Think Pink? How about Green!

Happy Mental Health Month!

You might be looking at your computers, iwatches, calendars or phones and noticing Mental Health Month is midway through. Sorry gang, I’ve been busy impersonating a nurse (*see Lyme blog). Yes, I realize this too, and I like to be more prompt, but as I said, I’ve been a busy girl.

So why a whole month for the mentally ill while some causes only get a day or week? For one, we need it, or at least, I know I do. Two, we get shafted everywhere else; it’s about time the scales were tipped in our favor somewhere. I don’t know about you, but I’m often exhausted. (*Except when manic, then I can fly!) And sleep is always at the top of my to-do list.

I mean no disrespect to our cancer friends, but I am sick and tired of pink. When will green matter? (*Please note I have had family members with cancer, one who died. Do not throw tomatoes at your screen you will only ruin it. Hate mail, I can handle that. Huff Post wouldn’t publish this.)

Now, I search for green or any mental health displays of affection but find no green in any of our communities during May (or at all). Will any town ever line their streets with green? I don’t know about your town but we go pink crazy here. Pink is everywhere and mental illness is no where.  I’m pretty has been around as long as cancer. Maybe in a few decades–when we get sick of pink–we’ll introduce it. Maybe one brave town will display green somewhere. By then I’ll probably be sucking on oxygen, have a pacemaker or be flying around town on one of those very cool looking scooters. (Or worse, be stuck in some home because I’ve lost all my marbles.) Hopefully though, I’ll be just fine, because I’ll have taken good care of myself.

Still, how about green bras hanging from roofs of local merchants? Have you ever seen those? The real estate agency down the road has pink bras hanging off theirs. Can you see it? Green banners? Anything? How about green bows and pens for sale to raise money for mental illness? How many do you think people would buy if the merchants would even accept them and put them out? How long would that take?

Again, no disrespect to cancer, breast or otherwise. (I can feel the hate mail coming.) I have lost loved ones to cancer so I am not ‘anti-cancer’,don’t put me there. Forgive me, I have to stand up in every article for my peeps. And we, too, deserve the same respect as any other illness. How long will that take? We have the whole month to get your attention and I often wonder if anyone outside the mental health community cares.

As I drive alongside the pink line in the road – yes they paint them here – I can’t imagine green. The only green in town is our lawn, finally, and our neighbors’. (I live in New Jersey, not California or Colorado.) Celebration, in addition to advocacy and anti-stigma, is to feel good about yourself. If we felt any of this from our community, I would feel better. It’s a good thing I have so much of myself, mental health and work to focus on.

I want to paint the town green, paint my nails green (though how long could I take it, that I wonder) and maybe spray paint some shrubs. Wait, they are already green. Okay, I’ll think of something. Maybe I’ll spray paint the caution tape we have around our new grass, though something tells me people will not make the correlation. They would simply pile it on to the other reasons why their new neighbors are odd.

We’re still new in the neighborhood, and I don’t know how fast it has spread that there are two mentally ill girls on the block. (I told my neighbor I was a mental health writer and you should have seen his eyes! And I thought ‘health’ was a good spin.)

Maybe one May I’ll be doing running leaps up and down our street at our town’s announcement that we’re honoring Mental Health Month in some fashion. I’ll take a green sticker somewhere or an acknowledgement in the monthly newsletter. I’m easy. I’m not suggesting lighting the school tower in green – though one night would be cool. We could postpone it to December and make it blend in for the holidays. I’m not even demanding a green stripe downtown. (Although, a nice, lime green alongside the pink would look lovely; I’m willing to share.) Besides, this is a preppy town and wouldn’t they look nice together?  I’ll even settle for a sticker at town hall. We could squeeze it into a shamrock, put it up in March and take it down in June, kind of like a lingering St. Patrick’s Day spirit. Something, geez.  Anything!

I did a little digging, a little, for some stats just to back up my blog here.

Cancer Statistics:

In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease. … The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2008-2012 deaths).Mar 22, 2017
Bipolar Statistics:
Again, I know comparing illnesses is dangerous ground. I once did this with my friend who has M.S. She was very gracious but I learned no one has it better; each illness is it’s own torture. I will never do this again. Bad, bad, bad, bad.
On a positive note….

I hope your Mental Health Month is a good one, both mania, depression and hospital-free. No major trouble here for me, so far, and I hope there hasn’t been for you, my friend.   (I haven’t been up all night or run up the credit cards, so not manic here!) If you are manic, slow down, do what you need to and get your sleep. Keep up with your meds and appointments, be a good bipolar. If you’re feeling depressed, I understand, a wee bit down myself. Keep your chin up and remember tomorrow is another day, one that just might be better than today.

And, THINK GREEN!!!  Paint your nails green. Men, you could, that’s a choice. But ladies, how about it? That reminds me, I have to go out and buy some so when anyone asks why green?…

I can say, “Because it’s mental health month!”

Cancer peeps, we love you. Uncle Rick, I miss you.  You would laugh at my absurdity and probably agree, I know.  You’d probably laugh at the pink line in your downtown. Maybe you’d help me go out and paint the other side green.

Pink & Green, perfect. We just need more green love.

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Writers Residency @ the Vermont Studio Center, Pneumonia and Me

I couldn’t believe I was accepted in to the Vermont Studio Center for a one-month residency! If you ever want to get a lot of work done, just go to a residency and…oh yes…get sick. Sick enough to function, but sick enough to decline the evenings social happenings and that’s where you’ll find yourself, exactly like me, and my April 2015 writers residency at the VSC.

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I cannot believe how seemingly overnight, spring has peeked from beneath the sheets like a wide-eyed kid at 5:00 A.M. on Christmas morning and announced it is here!  While I was freezing my ass off one hour from Canada – with pneumonia I must add – the slush, mud and snow of the northeast had cleared completely down in New Jersey. I came home to birds in full chorus, flowers bloomed in zest, and even a slight fuzz of new grass from the tiny layer of seed my partner had thrown down haphazardly while I was away. I must say though, bad weather and all, I miss the Vermont Studio Center immensely.

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Gosh, it’s good to be back though too. My own bed, my girl, cannoli’s upon return. Mmm, there is no better place than home base. I just fished out my laptop after a solid week in an unreachable spot underneath my couch. I can’t remember the last time I took a week off; it had to be a year ago. That’s right, before we bought our house, just after the deadline for my second book, a perfect time. Ah, the blissful ten days off, that was. This experience has made evident one thing:  I am the WORST BOSS!

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind being sick since I was living my dream; the utopia of being surrounded by only writers and artists, where the buzz at all meals was creative talk; where you were inspired by the person touching each elbow wherever you sat. Pure heaven, I tell you. And I would do it all again, yes, even in the winter, even close to freezing, in the split second of a heartbeat.

Ah, I miss it.

What I do not miss is the absolute insane pace and near-impossible goals I set for myself. It was near back-breaking. I may have taken a few afternoon hours off, once to have a meal in another town and once or twice where i took a cat nap at the studio, but I hadn’t taken a day off until the third week.(When my mom picked me up she said “great” to that news. Now I know where I get it from.)

Still, I’m grateful for this work ethic; you can’t complete books without it, much less be a success at anything you do. Thanks Mom and Dad. And, thank you for giving me a loan for the balance after the fundraising, the merit-based grant and work-based grant. After my dog sitting stint this week (and the longer one in August), I’ll be down to just under one thousand dollars. And that’s a loan I am glad to pay back. With pride. I am eternally grateful to the village who got me up there (thank you, Jayne!) and donated on Go Fund Me.

Ah, yes, Hillary, it does take a village, without which, I would be at least a book behind. Or two.

Final word counts.

zDiner Girl  Cover thumbnailDinerGirl = 105K; DinerGirl Too=28K; The New Writers Manual to Success Volume I: From Start to Self-Publishing (*working title)= 101k; The New Writers ”    ”    ”   Volume  II (*working title)= 64k;

Proposals:  Two Bipolar Chicks Proposal:ABCs of ECT, TMS, SAD and PPD=3,300. Writers book Volume I: 8,500.

Grand total = 309,800. This is not to say I wrote 309,800 words. Oh no no no. This total is not accurate because I came up with DinerGirl and the writers book already started.  I would say I wrote 180,000-200,000 words. DG TOO is all new, as is the 2nd writers book. The proposals are almost done, in time for my self-imposed, pre-camping, Memorial Day Weekend deadline, As I said, I am the toughest boss. Equally as tough is our agent, though not specifically to us. “This is a business” as Corinda our agent says. OH yes it is and our cupboards tell the story.

The VSC was a beautiful place to work…All the writers had a view of the river. The artists occupy many buildings (at least five),the largest, Wolf Khan, a stone’s throw across the river from us.

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Maverick Writing Studio       March 2015

DO you like my studio? This is a very neat day. Picture day! 🙂

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I was the paper recycling queen!

(This is code for a lot of mistakes, or lots of editing to be kind!)

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By my second week in, I could identify who my roommates were. I began attenting the artists open studio nights and the writers open speakers nights too.

One of the most valuable parts of a writers residency is the visiting writers who advise you. For the prose folks, ours was Ann Pancake and she was amazing. She read fiften pages of my introduction and first chapter, my very rough draft of DinerGirl and told me – along with many other writers and artists there – that it read more like a memoir. That’s a relief because it truly is. I think I was trying to make it in to a novel, but it itsn’t one. Dinergirl Too is, because all kinds of fictional plots have come to me.  There is a big difference, I realize now.

Another memoir, yep!

My neighbor, Wendi, from Vancouver was a very talented, vivacious artist who organized the easter egg hunt. Love her. She was one of the other three other women in my same residence,  Mason House. The other two women were Laurie, a very talented poet and photographer from Reno, NV, and Laura, also a gifted painter, working on a series of enormous ships from Florida. I wish them all continued success, but it is evident they don’t need any well wishings from little ‘ole me. In hindsight, I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, except made more meals and gotten to know people more. The people made that residency, what an amazing bunch from all over the world! Wow! I doubt I could ever find such a special bunch again. Ever.

Even if I went to a couple of residencies a year, this type of cohesive, all-for-one artistic residency could not be duplicated. Sixty artists and writers had a unique blend, a special sauce, a dyacism, while compatable, each with thousand old artist souls. We collided amidst determination, frenetic pace and formed in to an unexpected, effful dance.

To all the writers out there, please do yourselves the greatest favor to your soul and apply for writers fellowships. I sugest you mark that you will accept financial aid if you don’t receive a fellowship becasuse the fellowships are very difficult to get. You can get a grant, work study (how hard is it to vacuum ?? and run a Kickstarter, etc.) Pretty son you’ll have it all together and you’re on your way!
Good luck and I hope you apply someday. The VSC was amazing and I highly, highly recommend it. (Yes, even in the winter! They have more money for fellowships, by the way from November to April!) If you go in the winter, remember to bring a down coat and down blanket. (Even if you have to ship it!) It was a life saver!