Five Years Old

A Mind Divided is five today.

5th birthday chris

5 • 5 • 5

 

5th birthday nathanTo celebrate, I went through every post (946) to make sure the video links still worked and to find lost pictures.  You know WordPress—stuff gets lost.  And videos that were perfectly fine suddenly become “private” (As if you can stuff that genie back in the bottle).

5th birthday benedictNothing cheeses me off quite so much as faulty technology (or bad grammar, but that’s a different post).  When I come across a link that doesn’t work, or that little blue square ? instead of a picture, I’m sure I’m missing out on something fabulous and now–sadly—lost to me forever.  The mystery of it, the tease, makes my compulsive nature sing a sweary song.

Christian Bale at the Sundance Film Festival, 2000 *** NO TABLOIDS ***

So, in order to be a polite blog host, and to spare any unnecessary Sweary Songs, I tried to fill in any blanks left by You Tube and WordPress (Because everyone will be checking that 2/24/11 Star Trek fan-vid).

And this made me a little cranky, but also amazed at the 946 posts.  In the beginning, I posted a lot.  I think most new bloggers do.  The rush of words going public and the urgency behind telling one’s story dazzles us.  When I didn’t have something personal to share, I posted poetry, my art, anything that felt meaningful or part of me.  That first year I averaged 25.5 posts per month.  This past year, my average was 7.5.

5th birthday hiddlesSome folks burn out.  Some run out of words.  The blog runs its course or loses the meaning it once held.  Some folks just get busy or move on to something that provides more meaning.

I’ve found I don’t need to say anything until I have something to say.  Being a “specialty” blog gives me the freedom to not mess about with the statistics page.  I don’t worry about losing readers or what I need to do to tart up my site to attract more.  I’ve never been Freshly Pressed (it’s called something else now…) and never will be.

5th birthday avengersI get to do what I love here—take my bipolar disorder apart and find any silver linings that hide under the gore.  I get to share my art and my fan fiction.  I get to belong to a loving, funny community that continues to blow my socks off with their comments and kindness.  I get to gush about movies, and books, and pretend boyfriends.  I get to be vulnerable, and freaky, and completely me.

5th birthday RichardI love this blog.  I love its therapeutic power.  I love the friends I’ve made through it.  And I love writing it.  I love that new readers still find their way here and that, once in a while, they stick around.

Frosting on my bloggy birthday cake.

Score!

Every year around this time, our library gives away its old magazines.  For me, it’s like winning the lottery… or getting free cheese from the government.  I’m still honing my skills, but I’ve learned a few things.

Mag Giveaway2

Get there Early.  While most folk come to browse and pick up a few Highlights for the kiddies, poplar magazines go quickly.  Today I was first in line—except for the two schizophrenics who hang out at the library every day.  People behind me started muttering about “budging in line,” so I quietly explained that these guys weren’t after the magazines.  The library is a second home to a lot of us.

aldi bagBring Sturdy Bags.  My canvas Aldi bags work great.  I generally load about fifty pounds per bag, so I don’t want any spillage while I’m huffing my way back to the car.

• Snatch the High Priority Magazines First.  I have a few favorites—magazines that offer the best photos and weirdest copy.  National Geographic is my number one pick.  Aside from the gorgeous and often bizarre photographs, the copy is so delightful taken out of context.  Where else would I be able to find “People swallow eight spiders a year in their sleep” or “Poop throwing”?  The Oprah Magazine carries a columnist that is always hysterical.  And Entertainment Weekly gives me both celebrity fun and consistently outrageous copy.  I like to read The Humanist, but tend to find choice quotes there as well.

Mag Giveaway1

• Take a Second, Slow Turn to Try New Titles.  It always surprises me which magazines are complete duds as far as my needs go.  AARP, Psychology Today, Popular Photography, The New Yorker, and Natural Life were all disasters.  Boring text, boring pictures (Popular Photography is all about cameras and lighting. Zzzzzz), or self-important and snooty with no humor—even out of context.  Writer and Writer’s Digest are iffy.  A good interview can make the search worthwhile, but most articles are overwritten and so serious.

This year I’m trying American History, Harper’s, Vanity Fair (mostly for the gorgeous Hollywood portraits), and The Iowa Review (a poetry/literary collection).

Mag Haul 2016

Instead of this slap-dash method, I’m considering a more systematic approach next year.  I think I’ll start visiting the magazine section and get more acquainted with what’s stocked.  There might be a rag out there, rich in hilarity and quirkiness, hidden under an innocuous title.  Maybe Men’s Health is the Holy Grail.

Oh, it so could be…

I Forgot

Startled AwakeI forgot how hard this is.

Bipolar Disorder.

I forgot how it opens a plug and drains out all the color.

I forgot how it pours sludge into every thought.

I forgot how it grinds the gears of decision-making until they smoke and fail.

I forgot how much courage it takes to put on my coat.

I forgot how much the people who love me can’t stand it either:

I forgot how exhausting their good intentions can be.

I forgot how much I have to fight it.

I forgot how hard it is.

Happy Birthday, Aquarians

Aquarius Opinions

Image

The Rule of Three

bowie

Alan RickmanGlenn Frey

 

 

 

 

 

May the joy they gave us be returned three-fold and assist in their travels.

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

As winter progresses, I watch this long spell of nearly-normal fade in the rear view mirror.  It’s a horrible feeling, watching that image of the real me shrink and shrink as the bipolar hitchhiker takes over the wheel.  I can feel the Vyvanse losing its grip and rolling under the tires.  I worry that I’ve forgotten how to do this—how to manage a life instead of living it.

Hello DarknessAnd, of course, all that is a story.  I’ve promised to guard against telling stories.

So, let’s just say it’s an adjustment.

There is more depression and distorted thinking, more fibromyalgia pain and insomnia, more compulsive eating and anxiety.  But, the truth is we all expected this, even while we hoped Vyvanse could beat back winter (we being my therapist, nurse practitioner/med provider, and me).

Miracle enough that an amphetamine meant to curb my eating disorder also managed to smooth out my moods for six months.  I don’t want to get greedy.  Six months of feeling joy and gratitude for my life, of sitting in the driver’s seat, can’t be minimized.  Ever.

And all is not lost yet.

Vyvanse acted like a screen door, keeping the bipolarness on the front porch.  But as soon as the drug flushed out of my system each day, the rapid cycling and mixed states poked their heads in and wanted coffee.  They’re just pushier now.  And obviously, they’ve been lifting weights this summer.

I couldn’t tell if V was helping at all the past few weeks.  I just knew I was miserable the moment I woke up and couldn’t discern any difference throughout the day.  So, I started taking V as soon as I got out of bed.  Now, by the time I finish at the Y, I can feel a lift.  The depression is still there, but quiet and more polite.  Again, this seems huge.

I’m trying to use these moderate shifts of mood to prepare for the hairier, meaner moods that will crash through the door.  I got groceries this morning and made two quiches (one to freeze).  If this pattern holds, I’ll bake a chicken/wild rice dish tomorrow and stick it in the freezer, too.  I can’t cook when I’m brain sick, so doing this feels smart and kind.  I am nurturing and being nurtured—like being my own grandma.

This is all new territory.  Mental illness tries to keep me from seeing that.  It tells me all is lost and will forever be lost.  But, that’s just a story.

The truth is—

—I’m on an Adventure.

The First Time I Tried to Change the World

Of all the things I loved about David Bowie, this is my favorite—as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.  A visionary, an obsessive, a genius.  May his energy travel the stars.

It’s Alive!

I feel a little like Peter Boyle’s monster at the end there.  “Who the hell is the idiot screaming?”  But, the idiot would also be me (less some of Gene Wilder’s hair), bellowing the news to the world.  I admit to ambivalence in making such a bold announcement after being sick for three months. It makes me want to touch wood, spit over my shoulder, or at least wear a hat when I go outside.

Also, I seem to be suffering from a weird kind of amnesia, like not being able to remember what I was talking about after someone interrupts me.  The thought was insightful, choice, but damn if it isn’t gone.  So I just stand and gawp, waiting for the brilliance to return. What was I doing three months ago?  No clue.

Maybe it’s not even relevant anymore.  That’s what I tell myself instead of panicking. Let’s just start by unlocking these steel straps, I tell my mad scientist, and we’ll see what happens next.

So, this week I went back to my water aerobics class, because I remember I used to like the water, and I blew the dust off my journal, and I started to plan.  Because, you know, I gotta have a plan.

Which reminds me that I got a Squatty Potty sometime during the haze of pneumonia.  But that’s a different post.  And, no, that’s not me demonstrating the healthful benefits.  I don’t wear white (But click on the link to the Squatty Potty commercial.  You won’t be sorry).HappySquatter-SquattyEccoStool

Anyway… what was I saying?

A Plan.  Right.

All I’ve been able to do so far is babble in my journal.  What’s important to me now?   What needs my attention?  What’s happening?  Where am I?

Getting my strength back and building my immune system came up a lot.  So did paying attention to how winter seems to be sapping Vyvanse’s effectiveness. And maybe I should see if I have any money in the bank.  So much more to consider now than whether I can sit at my table and sort beads for a half hour.

And speaking of those beads… I sure had fun making zodiac cards for the friend who sent me the Bead Box—so much so that I made some for myself.

Capricorn Odor

So, maybe Fun should be part of The Plan, too.  I’ll put it in the hopper (no Squatty Potty humor intended).

Books I Read in 2015

Open Head

The most books I’ve read in a year since electroshock!  It gets easier and easier.  Thank you, Suanne Wilmen, MHS Reading Teacher, for helping me get my brain back!

Ω Ω Ω

•Ahlborn, Ania. Within These Walls.  The one good thing about this book is the ending—a twist worthy of a horror novel.  But getting to that ending is torture and not worth the effort.  I can’t count the times I threw this across the room because the characters were so incredibly dumb.  If there’s one thing I cannot stand, especially in a horror novel, is the stereotypical, obtuse dolt.  Gee, did someone break into my house and rearrange my furniture?  Why is a bloody specter grinning from my bathroom mirror?  Pfft!  Pull on a red shirt already and join the Enterprise, because, buddy, you’re toast.  Oops.  Did I spoil that ending?

•Binchy, Maeve.  Tara Road.  I found this on the “Free Books” table at the library, knew Binchy was Irish, and thought “what the heck.”  Once I got into it, I kept thinking of Ellen over at Notes from the U.K. and our discussions on how we, as American writers, anguish over making our U.K. characters sound authentic.  Binchy’s characters will never sound anything other than Irish—no matter what nationality she says they are—which I found delightful.  This soap opera with an Irish brogue was lots of fun.

Written In Red.indd•Bishop, Anne.  Written in Red.  In this alternate universe, The Others are the predominant intelligent species on Earth.  Basically, shape-shifters, they tolerate humanity—barely.  When a young woman seeks refuge with an Other community, the repercussions ripple across the globe.  The story is well written with a cool premise and interesting characters.  I got bit hard and needed more.

•Bishop, Anne.  Murder of Crows.  The sequel to Written in Red.  Meg and her friends, both Other and human, discover that blood prophets—young girls who see the future when their skin is cut—are the source of two terrifying drugs.  This time out, we get to see how the different regions interact, meet new Others, and watch the “friendship” between Meg and Simon Wolfgard grow.  Arroooo!

•Bishop, Anne.  Vision in Silver.  The third book in Bishop’s “The Others” series.  I’m completely hooked. Love the characters, love the world, love the intrigue.  You’d think if you lived by the leave of a race that could wipe you off the face of the earth, you’d play nice.  But we’re talking about humans, who are the worst at learning from history. Bishop makes me believe we could be that dumb.

•Bishop, Anne.  The Pillars of the World.  Since I loved Bishop’s The Others series, I thought I’d see what else she’d written.  This high-fantasy story involves witches, The Fae, and witch-hunts.  The Fae are a mash-up of pagan and Greco-Roman gods with the requisite arrogance, vanity and very short memories.  Their land is disappearing, and they stand around wringing their hands and pouting.  They are too similar to human beings in this respect to be very interesting.

cashore

•Cashore, Kristin. Fire.  On this side of Cashore’s world (introduced in Graceling—see last year’s list), there be monsters—animals that look like regular critters except for their rainbow colors and appetite for human flesh.  Monsters cast a kind of glamour over non-monsters.  People have learned to guard their minds, but some are better at it than others (who mostly get eaten).  Fire is a human monster, beloved or hated wherever she goes, so she tries to live inconspicuously.  But the country is about to be torn apart by war, and her special talents are needed.  I love Cashore’s storytelling and characters that live burdened lives.  A thousand stars.

•Cashore, Bitterblue.  In this sequel to Graceling, the teen-aged queen of Monsea is overwhelmed by how to help her people, who were ravaged by her psychotic and sadistic father-king.  Again, Cashore weaves a thoroughly believable world of real people with spectacular ability and complexity.  Her characters are smart.  The intrigue air-tight.  Alas, this is the last of Cashore’s books so far.  She’s better be busy scribbling another.

light•Doerr, Anthony. About Grace.  David Winkler’s precognizant dreams start when he is a child living in Anchorage.  He’s an odd man anyway, fascinated by water and the crystalline beauty of snow, but this terrifying ability pushes him to desperate acts.  Doerr’s writing is lush and breath-taking, his characters almost too painful to watch.  I never knew where this story would go, which was a delight, but sometimes cryptic does not equal artistic.  I felt cheated in the end.

•Doerr, Anthony.  All the Light We Cannot See.  I have no words for this book, just that there’s a reason I had to wait a couple of months for it at the library.  Read it.  You won’t be sorry.

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter•Duncan, Rod. The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter.  In this fascinating, steam-punk, alternate England Luddites and the supreme power of The International Patent Office keep global peace by banning technology.  Elizabeth Barnabas ekes out a living as a private detective disguised as her “twin brother.”  In exile, drawing on her skills as a circus brat and illusionist, she races to find a missing aristocrat and his arcane machine.  Each leg of her journey is more dangerous and convoluted than the last.  A very tasty read.

•Duncan, Rod.  Unseemly Science.  This is the second volume of Duncan’s Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire where technology is strictly regulated.  England is divided (north and south), and a new law is about extradite Elizabeth Barnabas over the border and back to a life of indentured servitude under (literally) a lascivious lord.  As she flees from capture, she finds marginal safety in taking a case as an intelligence finder for an odd and influential charity worker.  Once again, Duncan leads the reader on a wild ride.  This alternate history is delightful and weird.  I’m looking forward to volume three.

•French, Tana. The Likeness.  I love this author.  She writes tight, detective/murder mysteries set in Ireland.  This time out, her detective, Cassie Maddox, goes undercover to find the killer of a woman who could have been her twin.  French gets us into the head of someone slipping into another’s life and liking it, plus the double tension of all the ways she could get her doppelgänger wrong.  Brilliant.

Faithful Place•French, Tana.  Faithful Place.  Leafing through this book, I worried a little that my favorite detective, Cassie Maddox, had been replaced by the hot-shot Undercover detective introduced in The Likeness.  Frank Mackey is a smart-ass, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to tag along with him through a whole book.  Boy-howdy, was I wrong!  Mackey spent twenty-two years building a life away from his dysfunctional family of origin (we get to see why he’s such a  smart-ass), but a discovery on his old street sucks him back in to relive a pivotal and painful event in his past.  French’s characters are so real, they fly off the page.  Another winner.

•Guterson, David.  Snow Falling on Cedars.  The story begins with a murder trial of a Japanese-American in a small island community off the coast of Washington state in the early 1950s.  Other stories join and interlace this one—the internment of all the Japanese on the island in Manzanar after Pearl Harbor, the young love of the town’s white newspaper man’s son and a Japanese strawberry farmer’s daughter, the destruction of war on a soul and a community.  The book bogs down in detail sometimes, but the beauty and humanity are worth it.

while_they_slept-215x327•Harris, Charlaine.  Dead Until Dark.  After gorging on all seven seasons of HBO’s True Blood, I thought the books might offer more tasty tidbits.  Nope.  Plodding, vapid, with plot holes bigger than a stake through the chest, this first book in the series begged for the True Death.  I won’t be digging up any more of them.

•Harrison, Kathryn. While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family.  This book is mesmerizing.  It tells the true story of eighteen-year-old Billy Gilley, who murdered his parents and little sister in 1984, but not his sixteen-year-old sister Jody.  Harrison, herself an incest survivor, traces the patterns of family violence and abuse in the Gilley family through interviews with both Billy and Jody as well as an enormous amount of research.  Harrison is fearless in opening to the resonance between her own story and the Gilleys’.  For all three of them, violent trauma divided their lives into Before and After.  How does a person reassemble oneself after that?

hounded•Herne, Kevin.  Hounded (Book One in The Iron Druid Chronicles).  I have good friends who read good fantasy and share that tasty knowledge with me.  Thank the gods.  Now I have a whole series to enjoy about a 2100-year old Druid living in southeastern Arizona who runs a New-Age bookstore, mind-links with his Irish wolfhound, and gets legal advice from his werewolf and vampire attorneys.  Here, all the religions, all the myths, all the legends are real.  Most of them either shop his store or try to kill him.  So very tasty.

•Herne, Kevin.  Hexed.  More misadventures of Atticus O’Sullivan, the hunky Druid with the magical sword.  This time out, he deals with Bacchants (minions of the party god, Bacchus), witches—both good and evil, and a variety of demons and fallen angels.  Because he’s now a god-slayer, he’s attracting unwelcome attention from all the pantheons.  Favorite line: Demons smell like ass.

Invention•Herne, Kevin.  Hammered.  Atticus the Druid promised his attorneys (an Icelandic vampire and the alpha of a werewolf pack) that he would get them to Asgard so they could kill Thor (who is an absolute “fuckpuddle” and takes bullying to divine heights).  Along the way, the Fellowship acquires a Slavic Thunder God, a Finnish shaman, and one of China’s Eight Immortals who all want the Asgardian blowhard dead.  Mayhem ensues.  Favorite line: In many ways, I’m disappointed that “Star Trek” never became a religion.

•Kidd, Sue Monk. The Invention of Wings.  I always get a little nervous when someone from one ethnic group creates a protagonist from another ethnic group, then places the story during a dynamic point in history.  But, Sue Monk Kidd is not an author I worry about.  She tells this story of pre-Civil War Charleston from two girls’ point of view—one is a slave, the other her master’s awkward daughter.  The story is full of pain and horror, and beauty and grace.  It’s a treasure and a wonder.

220px-Mrmercedes•King, Stephen.  Mr. Mercedes.  Reading anything by Steve is like coming home for me, but this one offered nothing new.  I was engaged throughout—loved the protagonist, a retired homicide detective who wasn’t handling retirement well, and the set-up of him being contacted by “the one that got away.”  But the bad guy felt phoned in.  If you want good Steve, go read 11/22/63 instead.

•King, Stephen.  Revival.  Ditto.  Okay, buddy, you’re overdue to hit one out of the park.

•King, Stephen.  Finders Keepers.  I think I’ve caught up with my favorite author now.  I love that he brings back the team from Mr. Mercedes—the retired cop, his young neighbor kid, and the young woman with severe anxiety issues they helped rescue.  This time the trio tries to help a teen who finds a buried trunk from a home robbery thirty years in the past.  Steve knows how to build character along with the suspense.  And the bad guy in Mr. Mercedes who felt phoned in is getting ready to make me eat those words.

wally•Lamb, Wally. The Hour I First Believed.  Lots of books are labeled “tapestries,” but that’s exactly what this non-fictional fiction presents.  The fictional main characters are staff at Columbine high school at the time of the student killing spree; the protagonist’s grandmother campaigns for reform in women’s correctional facilities; PTSD, incest, abandonment, mental illness, drug addiction, mythology—the colors and texture of this tapestry weave in a disturbing, enthralling matrix.  Wally Lamb is a wonder.

•Lamb, Wally.  Wishin’ and Hopin’—A Christmas Story.  Not Lamb’s usual psychological taste treat.  More a nostalgic bon-bon.  And Wally thinks he’s funnier that he really is, but the writing is still fine.  He should stick to trauma and dysfunction, though.  That’s hilarious!

9418326•McNeal, Tom. To Be Sung Underwater.  Judith, a middle-aged film editor in California, finds her perfect life unraveling as memories of her first love in Nebraska push her to hire a private detective. Fully-formed characters, a deep sense of place, and well crafted.  If you’ve ever had to leave a love behind, this story will touch a deep chord.

•Pilcher, Rosamunde. The Shell Seekers.  A sprawling novel written in the ’80s about an elderly English woman and her grown children.  The story jumps from present day, to life during WW2, to other events in the family’s history.  I loved the Englishness of it, but found most of the characters tiresome.  The adult children are petty, even the daughter that Penelope (the protagonist) loves is caught up in the career madness of the ’80s.  But, Penelope is lovely, and her father, a famous artist, is fun, and all the English garden/cottage/sea-shore ambience is delicious.  I almost gave it back to the library, but didn’t.  That’s a pretty high recommendation coming from me.

200px-Olive-kitteridge_l•Strout, Elizabeth.  Olive Kitteridge.  Thirteen vignettes that weave together and around the title character in a small New England coastal town.  The characters are complicated, their lives messy and real.  I saw the HBO mini-series first with Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins (both Oscar winners and stunning in this show).  I thought there might be more deliciousness in the book, and I was right.  Strout won a Pulitzer for it.

•Tyler, Anne. The Amateur Marriage.  I’ve always enjoyed Tyler’s weird characters, but this couple made my ass ache.  Michael and Pauline are the epitome of Socrates’  Unexamined Life—married during the rush of post-WW2, they never learn compassion or tolerance of each other, never question their own egotistical take on the world, never grow up.  They suffer, their kids suffer—it’s way too much like real life.  I have plenty of that already.

The Books I Couldn’t Finish

•Karr, Mary.  The Art of Memoir.  After reading excerpts on a friend’s blog, I got all excited.  I’m writing a memoir, and Karr teaches memoir writing—I was bound to find useful treasure.  Not so much.  And what is there, Karr buries in weird asides, like a whole gushing chapter about Nabokov who broke every “rule” in memoir writing, or endless details about her own process.  Ugh.

•Hoffman, Alice. The Dovekeepers.  This is one of those books heralded as “a major contribution to twenty-first-century literature.” The flap says it took Hoffman five years to research and write. According to ancient history, in 70 C.E., 900 Jews held out for months against Roman armies on a mountain in the Judea desert.  Two women and five children survived. Sixty pages in, I didn’t care. So, shoot me.

Felicitations of the Day

Merry Fucking Christmas

Some traditions are too good to set aside.

Merry Whatever.

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