Italia, mi Amor

fullsizeoutput_19d6To avoid posting this one month to the day upon our return, I probably should have let my fingers tap out what my heart wanted to say on the flight back from Milan. Alas, I was too busy wondering if my knee could bounce back from 10,000 miles of stairs. Okay, I’m probably dancing with hyperbole again on the 10K part. I love dancing, you know. And now I’m thinking of my knee again, wondering how long it will be until I can dance again which I’m very much itching to do.

Italy was like a dance. It symbolized the first time I’d ever just cleared my plate of “the list” and disconnected from my daily routine. You have a list, right? Doesn’t everybody have a list? For me, this is a 10-page, single-spaced document that gets revised on a daily. The first page is printed the night before the next day and works as the operating document for the next day. Type, edit, repeat. That is just how I learned to do it back in my law firm marketing days when the list was always way longer than the day or week for that matter. Progress not perfection is the mantra for the list. For Italy, I let go of the list on April 1 and did not revisit that list until May 1. My immersion was a full 30 days. I kept in touch with the kids and my mom through the family text thread, dropping in pics and reports so they could share in the experience. I dropped Facebook updates so we could share with extended family and friends. Of course, I responded to “request for consult” calls, but I only had two. The rest of the time was spent dropping into the present in a magical land.fullsizeoutput_1ab6

What this allowed me to do was immerse into a new culture with a sexy language, unfamiliar money system, new dominant religion (because Catholicism and Judeo-Christian are two different flavors of gelato), unique value system, enchanting geography and so on–and just play. For Mike and I, this was a celebration of 22 years of marriage (25 together and 37 as friends) in which we have never stepped outside US borders together in our journey as a couple. The reason for this is mainly our parenting philosophy and never wanting to be too far away from the kids. But we’re empty nesters now (with a dog/house sitter who’s like one of the family) and we feel like we can set off to explore the world with everyone being okay. Indeed they were, and we were both like two kids in Disneyland for the first time, foodies and wine lovers that we are. But it was more than that. We both loved just soaking up all the adventures of being in a new land and sharing this adventure together.

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Side note: Are you hungry, yet? There will be food porn, so if this is a trigger, stop here.  Just know, food here is anchored in family legacy, art, and is way more than food. Whoever said that food is not love has not been to Italy. And those puzzle pieces? They are the sauce made from the veggies next to them for the Veal Milanese.

Because of the novelty, when we started planning, we were a bit overwhelmed. We’re planners. We like to think through the “what could go wrongs” so they don’t. We don’t like to come back from vacation needing one. We were international newbies. Our trip went so smoothly because of our allies along the way: first Sommer, then Suzanne, and finally Lorenzo and Elizabeth. Sommer, a childhood friend, had traveled to Italy with her family and shared her entire itinerary with us which gave us a lay of the land. It helped us think through a model approach. Suzanne has family in Italy and travels there every year. She gave us her top 10 list of what to visit and what to skip. It was Elizabeth, though, was our secret sauce resource before during and after!

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We found her through Lorenzo. We approached Lorenzo who works at one of our favorite Amador Wineries, Andis Wines. We remembered when he came from Italy to work at Andis and knew of his fourth-generation winemaker family lineage. We reasoned he could tell us where to go. Honestly, we were pulling at whatever strings we could find beyond the travel guides. We craved to tread untrodden paths, at least partly. We arranged to meet Lorenzo at the winery 6mrhGB6OQF2EKn2Rpb5Khgand sat with him for an hour over a glass of Semillon overlooking vineyards, talking about Tuscany, the Chianti region, and where we should go while gazing over a Google map of the region on Lorenzo’s cell. I took notes which I promptly lost. Fortunately for us, at the end of our research session, Lorenzo pulls a card out of his pocket and said in his strong Italian accent, “And my wife, Elizabeth, she is a trip designer who speaks fluent Italian and Italy is her favorite place. We met in Florence where we lived.” Lorenzo, dude.  That’s your starting line, bro.

But see, in Italy it’s not. They like surprise, and love to gracefully-playfully draw things out with a hint of drama and artistic flare. To stereotype, they are natural storytellers. My people. Witness our 5 ½ hour dinner at our first Michelin restaurant that Elizabeth said we must go to and was right en pointe. She and Lorenzo knew and loved the place. (In fact, we couldn’t help thinking throughout the trip like we were on a tour of their love affair.) After eating a 9-course meal at Aroma overlooking the Coliseum, we understood why Aroma was a standout. And we wondered if every meal would be ¼ of a day long. We watched the sun go down, the moon come up and the moon go down. It was really something, and where we learned about pre-dessert, dessert, and post-dessert. Yah. That’s a thing.

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And that’s what I mean about Elizabeth. She just came with all this genius. We brainstormed together, starting about a year in advance. We talked about things we liked. We talked about how we were way more interested in mini-immersion travel then just darting in and out of a place so we could say we’d seen it. We wanted to get to know the people, eat in their homes, which we did end up doing and it was so lovely. We wanted to sample all the geography, physical and cultural, of a space, but still scout the country for where we would return. We wanted to go city, sea, country repeat. We wanted to try plane, train, automobile, ferry. (Our favorite, by the way, was “transfers,” when the driver just picks you up because they’re such great tour guides!) The trains were stressful, but we met some really beautiful people on them, shared synchronicity, and would sit, as if at a big cocktail party, sharing food with several Australian couples and a lovely couple of millennials from DC. Now that we’ve done it, we’d do it again, but the first train ride out of Rome we stood looking at the board for so long the military police got suspicious and started to approach. Not even kidding.

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She had warned us. About train stations, about tourist menus, about museum lines even in the off season which we scheduled intentionally as we don’t fancy crowds.  Elizabeth set us up on an app laying out each day, all train and other tickets attached on respective days, and we had a call together on how to work the whole thing. It was sort of like that call you may have with your grandmother about how to navigate her first cell phone, but she was patient. Included in daily descriptions were suggested restaurants, history of place, anecdotes about she and Lorenzo (points to our love story theory), tips, and even encouragements about busting out on our own outside the app boundaries. While we were there, we decided to stay in Cinque Terra another day, which she gracefully adjusted. When the hotel brought my leggings back pressed instead of cleaned, she gave me the Italian phrase to fix it. (Nothing like a nice ironed pair of stinky leggings, am I right?!)  As I was making an Italian music play list, she and Lorenzo threw out great top hits which I’m still listening to pretty much daily. Several things went sideways: boat tours in the rain, a confusion on an Italian Cinema Tour. Elizabeth was on it with the refund process, advocating for us in Italian, and sharing our emotions along the way. We’re so grateful for this, our own cyber tour guide. She made this trip so special for us.

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Speaking of tour guides, we chose to use one-on-one guides and Elizabeth found the best. The guides were such great resources because they would honestly share with the common refrain “nobody has ever asked me that.” I HATE small talk and am really much more interested on what lies below the surface of a person, space, or event. I found the Italians were experts at beautifying the surface in so many ways, and if asked, would dip below, but normally not until. I asked. We had tours for the Vatican, for a gastronomic tour of Rome, a wine tour of Chianti region in Tuscany, history and cultural in Milan. Each of the guides not only showed us their tour, but answered all my “off-tour” questions: how is mental illness handled in Italy? What is this contradiction where women are both cherished and treated subserviently simultaneously? Why hasn’t “me too” made its way to Italy? How does 95% Catholic look on all different levels of the culture? What do you study in school? What’s up with the toilets?

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Let’s just spend a moment on that. You don’t really think about toilets until they’re different. We saw all kinds. Since we were mainly staying in hotels, they usually came with a bidet. Yet, even one train station had a “bidet adjacent” hose. But here’s the thing. Unlike the Japanese or Korean all-in-one versions, the toilets and bidets are side-by-side so…well…you have to scoot over in bended knee position, fiddle with the on/off, get the temp right, aim the nozzle…it’s a whole thing. (I did, however, miss it when it was gone.) Then, on the trains, the toilet seat is in a default up position, so to sit on it requires some gymnastics I never really got down. In the station itself, it costs a Euro, and although they’re clean, there’s no seat-seat. About three days in, I found this whole toilet business so fascinating, I started taking pictures. The final piece, and I’m really just sure this is getting me ready for visiting other places, there was just a hole in the ground at the Hertz parking lot in Florence. That was EXTRA.

If I had you at toilets, skip to the last paragraph. If you want to experience a more day by day, allora, carry on reading these blog-ettes I wrote along the way. They came to me spontaneously as we landed in Rome as a way to share Italy with those who haven’t been yet, had been and wanted to remember, or were going and could use some of the unofficial guidance that we were given. (At this point, I need to tell you to contact Elizabeth Berault at Impulse Travel Design on Facebook and she will be your guide. She’s the master. We bow to her. That’s what we will do for our next trip to Japan.) Elizabeth the Magnificent

Day 1: Roma!

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Antonio gave us a great tour on the way to our hotel. We’re right in El Centro. Delicious dinner, Elizabeth, right in the square with the same music the server had listened to for 20 years. Brand new to us and topped off with a stroll and tartuffo/gelato. Welcome to Rome!

Day 2, Buonasera!

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Today we learned so much history thanks to private guide, Chiara, a PhD in architecture and a history buff. Did you know the Vatican is its own country? Si. And thanks to Elizabeth, PhD in trip design who found her and the best table at Aroma, a Michelin-starred restaurant, we celebrated our anniversary early over 9 courses with pairings for 5.5 hours. Longest meal EVER. We watched the new moon rise and drop down behind the Coliseum, cursing ourselves for having eaten lunch. OMGOMGOMG. What a day!

April 9, Roma, Italy at Volpetti Testaccio

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Salve ciao! Final day in Rome-tomorrow we head to the sea at Amalfi Coast. Roman obsessions. The Smart cars that zip through the alleys, the alleys, the Tiber River, the lovely Italian people, all of the food (the Siciliano rice balls!), the architecture, the history, the statues, the surprises, the San Pietrini streets. We spent the morning with Sara who took us on a gastronomic tour of the non-tourist part of Rome. She chose special local fresh stores with famous parma ham from “orange cows,” local farmers market, the local’s favorite bakery. As we ate our way through the streets, she shared history of the area. After we walked the Tiber River, then had the adventure ride of our lives to Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps. Our cab driver was hilarious!

April 10, Amalfi (Favorite!)

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Our train adventure to Naples where (thank God!) Elizabeth had Tony pick us up and drive us down narrow roads through hail, floods and switchbacks to Amalfi. The vibe here, past hills of lemon trees which makes this home of the limoncello, is pure relaxation. Out our window the waves lap the shore and we move from sun to rain to lightning to sun and it’s pure magic. The jacuzzi tub on the balcony is the best place to watch the show. I love this place

April 11, Amalfi, Italia

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Ahhhh, Amalfi❤️ This may very well be my favorite place in the world so far. I’ve never felt more me, more peaceful, more at home in a space.

They’re all about lemons (limoncello) and buffalo mozzarella which is served for breakfast, lunch, dinner. The weather in April is so perfect. The sky moves from rain to sun and back again playing a dramatic game of cloud tag throughout the day. This changes the colors in the Tyrrhenian Sea which I stepped in today. It’s cold and refreshing. We find the people so friendly, gracious, and eager to connect. Last night’s Eolo (Michelin mention) and tonight’s Ristorante Liddo Azzuro (should have a mention) gave these foodies quite the culinary art show.

April 12, Capri, Italy – Capri Adventure (aka practicing psychological flexibility🤣)

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We woke up to a rainbow after a beautiful pounding rain Mike said was so loud it sounded like the hotel was breaking and that I apparently slept through. We set out on our day uncertain until 20 mins before leaving whether the sea was too rough for the ferry to run to the Isle of Capri where we had a boat tour scheduled around the island. (Boating to the boat tour, yes, in the moodiest of spring seas and skies. The irony is not lost on us.) Alas, would we get back to our beautiful Amalfi? Would we get stuck on Capri? Would we actually take the boat tour? We knew this for sure: we would see beautiful Amalfi coast. We would find limoncello and more fresh pasta with seafood, the octopus as local star and the Tako happens to be one I can’t get enough of. In the end, the boat confirmed during lunch at delicious Michaelangelo’s, and then called at meeting time to cancel. No tour around the island. No matter, though, because we rode the furnuncular up and down three times, had a taxi ride in the brightest pink taxi on the narrowest roads you’ve ever seen, and saw beautiful vistas. A fun adventure, but tomorrow we will spend our last day in Amalfi making like locals as best we can.

April 13, Amalfi – Ever-changing Moods of Amalfi.

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I can’t decide which I love best: the constant rhythm of the waves clacking rocks against the pebbly shore or the cathedral bells chiming every hour throughout the town. We wake up to competing smells of fresh baked chocolate croissants and sweet Wisteria, wafting in through our open glass door on a sea breeze reminiscent of our So Cal days. I look out or up or over at this familiar sea and each time it’s different, cerulean blue tossed with emerald splashes of many shades, reminding me to treasure each unique mood and moment of the now. Ride the wave. Take the rain, the sun, the clouds, the rainbow, the sun again. Breathe it all in. Today we wandered down allies and into such a special (and perhaps undiscovered) gem.

A young man, probably somewhere between the age of our two sons, only 3 classes away from sommelier. This is Simone’s (at Da Gemma)  passion. Well, that and the Golden State Warriors. We entered in off a back alley and had Simone all to ourselves for several hours. We put our trust in Simone and let him lead the way, showcasing his best pairings. He was a rock star! So much fun. When our new friends from Louisiana came in for their reservation, we convinced them to do the same. The flavors, the art.

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Another discovery today: Amalfi paper! This is writer porn. So soft.  So sensual. We spent an hour feeling paper, playing with pens, looking at wax seals. So cool. (Hey, everybody’s got their thing.)

Tomorrow we head to Tuscany. We will miss you, Amalfi. So much.🧜🏼‍♀️🧜🏼‍♂️

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April 14, Travel Day – Travel Day on Palm Sunday—oy vey!

Up at 5:30 in the a.m., our driver met us in Amalfi to brave the treacherous switchbacks to the Naples train station. It’s an hour plus drive weaving through the cliffs of Amalfi. Green, gorgeous, and puke worthy. I didn’t. We made it to the train station an hour early with time for coffee with roasted smells for miles and a croissant stuffed with “hazelnut” (eh hem—blonde Nutella.) We shared the pastry and the server cut it in half to pair with our Americanos. I bit into my half and hazelnut cream shot out all over my scarf and newly cleaned dress. I wanted to lick it off, but I also didn’t want to be a bad American representative so I refrained.

We headed to the train thinking we had this thing down hustling to carriage 2 line about 200 meters (EVERYTHING is about 200 meters btw) and then realized the train backed in and the signs were wrong. We ran pushing our bags back the opposite way. Such novices. We learned a few more things—like the trains go 300 kph and suitcases run down the aisle if people (not us!) put them wheels down. After the 3 hour ride, we wheeled our bag through the streets of…umm, not sure, Florence? Firenze?… to the rental car place where we proceeded to wait for 1.5 hours for a car. Palm Sunday, they said. What does Jesus walking down the streets of Jerusalem fanned with palm fronds have to do with disorganized car rental offices? Not sure. We closed the place down (actually last) so naturally I had to pee. I’m going to do a whole thing on toilets because they’re a whole thing here and there you will have to see the hole in the floor toilet at the rental car place! More on that later. (And the case of this blog, earlier.)

Mike (my hero) braved the driving once we figured out how to turn the car on. We hit about 5 really fast roundabouts and only had to circle back one time. That was a win because things move fast! We hit the autostrade along with lightning, thunder and hail-rain. What could go wrong?

Exiting was a relief. Finding our castle hotel in the Tuscan countryside was not. Google was perplexed. Of course, reception was also iffy. (I can’t hear you…can you hear me?) In fact, we finally needed an escort. But so did the people following us. Nice Germans. The curvy roads were reminiscent of getting out of Amalfi, coming full circle on our day.

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Speaking of Amalfi, we may have become locals. We revisited our fave Eolo last night and were sat at the best table in the house. Antonio even took us to the wine cave after and told us we were his first wine pairing to food art people of the season. Amalfi kissed us goodbye with a sunshine kiss and sent us on our way to this Tuscany countryside.

What will it bring us tomorrow when Donnatella picks us up for a wine tasting day across Tuscany? Thank God she’s driving and we can just take it all in. Buonasera, amicos, and happy Palm Sunday.

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Tuscany, April 15 – The Wine is Alive!

Donatella picked us up just after breakfast for a full day of Italian wine school in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Well, not exactly school, but we learned so much.

The Chianti zone is Tuscany’s largest classified wine region and to be a Chianti Classico is a WHOLE thing. You’ve got to follow a butt load of rules and there is a governing body called the consortium that has to approve the wine each step of the way. You have to take them samples and they have to pass you. Unlike California, in Tuscany/Italy wine is not identified by fruit, but instead by region. Ergo, take a guess at what Chianti wine is? Basically, Sangiovese, and in fact must be 80% as one of the rules. The Chianti Classico is competed for and marked by a seal by the DOCG (Denominacione di origine controlata and guarntetarify—or something like this) to prove its authenticity and also marked by a black rooster. Super interesting!

But even more fascinating was to see how wine is at the center of Italian family life and always eaten with food. Not just drinking is a part of family life, but 2 families were living on the farms with generations still living together from children to great grandparents and working the land. Donatella and Nancy (her van) took us to 4 wineries we would never have had access to down long curvy dirt roads, through beautiful towns, where we would reach a destination and then were greeted by a wine dog. One tasting, we sat in the winemaker’s living room eating charcuterie (because always food remember). At the 3rd winery, a charming family (children translated tour, mom made our food, Grandpa was “more possessive of his grapes than his wife” and is the only pruner in his 80s) showed us around and fed us so much we thought it was lunch UNTIL we ended up in a private home with Ramo waving at us so happily as we arrived with homemade pasta and a TON MORE FOOD with tiramisu for dessert. I said no more and they just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Mangi! Mangi!

After, he took us on a stroll of their 700 person town, San Donato in Poggio in Chianti with 3 streets which he has lived in all his life, the last 41 with his wife. She grew up 2 towns over. It was such a special gift to eat with them in their home and see their town as our guide translated between us.

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April 16, Borgo Scopeto Relais – Siena, Spa, & Pizzeria

Siena. Our first walled city. A little fender bender (big car backed into us and couldn’t find horn), a grazie and a prego and on our way, stunning cathedrals, the Holy week, red poppies as birth and resurrection fill the air, the white puffy clouds, spring flowers, coconut gelato, the piazza, toddlers chasing pigeons, no clothes dryers, no cars in the walled city, statues, more cathedrals, the spa—Nectar of the Gods, bathe in wine while drinking wine, steam, jacuzzi under waterfall, couples massage (each snoring at different moments), a local pizzeria with Chianti Classico (copied neighbors, found Marco who works in our castle hotel, so many types of prosciutto (breakfast, lunch, dinner), late night wine tasting in castle before we leave tomorrow for Florence! Dennis & Michelle, for you we eata the gelato! Dennis, we found the church (bad knee so did not go to top!)

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April 17, Florence Firenze

We have arrived in Florence, but not before driving inside the city walls where only city vehicles are allowed. Terrifying, hilarious, and possibly a ticket coming our way as a souvenir. Elizabeth says it’s a right of passage. We were only flipped off once and honked at twice and we didn’t hit anyone! A win! See the three-foot-wide alley Mike had to navigate which seem like the narrowest yet.

We are steps away from this most majestic cathedral and museum which we stumbled upon. (Actually almost drove into😂). We’ve activated our 72-hour Firenze cards and are now on a museum-orama immersion program. The breadth of history, art, creativity fills every crevice in this place. The sheer size of the cathedrals makes you stop where you stand and stare. The intricacies make you question (or at least me) how humans could have contributed so so much to their world in one life time. I guess they didn’t have Netflix.

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April 18 – Florence, Italy – Galleria Degli Uffizi

Firenze. Florence. So many museums and each one has different rules for entering. We have a “fast pass” just like Disneyland, but unlike DL, it’s harder to figure out the offsite ticket acquisition using your pass and the rules for the respective lines. But being Bruins, we know how to navigate bureaucracy! And we were so grateful to have Firenze card because it’s the only reason we got in to the two main museums during Easter week. Reservations are backed up until 4/22 and without them, you can’t get in (like when they close the pirates at DL.) I can’t help see the influence of Walt from Italy btw. I don’t know the history, but I’m sure it’s there from our regular walks through the park while living in So Cal then seeing this. The busts in the Haunted House, for example. Or today we walked by The Pinocchio store.

Now to The David. HE’S SO LARGE. And his feet and hands seem XXXL. And his veins. I thought he was going to be smaller, I think because Mona Lisa at The Louvre was so small. Anyway, outstanding. The Pitti Palace and Gardens—WOW! The elaborate details! We just walked through with our mouths hung open. A beautiful wine tasting paired lunch (from what we suspect may be a Lorenzo/Elizabeth regular date night hang out) across from the Pizzi and then Mr Toad’s Wild Ride to our afternoon reservation at the Acadamia! This time, someone else drove. Our server and restaurant manager said “Next time you come for more wine and less Acadamia!”

Tonight we cross the River Arno for what we think is a late dinner, but is actually the first restaurant setting at 7:30. I don’t know if we’d make very good Italians. But we do excel at the manji manji part so we got that going for us. Arrivederci!

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April 19, Golden Tower Hotel Florence, Italy

Last night—full moon over the Arno. We sat and listened to music in the quad where people gather and amazing musicians play. Magical.

Today started out disappointing with our cinema guide not showing, but we decided to head to the Franco Zeffirelli Museum she was going to take us to anyway. We ended up having the best time! First we walked in this empty church (Jesus dressed like Tuesday Morning) and then had the whole film museum to ourselves for like an hour! Amazing! He’s 96 now and lives in Rome, but comes to Florence each October. His list of works is OFF THE HOOK and his process soooo interesting. We ended our cinema tour day with “Becoming Leonardo Da Vinci” which was perfect to see in Florence! Happy Good Friday and Happy Passover!

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April 21, Monterossa al Mare – The Land of Cinque Terra: the Hike from Monterosso to Vernazza

Happy Easter and Buona Pasqua! We had quite a day! We set out to hike “Lover’s Hike” after breakfast which sounds like it would be a nice meandering stroll, arm in arm, through sweet red roses or something. Alas, it was more like climbing a ladder of uneven stairs with uneven stones to Heaven—like ALL the way there. If you know me well, you know I’m missing my left ACL and meniscus (since 23 skiing accident) and bone on bone at this point. I survive off those new shots and have pushed off a knee replacement for many years successfully. Additionally, my weight is way up which does not make my knee happy. Still, we climbed those stairs to the top of the world. I had a lot of feelings about this. At first I was really irritated nobody had described these steep steps. Then, I was a bit panicked we’d not brought water (for a two-hour hike straight up! What were we thinking?!) Next, I was amused because I had my own personal international cheering squad who could see I was struggling and would cheer me on. If I wasn’t so touched, I’d have been embarrassed. Finally, as we reached the top, my knee throbbing and my throat like sandpaper, I felt nothing but pure gratitude. This man in his goldens was standing there squeezing fresh oj and selling cold bottled water! An Easter miracle. While Mike got juice, I plopped myself down next to a young man with a sweet, gentle spirit and we started talking. His name was Ahmed and he was a PhD in chemical engineering. He was on a figure out the next step trip and we so enjoyed meeting him. After refueling, we started noticing the gorgeous views, vineyards, spring flowers, and met Chris and Renee who loved wine and the study of it. He was at Davis with the Mondavi kid back in the day. She told us the story of her name. She was Japanese but named Renee and said Japanese have challenges with “r” so asked her mom why she did that. She told her she liked the name so that’s that.

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We stopped more than most, partly because I needed to breathe and partly for the breath stealing vistas that made us stop and stare in wonder. When we arrived to Vernazza, a man piping saxophone through the canyon welcomed the pilgrimage. We stepped into a town lost in time, making our way to our reserved lunch by Elizabeth. When we arrived, we could not believe our table nestled away in the side of a cliff. Magnificent! Our waiter Andreas was the star of the show, blowing us kisses from other terraces, singing to us, changing up costumes to serve us, and taking pics with us. What a magical meal! (Please can we take him home?!) We will never forget our buona Pasqual with Andreas!

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We ferrired back aftet lunch and met a foreign exchange student from Iceland living with an Italian family. She LOVED the idea of California. In fact, most people we meet do. They all dream to move there. We are very lucky to live in such a diverse, sought after state. I’m Cali through and through, but never realized how others so idolize it, especially the 18-28 crowd.

I iced my knee for quite awhile after we returned and it was so worth it!

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Varenna, Italy – April 23

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Each time we settle in a new spot I find myself saying, “Ooooh, I love this one best next after Amalfi.” Now in Lake Como (Varenna to be exact), I really mean it. It’s so peaceful here, space to digest and integrate such beautiful people, places, images, experiences.

Our entry into Varenna was followed by two long train rides, one regional where they switched tracks at the last minute and we had to rush down and up stairs lugging our bags (against cattle-like herds yelling PERMISO) to the correct platform with only 3 minutes to accomplish that. QUITE a scene. We were happy we had lemoncino and biscotti for stress snacks after that!

One of the many awesome parts of our adventure has been the people we meet. On the train from Monterosso to Milan we met Peter and Jane from Australia. Their daughter is a child and adolescent psychiatrist there and her partner works for Headspace, a movement I’ve been tracking in Australia. We were then joined by another couple from Melbourne, and chatted for 3 hours nonstop.

When we finally arrived in Varenna, Elizabeth had miraculously changed our boat ride by a day because of weather. Yesterday was clear, today rainy. I happen to adore the peaceful, cleansing rain where the water’s edge merges into an all gray mist. I’m so at peace in that space. But for sure, it’s crap weather for a boat ride. Thanks to Elizabeth’s skills, we would go out on the last ride and she would drop us in San Giovanni for our dinner with Ice from Netflix “Dogs”. We were very excited to meet him and get our lab fix.

OMG—the lake! It’s so unique and still, lined with huge villas (including George Clooney’s😂), and the largest, most deep maroon Japanese maples you’ve EVER seen. Bright splashes of vibrant pink azaleas lined the shores in spots, competing for best in show with the sheets of light lavender Wisteria which grows without limits here. Stunning. Sensual. Matteo, our guide, set up an aperitif for us, some Italian traditional tunes, and took us on a journey around the lake, stopping at Bond movie villas, whipping out his computer and showing us the scenes filmed there from various films, including Star Wars. Bonus!

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April 24, Varenna, Italy – Lago di Como, Varenna – The Grass is Always Greener

We awoke to a sweet, gentle rain and bird choir that actually sound like people making bird sounds. Such unique warbles I’ve never heard. Mist lay across the mountains surrounding Lake Como, ever changing in shape and formation. Honestly, I could lie with the French doors open, listening to the intermittent pitter patter kissing the balcony and feeling the cool, quiet breezes fill the room. The church bells tell us the time even before our iPhones and we know if we don’t move, we will miss our (God forbid) our illy free cappuccinos and extensive breakfast spread.

So we get up. Varenna is more still today, the Easter crowds gone. I like that. It helps me get to know a place better. After breakfast and purple light showers (this is such a concept I want to take home!) we wander out to the streets of Varenna and into botanical gardens steps from our hotel. The light rain continues lightly touching each leaf with droplets of water, and shooting scents into the air of red rose and Wysteria, nature’s diffusers. We spent the next 3 hours attempting to capture the scene: the beauty of the droplets on the bright petals, the mist playing on the mountains, plants we’ve never seen, miles of Wisteria, and always fountains and statues tucked everywhere. We found ourselves fascinated with a boathouse. Later, after lunch, we wandered through the villa that went with the boathouse and stepped back in time to huge marble staircases and tea party scenes. Truly a paradise of the greenest of green imaginings.

We had a free apertif from the hotel at day’s end, and talked to our server. His dream? To move to California with his girlfriend next year and leave this enchanted paradise.

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April 25,  Milano, Italy

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In Milano, northern Italy financial center, the vibe changes while a different strand of beauty spreads out to street protests right below our window in the city center. It’s a national holiday, Liberation Day, and students are protesting a variety of issues that aren’t entirely clear but feel similar to our own in the States: racism, discrimination, a push against the current government. A quick look around shows Italian freedom of press worst in Western Europe and our own informal interviews of guides show a reticence to discuss the shadow (though some cajoling leads them there eventually.)

The juxtaposition of the Galleria with its literal shoe candy (including Jimmy Choos and the bakery) to this morning’s private tour with an art historian who broke down technique, politics, and nuances of many great creators to the overwhelming cathedrals to the more neoclassical architecture to the Japanese influence creating Milano’s new infatuation with raw fish…it’s simply outstanding. Sensorial. A piece of past, present and transcendent future. Just love it.

As in all of Italy, the cathedral is the highest point in the city one way or another. We learned an interesting local detail today: Italy has the highest rate of usage on psychics, magicians, soothsayers and a famous magician (also a conman according to our source) recently went to jail for defrauding poor people. There are new laws to help prevent this blind following. Such an eclectic assortment of original thinkers and group think as regulated by the church.

To see the last, perhaps unfinished work of Michaelangelo emerging from the marble. To see the only painting left of Leonardo da Vinci because of WWII destruction. To hear the stories of the various creators and see their genius. To glance at the visionary inventions of Leonardo…sigh. First makes us feel lazy, and second, lights a fire. Inspires. Stirs imagination. And always makes us hungry!

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IMG_4057April 26 – Art in Every Corner – The Second Religion: Coffee

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Something about the way Italians decorate space, like coffee stores, the Apple store, never ending cathedrals, their Michelin restaurants, their opera. We lived this today. When you can turn a coffee store into art, or create an ocean scene with a “gift from the chef,” or create two operas into one, art is created everywhere. Felix La Bosso (2 stars)  and the Teatro la Scala were highlights today we won’t soon forget.

Wow, Italy. We’re impressed. So impressed❤️🇮🇹

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Rough Re-Entry and Grazie❤️

By the time we reached MXP in Milan to fly home after an outstanding journey through Italy, my knee had readied itself to stage a protest. It just quit. It’s bone on bone, the shots have worn off, and I was just grateful it waited until we were done to do its thing.

Flying day. Never overly excited about this, especially when we’re looking at 15 hours on planes, finding gates in short layovers, etc. Enter I’m out of this cool Naproxen gel they sell at the farmacia, no Advil, and icing is not going to happen. As we arrive at MXP, I feel nauseous from the pain, disappointed in my body’s current state, and not sure how I’m going to navigate the inevitable stairs that will appear on our way to the gate.

We approach the desk and ask for help. The flight attendant looks me up and down and says, “Clearly you can walk some stairs?” I almost started to cry shaking my head as Mike said, “No! Stairs are the worst!”

And that’s how we got the wheelchair.

I was against it at first, embarrassed, but once I let that go it became a really interesting experience. First one had a broken wheel which lead us to “the Ferrari,” a motorized job with a super kind guy who took us through secret passageways and no lines. Bonus! No checking fluids which bode well on our limoncello. BONUS! I started noticing the ups and downs of using a wheelchair. Up, you meet kind people (the pushers) and hear their stories. Down, people don’t look at you and you sense awkward feelings and note averted glances. Up, travelers scatter like ants to make a path. Also up, you can hang your backpacks on it. Down, well, you wish you were walking and you have to wait around when you’d rather be walking. Up and down, you wait in the “disabled” lounge (with its own handy bathroom and filtered water and comfy chairs, at least at Heathrow) with all the others in your position. The way high positive is I now know very well how to travel with someone who needs assistance in an airport!

Then came the plane. We fell in love with British Air when they moved me on a very crowded plane to the empty back row where I could elevate. The attendants were so kind and made me feel a little less ridiculous. One had a house in Positano near our heart place, Amalfi. The only issue, and it wasn’t their fault, was that the weather in London was crap and we missed our connection. In my current state, all I wanted to do was elevate, ice, and find the English equivalent of Advil. While texting my few British friends, and regretfully canceling our dinner in San Fran with Suzanne and Dennis (😢), my cell died in a final reminder we weren’t frolicking in Italy anymore. We grabbed a handful of vouchers and off we went with hoards of others, including a large group of high school students from Pennsylvania on a 9 day “abroad” trip to France with a frazzled leader trying to keep everyone’s passports straight. I overheard one young man say, “I’m going to wait to call my mom until we figure out exactly what’s happening because she’ll freak out.” Smart boy.

The hotel was actually great for such a scenario and they had decent food and beer. We love British TV anyway so dinner, BBC, and early to bed after various makeshift ice packs (shower caps, laundry bags, dining napkins—fail unless you like wet clothes) and we were all set with our BA overnight packs, which included an XL sleeping t-shirt and the tiniest tube of toothpaste you’ll ever see😂

The next day was a whirlwind. They took me down underground at Heathrow and Mike couldn’t come because there was no room on the car. He had to run and did not arrive until the plane was boarding, panting from the very long journey. The good news? We’ve got this shot for you of the bowels of Heathrow, a once in a life tour, as I don’t plan on wheel chairing it again any time soon.

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For all who joined us on our trip through posts, messages, texts, etc., we loved sharing the journey! And to you, Italy, Grazie mille for your warmth and beauty. You’re a class act.❤️🇮🇹❤️

Thus ends my on-the-way blogs.

My favorite of all the beautiful places was Amalfi. I want to go again and again. Mike and I walked down to the sea day and night. Our hotel had a jacuzzi tub on the balcony and you could soak and watch the ocean and village below. The sea breezes blew in through the sheer white curtains and ushered the lapping sound of the water below into our dreams. The moods shifted with the weather, making it look like a different place. Pure magic, this place. Attached to the hotel was a Michelin restaurant, Eolo, which we loved so much we went twice: the first night and the last night. The meal was art, and on our return dinner, we were sat at the best seat in the place making for such a special meal. We let them choose the meal and wine and it was magnificent. My second favorite: Varenna on Lake Como. I want to go back there and explore the lake region, stay in the writer’s cottage in the middle of the lake, spend a whole day wandering through the gardens. Just be.fullsizeoutput_18a1

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But honestly, how do you choose a favorite child? They all are so perfect in their own way. There’s really no need, though we will go back and try, I’m sure. Arrivederci, Italia. Until me meet again.

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Posted in Italy, Travel, Roma, Amalfi, Eolo, Hotel Marina Riviera, Andis Wines, ImpulseTravel by Design, Naples, Cinque Terra, Monterroso, Milano, Varenna, Vernazza, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ashlandia

IMG_0451We never get tired of it. I’ve been coming here since I was a teenager in English class on a bus I’m sure no driver wanted to drive. It’s where I fell in love with Shakespeare. Probably why I eventually became an English major leaving political science behind for some other would be lawyer. In many ways, it’s the same as it’s been for the past 40 years when I used to ski its slopes. In others, it’s quite different.  I’ve blogged on it a gazillion times. Here’s one: https://jamieweilhealthcoach.com/2015/06/22/ashland-secrets-youll-love/.

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That was about five years ago. On that trip, we went in search of Southern Oregon’s wine scene. This time, they came in search of us. We almost always settle in at Lithia Springs Resort, a peaceful little mineral water sourced place with big tubs in the rooms with mineral water piping into the privacy of your own fire lit space.

fullsizeoutput_1293 Everything about this place is well thought through and always offers new pleasures. A new detail this trip: Cowhorn Winery just happened to be doing a wine tasting of their biodynamic wines the day after we arrived at Lithia.fullsizeoutput_12a8

Cowhorn is located about 30 miles from Lithia and owned by two city kids from the Bay Area who traded in urban living to set up a sustainable ecosystem and grow grapes, purple asparagus, truffles, lavender and make wine all on their own farm. They open their land to creatures, used some super green architecture that is marveled over by those who marvel at such things, and have put together some intriguing whites (Spiral 36 was a standout) and a red called Moonraker that goes along with a story probably best told at the winery itself. Wine does its best in stories after all, and when those stories are told strolling through rows of grapes, all the better. It’s what makes it interesting. Though we weren’t in that lane this visit, our tasting was done about 200 yards from our room which made it nice as our goal for this Valentine’s Day visit was to relax as completely as possible.fullsizeoutput_1298

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fullsizeoutput_12a0I think we accomplished that, even if we felt a bit guilty along the way. (Do we look guilty or are we hiding it?) Back home, we had left a day early because of a storm we feared would block the Siskiyou Pass and keep us from our destination. Twenty four hours before departure we were able to coordinate the dog/house sitter coming early and get the hillside suite an extra night, no small feat on Valentine’s Day week. As it turned out, our drive was perfect, but as soon as we settled in Ashland, back home saw snow they hadn’t seen in two decades. This snow took down three hundred year old oaks (en masse) and knocked out power and phone lines for all of Shasta County, eventually evoking a State of Emergency. Just a freak storm.

Meanwhile, Ashland was seeing fairy snow–powdered-sugared pines, dusted mountains in the distance, and just enough fluffy white to bury the first crocus.fullsizeoutput_12ba I love snow falling from the sky and was eventually awarded for my patience on Day 5. I woke up several times a night and checked our back balcony just so I didn’t miss it. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful feeling, especially when it’s the kind that falls, doesn’t make a mess, and leaves as quietly as it came. Pure beauty.

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Ashlandia wore more than just her moody weather this trip. She carried such a peaceful energy this visit, possibly because OSF hadn’t started the play schedule and partly because many visitors were blocked from the area because of surrounding snow walls.

Without plays to distract us, we spent time soaking up mineral waters, taking long walks, shopping, getting massages, going to tea time, and hitting this retro ’80s throwback everynight (except Valentine’s Day when we stretched fullsizeoutput_12ac.jpegout dinner) to watch every category of Academy Award nominated shorts. We loved doing this, and this is the first year fullsizeoutput_12b9we’ve seen them all. Phenomenal! Having spent the past year and a half making a documentary series I have so much appreciation for this art form.  We also watched Roma on the big screen which was quite different than watching it on Netflix. I loved Bohemian Rhapsody, but I honestly think  Roma might take first. As far as shorts, here are my predictions: animated One Small Step; live action Skin (intense!); and best short documentary, Period. End of Sentence.  But honestly, they’re all fantastic and we really enjoyed experiencing that work.

fullsizeoutput_12afThe other thing we really loved this trip was Alchemy.  Set in this character driven Victorian, it’s become one our favorite Ashland fancy pants places. This visit, Greg (sommelier) was our server and we loved talking wine and food (and family and history) with him. The meal was more than food and champagne. It was a culinary journey. An art walk.

We’ll be back. Again. And another again.

Having the extra time to stroll Lithia Park under dancing snow flakes and through back allies of Ashland landed us on a few treasures: the ice skating rink put up for the winter in the park and a beautification project that takes otherwise boring back walls and spruces them up with murals. It appears as if people sponsor local artists to do this which struck me as a super cool partnership. We loved this one sprucing up a back alley along the creek.

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After soaking up Ashlandia (I mean, there’re four separate menus at Louie’s for each of our eating categories of people), we headed down past Mount Ashland not sure what would we see because of the heavy snow. What we saw was sheer, breathtaking beauty, Mt. Shasta showing off her new coat.

fullsizeoutput_12c1fullsizeoutput_12bdfullsizeoutput_12beSites like these renew me. They show up in my dreams for months after. They remind me what a phenomenal planet we’ve been given to enjoy, and I breathe in every moment grateful to be on it.

Posted in bathing ritual, co-creating, conscious living, film, fine dining, community art, healthy living, Inspiration, Rejuvenation, relationships, relaxation, self-care, spas, wine and food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All of It

I love the rain because it fulfills every fantasy I have as a writer. Well, maybe not every fantasy. It is, though, a magnetic mood setter to my space: a comfy un-ergonomically friendly position on the couch under my eggplant purple Sherpa where I snuggle in my cozy jammies with hot French pressed French Roast, orange flames dancing in the fire and my dog curled up next to me snoring.  The lamp next to me casts soft golden light as I stare out at the 10-story high gray oaks reaching up to water falling from the sky. Pandora Native American flute pipes in the background placing me musically in Sedona’s Boynton Canyon or some other sacred desert land. Pattering drops, loyal companions to the mood, fall steadily joined every so often by the rain gutter waterfalls from the back up. It’s the scene that poetry emanates from and much stereotype is born.

While it’s the truth of this moment, this is not the truth of 99% of writing. Writing is hard, hard work that is not romantic and does not involve hot drinks. It is a playground often patrolled by bullies who practice literary gaslighting and, if you let them, they will rip out your soul. It’s a messy canvas in many of its stages demanding patience and flexibility to see the full picture that may or may not come even after years of dabbling with color. It’s moody daydream, invisible ink in heady beginnings which can go on for hours, days, years before those swirly little letters decide when and if they want to appear in words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories to share with the world. It’s Saturn in its rewrite process, full of rules and laws that have nothing to do with fun or Sherpas or rain or hot drinks. Instead, she is Catholic nun–desk, two feet on the floor writing. And, only after years, have she and I become friends.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this because of how this thing called writing has materialized this past year in my own life. While I’ve written and published books over the past ten years that I’ve been paid for (pennies, if you’re interested), my first novel did not meet the world until last October 10, 2018 on World Mental Health Day (www.jamieweil.net). That novel, though, is not new. It is in fact the age of my youngest child: 20. That age is from start to finish: the prewriting in my head, the shitty first draft worked through my first writer’s group, the 8,000 rewrites including changing the point of view entirely 3 times from start to finish (this is not comma rewriting, but basically writing a whole new book), one agent, two editors, the interviewing of characters to know them so well I dreamt about them only to be told maybe I didn’t after all know my protagonist. All of this to one day walk in a high school classroom a few months ago and have a student say, “It’s not very long. Why did it take you so long?”

He was right, this charming man child. It honestly perplexed me as well. Still does. The answer, I think, is because it isn’t just me. It’s me and my whole dance squad. It’s me and my commitment to my readers to get it right. It’s me being willing to be vulnerable and naked in front of God knows who. These are just ponderings though, and I honestly just really can’t say for certain.

I’d like to say the second book is easier, but many authors I know that have not fallen in a complete rut of same old same old (often called building a literary career) struggle with that second book seeing the light of day for a variety of reasons that defy reason. It often has nothing to do with their skill as writers or the marketability of the story. Fortunately for me, this flowed organically because I loved working with the editor and press on my first novel so much. We were familiar with each other’s process which makes the whole nine smoother. With a name like All Things That Matter Press it was an obvious fit since my writing blog for so long was called Writing Matters and what I like to write about are things I think matter. Boom.

Additionally, my second novel felt practically channeled. By the time I’d cut my teeth on First Break, I had developed some of the attributes I needed for a second round on a new story. I had defined my core values in choosing the story, passion at its center. A friend and former newspaper editor/fellow writer reminded me last night about when he had come out to my house to interview for the paper about First Break and my next novel Intuition. Funny, I had forgotten the whole thing until George brought it up. Perhaps this was because I was in the dreamy pre-writing stage of the story before my left brain had caught up and logged it. From start to finish that novel will be about 3 or 4 years in the writing process, but inspired by a lifelong thread, a series of cross-points I know intimately about my babysitter’s son who I grew up with, played with, crushed on, and who was a serial killer.

There’s a saying I don’t really love but people around seem to love: it is what it is. That seems to take co-creation responsibility straight out of the mix to me. On the other hand, in this writing business, a piece of that helps to ride the wave. It’s better than sitting in the corner crying.

Another place I’ve been creating this year is in the world of visual media. What they call “writing” in film is a whole different animal with different spots and sounds and smells. I’m describing mainly the documentary playground I find myself creating in right now with A Crazy Thought (www.acrazythought.com). I liken it to the modern restaurant. Is the chain restaurant chef really cooking the meals? Well, yes, but really assembling them. And that is what the piece before the edit pulls is called in film: the assembly. It’s more pulling together what people say (and sometimes, I notice, manipulating the questions to get them to say a certain thing which is a whole different issue) and through that pulling out a story. There are many new skills to be gained in this very different kind of writing and it is MUCH more controlled, defined, and motivated by money than the world of book writing. In film, there are many other pieces used to tell the story beyond the assembly: the music, the lighting, the spaces used, the people chosen, the personalities of many of the creators, the length, and on and on. With the novel, it’s typically one author, sometimes hot drinks, and the characters, storylines, and sensorial spaces that writer chooses to activate. However, with the docuseries, now nearing the end of the pilot creation, many people can watch at once and I’m very excited about the possibility that opens up to share story, especially since my dream is to start a new conversation surrounding youth mental health.

The most interesting part for me of playing with the writing process start to finish on these two very different playgrounds is to try out the different equipment on each: one may have great swings where I can pump my legs and control how high I go, but the other may have the best kick ball field to play on together any park has ever seen and who wants to play kick ball by herself? Each space gives perspective to the other, and in the case of these projects, work together to lift up the planet through what I’ve named Mission ACT.

We come here to develop and offer our gifts, to serve, to connect with others, to have the opportunity to develop attributes, to help others develop their attributes, to raise the planet up in our own unique ways. I am grateful for this writing journey, in its solo magic rainy day moments like today, in its stern, knuckle cracking stages of final drafts and galleys and episode cuts, in its play- nice-with-others spaces, and in its I-think-I’m-going-to-quit again moments. I’m thankful for all of it: every season, every rain drop, every gray ski, every rainbow. ALL of it.

 

 

 

Posted in bipolar disorder, co-creating, creativity, early onset bipolar disorder, Goals, hope, Inspiration, intuition, mental health and children, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finding Warmth in the Cold

IMG_4570I had the most poignant conversation last night with a university junior from Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California. We will change her name to Meghan because I didn’t ask her if I could use her real name here, though I wish I had because she was the type of young woman who would share her story openly. I’m certain of that. It was a conversation about connection, interdependence, authenticity, and synchronicity, all core values and concepts sorely needed in the collective right now.

Here’s what happened. I was driving home from Redding and it was dark. The smell of rain filled the air for the first time in months for which I’m sure all of the North State was thrilled and thankful. Redding has been a smoke pit all summer and we’ve really gotten in the habit of limiting our trips up there from our small town of Cottonwood just 25 miles south. On this particular Redding run, I had goofed up my facial appointment so really had made the trek for nothing during a time when losing time was super counterproductive. I was cranky adjacent. I’d just turned onto one of the three main roads that run through my tiny rural town when my car started ringing. The number popped up with a (323) area code and no name which I would never normally answer. For some reason, on this night an intuition told me to hit the green button.

“Hello?” I hesitated.

“Oh, hi, umm, Jamie—how do you say the last name—is it WHEEL?” Meghan seemed nervous. I immediately knew she was calling for money. I hate being called wheel.

“No. WILE. Don’t worry. Few people get it right.”

“Oh, sorry. I’m calling tonight from Occidental College to check on alum and let you know about what’s happening at our university.”

Translation: Meghan is tasked with the highly uncomfortable task I once held at UCLA as a work study job: calling alum for money. A horrible job, but I liked her soft-sell approach. Plus, I remembered how horrible it was to be dismissed like you were a sub-human nuisance. It’s hurtful. Meghan and I started talking. Instead of telemarketer and commuter, we were two human beings connecting, communicating, and sharing a few moments to play in our humanity.

Oxy was my graduate school for my Master of Arts in Teaching and CLAD Credential. CLAD stands for Crosscultural, Language and Academic Certificate. I went there following a trying decade in law firm marketing in Los Angeles. I jammed through Oxy’s program (as I tend to do) in one full-time year and was hired to teach 2nd grade in Manhattan Beach before I had even defended my thesis. It was a whirlwind, I was a broke single parent, and half the time, I dragged my then 7-year-old child to class with me an hour across town (if we were lucky) to take classes.

Because of that dynamic, I didn’t bond with the campus as much as undergraduate time at UCLA where I lived on campus and spent more years. As a grad student, I loved my cohort, but really didn’t appreciate all that was Oxy. That’s where Meghan comes back in to the story.

She told me all about what Oxy is doing now: how they have 12 (I think) new Barack Obama scholars (he went there), how they were increasing their commitment to admitting 1st gen college goers whose parents had no college education, how they were becoming that small, private progressive university committed to education for ALL students. That all sounded great and I had already decided we would donate. Then she got to this part.

“What have you been doing since you left Oxy?” asked Meghan.

Well, let’s see, that was 1995 so there’s a really long list. Where to start?

“For starters, I have a YA novel coming out next week.” Well played, Wheel.

“Oh, wow! Congratulations. What’s it about?” Meghan’s excitement was genuine, so I went on, excited by her excitement.

“It’s called First Break and it’s about 17-year-old Paige and a psychotic break that starts as she goes off to college.”

“Oh wow, oh wow, thank you so much! Thanks for doing this! I wish someone had given me a book like that before I had that happen to me!”

I pulled the car over. Meghan and I sat there in the dark on the side of the road for the next 40 minutes as she shared her story. I shared mine. Two strangers, intimately sharing in vulnerable ways, through story. Friends by the time we were done.

This is why I do what I do. This is why I wrote First Break. Despite near sells and adoring champions combined with years of rejection by downright mean writers and publishers, I kept returning to the belief that this novel would open conversations like the one it did with Meghan…and she hadn’t even read it yet. Meghan went on to tell me about what sounds like an amazing Oxy program made for students by students called Project Safe. I will go see that program because it sounds like something I want to know about. It helps students with mental health issues, creating a safe space to go and give/get support. What I love so much about that is the same thing I loved about this call: connection, interdependence, support, humanity. As my amazing editor Deb from All Things That Matter Press recently said quoting Mr. Dass himself, “We’re all just walking each other home, Love.”

This “walk”–this interdependence– is where we’re meant to play, yet I’m shown daily examples of the influence of Western thought and the value of independence. This happens even from those closest to me. During those gnarly fires I talked about this past summer, one of my closest friends sent a text midsummer (not a call) to say they were thinking about us during the fires. REALLY?! Not a call? I mean, we had to evacuate, all our forests were burning down, our eyes burnt every day and we couldn’t breathe. Even an ex-boyfriend from 25 years ago who doesn’t particularly like me sent a long email of concern. What struck me hard emotionally when that happened was that many of us have become so insulated in the square mile of our lives that we neglect to connect with other hearts in very real ways, heart to heart, being to being, even with those we love.

That’s what this call with Meghan brought to the fore once again. We will most def be sending money to Oxy, and because of Meghan, I feel closer and more connected to my grad school alma mater. I will continue to nurture that feeling by visiting Project Safe. And I will pay more attention to each interaction, be it text, someone standing in line at the store, a good friend going through hard times, a good friend celebrating, or a cold caller asking for money.

 

YA novel  First Break will be available for purchase on Amazon and Kindle on World Mental Health Day, Wednesday, October 10, 2018. You may also request to purchase the novel from a bookstore near you.

To celebrate this book’s birthday, graduating seniors should check here for the First Break Scholarship.

 

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Time in All Its Measure

Time. It’s a funny thing.

 It’s #TuesdayThoughts, and we only have 6 days left to reach our crowdfunding goal. We have a mixture of feelings. Pride, fear, gratitude, exhaustion, love, deep knowing, optimism, nervousness, excitement. The past 24 days have been such a great teacher.
 The timing on this whole venture was synchronistic. We enter into this last week as Mental Health Awareness Month begins. We will be filming many stories this week, working on faith that we will hit our goal. The fact that the whole project centers around Mental Health Awareness and youth is something I realized after we’d committed to the dates, not before. It’s as if the Universe laid out the calendar for us.

At this time, I must say this. I’m super proud of so many of you who have supported us with so much grace, dollars, encouragement, and energy. We all are. You are truly the people who raise the vibration of the planet and you have shared your confidence and optimism with us. You have taught us so much through this process, and we adore you. We have been completely overwhelmed by all of the generous contributions you have made. Knowing that we have so much support from each and every one of you has made this process more special than we could have imagined. The time couldn’t be more on point for these stories told from this approach. People need hope. They need help. We can’t wait to share these stories and get them out to the people who need them most. We will all benefit in the process. I think we all knew there was a need for this project, but now, we know even more deeply from all the conversations along the way that we have to find a way to make this project happen no matter what.

 Now that we have less than a week left to reach our goal and our tribe, our focus is precise: we have to get this done. Seeing how close we are to bringing A Crazy Thought to life is super exciting, but we’re still 49% away from our goal. The good news is, if we can raise at least 80%, Seed & Spark will green light the project. This means all of the money you have donated will continue to go towards the documentary. If we fail to raise that amount, the contributions that have been made go back to you (the supporters) and the campaign will be over which would be a setback in so many ways. We’ve come such a long way with everyone’s help that we can’t let that happen, not with all the hard work that’s gone on! And it’s important for us to raise 30K for future funding prospects.
If there is anyone in your network you think may be interested in supporting the project, please share the crowdfunding link: www.supportacrazythought.com. We’re so close to making this a reality but we can’t do it alone. We need your help more than ever.
Over all during the course of this campaign thing, many magical events have taken place. Two, however, are very personal to me. First, my youngest son who has dealt with anxiety for much of his life boarded a plane to Paris by himself to study abroad. We are so proud at the way he has stretched his wings even when it’s uncomfortable so that he may grow to be a change agent in his world. The second event is that my oldest son, who doctors told us would not survive undergraduate college due to suicide ideation, has been teaching at a university for the past four years as a PhD student, defended his dissertation on April 9–and passed! We will be flying to watch him walk in his ceremony along with his wife, the day after crowdfunding ends. Not only will he continue to teach college students, but he will be super sensitive to helping them when he notices something isn’t quite right, and pointing them in a direction to get help. What a beautiful time for this synergy as we set out to tell stories of inspiration and recovery.
 Here is my vision: next year, right around this time, we will be holding two screenings of A Crazy Thought Docuseries: one, to a smaller group of very active contributors and a larger one, to a larger group of all ages. By May 2019, Mental Health Awareness Month next year, I envision A Crazy Thought on the big screens first, then on little screens all over where it can actually help people on the devices that they use. I see it in the schools, at in-service trainings. I see it in high school psych classes and college speaker series. That’s my dream.
Thank you again for all the love and support and we look forward to continuing to share stories with you that make this world better for everybody.
Posted in bipolar disorder, co-creating, conscious living, Crowdfunding, early onset bipolar disorder, healthy living, Inspiration, mental health, mental health and children, NAMI, NAMI Basics, optimal health, service | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Phew!

FB-ACT-NowLive-v2That’s what I have to say about this crowdfunding gig.

At first, I was just going to copy and paste one of the other 4 blogs I wrote here for this crowdfunding campaign that went live this morning and then I thought No! I won’t be giving up my time with you that way.  My time here is special to me.

This space, for me, has become a type of coffee date with you. It’s why I don’t monetize it with those annoying ads. I feel like it’s you and me, sitting across from each other, and it’s my time to talk. What I miss, though, is when it’s your time to talk. Still, even though many of y’all are not commenters on this site, I do get calls, and texts, and emails giving me a little view as to what’s happening with you. I love that. (How do I get you to comment on here? Is it just too scary?)

I’ve really developed a love for coming to this space and sharing my thoughts with you. It’s my favorite writing time. I can tap into my authenticity, type what I’m feeling passionate about, and feel the space you allow for that. Such a gift and I am grateful for you. For here. For us.

Now to crowdfunding. OMG. What a thing. A friend had suggested that early on this docuseries was ripe for that. He’s a visionary that way so I trusted that advice, but it seemed big, loud, and LOOK AT MEish. I hate that. I don’t even like to open presents at a party with everybody looking at me. I love people, and I love to connect with people, but I’m for sure a one on one person and I like to talk about deep things. I hate surface chat. Dinner party small talk. Yuk.

Plus, I absolutely abhor being in front of the camera and speaking in front of groups, but a few years ago I realized that was going to be part of this mission and I just needed to stop whining and deal with that aspect of it. Prepare myself. Nevertheless, I paused. Crowdfunding stood there, glaring at me from its corner, as I averted its stare.

Later, my co-producer suggested it again after a soft request to friends and family didn’t produce as much moolah as I’d hoped. We needed to get to the next step of building a trailer, pitch deck, and all the pieces necessary to go after the big money it takes to make a docuseries of the caliber we wanted to make. And THAT PART I’m passionate about because I feel so strongly that we can use this vehicle to re-educate in a new way, in a new voice that is not being heard, the landscape of youth mental health. With the suicide rate up 400% in teens 14 and up and 1 out of 4 young people having a mental health diagnosis, we don’t have any more time to sit here picking our noses in meetings around an oval oak table. We need TO MOVE NOW, and I am passionate about that urgency.

I read an article today in Newsweek about how Parkland had spurred on a whole slew of mental health issues in Florida kids who were triggered and don’t feel safe. As we learn more and more about trauma and how that affects our young people, we see that not only are we missing opportunities across the board to turn this around, we are paying a hefty price for our paralysis at best and apathy at worst. It’s this strong passion that made me lock eyes with Crowdfunding and say, “Okay. Let’s do it.”

I had no idea how big the machine is or at how many levels it works. It’s overwhelming. And fascinating. And still unraveling. While I’m typing this, we haven’t actually even started, but when you read it, we will have. Go here to see the madness and hit follow so you can be on this journey with me as I try to put on my best camera face. Oh dear God. Even saying that just makes my stomach turn. www.supportacrazythought.com

So this story will unfold. In preparation, I’ve been working harder than I’ve worked for many years. That’s okay, though, because I can see balance entering back in on May 9. On that day, I will know whether or not, in this all or nothing style campaign, whether we win or lose. I’m going to ride the wave of that, gliding with my friends who are jumping up and down with money donations, shares, offering their talents and gifts, and helping forward this mission. Either way, with all that, I call THAT a win. (See how this story begins and ends with crowdfunding today? It’s a metaphor:)FB-ACT-NowLive-v2

Posted in Crowdfunding, early onset bipolar disorder, facing your fears, healthy living, hope, Inspiration, mental health, mental health and children, NAMI, NAMI Basics, recovery, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red

IMG-9097 (1)I’m sitting here in my jammies looking out at the wet gray skies of Spring. A gentle rain, just a titch beyond mist, covers newly budding trees in delicate droplets. I grab my cell, traipse outside into the wet grass, slippers and all, driven to capture a droplet of rain. It’s #worldpoetryday and I want to share my rain drop and Haiku with the Twitter-verse. It’s not until I post the photo here that I see so clearly the blurred world behind the raindrop is actually much clearer (albeit upside down!) in the tiny drop. That feels significant. Metaphorical, somehow.

Part of me wonders if anybody will care in this Twitter space. I’m lonely there, not knowing exactly how to make friends and establish a community. It’s like I’ve moved to a new town and haven’t made any friends. I haven’t decoded that space and how to connect. Still, something presses me forward (could be the crowdfunding coach) to explore how I may find my tribe out there in that big blurry sphere. Perhaps it will become more clear up close, but right now I’m just upside down.  It feels like there’s space for connecting with so many, room to be both a world citizen and a poet. To meet other world citizen poets. To see clearly how we’re all connected, even if it appears like an upside down fence at first.  And even to go one step further and see no fences at all.

Poetry is my first love. My very first published work was a poem. It’s title “Red” really described its content. A simple reflection on red things, my third grade teacher Mrs. Montagner sent it to the Record Searchlight, my hometown paper, and they published it. As an adult, I know my 7 year old pontifications on red things wasn’t the impetus behind her actions. Having been a second grade teacher myself, I know instead she recognized my early state of chaos, and was doing all she could to boost my confidence in myself and how I fit inside the world.

The truth was my world was a train wreck. My mother and father had abruptly divorced, my world completely destroyed without warning, and reassembled a few months later with a new player in the form of my stepdad, Warner. He sat in my Dad’s yellow chair. He ate at my Dad’s seat at the table. But he was in no way my Dad, though he constantly asked me to call him that.

Mrs. Montagner recognized the trauma before me and she mitigated that by giving me a voice through my writing. She boosted my confidence by showing me the gifts I had to offer. She made me a reading tutor for the first graders, a prerequisite to my later life as a reading specialist. She focused on my strengths and showed me what it felt like to share my gifts with the world to help someone else. All of this helped me quiet the destruction of my world at home, and she did it all without me even understanding what she was doing.

This is what I want for all children. This is what motivates a huge portion of my creative work, including my current docuseries and novel focused on stories of youth mental health. We are at a time of possibility in our world, the #springequinox of humanity, where science and spirituality spin across the dance floor of what’s possible. And here, we have a choice. We can choose to stay inside and stay dry, complaining about the gray skies and wet grasses, or we can choose to see the beauty in the fractals. Some moments, it’s hard to get there. To marvel at the new buds that line the branches, and the red bud that grows wild along the highways of the California North State infusing it with such beauty. To smell the rain. To feel the gratitude of the plants, as they open up and share themselves for a season. But it can be a goal.

To the Twitter-verse went this Haiku:

Cherry blossom speaks. Raindrop reflects pink promise. New beginnings now.

I hope somebody will love it, but it’s really not the point. The sharing was my part and I did that.

cherry_blossom_tree

As we step into this new season, what wants to open in you? What story do you need to share with the world?

Here’s mine:

www.acrazythought.com

Posted in authenticity, awakening, belief systems, conscious living, education, mental health and children, mentoring, parenting, resilience | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting the Fun in CrowdFUNding

It turns out it takes money to make a docuseries. Lots of it. The layers run deep and honestly, it’s overwhelming. It’s different than writing a book. When I sit down to write a novel, I lose myself in a world of my creation. IMG-8973Just me and my characters. We spend a lot of time there alone.

In fact, this process of making a visual story almost finds itself in the null set with writing a novel. Yes, there is still a story, but there are all sorts of layers involved which makes it very different. First, when you write a book, you just need time. You don’t need to raise oodles of cash before you can do that part. Maybe just an angel whispering in your ear while you wistfully await your next word. In the beginning of the writing process, you also don’t need to build a platform, assemble a tribe of people who will feel the same passion you do about your project, and so many more differences. Film, however, is ENORMOUSLY collaborative.

So much for time alone in my head in my big red chair, just me and my imagination, Kai’s head on my thigh.FullSizeRender (1)

IMG-9070But the beautiful part of this medium called film, aside from the enormous reach factor, is just that: the collaboration. Today, my head is swimming after two very long calls with my crowdfunding guru, Leah, and my docuseries co-director, KTEE. Half the time I have no idea what they’re saying. They have to rewind, reword, and break it down, which they are so kind to do. Thanks, guys.

There are also a gazillion portals. There’s Basecamp, and Seed & Spark, and email, and…okay, maybe only three. But it FEELS like a gazillion. I’m probably going to dream about Basecamp. Like I’m stuck there. In the campfire. Trying to figure out who is doing what. (Not even kidding. There’s totally a campfire.)

 

Today, my main assignment (from my list of 200) was to write the story of why I’m even doing this and not in Bali right now, meditating. As I stepped into different versions of it, and danced across the floor of my why, I found myself losing my voice to this authoritarian disconnected person that doesn’t even resonate with me. I did the same thing when we were making videos for the crowdfunding. Maybe I do it because I’m terrified or maybe it’s my law firm voice from days gone by. Whatever it is, it’s weird how it pops up to take over. Leah reminded me about my blog I’d written a few months ago. THAT’s your voice, she said.

Ah yes. The infamous nebulus voice they talk about at all writers’ conferences and drive writers nuts because they just aren’t sure what that even means. I think today I had an epiphany: your voice is your heart and your authoritarian voice pops up when your heart is feeling vulnerable and wants to hide in its big red chair.

IMG_3550 (1)This project is my heart. But in writing it, I also want to protect the ones who are so deep inside my heart: my children. I find myself worried about saying anything that might hurt them. I know this is the same feelings parents have when their child first starts showing signs of mental illness, whether mild or severe. They worry for their children. They worry how the world will treat them. They worry about how their lives will unfold.

And that’s the whole point of me stepping into this world–to create a massive empowerment for worried parents and teachers, young people trying to navigate their own path, and all those that stand by wondering how to help. This project is for those heroes and I will spend time in all these arenas to get this done, including crowdFUNding. Here’s my story I came up with today.

FB-ACT-ComingSoon-v2

The Storm

If you know me at all, you know my world changed when my oldest child started showing signs he was in great pain during elementary school, the same school in Manhattan Beach where I was teaching second grade. We drove to school together every day, but somehow he was able to hide just how much pain he was experiencing and I missed it. I still don’t understand how, exactly, except that I was quite distracted and overwhelmed by all the responsibilities I felt at the time.

You’re Not Alone

Eventually the walls gave way, and a tsunami of symptoms flooded our world. It was in that riptide I made a choice: I would do all that I could to encourage all other parents, and especially single parents, going through this journey that there is hope and that they are not alone. I would attempt to let any young person I intuited was struggling know how important and unique they were.  I would learn to lean on others who had gone before me and offered me wisdom and courage to advocate fiercely for my child, not hide in a dark closet where no one could see me.

Live Out Loud

If no one could see me, nobody could help us. We needed to live out loud, both so we could help ourselves and others. I would dive deep into my creative self during my time on this planet to find a new conversation that was different than the one I was being told. It wasn’t to Pollyanna the Truth. God knows, the teen years were a challenge and we wrote about that in detail in our side-by-side accounting of that gut-wrenching time in Voices of Bipolar Disorder. The story I was being told then was, “You really need to adjust your expectations. Recovery isn’t really a thing. There’s really nothing you can do for your child.”

Urban Myth

Nothing we could do? Just so you know, that’s a bold-faced lie. And it’s not helpful. It discourages both parents and young people who are facing a mental health hurdle that they are likely not going to be able to jump over it. People blame the system (which admittedly is like the monster in the upside down in Stranger Things–except for less connected), they see the lack (of doctors, of support, of psych ERS, of money, of allies, of etc. etc. etc.)…and, yes, all those things are true. Nearly every California sheriff will tell you his prison is a psych facility.  Twin Towers, in Downtown Los Angeles, is the largest mental health facility in the country at last check, with one tower being solely dedicated to yellow shirts, the ones they give out when they determine an inmate has a brain illness. What looks like societal issues of suicide, crime, and homelessness, is really a result of our paralysis as a society to talk openly and honestly about mental health. Until we learn to do this, to treat it like the biological illness it is and not like some shameful stigma, will we be able to significantly shift the landscape of brain illness in a meaningful way.

Mission:  Call to Change

My vision for this project came in the form of a calling just before attending a retreat last year at the Esalen Institute. The calling was to start a new conversation around youth mental health to give people hope, inspiration, and resources, all in one easy-to-navigate place. The calling was to empower people with hope and help so that the next generation is not facing the epidemic we are facing now.

A Crazy Thought, the docuseries, will do just that. Beyond the docuseries, a portal of resources to help parents, teachers, and young people quickly see their next steps after first signs of brain illness, and be able to move on that quickly.  The vision is to take this series to schools at all levels for both teacher in-service and University speaker series.

I have a dream that nobody will weather this storm alone again.

That’s it. That’s why I’m here. And can I just say how much I love you for being here with me and letting me share my heart.

IMG-8953

Posted in bipolar disorder, early onset bipolar disorder, facing your fears, health, healthy living, mental health, mental health and children, resilience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Crazy Thought

Beautiful woman. Fashion art photo. Close-up makeup

Last week we met my cousins Larry and Janine for lunch in Carlsbad. Janine is consistently my biggest blogging cheerleader. For so many years, I blogged every Monday and the words became a story she followed with the ever encouraging text of “I just love you.” I just love you, too, Janine. This one’s for you…and also Larry since he hooked us up with the Southwest pea-netzel extravaganza. (Fly, cousins, fly–and come and pick us up!)

If you know me at all, you know my world changed when my oldest child started showing signs he was in great pain during elementary school, the same school in Manhattan Beach where I was teaching second grade. We drove to school together every day, but somehow he was able to hide just how much pain he was experiencing and I missed it. I still don’t understand how, exactly, except that I was quite distracted and overwhelmed by all the responsibilities I felt at the time.

Eventually the walls gave way, and a tsunami of symptoms flooded our world. It was in that riptide I made a choice: I would do all that I could to encourage all other parents, and especially single parents, going through this journey that there is hope and that they are not alone. I would attempt to let any young person I intuited was struggling know how important and unique they were. I would dive deep into my creative self during my time on this planet to find a new conversation that was different than the one I was being told. It wasn’t to Pollyanna the Truth. God knows, the teen years were a challenge and we wrote about that in horrific detail in our side-by-side accounting of that gut-wrenching time in Voices of Bipolar Disorder. The story I was being told then was, “You really need to adjust your expectations. Recovery isn’t really a thing. There’s really nothing you can do for your child.”

Just so you know, that’s a bold-faced lie. And it’s not helpful. It discourages both parents and young people who are facing a mental health hurdle that they are likely not going to be able to jump over it. People blame the system (which admittedly is like the monster in the upside down in Stranger Things–except for less connected), they see the lack (of doctors, of support, of psych ERS, of money, of allies, of etc. etc. etc.)…and, yes, all those things are true. Nearly every California sheriff will tell you his prison is a psych facility.  Twin Towers, in Downtown Los Angeles, is the largest mental health facility in the country at last check, with one tower being solely dedicated to yellow shirts, the ones they give out when they determine an inmate has a brain illness.twintowersyellow shirts

I don’t deny any of that. I’m painfully aware, and in fact, it breaks my heart. The reason it breaks my heart is because it doesn’t have to be like this, and there is another Truth out there.

As a culture, we need to have more compassion and less name calling. I so frequently hear very educated people use hurtful, discriminating terms to refer to people with mental health issues as if this is an us vs. them situation. It’s not. Given the right trigger, we can each fall down.  I had this talk with our family doctor about 3 years ago. That doctor (who was a very good doctor many thought and had so much going for him) now sits in jail, his life turned upside down. I often wonder if that will be his trigger, but 3 years ago, I’d never have seen it and I’m sure he didn’t either. Mental illness does not discriminate and nobody is immune.

Still, we are so careless with our language. This is how the Merriam’s dictionary currently defines the term “crazy”:

cra·zy
ˈkrāzē/
informal
adjective
mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.
  1. “Stella went crazy and assaulted a visitor”
    synonyms: madinsane, out of one’s mind, derangeddemented, not in one’s right mind, crazed, lunaticnon compos mentisunhinged, mad as a hatter, mad as a March hare; More

    2.
    extremely enthusiastic.
    “I’m crazy about Cindy”
    synonyms: passionate about, (very) keen on, enamored of, infatuated with, smitten with, devoted to; More

This is not okay with me. My vision is that the second definition will become the first definition and that the first definition will fall off the face of the Earth. All it does is perpetuate separation (an illusion anyway), diffuse compassion and empathy, and quite frankly, push a genocide agenda that serves no one,  and hurts everyone whether they’re aware of that or not.

Language is important. It defines who we are as a society. Just making decisions as to what to call mental illness for this Docuseries has been flooded with “feedback.” The most accurate term to describe the biology of mental illness to me is “brain illness,” but a local activist recently told me people with mental illness hate that term. Teens no longer use “crazy,” but mental, and that’s just this week.

The part that confuses me is when someone has cancer, we wouldn’t call them names for it. And the names to describe it don’t change: lung cancer is lung cancer is lung cancer. Instead, we give them a casserole, send them a card, embrace them publicly. Yet when it’s a brain illness (instead of a breast, lung, or ovarian illness), suddenly it’s stigmatized with language and discrimination in such a cruel and unbearable way. The fact that both cancer and AIDS started out in a similar attack zone as mental illness gives me hope that with a rewrite of language, and some consciousness about what comes out of our mouths and hearts, we will soon collectively be having a whole new conversation about what it is and how to best navigate it.

What, then, is the new story? It’s called A Crazy Thought , with “crazy” taking on the meaning of extremely enthusiastic! I’m extremely enthusiastic about what I’ve mentorexperienced personally with my children and students, what I’m seeing in the world of brain illness research, recovery stories of young people, new techniques being used to manage stress, meaningful peer mentoring, community service as healer, emphasis on early intervention–all of it! I’m extremely enthusiastic about Heartmath’s work showing how the heart just may be on the evolution of overshadowing the brain. I see a beautiful marriage there in the healing process. I’m extremely enthusiastic about a whole new paradigm forming as we equip and educate our young people to understand brain health just as we do all other types of health.

help

Recent studies have shown what metaphysicians have known for centuries: a group of people as small as ten can affect an entire city, country, world. I believe this to my core. My vision for this project came in the form of a calling just before attending a retreat last year at the Esalen Institute. The calling was to start a new conversation around youth mental health to give people hope, inspiration, and stories that lift their spirits. I answered that calling and the Universe has conspired to help ever since. Emerson, you are just always so right on.  Betsy Chasse, our Award-winning director most notable for What the Bleep Do We Know?, has told me from the beginning: it’s like magic, these things. Who is supposed to be in it, is in it. They just show up. It’s an intuitive connection we share, and I believe her. I hired her in our first meeting and she’s been my teacher ever since. Later, when Katheryne (KTEE) Thomas joined our team as co-producer, I knew we were nothing short of invincible.

The 2017 year was dedicated to assembling a team of female filmmakers and kicking around the vision like a hacky sack. A solid female team was important for two reasons: (1) many parents out there raising mentally ill children are single parents, often moms. The last post on a closed Facebook group I read an hour ago was a desperate single mom who just lost her job because of all the appointments she needed to get her child to for mental health issues. If you can’t work, and you have no funds for treatment, then what? (2) I noticed women, especially in Director/Producer roles, were very low in various types of film. I didn’t want to be a part of perpetuating that nonsense. That time has passed. I incorporated Balsamic Moon Productions, LLC with the vision of telling stories in a new way. (Finally, the mermaid, who has already led the way to my next production. Stand by. Thank you to the amazingly talented Jen Street for her graphic art genius which is really other-worldly. And she’s just an all-around beautiful being, just like Olivia here.)

balsamicmoonproductionslogo

 The year of pre-production interviews and structural organization turned to production this Fall in September in Napa, California at The 23rd Festival for Brain Health at the Staglin Family Vineyard.  We captured amazing footage from the best and brightest research scientists from the Eastern Ivies to the Pacific Northwest.IMG_6221We have been invited to further explore at their labs and locations which opens up fantastic opportunities for us to gather more inspiration. (Here’s us tasting at Cakebread at the shoot wrap. I mean, when in Napa, right?)

In the footage, we have amazing recovery stories, and parents speaking to what has most helped their children through the journey.  We are excited to show new ways of doing things, as well as to show traditional routes people have taken successfully.  The point of this series is not to demonize any one way. Instead, it’s to show what’s helping people who are as individual as snowflakes. The intention is also to make this accessible to all initially and quarterly so that anyone can access from the privacy of their home or library. In this way, people can understand the macro picture better, understand they’re not alone, and start getting help right away, no matter the socio-economical level.

The next step is to create the sizzle reel/trailer and fundraise $350,000 in increments so that we can begin shifting the culture in youth mental health as early as 2019. This coming 2018 will be the year of production, moving into post-production by next summer.

We want you on our team! In my five years of blogging, I have steered clear of Google Ads on this blog and kept the content pure. I have never needed your support more than right now. Your donations are tax-deductible through our fiscal partner, From the Heart Productions. I wanted to get this out before the tax reform as we’re not sure how charitable donations will be handled then. Here’s knowing you are as extremely enthusiastic as I am about A Crazy Thought , and that we can shift the landscape of mental health for future generations.

Come, like us here:  https://www.facebook.com/ACrazyThought/

Oceans of love, Friends.

Posted in anxiety, bipolar disorder, conscious living, creativity, early onset bipolar disorder, education, Esalen, facing your fears, Family to Family, Inspiration, mental health, mental health and children, mentoring, metaphysical, parenting, psychiatric, recovery, resilience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New Butterfly Adventures


When is the last time you can remember having that butterflies dancing in your belly feel? You know, first kiss status? Or right before you’re about to jump out of a plane for the first time?  Or just about anything where you can’t distinguish the intersection of  jitters and pure bliss…

Mine is now, in this moment as I’m typing this. In just an hour, I will do two things. First, I will print out boarding passes to take my youngest child on a mom/son senior trip to Canada tomorrow, an adventure to celebrate his high school graduation and launch out of the nest to University life. Just after, I will drive to my local Center for Spiritual Living and take my professional practitioner licensing exam which will launch me on a new journey out of the familiar into foreign territory as well.

Getting to this point for me, to this moment when I take this exam, has been a four year journey and one I’ve done on the down low. It started with an intuitive hit when I was driving down Hartnell Avenue in Redding, California and had a wheel take-over turn me into a parking lot with a clear message attached: You will teach here. I walked around the property trying to process that message, but was turned off when I started speaking with the person who was in charge at that time. I had a stern talking with my intuition, got in my car, and hightailed it out of there.

A year later my husband and I were at the Cascade Theater, a lovely historically preserved remodel of what had been a questionable discount movie theater in the once red-light district of Redding. We had just watched TedX and were discussing the final talk as we worked our way out to the street with the crowd. I spotted my friend Katie and she said, “I’m teaching a class tomorrow. You’d love it. You should come.”

“Sure. Where?”

“The Center for Spiritual Living on Hartnell.”

Well, of course it is. The next day I headed to the Center to take Katie’s class. I took one after another, for weeks, for months, for years. Today I sit here four years later. The Center has many classes, but I was drawn to the certified ones without ever understanding why exactly. At some level, I understood I was to reach where I stand now. It was a step by step thing where I asked, I listened, I caved early when I heard the answer. Two years ago, when I taught a film class (which came as another clear intuitive hit during meditation),  I could almost hear my intuition saying, “See. I told you so.”

But it was so much more than just a scolding from my intuition. As I sit here today, I understand that this journey into foreign lands is one I was born to take. It took me less time to get two degrees from UCLA than to finish my practitioner training. And God knows, it was emotionally easier. I’ve quietly chipped away at this at a slow pace forced by the program and counterintuitive to my Mach 1 behavior. I’ve been forced to go slow and deep, processing all sorts of threads through my life.  I’ve had to look at my own shit with binoculars—which is about as nasty as that sounds at times. I’ve learned the crucial step of daily spiritual practices and how those flavor the entire scope of time and space. I spend a lot of time reading, listening, soaking up consciousness in all its forms. I’ve come to know that relationships (both enjoyable ones and unenjoyable ones) are my best spiritual teachers. I’ve learned not to have parking lot debates with my intuition, but rather to trust it implicitly as it’s ALWAYS correct. I’ve developed a fascination, and love for, all paths to God…and truly embrace the beauties in each.

Mostly, though, I’ve become more clear that my reason for being on this planet is service to my global family. One of the ways I feel like I do that best is one on one. It’s always been my preference.  It turns out—and I was not clear on this when I started, but my intuition certainly was—that one key function of a licensed practitioner is to sit with another being with the goal of partnering and assisting that being in opening up to their own glorious perfection. I’ve fallen in love with humanity. To see that part of a person that is the truth and not the misunderstanding manifesting because of formed beliefs that suggest otherwise. When I explained this to my son (the one who I’m taking to Canada), he said, “Sounds complicated.”

Here’s a great description that makes it not complicated from the Center of Spiritual Living in Seattle, Washington:

A Prayer Practitioner is a trained and licensed spiritual support person, trained to apply affirmative prayer to life’s challenges.

Through the use of compassionate inquiry and affirmative prayer, Practitioners support you when you go through difficult times, or when you want sustained support for your spiritual growth. They facilitate mental and spiritual healing, knowing all healing is done in consciousness and is reflected in the physical body and the body of one’s affairs.

Prayer Practitioners can help you to uncover unconscious limiting beliefs and clarify your heart’s desire. Practitioners begin with the idea that you are already perfect, and then assist you to reveal that perfection! Prayer support can be provided in the moment, or through longer, private, individual sessions.

Affirmative Prayer brings our thinking and feeling into alignment with the truth that infinite Good surrounds us always in the form of love, harmony, peace, wellness, abundance, prosperity, and any Good we can imagine.

In one way, it’s not much different than what I do now. I try to leave each person I interact with in a higher energy than when I met them. I try to listen to what they say, what they don’t say, and how they say it. I remember to forgive myself when I miss the mark. But in another way, it’s very different. It’s listening to the subtext. It’s intuiting the whole scene. And it’s holding space and faith for a person who is struggling to do that for herself.

Through all this, the butterflies dance, those beautiful metaphors of life change and transformation. All a flutter, I head to my exam for a chance to share what I’ve learned and celebrate with a bonus date night with my husband: Mary’s Pizza Shack and Guardians of the Galaxy if you want to know. To romp into a new era of the unknown like a child in a field of daffodils. Or a raccoon named Rocket flying through space. To jet off to a country unknown, with different money and different measurements, and soak it all up with joy, so deeply grateful for this playground.

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