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What the surgeon said

Multiple cancer cells were found in my thyroid and lymph node biopsies.

So, yep. The surgery took care of the cancerous follicular nodules ON my thyroid, but there is cancer that spread elsewhere. I see my endocrinologist in about 20 days to discuss the next step (a waiting period of 3-6 weeks is common post-diagnosis), which is most likely radioactive iodine with multiple rounds of blood work and several ultrasounds. Chemotherapy may also be a necessary option.

I'm not sure what else to say right now. I have lots of information about treatment and survival rates and the type of cancer(s) and xyz, but all I can think at this moment is, "I still have cancer, it spread, and this fucking sucks." For now, I think I just need to process and go from there.

On the eve of my biopsy results

Tomorrow morning, I head down to GBMC (for the third time in ten days) to meet with my surgeon and receive the results of my thyroid and lymph node biopsies. While we know that the cancerous nodules were removed during the full thyroidectomy on November 4th, we don't know if the cancer spread elsewhere. If it didn't spread - excellent news. And if it did spread? The surgeon knows, but as of this moment, I still do not. But he specifically said that he wanted to discuss the results in person with me, so now, I am nervous, and I must wait.

And the waiting is, as people are prone to say, the hardest part.

I'm finally coherent to sit at my laptop to take stock of the past nine days. I've been using my phone for most of my online interactions - to let people know what's happening, to text dear friends and family members, to waste time on Facebook in order to distract my brain - but have only been sitting upright with the laptop since yesterday in the early morning, when I felt the need to add a bit to my NaNoWriMo word count. I'm at 18,300 words, which puts me a few days behind, but I'm not nine days behind. I still have a chance to win, and I plan to write at least 4,000 words this evening. Why is this challenge so important to me? Because it proves that, no matter the odds, I'm still a writer. I still have ideas worthy of the page. And I still have the drive to make my dreams of publishing a novel possible. Surgery and cancer cannot strip those desires and abilities from me.

However, those desires and abilities were almost stripped from me this past week - specifically on Friday, when I was readmitted to GBMC for post-thyroidectomy problems. But first, I need to start in the logical place - the beginning.

I should also mention that this is a public post, which I am posting in several locations, so please keep that in mind if you desire to comment. Everyone who wants to is able to read this.

The actual surgery and the initial recovery.Collapse )
This is when something very awful occurred.Collapse )

It was a scary event. The surgery was fine, but the recovery was far from fine. What happened made me question a lot about life - about the people I love, about what I want to do with myself, and about mortality in general. But I'm here and I'm typing (though I am certain I left out a lot of details, and I need to stop because I'm growing extremely dizzy), and I see my surgeon tomorrow for the biopsy results (and to find out if I will need radioactive iodine treatments). I'm taking all of my medications, I'm able to sing a few notes (only a few - I miss singing so much, but I know it will take four to six weeks to recover my voice, and I'll probably need a bit of training after that since, well, things were rearranged during surgery), and I'm able to be with the people I love. Friday could have been a game-changer. But it wasn't.

So while I am not sure that I can say that I am a cancer survivor yet, I can say that I survived my body's breakdown. Lupus and lack of essential vitamins and hormones made me weak, but I said no. For the fourth time now, I have lived when doctors swore I would die. If there is a term that means "beyond thankful," that is what I'm feeling right now. I am alive. I am here to tell you that I love you all and am grateful for your friendship and support. I'm so grateful for Toby, for James, for the friends and family and nurses and doctors who kept me going.

And I am so, so happy that that blue DNR bracelet was never necessary.


I just posted the following on Facebook, but it applies here, too:

I probably won't be around very much for a while - I need an Internet break for personal reasons, as well as professional (well, writing, editing, and publishing) reasons. I will also be making a small cut to my friends list since I can't even keep up with everyone, and that's honestly not a personal thing. My brain is just extremely overwhelmed and needs to focus on the present, especially my family and my health (and my upcoming surgery).

So if I seem absent, I am - and I apologize. I will post occasionally and check in for messages here and there, but the best way to contact me is by email (which is listed on my profile page) and by text (which, if you email me, I will give you my number, for those who don't have it). I'm thinking about you all, and thinking good thoughts for those about to get married, have children, starting new careers, are going through turmoil, and so forth. Be loved, and be well.

I changed some of the language in that message so that it relates to LJ, not FB, but yes - I'm taking a much-needed social media break. I will check in, as I said, because I care about my friends, but I probably won't be around much. It's not like I'm here much right now, anyhow, but with some personal issues (health and surgery - and surgery is still on August 6th - mostly, as well as trying to strengthen some relationships) and professional opportunities (writing, editing, and hopefully publishing), I need to focus. But I AM here if I'm needed - please do email or text me. This isn't a lack of love thing. People I'm cutting from LJ are people I don't talk to, or whose journals have been deserted for ages.

I truly need to get my life in order, and that starts with participating IN my life - not just watching it from the sidelines, emotionless. So with the exception of one or two communities that I'm very active with here, I'll be MIA for a bit. Again, if wanted, please contact me via email and text. And take care. My love to everyone.

And I leave you all with a cute picture of a wonderful 19-month-old James. He is amazing - truly amazing. I will take one minute to brag - because this is my son, my only child, who we thought could never exist in this world - and say that he is well above average with his skills and his development, according to his doctor. He is so social and charming that strangers talk to him and ask me if he's a model. He reads on his own, spells his name, and is emotionally intelligent. How did I get so lucky? THIS is what I need to focus on - this life, this family, this child. Without my family and my friends, the friends who truly care about my health, happiness, and well-being (and yes, I know who you are:) - I'd have nothing at all.


Here's the story, old sport...

While I have a lot of real-life things to discuss, I 1)am not really in the mindset to discuss them, and 2)I think I need to put them on the shelf for a bit because I often wonder who gives a damn, and I don't want to play that mind-game with myself right now. But the basics are that Toby is doing well (his surgery last week was minor enough that it never truly bothered him), James is amazing (as always! - though he is such a mimic, and verbal censorship isn't my strongest asset...), and life is busy. I'm writing, reading, keeping house, chasing after a toddler who knows how to use sarcasm and write my name (that was a wonderful Mother's Day surprise!), and spending time - online or in person - with those who love me and with those I love. And on Saturday, I did something that scared me.

I went to a crowded movie theater. At night. On an opening weekend. And I saw "The Great Gatsby," because despite my fear of crowds and people and so forth, I wasn't going to pass up the invitation.

Was it good? Did it live up to the novel? Would I see it again? Are the critics being harsh when they slam it? I answer yes to every single one of my own questions (and actually will be seeing it again Wednesday night - wow, which is tonight. In about 17 1/2 hours). While Baz Luhrmann made some extremely interesting decisions in this adaptation of "Gatsby," it did not do the novel a disservice (and for more on how Baz Luhrmann and Fitzgerald's family view the adaptation, you might want to read this article. There are some spoilers, though, so be warned). It was tremendously vivid and opulent - even grotesquely so - as it needed to be, but there were several moments of honest, gut-wrenching emotion that moved me - and in one scene, moved me to almost get physically ill on the floor of the theater.

If I have any, I'll post spoilers under cuts (though I am assuming most people know the plot and novel), but otherwise, here's my review. With pictures, because, well, people like pictures. SHINY.

Gatsby poster
Welcome to A Baz Luhrmann Production, everyone. You know you want those outfits. Dammit, I've spent far too much money creating those outfits. THEY GOT ME.

I might as well be flat-out honest: This movie did not follow the book letter for letter. From the very start, I was a bit shocked at what was done with Tobey Maguire's character, Nick Carraway (the narrator and "best friend" of Gatsby), though it really was a smart move and made sense - anyone who has read Gatsby can see the parallels between Carraway and Fitzgerald (sometimes known to me as "Fitz," or "Fitzy," if I've had too much to drink). Maguire was even styled to look like Fitz, so, how everything started was on-par, artistically and so forth - but oh my gods, for the first hour, I felt as though I might as well have been watching "Moulin Rouge" (which I watched tonight, just to draw more parallels. There are many). Nick writes his story at a typewriter, he's a bit shy about the big city, he's amazed by everything he encounters, he's enamored with a pretty and VERY shallow girl (Jordan Baker - who was a golfer but had been disgraced, which isn't discussed very much in the film), and for the "second" time in his life, running around with the "Who is this Gatsby?" crowd gets him drunk.

Nick and Jordan at party
Nick Carraway looks this confused throughout the entire film. It's fitting. It's his "What the shit did I get myself into?" face.

The first hour is really a brief set-up of how Nick is the second cousin of Daisy Buchanan, a rich socialite who is married to a Yale grad - a muscular, obnoxious guy named Tom. They're all from the Midwest, and Tom and Nick attended school together. They spend their evenings sitting around talking about affairs and how African-American people should be "beaten down" (because that's classy in 1922? At least Daisy mocks how deep Tom's racism goes). Jordan, who is also a pretty socialite, is Daisy's good friend, and Nick is dazzled by all of them. Despite the fact Tom is married to Daisy, Nick still follows Tom into NYC to meet up with his mistress, where Nick gets completely shit-faced (however, they did stick to parts of the novel, like wiping the shaving cream off that one guy's cheek. I thought that was a weird little touch to add, but a good one as well). And then, after talk about Gatsby spreads throughout their little circle - which is where Daisy's infamous "Gatsby? What Gatsby?" line comes into play - Nick finally attends a hideously opulent party thrown by his neighbor, this "Great Gatsby," and meets the host:

Gatsby first meeting
SPOILER: Though he looks like a classy son of a bitch now, Leo spends a lot of time dead in the water whenever he stars in a movie. Yeah, I went there. BOOM.

Later on, we learn that Gatsby is throwing these parties every weekend in the hope of attracting his long-lost love to his house, but she's never shown up. He's obsessed with a green dock light and the past, and Nick is obsessed with him.

Waiting for Daisy
Don't worry, Gatsby. We're obsessed with you, too. You're just too "cool" to care, even if you're nervous about meeting the love of your life here.

Through a lot of elaborate and gorgeously-filmed back story, we learn that Gatsby's obsession is Daisy. What a coincidence - Daisy's cousin Nick lives right next door! However could they conspire to get them together? Oh, yeah. Her cousin could invite her over to tea and Gatsby could meet up with her. Simple. What I loved about this set-up in the film, however, is how obviously nervous Gatsby is. Here is this cool guy who visits a speakeasy and hangs out with guys who use human teeth as tie tacks, but he throws himself at the mercy of Nick to bring Daisy over "whenever it suits YOU, old sport." And then he spends something like $50,000 to decorate the ever-loving shit out of Nick's little cottage, because, you know, Daisy wants money, and that's not something Gatsby lacks.

And really, it's gorgeous, even if it's over-the-top lavishly gorgeous. There are flowers everywhere. The colors are vivid. There's humor despite the tension. And then, Daisy arrives, and everything changes.

Daisy with flowers
To be totally honest, I'd tap that, too, Gatsby. Too bad I'm not wealthy enough for her. Sigh.

This is when the movie starts to feel - personal. Yes, I have my connections to it for reasons I best leave alone for the sake of this review, but suddenly, you are in their world. And while their world involves showing off a lot of property and clothing ("Such beautiful shirts!" Then again, what the hell else would Daisy say? She's stuck in a moment), there is also an immediate connection. These people do love each other. Daisy wants to spend every waking moment on earth with him. Gatsby is falling over himself with happiness. And - this is the odd part - Nick, who knows Daisy is married and hangs out with her husband, FILMS THEIR ENCOUNTERS IN THE MOVIE. In the book, he kind of steps back and stays out of the way even though he has some comments about the scene - and while, in the movie, he does this at first, he's suddenly up in their faces. He films them golfing. He watches them dance and start to make out. He only exits when it's clear Daisy is not going home.

Gatsby mansion meet-up
Pretend Nick Carraway is off in a corner watching them together. Because that's what happens. Nick Carraway, voyeur of all things related to his cousin and his man-crush.

I should add that the music in the film - more of a hip-hop, modern style than the 20s Jazz Age music that was so popular during the Gatsby days - doesn't really bother me. It bothers a lot of people, who thought it should be kept "true to form." But the thing is that this is 2013, and it's Baz Luhrmann. You're going to get glitz and modernity. Jay-Z actually made Jay G. a little bit cooler. And the way the music is incorporated in the film is rarely in-your-face - sure, in some parts, you're slammed with it, but otherwise? The focus is on dialogue. This isn't "Moulin Rouge." Daisy and Gatsby don't sing a duet. Fitz would have embraced the modern music, so why critics slam it is far beyond me. Truly, it's quite good. And if hip-hop isn't your thing, check out "Over the Love," "Young and Beautiful," and "Back to Black" (well, that's a bit hip-hop-esque, but it's so rhythmic and haunting, too) to get a feel for the music.

Daisy does eventually attend a Gatsby party with her husband, Tom, who definitely senses something is up, but just kind of goes off on his way to do his thing. He's having an affair, anyhow, and Daisy is caught up in Gatsby, whom she hasn't seen in years, so they are left to dance and then sneak off to make out and conspire while Nick keeps watch yet again.

Gatsby and Daisy dance
"We're going to go have sex at your cousin's house. You okay with that? Nothing weird there? Alrighty, then."

After the party, Gatsby laments that Daisy didn't have a good time, and Nick, who is drunk off his ass (as usual in this movie), tells him to chill out. All is well, and as they hang out by the dock and stare off at the green light across the bay - which, as it turns out, is Daisy's dock light, since Gatsby purposely bought the house across the bay from her so he could keep an eye on that light - Nick and Gatsby have their infamous exchange about the past. And the way this is done is spectacular. You feel Gatsby's pain. You sense his hope. You can tell Nick has no idea how to react.

"Can't repeat the past?" Gatsby exclaims. "Why of course you can!" There are tears in his eyes as he explains how his life has to be - and how it has to be with Daisy.

Montage, montage (if I recall correctly), and then, the scene that made me almost get up to puke. It's tension at its finest, and if you've ever been in this situation, you'll feel a little ill, too.

Gatsby, Jordan, Nick, Daisy, and Tom all have lunch together on a very hot day, and this is when Gatsby wants to tell Tom that Daisy is going to leave him. She's shaking, so much so that she can't light her cigarette, and Gatsby goes to help her. And as he does, they briefly hold hands, confirming Tom's suspicions. "You always look so cool," Daisy says to Gatsby, as her way of saying, "I love you and dammit, I'm backed into a corner and cannot handle this shit because I cannot throw money at the problem," and Tom decides that hey, Daisy's original idea over lunch is a good one - they should all go to NYC (or "to town," because that sounds fancy). Gatsby knows - and you can tell he knows - that he is good and fucked.

About to be confronted
If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right... though if this is how one looks when one is good and fucked, that's called "handling it like a boss."

So they go to the hotel, they open all the windows because it's 100 degrees out and everyone is wearing a suit and the girls piss and moan about the weather - and as ice is being chipped by a pointy object one is CERTAIN Tom is going to steal and try to stab Gatsby with, the confrontation begins. "So I suppose the new thing is to let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to his wife?" Tom asks Gatsby. And they go at it. Daisy flees to a window, crying, as both men try to claim her. But money cannot save her from this situation. She is stuck - her husband, or her lover? Who can offer more - especially, as Tom explains, since Gatsby isn't really "from money," but is a common swindler and bootlegger who can offer her no security. And hey, Tom loves his wife, despite the racism and affairs and asshattery. So how can she forget that?

Gatsby and Tom pre fight
I can't be snarky here. I felt actual pity, because Daisy isn't AS bad in this movie as she is in the book and in other adaptations. She is more of a sympathetic character. But of course, we all know someone is about to die here, no matter what anyone feels.

The tension is sickening. "You want too much!" Daisy cries to Gatsby. She explains that she loves both men, and then, doesn't know what to do. Gatsby tries to get her to be with him, but Tom breaks her down. She is having an anxiety attack. At that point, I was having an anxiety attack. And then, there IS an attack - Gatsby loses his shit, and he and Tom grab each other. But here's the thing - THEY DON'T FUCKING FIGHT. Presumably, you'd think that if a man is screwing your wife, and they are in the same room, there may be some black eyes. But no. And that is the beauty of the scene. They stand face-to-face, forehead-to-forehead, sweating, near tears, and seriously, you want to vomit. It's so realistic. These men HATE each other. You can feel it. And yet, in that ONE second, you pity both of them. They are so deliciously flawed that you can't help but pity them. Or want to vomit. Or both.

Tom eventually tells Daisy to leave with Gatsby, since he "won't be bothering her anymore," and they run out. That's when the infamous - and tragically beautiful car accident with Myrtle Wilson - scene is shown. The odd thing about the movie is that, when Tom, Jordan, and Nick arrive on-scene, Tom sees Myrtle and breaks down. And then, when he finds George, Myrtle's wife - who knows Myrtle was having an affair with someone - Tom says to him, "Something oughta be done about a fellow like that," and calls out Gatsby for both the murder and the affair. There's a pretty big deviation from the book there, but it's something easier seen and experienced than explained.

It all ends in tears, of course. Daisy was driving, not Gatsby, and Gatsby waits for her, hoping she'll run out to him in the middle of the night again so they can go away. But she doesn't. She and Tom plot out their next move - literally, as they go away - and Gatsby is left behind. Despite Daisy's love, which I fully believe was real, Nick nails it: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy... leaving other people to clean up their mess." And that's what occurs. They flee, keeping their bizarre marriage intact, and Gatsby holds onto his hope all night - until Nick leaves him, Gatsby goes for a final swim before his pool is closed for the fall, and George Wilson goes up and shoots Gatsby square in the chest. And you see it. YOU SEE IT. And if you're me, you cry, because here is this corrupt yet hopeful man, waiting for his Daisy, and all he does is fall into the fucking water and dies. Then you get to see George Wilson put the gun in his mouth, which is - well, I looked away.

I'm a little pissed at how the funeral for Gatsby was handled - they forget a MAJOR figure who attended it in the book - but this is where Tobey Maguire truly shines. He's so disillusioned by the glamor and the pain and the tension that he breaks down and screams at all the reporters. He actually breaks down - which returns us, somewhat, to the beginning of the story, and what Nick is doing, and why Baz made the artistic decision that he made.

So if you're looking for a spot-on adaptation of the book, word for word, you won't find it in Luhrmann's Gatsby. But you'll find something else, and that something else is quite beautiful. DiCaprio was an excellent choice for Gatsby, as he resembles Robert Redford from the 1974 Gatsby, and truly, Leo captures the essence of heartache and hope. People are already whispering "Oscar" due to DiCaprio's portrayal, and those people may not be wrong. Tobey Maguire is basically the Christian character from Moulin Rouge (sans love affair with an courtesan), at his typewriter, trying to take it all in - and the similarities are eerie. Nick is somewhat flat, but he KNOWS it, and that gives him a charm the other characters don't possess. Carey Mulligan as Daisy was a perfect choice. She's naturally gorgeous without being fake about her beauty, though she obviously uses wealth to enhance it (the girl who plays Jordan? She looks like a mannequin. It's so creepy that I couldn't even call her pretty. I could just - stare at plastic, essentially. And her acting was haughty, which fits the role, but seemed so real that you had to wonder if the actress was just being herself for the part). And Mulligan lends a sympathy to the character that I've never seen before. Truly, the cast is excellent, and in moments, you'll even find yourself chuckling at Tom, or feeling George Wilson's sheer rage. Baz did his job, and he did it well.

I will always love "The Great Gatsby" as a book more than as a movie. As a book, it speaks to me in a way no movie ever can. But this adaptation doesn't deserve the criticism it has received. The choices were made for a good reason, and if you look at it like a scholar, not a critic, you'll appreciate it, too. I look forward to seeing it again tonight, when I can study it more in-depth, and allow myself to sink further into that world of grotesque opulence, lust, and destruction.

And so, the voting begins

Luckily, it's Week 0 over at therealljidol, so I won't be going home THIS week, but if you'd still like to vote for my this is me... and me... and me... entry, you can do so right here. A vote is a vote, and I appreciate them all!

There is a perk, though. As our ever-so-intriguing host tells us, "...since they were good enough to Introduce themselves, I figured it was as good time to Introduce something of my own! It’s called a “flex-power”, you can use it ONCE, and have the choice of that use being for a bye (to “skip a week” OR as an immunity. Here’s the catch though, you can only use these powers ON SOMEONE ELSE. You can’t use it for yourself! But whoever has it will end up being one of the best loved contestants in the game. :) Who will receive it? Well, that’s where this poll comes in! I’m handing it to the person with the most votes!" So voting absolutely doesn't hurt anything.

The vote is a friends-only vote, however, which means that only people who friend the community can vote. It's easy to do, won't crowd your LJ, and by joining, you can read some fascinating entries by some very talented writers. So go for it!

The polls close Wednesday, January 23rd at 8 pm EST. For those who don't live in the EST, here's a time-zone converter, which I will try to remember to post whenever voting rolls around.

Now, off to think of something for the first official topic - "Am I Crazy." Kind of a laughable one for me to write about, I suppose...

Also, I did something pretty cool today - for the first time in 6 1/2 years, I conquered my fear of public movie theaters and went to see Les Miserables with alisandre. We went to the 12:30 pm show, which was far more crowded than I expected, but the audience was quiet, and the movie was quite good. I'll admit that I sobbed a few times (and not because of Russell Crowe's god-awful singing). It was so nice to get out with my beautiful friend, watch a musical we've both loved since childhood, and spend time together. And hey - NO anxiety. I didn't need extra medication. Maybe I'm slowly growing sane? Hah. Well, that WAS a nice thought... ;)

LJ Idol, Exhibit A, Week 0: Introduction

There are ghosts that live within these walls.


I don’t know how old I am – two, maybe a little older? – but there he stands, by the doorway, near my closet and giraffe growth chart and collection of Sesame Street posters. The streetlights that shout their golden shards of warning through my bedroom window don't really show me much of anything.

But I want to know. I want to know who has come to visit me. So I turn toward the bears, the Smurfs, the large plush cats that watch over me in the disturbed stillness. They'll know what to do. But they betray me. They just stare back at me, eyes glazed over as if to say, "Well, this is your issue, you get up and handle it. You're not some dumb little kid."

I am some dumb little kid.

That's when, for the first time, I hear a voice. I look at the figure, but it appears to have made no sound. I glance back over at my stuffed animals, my once-defenders and now-betrayers, and they make no sound. The voice comes from someplace else.

"Get up, get up. It's been worse than this before. Get up."

I get up.

"Move, go, run past the door. You will not stop. GO."

I whip my head around at the sound of the voice – a female voice, with a deep, demanding tone that speaks with certainty. I know the voice now. I know the voice as I know myself, a precocious two-year-old who shows off her reading skills by opening the local paper at McDonald's and spouts off world disasters and editorials to the elderly men who meet for coffee and final conversations. I read and sing for them. I tell them I'm a writer and a performer, and they should know me. My mother is proud.

I'm a show pony.

("Of course you are. You ARE for show. And if you keep them wanting more, you'll have whatever you want. That way, when the time comes, that means you'll have control.")

I approach the figure, and it doesn't move. Can I see the door through the figure? No, that must be a trick. I look up, try to gaze into the eyes of my visitor, and I see nothing.

So I do as I've been told, as I've always been told, and as I'll always be told by the sly, worldly voice.

I run.


When day descends into night, we feel it. There are colors in the air that whisper from the crickets, the wind, the passing cars. As the chill settles, my memories become yours, and yours become mine. I sense you are there, and you never are aware of my presence, because I do not want you to know. I run too fast, I change too quickly. I cannot be caught. The light will not reflect my shadow. Only the darkness can.

So I can run into you, through you, swirl and dance and drop and decay.

I run from the men who gather me onto their over-sized laps and demand one more song.
I run, skirt ripped, dignity torn, from the frigid bed of a pick-up truck.
I run from the bar into another bar, into another bar, from 18 to 30 to three in five minutes.
I run from stage to stage, performance to performance, in case I am caught in the act.
I run from closets I've slept in, floors I've felt against my face, rooms that render me rigid.
I run from the light, because you can see me there.

Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.


I fall in love and marry a decent, respectable man, and I find a series of decent, respectable jobs for decent, respectable girls. All is silent.

("Show pony.")

End Act I.


The doctors say, "You will be dead soon." I tell them, "No, I won't." They hand me chemotherapy and platitudes. I hand over my expectations, and I receive nothing.

I say to other doctors, "I will be dead soon." They tell me, "No, you won't." They hand me Valium and a jacket with buckles and straps. I hand over nothing, and I receive everything.

A man tells me he can fix me. Ten different minds hand over my marriage for this new world. Ten different minds come to love and loathe him as I break even further.

I cannot wait to call you...
and walk you through the maze of the map
that I'm gazing at,
gracefully unnamed and feeling guilty for the luck
and the look that you gave me.
You make me somebody. Nobody knows me.
Not even me can see it, yet...

I hand over my life. He hands over his heart. I ruin twelve lives.

But after that time, that one time, I freeze. I wither and dry up, and then, I regroup. I publish and perform. After seven years, my husband and I get pregnant and produce a beautiful son.

Sun. Son.

This time, Son of Man, Heap of Broken Images, I don't run.


Readers often rely on their narrators to be the tellers of truth.

I will always tell you the truth. You may never know me but through these hand-picked words and carefully calculated phrases, but I will always tell you the truth.

There is no choice. Writing is the only thing that, come death or even more horrible consequence, keeps me in one place.

From these worldswords, I shall never run.

How much is real? So much to question.
An epidemic of the mannequins, contaminating everything
we thought came from the heart -
but never did right from the start.
Just listen to the noises
(null and void instead of voices).
Before you tell yourself it's just a different scene,
remember it's just different from what you've seen...

This is my first entry for a mini-season of therealljidol, called LJ Idol: Exhibit A. Those of you who know me will see the truth of this entry glaring directly into your eyes. Those who don't know me yet - you will.

I just cannot tell you who I am by name anymore.

LJ Idol: Exhibit A

Well, LJ masses, you may be seeing me quite often (perhaps more than you wanted to, or perhaps less, depending...) for a month or so - and here's why.

Consider this my official "Hell yes, I am in" post.

May the gods have mercy on us all.

Thank you

24 hours ago, I made a post to let everyone know that I was home from the hospital and back online, and that I needed help via this link to an indiegogo campaign which was beautifully organized by one of my very best friends.

Within 24 hours, the campaign has grown by $300 - some of that contributed by friends I know, and some contributed by anonymous donors who must have seen the links some of you posted to LJ or FB or Twitter. That is astounding. Considering I owe $10,000 in medical bills, and we just got hit (along with millions of others) by a nasty tax increase which lowers Toby's monthly paycheck, every cent helps. Every share of that link helps. I am filled with gratitude and astounded by the absolute kindness of friends and friends of friends. Thank you.

And not only that - thank you to the person who sent me LJ tokens to keep my paid account up and running. Thank you to the anonymous person who purchased a year of paid LJ time for me, three days before my account was set to expire. Thank you to those who are sending letters, care packages, and love. I am floored. While yes, we need the money to pay off medical bills, the fact that people are doing so many other things - more things than I even listed - is incredible. I felt so alone when I left, and while I was away. That loneliness is lifting. To know that people want to help in any way possible means the world to me, and to Toby and James as well.

So once again, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You're all helping me reach a state in which I feel better. And while that doesn't sound like much, it's a lot. It's a big deal. I'll never be "fine," but "better" is good. I'll take better.

I'm keeping this entry unlocked and public so that everyone can see it, and can understand that I have so much gratitude that I cannot even eloquently express it. But without a doubt, I know that people care - my family, my friends, and even anonymous individuals who want to help. Everyone will receive a donor gift, but really, how can I repay that kindness?

Thank you again, with all of my heart and soul and love.

Why it matters

I'll admit that I can be a music snob (by the way, Coheed and Cambria's newest album will be in my mailbox in nine days, which is somewhat relevant). I've been called a music snob. I used to write terribly snotty and snide articles about trendy new bands when I worked for a music magazine. It's part of who I am, and who I always have been.

This is why I try (word here being "try") not to criticize what other people like. Okay, yes - we all know my dislike for pop and boy bands. It's universal, I won't hide it, and so be it. But I don't dislike a PERSON for liking that kind of music. Just because I think the Backstreet Boys are terrible doesn't mean I don't like someone who listens to them. I just don't want to borrow their iPod. ;)

But there's a reason people like what they like. They find a performer, a song, a chord, a lyric, and they connect to it. They aren't looking for intricacy - they are looking for connection. It's music therapy. It's escapism. I can't fault anyone for that. And I can't fault anyone for that because I do the same thing.

I am a fan of Green Day. Do I think their music is complex? No, not really. But here's the thing: I relate to their lead singer. And I relate to a lot of their songs. They might not seem like much, but they mean something to me, and therefore, Green Day is one of my favorite bands.

I've discussed before that Billie Joe Armstrong (the lead singer of Green Day) has a lot going on inside his head. American Idiot isn't just about a shitty president and our loss of freedom - there's subtext that many listeners miss. That's why it was turned into a musical, and that's why, in that musical, one of the characters (Johnny) has an alternate personality (St. Jimmy). Now the masses know - the album isn't just about a war against politics and society. It's about a war against the self.

Billie Joe Armstrong, who is now 40, has mentioned myriad times that he suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. He's been without medication before, against the advice of doctors. But that's not the only connection I have to him. He also suffers from depersonalization and dissociation - hence his character of St. Jimmy in American Idiot. Anxiety, though shitty, is something many people can relate to. Dissociation and depersonalization? Not so much. So when he came forward during an interview and mentioned those disorders, I thought, "I am not alone." And suddenly, lyrics he had written had more depth. I knew he was writing about dissociation before the musical version of American Idiot came to life. In it, Johnny/St. Jimmy's girlfriend sings, "You're not the Jesus of Suburbia - St. Jimmy is a figment of your father's rage and your mother's love. Made me the idiot, America!" She caught on. She knows his game. She knows his past. And that past is Billie Joe's past, albeit in a more dramatic manner.

That past is my past, too.

Recently, Billie Joe Armstrong had a public meltdown over an issue with a concert (it involved the time allotted for the band to play, and now, isn't particularly relevant). A few days later, he checked into rehab. He smashed a guitar and yelled at a lot of people before he went, sure, but he went. At 40. Good for him.

So when people say, "Another spoiled rockstar just went to rehab, they all just take drugs, it's so old and cliche" - well, do they know WHY? Do they know the circumstances? Do they know why it matters to some of us that this man checked into rehab? If he suffers from these anxiety and dissociation disorders, he's probably using to cover up/get through/self-medicate his existence. I've been there, and it's not easy. No, I've not smashed a guitar on television in front of millions of people. I'm not nearly that famous. But I have taken a hammer to a chair out of sheer frustration and lack of understanding. The art of creation in destruction was important - it made a point, more than just a tantrum. And the point was this - HELP ME. I can only hope that right now, he's getting the help he needs.

And that is why I don't mock people for what they like (okay, yes, allow me to mock Justin Beiber, but I'm not alone in that! COME ON. I should get a free pass on that one). What they like may mean more to them than the progression of three simple chords, or lyrics that seem like one thing but actually represent another. That music may have saved someone's life. That artist may have made them feel less alone. And that is exactly how I feel about what Billie Joe has created. It's not for everyone, but it's for me. And despite the fact he needs help - which he is seeking - I wish I could personally thank him for what he's done. Even if I am the only person on this planet that he has, in a roundabout way, helped, then so be it. I found connection in a world where connection can be as trite as a twitter status about skinny jeans or a Facebook post about what lipstick is popular these days. And if connection between people can thrive - trivialities aside - then despite the pain, I think that can be a truly positive thing.

Nobody likes you, everyone left you,
they're all out without you, having fun...

It's gone!

The horrendous, discriminatory LJ Writer's Block topic about MPD/DID has been removed from the front page - and it's not even anywhere to be found in their "old topics" list! You can still see it on people's personal pages, but it is not listed in the archives.

A lot of people were very upset and annoyed by that topic, and I sent at least 6 messages to LJ letting them know that what they had done to trigger others - even to the point of self harm - was a violation of their own Terms of Service, which state that anything that might mock a disability or create violence (include violence against one's self) is to be removed or banned. It wasn't an issue of censorship, but of decency, awareness, and consideration for those with disabilities. Between my messages, the people who contacted me and asked me to contact LJ on their behalf, and the other people who stepped up to the plate, the issue is now behind us.

So thanks to everyone who helped remove such a triggering and violating topic. SUCCESS! It's a small start, but a start nonetheless. Increasing awareness about MPD/DID is next. And I hope it can be done.

Thoughts regarding a Repo! shadow cast

Ugh, typing is hard the day after chasing a bunch of 18 year-olds with massive Senioritis all afternoon (though someone, please remind me of a story regarding vandalism and a funny sign about it later...) Or maybe typing is hard because I didn't sleep last night. Want. To. Sleep. Also, I'm really glad I don't teach as a full-time job, or I would be dead.

Anyhow, I've been thinking intensely about Repo! The Genetic Opera all week. Some of you might say "big shock, Mandi," but this is for a different reason. I've watched the movie every single day this week, studying certain scenes, making sure I have all the lyrics and settings correct because - I'm thinking Maryland needs an active Repo! shadow cast. And I think that I may be the perfect person to run such a thing.

As if you needed an answer...:)Collapse )

Anyhow - feedback would be greatly appreciated. Any takers? Any thoughts or comments or concerns? Anyone willing to say, "well, you put it together and get the space, and I'll do it once a month?" I'd love to be able to find a group of 10-15 people who can work closely together, have a great time, and really rock this thing. I believe it's time someone brought a love of Repo! to this area, and I'm ready to be the one to do it. So comment here with any thoughts or ideas, or send me a private message or email (shilo@theredgreenillusion.com) if you want to talk! I'd love to know what people think.

Year of the Black Rainbow

I took the sizable package into my hands, felt every groove and curve of it, and inhaled the all-too-familiar smell of desire. It lingered in the air, taunting me, teasing me, caressing me without too much effort. I'm pretty sure I shuddered from sheer want and spine-tingling need.

And then, tired of the foreplay, and with an animalistic hunger, I devoured the package, all too eager to get to the contents inside. I knew what pleasures awaited me. I knew the road I was about to be traversing, and I had to traverse it. I wanted that sensation inside of me, loving me as I knew it would.

Well, the aural sensation, anyhow. Coheed and Cambria's actual CD, novel, and lyric book might have actually hurt a bit too much any other way:


(A picture of the loveliness. From left to right: The novel of "Year of the Black Rainbow," which tells part of the story of Coheed and Cambria, the collector's box that contains the novel and the CD/DVD/lyric book, and then, the CD/DVD/lyric book itself. There's also a "black card" in the picture, which entitles those of us who pre-ordered the album to concert discounts and other little treasures).

Yesterday, progressive-rock outfit Coheed and Cambria released their fifth studio album, entitled Year of the Black Rainbow. Those who pre-ordered it received it Monday, and as a devoted fan, I of course was among one of those who placed my order (back in December, so that I could receive the CD, DVD, AND book - not just the CD, which is what is available in stores today). So receiving the album and book Monday night was a very happy treat (especially given current circumstances...)

This fifth album is actually a prequel, telling the story of the creation of Coheed and Cambria - the characters after whom the band is named - as well as how the world in which they live came to be. When lead singer Claudio Sanchez created the concept of Coheed and Cambria, it was always with a storyline in mind. No, he wasn't going to write random songs of hurt, love, political outrage, and myriad topics to fill an album. He was going to tell a story. And so, at a little cafe in Paris, nearly a decade ago, Coheed and Cambria was born.

Albums one through four - entitled, respectively, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth:3, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, and Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow - tell about the world in which Coheed and Cambria, a seemingly normal husband and wife who have four children, dwell. But with a quick turn of events, starting with the first album (Second Stage Turbine Blade), their lives are forever altered as the biologically-engineered, Adam and Eve-like couple learn of how they came to be, and why they had been sheltered from the dark truth of their pasts for so long.

I will say, however, that even without knowing the storyline, many of the songs are still easy to relate to, and the listener need not know every detail of the story to feel the sorrow, longing, fury, driving power, and sheer force of what Coheed and Cambria has to tell us.

This is the story of Coheed and Cambria, mentioning albums one through four, for those who are interested. This does NOT contain a review about Year of the Black Rainbow.Collapse )

And that is the complete story - except for the very beginning, the prequel, released just yesterday - Year of the Black Rainbow.

I'll discuss the storyline first, and how it fits into the mythology created by Claudio Sanchez, and then I'll discuss the songs on two levels: How they fit into the story, and how they fit in other, real-life circumstances as well.

The SHORT version of Year of the Black Rainbow - this is mostly just about the novel, so if you plan to read it, there are spoilers underneath, so proceed with caution.Collapse )

So that is the storyline - which is, indeed, quite epic. But the music and lyrics that accompany it? They are sheer genius. Even taken out of context of the story, they tell a profoundly moving tale of love, loss, and life. And with a newly-polished, more refined sound - but also a throwback to the lyrical style of some of the songs from the first two albums - Year of the Black Rainbow is not to be missed.

The music of Year of the Black Rainbow.Collapse )

Thus ends my epic, intense review of the band, the storyline, and the newest album. If I could sum it up in simple terms? Buy this album. Turn it on, sit back, and let it sink into your soul, driving you to heart palpitations, tears, and turbulence. The journey is not one you're likely to forget.