My very first Zentangle challenge

Each week, the talented Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) I am the diva posts a weekly challenge to inspire new ideas in the Zentangle community. This week is the first one I’ve submitted work to–overcoming fear of criticism and whatnot–because the theme “K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, silly!)” is my favorite so far.

This was my submission: The Impossible Triangle

The Impossible Triangle

Will I do more challenges in the future? Well…time will tell.

*%&$ Bipolar Disorder (and Depression, and other Mental Illness)

robin-williamsRobin Williams’ death is a blow to just about everyone I know. Young or old, black or white, Jewish, Christian, athiest… I have yet to hear one person say they were not touched, saddened, or outright devastated by the news that at 63 years of age, this beloved actor, comedian, entertainer extraordinaire took his own life after a long struggle with bipolar disorder, a mental illness where a person vacillates between periods of extreme energy, creativity, focus and productivity (the manic end of the spectrum) and periods of severe depression. Suicide is not uncommon for sufferers of bipolar disorder when they succumb to a depressive state, and Robin Williams–as great as he was–was but human and was unable to win his battle with the demons that haunted him.

I know so many people who will judge his suicide as a selfish choice. They’ll see only that he deprived the world of his genius, his wife of his companionship, his family of his love. This only underscores how insidious bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses really are. Mental illness still carries with it a stigma of choice, as if we have more control over our brain chemistry than we do over the functionality of our other organs–lungs, hearts, livers, kidneys. You see posts all over Facebook that raise awareness for cancer (e.g. *%&# Cancer posts) or ALS (ice bucket challenges), but how often do you see people raising awareness for diseases of the brain? There is no cure for bipolar disorder which requires lifelong treatment with medication, therapy, and careful life choices. Medications make the sufferer feel like they live in a fog, robbed of their creativity and productivity. The absence of the medication may cause risky behavior or dangerous depressive cycles. Thoughts of suicide is the most severe “symptom” of severe clinical depression and yet we decry successful (or even unsuccessful) suicide attempts as a selfish choice.

From the outside looking in, we may think Robin Williams had everything to be happy about and live for. Success. Fame. Worldwide admiration and adoration. A family who loved him. But we can’t know the demons that plagued him and we still have very little medical research to begin to understand the physiology behind the disease from which he suffered.

I hope that his death helps people who suffer from mental illness, or suspect they might, come forward and talk to their doctors. Elevate the conversation to a medical level, not a shameful failing of personality. Make it important enough for big pharma to want to study the brain (after all, they’re in business to make money, so they need to see a pathway to profit) or for government agencies to sponsor the research and remove the stigma so we can get people help, develop treatments that help people not only cope but thrive with mental illness.

Suicide is not the choice of a healthy brain. It’s a symptom of serious illnesses that desperately needs funding, discussion, and elevation to medical status alongside cancer, ALS, and others that affect so many in such devastating ways. Let’s talk about it. Let’s remove the stigma. It’s time.

Update:

Read this article from The Guardian. Just do it.

What? You haven’t clicked yet?

Here’s the teaser, and I quote:

News of Robin Williams’s death due to apparent suicide, said to be a result of suffering severe depression, is terribly sad. But to say taking your own life because of such an illness is a ‘selfish’ act does nothing but insult the deceased, potentially cause more harm and reveal a staggering ignorance of mental health problems.

It’s especially important to read if you’re scratching your head and wondering how you might see suicide as anything but selfish. This might help you understand.

Adventures of Leonardo, the Traveling Bearded Dragon

Unless you live in a closet, you know that there was a huge ice storm that affected the northeast/mid-atlantic corridor (and more) Tuesday night into Wednesday (February 4-5, 2014). Many of us have lost power, and the hardworking folks at PECO (and presumably other power companies who serve affected areas) are working to restore power as fast as they can safely do so.

Current estimates are that we are likely to be without power through Sunday night (2/9/14) at 11 p.m. So, we’ve had to get creative. No power for us means no heat, no lights, and no running water as we are on a well, not public water. So, we can’t just prop up some heaters, tolerate some cold showers, and tough it out. NO FLUSHING TOILETS (without extreme measures to gather snow, melt it, and dump the water in the tanks). Grossness.

So, typical concerns: Warmth, plumbing, keeping food from spoiling (yes, I realize we can put it all in the snow or something but that seems like a lot of work and not entirely something I’m excited to take on), pets, kids, etc. But this is the first time we’ve had a major power outage where I’ve had to worry about a lizard. Yes, a lizard.

My son (Thing 2 of 2) has a bearded dragon who is maybe a year or two old, I can’t quite recall. Lizards, of course, are cold-blooded which means that they cannot produce their own body heat. Our lizard is named Leonardo. And this is his story.

Two days ago, the sun went out. I mean, completely out. One moment I was happily basking in the glow of the night-sun (it’s a reddish orange color) awaiting the arrival of the morning sun (which is much brighter and whiter). Every morning, my god (or I think he might be a god – he controls the sun, heat, water, and food, plus everything in my whole world) switches the sun from night to day and it seemed like it was about time for that when–POOF–darkness. And coldness. Looootttts of coldness.

Not long after this, my entire world turned upside-down. My god reached down from on high and removed me from my world. He put me into a much smaller world without all the fun trees, dirt, and plants I’m used to, and started carrying me around with him. First, he put me here:

Leo on table

I have to admit, the accommodations weren’t great, but it was a little warmer than my cold, dark home.

Then he started doing something weird. I have no idea what this is, but it seems like some sort of ritual. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Zach and Leo

Next thing I know, we’re on the move again. This time, the ritual objects came with us, but there was this weird new sun. It didn’t quite look like the night-sun or the day-sun, but it was definitely a nice change to a warmer environment, so I couldn’t complain.

Zach and Leo

We stayed like that for a bit, and THEN, there was some major crazy stuff going on. It got dark and cold again, and it felt like we were moving. There was some warmth, some weird “vroom” noise, lots of loud banging, and then more moving and bouncing around.

Then things settled down. It was acceptably warm, someone gave me water, and lots of god-like creatures looked in at me, reached in to pet me (love those warm god-hands), and generally speaking I was feeling pretty good.

Leo at Dtown bookshop

Leonardo takes shelter at the Doylestown Bookshop

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur. Moving, settling, touching, more moving, and then at last I was returned to my comfortable environment with the night-sun in full force. Ahhhhhhh. But then–THEN–it happened again! BOOM! The sun went out again! I didn’t think I could take any more. Again, my god retrieved me and placed me in the smaller world, but this time he had set it up with some dirt and even threw in some fresh crickets for me. We heard more “vroom” and banging sounds, and then I settled down on a nice warm spot AND suddenly the day-sun came out! It may not be home, but it feels like a slice of heaven. Warmth, crickets, soft dirt…OK so I can’t turn around without bumping into things, but I can’t complain.

Leo's temp digs

Leo at Grandma’s house

It does seem like my god is trying to take care of me. I hope I get to go home soon, but for now, all is well. Thank you for your concern.

A huge shout-out to the Doylestown Bookshop for hosting us and Leo yesterday. They even babysat for him so my kids and I could go get some lunch. I mean, if that’s not the best bookstore ever, I don’t know what is. (Oh, and we all bought some great books we’re enjoying while we weather the rest of this power outage, expected to last through the  weekend.) Seriously, if you live anywhere within driving or walking distance, I have no idea why you’d buy your books anywhere else.

And, of course, thank you to my in-laws for hosting us while we hang out to work and warm up today. We appreciate it and so does Leo!