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Author Archives: Tara

Want to Read a Great Book?

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I’ve got a great book recommendation for you – it’s full of drama, inspiring characters who triumph over difficult odds, and it’s funny, too! I really think you’ll like it.

Only one problem……we haven’t written it quite yet!

(I’m not one to excel at getting to the point (cue husband laughing hysterically), but I’m making an exception. Here it is: Please support our Kickstarter project to write an awesome book, and then SHARE the project with your friends, contacts, Facebook lists, Twitter followers, and that weird guy who stares at you at the grocery store. Give him something else to think about. Ok, back to the long-form version of the post….)

That’s right, I’m writing a book! My co-author, Dave Mowry, and I are writing “No, Really, We Want You to Laugh”, a book about stand-up comedy and mental health.  Who woulda thought, right? I certainly never thought I would be either a) a stand-up comic; b) a passionate advocate for changing how we talk about and perceive mental illness; or c) running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a book about it!

But I’ve spent the last five years walking alongside my amazing young nieces as they have worked to rebuild their mental health after a rough childhood (GIANT UNDERSTATEMENT), and about 18 months ago I got recruited into an amazing program called Stand Up for Mental Health. Since then I’ve been performing stand-up comedy as a family member of people living with mental illness. I’ve also helped to facilitate more classes, and helped some AMAZING people take their tough experiences with mental illness and turn it into powerful, funny comedy. We’ve seen real transformation in people’s lives as a consequence, including our own lives.

One of those comics, Dave Mowry, thought what we were experiencing was important enough to share in a book, and I’m honored he ask me to co-author with him. We want the book to professionally edited, designed and prepared for publication, because we want our message of hope to reach a LOT of people.

See, here’s my co-author Dave and I:

Click now to check it out! http://kck.st/19NJpAB

Click now to check out the book project!
http://kck.st/19NJpAB

The Kickstarter campaign will help us make that happen, and we need YOUR support to do it! We’re about a third of the way there already!

Who ought to jump on board this project?

– anyone who is living with mental illness or knows someone who is

– anyone who wants to combat the stigma and discrimination of mental illness

– anyone who enjoys comedy and wants to see it from a different angle

– anyone. Just anyone. OK, that might be a bit broad, but I REALLY believe that this book is going to be a great read, and will be very encouraging to a lot of people.

If the highlighted links weren’t enough, here’s another version. Click HERE: http://kck.st/19NJpAB

You can help us out for as little as $10, which gets you a copy of the ebook! We made up all kinds of free perks, including hard copies of the book, front-row seats at our Launch Party (whoEVER thought I’d have a launch party????), or even a private comedy show for your business, your friends, or total strangers you want to treat.

So, whattya say? Come on, jump on board, it’s going to be FUN!!!!!

(And to those who have already supported us, THANK YOU! Wow, really thank you. Now go share it with your friends and family! 🙂 )

Why I Hate Classical Music

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It’s not my fault. Honest, I have wide-ranging and eclectic taste in music – I love R&B, country, oldies, gospel, African world-beat, Latin pop, hip-hop, reggae. I love nearly all kinds of music!

Recently on Facebook, however, a friend posted how much she loves listening to classical music in the car, and I was reminded again that my lack of appreciation for this genre marks me to many as an unsophisticated ingrate.

So be it. I can’t help it. I can’t stand classical music.

I was devastated in college when I signed up for Latin American Music Appreciation, only to discover that the period being appreciated was all music composed in the style of the European classicists. (Why I thought there would be tango-ing and rumba-ing in this class, I don’t know, but color me EXTRA DISAPPOINTED….)

How can I be held responsible when my childhood preschool used to make us nap to classical music? Clearly, I was a bright tot, and my wee brain rapidly absorbed these obvious facts:

1. classical music is for sleeping and

2. when classical music comes on, the fun is over.

Bye, bye, fun!

So can you blame me for reacting that way now?

Not only that, but I took dance lessons for about 18 years, with very little ballet and lots of  Jazz and hip-hop (ok, break-dancing, it was the 80’s) (There is footage, but it is zealously guarded, saved on virtually inaccessible VHS format.) So as far as I was concerned, to dance to music you needed a BEAT. Classical music rarely has a danceable beat, to my way of hearing it. If you couldn’t dance to it, what was the function of it?

Opera? That makes me break out in an irritable rash……..but that’s another post for another day.

Today’s lesson? Do your kids a favor, and don’t play classical music exclusively at nap time. Or they too will get irrationally cranky in elevators and at doctor’s offices…..

I May Be Coming for Your Guns

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Just keep your pants on, and your weapons holstered. Hear me out.

I favor gun ownership, I do. I grew up in a family of proud recreational and subsistence hunters, in a state where gun ownership was accepted and expected, and all kids took gun safety classes at public schools in the 4th grade. Somewhere I’ve got the iron-on patch to prove it.

So I favor gun ownership. Personally, I do think wanting to own a semiautomatic or automatic weapon for fun is ridiculous, especially when factoring in the scary “what if’s” of it falling into the wrong hands, but that is my highly subjective opinion. I also think effective gun legislation is a good thing for all of us.

But I would give up every possible gun law, every background check and every restriction on large capacity magazines if all related effort and resources on both sides could be dedicated to treatment and prevention of mental illness. Because the gun lobby is right (yep, I went there, probably the ONLY time in my life). There will always be criminals who kill each other and the occasional innocent bystander in the act of living their criminal lives. And those criminals will always find a way around a background check or reasonable waiting period. And if they can’t find a gun, they’ll find something else.

The nature of the human condition pretty much guarantees that there will always be domestic violence, angry flares between spouses or friends, and coldly calculated murders of one person by another for money or power. If there are no guns handy, other weapons will be and have been found since the beginning of time. Club, blade, poison, shovel – if determined, people will kill people.

But here is what we DON’T have to accept. We don’t have to accept young men with empty eyes and mental illness untreated and/or unrecognized by family and friends, allowed to ferment in an ugly, lonely brew of paranoia and anger.

Far too many times in recent months and years, we have looked at the newspaper photos, and heard a disturbingly similar set of quotes from family and friends. There were warning signs, they were worried, they never thought he would go that far.

Why aren’t we more heartbroken by these shattered souls? Why do we continue in blind partisan arguments about gun control while tacitly accepting that the shooters are beyond saving? Why is it still so ridiculously difficult for families to access prompt, effective and complete treatment for loved ones with serious mental illness?

If we won’t help these boys, if we can’t commit to recognizing them and helping them, then I am coming for your guns.

If we cannot change our societal approach to these lost young men, I am going to fight to take away their weapons of mass murder. If in the process I trample on your “right” to have your toys, or to buy more toys on a weekend trip to a gun show, so be it.

Because if we don’t, these lost boys will kill as many people as they can. If we will not fight to make them better, I WILL fight to limit the damages. Because people may kill people, but really big guns let them kill more people, and that’s not ok.

Do you hear me? That. Is. Not. OK.

If we cannot look the next victim’s mother or son or girlfriend or little brother in the eye and tell them we did everything in our power to treat the shooter, then we BETTER be able to say we made it as difficult as possible for them to wield high capacity weapons.

If a person is determined to run you over with a car, you do not make it easy for him to get an SUV or a tank.

If Adam Lanza had only had a handgun, he would have been able to kill far fewer six- and seven-year-olds at Sandy Hook.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it isn’t just about the guns. If Jared Loughner’s parents had been more educated on mental illness, on its treatment and the fact that there was help and hope for their son, maybe he would have been diagnosed and treated BEFORE shooting Gabrielle Giffords and nearly 20 others.

It’s also about how we MUST break the stigma of living with and treating mental illness:
  • We must prioritize it as a public health issue, not a private shame.
  • We must change the way we parent in our communities, so when families are struggling with kids with mental illness, we reach out to them in love, not judgment.
  • We must be willing to see mental illness in our own children, and treat them.
  • We must fund treatment for those who need it.
  • We must fund supportive housing to make it possible for them to stay stable once they are treated.

They are His children and they deserve our best, before they can do their worst.

When we’ve done all that, then you can have your guns, as many and as big as you want.
Note: I drafted this post six months ago, frustrated by reports that both Adam Lanza’s mother and Jared Loughner’s parents seemed aware of their son’s issues, but for whatever reasons were unable or unwilling to get them help. I was driven imagining the loss and heartbreak of both victims’ and shooters’ family, but I was never sure when to post these thoughts so as not to exploit any particular event or victims. In that six-month period, through last Monday’s shooting in the Washington DC Navy Yards, there have been 13 separate mass shootings, resulting in the senseless loss of 65 lives. While I don’t know how many of those shooters were mentally ill, I believe that all of them were to some degree. It seems that in America, there is no “good” time to post this.

My Guardian Angel Is An Octopus

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My Guardian Angel Is An Octopus

I don’t know if I’m actually supposed to HAVE a guardian angel, not sure where the Protestant theology is on that.* Theological questions aside, if I did have a guardian angel, it would have to be an octopus, no question. The poor thing would NEED eight arms just to keep up with me.

In the last 15 months, I’ve given myself permanent nerve damage in my hand; blistered and scarred my leg with boiling water; and nearly blinded myself with yard implements. Honestly, I have no self-harm urges, I’m just equal parts clumsy and impatient – a dangerous combination. My parents always tried to get me to think before I act, but that didn’t take. I am usually too passionate, impulsive and overenthusiastic to do any such sensible thing.

To ensure that some public good comes from my private idiocy, I share with you these stories and the accompanying life lessons, in case a) you need a chuckle, or b) you have a five-year-old in need of basic safety skills. So here we go:

The Avocado Stabbing:

Just finished filing the nail on my middle finger AGAIN. So annoying. See, I frequently have to file the middle fingernail on my left hand because that finger is largely numb, devoid of any feeling except a constant tingle akin to your foot being deeply asleep. The numbness must make me use it less, because that nail just grows really quickly. (GOOD LORD, IS SHE REALLY WRITING A POST ABOUT HER COMPARATIVE FINGERNAIL GROWTH RATES?)

Anyhoo, it all started back in May of last year. I was preparing nachos, one of my family’s favorite meals. Well, one of my favorite meals, and thus one we enjoy regularly. No plate of nachos is complete without guacamole, which I was just beginning to make. I cut the avocado in half, and then went to remove the avocado pit the same way I always have, since my teen years in Alaska when an avocado was a truly foreign and glamorously ethnic vegetable. Raise the blade up and vigorously drive it down into the avocado pit, tip down.

Here, I’ll give you a visual on my technique:

How NOT to Pit an Avocado

Apparently, that’s NOT how you are supposed to do it. As you might predict – not that I did – the blade bounced off the slimy pit and went through the avocado into the palm of my hand. After a trip to the nurse’s house down the street, the urgent care clinic and then the ER, I was left with two pretty stitches and a small scar that neatly bisects one of my lifelines. Probably changed the whole course of my life right there. (Except that I’m pretty sure the theology on lifelines is even weaker than guardian angels….)

I was also left with what appears to be permanent numbness along the entire pinky side of my middle finger. I know, you wouldn’t think that the pinky side of your left middle finger would be important for a right-handed person.  However, I’ve found that it makes flossing shockingly difficult, and I also use that finger to operate my car’s turn blinker.

I’m just waiting for the day I have to explain my sub-par blinker-operating handicap to a police officer.

The lesson: Apparently, THIS is how you are supposed to pit an avocado. You’re welcome.

The Scalding 

This is not a funny story, unfortunately, and I apologize for that. The least I could do while hurting myself is be funny, cause if we can’t laugh at it later what really is the point? But I was just carrying some potatoes over to drain in the sink a few months ago when I sloshed the boiling water on my leg.

It WOULD have been funny if we’d had guests, as I easily set a world record for quickly stripping off a wet pair of jeans in the middle of the kitchen. As it is, I now have a 8-inch long area of permanently discolored skin on my thigh. The good news is I no longer feel guilty about not training for the Mrs. Middle Aged America Bikini Pageant. For when I’m actually middle-aged, you know, in the FUTURE. Cause that was TOTALLY gonna happen. Meh, that was probably the lifeline I cut anyways.

The lesson: This is pretty clear, actually. NEVER let me carry boiling water anywhere around you or your loved ones.

The Yard Tool Near-Blinding 

You should know right off that my ophthalmologist says my retina looks great. Firmly attached. I didn’t feel like I could write this post until I knew for sure whether I had ACTUALLY nearly blinded myself being stupid, or fallen blessedly short of that undesirable milestone.  I mean, if I wrote a lighthearted post about my tendencies to hurt myself and then went blind shortly thereafter, that would have been poorly thought-out blog planning on my part for sure. Awkward…..

Especially if the blindness made it difficult to update the post and ask for your prayers and explain that I would have to learn all new technologies for the blind before I could keep blogging.

This time, I was just laying innocently on my hammock, enjoying the summer breeze, minding my own business. But there was a REALLY annoying branch in the maple above my head, and it was completely ruining my view. It was all twisted up against the trunk under another branch, very aesthetically displeasing, and it was just. Ugly. Clearly that could not go on.

So I grab these AWESOME pruners I got from my dad and a stepladder. Cause, you know, I’m 4’11” and nearly all pruning requires a height assist of some nature. Heck, I practically need a stepladder to weed. Anyhow, to get close enough to deal with the offending branch I had to get directly under it, and stand on the top step with the pruners held directly over my head. I’m sorry if you can already see where this is going, but as I mentioned before, I’m kinda impatient.

I didn’t think to ask my 6’1″ husband to come clip the offending branch until AFTER the pruners slipped off the branch and descended (HANDLE DOWN, THANK THE GOOD LORD WHO IS FAR MORE GRACIOUS THAN I DESERVE) into my right eye.

Dramatic reenactment of my view right before the end of that handle landed on my eyeball.

Dramatic reenactment of my view right before the end of that handle landed on my eyeball.

The lesson: Don’t do anything like that. Ever. At all.

After a wee ladylike curse, I made sure there was no goo leaking from my eyeball, and then went in the house to make a couple of truly classic requests to my sweet husband. “Dave, DON’T YELL AT ME, but I need you to come trim a branch and then look at my eye because I may have just blinded myself. DON’T YELL AT ME.”

Two trips to the eye dr later, we were all fairly reassured my retina had not detached. My stupidity did, however, result in BIG floaters, a delightful new experience that left me swatting imaginary bugs for two weeks. (Seriously, I am SO glad I did not get stopped for a traffic violation this summer. “Well, officer, I missed the turn signal due to the numb pinky side of my middle left finger, and then I swerved because I was swatting a giant floating worm, except it was just a floater in my eye…..” No police officer should have to hear that.)

In addition, the blow to my eye caused some of the vitreous eye goo to detach from my retina. This vitreous goo detachment is apparently permanent, and was going to happen with age at some point, but it was definitely the last humbling straw in my run of hurting my own darned self.

I really should be forced to spend my days lying quietly on a soft pile of mattresses in a padded room.

The best I can do is recommend that if you see me near either blades of any kind or boiling water, RUN. Just run. And pray for me.

And call my husband.

*Of course, I couldn’t stand to leave it at that.  If you are a smidgen of the truly nerdy that I am, you can go here, or here, or here, for further thought.

Bonus science geekery: I am not great at including images in my blog yet, which explains all of the poorly lit photos, but while hopefully googling for an image of an octopus angel (Hey, it could happen!) I found this post about strange sea animals. FASCINATING.

Beautiful

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This is my second attempt at Five Minute Friday, a widely followed blog-writing prompt from Lisa Joy Baker. The deal as I understand it – take her prompt (today – beautiful), write five unedited minutes, post.  So here we go:

When I think of beautiful, I think of four girls in my life, girls who have known ugliness and cruelty and neglect that no one should ever know. Girls who were born beautiful,  destined for lives of normal happiness and sadness and normal ups and downs, girls whose “normal” was ripped away from them by the very people who should have treasured them. They were left fractured in mind and spirit and body, but they were still beautiful.

And so these girls have spent the last several years struggling , fighting and clawing their way back through tunnels of darkness towards light and truth and wholeness, and that is beautiful.

Countless people have poured into them, poured security and acceptance and wisdom and truth and safety and love, most of all love, and that is beautiful.

They are getting better, at least on most days, and on a good day they are wise and funny and gorgeous and accepting. They are beautiful.

And I am grateful.

A Word from Old Granny Crankypants

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As my sweet Southern friend Susan would say, Oh. My. Lanta. (Possible spelling-for-drama Oh. Mylanta. I grew up in Alaska, I’m wingin’ it.)

Seriously. It is not often (yet) that I feel myself tempted to say “Back in my day, things were different. You kids these days……”

But can we be real? (This here is already pretty real, seein’ as how I’m using  conjunctions to start sentences and such. My blog. My grammar.)

Before we get real, perhaps I should warn you. It’s hot here in the Northwest, and by hot I mean I’m feeling the need to fan myself on the front porch in front of an ice block, because we don’t have AC and it’s either the ice block and a fan or injure all of my peoples who seem to be picking their worst behaviors for display in these days of Unpleasant Hotness. Bad choices, people, they are making Bad Choices……

So I MIGHT be a little bit cranky. Maybe.

Back to the getting real. Cause kids these days (cue tremulous and crotchety old voice in your head now) are flat out spoiled. My eldest just told me I needed to buy the small people new fluoride rinse, to which I lovingly and patiently replied in my most nurturing voice, “Oh, precious,  no, there are three other bottles of three other flavors available to you under the sink.”

Oh, no. Apparently the pink one is the only “tolerable” flavor for their delicate little mouths. Seriously?? These kids need a dose of good ol’ Mr. Yuk Mouth! Remember him? Back from the day when our medicine all tasted BAD so we wouldn’t poison ourselves with it? Remember? Back when there weren’t eleventy-three flavor boosters available at the pharmacy, and a premium option to have it formulated as a icy slush??? (That could be a hallucination, I’m hot, but I swear it’s available.)

Here’s some old school terror for you, you grape/cherry/banana/magicberry-loving little ones……

yeah…..that’ll scare you into never wanting to go to the Dr. EVER. Or clean anything, EVER, cause of the scary Yuk Mouth.

Remember, back when the only oral health rinse we had was Listerine, (registered, trademarked, don’t-sue-me-its-a-lovely-product-though-I-do-prefer-Fresh-Mint) which came in only one flavor, and that proud flavor was “Light Brown Blister and Pain?”

Back in the day when toothbrushes came in either scratchy, poky or straw, and not in derivations of cartoon characters, scented handles and rotating/singing/timing/teaching you Ukrainian poetry?

Seriously, go brush your teeth. Mamaw has to go out on the porch and fan herself.

In Between (my first 5-Minute Friday)

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This is my first attempt at Five Minute Friday, a blog-writing prompt from Lisa Joy Baker that I’ve seen around the web for some time but never done until today. The deal as I understand it – take her prompt, write five unedited minutes, post.  So here we go – today’s prompt: In Between.

In Between is such an unsettling place to be. At first it seems like fun, maybe, like Grover on Sesame Street with Near and Far, Over and Under.

But when used by a grown up it often signals a vulnerability, as in “I’m in between jobs.”

For the science fiction fan, it signals walls closing in like they did on Harrison Ford in Star Wars IV.

In my house right now it signals chaos, as in “I’m in between the decision to have a garage sale, and the actual having of said garage sale.”

But the danger on focusing on the unknown , or the claustrophobia, or the random tiny pieces of broken toys your dear children scrounged and deposited in the living room when asked to go through their belongings to select items to sell in the garage sale, is that you forget where to focus.

You forget to focus on the possibility of reinvention, the magic of not knowing what’s around the next bend. You forget to focus on the fact that in all places of in between, God stands ready to take all your loose ends and weave them together for good, into a far better next stop than you could think of.

You forget that the heart of chaos can be creation, if the right Wind is allowed to breathe and blow through.

I don’t know if that applies to garage sales, too. I hope so.

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