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The Adventure Begins

Whisperings of @HWsWhisperer

Welcome, my friends, to the blog that never ends. I’m so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside.

I appreciate you stopping by. I’m about to start a blogging journey into the world of reality TV, coping with depression, life as a real-life housewife, and occasional images that I capture as a hobbyist nature photographer. If that sounds eclectic and all over the place…welcome to my mind.

I hope you’ll join me on this adventure, even if it’s only for the topics that interest you personally. Grateful, to be honest, that you found your way here and were willing to take the time to see what it’s about.

Stay tuned for updates, or better yet, subscribe so they come directly to you! Wishing you a blessed day!

Fairy’s Magical Light

When Lou first asked me to speak, my immediate reaction was fear. I’m better and less stuttery and awkward in written form. But I quickly recovered and told him that if I was ever going to push through fear to honor someone, it would be her.

The next challenge I faced was deciding what I could possibly tell a room full of people, many of whom had known her longer and had more face to face interactions with her than I was blessed with. Then it hit me that no two relationships are the same and that the best way to celebrate her was to give you all a glimpse of the Fairy you might not have known.

Before I begin, I want to let you know that I’ll be referring to our beautiful loved one as Fairy. I rarely ever called her by her given name. You can check my phone and messenger contacts for proof of that fact. It was how she introduced herself to me, and it suited the magical nature she embodied.

She and I met almost two decades ago in the early days of the internet. She popped up in my private messages and considering she and I were both brought up on Ohio’s unwritten motto of “stranger danger” it’s a feat in and of itself that she reached out and I answered.

If you stop and think about how many people cross your path each day, be it in real life at a grocery store or a gas station, or if it’s via online life as you scroll through your preferred social media platform…the odds of finding your split apart soulmate seem impossible. I, however, hit the lottery.

She and I both had real life sisters that we love, but we were chosen sisters of the heart. As different as night and day in some respects. I’d rather be waterboarded than watch the Hallmark Channel or The Young & The Restless, and she felt the same about my penchant for horror movies and true crime. But in the most important ways we were eerily similar. Like our spirit decided to rend itself in two and live two completely different lives to maximize the adventures and experiences the world had to offer us.

What radiated most from her though, that drew everyone in, was her light. What you might not know about her was that she was the most social hermit on the planet. She literally had thousands of friends across the world. I enlisted some of them to give me a word that epitomized her that I could share with you today. The most prevalent ones were kindness, compassion, perspective, and humor. All of which she had in droves. The one that made me laugh the hardest was snacks, and anyone who knew her even a little bit knows how fitting that was.

All of those responses and seeing all of your faces here today have given me one of the greatest lessons I’ve received from her (and considering how much she taught me, that’s saying a lot.) It’s showed me that everyone of us who were blessed enough to bask in her light, absorbed some of it and it’s ours forever. It’s our keepsake to cherish and carry with us as we travel along until our souls unite with her again. My prayer today is that it warms you when you are cold, that it lights your path when you feel lost, and that it casts out darkness and puts things into perspective in a way that only our magical Fairy could. 

In Remembrance of My Fairy

Eighteen years ago chance and a penchant for reality television brought an amazing woman into my life. It was back when message boards were all of the rage and being a shy introvert I didn’t even use my real name. Back then I was OpenHeart. I mostly lurked. Being raised on “stranger danger” I had no idea who these people were in real life, and God forbid I befriend an axe murderer.

I finally worked up the nerve to make a post or two and got my first reply from someone named Fairydusted. She was quick to joke and shared a lot of the same perspectives I did. Silly chitchat ensued and then it came…an Instant Message. I laugh now looking back on the sheer panic that overcame me when I saw it. I had never spoken privately to a stranger on the internet. My imagination went into overdrive and I had seemingly infinite scenarios running rampant about who she might actually be. None of them were good and all of them were wrong.

It turned out that she was a housewife just like me, but living in Las Vegas. We laughed over the fact that I was her first private message as well, and she had hesitated in writing for the same reasons I hesitated to even open the message. A couple of total spazzes had just made their first connection and there were more to come.

She had been born and raised in Ohio near Twinsburg, and when I told her of my irrational fear of twins (they have a yearly convention in Twinsburg) she decided that I was exactly her kind of weird. There are a select few moments in life that will alter you forever, and this was one of mine.

Not long after, we both worked up the nerve to exchange phone numbers. It wasn’t long before I had to change my phone plan to include unlimited long distance, because we could not stop talking. Everything was on the table for discussion. Things I’d never shared with a soul were now locked away in her vault and her secrets were kept in mine. The immediate trust was unfathomable to me. It wasn’t remotely who I was or even who I am now, but she engendered it immediately.

God had given both of us sisters through birth, but we chose each other as sisters.  From the outside we were one of the oddest duos to ever join forces. A stodgy naive Protestant who didn’t touch drugs and a reefer-toking half lapsed Catholic half Wiccan. She swore like a sailor and I would type “LMHO” with the “h” standing for hiney.

She shattered my pre-conceived notions and stereotypes with her purity and light. She expanded my mind and made me question things I thought were immutable facts. She was open to anything and everything that fell within her moral code, and that code was one of our greatest similarities.

We were “live and let live” types, or more aptly put, she was one and she transformed me into one. I would not be remotely who I am today had she not taught me to eschew judgment and proceed through life with love and light.  That was her motto and creed, and often the ending to her answering machine message.

Over the years our friendship grew and she was finally able to come for a visit. My girls loved her from jump and thought she was the coolest thing since Stevie Nicks. Despite her efforts, she was unable to control her language in front of them. With each slip up she’d say, “Girls, don’t grow up to talk like your effing Aunt Fairy.” Spoiler alert: they both did, and it makes me laugh every time. I can’t blame them. She was always cool as heck.

I’ll never divulge her secrets, but I will say this…she was a survivor of the highest order. The things she endured in her life would break the hardest of hearts. Never once in our entire friendship did she ever see herself as or take on the role of victim. She always had a story at the ready about someone who’d been through worse.

She had her struggles and things that plagued her and we would often have “brutal truth” talks where I wouldn’t allow her to hide from her role in them. Most friends in my life would drop me in a heartbeat for only being willing to give an honest opinion, but she treasured it and thanked me for it. It never got in the way of our love for each other.

Life did sometimes get in the way and we could go weeks or even a month without speaking. When we did reconnect, we’d pick up right where we left off. Each of us refusing to guilt the other about the break, because we both knew that’s how life worked. Plus, we were just thrilled to be reunited again.

When she moved back to Ohio we had all kinds of plans to get to meet up more regularly. Then life threw us other curveballs and John went through multiple surgeries and her Dad and step mom moved in with her. The timing never gelled. A mere three hours away from each other and we could never make it happen.

We used to joke about moving in together, because we were both a fair bit younger than our husbands. A two-person Golden Girls setup that would have us laughing and raising a ruckus well into our 80s. Tonight as I was shaving John’s head and still fighting tears back, “Thank You For Being A Friend” came on the radio. I have never heard that song on my favorite station ever.

I looked up at the radio with tears falling down and could only utter, ” No, Fairy, thank YOU.” I will miss her and love her forever and I know those of you whose lives she touched will too. My heart and soul reach out to you now as we grieve the loss, but we will honor her best if we continue filling the world with love and light.

Until we meet again, my beautiful Fairy. I love you.

PR Spin Has Lost Its Power

Whether we’re talking about picturesque Dutch windmills or modern wind turbines, spin has always been a key to power. Hollywood has been rife with scandal since its inception in the early 1900s and where there is scandal, there is a need to manage it. Enter: the spin of public relations.

Information has always been a powerful resource. Back in the Golden Era of Hollywood, J. Edgar Hoover recognized this and had the FBI descend upon Hollywood to gather information on figures who had begun to capitalize on their newly developed star power. Actors like Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn could suddenly be curtailed and controlled by their own lapses in judgment in their personal lives. Anyone who stepped too far out of line could be immediately forced to step back with threats of releasing unseemly tidbits that would cause their fickle fandom to turn on them.

It wasn’t only the government who saw the value in this information. Studio heads saw its worth as well and capitalized on it by way of morality clauses in contracts and keeping dossiers on their less well-behaved stars and starlets. If the folder got too thick or an actor stepped too far out of line, the reins of release were tightened. When that wasn’t a strong enough motivator, the coup de grâce of a blackball would end their once-storied existences.

In addition to the FBI and studio heads, another force emerged…the gossip columnist. Arguably the biggest rivalry for that sovereign crown was between Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. Hedda had a readership of close to 35 million, so in my humble opinion she was the wearer of the regal diadem, but Louella scooped her on more than one occasion. Studios implemented “fixers” to step in when things went really far afield. Think “Mr. Wolf” from Pulp Fiction played exquisitely by Harvey Keitel. These cleaners could make a scandal disappear before a scent of impropriety could escape and waft towards the noses of the gossip bloodhounds.

This system worked for close to a century, with only whispers of truth escaping, that were written off as unsubstantiated rumor or Old Hollywood folklore. The powers-that-be circled their wagons to protect their assets, not unlike the pioneers of yore. Having your livelihood held ransom was often the most effective gag employed.

Fast forward to present day and we see that not much has changed in the way public relations are handled. For years Harvey Weinstein got away with utterly deplorable and criminal behavior while stars whose movies we willingly forked over our hard-earned money to see sidled up next to him with megawatt smiles affixed to their faces. We may never know how much they knew, but the rumblings were there, like a precursor to an earthquake. Eventually the Big One hit and the earth swallowed him whole. His shiny-smiled supporters seem to walk away unscathed though, and many of us scratched our heads wondering how that could be?

The answer is in their silence. Neither publicly defending nor decrying, powerhouses like Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, and Oprah Winfrey skated through the cavernous cracked streets in the wake of the quake with the skill of Kristi Yamaguchi. Sure, there were detractors on social media, but they barely made a ripple in the vast ocean of public opinion. Harvey alone took the fall and his enablers went on.

Part of the key to the success of public relations is to control the narrative. In the old days of Hollywood fewer people had access to damaging information in the first place. With so few people to contend with, it was easy to discover the currency that would buy their silence. From offering them an exclusive all of the way to suing them for breach of a non-disclosure agreement, their control methods were vast and effective.

However, we are now in the age of the citizen journalist. The relative anonymity of the internet has allowed whistleblowers to leave bread crumbs while staying out of the direct line of fire. This emergence has dented the once smooth coat of armor surrounding Hollywood, and it has weakened its impervious nature. Everyday people can now hoist the banner of causes that matter to them and rally the spirit of like-minded souls.

The most recent examples of this push back against the wall of silence surrounding Hollywood is on display in the bullying perpetrated by Chrissy Teigen and the embezzlement claims surrounding Tom and Erika Girardi. “Regular” folks are up in arms over the fact that justice hasn’t appeared to find its way to these less-than-humble doorsteps. The less-than-sincere apologies and claims of being an unwitting victim are falling on unhearing ears.

Try as they might, the spin doctors are unable to keep their feet on their pedals against the strong winds of discontent. The public is angry, and rightfully so. Any one of us would have faced major repercussions in our lives by now. These teflon figures, however, are still living lives of opulence and decadence and flaunting it for all to see. The inequity of that isn’t lost on the “little people.” In fact, they are rising in harmony against it.

Whether these particular influencers will feel a financial dent in their lifestyles is yet to be determined. Their high powered network of friends provide them a safe haven that few can afford. I do know this…the spin will keep working if we stand silent against the Goliath. The crisis teams count on the rapid pace of the 24 hour news cycle to push their scandal out of the spotlight as we collectively move forward to the next one. But what might happen if we all decide that Hollywood’s days of double standards are done? If we didn’t let the wall of silence barricade and protect the hypocrisy of Hollywood? If one David could defeat Goliath, imagine what hundreds of them could do. Keep speaking. Let them know PR spin has lost its power over the public.

Rerouting Bad Habits

One would think that during Mental Health Awareness month, I would be inundating subscribers with thoughts, advice, and tidbits from my own journey. Perhaps if I were a medical professional looking at it from the outside of the experience, I’d have done that. As someone dealing with these issues though, I decided to take this month to actually focus on my own mental health and well-being and it has been eye opening to say the least.

Many days this month I’ve functioned quite capably and I’m putting that in the first position, because it deserves to be acknowledged and (dare I say) praised. I’m the type of person who tends to focus on my flaws first and am always awaiting with bated breath the moments where I can beat myself up for not attaining some ever-changing goal that I’ve either set for myself or that I feel that society at large expects us to attain. I’m slowly learning that this habit creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts that keeps me from my true goal of being well and content. So, kudos, self for being better more days than not. Here’s your gold star.

I’ve only had one spiraling event so far. Actually “event” isn’t the right word, because there was nothing tangible going on in my life to tie it to. It was more like a weighted cloud was resting just above me, neither touching me nor completely impeding my movement, but making everything more difficult. Kind of like trying to run on a humid day. You can do it, but breathing is more labored and every motion feels like it’s traveling through some thickened soup.

In the past on days like that, I would always keep it moving, and for some people that might be the best course of action. This process is different for everyone, and there’s no “one size fits all” to be found. In my case, however, pushing through generally resulted in me tapping myself to depletion and being useless for even more days than I would have had I just rested the first day I was struggling. Again, this is all trial and error. I’m trying to view it as a living experiment and taking mental notes on positive and negative results has helped me to learn more with each attempt about what works and what doesn’t.

Training myself out of bad habits that no longer work for me has likely been the most difficult part of this process. I’m a big fan of habits and rituals. There’s a comfort in reflexively knowing what the next step is without having to constantly run scenarios through my brain of potential outcomes. A lifetime of overthinking is how I got here after all, so any peace I can find in not thinking is welcome. Unfortunately, my brain didn’t come wired with an automatic rerouting kit when a road is closed or under construction.

Believe it or not, there once was a time when everyone didn’t have a portable GPS system in their smart phones. And while youngsters may readily imagine stumbling across a diplodocus or a brachiosaur along that pre-digital era path; in truth, it wasn’t that long ago.

Those years, which I promise were well after the Mesozoic period, were in a short lived time known as the Brick Phone era. Phones back then only made :gasp: PHONE CALLS. To successfully complete a journey from one destination to another required either previous knowledge of the route or some printed form of a map like a road atlas. In those days I happened to be working in a travel agency at AAA.

Aside from their unofficial role as the patron saints of roadside breakdowns, AAA was also known for their TripTiks. It was a narrow binder of route maps plotting your course from your home to your driving destination of choice. Even though it wasn’t my job, I often helped out my friends in that department when a holiday travel rush was upon us.

Members got them for free and likely had no idea how tedious a process it was just to map out their trip. There were pages and pages of routes that covered the entire country and you had to hand-pick the ones that applied to them while constantly cross-referencing faxed updates of construction and detours that their route contained. Hearing the squeal of the fax machine as you glanced at the stack of completed spiral bound pages filled you with the dread of having to tear them apart and insert the changes.

Before you think my cheese has slipped off my cracker completely, I’m sharing that as a way to explain what rewriting my own bad habits has been like. I have a course plotted that’s worked for years and then my depression or anxiety squeals to let me know I have to re-route. Just the alarm fills me with dread, but I either have to do the work to plot a new course, or I risk getting stranded along the way, not knowing where to go. And as anyone who has experienced anxiety knows, that’s the last place you want to be.

The detours and roadblocks on depression’s journey don’t always come before you’re underway though. There’s often an internal battle in my own head over who takes priority…depression or anxiety. For me, it’s whichever one is squealing the loudest in a given moment. I’ve been surprised to learn that helping one often calms down the other. Maybe it’s because they are often tied together, like a pair of fraternal twins. Or possibly it’s just bleeding steam off the pressure cooker that silences the high pitched whistle. Either way, the outcome is calmer and quieter.

As I wrap up this month and this entry, my main focus is to continue my efforts to reroute habits that have become unhealthy. Whether it’s evaluating relationships that do more harm than good, giving up crutches that keep me from moving under my own power, or changing the way I think about myself; they are impediments to my goals. Those pages need to be taken out and replaced with a smoother path. At least until my brain gets more advanced and does the re-routing for me.

I hope your month had more good days than bad and that you plug along toward whatever gives you the most contentment. Wishing blessings upon you until next time.

XOXO, Jen

The Big Apple Babes Are Back

RHONY is back and I am over-the-moon happy about it. Housewives fans all seem to have a favorite franchise and New York is mine. Through all of its cast changes it has maintained a through-line and pace that’s difficult to rival. Much like the city itself, this show keeps it moving and if you aren’t into the drama in one moment, the next block of it is right around the corner. The women are unapologetically themselves, except in Ramona’s case where she’s constantly apologizing for being herself, then immediately repeating her behavior.

This season we are back to the basics of Season 1 with a core cast of five women. Technically Ramona is the only one who has been full time since Season 1, but Luann has been a presence since the beginning and only had one season as a “friend of.” Sonja has been such an institution since she arrived that it’s hard to recall the show without her unless you binge it from the beginning. Leah is entering her sophomore season after a mixed reception in my circle of viewers. It’s a fairly even split among them between thinking she reinvigorated the franchise and those who think her drunken antics were over the top. They say the second season exposes a cast member’s true self, so we’ll see where she lands.

My biggest anticipation this season is focused on newcomer Eboni. For years it’s seemed crazy to me that one of the most diverse cities in the world had one of the least inclusive casts. Bravo has finally broken its apparent propensity for segregation and I’m hoping it echoes across the network. If the trailer is any indication, Eboni fits like a glove with a strong point of view, a great sense of who she is, and a personality that’s not afraid of fun or confrontation. Count me in!

The show opens with the juxtaposition of crowded New York streets pre-pandemic versus the empty streets in the era of lockdown. Not sure that we needed the reminder, but it is the reality. We see brief glimpses of what each housewife is doing before the opening taglines and they all appear to reflect their respective housewives. Not sure how quotable they are, but there wasn’t a cringe factor one…at least not for me.

Leah not only got the opening mini scene with her boxing coach Martin, but also the full opening scene. Whether that indicates her life is going to be the primary focus or not is yet to be determined, but there seems to be a whole lot of love from Bravo going on there. They did have to shell out more money for her contract than they had planned, so it’s possible they’re angling for a return on their investment. So what are we investing in? A domicile upgrade, a new puppy named Angel (who is adorable) and a conversion from lapsed Catholicism to Judaism. According to Leah, it’s Yom Kippur and that already doesn’t bode well for the optics of the sincerity behind her change of faith. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, and friends in my circle not only don’t work on that day, but they also fast and shun social media in favor of focusing solely on prayer, atonement, and temple services. I try not to judge other people’s spiritual paths though. I can’t know their hearts and it’s not my job to. I can say from my experience that it’s coming off a little like Golden Corral Judaism. A buffet of pick-and-choose which parts you like and leave the rest. Her Dad seems happy for her to have spiritual direction, while at the same time pointing out penance is a cornerstone of atonement. I’m gathering that is a part she left warming under the heat lamps.

We move on to Luann’s new abode and find that not only are she and Ramona neighbors, but they’re now besties? I didn’t see that coming and I’ve been a die hard fan since the first season. Lu sold her round house in Kingston and now has the pied-à-terre she’s been seeking for years. She cracks open a bottle of non-alcoholic rose while sharing with Ramona that she’s stopped drinking again after a couple of instances where she didn’t remember how she got home. I’m sure people will have a ton of opinions on this, but I’m going to hang back. Recovery is a process and you have to want it for yourself, and believe you have a problem. Courts can try to mandate it, but it won’t stick until you feel it applies to you. It seems she’s realizing that now, and I’m for whatever moves her towards growth and happiness.

Neither Ramona nor Luann have heard much from Sonja during lockdown. Luann commented that she’d seen Sonja’s daughter Quincy and that Quincy had said Sonja was too busy even for her. In my mind, even if that was a direct quote and not lost in translation, it’s difficult to take at face value. As a mother of two women in their twenties, there is dance of sorts that’s rarely discussed regarding mothers and daughters at this transitional phase of life. My own wanted their independence and freedom to become their own women free from the steering and advice. However, when they did need me, they expected me to be by the phone anxiously awaiting their next call. It took a few years for them to realize that if they were off exploring themselves, they’d given me carte blanche to do the same, and I think that might be the case here as well.

We finally get to meet Eboni and right off the bat she brings good energy. She’s a lawyer, a news commentator, and is involved in broadcasting as well. She’s also single and back on the dating scene. She and Leah discuss whether or not Leah is actually in a place where she’s ready for love. Leah heartily says that she is, and Eboni is glad, because she knows from her own recent experience that you really need to come from a place of intention when you’re looking to dive back into to dating. She had faced her own struggle of not wanting to have to start all over and give it the energy, but things are starting to look up.

We roll up next onto a scaffolding-free townhouse! That was such a fixture for so long, that I almost didn’t recognize where we were. We meet Sonja’s latest intern Zoe, and while the face is new, the randomness of duties seems to be the same. Sonja shared that she moved back into the townhouse because it neither sold nor had a lessee. Financially it didn’t make sense for her to keep the apartment while the townhouse sat empty. Sonja seemed to like the freedom that quarantine gave her to focus on herself, slow down and re-evaluate. I have to agree with her on that front. Lockdown was the perfect opportunity for introspection and deciding what worked for me and what changes I needed to make. Knowing that Sonja was doing the same brought me a sense of kinship. Where our paths diverge is displayed when she shows Zoe how to draw a bath. At first it was classic cringe-Sonja until I watched Zoe pour the bubbles nowhere near the spout. Maybe it was something she needed to learn after all? I don’t know if I was distracted while tweeting and taking notes, but it looked like Sonja kind of stumbled into a FaceTime session with Leah, who was also bathing. Sonja is planning a luncheon with the ladies and Leah asked if she could bring Eboni. This is one of those awkwardly clunky set-up moments that I wish Bravo would drop the pretense on. We know they’re filming a show and they know that we know. Trying to make inorganic casting seem organic is unnecessary. Just have Eboni show up without faking like Sonja has to grant permission. It’s weird.

Speaking of Eboni, we get to a chance for a more in-depth view and I’m liking what I’m seeing. Her friend Natalie came to visit and they had a natural and refreshing discussion about Eboni considering moving to Harlem. Her blunt authenticity about her struggle to get her FICO back in a position to get a loan is the conversation much of America needs to hear and cop to. The majority of us have been in a financial pickle at one point or another in our adult lives, where our spending doesn’t align with where we want to be and what we truly want for ourselves. New York has been notoriously tight-lipped about money issues and the reality of cast member finances versus the image they want to portray. Seeing Eboni be honest about wanting to put every cent into investing in herself and making some mistakes in doing so is refreshing and real. Owning up to mistakes she made and actually changing that behavior is also new territory in HousewivesLand. She’s breaking ground on so many levels right now.

We are fast forwarded to the day of the luncheon, and as Leah and Eboni arrive, Sonja is spraying of her patio pavers. I’ve had those before and it is really a thing to know how to clean them without disrupting the dirt “grout.” I like that Sonja is hands on, but I can see how Eboni (being unfamiliar with the concept of Sonja-time) was taking aback by the greeting. She also had every right to be underwhelmed by the diversFISHty conversation. There’s little that will put me on my heels faster than someone telling me that they are inclusive rather than just being inclusive and treating my family members the same regardless of melanin levels. Eboni moves quickly past the awkwardness, which I love, and jumps right into finding out more about Sonja. Century 21 closing hit Sonja hard, because she thought she had finally found her niche and could slow down the financial hustle. Eboni offers her some good advice and Sonja is liking the idea of having a lawyer in the squad.

Talk turns to whether or not Eboni wants children. Maybe one day we’ll get past that being the first question women are asked upon meeting, but apparently not today. I’m not invalidating being a mom…I am one for crying out loud…but it’s not for everyone, and for some it’s not even medically possible. As a community of women, I wish we could come up with a list of things akin to “questions you never ask on the first date” when dealing with each other. This would fall near the top of that list. Eboni took it in stride though and confessed that she had positioned herself to be on the Oprah track and motherhood hadn’t been a priority. She also shared about the recent break-up of her three year relationship. She had been planning a wedding back in January, but then Covid came and made them tell the truth. Again…the honesty and poignancy of that is palatable. She’s a gem so far in my book.

Luann and Ramona arrive and talk again turns to dating. I had to chuckle when Luann accused Eboni of moving on quickly. If I had the Tom debacle in my recent past, I’d recuse myself from commenting on a speeding violation, but maybe that’s just me. Somehow talk turns to Harry Dubin and Ramona which leads Sonja to point out the women having a habit of dating people that start off with Sonja. In fairness, how many rich, single men are in New York? There is bound to be some partner crossover going on, but can we drop Tom and Harry and find a Dick?

As the women adjourn from the patio, Luann pulls Leah aside to ask her about being her wing woman as she heads back into sobriety. Leah stopped drinking in late March and vows to have Lu’s back on this. From the previews, I’m not sure that this flies, but I don’t see a problem with letting the kite loose into the air and hoping that the wind will keep it aloft. I’m all for bonding on whatever level the ladies can to cross what used to be “team” lines.

The show ends with Luann and Ramona confronting Sonja about her lack of interaction with them over the past few months. I don’t understand how they don’t know that Sonja prefers to be the straw that stirs the drink and not the tears watering the drink down. She’s always become reclusive when she is struggling with something. It may not be their process, but if they are her friends they can respect that it’s hers. Offering to be there is fine, but give her the freedom to do life on her terms. In an effort to reconnect, they decide to make plans for a trip to the Hamptons. Eboni shares insightful history on why she’s so fond of Sag Harbor. None of the women realized until that moment that it was the first area that allow black ownership of ocean front property. I have a feeling that this won’t be the first time the womens’ eyes are opened to a new perspective on history, and I am here for it.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read along. While I can’t commit to blogging every episode, the season looks like I’m going to have the desire to. If my health can meet my desire, I’ll definitely share my thoughts and I hope you’ll do the same either by commenting here or on Twitter. I look forward to any interaction you feel up to. XOXO

Monsters

Not all monsters look scary, all grotesque and hairy

Or they couldn’t do monstrous things.

Some look rather average, not remotely that savage

And some come like angels with wings.


They’ll promise you pleasure or untold of treasure

You’d never believed you’d behold

Others fulfill your dreams, with delight you will scream

Until their true nature unfolds.

Then the mask starts to slip, once you’re tight in their grip

And the realization sets in

You fell for the trapping, in shiny gift wrapping

That the monster had hidden within

The end of the story doesn’t have to be gory

Because of the power of choice

Start first by not believing their attempts at deceiving

And then regain your own voice.

Then slowly but surely what once seemed so burly

Begins to shrink in its power

To brainwash your mind and make you seem blind

To the fact that you are a flower.

Be sure when you’re leaving not to spend much time grieving

O’er the lies you bought that they sell

For it’s certain in fact, that they’ve worked on this act

So even the smartest folks fell for their spell.

Self Interest Is Not Selfish

One of the biggest hurdles I have had to overcome in my struggle with anxiety and depression is choosing to focus on self-care. While growing up, I was taught in Sunday School that the key to joy was to prioritize J-esus, O-thers then Y-ou. (Being raised in a Christian household, I can only speak from my own experience. I’m sure there are parallels in others faiths or lessons learned in school you can reflect upon.) Admittedly it was a catchy way to implant a seed to avoid raising a generation of little narcissists, and instead have young hearts focusing on doing the right thing and being charitable. I’ve learned, however, as an adult that it can be taken too far. I continued to operate under this method some forty years after learning it, only to come to the realization that there are far more “others” out there and only one me. I continually gave well past when my cup was empty and wondered why the joy, if I experienced it at all, was fleeting.

I don’t have statistics and data to back this next part up, but from my conversations with friends across the globe on social media, many of my fellow sufferers are also “giver” types. Always willing to lend an ear, offer encouragement, or help others in some way. But we all share one negative in common. We lack prioritizing self-care. Whether it’s because it seems selfish to us, we lack the time, or have no knowledge of what it even means may vary, but the results are still the same. When you are constantly giving without refilling your own cup, emptiness is the result.

My personal struggle was that I was being selfish. If a friend or loved one had taken the time to include me in some event or activity, saying “no” was outwardly displaying that I didn’t care about their needs or desires. So invariably I would say “yes” even if my mind and body were virtually begging me for rest and/or solitude. And the spiral downward would predictably continue. Another by-product that came along with it was resentment. Can they not see the toll it’s taking? Do they not realize the state I’m in as a result? More often than not, the answer to that was a resounding “NO,” because I never took the time to tell them. Our friends and family aren’t psychics. They aren’t inside our heads knowing and feeling our struggles. How could they possibly know if we aren’t giving a voice to our issues?

In my own small real-life circle, I’m well known for my bluntness. As I’ve aged I’ve learned to take an emery board to the rougher edges in attempt to make my thoughts more palatable and less painful, but it was and is still an expectation that I would speak my mind. I did so in every arena except for with my depression and anxiety. The reasons varied, be they not wanting pity, a lack of desire to try to put into words thoughts and emotions I barely understood myself, or the fear of appearing selfish. But it was that lack of communication that continued the cycle of depleting myself to a point of barely being able to function in real life.

Self-care is different things to different people. There’s no “one size fits all” scenario that rejuvenates every sufferer. For some (including myself) it’s solitude. For others it’s self-pampering activities like spa days or weekend trips. For many it’s time with a trusted friend or therapist to talk through the issues you’re going through. Whatever your outlet is, employ it. And if you don’t yet know what works for you, try a variety of things until you find your perfect fit.

Also be sure to clue your close friends and family in on what you are going through. You’ve chosen this circle for a reason and more often than not you’ll not only be met with understanding, but also support and encouragement. That can be invaluable in helping you continue your pursuit of wellness. If the occasion arises where you’re met with resistance and a lack of understanding, you may need to re-evaluate where that person or persons ranks on your own priority list. Not everyone who hasn’t experienced depression and anxiety will necessarily fully get it, but if there is zero support, or worse yet…negativity in response to your needs, you might have outgrown that relationship.

I’m finding in these early stages that building relationships and a community with other sufferers has been a blessing in my own journey. Many have been on this path much longer than I have and provide me with lessons and tools to cope. They are also a safe place to fall because they can speak from experience and often have had almost the exact same thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. So, please, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out and know that you aren’t alone. As the stigma lifts you’ll be able to find more and more people to add to your circle of support. And always consider me to one among the many. Journeying together eases our individual burdens.

Lastly, remember that self-interest and self-care aren’t selfish. They actually contribute to bringing us back to our most full and capable selves. Replenishment is necessary in order to be able to keep giving and helping. There is no shame in it. It’s key to survival.

Much love to all of you. Keep fighting and caring for yourselves.

XOXO,

Jen

Depression Is A Mood Disorder Not A Mood

For those of you unfamiliar with me or my journey, let me state up front that I am not a doctor. The truth of the matter is, I’m relatively new to the community of depression and anxiety sufferers. This blog is an outlet for me to process the emotions and thoughts I experience as I walk down this relatively foreign path. I’m open to continuing dialogue if you care to comment, but I will not address things outside the realm of my current knowledge base, nor will I engage with hate or negativity. Apologies in advance if that seems harsh, but I’m quickly learning that boundaries are a key factor in my own growth and healing.

Depression and anxiety are difficult to understand if you’ve never experienced them. I had my own false notions about them before the conditions landed firmly in my lap. The uninitiated often see it as merely being down or in a bad mood. While it is a mood disorder, it is far from being a mood. A mood can often easily be changed by a moment of joy or doing something you love. Outwardly, I am a very positive person who is quick to laugh or make a joke. I’ll offer a kind smile to a stranger and I often wonder if the first thought that comes to mind is, “There goes a happy person.” They wouldn’t be wrong on most days. I’m always looking for the good, be it in people, or life in general. My husband often jokes that I’m a the-glass-is-never-empty type person because I still hold onto the hope that with air inside the right conditions can turn the air into water and refill it.

Depression doesn’t care if you’re a happy person though, because it doesn’t work the way a mood does. The best way I’ve been able to describe it to those who haven’t experienced it is that it’s like a heavy veil of gray weighing down what you would like to feel or do. Some days I have the strength to haul the burden of the weight and put on a false front and continue about my day. Other days, the weight is more than I can lift. One shouldn’t confuse that with weakness though. You wouldn’t expect someone to be able to lift a tree on their own, and sometimes your brain has you convinced the veil is as heavy as a redwood. Your brain also knows how to protect you and let you know when you need to rest and rebuild your strength.

I’m going to discuss a hard truth right now, and my intent is not to hurt or offend, but to enlighten. You may have said what I’m about to share in a well-meaning way to a friend and knowing your heart, they let it slide without rebuttal. I’ve actually done the same in my own life, but now it’s time to be frank. One of the worst things you can say to someone in the midst of depression is “Go out and do something fun.” I probably can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard or read this while in the fetal position in my bed with salty tears staining my face. What a wonderful and easy illness this would be to conquer if it were that simple. Again, we know you love us and you’re trying to help, so don’t take this as condemnation or a sign that you shouldn’t reach out to your friends. Support is everything during our lows, but again…it’s not a mood. It’s not shed by a fun activity. On the contrary it’s often amplified by the fact that something that normally gives you so much joy now feels flat and empty.

Instead, might I suggest, that you tell them you love them and remind them that the lows are temporary and that you will be with them if they want as they ride it out. Don’t be offended though if they choose to ride it out alone. We often don’t want to burden our loved ones who we know have their own life stresses to deal with. And still others of us need the solitude in order to refuel and recuperate. Having open-hearted and honest discussions with your friends about what they need is another great way to navigate through their difficult times.

I’m also learning as I go along that not everyone is willing or able to share that they even have these conditions. Part of that stems from the stigma attached to mental health issues. I can’t control the chemicals my brain produces any more than a diabetic can control how much insulin his or her pancreas secretes. Nutrition, exercise, and medication all help keep the balance, but they don’t stop incidents from occurring. It’s not a choice to have depression, as some of the uneducated would have you believe. A day in the body of a sufferer would teach them that, but Freaky Friday moments don’t happen in real life.

Because of the stigma, many will suffer silently for fear their employers or even future employers will find out and pass over their résumé in favor of someone who doesn’t come with the so-called “baggage” of mental health issues. Some won’t even reach out to doctors for fear a record being kept or having to face a potentially lifelong relationship with prescriptions. Their silence is completely understandable if you take a look at how people who are open with their issues are treated in real life and on social media.

For those of you who are forced into silence, I hope my voice helps rather than hinders. And for those of you who are blessed to be able to use your voices, I hope you will do so. I will join you in that chorus until we are understood and accepted as is. In the meantime, be good to yourself. Give yourself the same grace that you so readily bestow on others and keep fighting the good fight.

Much love to you all,

Jen

If you need to find resources for help there are several on the NIMH website or you can talk to your primary care physician.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

A Fond Farewell

A little over a year ago, I delved into a whole new world of blogging and then podcasting for Kiki and Kibbitz. Brianna and Jordan had already started the venture and they were kind enough to not only let me join in, but also have a voice in avenues we might want to explore, as well as topics. It was so far out of my comfort zone that I was sure I’d crash and burn and be an anchor, rather than an asset. They encouraged me through my fears and I learned those fears could be conquered through their support and the support of the friends I made on social media.

The real life introvert morphed into a social-media extrovert with opinions on everything under the sun (probably more than I should’ve shared!) Then, when the pandemic hit, our original goals became more keenly focused on connecting our individual hamster habitats with tunnels of laughter to break the sense of isolation we were all feeling during lockdown. I cannot express in words how much having this outlet carried me through the craziness that was 2020. Being able to break down and discuss the shows that were keeping us entertained added a whole new dimension to my world. Any time I felt lonely, I knew it was only a matter of time before laughter was right around the corner and I could be silly and feel connected again.

What I hadn’t openly shared is that I made a foolish error early on in the pandemic. Those of you who have followed this blog are aware that in 2019 I was diagnosed with depression brought on by caretaker fatigue. Now that John’s surgeries were in the rearview and he was back to work, I assumed I’d be fine. The meds I had been given were giving me massive headaches, so I (in my infinite stupidity) figured that it was my brain telling me I didn’t need them anymore. I did consult my doctor, because while sometimes stupid, I know better than to completely self diagnose, and they recommend I start taking half doses. Then the height of chaos hit and in-person visits became impossible and my doctor’s small office didn’t offer tele-visits. So, I weaned myself off completely and spent March through October completely unmedicated.

Suffice it to say, that was a bad move on my part. By October I was spiraling and made an emergency appointment with my doctor. Through tests and questionnaires, it was determined that I still suffered from mild depression and moderate anxiety had been added to the mix. Considering the state of the world, that’s not all that surprising, but it still made me feel weak. I had to abandon one of the two podcasts I was doing to lighten my load and allow me to focus on getting better. A new med regimen helped make that possible, but also added its own set of difficulties.

We had just had a very successful season with Below Deck Med and I wanted to keep the momentum going with my favorite show, which is Below Deck. Brianna and I both enjoy it so much and our Tuesday night podcasting sessions were an escape into laughter with a little rum thrown in. We’d gone from two gals chatting it up to getting guests and doing interviews and it seemed like a dream. Getting to hang with Adrienne, Courtney, and Jess and hearing behind-the-scenes scoop was a realm I never thought I’d enter from my little country life in Ohio. It was an absolutely blast.

Unfortunately, having fun doesn’t stop your brain chemistry from doing what it chooses to do. My sleep patterns were way off and insomnia is not a friend to depression. Even with great and exciting things happening, I was taxing my body and my mind beyond its limits. I was raised to keep my commitments and not leave people in a lurch, so I plugged on, attempting to keep everything going as not to let anyone down.

I’m not the best at saying no or at failing. I jokingly blame it on my Aries sun sign, but in truth…it’s a choice, not a force of nature that can’t be overcome. Several weeks ago, I hit a wall where I neither had the energy nor the mental capacity to do a weekly blog and even though everyone was so supportive and understanding, it wrecked me to not fulfill that commitment. I was determined to podcast that night to make up for it, but when I got off of Zoom I broke down in tears. I was doing what many people do and trying to give from an empty cup.

It was then that I made the decision to focus on getting healthy and being self-interested. I had always confused that term with selfishness in the past, but I’m learning there are distinct differences. Much in the same way that when flying the attendants tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others, I needed to be whole and healthy and put my needs before those of others before I crashed and burned completely.

Once I had that epiphany, I was faced with the difficult task of disappointing people who had supported me over the last year. At the top of the list were my podcast partners. I let them know that once the Below Deck cycle ended, I was going to be leaving. Rather than risk have moments where I couldn’t fulfill commitments and leave them hanging, it was better that I exit. It struck them out of the blue, and I sincerely apologize for that. It’s hard to let people down, and even harder when you’re already feeling low.

Fortunately, once the shock had passed, they were very supportive of me and wanted nothing but my happiness and health and for that I am very grateful. I’m also thankful for all of you who supported me in this journey. I will still continue to blog here on my personal page as inspiration strikes and my mind allows me to organize muddled thoughts into coherent writing. In the meantime, I will still be my opinionated self on Twitter, so it’s not like I’m falling off the planet. It will just be a more informal and possibly more sporadic version than the weekly podcasts and blogs have been.

It’s my sincere wish that you continue to support K & K and the fun and light it brings. Thank you once again for all that you are and have done, and I’m sure we’ll be chatting again soon. XOXO -Jen

Two Pair of Normal Investigators (Plus One)

It will take us a while to go through our recordings to see if we have anything noteworthy that could perhaps convince a skeptic to be open to the possibility of a realm beyond. In the meantime, I am jotting down some of our experiences on the ride home and the following day while they are still fresh.

For those of you just stumbling across this missive with no background or context, I’ll bring you up to speed with a little history of how our family ever wound up thinking this would be one of our favorite ways to spend quality time together. When shows like Paranormal State, Ghost Hunters, and Ghost Adventures came on the scene, I became, let’s say…more than a little obsessed. From the comfort of my couch it seemed fun and exciting. My husband assured me I was one of the suckers P.T. Barnum had spoken about. His engineer’s mind couldn’t fathom any of this being more than produced entertainment, and he conjured all manners of string and pulley contraptions that could pull off the scares the girls and I got each week.

Feeling the gauntlet had been thrown down, my eldest booked us on a tour with a paranormal group of what was then Windsor Elementary School in Cincinnati. They provided us with various gadgets akin to what we’d seen on TV. Boxes with lights that would measure electromagnetic frequencies which they assured us was our sign that a ghost was present….or an electrical outlet, or a working refrigerator, or a lot of things. I became disheartened, while John became increasingly chuffed with himself for being right all along.

That was until we used a device called a spirit box in the school’s gymnasium. Basically it’s a radio that rapidly scans through stations creating “white noise” that the spirits can use to speak through. This is where my smile started to grow because Rube Goldberg Jr. couldn’t come up with a way that the voice we were getting over multiple channels was answering direct questions we asked. Mr. Skeptic, while still yet to have had his “Road to Damascus” moment, was opening his mind to the possibilities of things beyond this plane of existence.

And so began our love affair with ghost hunting. With our youngest away at college, it was most often John, me, our eldest daughter and her then fiance, now husband. We stuck with group tours until we had a large enough knowledge base to go out on our own. Christmas and birthday gifts began to consist of detection devices, recording equipment, and a spirit box. We began renting out purportedly haunted places and using those as our mini vacations.

With the arrival of our youngest grandson, and John’s multiple spinal surgeries, our hobby got back-burnered and we loaned out our equipment far more than we used it. That is until this past weekend. The girls had gone together and rented the Bellaire house for us for a night as a Christmas gift. Having seen it featured on Most Haunted and Paranormal Lockdown, it’s an understatement to say we were psyched. Being located on a ley line, near an old Native American burial ground and right off the bank of the Ohio made it seem like it was a recipe for all of the activity we could handle, and maybe more.

The Bellaire House

Even though his skepticism has waned by virtue of his personal experiences, John has always been correct in his assessment that real life ghost investigations are nothing like what you see on TV. For one, they are edited for time, so you never see the long lulls where no activity occurs. If they have an investigation that’s a total dud, it likely will never even air. Another huge difference is that there is no production budget and no show runners to help out when things go wrong.

Take this weekend for instance. John and I were awake into the wee hours the night before charging devices and putting fresh batteries in the ones that aren’t rechargeable. We also brought along back up batteries and charging cords, since we’ve repeatedly experienced our batteries being drained during an investigation. (In the paranormal community this phenomenon is attributed to the spirits drawing on that energy to communicate.) Only one of our devices uses a 9 volt battery, so we brought 4 replacements just in case. Within the first two hours all four as well as the fifth one we put in the night previous had been drained rendering our SB-11 spirit box useless. With no interns to make a battery run, we we forced to stop and make the run ourselves.

The other challenge we faced was equipment malfunctions. Our infrared camera repeatedly shut down inexplicably and refused to record any potential activity being captured. Without a van full of gadgets and gizmos, we were left to wonder whether it was a glitch in our device or spirits playing tricks. (For the record, when we got home, the camera worked perfectly, so take that however you’d like.) We were lucky that our audio devices seem to have worked properly, but again with no staff to help us go through it all, it will take hours. If we get anything exciting, I’ll be sure to share.

One thing we’ve learned through our years of investigating is that while electronic gadgets are fun and make for good television, they are not the only forms of communicating. While we were investigating with a group at Ohio State Reformatory one of our guides introduced us to the use of dowsing rods and pendulums. These simple apparatuses allow for communication via Yes/No questions and have saved us more than once from having a hunt that’s a total bust. It’s not an experience you can carry home and share with your friends, but trust me, while it’s happening in the moment it is cool as heck.

The first room we entered. If spooky was the intended vibe, the succeeded.

We had great luck communicating with a child known to occupy one of the bedrooms on the second floor. We sang children’s songs and recited nursery rhymes. As we did the rods would sway back and forth to the rhythm, or as it was during a rousing rendition of Ring Around the Rosie…spin wildly in full circles in our hands. The joy in the room was palpable as we got to experience the connection and the entity had a chance to play.

Not all experiences are pleasant though, and amateur investigators should know the risks. In the owner’s former bedroom both of my daughters and I experienced splitting headaches and that pit-in-your-stomach feeling upon entering. We tried to push through the discomfort several times, but found it difficult to stay in there longer than a few minutes.

After hours of investigating late into the night, we decided we should all get some rest in the few rooms that felt were the least threatening. What resulted was a scant three hours of sleep and several personal experiences. Our youngest had vivid dreams the details of which I’ll leave to her to share if she ever feels comfortable doing so. I had something playing with my hair, but that’s happened to me several times in the past, so it didn’t disturb me too much. My eldest daughter, however, had the most frightening experience of being held down by an unknown force. By her account she was unable to move until she called out my name and I shot upright in bed without even knowing what woke me. It was only at that point that she was able to sit up in the bed.

She was overheated and sweating,while John and I were convulsing in chills even though we were only feet apart from each other in the same room. What made that all the stranger to us is that she’s always cold and bundling up in blankets, while I’m always too warm, partially due to what I call self-insulation or extra padding. We decided to try and sleep downstairs instead, but the activity was so adrenaline-inducing, that only John managed to muster a little more sleep.

Our safe haven after the bedroom we were in gave us more restlessness than we bargained for.

My eldest daughter and I chose to stave off our fears with the treasure trove of donuts she’d brought and got back to seeking more evidence while we waited for everyone else to wake up. Through the dowsing rods and the K2 meter we “yes and no’d” our way through confirmation of our experiences not being figments of our imaginations. Someone or something was taking credit and seemed pretty proud of their accomplishments.

Once everyone was awake we realized that the whole night had drained all of us physically. With a three-plus hour drive home still ahead of us, we wrapped. We collected our gear (some of which had been mysteriously moved into drawers or under furniture and wiped down all of the surfaces we had touched because in the non-sprit realm, Covid is a real life foe to battle.

All-in-all it was another fun and exciting adventure to add to our many others. For those interested in a place to investigate, we’d all highly recommend The Bellaire House. It didn’t disappoint. I would add that it’s probably not the best place to go for a first time investigation. It seemed less willing to interact with the more skeptical members of our small group of five. It was the first ghost hunt for our youngest daughter’s beau and he left with the fewest personal experiences. Whether it was his lack of familiarity with the process or the possibility that he’s saner than the rest if us is a decision for you to make.  However, if you go in with an open mind…the possibilities are endless to experience all that the house holds.