Prince Harry & Mental Illness

Mental illness, like any disease is immune to class, race, income or even level of fame.

Recently, Prince Harry opened up about the years of emotional numbness he went through after the death of his mother in the summer of 1997.

As much as I would like to say that his experience dealing mental illness is trivial compared to someone who has lived with it their entire life, I can’t. Mental illness is mental illness is mental illness. Whether it is due to the loss of parent that has not been emotionally dealt with or someone who has diagnosed depression and is being treated, neither is more important than the other.

What is important, is that his celebrity has opened the door just a little and started a conversation. We need to have this conversation and if this conversation starts with Prince Harry, I am happy to continue it.

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Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture Book Review

It’s no secret that many young girls are obsessed with all things pink, sparkly and generally princess-y. The question that many adults and many parents ask, is this obsession nature or nurture?

Journalist and writer Peggy Orenstein answers this question in her 2011 book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. To find the answer she is seeking, Ms. Orenstein not only writes about her own daughter, but about the cues and pressures from well-known companies such as American Girl, Disney and the world of child beauty pageants. She also talks about how the internet comes into play and the images that young girls see in various formats, whether they be in print on-screen or maybe, in their own homes.

What I truly appreciated about this book is how frank Ms. Orenstein is. Parenting is hard, but it is made harder by the very well executed marketing plans of companies that sells children’s toys and the mixed messages our children and our girls in particular are still receiving. But, she concludes, it is possible to counteract the in face-ness of the pink/sparkly/princess-y image that our girls are receiving and raise them to stand on their own two feet and think for themselves.

I recommend it.

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A Quiet Passion Movie Review

Emily Dickinson is one of the most iconic poets in American history.

The new film, A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily and Jennifer Ehle as her sister/best friend Vinnie, starts off when Emily is a young woman. Unconventional from an early age, the film starts when Emily is in school. The teacher asks the students a question about religion. While the rest of the students quietly answer the teacher’s question, Emily is outwardly defiant and answers the teacher’s question on her own terms.

A short time later, the film flashes forward to Emily as an adult. Still unconventional, Emily writes in the early morning hours and shows no interest in the traditional path of marriage and children. As illness sets in and she becomes a recluse with a very sharp tongue, life changes and the relationships with her sister and brother, Austin (Duncan Duff) are tested.

I must clarify something before I proceed. I have heard of Emily Dickinson, but I have not read any of her poetry. This review is strictly based on the movie and not my knowledge (or lack thereof) of her life and work. My problem with the film is that a) it’s long and b) even with a stellar cast and respected writer/director like Terrence Davies, I was really just underwhelmed by the film.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

A Quiet Passion is presently in theaters.

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Yom HaShoah

Today is Yom HaShoah, the day we remember the 6 million Jews murdered in The Holocaust.

I normally prefer to talk about The Holocaust in general terms, but I feel like today telling my family’s story.

In one sense I am quite lucky. My great grandparents settled in this country well World War I. By the time World War II started, their children, my grandparents, were growing up couched in the freedom and safety of America. The families they left behind were not so lucky. On my mother’s maternal line, both of her grandparents were born and raised in Dobromil, Poland (which is now in the Ukraine).

In the late 1970’s, at the urging of his children, my mother’s grandfather published a short book about the shtetl of his youth. It was called Dobromil.

The book is dedicated to the memory of his father, his siblings and their families who lost their lives because they were Jews.

Meyer (or Meir in Hebrew) Treiber was registered by one of my uncles on the Yom HaShoah database 40 years ago. Meyer was my mother’s great-grandfather.

The survivors are starting to pass away. Their first person accounts of the horrors they experienced will soon be a memory.

It’s important to remember all of the victims. Not just the Jews, but the Gypsies, the Homosexuals and everyone who was killed because they did not fit into the world that the Nazis envisioned. It’s also important to remember because the Holocaust is not the first, or the last mass slaughter in modern memory of human beings who were killed because they were different.

At the beginning and end of the day, we are all human beings. No matter what labels are used to define us, we are the same inside.

I’m going end this post with a quotation by Martin Niemoller that is as true today as it was during World War II.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Z”l

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Flashback Friday-Brotherly Love (1995-1997)

Our families and our siblings, especially can either be our best friends or our worst enemies.

In the short-lived series, Brotherly Love (1995-1997), the Lawrence Brothers, Joey, Matthew and Andrew played the Roman Brothers. Their father has recently passed away and the eldest brother Joe has returned home initially to just collect his inheritance. The reunion with his stepmother, Claire (Melinda Culea) and younger half brothers Matt and Andy is not exactly lovey dovey. Seeing that he is needed, Joe agrees to return home to have a hand in raising his brothers and keep the family business going.

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this show. As I look back on this show, it just feels like another mediocre 1990’s sitcom that was given a shot and like many sitcoms, just did not last.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Pride And Prejudice Character Review: Charles Bingley

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

There is always something fascinating about the new boy or girl in town.  The aura of their newness and mystery brings out the detective in everyone, eager to find out the details on their new neighbor.

In Pride and Prejudice, the book really gets going when the rumors in Meryton start to fly about the newest member of the community, Charles Bingley.  He is young, handsome and rich, as Mrs. Bennet crows in delight to her husband.

  “What is his name?”

“Bingley.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

The readers and the characters are fully introduced to Mr. Bingley at a local ball. Bingley is amiable, friendly and quickly develops feelings for Jane Bennet, the eldest of the five Bennet daughters. The feelings are mutual, but his best friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sisters, Caroline and Louisa would prefer that Bingley look elsewhere for a wife. Though Bingley is smitten with Jane, he is convinced to break off the relationship even before it has begun.

The end of the book is not unexpected. While Jane is silently pining for Bingley, he is regretting that not only did he walk away from her, but that he let others make his decision for him. He returns to Meryton (with Mr. Darcy in tow, whom he will soon call brother-in-law), proposes to Jane and they all live happily ever after.

Often, when Pride and Prejudice is referred to, most people outside of the Janeite (the nickname for Jane Austen fans) community think of Mr. Darcy. But while Darcy gets the attention, Bingley quietly slips into the background. While he is not the romantic hero and needs to grow a pair, he is amiable, friendly and unlike his best friend, not judgmental or snobbish. Despite his second nature story line, Bingley’s character arc and growth throughout the novel is equal to Darcy.

To sum it up: Sometimes the quieter character growth is more important than the bombastic one. In learning to stand up for himself and his needs, Mr. Bingley grows from a young man who loses himself in other’s opinions to a man who is not afraid to speak up when someone else is trying to make his decisions for him.  Character growth, in whatever direction it takes, is the most important job of a writer, regardless of whether the character is in your face, or waiting in the wings for it’s moment to shine.

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Throwback Thursday-Where The Heart is (2000)

Those who we call family are not always defined by a blood test or a DNA test. Family is defined as someone who cares about us and takes time out of their day to include us in their lives.

In the 2000 movie, Where The Heart Is, Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) has the unfortunate luck of being a 17-year-old girl who is pregnant (and very near her due date) who has been abandoned by her boyfriend/baby daddy on a cross-country road trip. She is unemployed, has very little money to her name and is temporarily living in a Walmart in a the small town of Sequoyah, Oklahoma. After her daughter is born, Novalee decides to stay in Sequoyah and creates a family from among the strangers who took her and her daughter in.

Before I start my review, I have to state that this movie is based on a book of the same name by that I have not read. The review is solely based on the movie. While the movie is a little schmaltzy, it proves that family is not defined by common DNA and strangers can become family.

I recommend it.

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A Shitty First Draft Is Better Than No Draft At All

I’ve been thinking about something.

Some of you may know that I am a freelance writer on top of my day job. Last night I finished the first draft of an article that is due by the end of the week.

It was not an easy first draft to write, mainly because other writers on this website had written about the same subject and I didn’t want to duplicate their ideas.

But I got it done, which is what matters.

One of my favorite books on writing is called Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott. It’s not so much of a technical book on writing as it is encouraging the writer to write. There is a chapter within this book called Shitty First Drafts.

That is the perfect way to explain the draft that I finished last night. It’s a shitty first draft. I am more than expecting that the editor will come back to me with changes that she would like to have made to the draft. But it’s done, which is what matters.

It’s a shitty first draft, which is better than no draft at all.

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Why I Re-Read A Strange Stirring

In 2017, it’s easy for modern women to appreciate the rights and accomplishments that we can call our own. But, at the same time, we don’t have to travel that far to go back to a time when a woman’s sphere was limited to that of a wife, mother and homemaker.

Today I finished re-reading A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz. In the book, Ms. Coontz examines now only the impact of Betty Friedan’s world-changing book, The Feminine Mystique, but also the criticism that was lobbied at the book and Ms. Friedan.

I re-read A Strange Stirring for two reasons: 1) how far women have come in a short span of 2-3 generations and 2) I needed reminder of how complex the feminist movement is. It is more than the right to vote or to own property or to receive an education. It is our continued fight to be seen and appreciated as the complex and complicated human beings that we are.

I also recommend it, in case anyone has not read it.

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SURVIVORS CLUB The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz Book Review

Among the six million Jews that were murdered in World War II, 1 million of them were children.

Michael Bornstein was one of the lucky ones.

His experience during the war is chronicled in the new book, SURVIVORS CLUB The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz. Co-authored by Mr. Bornstein and his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat, the narrative is told through the mixed lens of fiction and memoir. Michael Bornstein was born in 1940, in the Polish town of Zarki to a middle class family. He is one of the youngest survivors of Auschwitz and lost several family members to the Nazi murder machine.

I really enjoyed this book. What made it interesting was the narrative, in both fiction and memoir form, which is hard to not only combine, but combine in a narrative that is readable. Combining his memories with interviews from older family members who also survived, this book is a reminder of not only inhumane we can be to each other, but also that even in darkness, there is always a little bit of hope.

I recommend it.

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