I Am by Tom Shadyac

My husband told me about this documentary by Tom Shadyac,  I Am,thinking I would like it. And I think I would, but I must admit that the idea of a Hollywood millionaire preaching about how we need to simplify our lives to find happiness smacks of self-congratulatory hypocrisy.

My first question to this premise was “What did Shadyac do with his millions?” I looked up his net worth: 5 million dollars. It’s easy to, if not be happy, at least live a less stress-filled life with 5 million dollars in the bank. Yes, he moved to a mobile home, but I doubt he is experiencing the typical mobile home experience I see living in rural upstate NY. Does his roof leak? Does he do without heat part of the winter because he can’t afford to fill his propane tank or oil tank? These are the experiences of the mobile home dwellers in my part of the country. They don’t have time to ponder the Biq Questions. That are trying to survive. Literally.

I think Shadyac probably doesn’t know anyone like this. Understandable. Neither do my parents. They live in the Land of Relative Comfort, where everyone they know can pay their bills and can afford to go out for a $250 dinner every month. I imagine Shadyac’s experience is even more foreign to living poor than my family’s is. I have an idea. Let’s stick him in a freezing trailer for a month, with a roof that leaks with every thaw, with some health issues and no health insurance, and talk about how to attain Enlightenment. I’m curious to see what he comes up with.

So while I am in agreement with his premise, I think he needs to shade it. Yes, as long as your basic needs are met, happiness is about something else entirely. I live that and breathe that. But I have a roof over my head, and food on my table. Would I be happy if I had neither? I wouldn’t even have the luxury of contemplating that question. And really, neither should he.


Raising Money, Again, for Sarcoma (from 2012)

A colorful quilt can do more than brighten a winter day or keep a lap warm. For a sarcoma patient, it could pay for gas to go to a sarcoma center and get proper treatment. It could save a life, said Suzie Siegel, a board member of the Sarcoma Alliance.

“It is vital to get a second opinion, especially when dealing with a rare cancer like sarcoma,” said Nancy Lee Dunn, owner of Seven Sisters Gift Shop in North Creek, N.Y. She has a $130 batik quilt in her Etsy store, with proceeds going to the Alliance.

Dunn, Siegel and others have started selling items on Etsy, eBay, Craigslist and other online services this week to raise money for the national nonprofit. Founded in 1999 in Mill Valley, Calif., the Alliance provides education, guidance and support to people affected by sarcoma. Its website lists comprehensive sarcoma centers; educates patients on how to get insurance reimbursements; and offers a grant of up to $500 to reimburse expenses if someone gets a second opinion from an expert.

Dunn, an English teacher, participates in the Alliance’s Facebook group in hopes of helping her sister-in-law with hemangiopericytoma, one of more than 50 subtypes of sarcoma.

In 2003, her sister-in-law had an abdominal tumor removed. “The doctors said they weren’t sure what it was, but to get a CAT scan in a year, which she did. No more follow up was recommended.” In 2011, she had chest pains while running and went to an emergency room, only to find her lungs full of metastases. She checked her medical records and found she was supposed to be checked annually, Dunn said.

“I think any patient diagnosed with sarcoma should go to a sarcoma center where they see this cancer frequently. I truly believe a knowledgeable medical team is an important factor in surviving sarcoma.”

Sarcoma is a cancer of connective tissue, including bone, muscle, nerve and fat tissue. It can arise anywhere in the body at any age, from newborn on up, said Siegel, who lives in Tampa.

“I’ve made a resolution to pass on vintage items I never use to those who will really appreciate them,” said the leiomyosarcoma survivor, who just opened the Sarcoma Alliance store on Etsy and put her first item on eBay. “I’ve also started making some jewelry with stones from Ed Gerber and Debbie McCoy.”

“Ed, who lives in the Dallas area, has cut and polished some rare and wonderful stones, such as the red-and-black plume agate whose sale will benefit the Alliance. It comes from the Woodward Ranch, which is famous for unique agates.”

“I am hoping that my small donation will help those that need it far more than I do,” Gerber said.

Siegel said she strings necklaces at the Tampa Bead Cafe, which McCoy owns. The store, which will soon sell supplies online, has long tables in which people can work on their projects together. McCoy said she welcomes cancer patients and others struggling with health issues.

“You can leave your worries at the door, and just relax amid all the pretty colors and play with the beads with friends and family, ’cause when you are here, you are family. I sit down with many of my customers to help them finish projects.”

Arts and crafts have long been used to help people express their feelings and find peace, Siegel said.

“Whenever you see something being sold to raise sarcoma awareness, ask if any of the money goes to help patients. If not, please take a look at our stuff,” she added. The link is http://sarcomaalliance.org/shop/

Writing Is Easy and Another Drug Death

“Hemingway used to say, to an uninformed question no doubt in need of this kind of answer: ‘Writing? Writing is easy…you just sit down and open a vein.'”

I felt like this the past week. I wrote about a very painful situation from when I was doing dog rescue, and it just gutted me. I think that writing like that, painful memories, is so tough, but so healing as well. I felt like I could put that to peace after I wrote about it.

In very sad news: 

Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin OD last night. I am very sorry for his family and friends. From all accounts, he was a very nice man and, obviously, a talented one. But it sounds like he was a tortured man, also. He had some alcohol and drug issues as a young man, and got clean at the age of 22. He stayed clean for 23 years. What possesses someone to pick up a drug or alcohol after 23 years? I know, the AA proponents will say it is with you forever. I don’t buy that. I think he got bored, or overwhelmed and forgot, or maybe never really learned, that this will kill you in a NY second and not stop by for your funeral. Most addicts who are quit can’t drink or do any other drugs or they end up back down that rabbit hole. I don’t know. Of course I don’t know what was in his life, I have no idea what really drove him back to drugs, but I can say this: you cannot mess with heroin.

Unless you want a horrible, terrible life and good possibility of dying young, no can should ever mess with heroin. There is no coming back once you start. Yes, you can get off of it, but it seems to hang around longer, begging you to return, than alcohol and many other drugs do

Jim Carrey just said this today about Mr. Hoffman: “For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much.” I think there is much truth in that. 

So, Philip Seymour Hoffman, RIP. I am sorry it got you. Maybe your story will keep someone else from taking up that terrible drug.