Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: Losing Clementine

My first book review for this blog! I found Losing Clementine, by Ashley Ream, fascinating, and had intended to write the review last week during National Suicide Prevention Week. Of course, really, we should try to prevent suicide every week of every year. Is this a novel about suicide? Well, looking at the cover, one would certainly assume so. And how depressing is that?

I'm going to back up just a bit. I first heard about Ashley Ream and her debut novel at the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day. I attended her discussion with Meg Howrey about "Artist's Struggles". Truth? I was volunteering at the festival, and between shifts. Looking at the schedule, I decided I would head over to Eddie's Attic, primarily because I just wanted to see the venue, and hadn't ever been there.

With that out of the way, I was really impressed with Ashley. Smart and funny, she explained to the audience how she wrote a funny suicide book. What? She admitted that she didn't really come totally clean with anyone about the subject, because they might just think she was crazy. Suicide just can't be funny.

So did she? Write a funny suicide book? Not exactly. What she does is write a book about Clementine, an artist that has been dealing with a mental illness her entire adult life and she's done. Just kind of tired of the whole thing. The meds, the therapists, everything. She sets a deadline, 30 days, and the chapters count down the days. There are some funny parts. Some of them are funny "ha ha" and some of them are funny "quirky". Or funny "did that really just happen? what was she thinking?"

Isn't that what happens in life? Even during the most serious times, when you think you can't possibly find anything funny, that you will never laugh again, you find yourself in situations that can be just laugh out loud hilarious! And that's just it. You go in, thinking you're reading a book about Clementine counting down the days until she kills herself, and what she goes about doing to get ready for that moment. What you discover is you get that, but so much more. As Clementine ties up the loose ends of her life, she learns more about everyone around her than she ever expected.

Taking off the the blinders that give us day to day tunnel vision is something we could all benefit in doing. With, of course, long, healthy lives.

And you know those reading group questions that show up in the back of novels these days? For book groups that can't think up their own discussion topics, I guess? Ashley let us know that she wrote her own. Meg (the other author) didn't, so it's not an across the board thing, but I thought it was interesting.

Bottom line is that, in spite of a morbid and heartbreaking subject haunting each day (chapter) of the book, you will find yourself falling in love with Clementine. You won't be able to put it down, because you'll definitely want to find out how it ends.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Today is "Visible Monday", and while my outfit is not particularly visible, I mean, all black is, well, all black. But that's the dress code for my new job. I haven't worked full time for 25 years. And by full time, I mean at a place where they give you a paycheck. I thoroughly realize and agree that being stay at home mom is really a 24/7 kind of job. But one sadly lacking in a paycheck. At least the kind of paycheck that you can deposit in a bank. So, the day one is done, and I'm exhausted. And just like those marvelous first day of school photos that you take of your kids, I got Roland to take a "first day of work" photo.

 I expect this is how I'll look most Mondays now, but I'll still try to participate on Visible Mondays, but to avoid the appearance of a complete lack of wardrobe creativity on my part, I'll just have to record some pics on other days. And trust me, my post work outfit is not fit for publication.

Have a great week! I've been reading a couple of great books, and will share some reviews in the coming days.

xoxo, Ellen

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Life of Mitch Mayborn

Not only was Monday worldwide Suicide Prevention Day, this whole week is National Suicide Prevention Week. In that vein, I wanted to go a little more in depth about the life and times of Curtis Mitchell Mayborn, my dad, since he did do a lot of living in the 54 years before he pulled the trigger. For the record, he didn't go by Curtis, as that was his mom (the one with the raccoon). He went by Mitch. Or Dad.

First and foremost, he was a lover of all things aeronautical.
I think his greatest dream was to be an Air Force fighter pilot, though it was a dream unfulfilled. He was a pilot, and was a corporate pilot for Dresser Industries in the late 60s, possibly into the early 70s. In the 1980s, he flew the Virgin Island Seaplane Shuttle. Other airplane activities included painting pictures of them, photographing them, and dragging his family from hot tarmac to hot tarmac to see airshows around Texas. I'm told that at one time he had one of the largest collections of airplane photographs in the country. Photographs that he personally had taken.

He also wrote and edited guidebooks, not just about planes, but also about historical automobiles.
For many years, between flying gigs, he worked for his dad, Ted W. Mayborn, at Associated Publishers, where they published Drillinq-DCW, an oilfield trade journal. This was often a fallback job, and in hindsight, it was probably that for most of his adult life he suffered from bipolar I disorder. Looking back on my childhood, it did seem that he always had so many projects going, and the life that he dreamed of living always seemed just out of reach.

While in hindsight, my childhood was quite dysfunctional, I don't remember it being horrible. On the contrary, I think we had fun, for the most part. Dad was kind of like a big kid, which, of course, must have been hard for my mom. And, yes, I was a "Daddy's Girl."
 That is an awesome white belt, is it not?!!

Sadly, in the mid to late 1970s, he turned to alcohol for his psychiatric medication because not as much was known about mental illness, and it certainly wasn't talked about in polite company. Or even not so polite company. I'm pretty sure the #1 rule in our dysfunctional family was do not talk about the bad stuff. To anyone. Anywhere. Anytime. Perhaps if we didn't talk about it, it wasn't happening. At any rate, Dad was never formally diagnosed, but since one often, post-suicide, tries to figure out what happened, that all the events of his life were put together and analyzed.

Could his suicide have been prevented? Boy, people agonize over this question about every suicide, I imagine. They ask themselves what they could have done. Specifically, I believe he was on a suicidal trajectory at least most of his adult life, spiraling faster and faster downward (not unlike an airplane shot out of the sky). One of his heroes, after all, was Ernest Hemingway. When I got the call from my aunt, I was understandably shocked and devastated, but not actually surprised. Well, after I got over the shock, I was not surprised.

So the big question... could it have been prevented? It was not pre-meditated or planned. He was backed into a corner, so to speak, and apparently saw no way out. It's my belief that had he gotten help decades before, perhaps he would not have met with such a violent end. And that's why I have such hope today.

The more people talk about it, share their stories and struggles, both for themselves and their loved ones, perhaps the stigma of mental illness can be chipped away at and lives can be saved.

Help is out there.

Monday, September 10, 2012

World Suicide Prevention Day

It's "Visible Monday" and what better way to be visible than to spread the word that suicide can be prevented. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

 More people in the world die from suicide than from war and murder combined. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and you can make a difference. By taking 5 minutes to get involved and become informed, you will be a part of a worldwide movement to save lives.

 I'm wearing orange today to support World Suicide Prevention Day. And I'll light a candle near a window at 8 p.m. in memory of my father, who committed suicide on January 17, 1991, and in memory of Lexi Schantz, who committed suicide on May 30, 2011, 2 months before her 21st birthday.

Click here for resources and to learn more.  Click here to learn more about the National Suicide Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

It does seem a bit frivolous in light of the subject, but I did have to dig deep to find an orange outfit, and it's good to see what a survivor of suicide looks like, just a regular person.

It's been 21 years since my dad killed himself, but I think about him almost every day.



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Those Old Skeletons

original art by me, April 2011

Do you have one of those in your closet? What does it mean to you? The phrase, skeleton in the closet (or cupboard if you speak the Queen's English), originated in the early 1800s, so it's been around awhile, but it is now commonly used to mean that you have something bad to hide.

Well then, let's talk secrets. One of the topics that is near and dear to my heart is mental illness. We all have mental health, and when that becomes compromised, then there is mental illness. Make sense? If you are into statistics, here you go... Mental Health Statistics and Resources. Basically, it's estimated that 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 18 suffer from a mental disorder.

Enough about statistics though.  I've been thinking and thinking about what, exactly, is my point about all of this. I guess the bottom line is that if you asked anyone, they probably know someone who has a mental illness, even if they aren't directly related to them. And I'm NOT talking about knowing about people in the news who might or might not be deemed insane.

I'll end this one here, even if it does seem a little abrupt. I just need to get it out of my head. More definitely coming... this is just kind of an introduction, if you will, so read, store it away and move along.

xoxo, Ellen

Monday, September 3, 2012

Visible Monday: It's a Start!

Well, one of the surefire ways to become uninvisible is to just get out there and be Visible, right?! Patti, of Not Dead Yet Style has this great way to let those of us who might, ahem, be not in our 20's anymore, but, hey, we ain't dead yet(!), showcase our style. Get ready. I'm in! OK, truthfully, I was going to wait until next week because today is a holiday and blah, blah, blah. I'll fill you in on my excuse addiction another time, but for the record, I'm possibly the Queen of Excuses on why I can't do stuff. Yep.

Without further adieu (and angst):

Dress: Ann Taylor from a couple of years ago
Shoes: Sofft (from last year)

I love this dress because it's a knit, so super comfy, but the print gives it a little dressier look (and also hides some lumps and bumps). You can't see it very well in the picture, but there is also a self fabric belt that is sewn into the side seams (love) that also hides enhances the silhouette.

Where did I wear it? Roland and I went out to lunch (Egg Harbor Cafe, Sandy Springs, GA), then over to Whole Foods. Got some salmon burgers for grilling tonight, but since we are both only semi-employed, Labor Day isn't all that for us right now. You know, as a holiday to especially celebrate. For us. If you're out there laboring, then, I think honoring your hard work is important.

By the way, did you know that Labor Day first became a federal holiday in 1894, and was primarily labor union oriented. Times have certainly changed now, and it seems more now to be a symbolic end of summer.

So the question is: Do you stop wearing white after Labor Day?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Song For Sunday

This song came out in 1975, when I was 15 years old. I still have a long, long way to go.

Friday, August 31, 2012

My Grandmother had a Pet Raccoon

Have you ever played the party game where you're having a conversation with someone you've just met and you're comparing crazy families? I call it the "My Family is Crazier than Your Family." And I pretty much always win, unless they are lying.

But then in March, my daughter, Laura, introduced me to The Bloggess. I was hooked! I love Jenny Lawson! And when her book, Let's Pretend The Never Happened, came out, I had to have it. I read it out loud to Roland. He even chuckled now and then. Even when I couldn't read because I was laughing so hard. (Note: there are some serious and sad parts, too... not everyone's life is funny ALL the time).

Jenny and me at the Barnes & Noble, Atlanta

The reason I'm tellling you about the Bloggess, is that hands down, she wins the game. She explains why in the 2nd chapter where she lays out "the 11 things most people have never experienced...". Of course, she grew up in rural west Texas, and I grew up in urban, Dallas, Texas, so I did have non-poisonous running tap water. And, while I do know what a cistern is, we didn't have one.

But I'm reading out loud to Roland on our way to a folk art auction in Buford, Georgia and I get to #5. Quoting directly from the book: "Most People don't have live raccoons in the house." Well, I'm here to tell you that my dad's mom, my grandmother, Curtis, had a pet raccoon named Ringo. It was in the 60s, so I'm not sure if he's named after that famous Beatle, Ringo Starr, or just because he had rings around his tail. Honestly, my bet is on the rings around the tail.

A few of the differences (I won't give away all the funny parts of her story):
  • Jenny's family had multiple raccoons living in the house that she, herself lived in. Curtis (I'll tell you the story of her name in another post) just had the one. And I didn't live with Curtis, but we all lived in Dallas, and got together frequently for family, um, get-togethers. Anyway, we saw them a lot.
  • Jenny's mom sewed tiny clothes for them (jams, specifically). The jury is out on whether or not Ringo wore clothes, but given how Curtis loved to dress her little chihuahua, Quincy, in outfits many years later, there is a definite possibility that Ringo didn't go around naked every day.
  • Jenny's family culled the crowd down to just one by letting some of them go, but it appears that raccoon ran around the house a lot, until he got banished outside to a chicken cage. Ringo lived in my grandmother's spacious pink bathroom, and ultimately in a screened-in porch that legend (my memory) has it was built just for him. Complete with small pool and tree. Do raccoons like trees?
I'm not really sure what ever happened to Ringo. Like I said, it was the 60s, and I was just a kid. Ringo came out at all the family functions, and I seem to remember being allowed to pet him (carefully), and admire the uniqueness of having a pet raccoon.

 Hard to tell from the poor quality of a 40+ year old polaroid, but I think they were inside in the room commonly known to the family as the "game room."

 Buddy was the family collie that was apparently a playmate for Ringo. Or was it the other way around. Not pictured: the 15 or 20 cats that were also family pets.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Let's Get Started, Take 2

That's right... can you believe it? I didn't like my first attempt at saying "hi", so I'm trying again.


And now, for your enjoyment, a conversation in my head between my "TherapistMe" and, for lack of a better name, "Me":

TherapistMe: Have you written the first post?

Me: No. Not sure what I want to say.

TM: Just write it. You know, say "hi", and then you're off to the races.

Me: It's not that easy.

TM: Sure it is.

Me: It needs to be good. I don't want people to think I'm stupid.

TM: ???

Me: Well, OK, maybe not stupid, but... you know.

TM: ???

Me: Well, yeah, right now no one even knows this thing exists. Well, Roland knows.

Me: Oh, and you know, blogs need some kind of picture or they're boring. Readers like pictures.

TM: Well, put in a picture.

Me: Well, I did do a search for images of "anxiety" in google images.

TM: Did you find one?

Me: Kind of, but I think it might be illegal to just use a random picture.

TM: Everyone else does it. Just credit the source.

Me: Yeah, that makes me nervous. I don't want to get in trouble.

TM: ??? How old are you?

Me: Um, 52.

Me: Never mind. I'll just draw my own.

Oops, just used a pencil. Well, no need to be perfect. Really. Gotta just let it go...

xoxo, Ellen