invincible summers

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

ordinary people December 23, 2008

Today I was reminded of one of my favorite films, Ordinary People. It won 4 Oscars back in 1980. Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford), Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton) and Best Screenplay. And yet it’s one of those films many people have not seen. I used to wonder why. and today I understand. It’s simple really and I’m surprised I never thought of it before. I grew up surrounded by many who put on the Cleaver family front. It was safe. comfortable. And this film is anything but. This film is raw and painful. beautiful and sad. honest and real. If you are someone who chooses to live behind the Cleaver fence or normal facade…this is a movie that forces you to remove walls and think. feel. empathize. go to “unsafe” places.

First, watch the trailer: (more…)


fall…winter…life November 25, 2008

Filed under: family,life,love,pain — clementine @ 1:03 am
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i have always loved fall. there is something about the crisp, colorful leaves that brings me much joy. i have fond memories of raking big piles of leaves as a child (or my father would rake them) and my sister and i would jump in them. there is a picture on my refrigerator and i’m guessing i was about seven, my father is standing there with a rake next to a pile of those crisp, colorful leaves and i’m just sitting in the middle of the pile. i was happy and innocent then. maybe that’s why i love fall so much.

it’s cold here and we’ve been building fires, they are very comforting. another reminder of the past i suppose. as i type i see our cat has left his blanket near the fire and is lying on the marble, as close as he can get to the fire. we, of course, keep a good eye on him…but he too, loves the comfort and warmth of a nice fire.

our first fire of the year…

and now winter is approaching…the holidays…and there is a feeling of emptiness inside. my heart is still breaking. at this moment, i’m thinking of my mother’s stuffing and her jingling sweaters. thursday i will make her corn casserole and think of her. but i will make it for my husband, who loves corn. soon we’ll put up the christmas tree. a tree which we will decorate with ornaments that all bring back so many beautiful memories of the past. i’ve been told i shouldn’t live in the past (and i don’t think i do) however, the past should live within us all, the good and bad. i don’t want to erase the past. i don’t want to forget those memories. i want to forever remember them. all of them. and so, as i hang the ornaments this year, i will remember the good times.

and i will smile while fighting back the inevitable tears.


a dose of reality December 23, 2007

Filed under: acupuncture,depression,family — clementine @ 1:15 pm
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i have been empty. avoiding blogging (i hate that word) at all costs.
i have been sad. avoiding finding a normal (i hate that word, too) routine.
i have been scared. and fighting my fears.

i hit a plateau. the lamictal is not working. one could say it’s because i cut my dose from 200 to 100 to 50. but i disagree. it stopped working at 100mg. i am now taking 50mg along with a multi vitamin from whole foods and 1000mg of flax oil. i quit the cokes and coffee and replaced with a variety of hot teas. i’m hoping for the best. i have been quietly debating quitting the lamictal altogether. that road terrifies me. and yet i feel i might need to travel it. and do things differently. like, find some sort of routine. walk more often. reduce the amount of news i watch and read. schedule acupuncture when i can afford it. go outside more often. smile more. laugh more. love more.

and thanks to one special man, i am no longer alone on this road.

we just finished shopping for the angel tree families. it’s something i’ve been doing for a few years now and truly enjoy. we shopped for approximately 30 people over the last couple of weeks. this year the organizer, a friend of mine, asked us to go to the christmas party and deliver the gifts. i couldn’t bring myself to do it (luckily, i had to work…) i’d rather it be a mystery. i’d rather not see their faces as i already have a picture of them in my mind. and to be honest, without the help of our families this year…we would be in their shoes and it’s not a reality i’m having an easy time facing.

there is an ongoing strike in my business and work is very slow. so slow that for the first time in my life i had to produce a “9 to 5″resume. not an easy task when my experience has been basically, um, taking care of actors for the last ten years. i don’t know how to put into words my qualifications outside of “i’m a multi-tasker, type 65wpm, pc/mac proficient and know a variety of programs including word, excel, etc…” needless to say, i’ve had no responses. and since i love to clean and organize, a few friends hired me to clean their homes. i placed an ad at craigslist (cleaning to meet your needs…) with one hit to date. recently i told a friend…”it was not easy cleaning someone else’s toilet…”and she said, “well, you used gloves, yes?” i said..”of course, but it was more like…wow, i’m cleaning a stranger’s toilet.” the irony is, on my last film an actor that has made enough money to last several lifetimes called me and told me how wonderful i am at my job. how i made the film lighter and more enjoyable for him. he called simply to thank me and tell me “you rock!” it’s not the first time i’ve heard this and i know it’s why i’m hired to do the job i do, and yet…we cannot afford another move to los angeles…i cannot afford to join my union…we are stuck in an area where there is little work. if the actor only knew i was cleaning toilets to pay the bills one month later…

since there are few gifts to give this year, i’ve been baking christmas cookies for family and friends. snowmen, snowflakes, chocolate chip with green and red swirls, an andes mint variety and double chocolate brownies. my parents were in town over the weekend. my mom brought all the tools necessary to decorate cookies, one of her favorite christmas memories with my sister and i. as we decorated with sprinkles and sugars, she hugged me and told me these were the important things in life…spending time with family. i agreed and even while feeling nostalgic, warm, happy and peaceful…

i still felt a bit empty, sad and scared.


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.


9:02 on the clock November 30, 2006

Filed under: family,life,pain — clementine @ 8:08 pm
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i’m a firm believer in… all pain is equal. there are many days when the shit gets bad and i repeatedly say, it could be worse. it could be worse. the phrase life is short is frequently used but i wonder how many people actually hear it or believe it. the truth is, yes, life is short. too short for some. my nineteen year old cousin was killed in kuwait on february 6, 2003. he joined the national guard for one reason: tuition assistance. and now he’s dead. my father’s cousin died eleven years ago. while visiting the memorial site i realized, yes, life is short. seeing his marker surrounded by smaller markers, those of the children killed that same day.

those children didn’t get the chance to really live life. their time here was too short. for those of us here today, as long as we’re breathing, we should be living. doing something differently. opening our hearts. our minds. our souls. we can’t stop the violence. but we have a voice, we can use it. we can’t end poverty. but we can help a few in need. we can’t change the past. but we can learn to live in the present. we can’t stop the hatred. but we can love. today i was reminded of my father’s cousin and thought i’d share something i wrote a few months ago.

9:02 on the clock

a man calls a friend
he asks a favor
could you please pick up some paperwork
at the social security office?
he would drive himself
but he spends his days
in a wheelchair
to the friend, i am sure
it was a simple errand

i imagine
the friend
stood in line, making small talk
possibly with teresa
who was there
to pick up a social security card
for her 8 month-old-son, sean
or maybe
the friend
he no longer waited in line,
he was at the counter
chatting with richard
who had worked there for years
or maybe
the friend
he stood in line, talking to no one
alone with his thoughts
thinking of
the many things
he had to do that day
it was still early, after all

this was no ordinary day
it was
the 19th of april
the year, 1995
and the social security office
was in
the alfred p. murrah federal building
in oklahoma city

the clock read 9:02 a.m.
when a truck bomb
made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer
and fuel oil
outside the building
the explosion could be felt
30 miles away

168 were dead
19 of which
were children
one of which was
the friend
my father’s cousin
thomas was his name

he was a good friend
he was a good husband
he was a good father
he was a good man
he lived a good life

twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. so throw off the bowlines. sail away from the safe harbor. catch the trade winds in your sails. explore. dream. discover. – mark twain


why September 24, 2006

Filed under: life,mental illness — clementine @ 7:54 pm
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someone recently asked me why i sit here, typing away on my laptop, asking me, why…why do you have the blog?

the answer, i thought, was simple. i remember when i created the blog in february. i was feeling lost, angry at the mental illness stigma and because i work in the film industry i was really pissed at tom cruise after his matt lauer interview. a friend had a blog and i thought, why not. it would be a place to vent. a few weeks later i posted a blog titled: hard times. the title came from a song stephen foster wrote. he also wrote “oh, susanna” and he’s a distant relative of mine. a severely mentally ill man and an alcoholic, he died alone at the age of 37. at that time i wrote that blog, i felt very alone and feared i would too die alone. i didn’t want to die alone someday, but decided, if i did, i wanted to go out at least attempting to open up, to share with others, to open a few eyes to the mental illness stigma that still exists in our world. soon after i started the blog, i received emails from complete strangers. people who also felt alone. and lost.

and so began months of typing. writing. sharing. i would be lying if i told you this blog was for everyone but me. it has been beyond therapeutic. and strangely enough, more therapeutic than the many $150/hour sessions i’ve had with therapists over the last twenty years. that is saying a lot. but yesterday reminded me again of why i started this blog.

i received a phone call from my favorite aunt congratulating me on my recent marriage. she’s been working on our family genealogy for several years and she told me it’s almost complete. she was excited because she knows i’ve been looking forward to it. her mother, my grandmother, died when i was nineteen and in the middle of a severe bout of depression. i remember i was in the family room at my parents house (i was living with them after a dark period in my life…) and my mother was upstairs. the phone rang, she answered and i heard i loud cry. i heard sobbing. it was painful. after a long battle with diabetes her mother had died. what i know now is that her mother also suffered from depression. and not your “sad days here and there” depression. she spent years in foster homes. she was sexually abused. she took many pills over the course of her life and had several ect treatments. my aunt has been very open about her mother’s illness. i told her yesterday i have always felt a connection with her mother, my grandmother, and i feel she is with me. watching over me.

my aunt said, “you know, years ago people didn’t understand people like you or your grandmother. today, people do. we know that sometimes you have a hard time dealing with things in life.” a hard time. i don’t fault her for not understanding that depression is an illness unlike any other. that these just aren’t hard times. i wish it were that simple. sure, they are not locking me up. but, if i cried “i want to kill myself” they would. if i told someone i was hearing voices they would. if i missed several days or weeks of work because a mental illness paralyzed me at times and not due to a physical illness, i would be fired. (although, i could sue…) it’s different today, however, because at least now, i can talk about it. i can write about it. fifty years ago most people would look away and pretend you did not exist. you were crazy. and most importantly, you were alone. today, we have thousands of people, online, writing about their mental illness. sharing with others.

and we don’t feel so alone anymore.


father’s day June 18, 2006

Filed under: family — clementine @ 7:41 pm
Tags: , , ,

i think of
you raking, piles of leaves
all orange, crisp and brown
a dollhouse, hammering away for many nights
santa and his sleigh in the yard
bright christmas lights
too many presents under the tree
your farm set was enough for me
bert and ernie on the tv
while inside with chickenpox, stuck
a buckeye in your pocket for good luck

i think of
snowmobiles and drifts of snow
steak subs and pizza dough
walks in the woods
those damn tree limbs
(it’s time to move kids!)
crackerjacks and chocolate wafers
soccer balls and tether ball poles
campfires, tents and smores
ouch! those stupid mole holes

i think of
that coal pail you carried, walking with a strut
hey, your boots made the final cut!
a fake moustache applied
no, you can’t have dialogue, nice try!
sweeping in a scene, with a broom
no, you can’t have a honeywagon room!
watching dolly sing in nashville
a prison guard walking on a grassy hill
a businessman at the courthouse
in a small kentucky town
and you did it all, just to see me
you, so happy and proud

i think of
your small mouth, just like mine
the way you look at us
love in your eyes, all the time
a warm smile
an even warmer heart
your unconditional love
a family not torn apart

please know, beneath it all
i am strong, thanks to you
you worry too much
i know this to be true
but please stop (or at least, not so much)
i want you here thirty,
even forty years from now
i’ll take forever if you’ll allow
you think you were hardly there
you were always there