Sunday, August 30, 2009

And now it is a naked house

From last Monday until Thursday night our house was prepped for sandblasting. The construction workers put up scaffolding, patched, took away areas of the red tile roof, and finally covered every window with black sheeting in preparation for blasting off the white stucco. The black window coverings made Bob a little anxious. Even with all our windows open no air circulated through the house. But, we only had to endure that claustrophic feeling one night.

Sandblasting happened on Friday. I went by during the noon hour and most of the color was off the outer walls by then. However the noise and the dust created from it was horrible. So, much so that the workers wore ear plugs and couldn't communicate with me how long the house would be off limits to entering and exiting. Once I saw the finished product and all the sand debris and damaged plants, I realized we'll have a huge gardening expense after the stucco is finished. We will have to replace a lot of the plants that grew closest to the house -- some that have been with us for years.

This was my first ever sand blasting experience. I won't choose to go through that one again.

"Boy Interrupted"

Dana Perry produced a documentary called “Boy Interrupted” that appeared on HBO. I didn’t see it from the start last night, but I saw enough – over an hour—to get the gist. Her son, Evan, was depressed from the time he was a small child and actually talked about death and suicide from the age of five. He became so disruptive at school – he threatened to jump from the roof - that first he was hospitalized and then put into a special school for children with problems. There they finally diagnosed him as bipolar and put him on lithium, and he responded well to it. Eventually he returned to a mainstream school, made friends, and received top grades. He was well liked, very handsome, and had a lot of girlsfriends. However, by the time he was 15 he and his mother discussed his going off his medication, and with the advice of his doctor to go off gradually, he did.

And as he did he became increasingly depressed again. His last night alive he was agitated, didn’t want to do his homework and he told his mother he hated her as he left to go to his room. His father came up shortly to check on him and he seemed fine. He was at his computer and he said he was doing his homework. His father went in to help his younger son get to bed, and then came back to Evan’s room. He was gone.

Dana and her husband finally found him, with the help of the building superintendent, at the bottom of the air shaft, several stories down. He was in a pool of blood and dead. He was 15 years old. He decided to consummate his long lasting and ongoing affair with death.

Dana also had a brother who committed suicide in his 20s. However he was never diagnosed as bipolar as Evan had been, though she suspected his brother was afflicted with it as well.

Though my son, Paul’s, story is much different from this one, one thing stands out. They both stopped taking their lithium, and they both got increasingly depressed as a result. Paul never talked about killing himself as Evan did, but they both had the same result.

Now, I want to rework my book query letter to emphasize how important it is for parents to keep their children on their meds. Evan’s mother, Dana, couldn’t have known what the outcome would be because she didn’t know how deadly bipolar can be. And in a way she was lucky. She had the opportunity to keep him on the meds. He was not an adult. With Paul, we had no say in his ultimate care. We could express our concern that he wasn’t taking him meds, but because he was an adult, we couldn’t make him take them. Evan’s mother could, and unfortunately she didn’t. No, I’m not blaming her. She didn’t know better. That’s what I need to point out in my query. I will tell parents how important staying on meds is. And, perhaps this is the purpose of Dana's brave documentary about her son -- to let others know the horrible truth of a bipolar diagnosis.

The documentary was made up of a series of photos and videos starting when Evan was a very young child. There were also remarks from his parents, his grandmother who lost her son, Dana's brother, to suicide; his teachers; his doctors and other care givers; the girlfriend of Dana’s brother; Evan’s half brother, and his friends. They all spoke of him in glowing terms. He was smart, talented, and beautiful. Yes, this boy’s life was interrupted. Like his brother said, his suicide note could have been written by any moody teenager, yet Evan’s moods were thousands of times greater than the norm. And his brother was in despair that he never had the chance to say these things to him.

Some memorable quotes from the piece (probably not verbatim):
• I can’t believe he’s not here
• I can’t believe I’m sitting here doing this (Dana, his mother, the producer)
• You never get over it
• You move on
• You put one foot in front of the other and move on
• Bipolar is like cancer. It’s a killer

I realize that I’m writing this clinically. Well, that’s the only way I could get the words out. I do not feel clinical about the piece. I was greatly moved by it and very sad. And, I came away with the thought that this boy could have been saved. It’s a matter of education and the right care. I don’t believe that we have enough or the right kind of care for mental illness. Bipolar disease is just that. It is a disease. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. And, it can be treated – like cancer can be treated. Of course the treatment is not always successful. There has to be a willing patient. However, the more parents and other care givers and even the patients know about it, the better the outcome can be. I truly believe that.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Strawberry sundae -- almost gone!

On Monday morning the scaffolding goes up in preparation for sand blasting. So, this is my last weekend with the strawberry sundae house. I am indeed impressed with my contractor. He was back to us within 3 days of signing the contract to tell us we begin this Monday. I even went to the paint store and got some color samples. Makes it even more real.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Signed contract

Today we signed the contract to begin the work of redoing the outside of our house -- smoothing the stucco, painting, replacing the fence on the west side, and a few other little things that keep cropping up. The work of the house is never ending, don't you think? I’ve wanted to redo the house's surface for years, and I'm excited that we took the first step today -- we signed on with a contractor to get the job done. We did our due diligence and got three estimates -- all from hightly recommended folks, and we finally picked the one we felt was right. Plus, his bid was in the middle of the three. One was way low and incomplete. The third was way too high for the same work.

So, I’ve decided to chronicle the job’s progress here. Tomorrow our contractor will get the stucco subcontractor on board and pull a city permit for sand blasting. The advantage in choosing a local contractor is he knows the ins and outs of the city. He knows we need a permit for the sand blasting and that it’s a city law to notify our neighbors that the sand blasting will occur. (By the way. I worry about the sand blasting. I just hope it doesn't ruin all the plants that grow close to the house.)

He has stated in the contract that he expects to complete the whole job within 45 days – at least by the end of September. Now mind you, I’ve never had the experience of a contractor completing a job within his stated time frame, so I’ll be surprised if this one will. My goal, I told him, is to have the job flat by Thanksgiving.

In the next few days I’ll post some before photos of our house – with its rough surfaced stucco, dirty white paint, and very faded salmon colored trim. Someone once said it looked like a strawberry sundae, and I was very offended. When you see it, you'll understand that It’s crying out for renovation. And another color scheme. Now, I'm perfectly in agreement with the strawberry sundae remark.

I’m thinking right now about a dark Dijon mustardy color, but I could be persuaded otherwise. The color choice is up to me, so I’ll be heading to the paint store to see what appeals. Needless to say, I’m not above suggestions from my dear readers. Mainly, I want to avoid the pale beige and gray tone – already too prevalent on my street. Yet, I don’t want anything bright and too avant garde and shocking. Quiet good taste is my goal.

So, keep checking back to see how my house project is going.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ken's birthday

Ken with his mom and sisters on Mom's 90th birthday -- February, 1999

It's Ken's birthday today. And, I am sad. I miss him today more than ever.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A great movie! GO!

We saw “Julie and Julia” on Sunday.

A movie about a lesbian love affair? No, sorry to disappoint. This is a movie about food and cooking.

The Julia is Julia Child, and the Julie is Julie Powell, who decided to write a blog about cooking every one of the Julia Child recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. What a brilliant idea. Plus at the end she had oodles of followers and comments and then newspaper interviewers who came to dinner and wrote about her the next day.

And lo and behold she had agents and publishers leaving messages for her, practically begging her to sign with them. In the end she got both a book and a movie deal. How could anyone be so lucky and smart? Plus now the Child books are flying off the shelves of the bookstores and Amazon, and cooking schools are filling up. What a boon for the cooking business. My friend, the owner of our local French restaurant, was quoted in the article about the movie today, and I suspect his business will also pick up. People will want French food after seeing that movie.

And the best part of the movie is that Meryl Streep played Julia. Meryl is an accent chameleon, but in this movie she was the best – in accent, in mannerisms, and in performing the cooking techniques. Meryl Streep IS Julia Child.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Best cousins

My best cousin and I fell in love at his Bar Mitzvah in Williamsport PA in 1955. I was the older woman, all of 15. He was 13. And even though it was his weekend to celebrate with family and friends I found him following me around. We stood side by side for our family photo, and if you look closely you can see that we’re holding hands.

We’ve stayed close ever since. In fact while we sat side by side at dinner last Sunday night I told him I would be there for him anytime anywhere, forever. And I mean it. I know he would do the same for me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reiki vs traditional massage -- or both?

What is Reiki? According to the International Center for Reiki Training:

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words - Rei which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy."

I had my first Reiki session last night and it was one of my most calming and relaxing experiences. My friend, who is a Reiki master, began by laying her hands on my eyes for what seemed like a half hour. And, the longer her hands stayed there, the warmer the sensation. She continued laying her hands point by point on the rest of my body - front and back (I was fully clothed), but the heat sensations were not nearly as strong as with my eyes. My friend said it meant I had a lot of clutter to get rid of in the area around my eyes and head.

Then this morning I had my usual bi-monthly deep tissue massage -- not relaxing at all. In fact I was so tight on the left side of my neck and shoulders, it was sometimes painful. When I told my massage therapist I had my first Reiki experience she immediately asked me if my Reiki master lay her hands on my eyes. She also instinctively knew I have a lot going on in that area.

Kind of coincidental. And, it's also coincidental that she barters a Reiki session for a massage with a friend.

So, in my mind, I up for doing both. I need the deep tissue work becasue of all the sitting I do in front of the computer. And, I also need a relaxation technique like Reiki. Plus, I want to find out the miraculous results the International Center says could result.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Red Shoes

My niece, Dara, and I saw the remastered classic film, "The Red Shoes," at the Hammer UCLA musuem this morning. It was as beautiful -- or more so -- as I remembered. The film, premiered in 1948 was written, produced, and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and starred Moira Shearer -- with the white skin and flamming red hair. I remember that when it first came out I wasn't allowed to see it. The dancer's suicide at the end made the subject too mature for a little girl of 8 years old. When my parents finally relented I couldn't get enough of it. The dancing alone was an attraction, and I'm sure the theme of art vs life was something I didn't understand early on. Like Martin Scorsese said in his intro to this revised version, we do art not because we want to but because we have to. The heroine of "The Red Shoes" was asked to make a choice between dancing and her jealous husband. And, she couldn't. She had to dance, and eventually couldn't live if she had to give it up.

Scorsese also called this film a masterpiece because of the color, the scenery, and the way dance and music are integrated in a dramatic film. The film's acting along with the dancing and music is brilliant. From the time I was a little girl it became my favorite film. It still is.

Go see it if you have a chance or get the new remastered version on DVD when it comes out.