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.


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.


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”:

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

    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.


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.)


 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.

Posted in awakening, belief systems, conscious living, education, facing your fears, hope, Inspiration, intuition | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Know the Flow

flood8Last year about this time, my fellow Californians couldn’t even water their yards due to chronic drought conditions. More than one friend in various parts of the state adopted a no-flushing policy: if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. I didn’t make that up.


Today, I sit here latimeswatching sheets of rain blow across the gray sky. The Sacramento River is licking across the North State. The lakes are brimming over. The dams are getting a true test and some are having major issues. (Eh hem, Oroville, you may be the tallest, but…)

Oroville in general, about an hour south from where I live, is a mess. Evacuations have been going on for over a week.  In the neighborhood of  180,000 people have been evacuated. I didn’t even know Oroville had that many people. The article, “Faith and Stoicism” in Sunday’s LA Times (front page!)–adds a whole new meaning to holy. Stay strong, Orovillians! Before you know it, 115 degree days and a very full lake will be yours for the taking.

I know about the front page of The Times not because I so nostalgically read it from Nor Cal, but because my husband is in Los Angeles, having driven down the day before I5 went under water near Williams causing a 5 hour traffic delay. Lucky him. His trip back will be delayed due to more expected flooding. Not so lucky.flood10
Closer to home, our seasonal Weil Creek has white caps and looks more like a Weil River. It’s broken off into tributaries not before forged. There are new ponds in our neighborhood, overflowing with crickets that form a full orchestra at first sign of a blue sky or starry night. Those respites have been few over this rainiest ever Nor Cal season.

This water-logged February parallels a move into Pisces on the astrological side. Pisces, a water sign, seems like the perfect actor to enter center stage. Water equals emotions and we are drowning in emotion collectively. Expect more of that. Here’s hoping we can hole up the dam before all hell breaks loose.

I think we can. We just need to learn how to ride the currents. Feast or famine. When it rains, it pours. These cliches are born from observing patterns. The trick is to learn how to be your own regulator in these times. Listen to your inner voice and trust it. Know how to adjust your faucet. Know when to dive in, swim to the side, or finish the race.

Timing. Listening. Knowing the flow…embrace these.

And remember, reach for the blue sky. It always follows.


Posted in awakening, beliefs, conscious living, intuition, nature | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This is Me

surfThis is me.

This is me coming out of the Cave of Confusion where I’ve been seeking words.

This is me feeling this from you, too.

This is me feeling the three cycles colliding as never before: the Cycle of Human Conflict, the Cycle of Climate Change, the Cycle of the Economy. (Thank you, Greg Braden and your Missing Pieces wisdom)

This is me, my heart broken wide open on Inauguration Day when the LGBTQ and Climate change pages were removed from the White House website even as the event was taking place.

This is me thinking this t-shirt is HILARIOUS: This pussy grabs back. Or this one: Is my ass too big for my country?

This is me loving this Facebook post: Why do I still have to protest this shit?! (Thanks, Meredith, for the two-steps back insight.)

This is me feeling like belting I AM WOMAN at the top of my fucking lungs. (Thanks, Helen Reddy.)

This is me saying fucking because it’s warranted here.

This is me wanting to boot stomp someone. (Thanks, Lois, for taking your family to the DC March. Thanks, Yols, for marching in LA and for running for Congress).

This is me sitting on my meditation pillow, shining love and light all over this world, and knowing you are out there doing that in your way as well. I feel you.

This is me watching marchers march all over and loving the involvement of my global family as they stand up for human rights.

This is me sitting on the shore of change and taking comfort in the ever-consistent rhythms of the waves.

This is me knowing that the Creator is in all things and that there is always good to be found. Always.

This is me wanting to be a mermaid now and jump way down under the sea to a land of peace, and love, and harmony.

This is me ready to use my gifts to serve this planet and create a world that works for everybody until I die.

This is me surfing the wave.

This is me in love with my global family–even the difficult relatives.

This is me remembering that Harry Potter is only a boring school boy without a Voldemort. (Thanks, Liz Gilbert, for reminding me. Thanks, Pammo, for gently slipping that into my messenger, my graceful friend.)

This is me knowing that I am looking through a peephole at such a small perspective of a larger plan.

This is me knowing that the diamond has to endure harsh conditions before it can shine.

This is me knowing I live in the Diamond.

This is me holding deep gratitude that my God is big enough to hold all this.

This is me eagerly awaiting (praying!) to be pleasantly surprised. I love surprises!

This is me so ready to collaborate and get it done for the sake of ALL.

This is me loving you in your diversity, whatever that looks like, for it’s what makes the world beautiful and interesting.

This is me knowing some people are too afraid to believe that.

This is me grateful to be here on this earth right now, feet in the sand, no matter what.

This is me.



Posted in authenticity, belief systems, beliefs, conscious living, Inspiration, positive attitude, resilience | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Best Present Not Under the Tree

treeWith my oldest son getting married at the end of the year we announced that gifts would come in the form of cash to be spent on that trip surrounding the marriage and not in pretty, wrapped presents under the tree. I’m not sure who that is harder for–me or them. I’m a gift giver from way back.

My youngest son (18) at first claimed this was a cruel entry into adulthood. Depressing, was the word choice. But that conversation has evolved throughout the month. He’s become very aware of the commercialism of Christmas/Hanukkah and has evolved his consciousness. He has become aware of the stress surrounding the holidays. It’s been amazing to watch his awareness expand.

What I’ve noticed is he’s right–about the stressful part. Since I started working at 15 (when I had 3 jobs), I’ve bought what I’ve learned is an abnormal amount of gifts every Christmas. I’m an over-giver from way back. In my teens, I always put WAY more thought into giving gifts than my peers did. I didn’t realize it until the moment of exchange and then had this feeling like, “Ok. I may have overdone it–again.”

It’s hard in your teens to find the balance between giving and receiving equally well. Hell, many adults don’t ever get that down. I watch my son’s teen friends struggle with wanting to get gifts for people they love and not having the money to do it. This expectation weighs heavy on them as they watch all the motions around them painting the picture of what giving looks like. You know. The Jared Jeweler guy who has a happy family because he gives good gifts that makes his wife love him. It puts so much pressure on them to get it exactly right whatever “it” is. The focus becomes this “it” and the accumulation of more stuff and the whole Truth and Love get placed on the back burner due to the hustle it takes to attempt (and never really reach) that mirage of perfection.

In adulthood, the same issue lingers. On average, I purchase around 100 gifts, wrap them, and either put them under the tree or deliver them. I love doing it, as gifts are my love language. I love getting them. I love giving them. My favorite thing is finding the exact perfect gift for someone that they didn’t even think of themself. I love to watch the excitement on their face. Equally, I love getting those types of gifts that shows the person giving it knows me an inch more than I know myself. I still live in the shadow of gift giving perfectionism.

So not giving gifts with bows does not come easy for me even now. I think about it every day. But here’s the thing I’ve noticed. I have been freed up in time for other forms of giving. For example, I’m not a huge cooking enthusiast, but I’m keenly aware others enjoy it when I do it. One of those fans is my youngest son. He’s been wanting a turkey. Last Sunday, I started with a fresh turkey from the local butcher, my husband’s mom’s homemade applesauce, peanut butter and chocolate chip homemade cookies, baked beets, marinated mushrooms, scalloped potatoes, stuffing, fresh green beans, and homemade gravy. Did I mention I overdo? This meal, one that wasn’t full of expectation or ritual but rather just me playing in the kitchen and pouring love into my family’s favorite dishes, nourished me far more than when it’s expected in Hallmark holiday form.


I find myself less tolerant of these illusions each year. As we were driving home from dinner last night, we had a great conversation about the commercialization of Christmas. We talked about the Truth behind the holidays. A friend was dropping a gift off for my son and we talked about being able to receive without having to feel a giving obligation in return. He said it was really hard for him and I knew immediately what he meant. During the month I had people give me gifts and, practicing my “other types of gifts” Christmas, I didn’t have a bag to hand back. We talked about the receiving part and how that is equally important to learn.

In the end, this Christmas for us has been about focusing on what’s important, paying attention to relaxing and side-stepping holiday stress, learning the balance between giving and receiving and how both are equally important to master.

This has been the best present not under the tree.


Posted in belief systems, conscious living, holidays, Inspiration, parenting, pets, positive attitude, relationships, relaxation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Life, Learning, and Critical Thinking

thinkingJordan and I are both in finals this week, I as an adult student and he as a high school senior. My oldest son and his fiance, both university professors, are also in finals week, but on the giving end of the stick. They both assign papers rather than give exams because “everyone gives the students tests. They need to learn how to write critically…think rather than memorize.”

Dropped smack in the learning lab this week, and seeing learning and assessment of learning from these different perspectives, makes me think about learning in general. For me, it’s why we’re here on the planet–to be lifelong learners.  My goal as a parent is to create lifelong learners of my children. I want them to keep being curious about the world they came to explore, to learn new things, and to follow their bliss in a way that makes the world a better place. In a way that brings them joy. If they are generated by learning, I feel confident they will follow this path.

I love each step of the learning process, including the evaluation at the end to integrate what’s been learned. For my youngest son, he’s just pretty “done” at this point of the term and eager to move into a two week break. I get that because the assignments he is often given are not higher thinking assignments. They’re busy work products to justify process.

For my oldest son at this stage in his life, I imagine reading through those papers teaches him as much as it does his students.  As a freshman English TA during my Master’s work at Occidental, I can tell you this happened for me, especially when it came to learning the reality of how ill-prepared many incoming freshman were in the writing realm. That’s education at its best…when both the teacher and the learner are learning, both about each other and about the bigger dynamics at play.

And yet, anxiety is so often wrapped up in these stages. Why? Is it due to procrastination? To overwhelm? To not understanding? To not trying? Is it perfection issues that spur on shame-based thinking? Being critiqued? Evaluated? Not being good enough? Not measuring up?

I blame the Bell Curve.

To me, it’s an issue with our larger education system. We assess our kids in weird ways from the time their young. I remember so many parents coming to parent/teacher conference meetings most concerned about their 7 and 8 year olds spelling test grades on a weekly basis. This was how they measured their child’s intelligence. (Side note: DON’T DO THAT.) Try as I might to re-educate my helicopter fams, they were working off a system that had been ingrained into them a generation before, where desks were in rows and there was no talking.

Alas, we are moving into a new era of transformation in all systems. As with any birth, it’s messy, but what comes out in the end is pure magic. As I study for my final, I soak up the enjoyment of the process of remembering what I know and how to apply it to life. That’s really the point in the end, isn’t it?

My oldest son asked his students at their last class this term what they learned. They said, “Question everything.”

I’m so proud.


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When Things Get Tough

river3-2A student asked, “When times of great difficulty visit us, how should we meet them?

The teacher said, “Welcome.”

An essay by John Tarrant, Roshi, director of the Pacific Zen Institute, calls this an ancient koan suitable for our time. He says In hard times, we long to touch and feel the vastness and blessing of life. Welcome might open some blue sky in the heart.

This past month has left me welcoming…alas, cracking open. It started with my sister dieing at a young 66. Though I have no full siblings, this step sibling was the closest one I had. The last time I saw her she touched her forehead to mine. While we both cried, she told me she had loved me from the moment she saw me. 

I remember the moment. I was in the driveway of my childhood home walking out to her car. I was six years old and fragile, not just because of age, but because my mom and dad had recently divorced. An extremely sensitive child, I was devastated. What seemed like overnight, I had two brand new families, neither of which  I felt I fit into well. There was nobody to talk to about it, and even to this day, I don’t feel people truly understand that devastation. It’s such a feeling of loneliness. I wanted my old family back and there was nothing I could do about it. It wasn’t an option.iphone-pictures-117

When Sherry came to pick me up, she had a big smile and gave me a warm hug. “Welcome, baby sister.”

As an only child, I felt a tie I had not felt up until that time. A sibling tie. With that love, she immediately staged herself as ally in my Dad’s family. She remained protective of me until her recent death. Through her multiple marriages, regions she lived, and years that passed, we remained close. We had a psychic connection. I always felt loved when she was near, either physically or mentally. She was the one who ALWAYS remembered my (and later my kids’) birthdays even when everyone else forgot.

dscn4431Sherry was extremely creative and her creativity flowed any and everywhere she poured her energy. When I was young, I often spent the night at her house staying up until 5:00 a.m. having dance parties. She carried a charisma and sense of fun that nobody I knew had. Only later, in my adult years, did I recognize that as unmedicated (and self-medicated) bipolar disorder. Even to the end, that brain illness was never treated properly or talked about. In my twenties, she once told me that during a hospitalization, her then husband leaned over, looked into her eyes and said, “Why are you doing this to me?” That reaction was so hurtful to her, I think it prevented her from really getting the help she needed to shine her full authentic self.

amadorI still feel her with me as much as ever, nudging me to learn palmistry or design a cookie platter. Createlittle sister. I loved you from the moment I saw you.

Next, maybe a week and a half later, while Mike and I were hooting it up in Gold Country at a Redneck Barbecue, his mom, Janice, went to the emergency room by ambulance with stomach pains. He went down to LA the day we got back and spent a gut-wrenching next few weeks not knowing which way the road would turn.

She was 88. Infinity infinity. It was to be a minor surgery, as minor as one could have at that age. But finally, that surgery ended up in a funeral last week. As we stood at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, a beautiful Jewish cemetery we’ve visited many times before, the rain poured down over us. The water flowed down the steps of the main waterfall. Just after spooning dirt on the casket, and putting the casket next to her husband of 60 some years, the Rabbi said, “We now will know Janice in a different way than in her physical form. We will now know her through stories.”janice

I didn’t feel I was given the voice to tell the best story about Janice in the last few weeks so I will tell it to you.

Each time Janice first saw me, her true nature emerged. She was the BEST hugger I have ever met. Her hugs were a unique combination: warm like a fluffy blanket, but firm like you knew she meant it from the bottom of her heart. They were usually accompanied by a kiss to the side of the head and a noise which meant, I loved you from the moment I saw you. I looked forward to those hugs and every time they came, all these feelings about them came rushing back. I know she knew I felt this way. She came to me after she’d passed, rousing me from a sound sleep at 11:40 p.m., with one last hug. It was a doozy–a gift–and I will always treasure it as I had all the other unique ways Spirit showed Itself through her.

The Rabbi also talked about those ways–her creativity– and how it emanated in so many forms: hand crafts, painting, gardening, cooking, and in her later years, computer graphics. Every birthday she spent time making customized cards for each of us, children and grandchildren, with generous checks included. Each design and rhyme was tailored to the recipient’s year, past and upcoming. We will all miss that thoughtfulness, generosity and creativity when our birthdays roll around. This was my husband’s card waiting on her computer for his birthday, which fell two days after hers. She was buried on her birthday. She’d already been working away on his. The message, prophetic.mikebdaycard

Create, little sister. I loved you from the moment I saw you. 

And only now do I feel like I can find the words. When things get tough, I pull inside. To meditation. To Spirit Itself. To my husband and my kids. To my best friend. To the tight circle I’ve built around myself to insulate myself in Love. To my dreams. To my journal. To my prayer partner. To that space where I completely trust I will be held and not let down.

And, yet, the koan sounds in my ear: Welcome might open some blue sky in the heart. 

Indeed. Without the divorce that hurt so much at 6, I never would have found my Sherry. Without the years we had together, I would have never experienced that sibling feel. Without Janice, I never would have known such a Hug. All these gifts, all these gifts. I would not trade them for the moon…certainly, not to prevent the pain of tougher times. Instead, I welcome them. I welcome them, recognizing that without the one, the tough times of loss, there isn’t the vastness and blessings of life.

And in the end, my heart is filled with blue sky.



Posted in conscious living, creativity, death, friends, healthy living, Inspiration, mental health, metaphysical, relationships, resilience | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Revisiting Amador-able

suttercreekLast year around this time, Mike and I grabbed a handful of friends and hit up the California wine region of Amador County, a little pocket of gold country east of Sacramento.grapes






This year, we weren’t planning another trip, but ’bout a week ago we asked ourselves, “How can we possibly miss Andis Wine’s Redneck Barbecue?” We decided we couldn’t. With an invitation like this, how can you resist?banner


We fumbled around for last minute places and decided to stay where we went last year. The Sutter Creek Inn ended up being the perfect place.

suttersign This historical Inn had ghost hunters scouting about last year. Nobody wants to talk about ghosts around the Inn, but somehow we heard that word at least once each time we were there. The Inn is old and quaint, each room different from the next. I let the owner choose our room. My only caveat was I wanted a “hanging bed.” In some rooms, beds hang from the ceiling. These swinging beds are amazingly soothing, surprisingly even after a few glasses of wine.

The room was beautiful, with a woodburning fireplace and lots of wood. The bathroom was almost as roomy as the room itself! There was a huge painting hanging over the sunken two-person tub giving it a modern flare, along with a plant that reminded me of Seymour. And, of course, the hanging bed.room

Best of all, along the walls hung rows of books spanning time. My favorite thumb-through was a first edition from 1949 on Transcendentalism. It was signed by Jane Way, the woman who bought the Inn originally back when women didn’t do such things. (Confession: I really wanted to keep that book, but I didn’t.) Last year, I took a picture in Jane’s parlor and I swear you can see her playing the piano in the mirror reflection. In case you missed it last year, here it is again. Decide for yourself.

ghost And speaking of ghosts…

Check out this portal-looking view on Main Street right out front. Even if you’re not buying the whole supernatural bend, the nostalgia of the town can’t be denied. Antique shops line Main and some of our breakfast friends (non wine drinkers) came just for the antiquing.

street2The other shops on Main range from boutiques with local art products to our favorite amazing cheese shops with cheeses from all over the world. You can do a wine/cheese tasting here if you like. They even loaned us a knife for the night and refrigerated our cheese while we went to the barbecue. (We took one to share with our redneck friends. Turns out we found some appreciative millennial cheese lovers so it worked out!) Here’s the storefront so you don’t miss it.


The buildings in Sutter Creek can be described as Gold Rush Chic. Well, sort of. Like Gold Rush Redone…Chic. I’m pretty sure that’s an architectural style from my days in Urban Architecture class at UCLA. sutter  Whatever you call it, it’s a few steps back in time and gorgeous in Autumn. Check out these leaves at Deaver Winery. Like a painting. That times infinity.


At the barbecue, we ran into Lorenzo, the sales/marketing guy for Andis. Last year when we met Lorenzo, he had not been in the US long. He hails from Italy and comes from a 4 generation winemaking family. He always knows where the best wines are hiding in the Andis barrels and how to blend them together for us. Wait until you see what’s coming in 2020!lorenzo


At the barbecue, we made some new millennial friends. Remember? The ones who loved the cheese? They were really insistent on us dancing to the Knuckleheads. They took about 100 pictures, but you can get the vibe with one. We had fun eating ribs with those two, and dancing in between wet wipes.



The next morning, breakfast proved a feast of information. We discovered a new California wine region not yet explored–Lodi–and now know the guy who owns the kayak shop.

We also met a couple who told us we must go visit the “ghost town” of Volcano.  breakfastZucchini walnut pancakes topped with fresh peach syrup and an itinerary of activity. Off to Volcano we go.

The drive was gorgeous, but steep and curvy. Signs indicated the road narrowed. We both laughed because there wasn’t much narrowing option. Lucky for us, no cars passed us coming down and we were able to navigate ourselves up through the autumn forest.

When we rolled into “town,” first we saw a motorcycle gang (I mean, club) that took over the Whiskey Flat Saloon. See that guy hightailing it out to make room?bar

The second thing we saw were ghost hunters in ghost hunter cars in front of an old hotel. And then we saw this sign. pop103Can you see how someone changed the 0 in 100 to 103?

The must-see place everybody raves about is The Kneading Dough Bakery. Remember how we just had breakfast? It really didn’t keep us from diving into the offerings. We took our Sutter Mills coffee (no lattes in these parts) and baked goods to the secret garden doused in color. fall5From under the canopy in every direction lies fall and nostalgia.

bakeryWe took a walk around the town which doesn’t take long. That is, unless you take the time to read all the signs on the artifacts. Volcano has Union roots from the Civil War. The town bell is a gift from a Unitarian Preacher who appreciated town support for Lincoln during the war. (Come to think of it, there’s another town called Lincoln and one called Plymouth…oh, and Jackson. A theme?)

Check out Old Abe.  And his plaque.

The rock around Volcano looks like volcanic rock from Hawaii. In the creek, tumbling stones turn to volcanic slate as you drive into the town. We couldn’t find evidence of a volcano, and I haven’t Googled it, but the story we made up was that a volcano imploded on itself and spewed out the rock. You can adopt that one or make up your own…or go really boring and Wikipedia it.

tree We’re sticking with the imploding Volcano theory.

All in all, each time we explore Amador County, we find another nugget. The wine (especially the Barberas) is phenomenal, the history is retained and appreciated by the locals, the drives are gorgeous, and, well, it’s just plain Amador-able.leaves

Posted in healthy living, nature, travel, wine and food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hope For Our Babies: #LetsDoThis


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.                              Margaret Meade

I can’t remember when it started. I just always had a baby I was carrying around. As a child I had a severe doll obsession. I was never without one. As soon as I could hold live babies, I would seek out family friends that had them with a hidden agenda to “babysit.”

In my early 20s, I had one of my own. In my mid 30s, another. These moments were hands down the most powerful breaths in my life. These children brought hundreds of more children into my life, children that called me Mom, Momma, Momma Weil. I love them all. I hug them when they come and when they leave to make sure they know it.

I taught elementary school, and the numbers exponentially grew. The Babies, all of them, are a constant thread that runs through my day, 24/7, and have been in my heart since I arrived on this planet.

I think that’s why this Calling has poured into my heart the way it has. My vision started as a dream to see each child going through a mental health rough patch get back on track as soon as possible–and for them to believe that can happen. To give them hope–a strength to believe in the essence of who they are beneath the layer of the illness. Perhaps that’s because I bargained with God that if my first child could be relieved of the pain he felt through his teens, and his constant desire to leave this earth because of it, I would dedicate this lifetime to helping all the babies I could.

There’s a thing that happens when symptoms flare up in a child. It’s steeped in fear of being different and “crazy.” It’s wrapped in pain and secrecy grown out of confusion about what’s happening. It’s a knife in the self-esteem heart as the child often feels screwed by being handed such a fate. It’s a gateway into street drugs to “normalize” and find relief from the chaotic swirl. It’s a thing that’s hard to know unless you’ve taken up residence with it in the same home, waking with it and laying with it while it shakes in the dark, afraid of the night terrors that live at the edge of sleep…but knowing not sleeping brings with it dire consequences.

To watch a child go through this pain breaks my heart into a million pieces. Knowing that so many “professionals” don’t even really get it, activates my anger and frustration. In certain places, the knowledge exists, but it’s like somebody tore that information up in a million fucking pieces and threw it into the air laughing, “You figure out how to help your child. Good luck.” Gluing those pieces back together and sharing that cohesive picture is my mission. Getting this message directly to the parents and allies who need it is my vision.

Here’s what I know. By taking optimal steps to recovery, and recovery IS a thing, time can speed by and get the child living out his unique blueprint. This inspires me to no end. This can only happen, by the way, if the child is allowed out of the mental health closet by well-meaning parents often worried about “what people will think.” By hiding the child, the child gets the message that “something is wrong with me and this is my fault” when the opposite is true. The child’s internship with mental health symptoms can make that child stronger, more empathetic, more resilient, and more understanding of this beautifully diverse world we live in. Where we fall down now is in the secrecy step which prolongs the period of time before people can look to others for support, education, and advocacy for their child.

Imagine if all those babies came forward how those 1 in 4 stats would change. Children’s mental health issues are without a doubt the current elephant in the room. When my family was going through our first dark night crisis, my oldest child was 12. People turned their backs on us right and left. We felt so isolated and afraid for our child. I was desperate to help my baby who was in so much pain. The place I turned was a confidential list serve where there were hundreds of moms like me in the same boat. Just knowing I was not alone calmed my heart. I knew that through Group Wisdom, as embodied in this place, I would find the support and education I needed to help my child. I vowed never to stop helping others with the knowledge that I gained on the journey to helping my own baby.

Enter Hope for Our Babies. This is the start of an outreach to gather a tribe of parents and their allies (this should include all of us, folks) committed to a vision that together we can help all kids through the mental health tunnel and to the light on the other side. The quicker, the better. By calling on each other for support and education, this grassroots effort is meant to roll out a group of voices for change. We’re starting with California (because it’s in 48th place in the US, which is pathetic, and I like a challenge), but the reach will extend far beyond the Sunshine State.

How can you help? First, click on this link and then click like:


Second, copy and paste on your social media to share. If you are a parent or ally, and want to share in a closed group, click on “Contact Us” and you will be taken to the group page where you may find guidance that can help you on your journey.

By liking and sharing, we can extend our reach to parents and allies who have babies of all ages they are supporting on a regular basis. By pulling the pieces together, in a solution oriented format, we will gather resources and filter it through Group Wisdom. I am a firm believer that we are put here to serve others by sharing the nuggets we’ve gathered on our journey. That’s where joy lives. I’m also a firm believer that we are all connected, and by helping our babies on their journeys (ALL THE BABIES of all ages) we have the best shot at creating a world that works for everybody.


Posted in anxiety, belief systems, beliefs, bipolar disorder, conscious living, early onset bipolar disorder, education, facing your fears, hope, Inspiration, mental health, mental health and children, NAMI, NAMI Basics, parenting, Parents and Teachers as Allies, positive attitude, psychiatric, recovery, resilience, United Advocates for Children & Families | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments