invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

easy does it December 26, 2006

Filed under: life,pain — clementine @ 8:15 pm
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this year as we shopped for the families in need, i hoped one of the little girls in the many families wished for an easy-bake oven. i never saw that wish. it wasn’t until the last day of shopping i saw an 8-year-old who had simple wishes…clothes, cd player, paints…that i decided to use some money left over and get her that easy-bake oven.

the easy-bake was one of the my favorite things as a child. i baked many cakes in that oven. two or so years later i moved on to bigger cakes and even won a few cake decorating contests in our local 4-h club. somewhere along the line i stopped cooking. maybe i just got lazy. maybe i caved into fast food and frozen 5 minute meals. maybe i stopped enjoying it. of course, it’s not the 1950s. women are working. dinner doesn’t have to be on the table at 5. those days are long gone. and that is just fine.

as we were shopping my swain watched my eyes light up every time we passed the easy-bake oven. christmas morning the last gift i unwrapped was just that. i thought he was being cute. thoughtful. sweet. all the things he his. later that evening my fears and anxieties overwhelmed me, as they often do. i crawled into bed, under the covers where it was safe and warm. he came back and he told me why he bought that easy-bake oven.

he wanted me to go back. go back to before age 15. and remember what it was like.

some kids had a rough childhood. some kids were poor. some kids never got that easy-bake oven they wished for. but i did. besides the depression i had a wonderful childhood. full of so many beautiful memories. life was easy. and it was mostly good. until i was raped when i was 15. everything changed. and i mean everything.

life was never the same.

today, the easy-bake requires no light bulb. and the cake seems very small. i hope the 8-year-old girl is enjoying it. i hope her life gets better. i hope my 15 never happens to her. but if it does, i hope she finds someone like my swain. and i hope he buys her an easy-bake oven.


eli lilly in hot water December 18, 2006

i haven’t felt like blogging recently. just so much going on between my sister’s surgery and christmas shopping for families in need. but, when my mailbox is flooded with headlines like these from the new york times, eli lilly said to play down risk of top pill or lilly encouraged off – label zyprexa use or drug files show maker promoted unapproved use . well, i can’t sit quiet. (more…)


rrp & my sister December 14, 2006

Filed under: family,life — clementine @ 8:16 pm
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in 1997 my sister was diagnosed with a rare disease, recurrent respiratory papilloma. there are an estimated 20,000 active cases in the u.s. the disease is characterized by the growth of tumors in the respiratory tract caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). although they primarily occur in the larynx on and around the vocal cords, these growths may spread downward and affect the trachea, bronchi and occasionally the lungs. it is sometimes referred to as laryngeal papillomatosis and in the past was often called juvenile laryngeal papillomatosis, because it was thought to primarily affect only children. a distinguishing aspect of this disease is the tendency for the papilloma to recur after surgical procedures to remove them. hence, the “recurrent” part of the name. the tumors or growths can be wart-like, often have a cauliflower-like appearance, and are either pedunculated (attached only by a slim stalk), or sessile (closely adhering to mucosa).

she was diagnosed during her senior year in college. friends noticed her voice was raspy. my sister, being very healthy and the star of her college soccer team, went to her local doctor who put her on steroids. this made it worse. she was misdiagnosed three times before her referral to dr. ossoff at vanderbilt hospital in nashville, tn. ossoff, who came to vanderbilt from northwestern university school of medicine, has been recognized internationally as an expert in his field, otolaryngology. ossoff has said that establishing an otolaryngology residency program in july 1987 (the 106th in the country) was one of the department’s first milestones. the residency program began with two residents each year in july 1987. there are three per year now.

he once said, “when we began our residency program the best thing going for us was the good name of VUMC, the reputation of folks on the faculty and our good and congenial relationship with other otolaryngologists in the nashville community. being 106th was certainly not satisfying, so we wanted to ascend to the top third of residency programs very quickly, and ideally into the top 10, becoming a consensus leader in the field. about three or four years ago we reached that goal.”

his office is filled with head shots thanking both he and his staff. his patients include pretty much every country music singer in the world. former presidents. and the late johnny and june carter, who were once in the waiting area with my sister. my mom asked for june’s (not johnny’s!) autograph. ossoff is a brilliant doctor and i have complete faith in him. there is no question my sister is alive because of him. although i struggle with my doctors and they often leave me frustrated and angry…ossoff gives me hope. ossoff and his staff are always trying something new. trying to find something that will work. either to prolong the surgeries or cure the disease. most recently along with the laser surgeries he began injecting cidofovor and an hpv vaccine. they seem to be working. the days of a surgery every four weeks are long gone. now, it’s on average every six months unless the threat of growth in the lungs is there, which is inoperable and leads to death. in that case, she travels to back to nashville the following week for surgery. or in the past, that same day.

somewhere along the way since my sister’s first surgery almost 10 years ago, i lost count of her surgeries. i know they total over fifty. and this friday she will have another. she’s been in and out of remission for a long time. it’s been difficult to say the least. but she is strong. and i will do my best to be strong by her side on friday.


christmas shopping December 13, 2006

Filed under: life — clementine @ 8:17 pm
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i’ve been christmas shopping the last few days. not for friends and family. each year my friend shops for several families in need. she collects money from country music stars who “adopt” a family. a few years ago, i joined her. after we get the money, we go out and shop for the families. we are emailed a list of everyone and i usually choose 7-10 families to shop for. it requires several nights of shopping and then wrapping the hundreds of gifts. most families average 5 in the household. i know their names. their ages. their clothing sizes. and their story, or at least a brief version. some live in a safehouse. some lost everything in a fire. some lost a job and cannot afford presents for their children, let alone pay their bills. this year there are 2 women over 80 living alone with little money. they ask for simple things. a 6″ skillet. a blanket.

each person lists their NEEDS and their WISHES. most of the parents have one wish: their children to have a christmas. some kids wish for a barbie doll. some have aspirations of being an artist and wish for paints. some small children wish for anything “science or biology” related. and some just wish for toys. no description. just toys.

and then there are those who have one wish: clothes.

a lot of people go out, buy the items and put them in a large black yard bag to be delivered to the children. every year i do the same. i read the families story. and then i look at their age and clothing sizes. i picture the family in my head. i see “ciara” and i see her smiling. i see her crying. and i can hear her laugh. i walk the aisles and try to keep the image of her in my head. i wonder if the backpack is the right color for her. i hope she likes the pink sweater that i think is perfect for her. i hope she likes the little mermaid underwear. and those spongebob legos.

i’ll never meet her. i’ll never meet the families. unless, by chance, out in the world. i prefer it that way. i prefer the picture i paint of them. and as i wrap each gift and label the tag to them from santa, i imagine them opening the gift and smiling. and i briefly regret the many christmases i had enough presents under the tree for fifty children.

and more than anything i wish them peace. i hope their hearts and bodies are warm on that cold christmas day. and i hope their dreams don’t die.


i’ve been ready for this my whole life December 6, 2006

Filed under: life,love,mental illness — clementine @ 8:17 pm
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yesterday i read a post by a young girl struggling with her mental illness and those dreams that never seem to become a reality.

the problem of pain is this: it weighs us down. the things most people don’t think twice about doing, it may take someone with a mental illness days, weeks or years to do. and when we finally attempt to do it, we might fail. we might fall. and it’s not that the “other” people don’t fail or fall, they do. they just get up quicker. when we fail or fall, it may then take us days, weeks or years to try again. what we see as failure weighs us down.

right now the film rudy is on tv. as a small child rudy would watch the notre dame games on tv with his dad and his brothers. he dreamed of attending the university. after 3 rejections from notre dame, his dream finally came true. and then he went after his second dream, to play football on the notre dame team. rudy walked on the team under the coaching staff of ara parseghian in 1974. he played his guts out and treated every practice like it was a real game. rudy never quit and won the respect of his team mates. it was this enthusiasm that eventually got rudy in the game. the movie rudy is a true story. rudy’s dream was real, the tackle was real, the carry off the field was real. the struggle was real. rudy was 5′6″ and weighed 165 lbs. he played on the field once. and that was enough.

a friend of mine worked on the film in chicago. he told me stories that rudy was an asshole and i cringed. but this was coming from a man, bitter and miserable, working in the film industry. a few years later my friend quit the film business. he roamed about the country for a while and then went for his dream. he applied to over twenty law schools. he received several rejections. this year he packed up his amazing apartment in chicago and found a tiny studio apartment in a small town, just blocks from the law school he is attending. he’s in his mid-forties.

it’s now the scene when rudy shows his father the acceptance letter into notre dame. his father is yelling, “my son is going to notre dame!” rudy leaves the steel mill where his father worked. where he once worked.

eight years ago i was working for my father. he owned a foundry. they made grey and ductile iron castings. it was a dirty place and the work was hard. i was his office manager and i was miserable. i saw an ad in the local paper. a universal film was about to start shooting in my town. i sent my resume with no experience…not even a video or commercial. the casting office thought my father’s company was a film casting company. once in the interview, they realized i had no experience. i did not want to walk away without the job. i made that clear. i told them it was a dream, a life-long dream to work on a film. they hired me. i walked away from that foundry just like rudy walked away from that steel mill. my father’s heart broke just a bit, but he was happy, so happy for me. i cast my father, he worked as an extra in the movie. on set, my dream was suddenly a reality to him and he cried. the movie was october sky. another true story of a man, homer hickam, from a small coal mining town in west virginia who dreamed of going to space. he dreamed of building rockets. today, he works for NASA.

did rudy ever want to give up? absolutely. homer? yes. my friend? sure. did i ever want to give up? most definitely. but we didn’t. and two of the above have a mental illness. imagine the feeling rudy must have had running out onto that field. imagine the feeling homer must have had that first day he walked into his NASA office. imagine the feeling my friend had the first day of law school. and i can tell you what it was like my first day on set. looking around, the sets. the cameras. the actors. the first time i heard “roll camera!” my heart felt like it was going to explode. that’s what dreams are all about. but they can be realities. you just have to keep dreaming and keep trying. and you must continue to get up when you fall.

i have no idea how we’re going to pay our rent or my health insurance. but i’m still dreaming. my swain and i are writing a script. i’ll send it to anyone i think might be interested. and then i’ll send it to strangers. it might not sell, people might not like it but i’ll give it my best shot. sometimes a mental illness will keep you on the sidelines. and that is OK. but know in your heart someday you’ll be on that field. even if it’s only once. and i’ll be on that field again, because like rudy said, i’ve been ready for this my whole life.


hours of cheap entertainment December 5, 2006

Filed under: fun — clementine @ 8:18 pm

it started with a simple question. or statement. in my best whiny voice, “i’m sick of these blue folders on my desktop. i wish i could change the color or something. anything!” and then i was off, in another room, doing something else. call it attention deficit disorder. call it boredom. call it whatever. that’s what i do. i start something. i say something. and then i’m on to something else.

a few moments later i returned to the room and my geek swain had googled “mac desktop icon folders,” he was at this website and this one.

we spent the next, oh, four hours, choosing, downloading and assigning new icons for my desktop folders. after that was complete, i created new folders because i wanted to use more icons. and so now my hard drive is HAL-9000. my scripts, the willy wonka chocolate bar. my resume folder, frosty the snowman. my address book, the piece of paper with marla singer’s number from fight club. the games folder, a scrabble tile. my dga folder is R2D2. the media folder is the video message from guy fawkes in v for vendetta. the dictionary is the ark from raiders the lost ark., etc…

if you’re bored, broke or it’s just too cold to go outside…may i suggest these???