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My books are now available at the Alameda County Library!

So, my books have finally made it into the Alameda County Library system. I have to admit it was a pretty cool surprise to be browsing the new arrivals at my local branch and see my own book on the shelf!

Library Book

What was even neater, though, was checking the course catalog and finding that one of my books has been checked out already!

2017-09-14 (1)

Not bad for a random weekday, eh? :)

 

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On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened is now FREE with Amazon Prime Reading!

Now FREE with Amazon Prime Reading!

That’s right – my memoir has been selected for Amazon’s Prime Reading program, which means that the eBook will be available free to all Amazon Prime members for a limited time. The book can be read on a Kindle or any other device using one of Amazon’s free apps.

This newly expanded version is nearly twice the length of the original book and contains eight new chapters. Download your free copy today!

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It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.

Then came my mother’s psychosis.

I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.

My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.

But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.

She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until 2013 that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.

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Brooke Shields on Dating George Michael

I am profiling actress Brooke Shields in my forthcoming book It’s the Iron: How My Iron Deficiency was Misdiagnosed as Arthritis, and Why Your Depression, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety, and Chronic Pain and Fatigue Might Be Low Iron, Too. Ms. Shields, in her brave autobiographical account of her experience with postpartum depression, Down Came the Rain, was one of the first celebrities to speak out about this common condition. Based on my research and my recently obtained knowledge of Ms. Shields’ life, I have numerous reasons to believe that her postpartum depression was, in fact, caused by low iron. A number of studies have linked the development of PPD to iron deficiency, and there are certain facts of Ms. Shields’ case – including excessive bleeding during and after the delivery of her daughter Rowan – that indicate that this could have been the precipitating factor of her depression.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post! I have also been reading There Was a Little Girl, Ms. Shields’ account of her relationship with her hard-drinking but well-loved manager mother. In it, Ms. Shields recounts numerous details of her early and young adult life, including this charming story of dating a young George Michael! In light of his untimely recent passing, I thought you might get a kick out of reading this biographical tidbit, and I do hope you will “get” all of Ms. Shields’ lyrical references, which add significantly to the cuteness of the piece. But I’ll let her tell it:

“I had recently gone on The Tonight Show to promote On Your Own and Johnny had asked me with whom I would want to be stranded on a desert island. (Such an original question!) I said I had a crush on George Michael. Mom had decorated a denim shirt of mine with ‘WHAM’ in glitter paint and Bedazzles. She glued pins and little pictures of George and surprised me with it to wear to his concert. I almost wore it on Carson.

“As luck would have it, while in Chicago on the book tour, we discovered we were staying at the same boutique hotel as George. Mom was enamored of the fact that he was famous, and she loved his voice. Mom had contacted George’s publicist to say that I was staying in the same place and hoped to meet him if possible. He said he would love to take me to dinner but because of our being bothered by the press we should probably just arrange dinner at the hotel. I nearly fell on my face.

“George decided to get food delivered to the private dining room on the rooftop. I arrived at the meal in colored jeans and a blouse. The table was beautifully set and all the foods I liked had been ordered. George said he had read some place that I liked to be healthy so he picked accordingly. There were flowers and candles and we talked nonstop. He complimented me on my blouse. When dinner was over, George walked me to my hotel room and said he wanted to see me again. He left without even trying to kiss me. I was so touched by what a gentleman he was. (I wanted to yell, ‘Wait, please don’t ‘go-go’!’)

“Back in my hotel bedroom Gavin and my mom had put CAUTION: POLICE LINE. DO NOT CROSS tape all over my bed. There were signs that said THIS MEANS, YOU, GEORGE! I guess this was payback for my sign-hanging stunt down the hallway for Mom after her date with Woody Allen.

“George and I managed to go on a few more dates in New York City that involved shopping or meals. He held my hand and even bought me a mauve cashmere sweater from Charivari on the Upper West Side. I thought he was a remarkable, respectful, and patient gentleman who was obviously aware of my hesitance regarding sex. Mom was thrilled. She said he had good taste and was sweetly old-fashioned. Nobody had ever been willing to move so slowly. It must be love.

“On the night before I was to go back to Princeton for my sophomore year, George invited me to a party for Grace Jones. When we arrived at the club, Boy George ran up to us and started screaming about how he had heard the rumor but was happy to see us actually together. Before the evening got too late, my boyfriend George ‘carelessly’ whispered into my ear, ‘Why don’t we get out of here?’

“We got into the limo and headed back to my home in New Jersey. As we were nearing the house, George put up the partition and turned to me. I thought, Oh my God – I’m going to get to have my first time with George Michael in the back of the limo! Forget Catholicism and the book. Forget my mother. God would understand! I gazed at George with puckered lips. He looked deep into my eyes and said, ‘I think we need to take a break. I need to concentrate on my career.’ WHAM!

“I was devastated. Mom tried to comfort me and promised that I was going to be OK. She obviously didn’t see him as a threat at any stop of the way. Mom encouraged friendships with people like George Michael, Michael Jackson, and John Travolta, because I believe she was impressed by their genuinely sweet natures as well as their level of fame. These were the types of more gentle male friends who loved my mom and did not pose a threat to her.

“I went back to my new place just off campus and cried myself to sleep for weeks. But my sophomore year went by and I finally got over George.”

***

Sweet story, isn’t it? Shields has many other entertaining stories to tell, and I must say, her insights are often impressive – she is definitely much more than an exceptionally pretty face :)

Shadow Puppet Brewing Company – 1st Anniversary Party Today!

I am pleased to announce the first anniversary party of Shadow Puppet Brewing Company, happening TODAY from 11 am to 10 pm at 4771 Arroyo Vista, Suite B in Livermore, California. Hard to believe it’s been a year already! Shadow Puppet is currently one of four craft breweries in the city of Livermore, which is well on its way to becoming a destination for beer drinkers as well as for wine tasters. Shadow Puppet features an amazing variety of beers, and a beautiful, family-friendly tasting room.

The brewery is family-owned and operated by founder Brian Blackburn and by Brewmaster and Master Builder Craig Danielson. Ordinarily I would say you can recognize Craig by his big beard, but since he’s just shaved it off for First Street Alehouse’s Movember Fundraiser, you’ll have to go by this picture instead:

Shadow Puppet Brewing Co. Livermore

Shadow Puppet Brewing Co. brewmaster Craig Danielson, left, and owner Brian Blackburn, right, pose for a photograph at their brewery in Livermore, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group -East Bay Times, February 2, 2017. )

Craig loves to talk beer, so feel free to accost him with your questions and comments.

The anniversary party promises to be a great time and will feature a massive selection of 25 beers on tap, including two barrel-aged beers as well as two newly-tapped firkins! South Smokin’ BBQ will be on site, and “Better Days” will be playing live music beginning at 3 pm. If you can’t make the opening, don’t worry – the taproom is open Wednesday through Sunday; visit the brewery’s website for the current menu and hours: www.shadowpuppetbrewing.com.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

Words Reveal What Masks Conceal: An Essay on Halloween

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher assigned us a creative writing project for Halloween. We were to compose short stories, which we would then read aloud before the class, coupled with a competition of sorts in which the students would vote on who had written the best one.

Now in my pre-teen years, I was not what you would term the most popular kid in school. Perhaps it was those horrible “Student-of-the-Month” photos of me hanging in the main hallway, which they somehow always managed to take right after gym when my hair was flying every which way, or perhaps it was the oxford shirts and corduroy trousers in which my mother dressed me because I refused to participate in ridiculous wastes of time like school-clothes shopping. It certainly didn’t help that in addition to being smart and studious, I was also very, very shy, which led many to believe that I was stuck-up. I suppose if you’re naturally adept at making conversation, it’s difficult to understand that other kids might not be.

You can therefore easily picture the scene in the classroom that day: the anxious adolescent girl slouched in her seat, sweat drenching the armpits of her button-up shirt as she watched the clock, fervently hoping that time would run out before her turn came. You can imagine my nervousness when, five minutes before the bell, my teacher called me to the front of the class, the last reader to go; my terror as I stumbled up to her desk clutching the half-sheets of paper on which I’d scrawled my assignment. As usual, I had pushed the limits on the suggested length – my story was at least twice as long as anyone else’s – and the only saving grace of this enforced public humiliation, I thought, was that I would undoubtedly run out of time to finish it before the lunch bell rang.

Tucking my loose hair back behind my ears and focusing my eyes firmly on my papers, I began to read. It turned out that reading wasn’t so bad; unlike giving an oral report, you didn’t actually have to look at any of the other students. And it was a decent story, I reflected as I flipped through the pages, concentrating hard on not losing my place. At least my classmates were sitting silently, which made them easier to ignore.

At last I reached the climax of my tale, which was where it turned gruesome. The main character had gotten trapped in a fire, and I remember describing, in disgusting detail, the sizzle of the hairs frying on his arms as the hot flames neared. I remember describing the flames devouring his flesh, great flaps of it falling from his skeleton as his skin seared away. And I remember the silence of the classroom; I remember it breaking, the moans and groans that swelled all around me as I depicted my main character’s excruciating demise, only to be interrupted by the harsh clanging of the bell.

No one stirred; no one rose; no one left. I glanced at my teacher, who nodded. The other students sat rapt while I finished my story, and they applauded when I was done. There was no question that I had won the contest.

I was pleased that my story had gone over well, of course, but it wasn’t until the following week, when other kids were still coming up to talk to me about it, that I understood that I had somehow made an impression that went beyond my gruesome, graphic horror story. It was as if I had revealed that somewhere beneath that classic nerdy exterior was a real honest-to-goodness person, a kid who thought about things like destruction and death, and flames eating flesh, and how best to describe such horrific events.

I’ve never been big on Halloween, myself. I’ve never liked the pressure of having to pick out a costume and then explain why I chose it; I’ve never even understood the appeal of dressing up and playing pretend. I have other ways of exploring my dark side. Nowadays you won’t find me in a starched, striped shirt, or in old-fashioned slacks, but don’t be fooled by the sweats and sports bra in which you’ll typically see me lounging about the house, because that’s not who I am, either. It’s just a costume; an innocuous mask meant to show nothing, to reveal nothing, to suggest nothing. My thoughts are inside me. They can never be exposed by a mere choice of outfit.

Jack-O-Lantern

 

How the Federal Cost-Sharing Reduction Decision for Health Care Affects You

I don’t know how you all reacted to news of President Trump’s executive order eliminating cost-sharing reduction payments, but I know what I did: went on to CoveredCa.com to re-up my insurance for next year before all hell breaks loose.
I was therefore reassured to receive this email from Covered California yesterday afternoon. It explains what the actual effects of the order will be on consumers in California, and probably in some other states as well. All of which makes what Trump did – in the short term, anyway – seem a bit pointless.

 

Covered California
Dear Lori,
 
We know there is confusion about last night’s decision by the federal government to stop select reimbursements to insurance companies. These reimbursements support subsidies for lower-income consumers known as Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments.
 
Despite this action, Covered California members will not see any change in their health costs for the remainder of 2017 and the rates and out-of-pocket costs published by Covered California for 2018 will not be affected.
 
How can stopping the funding for CSR payments not affect insurance prices? It’s because this cut to one subsidy will trigger an automatic increase in other kinds of financial support.
 
The CSR payments to health insurance companies the federal government is eliminating are designed to help with out-of-pockets costs, like deductibles and co-pays.
 
These CSR payments don’t go directly to eligible Covered California members, instead health insurance companies lower the costs of some out-of-pocket expenses for eligible Californians, and then the insurers get reimbursed for that expense.
 
Even without CSR reimbursements, insurance companies are still required to help eligible Covered California members with their out-of-pocket costs. That’s a requirement of the Affordable Care Act and this requirement has not been halted.
 
The Affordable Care Act also includes another, larger type of subsidy that is specifically designed to reduce the cost of premiums, ensuring that family budgets are largely unaffected. That subsidy or premium assistance is called the Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC).
 

The CSR payments that the federal government is eliminating only apply to certain silver plans. Covered California has already taken steps to minimize the impact of the loss of CSR funding and worked with insurers to price plans accordingly to ensure stability in 2018, adding a premium surcharge only to silver plans.  Silver plans are the basis for the amount of premium assistance, APTC, consumers receive, so an increase in silver premium will be offset by an increase in APTC for most consumers.

Because the surcharge will only be applied to Silver-tier plans, nearly four out of five consumers will see their actual monthly premiums stay the same or decrease, since the amount of premium assistance they receive will also rise.

 
The effect of the federal government’s decision is something like this: Insurers get less money for helping low-income people with out-of-pocket costs on silver plans; premiums on silver plans increase more to compensate; and that forces the federal government to increase all APTC based subsidies to make sure people can still afford insurance.

So, the bottom line to get the best plan at the best price: SHOP and compare all plans offered by Covered California!!


Thank you,
 

Even in areas scorched by California wildfires, mail delivery continues

One of the eeriest images of the recent fires in Northern California is this drone footage of a USPS mail truck making deliveries to a series of burned-out houses:

Creepy? You said it. But apparently the postal service was honoring requests from customers who would be returning to their former residences to claim their mail.

Personally, I’m impressed that in spite of everything, mail delivery continues. It seems rather in keeping with the unofficial post office motto:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Essays on Film is a Free Feature Today on Instafreebie!

My eBook Essays on Film: On Viewing Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21 and The Perfect Filmic Appositiveness of Jack Smith? is being featured this week on Instafreebie!

http://blog.instafreebie.com/see-it-first-lori-schafer-marta-tuchowska-ilias-tsagklis/

Download your copy in any digital format for free!

Essays on Film