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On Mental Illness, “Bates Motel” and a Culture of Violence

September 19, 2016

This summer I had the pleasure of binge-watching “Bates Motel.” For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it’s essentially a backstory of the relationship between the famous mother and son Norma an Norman Bates of “Psycho” fame. I LOVED this show! The rich storytelling and complicated characters drew me in and hasn’t let go yet (thank goodness there’s a final season in 2017).

But aside from the storytelling itself, something about “Bates Motel” resonated with me on a deeper level I was watching the last two seasons. And that something was a very clear message about mental health.


When Norma finally realized her son needed professional medical help, she went to a mental health facility to seek treatment. But she was met with resistance. There was no health insurance, no prior history, no solution. Norma was left to walk away without a solution.

While I’m aware this is a scene out of a television drama, unfortunately this scenario is all-too common in the real world.

Many years ago, someone close to me was in a bad state mentally. That person needed professional help. Like Norma, I tried to take action to get help. I called the appropriate insurance company and talked to a representative about bringing said person in to see a doctor.

Like Norma, what I was met with was resistance.

Sorry, the person needed to call themselves to get authorization, I was told. Once the person makes the class, we can refer them to a doctor to schedule an appointment.

But this person isn’t in a place to even pick up a phone, I reasoned. How on earth would they be expected to put on a cheery voice (or any voice for that matter) and call an insurance company for authorization?

Sorry, that’s all we can do, the woman said.

I don’t blame the receptionist on the phone. She was simply following company policy. It’s the policy and system that’s to blame.

If a person has a heart attack, you call 911 and paramedics immediately respond without question. If someone is sick and requires an emergency room visit, the hospital admits them without even needing insurance.

So why is it when something is wrong with a person’s psyche, that is called into question and it’s so difficult to obtain medical help?

“Bates Motel” did a great job of writing several scenes that illuminated this problem — that even when a person wants to get someone help, it’s not an easy task, especially if you don’t have the means or a willing patient.

This all leads me to the current state of our country with respect to tragic deaths and violence. It is becoming more and more clear that many of the individuals that commit horrible crimes and are behind massive shootings suffer from mental illness.

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team published a fascinating, in-depth story on how the closing of psychiatric hospitals and the lack of replacement mental health care in Boston led to tragic and deadly consequences for families. There are reports the Orlando shooter was bipolar. The man who shot up the “Batman” movie theater in Colorado suffered from depression.

Now I’m NOT saying that if the Orlando shooter had gone to therapy, the atrocity wouldn’t have happened. Nobody – least of all me – can say for sure if a people suffering from mentally illness will go on to commit horrible crimes.

I appreciate “Bates Motel” for doing what they can to illuminate this issue, even if it’s just for entertainment purposes. And I’m grateful for journalists like the Spotlight Team for tackling this tough subject that many people don’t want to acknowledge. Perhaps we, as a society, can start looking at how the system plays a role in all this; how mental illness is still so stigmatized and how getting help is not an easy task.



Monday Musings ~ September 12

September 12, 2016

Happy Monday!


1. The Sycamore Farm barn photo was taken down the street from my house. It reminds me of the children’s board book, The Big Red Barn, by Margaret Wise Brown, which I used to read to Sophie when she was little. She loved that book (still does) and we always had fun trying to find the little kittens and Snoopy pail hidden in the pictures. It’s neat when a place reminds you of a sweet memory.

2. Did you do anything to commemorate September 11 yesterday? Last night I watched a documentary on CNN that detailed the minutes leading up to and after the attacks, filmed by a documentarian who was following several New York firefighters. The man was making a “day in the life of firefighters” story. But he ended up with something completely unlike any day.

Sophie asked me why I was watching something about the World Trade Center towers if I cry every time I see them. It occurs to me more and more that she will never share my feelings and understanding about September 11 because to her, it’s just something they learn about in school or seen in a YouTube video. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since our world changed forever.

3. This story from ParentCo about talking to your kids about guns is a must-read! To be clear, I’m not against toy guns (or gun for that matter). Guns and children and safety are a reality in today’s parenting world. And like the writer says, no matter how much we tell our kids about guns and safety, we all know how well kids listen (read: sarcasm). This paragraph is spot on:

Play dates often come with a list of dietary restrictions or the occasional screentime policy review. And we’ve become accustomed to asking other parents if their child has allergies or other needs. … Asking about guns in the home should be that normal. Just an everyday question asked between parents. ‘Do you have guns in the house?’

4. I finally jumped on the #AmWriting podcast bandwagon and am now listening to all the old episodes to get caught up. #AmWriting is hosted by K.J. Dell’Antonia (New York Times “Well Family” columnist and contributing editor) and Jessica Lahey (The Gift of Failure). Each week they talk about writing, reading, pitching and getting things done. They offer great advice about writing and I’m finding their tips on completing projects and tasks extremely helpful.

5. Do you think mom blogs are dead? This article in PR Weekly offered a point / counter-point discussion about whether the contemporary mom blog is gone for good. I have a lot of opinions on this subject, which I’m saving for a future post. But I’d love to get your thoughts.

6. Finally, I watched “The Night Of” in two days. I won’t spoil the HBO mini-series, but I will say this: aside from the show being riveting, it did a great job of illuminating racial bias, and showing how the justice system really does convict and punishes a person before they’re even found guilty or innocent in a court of law.

I also watched the movie “The Devil’s Knot,” a true story about the West Memphis Three who were convicted of killing three young boys. The movie was okay (I’m searching for the documentaries). But watching it made me want to quit everything and start working for The Innocence Project. Do you think they’d hire me?

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about this Monday in September?

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Remembering September 11 ~ 15 Years Later

September 11, 2016

Every year on September 11, I take time to consciously remember what happened on the day that changed America forever. Here is my account of that day, part of which I originally wrote on September 11, 2010.


It seemed like any ordinary day.

Nothing was different. No phone calls to our condo. The alarm went off to the annoying buzzing sound that it did every morning (the only way that I’d get out of bed).

Bryan left the house before 6 a.m. since Tuesdays were his early-morning day to teach spin class at the campus gym.

I got into my car around 7:40 a.m. to drive myself to work at San Diego State University. I got in the car; started the ignition; and turned on NPR, just like any other day.

But it was not like any other day. Something was different. I could tell in an instant.

I knew something dreadful was happening the minute I heard the NPR reporter. I just started driving to work waiting for information.

The reporter started talking about smoke, airplanes, confusion, towers, the Pentagon.

What was I missing?

Then I heard two words that I never much heard before on NPR. But I would hear so many more times – “terrorist attack.”

“WHAT?! What is happening?!”

I was shouting out loud to the radio, in my car alone. I was starting to panic. I had no idea what was going on in the world at that moment. I was already on the freeway; so couldn’t turn back to home and turn on the television. I just drove to work; trying to get to my office as fast as possible.

As I was on the freeway, the announcer finally started to recount what happened to the World Trade Center and Pentagon that morning. I was in utter and complete shock. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even cry at the time. I just drove with my mouth hanging open.

I sprinted to my office, turned on my computer, and by that time, nobody was doing any work. All anyone could do is listen; and watch; and talk to each other in utter disbelief.

While we now have an exact timeline of what happened that morning, at the time we didn’t know what was fact or fiction; or what was happening where. It was all coming through in pieces. Americans all learned together that we were under attack. And it was so scary; probably the most frightening time of my life.

The campus received an order from the chancellor of the entire college system to shut down the university at noon that day. I don’t think anyone was really concerned for safety. It was more out of confusion and a general feeling of anxiety. It was probably for the best since I don’t think anyone would have done any work that day. I drove home and sat in front of the television watching CNN for hours. I was hoping to learn something, anything, as I’m sure the rest of the world did too. That’s when the tears began flowing, and felt like they never stopped.

Later that day, the name and image of Osama Bin Laden began appearing on the news. The only recognition I had of this name was a story I’d seen on 60 Minutes a few months before. But I didn’t pay much attention to that story because I thought – like many others – What could that man possibly have to do with me? Little did any of us know. …


Those next few months – and years – were filled with a lot of fear. I didn’t go to High Holiday services that fall because I was so scared a terrorist attack would happen at the place I was going to worship. On the first anniversary of the attacks in 2002, I stayed home from work and planted myself in front of the television. Mostly in fear that an attack would occur again; and I needed to know the minute it happened.

It’s been 14 years since that day that changed America – and changed my life – forever. I still cry every time I see the images of the towers falling to the ground and I hear the horror in the voices and cries of the onlookers. My heart breaks when I read stories about the 9/11 families. I’m haunted every time I listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Grand Central Station, her beautifully-written homage to a September 11 worker sifting through the “holy dust” at Ground Zero. Tears fill my eyes when I hear Alan Jackson’s Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? And who can forget the Saturday Night Live tribute that aired only a few weeks later, at at time when nobody knew if it was appropriate to laugh after such sorrow.

As horrible as a tragedy 9/11 was, I remember feeling closer to my country, my neighbors and the people around me. It was as if all those American flags that were on display brought us all together. Later that month, I went to the annual Harvest Festival (arts and crafts fair) and everyone was wearing red-white-blue and proudly displaying Americana items. Something was bonding all of us together. It was a feeling and sight I’d never witnessed before.

It’s sad that’s no longer the case. I fear that we – as a country – have let the memory of September 11 fade. The country is so divided today. Yet we need to our collective past and remember that tragic day. Because only in remembering will we never forget.

Where were you on September 11? How do you choose to remember the day?

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Welcome to 3rd Grade!

September 1, 2016

Well, here we are again. Another school year has started and first day photos taken. We’re off to the races for another year of school. Technically, we’ve been racing for the last four weeks since Sophie started third grade at her new school in Indiana on August 9. Yep, August 9!

It felt strange and a bit wrong to start school during early August. I’m so used to the first day being the Tuesday after Labor Day. While I was NOT ready to say farewell to sleeping in and relaxed mornings, the timing worked out really well. We arrived in Terre Haute just a week and a half before school started, and it’s been good for Sophie to have a routine and be around other kids. The school is wonderful! She’s making friends, has a great teacher and is adjusting very well to a brand new school. And apparently the school lunches are way better than the choices in San Diego.

One of the very exciting parts of all this change is going to and from school in the school bus. It’s pretty awesome to have our friendly bus driver pick up Sophie right at our driveway in the morning, and return her in the same spot in the afternoon. I’m LOVING this aspect! And according to Sophie, the bus ride is her favorite part of the day. She uses the time to chat with her friends or do her daily reading. Nothing makes me happier than seeing her stepping off the bus in the afternoon and running toward me with a big smile on her face. It warms my heart every afternoon.

Being almost 9 years old and starting at a brand new school where we know nobody is hard. But Sophie had nothing but excitement for the first day of school and her new experience. I offered to drive her to school and pick her up on the first day, but she insisted on the bus. And on that first day, she hopped on that bus and didn’t look back. I was the one shedding tears (of course). Not because I was sad. But because I’m truly in awe of my little girl and admire her strength so very much.

Here’s to a new school year — with new challenges, adventures and good times ahead!

My third grader.

first day of schoolRiding the school bus.



Sophie at her desk at back to school night. She was thrilled to have an individual desk — quite a step up from her San Diego school, apparently!

sophie desk

And of course, a look back at previous first days of school. She was SO little! I use Picmonkey to create this if you want to make one for yourself.

school year collage 2016

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Monday Musings ~ August 29

August 29, 2016

Happy Monday! We ate this fresh Indiana corn last week and it was delicious.


1. Are you a Night Owl or a Morning Person? There has never been a doubt in my mind that I am, and always will be, a Night Owl. For as long as I can remember, even as young as in elementary school, getting up early in the morning is torture unless my body naturally wakes up. And please, don’t tell me the solution is simply for me to go to bed earlier. It’s really hard for me to even be able to fall asleep “early” because I’m just not tired and I have much more creative energy at night.

In her book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin writes that life can be more challenging for Night Owls because the world is geared more toward Larks, with work and school starting early in the morning. So while I will never be a morning person, at least I know that I’m not alone in my struggle as a Night Owl.

2. The other day, I re-took my Myers-Briggs personality test, which confirmed again that I’m an ISTJ. Sophie decided she wanted to take the test as well. And true to her personality type, she was excited to start but quickly lost interest and wanted to stop half-way through. She’s an ENFP. How did I get a child who is my complete opposite? Probably because Bryan is an INTP. What a trio we are!

3. Speaking of personality types, loved this article on how each Myers-Briggs type reacts to stress. Among my triggers are being in an environment that is in disarray (BIG TIME); frequent change; being asked to do something spontaneously (pass the Xanax); too much extroversion (yep!); and dealing too long with abstract or theoretical concepts (majoring tune out). What’s your type and your stressors?

4. This was an interesting piece on Quiet Revolution about whether or not class participation penalizes introverts or quiet learners. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this concept. Personally, I don’t think simply being an introvert equals not participating in class. Both Bryan and I are introverts and we never shied away from class participation. Yet on the other hand, I can see where some individuals can have a tough time with participation.

When I was teaching marketing classes at FIDM, I did give a certain amount of points to students for class participation. But here was my logic: So many students contribute so much in the form of participation and discussion, yet they were not always the best quiz or test-takers. I hated seeing those students suffer academically because one type of learning was not their strength. I wanted to recognize all types of learning and understanding, so I structured my class in that way.

5. What are you reading that you love? I just finished Mary Kubica’s Pretty Baby, which I consumed in a matter of days. I had the pleasure of meeting Kubica last year in San Diego and just adore her. I enjoyed her first novel, The Good Girl. Her third book, Don’t You Cry, is now available so I’ll be adding that to my TBR list.

6. By the way, I wrote a post last week about cookbooks, memories and the early days of The Food Network. I’m not sure how many readers saw it because Facebook wasn’t playing nicely with WordPress and didn’t auto-share the post. So if you missed it, feel free to give it a read.

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about with September just a few days away?

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