. Zoe Bray at 365days365drawings I have no right to complain about 30 days of writing. 

5. Carmen at because she's awesome, writes from the heart, and is not afraid to look inside and ask tough questions.

As someone who struggles to stay positive, most of these blogs speak to me because that's exactly what they are-positive or inspirational. I feel like reading them reminds me of what I am grateful for, why I should fight to stay positive in spite of myself. Many, thanks, bloggers!

And please remember to "pay it forward!" Host your own Liebster Blog Award and keep that gravy train of love going... 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Treats: Carrie Grossman

Sunday Morning I had the immense pleasure to talk with the very loving and very lovable artist, Carrie Grossman. I am careful to label Carrie as a "musician" because one of the great messages I took away from our conversation was on the importance of surrender, the importance of letting go of the stories we tell ourselves, the many labels we confuse as definitions for what or who we are. What was most refreshing in talking with Carrie was to hear an artist say, "I feel so grateful that I have no clue who I am." She went on to say, " I feel like such a mystery to myself and that mystery is bottomless."

When first listening to Carrie's first album, Soma-Bandhu: Friend of the Moon, I felt almost intimidated to write about the music. I am not familiar with the world of Kirtan Chanting nor am I familiar with Vedic Chanting or really any music outside of rock and roll (especially from the 90s), but especially not devotional music. As a writer, my first instinct is to listen for the words, to find the poetry or the story, but when I heard Carrie's angelic, sometimes haunting ( in a very good way), voice carry these chants into my bedroom, I felt like I could take a giant deep breath, like the song was telling me, you don't have to do any work here. 
As someone who has difficulty just relaxing, or just sitting, I not only found sitting and listening to Carrie's album very moving but also very relaxing, somewhat healing. The chanting was soothing and the composition of violin, cello, piano, and so many other instruments I cannot name, all came together in this incredibly powerful and strange and wonderful composition, with dips an echoes and swells, much like feeling ANY emotion, especially (for me) in the songs Jai Mai and Sarve Bhavantu. I listened to the album twice in a row without a break. When Carrie and I talked about this album and what chanting is for her, she stressed the importance of relaxation not just for mind and body but to let the light inside you break through. How can any light enter or exit a body tied in knots? This of course brought us back to the idea of surrender, not just in art, but in life, and how she believes "surrender is not something we can do consciously." That in a way relaxing, surrendering, is a form of giving up, giving up on the stories we make up about ourselves, the lives we think we should be leading, (the book deals we think we should have already achieved!) Surrendering is a way of opening to the infinite mysteries that lie within ourselves and within this world.

At the time Carrie first found these songs pouring through her, she was in a very dark place. She had "given up," retreated to a cabin in the Berkshires, and was recuperating from a mysterious and prolonged illness. As she so eloquently stated in her interview with Tom McCarroll, "I think there are times when you hit the bottom and the bottom opens up into a sky."

 She doesn't know where the songs came from and to this day when a song comes, she sort of looks around like where is this coming from? "It really is like magic."

Before Carrie made the album, if there was any art form she identified most with, it was writing (which she is fantastic at! I could not stop reading her articles). She, in fact, had a sort of awakening while writing a memoir. She applied for a writing fellowship, and much to her surprise was accepted to a month long residency. When I asked Carrie, who is not formally trained in music nor does she hold an MFA degree, how she had the courage in this MFA-saturated world to rise above the pressures to get a formalized degree in art and simply own her art, she admitted that during the writing residency, part of the reason she could not  write while there was that she kept listening to these stories she had made up about herself- how she didn't belong there, how she was not as good a writer because everyone else there had an MFA, you know that whole nasty comparison game so many of us play? Carrie cited that experience as a time when she got caught up in these stories, these fears, also adding "comparison kills creativity." But by the point in her life in which the inspiration for Soma-Bandhu came, Carrie simply said, "With music, there was no more room for me to have any more stories. There was no opportunity for me to create my own persona about being a musician." Later in the conversation she went on to say how she used to live her life very "compartmentalized" i.e. the spiritual life, the artistic life, the persona life, but how now, everything is one in the same. There is no longer a separation between art and life, life and the divine. She described the music as something that was coming from outside of her, it was coming from the universe, that in truth it actually has nothing to do with her and likewise that is also what helped her conquer her fear of sharing her songs and turning what started as an artistic expression into an album, "giving and sharing that music is also not about me."
Carrie is currently trying to reach a pledge goal of $7,000 through the awesome organization  in order to fund her next creation, Touch The Sky.  And with a little more help from fellow artists and fellow lovers of life, she will reach this goal! Since Carrie's first album was sort of "birthed" from a very dark and yet surrendering place, Carrie and I discussed the idea of the age-old adage of art having to be created from pain. "I don't think that art has to come from pain." She explained that inherit in our duality as human beings is the dark and the light, the anguish and the gratitude, the sorrow and the amazement, the awe and the wonder. But for her next album, Carrie believes it is definitely coming from a different place. For now, her songs are focused on more of an upbeat Kirtan chanting. "It's a lighter spirit, a different energy."

In closing, I'd like to add an anecdote Carrie shared that I felt like not only represented her life (as she claimed) but I think will resonate with a lot of people whether you are an artist or not. But for her first album she was intent on having it start with the sound of a conch shell (which has a spiritual significance in Hinduism-but for the record, Carrie does not consider herself "of any religion," more spiritual than anything). When she could not find the right sound through that, she was convinced she needed to start the album with a powerful church bell, like a call to prayer. But after testing several bells of all shapes and sizes, no bell was right. Then one day in the middle of January, at a church somewhere in Massachusetts, Carrie and a friend helping her record, decided she needed to ring this particular church bell on this particular frigid morning. This was the one...but there was nothing to hit the bell with. Her friend scrounged up a plunger from inside and then ran inside to record the sound. Carrie, whose hair was still fresh and wet from a shower, now had a hair full of icicles with no hat as she stood with plunger in hand facing the bell in the freezing cold. She burst into laughter as she began to strike the bell with the plunger, thinking, "I mean this is my life, the shit meeting the holy." How true for all of us on this crazy journey we call life.

Carrie, thank you for a truly enlightening and thought-provoking talk and for putting such a beautiful sound into the world. Looking forward to more of you!

Oh, and no, she did not end up using "the plunger hitting the bell" sound, either! You can check out Carrie's website at, click here for her Kickstarter project or check out her Facebook page. Also, you can email her at Enjoy...

Monday, November 28, 2011

When All That's Left Is The Wishbone

We're doing, Monday, folks. How are we all feeling after this post-gluttonous, post-family, post shopping-binge holiday? Is there anything more American than that holiday? I mean, it's everything American- food, football, capitalism, violence, and family...oh and the right to free speech as seen with the unrelenting Occupy Wall Street protest movement. When the movement first got started I found myself (who just a few years back was joining protests, talking with veterans, with political activists, and regular citizens about my country and its direction and even shot a documentary called Dear America) questioning what the "ask" of the protesters was? And also, how long would this last? It was as if I did not want to get my hopes up about another protest filled with hope only to see that spirit get crushed by the powers that be. But, here we are, November 28th and the movement has not only picked up steam but has become contagious around the globe: London, Rome, Paris, USA. Despite violence as seen with the brutal pepper-spraying of students peacefully protesting at UC Davis, the outbreak of violence at Occupy Oakland where Iraq Vet, peaceful activist, and member of IVAW, Scott Olsen, suffered critical head trauma,  the NYPD violent raid of Zuccotti Park,  the movement remains strong, undeterred, and perhaps more united in spite of the continual crack downs. But, after reading this article by The Guardian which suggests the reason for the violent crack down comes from an effort born out of a possible federal militarized police force (which is illegal in the USA), a possible crack down ordered by The Department of Homeland Security which can only come from the tippy-top. Why, you may ask, would the men on top organize such a violent display of brute force? Because one of the main "asks" from the Occupy movement is to get the money out of politics, but more specifically as quoted in The Guardian's article: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investorsIn short, members of Congress want the spotlight on their profiteering off of them, the protests to be beaten into submission much like the rest of this country has been by predatory lending, the effects of war in the loss of lives, the effects on our home front and in our pocket, and the outsourcing of jobs. Where once we could proudly claim the title THE UNITED we are no longer a country that looks out for her own. The very people we put in power to protect us are feeding off us. Congress is a business, and the Occupy movement threatens to take that away. What would Congress look like if we were able to bust people like Newt Gingrich for taking millions in "consulting fees" from private corporations like Freddie Mac, which, I mean c'mon, is just back-door lobbying? What would the political and financial landscape look like if people like Martha Stewart were no longer allowed to sell stocks and make millions off of non-public insider trading information?  Granted, Martha served her time, but does anyone really believe for a second that her loosey-goose prison time corrected the larger problem? What if a former shopkeeper with good ethics, and understanding of justice, and a true believer in freedom FOR all could run again for president?

The turkey is all eaten, Black Friday mania is over, and your family has hopefully gone home. But OWS is still out there, and despite what the press would have you believe, is unified in what they want from the proverbial wishbone this year. Just to recap, here, straight from the leaderless horse's mouth:

Below copied from the Forum of

Occupy Demands

1: Campaign Finance Reform: Campaigns will be 100% funded by the $3 Presidential Campaign Fund. This will no longer be optional on returns and $3 will be taken from everyone in lieu of having the choice to pay that $3 in taxes. No more dinner events where people pay thousands of dollars per plate of food to donate. This will take the candidates out of the pockets of those more fortunate and put it back in the hands of the American people.

2A: 3 Term Limit for Congress: This needs to be done to keep fresh ideas flowing, as well as to prevent a pack mentality and life-long political enemies that evolve and begin to erode the political process. This is most evident over the past few years where almost no bills of any importance can pass through congress without the opposing side attaching the names of the most disliked members of congress with the bill as a way to prevent it from passing. Term one for all current members would start in the 2012 election cycle.

2B: Terms served determines percentage of benefits for Congress. This is self-explanatory, but as with any job, the longer you work the more benefits you generally received. We propose members of Congress who serve three full terms receive full benefits. 75% for two term members and 50% for a single term.

3A: No more bonuses for Management in pseudo government business such as Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. Any agency that would cause the American tax payer to be held liable for its failure should not be permitted to pay bonuses to executives for taking risks to boost their numbers.

3B: Break-up any company that is deemed to be “too large to fail”. Any private business entity has the risk of failing in a capitalistic system, but when they become so large that they would take down the entire economy if they fail, they have to be split. If there is no risk of going under and failing due to the belief they will be bailed out, then they can do unsafe things to reap rewards in the good times without having to worry about the consequences in bad.

4: No more trading of commodity futures by investors. This has been written off as non-consequential, but the fact remains, when people can change markets without the intention of actually purchasing that commodity it raises the prices of food, heating and other fuels for everyone. Commodity investing should not be allowed unless the person making the purchase is deemed to be able to take the delivery they purchase.

These are our demands – We will be heard

In short, say it with me: GET THE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Defenses Down: The idea of surrendering before the chicken noodle soup comes

Whenever I have some time off work, often times I find that these are the moments when my body lets her defenses down and I wake up one beautiful day off with golf balls in my throat and a nose that refuses to stop running. Just what you wanted to read about, right? Another blogger giving you the play by play of her life- now I'm happy, now I'm sad, now I'm sick. Well, I am sick and I was trying hard not to write which to me means I just got to let it all out the same way I got to let all this snot out. Just let it run, baby. Are my defenses down because I'm overworked? Probably. Am I getting sick because I put too much on my plate all the time? Most likely. Is it kind of sick that I don't mind being sick that much because it forces me to slow down? Totally sick. Isn't that the whole premise of becoming a grown up? To learn how to take care of yourself? I mean physically, I know what to do, right? Exercise enough, eat well as much as you can, and have chicken noodle soup when you're sick. But it has always been a struggle for me to take care of the other two parts. You know the mind and soul stuff. Like not saying yes to every plan, not taking every script or book assignment that comes my way, not signing up for a writing group and a writing workshop and submitting to another workshop and submitting to a short play festival. Like maybe I can just chill and be okay with two of those? Maybe I can stop making plans after work. Just because the wrk day ends at 4:30 may not mean I am free. I never give myself the time to unwind. I underestimate the importance of coming home and making a meal for myself, the importance of turning on music while I chop onions or wearing slippers around the house or watching a comedy curled up on the couch with Mike. There is this panic somewhere that if I let anything go, I will feel I am not trying hard enough. Because I won't be, right? If I know I can operate with this much on my plate how can I cut the plate in half and still feel like I am truly doing my best? But am I truly doing my best? How can I be doing my best, giving my all to so many different pieces? Eventually, something gets less time, less energy, less devotion.

I have been struggling with the idea of "surrender." I sort of do believe that when I surrender my will, then my life will become open to the mysteries that lay in store for me. And just when I think I have surrendered, I catch myself trying to control an outcome, assume a reaction, control the direction of my life.  If only I could stop taking myself so damn seriously, maybe I would stop getting colds on days when all I want to do is put the Christmas tree up.

But, alas, the Christmas tree will go up. Writing will happen. And chicken noodle soup will be had. But for today, I surrender in what order or if any of those things happen. Today, I surrender to my comedy bed, some good music, and a few words on my blog.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Postcard from New York

Looking at the George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights.
I love this city.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Warrior Playlist #4

Court, for you, #s 1,7,8
Mike, for you, #s 3,7,11
Morgan, for you, #s 4, 6 (I have a feeling, #7 is for Scott, too)
To the 1993 sixth grade class of Rio Vista Elementary School, North Hollywood, # 2
For me, all of the above and below, but especially #6 &  #10

Happy Eating and Shopping!!!

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Is it warm in here or is it just the wine?

When you grow up in Southern California, memories are not marked by seasons. It's hard to categorize what year this event or that milestone happened, because everything happens against that same eery, sunny,  warm backdrop. Having lived on and off the East Coast the past decade, I have learned that people on the East Coast file away their memories differently than people in Los Angeles do. Where here Christmases and Thanksgivings are marked by "the year of the storm" or "the odd warm one" (which to them means 55 degrees) or "the piles of snow," in LA they are marked by the year cousin so and so brought the girl with the fake boobs (they were fake, right?) or the year my other cousin's frat brother dressed up as Santa for us but had a few too many when it came time for everyone to sit on Santa's lap, or the year my six year old cousin put together that the turkey we were eating was indeed a bird, and was indeed once very much alive, and did anyone bring the non-alcoholic wine this year?

When I moved to the East Coast, I fell in love with the ideas of White Christmases and wearing wool sweaters to Thanksgiving dinner. But the more I settle into this life, the more that sweet little veil of "cozy weather" gets torn off the truth. The weather here sucks, and once you've experienced one winter, you've really experienced them all. You know, chapped lips for four months, including the words "fucking cold" into every other conversation, and my favorite- bruises on your elbows from slipping on black ice. People have said to me things like, "But it's warm there. I think it'd be weird to have a warm Thanksgiving."  Or my favorite, "Do you have palm trees for Christmas trees?" That one's a knee-slapper. And to those people, all I can say is, "How sad for you."

Having the holidays in Los Angeles is not weird when that is your norm and coming to Thanksgiving with nothing but a light sweater on is nothing short of awesome. My memories of Thanksgivings past always include lots of sunshine, sometimes leaking stripes of light onto the dinner table. Or going for a walk around the neighborhood after eating, because it's actually enjoyable to do that in California. Or stepping out into the damp air by my Uncle's house in Redondo Beach because it's refreshing to take a break from the heat radiating off an overworked kitchen where three different kinds of birds just popped their thermometer cherries. There is always lots of laughter, music, different kinds of food...that's right, sometimes we have Indian food for Christmas at my aunt Rose's house because it's LA, and you can get away with doing shit like that for the holidays. Or my uncle Guy will bring a lasagne. We are not Indian. We are not Italian (even though my Uncle John tells everyone he is). We are just a big crazy family sprawled out over Los Angeles that has huge ornamented firs for Christmas trees and vegetarian options at Thanksgiving and sometimes saffron rice and lamb vindaloo for Christmas. We come dressed in fancy tanktops and jeans, sometimes sandals, and always sunglasses. We may not always be able to differentiate one year from the next, but the holidays always promise a good time, good albeit different food, and always, warmth.

So for this Thanksgiving, I'd like to say how grateful I am to have had so many warm Thanksgivings and walks around the block after dinner. I'm grateful to have had curried lentils for Christmas dinner and a very "jolly" Santa Clause that other year. I'm grateful for a big West Coast family that I am missing today on this cold East Coast Thanksgiving. But also grateful that it's because of these cold holidays that I can be appreciative of my many warm ones. Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family near and far, but especially those ones in flip flops somewhere in sunny Los Angeles.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Having Cookies for Breakfast: The Moments We Realize We've Been Screaming for Air While Standing in the Wind

Sometimes I catch myself, walking around in my own life, and I think Oh, this is my street. This is my neighborhood. It happens at the gym, too. I work out in what was once an Armory making it a huge open indoor space in the middle of Brooklyn with an indoor track and nice big rooms with old, hardwood floors that sometimes not a soul is occupying. Just me and my knees, the ones I move my fingers past to touch my toes: These are my legs. Sometimes I move through the day with these bursts of revelations, This is my life! The same kind of revelations that remind me I'm an adult. If I want a cookie for breakfast, I can have one.

I forget sometimes that I orchestrated this life here in Brooklyn. That I wished for it and got it while I was busy thinking of more wishes. Sometimes I get clouded by the things right in front of me, like screaming for air while standing in the wind. It's easy to lose your grasp in this world, when life is so damn messy. And even if you have a firm hold on the railing, that doesn't mean the floor beneath you won't turn to ice.

We can't unlearn the lessons received as children, the same way we can't put back all the feathers into a busted pillow. We can only try to work on not making those lessons our creed, not making the people who harm us become our teachers, not defining our defenses as convictions, our survival skills as attributes. We can only rewind and revise so much.

There is only one direction life moves: forward and the great hope is that we can recognize those moments of growth, those moments of gratitude, those moments where we look around and realize we are the main character in this story, do I want to keep going straight or make a left turn here?

Do I want to repeat the patterns inherited from family? Do I want to continue to carry this ancestral karma, the karma we are all born with like the familiar color of our eyes, the size of our feet, the sound of our laugh? Do I want to be the main character in my own story or the stage director telling everyone else where they should be standing and what their line is? Do I want cookies for breakfast?

Today I'm grateful for those moments that come like awakenings. I am grateful to be a woman on the rise, walking along that purple skyline between the sunset and the heavens, waking up just in time to see the stars.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Treats: Harry Hancock

Introducing the brilliant and devilishly charming, Harry Hancock. Over the weekend I had the great pleasure of spending time not only with a friend and colleague, but an extremely astute, studied, and insightful  artist who I feel to be a huge talent emerging on the New York City art scene. One cursory glance at Harry's newest piece, Samson, and you know you are in the presence of greatness.

Of course, Harry will probably blush reading this, (the man's an artist), but here's where I come in and tell you about Harry.

Harry is originally from rural Southwest England but is quite the traveling man, having lived in Italy and now New York for quite a few years. He formally studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and formally trained at the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy. But when I asked Harry if he could first identify the moment he knew he was an artist he gave me the question/answer all artists struggle with, "You mean when I knew or when I..." I filled in the blank. "Confessed?" He laughed and admitted, "True, there is a bit about 'coming out' as an artist." We debated about the struggle to call one's self "an artist" if you were not making a living as one, which neither of us are...yet. He then pointed around his studio and and added, "But, it's pretty clear, I think, that I mean it." But Harry has really known since he was around age 11 or 12. Harry, who is also a well studied pianist, felt something happening with his hands, the sensory experience of making music, creating art, with his hands. If you watch the video, you will see why this makes sense coming from Harry. 
He is hands-on in every part of the process of creating a painting from stretching the canvas, to making his own paint, to standing on a stool with a broom-stick handled paintbrush to start the beginning stages of his exquisite, Samson.  The story of Samson comes from the Book of Judges in the Bible.  The short version goes that Samson's mother, an Israelite was visited by an angel, supposedly a Philistine. Samson was born straddling two worlds, living on the threshold between two cultures which is a theme found in many of Harry's paintings, perhaps also a reflection of the cultural identities he straddles in his own life. This is also why Samson the painting, will exist in the fictive world: on the canvas. But also, there will be hair protruding from the painting existing in the real world.  Samson was also a Nazarite who had taken vows not to cut his hair or drink wine, not even grapes, which was supposed to give one power. These vows were his secrets to his strength, a secret he kept until his wife, Delilah, begged him to tell her where he drew his power from. After many lies, he finally tells her, lets her cut his hair and tie him up. When she cries out that the Philistines are coming, Samson cannot fend them off. He is captured and his eyes are poked out. But while in prison his hair grows long again, his strength comes back and he knocks down the pillars of the palace killing everyone inside including himself. As Harry told me the story, he added, "But it all was a bit self-imposed, as if Samson wanted to be betrayed." I suggested that perhaps surviving betrayal was the ultimate test of one's strength. Harry smiled, "Fortunately, I wouldn't know."
Harry & Moses
Having a conversation with Harry is like taking a trip through time. He is so incredibly versed in history, art, and language. His influences are largely Baroque including Caravaggio, Velazquez, Rubens and Ribera with a little bit of Van Gogh as you can see (he pointed out) with the cross-hatch brush strokes. (See the picture below for that brush!)  Harry also speaks about four languages fluently (English, Spanish, Italian, French) as well as "speaking Latin" and he has basic German. For his day job he teaches Latin at a private school in Manhattan. When asked about the role as teacher and artist, his answer was simply, "The role of the artist is as a teacher." Teaching Latin keeps him in touch with Roman art and connected with art from long ago which he feels is especially important at this cusp in time, which he calls "a beacon of the old world and the
new." He went on to say, "My painting has evolved by tunneling through time" and he stressed the importance of using one's hands. If it is true that our brains developed through our hands developing (fine motor skills), Harry wonders if living in a digital age, where so much can be created or discovered with the push of a button, is in someway limiting us. For Harry, he's an old fashioned kind of artist. The physical process is equally as important as the product. He compares "the idea of a painting as metaphor for the body."

"When you come into a room and see a painting, you should register there's a presence there." For Harry, that's what makes a painting "alive." When I walked into Harry's studio and he unveiled Samson that is exactly how I felt. It literally took my breath away.

But Samson is not the only painting of Harry's that I have been speechless over. Some of my favorites are his landscapes which have been springing up around the city. He had an exhibit this past month at the Hudson View Gardens Gallery, Samson  will be mounted (a little pun intended) at Macdiel Studio during Art Basel in Miami next week, and get ready, New Yorkers, Harry is having a show in the spring, (April or May) at Clic Gallery in SoHo. There, he plans to show some of the landscape paintings he did this past summer while on a road trip around the Good Ol' US of A. For a sneak peak, check out the pictures below!
Mount Rushmore

Sioux Falls
Point Imperial Sunset
In closing, I would like to revisit the idea of straddling the line of two worlds, two cultures, two identities, which is also part of the reason that I love Harry's surreal paintings...that's right, Harry has got a bit of "strange" going on. (Not so fast, Harry!) Some of Harry's more "peculiar" or "darker" worsk are the kind of thing I LOVE. I have only been able to acquire prints, but I'm saving up! Like this lovely, right here called Lines. I die... or the haunting "portrait" below known as Echo.
I could write a week's worth of posts on Harry and his work, so I will stop here so you can see for yourself through his blog, following him on twitter @harryhancock or by doing your mind, your senses and your soul a favor by going to one of his upcoming shows. Miami folks, check it out! Macdiel Studio, 46 NW 36 Street, December! And all you North Easterners, check out the Clic Gallery in the Spring.

And Harry, we are all staying tuned for more paintings and reflections from your wonderful, colorful life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Memories We Hold in Our Skin

I'm lying there, on a table, in a dark room, nothing but my underwear on and a blanket over me. I think So this is what it feels like before an autopsy. 

"You're not claustrophobic, are you?"

"No," I say with my eyes closed.

But before I finish the sentence she is already wrapping a piece of gauze around my head, my hairline to be exact. She begins slathering something cold on my face. It's thick, like meringue, and some of it gets inside my nostril. I may not be claustrophobic but I do like to breathe.There are pieces of vegetable put over my eyes, the dogtags of a beauty parlor, and another hot, damp cloth put underneath my chin. She leaves the room. It's time for me to bake, to set, for my souffle to rise.

I haven't done this in a while, I tell myself, to justify the cost of something in my heart I feel is a waste of money. I will age and most likely not very gracefully. But, I tell myself that it's my skin and I haven't done anything for my skin in years. I neglect my skin, abuse it, forget that it is my largest organ, that it is my threshold, the culmination of layers and layers that keeps me of the living from me of the dying. It's the cloth I keep my bones in, the walls that hold my muscle memories together.

When she comes back in the room and peels off the mask, I can feel my face breathing for what feels like the first time. My face is a landscape of mini geysers erupting, breathing, every pore is awake. My cheeks tingle in the same way on a damp LA night, while walking along the DWP's Griffith Park Light Festival, when the godson I am holding reaches over and kisses me with a wet open mouth,  the way all kids kiss before they learn to pinch their lips and aim.

The tip of my nose feels cold, like a surprise I discover when the steam from a hot coffee shared with a friend while walking down a deserted Broadway warms it, makes it damp, and I think My nose is cold! never realizing it's been out there uncovered in the world leading the way my entire life. Of course it's cold. Probably tired, too.

Or my brows, where I keep my emotions, unfiltered, a sign I wear on my face if I am open or closed for business. She scrubs hard around those places, perhaps because we both acknowledge the fine lines forming, both a sign and promise of stress to come. These areas tingle less, more like circulation rather than breathing. There is blood flowing there, an energy now moving, the same way I feel my stomach turn warm after a hug from Mike that lasts longer than a usual hug, the kind of hug that is a hold, also a promise that he's not going anywhere and he'll be damned if I am either.

"You're all done!" she chirps and then rattles off a list of products that I absolutely need in order to keep my face fresh, to keep my face breathing, to protect my skin from the elements, from the world, from life.

The bill comes and I know I will not buy any of these products. In a few days this glow will fade and I will be kicking myself for spending the money. But maybe it was worth the release, worth the time and money for a space and a ritual that wasn't just about trying to erase some of the footprints of the past years but to remind myself of the memories held sacred in fine lines and hyper-pigmentation. To open those pores, clean them of "the elements," and make space for more. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Day the Grinch Known As "30," My Landlord, & the IRS Stole Thursday

Dear Yesterday,

You were not supposed to go like that. I was not supposed to have a meltdown at work because I have hit my cap for tolerating irritating behavior. I was not supposed to have a 45-minute talk with a colleague in a superior position and at minute 40, finally let those words choke me up and spill a few tears. You know those words: "I'm 30 and I'm an assistant." I quit being an assistant when I was twenty-six. I swore off positions that were abusive, or took all of my time, or made me rip my hair out because I was paying enormous student loan payments with an enormously low paying job where I was asked to to do anything from heavy research to picking tomatoes out of a salad. But at twenty-eight a really good opportunity came my way. I could work for an awesome woman in a different setting: education. And for the last couple years, it has been a sweet gig. Winter vacation, spring vacation, and a few weeks during the summer. Jewish holidays off. Columbus day off. And my days generally end at 4:30. Life has been good. Is good. I have never felt like "the help." But with some recent turn around, some new colleagues, that old familiar feeling has come back. Being asked to staple packets is something you can be enthusiastic about when you're 22...not 30. Maybe its the age, or maybe it's that I'm being asked by people who I am not an assistant for, and that I am being asked for "my services" as if I am nothing more than a hand pressing down on a busted stapler that won't punch through too many papers, a finger pushing the word "copy" or someone who knows how to schedule an appointment between an investment banker, an art curator and a principal,  but yesterday I felt a little bit defeated, perhaps humiliated by myself and that I have let myself be content for so long. I tell myself, But I'm pursuing writing. This is the perfect day job for someone who wants to write!!  But yesterday, I could not find the silver lining.

I know, I should be grateful that I have a job. (And trust me I am!) As someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, the fact that I have a steady job is never lost on me. But I'm also a human being and sometimes, although I hate to admit it, I get disappointed in myself and the way things have rolled out the last ten years. I thought "30" would look a whole lot different.  You know, like, I'd maybe be married with maybe a baby that I only fed organic food from my garden and a huge house... with a pool and a kitchen island...or living in another country, having shirked the ancient rituals of "marriage" and "family," living with a partner that enjoyed traveling and hated our frequent run-ins with the paparazzi as much as I did...and I'd have three books published with a production currently running on Broadway. I'd be writing my Oscar speech right about now for the brilliant movie I had written last year starring Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep and my brother. What I never factored in was the world changing and how difficult my twenties would be, how even though I felt very moved on from "my past," navigating the effects of it would be more challenging and paralyzing than I ever imagined.

I have been feeling a change inside me, an internal shift. Some call it "baby fever," I call it "what the fuck?" There, I said it, I am feeling very ready for the next chapter- the marriage I swore I'd never do, the baby I know I've always wanted. But I also know that financially I am not ready and there is a fear that maybe emotionally or mentally I am not ready. But when are you? I've been doing a lot of work on myself the last (almost) two years, and I have seen a big difference in my sanity. But I want to be REAL sure things are working alright inside here before being in charge of another human being who needs me all the time. So, I shifted my "baby fever" on getting a dog. Maybe that would sort of suffice or at least be good practice. We waited for a week and a half to get an answer from our landlord and the answer came yesterday: NO. I actually felt my chin quiver when I got this news after the end of my disastrous work day. Mike cheered me up and we went for a beer.  After a couple laughs we came home and there was a letter from the IRS on my doorstep about a stupid never ending mistake I made in 2009 on my taxes because I have self-diagnosed dyscalculia (I've been telling people for years that I switch numbers!). I owe them more money for another fucking fee/penalty/I don't even know what the fuck it is. Then, because I have to work a gazillion jobs, I sat down and read for 2.5 hours a book that I am writing up coverage on. It was a shitty day. . .but the thing I liked best was that I did realize that there was something I had achieved by 30. No, I am not a world famous writer. (I only just took the password off my blog a month ago) Yes, I am working a job way beneath my potential. But I AM writing and I did find that partner that I can shirk the blues with. I am not a complete failure, despite the back whipping I would love to give myself every day, despite the enormous debt, and very low amount in my checking account, despite the no-dog, no-baby, no-kitchen island truth, I found a guy who's pretty rad. So I do have that going for me.

So yesterday, can we try this again, today?


Thursday, November 17, 2011

WTF, America? A Letter to Congress about Pizza

Dear Congress,

Pizza is not, never has been, and never will be a vegetable. I don't care how many votes you get. I don't care if you have a whole cup of tomato paste on that greasy, cheesy dough, how can you justify this? I'd love to hear the logic. The art of bullshit is the stuff futures are made of, right?

Can we please, do our kids a solid this one time? We've already made their futures smaller by handing them an enormous debt they will have to navigate in their adulthood.  Can we at least provide them with healthy meals at school?

I can't help but hear that old holiday classic tune, It's beginning to look a lot like special interests...

A Constituent 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Life with Sallie Mae: A Nightmare in the Making

It is time for me to recede. Like the puddle of dog piss slowly trickling from the garbage bag it once marked, slowly receding into the middle of your path, that perfect center of the sidewalk where both lanes of traffic flow are interrupted by this obnoxious leak of piss everyone has to jump over. . .I want to be that receding piss stream. And I want the garbage bag to be my enormous student loan debt. I know what you're thinking, Wah! Another failed art school grad bitching ten years later about how their dreams didn't add up and now they don't want to pay for it!   YES! That is correct! But, there's more to it. I grew up in the 80s during that whole self-esteem movement where our parents told us we could be anything, but didn't finish the sentence. You can be anything, Johnny. . .but you might not. You might just be "something". . . possibly nothing. . .or maybe the sum of your potential without any realized success...or you might just be an asshole with an enormous debt and a useless art degree because you didn't do what real artists do, which is hold up a giant middle finger to society and create from within, without validation. You can be anything if you own your art, show up for yourself, and don't sign away your first born to a private education institution so they can tell you you're work is riddled with cliches but fresh. . .oh, and signing a private loan for $40,000 at 18 years old is never a good idea. . .same as a lower back tattoo.  Where was the end of that fucking sentence?! Here's my situation. 

At the end of my freshman year of college ( a private college that gave me an enormous amount of grants and scholarships), a year that involves about six-eight months where I have no memory due to a traumatic event (You can read about that here), I actually got into NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for Dramatic Writing. I submitted a one act play I had produced by the Blank Theatre Company, and I got in to this elite program. I had to go. I mean, this meant I was the best, right? The cream of the crop, right? I broke the news to my father who knew I had to transfer to NYU but also didn't know how we were going to pay for it. Luckily, NYU offered me quite a bit of financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships and subsidized Stafford Loans. Once my bags were packed, I got a letter from them a few weeks before moving East informing me that some forms had been "filled out wrong" and they were taking back some of the financial aid package they offered. Considering my father had lost his business and was in severe financial hardship all throughout my high school years and that I came from a single parent home, I was pretty shocked to learn I suddenly did not qualify. I was going to have to take out unsubsidized loans. In truth, NYU was accepting kickbacks from Sallie Mae who they advertised as their preferred lender despite their predatory lending practices. In every sense of the word, it was more profitable to them to offer me a loan. 

My 2nd and 3rd year of college, my father and I both took out loans to split the outrageous cost. But we justified it because this was my future. This was an investment in me. I already had a play produced at 17 years old. I was on the road to international fame! And then 9/11 happened and all those options out there, all those oysters at are feet, became smaller. America changed. The world changed. The future changed. (You can read about that day in my life here) After months of devastation and terror in New York City, I left the country to study abroad for a semester, (and even there I held a job), I worked all through out college (sometimes as many as three jobs), but my student loan debt was still manageable with the grants and splitting the loans I had taken out. But three weeks before my senior year,  NYU and my dad informed me I needed to find the money to finish out my senior year. So, while working at a summer camp in Vermont, I contacted Sallie Mae from the telephone room of our old manor house summer camp offices which was really a converted coat closet. I quickly signed my life away for a $35,000 loan in between teaching eight year-olds how to canoe and keeping a watchful eye on a couple of my fifteen year-old campers who were trying to score some cigarettes. 

I read the papers. I signed. I faxed. Did I understand what I was signing up for? Absolutely not. I worked full time my senior year of college and lined up two jobs right out of college. I even turned down a job I was offered six months shy of my graduation because I felt it was important to get that degree. Then a month before I graduated, we invaded Iraq. You know the rest of that story. I can remember marching in a protest down Broadway and feeling so confused, angry, but also totally naive. But the day I graduated I felt awesome. I was leaving school with the Senior Achievement Award and the Founders Day Award, a couple short films and short plays produced. But what I was really leaving with was over $50,000 in debt and a B.F.A. in writing, about to enter a world that had changed dramatically over the past four years.. 

In my six month grace period (where my repayment had not yet started), I worked at the camp again, then I took off to Europe again with my savings and even there, I got a job. I got stuck in the UK right when the US dollar tanked. I quickly ran out of money and came home. Since I came home in December 2003, I have had a job. I made cold calls, I hustled and hit the ground running. I worked demoralizing jobs, and low-paying entry level jobs, most of the time. As long as I was working, I didn't really care. 

In 2005, I raised money and took about six weeks off to shoot a documentary and within a week of coming home, I signed up for 5 temp agencies and worked consistently. Other than the documentary, I can honestly (and very gratefully) say that the longest stint I have been unemployed was for three weeks when I moved from LA to Jersey in 2008. I have never had to apply for unemployment. I have never missed a student loan payment (except for when I deferred during the doc). I pay all my bills, I bust my ass, I pay more than the minimum payments...and still that mountain of debt has barely moved. 

Everyone says Can't you consolidate? I did...with the loans I could. Herein lies the rub: You can't consolidate a private loan. I did not know this when I signed. I have tried every plan in the book to lower payments-extended the life of paying back the loan (I think I'm on the 20 year plan now), paid interest only payments for a couple years, talked, negotiated, pleaded and nothing has helped. I finally accepted that my adult life would no longer be just about me finding myself. There would always be me and my debt. Me and Sallie Mae traveling through life one financial road block at a time. 

What are my payments like now? About $500 a month. What do I have left to pay? Over $36,000. (Plus some minor debt from credit cards.)  If I do not miss a payment and my variable interest rate does not rise with our toilet of an economy, that schedules me to be done by 2019/2020...with a big fat IF looming all over that. I work a full time job and 2-3 freelance jobs at any given moment. So if I can keep this up for the next decade and life can promise me no hiccups, I'll pay it off! Oh but wait, I'd like to have children and a life. Scratch that.

Here's the thing, I know this is my responsibility. And I don't regret choosing to go to school at NYU. Moving to New York changed my life. At the time, I saw that life, that loan as a way to get out.  (You can read about that, here)  I signed those papers. But I think it should have been illegal for me to sign those papers, especially in pursuit of an art degree. Especially with no credit. Especially without an adult or a lawyer! If I was becoming a doctor, maybe this would have been okay. Do I think I got tricked by NYU? Yes. Do I think Sallie Mae was in cahoots with NYU? Yes. Do I think the whole student loan debt crisis was fueled by predatory lending practices on young adults who really were still just teenagers? Fuck Yeah. And as petty as this may sound, we bailed out the banks. We bailed out the same fucking people who got us into this mess. What about the students?

Here's where I tell you that I have finally paid off one on my credit cards! (Hence the picture) Here's where I tell you, I'm close to paying off a second. But in terms of this rain cloud of debt, how do I become the piss stream that recedes from the garbage? How do I fast-forward the clean up of that sidewalk? How do I get ahead when I'm busting my ass just to stay afloat. Poor me, right? I know, I know...Me and the rest of the country!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Treats: Lexy Casano

I feel like for this week's Tuesday Treats, I should write nothing and you should just click on these links and listen. You'll get the gist. But, I'll take a moment to gush here about the undeniably talented, beautiful, and magnetic, sexy, Lexy Casano. Lexy is not only an amazingly gifted singer, perhaps one of the most loving and joyful people I have ever met, but she is also a mother to a beautiful baby boy, happily married to her wife, Jessica, and a postpartum depression survivor.

Lexy is a professionally trained singer who first began taking lessons professionally her freshman year of high school under the guidance, support, and tutelage of famed NYC Operatic Soprano, Frances Pallozzi Wittman. Along with being a complete inspiration for Lexy, Pallozzi taught Lexy everything she knows about singing, performing, and most importantly, breathing. Lexy had aspirations to be a pop-star and believed with a degree from the esteemed and highly selective Berklee College of Music  she could make that happen...but her grades were terrible. However, her voice and dynamic performance proved so strong they accepted Lexy on a two year probation and four years later, Lexy was a proud Berklee graduate. She subsequently moved to the big apple and pounded the pavement to become a pop star like her idol, Mariah Carey.  She blew through her savings, recorded a demo, but still, rent in NYC is no joke. You gotta pay the bills. Lexy found herself working in childcare and before long drawn to education. She packed up her pop star dreams, moved into the field of early education and became a teacher.

 Lexy was the first to inform me of the Berklee myth that "if you graduate from Berklee, you'll never make it." John Mayer was in Lexy's class, however he dropped out after two semesters, and know the rest of that story. But, I for one, would much rather pay for a ticket to a Lexy Casano concert then a John Mayer concert, any day. And for a while, I could see Lexy for free.

Lexy used to perform at the Black Duck, but after a change in management, they cancelled Lexy's performances. (WTF, Black Duck?!) Not to fret, Lexy is still singing but in a "brighter" setting. Lexy is the proud and passionate Director (and Creator) of a choir program for girls and boys called The Village Childrens Choir. Have you seen anything sweeter?

So, here's where I ask, Lexy, why now? Why raise money for an album now? Lexy's answer, "Plenty of artists have started their career in their 30s!" But the truth is, Lexy is now in her second awakening. Lexy is a mama. After weathering a difficult journey to get pregnant, then surviving an extremely difficult pregnancy, and a labor that was so horrendous she actually needed a blood transfusion, the moment Lexy left the hospital with her baby, she found herself in a panic and soon a downward spiral into a severe depression. As Lexy put it, "Im the kind of person that when I know I need help, I scream for it." She was quickly put on anti-deressants and a medication for anxiety but for many months, the darkness was overwhelming. During this time, people kept telling Lexy, "You gotta start singing again." After months of pushing, Lexy agreed to perform at the Black Duck and after singing herself through the performance, for the first time she felt more like herself than she had in a long time.

 The road out of postpartum depression did not end there. Lexy still struggled with feeling her music. But a year later, Lexy has emerged, stronger and better than ever.

"I feel like, Lexy died," she laughed, "No seriously, and now I'm back and better than ever. This is the new me." And, I must say, Lexy, its nice to have you back!

When I asked Lexy if motherhood and surviving a difficult transition into motherhood perhaps helped fuel or inspire the art she wants to create now, her quick answer was, "Absolutely. When you go through something like that, the little things just don't matter. Having survived that year, I feel more confident now than ever and having Romeo (her beautiful boy) I can see life with this third eye." She went on to talk about taking joy in having a "regular life" but also finding idols like Eve Cassidy , who don't have the pomp and circumstance that come with Mariah Carey, but does have the soul, the love and the passion for an art that Lexy feels is not only her way of expressing herself, but empowering herself.

And here's where I tell you, the reader, to support this kick-ass artist and back this project. Help Lexy make her dream come true. How can you do that? Just check out this kickstarter page and pledge ANY amount of money. No amount is too small. In the meantime, I leave you with this...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Moment of Clarity

After waking up and reading two more essays for a writing class (read a few last night -and might I add these are 20 page pieces) that meets on Tuesday I went for a run. When I got back, I showered and met by tutee for our weekly tutoring session. When I came home, I worked on a ten-minute play I am trying to submit to a women's playwriting festival. Then I started reading the 700 page book I have to write a report on by next Monday, while doing the laundry at my busted laundry mat that has almost no working dryers. When I came home, I had to spread my damp laundry all over the apartment so that it "air dries" by tomorrow morning. I remembered I have to write a blog post today to stick with my daily blogging November goal. And now I have to go back and read that 700 page book again since this week I have very few nights free. (Writing class, co-op shift, a meeting)

I heard a comic last week, Louis C.K., tell the entire Beacon Theatre to turn their cell phones off and stop tweeting. "Just live your life. Stop telling everyone about it." I appreciated his sentiment as I feel this blogging/tweeting world is a bit overwhelming. Since as far as I can remember, I have loved words. Whether reading or writing, trying to figure out lyrics to songs, watching an actor perform a five-minute monologue or playing Scrabble, words have always been something that moved something inside of me. Words have the power to free me, comfort me, and disappoint me. And while I am happy to be busting my ass right now on getting my writing out there, there comes a time when you just want to crack a beer and watch the Giants game. Looking forward to Thanksgiving break, where at least some of the reading assignments will be done and I can watch football and eat all day long.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11.11.11 A Day for Veterans and Brides

 Today is Veterans Day but I'm not sure if you say Happy Veterans Day because it seems to me it should be more of a say Thank You to a Veteran day. While I am not a supporter of any of the wars the US is currently involved in, and while I think war is atrocious and medieval, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with some Iraq veterans and soldiers, marines, and some Navy troops. In 2005 I drove around the country with my friend, Carmen, and we shot a documentary called Dear America. We interviewed hundreds of young Americans (ages 18-30) all over the nation, asking them their thoughts on the war, the country, what they would like to say to America, and how they would like to be remembered. I have to say the soldiers were some of the more interesting and emotionally compelling interviews. I thought I would find a sort of arrogant Ra-Ra America, I'm a patriot attitude, but what my arrogant liberal-minded attitude actually met were gentleman, some who believed what they were doing, some who were actually questioning and challenging it, some who were trying to escape a troublesome path, and some who just believed deeply in service, service for their country no matter what kind of service the country asked of them. I visited Camp Pendleton, a USO office in the St. Louis airport, the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, and a New Jersey home where I met an Iraq Veteran who was now suffering from PTSD and was an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He had signed up with the National Guard as a way to pay for college and within a week, September 11th happened and within months he found himself shipped to Iraq. He was involved in a three day shoot-out with Al-Quaeda that ended with him losing four of his close friends. He had nightmares almost every night, had suffered hearing loss, had developed chronic back pain and had an extremely hard time with anger management. He was the most articulate interview out of the 150 we shot.

I remember the soldiers' interviews were some of my favorites because they expanded my own understanding of patriotism and challenged my own narrow-mindedness. It didn't matter that I was "liberal." That did not make me open-minded. Fundamentalism is fundamentalism no matter which side of the spectrum you're on. I found that what these soldiers believed in was not so radically different from my own beliefs. And while I know there are some soldiers that have abused their privileges, their power, and horrible atrocities have indeed occurred at the hands of American soldiers, I can still appreciate those who are serving the country even if sometimes I can't understand it or believe in it. So today, I say  
Thank You to veterans.

I also say Congratulations to the many, many couples who have taken advantage of this adorable wedding date and are deciding to tie the knot- one of them being my very loved and missed friend, Sandy, who is moving to London after she gets hitched! Congratulations, Sandy!!! Let it be stated that 11.11.11 can be remembered as a day marked with gratitude and love.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Confessions of a Compulsive Picker

In honor of NaBloPoMo's writing prompt today, (write about a secret or not-so-secret passion) I am dedicating this post to my oldest love, to the compulsion that has carried me through thick and thin, the addiction that started in childhood and has lasted the better part of thirty years. My secret (and not-so-secret) passion is my obsession with picking at my face. Gross, I know. This is not something I am proud of, and it is in fact something that I am horribly embarrassed by (sometimes are worse than other), but what is most baffling about this disgusting habit is that I don't completely understand it. The picking (whether it be at acne, a scab, chapped lips, a bug bite) is painful and often times leaves me scarred, or gives me a much bigger problem than what originally was there. I do it all the time. I do it when I'm thinking about it, when I'm NOT thinking about it. I have even done it in my sleep. I have recently (as in Tuesday) started to bring this issue up with my therapist. (Surprise! Another 30 year-old woman in therapy.) She told me that "the picking" is on the same spectrum as let's say, cutting, although obviously not as severe. There is a certain relief or release I get (which were words I used to express the feeling after I completely pick something clean...or bloody) that the picking provides. It is a way of tempering my anxiety, stress, worry.

As a kid, my world was completely chaotic and for many years there was no order. My dad did the best he could to create a structure for us, but as a single parent, I think one of the hardest challenges is maintaining consistency in that kind of dynamic. He did amazing "dad things" like coaching my brother and me in soccer, and attending every one of my brother's soccer games in high school, and attending every parent-teacher conference (sometimes much to my chagrin) and taught me to drive, and then for a while he was making us breakfast in the morning and sometimes making us lunches. He was great. But during those years, where he was the only one for us, my dad went through his own series of losses. Not only had he lost his marriage and his co-parent, but he also lost his father. He suffered a severe illness that almost took his life and took two years to fully recover from. He lost his business and then took the case to court to clear his name which had been slandered against draining us financially and him emotionally. He was asked to pay more alimony. He was unemployed. And then there were long stretches of time where he was depressed and that very scary portion of time where he suffered debilitating cluster headaches. Needless to say, as the oldest child, and the only female in our family, I filled in as the other parent at times, I took on an enormous amount of responsibility, and I made it my job to take care of everyone in the house while the home we grew up continually felt like it was on the verge of complete collapse.

To say I am a "worrywart" is a gross understatement. To say I am a control freak fueled by an ingrained fear of  "whens the next shoe going to fall" with a compulsion towards "fixing" everything and everyone around me with a knack for suppressing extreme getting warmer. I have always been responsible. I have always been a serious person. And for as long as I can remember, I have always been a picker. Sometimes, there is no feeling, no great release that the picking provides, and sometimes I even get angry at myself. And then there are the days when I consciously try to stop myself and the compulsion always wins. Like an itch I can't scratch, a hunger I can't satisfy, I must  tear at that blemish. I have even torn a mole off. (I know, I know...this post is not for the weak of stomach)

There is an OCD disorder for this compulsion called Dermatillomania. When I looked at the OCD Center of Los Angeles's checklist for this disorder, I scored 16 out of 23. At certain times in my life, I probably would have scored higher, especially my freshman year of college where my picking was so bad, I gave myself impetigo not once, but twice. The good news is, there actually is treatment available. There is both Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and a form called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy  where you identify your triggers and try to learn how to sit through or cope with unwanted feelings. The idea is to let go of the burning desire, that need to control, how we deal with or even how we accept the hard knocks that come with life. The bad news is that while Dermatillomania is considered a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder it has also been considered a type of substance abuse disorder equating it with addiction, something both sides of my family are not in short supply. What does this mean? I have to WANT to get well. I have to WANT to stop picking. In the same way an alcoholic has to WANT for themselves to stop drinking. Then, and only then, can we treat the disease. 

As for this deep passion of mine, I have to say I am close to getting ready to want  to free myself of this compulsion...right after this zit on my chin clears up.