A quick progress report

progress-report1.jpgRemember how back in January, I lamented how I had only written 39 posts in all of 2015? Then and there I vowed that I would write at least 40 posts in 2016.  I got to wondering how I was doing – was I even close to my goal? I certainly haven’t written as much as I would have liked to this year so far, but we still have a couple of months and some change.

I counted back and counting this post, I have 36 posts for the year.  Making it to 40 should be no problem in the slightest.  There’s two posts where I list out my favorite songs of the year, and the year-end posts seem to write themselves.

So I think I can do it. Although I’d love to hear from people actually reading – is there anything you want me to talk about? Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with things to write about, but more frequently, it’s just finding the time. But if there are requests. I’d love to hear them.

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Mix CD Redux: Sunday Morning Mix

When Heidi and I were first married, she always used to gently chastise me on Sunday mornings when I would listen to thumping remixes or Madonna’s Erotica album or something equally inappropriate for getting-ready-for-and-going-to-church Sunday morning. In response to that, one day I sat down and thought about songs that might be appropriate for Sunday mornings and I created a mix CD with the very unoriginal title “Sunday Morning Mix.”

I hadn’t thought about some of these songs since I made the CD, which I am pretty sure was 2002ish. Some comments on my selections:

  • The first song – “Easy” – was a natural choice, because Lionel Richie croons about being “easy like Sunday morning.”
  • Look – there’s Helen Reddy’s “Fifty Percent” which I blogged about recently when talking about Barbra Streisand’s version of the song. Incidentally, I’ve cooled on Babs’ version of the song considerably. It won’t make my year-end CD. I have 19 of 20 spots filled and I keep thinking of things I’ve left off.
  • Speaking of Babs, her duet with Celine Dion, “Tell Him”, makes an appearance. I will never forget how a woman on the Madonna listserv I was on at the time of its release described the two as “not really singing the song, but rather, beating it into submission.” I still like it though.
  • Who the hell are the Charlie Biddle Trio? And how did I ever hear about that song. Well, it was the song that played over the end credits of the Matthew Perry move The Whole Nine Yards. This was still the days of Napster/Audiogalaxy so once I figured out the name of the song, I went and found it and downloaded it. I haven’t listened to it in a really long time but you can bet that I’m going to now.
  • Spandau Ballet’s “True” was the first song I ever sang at karaoke. It was at my cousin’s wedding and I sang it with my brother. It’s one of those songs that is totally in my range but it still a bitch to sing. #firstworldproblems
  • The Michael Stipe guest vocal on “Kid Fears” is still one of my favorite things in the world.
  • Finally, the unplugged version of George Michael’s “Freedom 90” is a wonder. It’s in a different league than the original. I just don’t think you can really compare them. I love the choir on the unplugged version and well, let’s just let it speak for itself.

I went ahead and put together a Spotify playlist of this mix CD. Three songs are missing though (“Fifty Percent”, “Rules” and “Freedom 90 (Unplugged)”  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did on many Sunday mornings back in the day.  I’ll be listening to it today as well.


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A hit and a miss

There are a couple new songs out this week by artists I admire. It’s always hard to know if I’m going to connect with them or not because even my core artists (Madonna, Kylie, Cher, Dolly) have had their fair share of misses. I still remember vividly trying to force myself to like “4 Minutes” when it came out. It’s aged better than I expected, but it’s still not a favorite of mine.

As the title of the post suggests, one of those songs is a hit, and the other missed the mark by a country mile.

Let’s start with the hit.

“We Of Me” is a song taken from Suzanne Vega’s upcoming album Lover, Beloved: Songs from An Evening With Carson McCullers. I honestly had no idea what this album was even about, considering the first song I heard from it was called “Harper Lee”, was much more bluesy than anything Vega has ever done and contained the line “and I’d like to kill more than just that mockingbird.” As it turns out, the songs come from a play that Vega wrote with Duncan Sheik called Carson McCullers Talks About Love, with Vega playing McCullers.  “We of Me” is the first single from the album, and it is the most Suzanne Vega-ish song I have heard from this project so far.

The more I listen to it, the more I really love it. The quality of the song, along with this 9 minute video interview with Vega and Duncan Sheik talking about the songs and the album, convinced me to pre-order the vinyl. Since I was already going to spend $10 on an iTunes preorder, I figured why not spend seven more dollars and get the LP. It’ll come with a digital download, no doubt.

The song that missed this week was “Peace of Mind” by The Killers. I really do adore Brandon Flowers’ solo work, but I’m more lukewarm to The Killers. I think I was mostly disappointed this song was not a Boston cover, but even worse is that it’s almost completely unlistenable.

I usually find Flowers’ meandering vocals to be endearing and even forgive his seeming inability to find the pitch on occasion, but there’s just nothing redeemable about this song. It really shouldn’t surprise me. There really isn’t an entire Killers album that I enjoy start to finish, and Flowers’ solo material is much more in a pop vein whereas The Killers are definitely a rock band.

If you made it through the entire song, my hat is off to you. Better luck next time, Brandon.

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Running with music

So a couple weeks ago, I started doing Couch to 5K (henceforth referred to as C25K) in an attempt to try to increase my activity some. I have tried exactly 5 billion times in my lifetime to get active and each and every time, I have not been able to maintain it. When I first started doing C25K, only a few people knew because I didn’t want to go on Facebook or Twitter and announce that I was doing this and then fail utterly and completely. Then, my friend Matt said “get the word fail out of your vocabulary, either do it, or don’t.” And really, it’s that simple.  The good thing is that the app holds me accountable and it’s only 3 days per week so it’s super manageable to do.

I started week three today and it went something like this: 5 minute brisk walk, 90 seconds of running, 90 seconds of walking, 3 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking, repeat that cycle, then cool down for 5 minutes. It comes to a total of 28 minutes – all the workouts clock in around 30 minutes and honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to run for 3 minutes, but apparently the app knows better than I do what I can do because it really wasn’t that hard at all. Don’t get me wrong – I was still a sweaty mess when I was done – but it was not accompanied by crushing chest pain and collapse and CPR.

A lot of people use that half hour of running/walking to catch up on podcasts. But me being me, I would almost always rather listen to music. So I have created a playlist that I’ve been using while I do the C25K workouts. It’s a pretty fluid list – stuff gets added and removed all the time.  Also, at almost 2.5 hours in length, I’m clearly not going to listen to every song every day.  Here it is – you’ll probably have to click on it to actually read it.

Screen Shot 2016-10-05 at 9.30.19 PM.png

Naturally, it’s a little Madonna heavy, nothing slow, and it all really helps motivate me when I find myself looking at the clock and wondering how far into the 30 minutes I am.

A few highlights:

  • Kylie’s “Made of Glass” is on there almost entirely because I remember it being on my sister’s running music playlist. It really works.
  • Same for Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.” A Twitter friend said one day that adding “Rhythm Nation” to his running playlist turned out to be a very wise idea. He is right. I was never terribly fond of that song when it was a single – shouty and clunky – but it works when you’re running.
  • What’s a running playlist without a little Kristine W? In fact, I’m probably going to add “Lovin’ You” to the playlist as soon as I’m done with this post.  For the record, I’d totally go to a Kristine W concert if she came to Des Moines Pride.
  • As it turns out, Florrie’s “Speed Of Light” is a perfect workout song.
  • “Spaceman” has been on this playlist almost since the beginning and I don’t see it ever losing its spot on the playlist. It’s a great song to run to and it’s probably my all time favorite Killers song.
  • Poor Duffy. She never had another song that came close to the level of success enjoyed by “Mercy.”

The C25K app says that by week 9, I’ll be running for 30 minutes solid. I find this, frankly, impossible to believe. But like I said before, I didn’t believe this morning that I could run for 3 minutes. I’m not fast (I only average like 4.4 mph when I run), and I probably never will be, but we’ll see.  I’m also not losing any weight because I can’t seem to be militant about both exercise and food at the same time, but I know that will come with time. My friend Andrew said he would do a 5K with me if I want, but I’m afraid he’ll leave me in the dust.

What I can say is that between this and finally being on a winning mental health medication cocktail, I’ve been feeling more present for my own life than I have in quite some time.


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Generation gap

fruity-dyno-bites1-550x362.pngThe other morning during breakfast, Anna reminded me of the generation gap that exists between me as her parent and her as my daughter. We have this mega-huge bag of Fruity Dyno Bites from Sam’s Club and Anna said to me, “what in the world does fruity crisp rice cereal have to do with dinosaurs?” This, in spite of the fact that they “dino” part is spelled “dyno.”

That’s when it dawned on me that Anna probably has never seen The Flintstones, the animated TV show that was used to market Fruity Dyno Bites in their original permutation Fruity Pebbles. Of course, we never got Fruity Pebbles as kids growing up in the 70s and 80s. When we did, we thought we were in heaven!

I wasn’t even alive when The Flintstones was on TV in firstfruity pebbles.jpg run status. It ran from 1960-1966, but thanks to infinite reruns on TBS, it was as much a part of the pop culture of the 70s as anything else. It’s no wonder that using The Flintstones to market kids’ cereal worked back then.  I notice that they still have brand name Fruity Pebbles, and even Flintstones vitamins. I can’t imagine either of them fly off shelves like they did during my childhood, especially with all the generic knock offs of the cereal and the sheer volume of kids’ vitamins that exist nowadays.

Not surprisingly, it made me a little sad that Anna didn’t get the reference, although thankfully, she was at least semi-aware of The Flintstones. I’m not sure she’s ever seen a single episode – TV reruns just aren’t like they were when I was her age – but I was glad to provide a little cultural enlightenment and education for her over breakfast with cereal that really, to be honest, no one should eat.

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The cow jumped over the cookies

My late grandmother (my dad’s mom) had a planter in her house that was a big moon with a face. Alongside the moon, was a cat with a fiddle and a dish running away with a spoon. Clearly, it was telling the children’s nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle.”  It always bugged me though that there was no cow jumping over the moon.


When she died in 1990, I wanted that planter and it was then that my dad told me that it used to be a cookie jar and that the lid had long since been lost. On that lid, was the missing cow, serving as the handle to the lid. God only knows where the lid went to. Maybe it broke, maybe it got lost. In any event, when it came into our possession.


I don’t know what made me think of this the other night, but I did a Google Image search for the cookie jar and I found quite a few of them. Some of them are for sale on Etsy, others on eBay. I managed to elucidate that it was produced in the 1940s, and that they run from anywhere between $90 and $300 nowadays. If you’re missing the lid though, I imagine that it’s worth considerably less.

I wonder if my parents still have it – I can’t imagine that they would have gotten rid of it. I hope one day that it comes back into my possession, unless it’s in a junkyard somewhere.

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Abilify me

So I guess my blog is where I put all the details on the mental health journey that has been 2016. If these kinds of posts are not your bag, I don’t blame you, but I am finding it therapeutic to write about it.

tumblr_nqmcpqu4KH1uz9v33o1_500.jpgBack in July, I started seeing a psychiatrist because I needed to get a better handle on the depression and anxiety I was experiencing. Honestly, it was worse than it had been since probably 2002-2003 and I felt very much like the graphic to the left. As Wil Wheaton always says, I was tired of not being able to reconcile my awesome life with how shitty I was feeling all the time. And oh yeah, it was Heidi’s idea.

I increased my antidepressant/anxiolytic drug dose and added Klonopin. At first, I was supposed to take Klonopin twice a day but let me tell you how hard it is to do your job when you’ve taken a dose of Klonopin in the morning. The doctor had given me permission to fiddle with it as I needed and since, as I always say, it IS the drug that ruined Stevie Nicks, you know I was being pretty cautious with it. It helps me sleep like a rock at night, which is good, but it was simply causing too much daytime sedation for me to practically be able to take it during the day.

In the meantime, I was struggling more and more. Heidi kept encouraging me to try the Klonopin again during the day and every time I did, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open.  So when I had a follow up appointment last week, she told me that I needed to talk about changing things up again. The truth is, I was feeling worse than before I went – not exactly the direction I wanted to be moving. Ironically, I was feeling pretty good the day I went, but I told him that it was an anomaly.

The thing I love about my psychiatrist is that he’s so real. We talk shop as well as talking about me. He’s not a therapist, but I do look forward to seeing him because he’s a cool dude with killer shoes. He told me that we could increase again, which is fast but not likely to help. We could change drugs, which might help but takes a long time because tapering off of Effexor is hell on Earth. Or we could add something. I asked him what he would do and he said he’d add Abilify. I could feel my blood pressure rise when he mentioned that word. I have never really been fond of the Abilifys and Zyprexas and Seroquels of the drug world. They make you gain weight and were really developed for people with schizophrenia, not the textbook depression and anxiety that I have. But the good news is that at low doses, they can help augment antidepressant response in refractory depression. So I said I’d give it a try.

We started out low – 2.5mg per day – and within 2 days, I could tell a difference. I felt like the boat wasn’t in the middle of a hurricane any longer, that I had a more solid footing. I increased to 5mg per day today and while I’m sure it’ll be a few days before I see any further improvement, I’m perfectly happy with what I saw on 2.5mg.  Things that would have sent me spinning a month ago were barely blips on the radar with this drug. So yay for atypical antipsychotics. I’m definitely down with AAPs.

I feel a lot more myself than I have in months. Better living through chemicals, as my former doctor always says. It’s not that I don’t feel things, it’s that my reactions are better – I’m more aware of how much something should affect me. The drugs help me do the work that I need to do to basically get better.

It also doesn’t hurt that I’m doing Couch to 5K. Physical activity is supposed to help but I’ve felt so crummy that I haven’t been able to force myself to so much as walk to work. I have finished the first week and am about to start Week 2 tomorrow. My calves are yelling at me tonight so tomorrow should be interesting. We’ll see. But it feels good to feel good again, even though I doubt I’ll ever actually do a 5K.

Apropos of nothing, the title of this post reminds me of this song, and now I have it stuck in my head.

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