As some of you may already know, I have anxiety and depressive disorders. They make for some interesting days. And by that I mean they can totally suck. There were times when I felt nearly paralyzed by them--I couldn't work on my book, do research for it, or even do simple things around the house. I was fortunate that it didn't affect my day job work. Fortunate isn't the word ... I streamlined all my focus into my work days. It worked when I needed it most, but when I wanted to be creative on my own time, it would just be too much. Then there were the sleep issues, which added to the fun. Why am I sharing this with you? Because if you have ever felt alone while dealing with a mental health disorder, I'm here to tell you that you really aren't. You have many brothers and and sisters in the same boat. So let's all start rowing together.
Life doesn't end when anxiety and depression take over; it changes temporarily, but it doesn't end. "Temporary" is the important word here. Remember, "this, too, shall pass." Think and believe that rather than "None shall pass!" (that's for you Lord of the Rings fans).
For weeks I've been telling myself I need to get working on things. "You need to write! You need to keep researching! You need to organize yourself! You need to focus on work! You need to be a good mom! You need to be a better wife! You need to work on the house! You need to pay bills! You need to go volunteer! You need to _________!" Sound familiar to anyone else?
It can be difficult on an average day to achieve everything you want to do. Add something like anxiety or depression to the equation, and they can stop you in your tracks. There have been times when I have gotten so overwhelmed by the things I think I need to do that I couldn't do anything. There's nothing like feeling helpless from the inside out. But how do you get past this? How do you move forward when you just can't?
For me it may take someone else to help me calm down. My husband or daughter have learned the signs that occur when I start feeling out of control, and they help me get back to myself when I feel like I'm going to melt down. But we don't always have family or friends who can be there all the time for us. Panic attacks don't wait for a helper to appear.
When I'm alone and the panic begins, I have to remind myself that it's temporary and it will stop soon. Easier said then done, right? It is. But I've found that having some tools at my disposal help. If I started panicking at my office and my breathing became erratic, I would grab one of the paper lunch bags I kept in a drawer and breathe into it. Fortunately I had an office with a door and was able to deal with the situation privately. I also have anti-anxiety medication I can take when an attack occurs. A cell phone is a versatile tool--you can use it to call someone who knows about your mental health situation and can talk to you until the attack passes. You can also download apps that help you manage your stress, depression, or anxiety. There are also apps that help you get through panic attacks when they happen.
I would love to say there's an easy way to deal with mental health challenges, but there isn't. My treatment is a combination of therapy, medication, and my own awareness of what I go through and what helps. Overall I've felt more like myself since my psychiatrist and I worked together to figure out which drugs work for me and which don't. My therapist helps me see things from different angles, which helps me separate my thoughts from my emotions. It's a work in progress and likely always will be. My advice to you is don't give up on yourself. Your mental disorder may be part of you, but it doesn't define you. You are so much more, and you're worth the effort it takes to feel better.
To those of you who have been waiting with baited breath to hear about my trip to California, hold it no more. I'm back, quasi-settled and ready to give you a quick overview.
The day my plane landed, (aside from a quick lunch) I headed directly over to Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. I once again visited Bela Lugosi (which I HAVE to do) and then found other stars I had on my list of photos to get. Zasu Pitts and Evelyn Nesbitt, among others. Special thanks to Jayne and her cousin Cynthia! I met these lovely ladies near Rita Hayworth and was pointed in some great directions.
I spent a lot of time in Holy Cross, so by the time I was ready to leave (the gates were going to close), I was ready to head to my hotel for the night to get myself organized for the week and settled in. This, alas, was not to be.
When I was about a mile away from the hotel, I got into a nasty car accident. It seems everyone was generally okay (I got a concussion and felt pretty beaten up by the seat belt). No emergency/ambulance-needed injuries. Thank goodness. The rental car, on the other hand, was crunched. I'm guessing it was totaled since it looked like it to me, but I was in shock and am probably not the best at gauging things like that anyway. All I know is that the impact came hard, and then the car was spinning. It was terrifying. I don't recommend it. I also don't recommend a tiny/economy car such as this Chevy Sonic in a traffic-inflamed city like Los Angeles.
Moral of the story? Avoid intersections in LA. Get a pilot's license instead.
The other cemeteries I visited were Hollywood Forever and Forest Lawn in Glendale. I got to see things at both of them that I hadn't before. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit any others because my schedule was very busy most days, and the day I didn't have much going on, I felt so sick that I went to the Hollywood Walk-in Clinic. That's when I was diagnosed with the concussion. To tell you the truth, I haven't felt right since. Hopefully they will subside soon. It's been two weeks.
Since I haven't been feeling great, I've been frustrated. I haven't been able to focus on my book since I've been home. I know I pushed myself too hard in LA, but I didn't really have a choice. The two most important days were good days, but I would have liked to have visited more cemeteries.
BUT ... I'm getting back into research mode. I've been able to focus a lot better today, and my neck and head didn't start hurting until this evening. Progress!
I am currently researching the Talmadge sisters--Norma, Constance and Natalie. And their mother, Peg. Can't forget her role.
Be careful out there!
Here's my new quote of the day: If you want to get to know someone, read their obituary. Who said it? Me. Just now. (It's been a long night.)
I thought I'd introduce you to one of my all-time heroes--Mary Pickford. I just found her official obituary, and I thought I would share it with you.
Mary was an amazing person who worked hard her whole life.
You can watch a short film featuring her and a desire for a new hat. It sounds silly, but it's really touching. It's called "The New York Hat" (1912).
Wishing the best to you!
Quick post since I'm so tired I can hardly keep my head up ...
So the big news in these parts is that I was asked to be a guest blogger for Death & the Maiden, and I'll be interviewed for an article about me, the project and the GoFundme campaign. Not too shabby! I'll keep you posted and send links when they're available.
This is a long post but an insightful one. At least I hope it is. ;-)
Check out my GoFundMe campaign
This has been one hell of a couple months. So many good things have happened, and a number of not-so-great things have, too.
First things first ... I'm heading back to California! I'll be in the L.A. area close to a week this time. I'm going to be meeting with people who are contributing to my book as well as people I hope will be. Let's just say I'll be meeting up with people who know the cemeteries out there or know about the silent film stars.
For those of you just tuning in, the cemetery book I'm currently working on is "Forever Silent: Silent Film Actresses and Their Graves." If you've been following me and my work for a while, you probably know that it's my belief that everyone deserves to be remembered. And for those long gone, that means memorialized. When I started really getting into silent films and looking into where the actors were buried, I discovered that many of them have unmarked graves -- and some have no graves at all. While I can't go around finding the cremains of long-gone, long-lost movie stars, I can memorialize them in words.
That's how the "Forever Silent" journey began. I love this project SO much! I've always loved movies and the idealism of Old Hollywood; now I'm diving right into it.
Check out my GoFundMe
One caveat to it, though, is that I live in Illinois and many of the stars are interred in the Los Angeles area. I've flown out for a handful of days twice in the past year, but it hasn't been enough time to get all of the photos I want. A couple months ago I found out about Cinecon, a convention all about classic film, with a focus on silents and transition to talkies. How amazing and fitting is that?
So I started scheming. Plane tickets were the lowest I've ever seen out to California. Check! I could get a sweet deal on a car rental. Check! Got another good deal on a hotel. It's not fancy, but it has a lot of history. So, check!
But ... here's the sucky thing about life; it throws stupid stuff at you and then stands back to watch you flail.
I suffer from anxiety disorder and depressive disorder. And panic disorder. You might say I'm outright disorderly.
About a month ago, the disorder squad got themselves super disorderly and overwhelmed me. So I went to my doctor and figured out what I needed to do. Then, while I was feeling a major difference in my health and mind, my insurance company decided that two of my largest bills wouldn't be covered. Long story short, they told me flat out that because I wasn't "suicidal, homicidal or psychotic" at the time that they didn't think I needed the care.
So this means that my trip went from "Yes! I can totally do this!" to "Well, crap." This trip is incredibly important to me and for my book project. I've informally had a literary agent show interest in it and have gotten SO much support from people. The support I've received so far has been exciting and humbling. And with this GoFundMe campaign, I won't have to worry about taking money away from the bills that will be coming in.
My goal is to connect with every one of you and share the things I'm passionate about. And I love hearing what you're passionate about. It's all a journey. I hope you consider taking it with me.
Don't forget you're awesome,
Last Saturday, I went back to The Silver Key after a long wait and a postponement for my new tattoo. I had brought an idea in to Jesse (who is awesome) and he worked his magic to bring what I want to life.
The he design is a stylized look using negative space. The image is of a lovely silent film star who "morphs" into an old movie reel. The actress it's modeled on is Marie Prevost; she is the one who inspired to look deeper into the world of silent film. Marie is my muse.
My autographed photo of Mary Pickford is on my bookshelf to encourage me to never give up. She inspires me to believe in what I can do and to kick butt while doing it.
Now Marie is my forever angel on my shoulder--well, on my back below my right shoulder, Any time I get down or frustrated, I think of her and how I want to make her proud and for her to be remembered. So she really is my muse for my book about the silent film actresses and their grave sites.
One of the things I have learned while researching is that far too many of them have no graves or are in unmarked graves. It makes me even more determined to write and publish this book.
Oh, Mary Pickford. If only I could go back in time and tell you how amazing and respected your work still is today. Of course, you wouldn't be surprised that the movie studios and even most of the public seldom look back at film history ... but there are still people who care greatly. And those of us who do are doing our best to keep your legacy and the legacy of the silent screen era alive.
I would also ask if we could collaborate on a project. Any project. You're the best.
So tonight I found "Sparrows" (1926) on YouTube. I've been toying with purchasing a collection of four of her films that includes this one, but I hadn't yet. Then I found it on YouTube, so that's very cool. Now I can use that money to buy a silent film book or a biography of a silent star instead. Damn, but I do love books.
I must say a big thank you to the people who have been posting silent films on YouTube and other websites. If you're like me and live in a smaller city where they don't have things like silent film festivals (the closest ones are in Chicago, which is about three hours away), the opportunities to watch silents don't come around very often. God bless the Internet!
The web has not only made the world smaller, it's also allowed us to travel back in time. We can watch old movies, listen to out-of-print music or read out-of-print books. When I was a kid a billion years ago in the 70s and 80s, if you missed a TV show or movie, you were out of luck. You'd have to wait for the reruns of a TV show's season during their hiatus. A movie might play on TV one day. These were the days before beta and VHS. Those magical tapes opened up a whole new world to us.
The world's gotten to be a more rude place over the years. Maybe it's because VHS tapes aren't around anymore to remind us to "be kind and rewind."
As so many people around the world mourn the loss of David Bowie, I discovered something about him I never knew--he was really into Buster Keaton. Is this surprising? No. For one, Bowie's talents and inspirations were many and varied. Second, David Bowie was one REALLY damn cool guy.
I'm a Bowie fan and have been since the 80s. I'm not as huge a fan as my husband, some of our friends and a large number of people whose posts I've seen on Facebook and Twitter. When I think of him, Ziggy Stardust comes to mind, but I don't connect with that much. My David Bowie was the skinny time and suit version. The "Let's Dance" version. When I hear him in my head, I hear "Modern Love" (LOVE that one), "Blue Jean," "China Girl," the duet with Bing Crosby on "The Little Drummer Boy" and even the duet with Mick Jagger on "Dancin' in the Streets." I also dig "Changes," "Golden Years," "Heroes," "Space Oddity" and "Fame" and the like.
I was a teen in the 80s, and I lived off MTV. To me, David Bowie was one of the coolest dudes on the planet. He was beyond hip in an ethereal way I couldn't quite understand. To be honest, I still don't. He'd pop up in movies and reinforce his strangeness--his oddity. My friend, Tim, thinks he was an alien life-form that got called back to his home planet. He may be right.
When I'd heard the news yesterday morning that he'd died, I was stunned but didn't process it right away. I had to step back and consider his musical life as a whole (or as much of that whole that I knew about) as well as his contributions as an entertainer on a wider scale. It was massive. It's still more than I can wrap my brain around. Hell, his "Labyrinth" performance alone was creepy, enticing and just plain weird to this mainstream-thinking gal. And, of course, I loved it. And was a bit scared. But that's okay.
While looking for an image I wanted to include in a Twitter post about him yesterday, I came across the photo I've included here. Bowie looking a lot like Buster Keaton. Can his coolness get any colder? (The answer is yes.)
I just read a blog tonight that talks about his interest in Buster Keaton. You should definitely read Robert Curry's blog post about it. Coincidentally, I had also watched a Keaton short called "The Neighbors" from 1920. His slapstick with a dead-pan expression is wonderful. And I do love a guy in make-up.
If you're interested in watching "The Neighbors," it's on YouTube.
Photography by Steve Schapiro on PDN Photo of the Day.
Well, like most other movies and shows on Netflix, the silent movies they off get rotated out of play. They used to have a number of silents in their queue "The Mark of Zorro" and "The Thief of Bagdhad" with Douglas Fairbanks. Until a few days ago, two versions of "A Trip to the Moon" by Georges Méliès were available for viewing.
As of today, though, they are down to two films: "Wings" with Clara Bow and Buddy Rogers, and the Fritz Lang classic "Metropolis." Two great movies, no doubt, but just two isn't enough.
Fortunately, there are other places online where people can watch silent films and get a good look at the history of film as we know it today.
• OpenCulture.com offers "101 Free Silent Films: The Great Classics"
• Fandor.com has a number of silent films
• Archive.com has a lot of films, including some by Thanhouser, Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith, and others featuring Florence La Badie, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Florence Lawrence, Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Martha Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino and many more
• BlackAndWhiteMovies.org offers a variety of silent and talkie films
• SilentMovies.info gives information about the films and lets you click right through to watch them; if you thought that the only versions of the following films were the Technicolor talkies, check out this site to see: "The Ten Commandments" (1923), "Alice in Wonderland" (1915), "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923), "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1916) and "Ben Hur" (1925).
• Public Domain Comedy Video has a bunch of Charlie Chaplin films plus many others
If you check out any of these silent films on these sites or have a site to add to the list, let me know! I'm all about resurrecting the silents and helping people rediscover this forgotten part of film history and the people who made it.
I'm the author of a number of cemetery books and am now writing one about the graves of silent film stars, starting with the ladies. Who would you like to see included?
More Silent Film Resources
• Silentology blog