The winter of 2015

Not as much snow as our northern friends, but no less beautiful...

The artwork of Cameron Hobbs

A young artist to watch out for.

Tammy the Pup approves of new look!

Semi-psychotic pooch gives two paws-up to The Knight Shift's overhaul.

Movies I've Never Seen: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

"It really tied the room together."

Catherine Rose: genius, pioneer, mother

A story of love, creativity, and perfect timing.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book: Breakthrough

Let's recap, shall we?

Dad's passing in November threw everything out of kilter, particularly writing the book.  Not just out of being in grief and recovering from losing my last remaining parent, but also because of everything that comes with a death in regard to paperwork, his estate, and so forth.  So the project I've been working on since last May, my book about having bipolar disorder, had to be put on the back burner.

In January I felt okay enough to continue working on it.  And I did.  At least for a little while.  A few more chapters were completed.

Then in February, everything slammed to a halt.

I had reached a place in conveying the narrative where my mind could not, would not, proceed any further.  It had hit a solid wall and nothing I did could break it down.  It was my memories, very painful memories, that I could not approach much less attack.

It was all of the memories of the very worst kind of person that mental illness made of me.  For twenty-some chapters it had been building to this wretched culmination, and I lacked any heart to take one step further.

The core of it was a considerable amount of material, correspondence really, from the past several years.  You could call it a kind of file.  And I couldn't open that file, though I needed contents of it to go forward with my writing.  It was a crucial amount of raw source material about myself.  I needed it for my research.  But I also see now that I needed it for my own personal understanding.

Last month helped immensely.  First the trip I made to visit family in Florida.  And then the week which my dear friend Melody spent here.  It had been Melody's idea in March that I really could go into "the file"... but also that I shouldn't be alone when I did so.  Her presence here bolstered my resolve open "the file" and see what was inside of it.  Nothing that I hadn't seen before, but it was just as painful now as it was during the time that the correspondences were accumulating.

I couldn't have done that research without a good friend being nearby who could give me encouragement and support when I needed it.

That was the end of April.  The trip to Florida renewed my cheerful spirit.  Melody's visit gave me strength to barrel through that blockade in my mind.  But something was still missing and I couldn't figure out what.  So it was that I've gone all of this month without writing anything for the book.

My narrative was still ground to a halt and I didn't know how to make it move.

Until late last night.

I finally cracked it.  The critical next chapter.  It came in a moment, the breakthrough that I had been looking for.

I spent the next few hours writing.  In the wee hours of the morning, the first draft had been completed.  And then I hurtled on to the beginning of the next chapter.

It was like a wave had been building up all of these months, finally come crashing ashore.  And when it receded, there it was: the vision of how to keep going.  How to move forward.  Three months, my efforts and frustrations were leading to this.  There were times when I genuinely wondered if I should give up this project.

Maybe it was God whispering something to me last night.  I want to think it's like that.

Writing the book is back on track.  I've broken through the wall, have overcome that torment and fear.  Doing that changed me, maybe made me a better person.  Made me stronger.

I know what to do now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chronicle of a manic-depressive episode

I'm a writer.  It's incumbent to my nature to put down my thoughts and observations, either for personal review later on or for appreciation by others so that they may come away from the time they have just spent with a little understanding and enlightenment.  At least, that is what I try to gain from anything from others that I take the time to read.  Writing is how I contribute to the larger world, and I have to be honest about what it is that I am writing about.  Regardless of how it reflects on me.

So I have no real problem with documenting my more severe bipolar episodes.  Friends on Facebook know, perhaps too well, how my writing there reflects the state of my moods.  A little over a year ago however I began to more clinically... or at least as is possible to do with such things... document my manic-depressive episodes for friends and family there to read.

There have been a lot of reasons for me doing that.  For one thing, I'm writing a whole book about having bipolar disorder, so I'm not sharing anything that won't be public knowledge anyway (at least, I hope that it will be public knowledge in the form of a published book!).  Related to that, writing on Facebook about my episodes allow me to "beta test" the tone of my writing for the book: sorta see how well it flies with others.  So far, everyone seems pretty taken in by it.  Writing about this as it happens affords a peek into something that they otherwise might never have any understanding of.  And one of the long-term benefits to me is that these "entries" do serve as a real-time journal of this condition that has wrought so much damage to my life.  Maybe there is some value in that, which I can someday look back over and draw some crucial clue from.

For the past several days, actually going back over a week and a half, I have been dealing with one such manic-depressive episode.  It had especially climbed in intensity in the last two or three days until this morning, when it finally lapsed and began to recede.

I made three entries on Facebook about it.  So I thought that I'd share those here, for anyone interested in this kind of thing.

Tuesday, May 26th, 1:28 a.m. -
Extreme depression for the past several days. From the start of the weekend on the intensity has been exceptionally severe. Depression with mixed-state of mania characterized by thoughts about death and dying, whether I have a soul or not, doubts about God really hearing me, all beyond my control absent medication... and even those aren't helping much.
There are reasons why too many bipolars commit suicide. I can barely convey the full effect of this one. Unable to live but don't know how to die. Wondering if my mind is too broken for God to care. The ghosts of so many relationships gone, because of this thing that I'll spend the rest of my life reining in.
There's a line. Most people don't know its there. You find it when you want to die. You finally cross it when the desire to no longer be here pushes you over from longed-for absence into active ideations. I have not had the ideations this time... but once more I have approached too close to the line than most people would ever want to.
"Just a little less pain, God. Just a little assurance that You are listening..."
I keep crying out to Him, desperate for Him to show me that He hears me through the madness and the despair. For God to show me that I'm not a reject, that I'm not someone He's abandoned. Because that's what I feel like, abandoned by God. And that's a worse thing than the manic-depression ever could be.
Yes, I'm on the medication. They are working. God only knows what I would be like without them.
Maybe this episode will end soon.

Tuesday, May 26th, 10:12 p.m. -
Depression/manic episode has retreated, for the most part. Still many lingering thoughts about death and questions of the soul and whether God is hearing me, however. Those were the topic of much conversation during my weekly therapy session this morning ("we covered a lot of heavy ground" in her words). Thankfully I happened to have that appointment today, when I was in dire need of it. Also discussed was the feelings of wanting to be dead, and that "line" which I explained in the previous status. Not for the first time, not for the last, I went closer to the line than in peaceful periods I would want to. She asked, again (because she had to) if I would seek help if I crossed that line into serious thoughts of killing myself. I can do that. I *have* done that and I like to think that I'll do it again when... not if, when... things come to that.
I wrote that status was to give you all some insight into what it is to be bipolar, during a particularly intensive episode. There are some reasons why I did that. One of them is because I'm writing about this in my book anyway, I thought it would be a neat idea to run this kind of material by others. Another reason is because posting these "reports" here documents something that DOES impact others.
When I've done these, I haven't asked for prayers. However, I do greatly appreciate them. And I need to express my gratitude to everyone who has lifted me up during this most recent bout with this condition.
Thank you :-)

Wednesday, May 27th, 4:57 p.m. -
Manic-depressive episode has receded. Since waking up I've had no oppressive thoughts about death or whether or not I have a soul. My frustrations with God however are seemingly never going to go away. I would still give anything for as much as a whisper from Him, that He really is listening to me. SOME indication that my mind isn't so broken that He can't hear me...
It would be nice to know if I could still have some semblance of a normal life. Maybe even a family. That's what I've asked Him most of all for.
I've tried "replicating" the episode, in my head. Tried to voluntarily bring about the feelings and thoughts that had overtaken me these past several days. I can't do it. I don't think its because of exhaustion either (mental and physical). It's because this is a disease that is so capricious. It comes and goes at its own whims. It is a separate entity from my "real" mind. I can no more "will" a bipolar episode to occur than I can command my foot to have an ingrown toenail. It's impossible to make such an intense manic-depressive episode come about. I can certainly encourage the conditions for one, by abstaining from the medications. But the arrival of the episodes themselves are completely beyond my control.
There is some strange comfort in that. Almost an affirmation that this isn't "just in my head", if you catch my meaning. That there truly is a physiological basis for this condition.
Even so, it does seem too unfair. To have a disease that sends my mood so completely out of whack and robs me of clear thinking. I *do* demand God to tell me how could He let such a thing happen, to anyone. What if mental illness keeps someone from knowing about Him at all? Is that person eternally damned because of bipolar or schizophrenia? Am I damned for wondering such things?
Is that why it's as if God doesn't hear my cries to Him? Because I don't have enough faith in Him for giving me such a damnable disease.
Theological musings aside, the episode is fast fading in the rear view mirror. So for now, I will be content with that much.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rest in peace John Nash

Very sad news today about John Forbes Nash, Jr. and his wife Alicia, who perished in an automobile accident last night in New Jersey.

I read A Beautiful Mind several years ago, and then again during research while writing my own book (even though Nash suffered from schizophrenia and not bipolar disorder).  However it was that the movie portrayed the hell that he went through, his real-life ordeal was much, much worse.  But he endured, and triumphed wildly.  His work in game theory - even as a graduate student - revolutionized economics and ultimately led to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1994.  I wish I had even a fraction of the mind to really appreciate the work that Nash pulled off throughout his long and brilliant career.

Thoughts and prayers going out to their family.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Look! Lindsey Stirling and Josh Groban perform "Pure Imagination"... with the Muppets!

You know you've hit the big time when you land a gig with the Muppets.  So it has now happened with violinist/dancer/artistic force of nature Lindsey Stirling.

Check out Stirling performing a rendition of "Pure Imagination" in this video mounted by Kermit and the gang (and oh yeah, vocals by this Josh Groban guy too):

Monday, May 18, 2015

Here it comes: The Knight Shift SWIMSUIT EDITION!

You couldn't resist, could you?  You were duly warned.  You were told that there was nothing that I could do.  And yet some of you couldn't keep yourselves from asking me about her.  SOME of you even went so far as to offer money for her Facebook page.  And I can't do that either.

But never let it be said that this blog doesn't try to deliver.

So it is that today, I bring to you the first ever...

The Knight Shift

Featuring my beautiful cousin Rachael as she models a variety of cutting-edge swim attire.  As well as more about her, in her own words.

"I'm local in Miami but plan to travel internationally this summer. I'm happily single and plan on that for awhile lol"

"I eat honey every day. And I love God and life!"

"I hope to stay in the light and be a light no matter the darkness I've faced or will ever face ahead."

"It's all about perspective and keeping our minds stayed on peace is key to getting through anything crazy that life brings."

"I'm hard on myself and def not anywhere close to perfect but pray for me that I will stay strong!"

"Life is tough, but God is more powerful than all that."

(Editor's note: the one below is my personal favorite of the suits that Rachael is modeling.  I've never seen a piece of fabric engineering like that.  A real work of art!)

Yes, she's beautiful no matter what she's wearing.  But Rachael also has an amazingly beautiful heart.  She is a remarkably sweet young lady and her devotion to God has inspired me to seek Him first also as I embark upon my own endeavors.  I am very blessed and honored to call her my cousin.

I've learned something from these photos, something I never understood before.  I have not ever been a real fan of "swimsuit issues" of magazines or television specials or what have you.  Yes, I'm as red-blooded a guy as you can get, but that sort of thing has never been what I go for in terms of lovely attire on a female.  What I mean is: girls in swimsuits have never "turned me on".  But in looking at these photos I've realized something: that the purpose of swimsuit photos is NOT so much the woman and how "appealing" she is, but it really is a showcase of fashion design and creativity.  A beautiful woman in a well-conceived and realized swimsuit is a magnificent work of art, to be enjoyed and appreciated as a single entity.

Well, that's what I took away from it, anyway.

And so concludes the first (only?) The Knight Shift Swimsuit Edition.  Lord only knows if there will be another :-P

Too many candidates? How to remedy the presidential debates

In the past few days I've seen a lot of commotion about the first Republican presidential "debate", set for a few months from now.  The biggest deal is about the number of candidates who may appear on the stage: some are counting as many as 19.  And there's the mess going on right now with George Stephanopoulos: the ABC whateverhedoes and how he donated $75,000 to the Clintons: common sense would be that no "journalist" that blatantly compromised would serve as moderator for any debate, much less a Republican one.

Then again, I haven't been impressed by any moderator of presidential politics in recent years.  Don't even get me started on the Fox News guy who blatantly asked Ron Paul during one of the early debates if he seriously thought he was a presidential contender.  If that wasn't biased journalism, then I don't know what is.

Back to the amount of candidates.  Actually, we can address the moderator issue as well.  There is a very simple solution.  Of course this being about the politics and power of high office, don't expect it to be adopted:

All 19 candidates in a row on stage.  The moderator asks one question to all of the candidates.  Then in random order each candidate gives his response, with a minute of time allotted for his or her answer.  No rebuttals.

It's not a "debate" in the fullest sense of the term.  More of a candidates forum.  And it's worked before.

When I ran for board of education some years ago, there were 16 candidates running for five seats.  There were two forums for candidates to express their views.  There was a televised forum, which due to studio space constraints had us going in front of the camera three at a time, and there was a public forum at one of the county's elementary schools.  Fifteen candidates total took to the stage (another candidate refused to come and tried to make a ridiculous spectacle of it later on).  I think we got in 5 or 6 questions total.  It ran quick and smooth, and everyone came away from it informed about the candidates.

It also served to engender no animosity among the candidates or toward the moderator.  When everyone is getting asked the same question, without room for obvious bias on the part of the alleged journalist doing the moderating, well... it makes for a debate that is more even-keel for all involved.

Fifteen candidates doing a debate.  That was completely fair and unbiased in regard to anyone.

Don't tell me it can't be done.  It can.  I should know.  I was there.  I was one of the candidates.

But I'm not expecting my recommendations to meet with any approval from either the Republican or Democrat parties, or the media giants who perpetuate the weary drama between them.  My suggestions are meant for a better sort of citizenry.  Maybe someday, in the not-too-distant future, those people will rise to the task and take charge of this country away from the corrupt and the power-mongers.

TWIN PEAKS is back on and David Lynch is directing!

I said a few posts down that I spent the weekend away from the Internet, so I could re-focus my thoughts, especially toward writing the book.  However this bit of news almost yanked me away and had me rejoicing on this blog.

So in case you missed it: David Lynch is returning to helm the Twin Peaks revival!  And not only that  but apparently there will be more than the nine-episode order we had already been told was coming.

Apparently the heart of the disagreement that had earlier threatened production is that Lynch wanted more resources to tell the story the way he felt it needed to be told.  Which is totally understandable.  Twin Peaks is his baby, always had been.  Nobody else could pull off the mystery, the tension, the flat-out weirdness that has made this show so consistently beloved and admired over the past two decades.  Twin Peaks never got the full resolution it deserved.  But next year, thanks to Showtime, we'll be getting that.

The show is still on for the summer of 2016.  It will air exactly one-quarter of a century after the final episode of its broadcast run in 1991.  Right on time for, as dream-Laura told Dale:

Speaking of 25 years, how has the cast fared all of this time?  Based on this video that Madchen Amick (who played Shelly Johnson) posted... they look downright great!  I think this is everyone except Kyle MacLachlan and Ray Wise (we know MacLachlan will be back as Dale Cooper, and Ray Wise's character is dead), Jack Nance died under mysterious circumstances (no joke) so Pete can't return, and Frank Sylva (Killer BOB) passed away from illness.  Otherwise it looks like the whole gang did this clip:

This is looking better than I originally imagined. Wonder if the cherry pie is as good as ever...

So... is Princess Leia now a Disney Princess or what?

Two days after the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm two and a half years ago, a friend from high school told me over Facebook that her daughter was wondering about something.  It was a good question then and it's just as good if not more so now:

"Is Princess Leia from Star Wars now a Disney Princess?"

 Okay, so Leia is now under the Disney umbrella.  Admittedly, that means very little in the grander scheme of things.  I'm not seeing anyone equating Han Solo with Prince Charming after all.

But Leia is a bona-fide princess.  In fact, she's on a whole 'nother level from the Disney Princesses.  She's the adopted daughter of Bail Organa of the Royal House of Alderaan.  That's a much bigger deal than Aurora's kingdom or Ariel's realm under the sea.  Snow White had the witch trying to destroy her... but Leia had the forces of Emperor Palpatine hunting her down, led by no less a dark knight than Darth Vader himself.  Tiana is a product of the French Quarter of New Orleans.  Well, Leia comes from an even sleazier background: senate politics!  And don't even get me started on how Leia does things with her hair that Rapunzel can only dream about.

And yet the question persists: does Leia belong among the ranks of the Disney leading ladies?

Well, I have an answer, and it's kinda as official a statement as we're apt to get for the time being.

A few weeks ago I was out of town and came across a Disney Store.  I went into check out the Star Wars stuff, and once more found myself contemplating the Leia/Princesses conundrum.  Just out of curiosity I asked one of the associates, and I was expecting something of a humorous answer.  However when she called the store manager to come over, I knew that something more was afoot.  The manager told me that I was far from the only one who's asked them about that.  Indeed, so many have asked Disney Store employees across the country that question that there is now a semi-official response from Disney...

Here it is: Princess Leia is not a Disney Princess.  To be counted among their ranks, a proposed heroine must be inducted at a special ceremony at one of the Disney parks, and that hasn't happened yet for Leia.  However, that's not to say that it won't happen at all.  There is some speculation that Disney will have her coronation sometime fairly soon, possibly even in time for Episode VII: The Force Awakens this coming December.

There is a very significant amount of support for her to be made a bona fide Disney Princess.  The leadership of Disney is well aware of this.  And as Star Wars continues to grow under the Disney aegis, expect that support to increase further.

So there we have it: Leia isn't a Disney Princess yet.  But the odds to seem to be in her favor that she will be one, and sooner than later.

I know: it's not the kind of earth-stopping thing that's utterly critical.  But in this crazy world that is going more insane seemingly by the hour, I thought it was something worth chuckling about :-)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Coming tomorrow...

The post that could finally break The Knight Shift.

Maybe the post that finally sends me to prison.  Or at least will have people wanting me to get incarcerated.

This blog's most outrageous post to date.

There will be some more posts coming tomorrow (I spent most of the weekend away from the Internet completely, so I could clear my head and cut through the fog keeping me from writing for the book.  It worked, incidentally: this afternoon I finished the first new chapter since late February.)

So those posts will get done.  And then, probably late tomorrow afternoon or early evening, will come nothing less than the boldest post in this blog's history.

But I also like to think that on some level, it will be pretty funny.

What is it?  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 15, 2015

How about something beautiful for a change?

This is my cousin, Rachael:

No, guys: you may not ask me for her phone number.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Out of the Maw

Exhausted.  Worn down and running on bare metal.  Whether the drugs are helping or dragging down on mere being is something no longer discernible.  My mind is a chemical kalediscope of up and down and in and out, like one of those movies from the Sixties but without the funky soundtrack.  Trying to keep it together, without being subsumed or consumed by madness on all fronts.

These past few days, thoughts of wanting to be dead haven't stopped.  Thoughts of active ideations of suicide are not there but I'm fighting to stay away from that edge.  Something I've already come too close to.

Not the first time.  Not the last.

I didn't want to look into the abyss.  I was forced to gaze into it.

Take the meds.  Slow it down.  Up the intake.  Breathe in this lithium night.  Take the edge off.  Forget how much you lose as a writer and a thinker.  Be living, not alive.  Mere existence is a crawl.  Life to the fullest accompanied by near-psychosis, or breathing day to day without fulfillment of purpose.

Damn the disease.  Damn the drugs far more so.

I take the meds.  And I will live and be haunted for one more night.
I have no tears and I must cry.

The drugs took the tears all away.

I miss being able to cry.