It’s actually kind of hard to believe that 2014 is ending; this has been the longest and shortest year of my life. In less than a week it will be Christmas again and my first birthday – ever – without hearing Rachel’s voice. I had decided months ago that I couldn’t and wouldn’t spend the holidays at home. I am writing this post from a cute little studio apartment on the banks of the Garonne in Toulouse, France; it is nearing the end of the first of 3 weeks (and 3 countries) of traveling I am doing. The beautiful Cervantes acoustic guitar that Bruce had bought me for my birthday last year had become a reminder of a horrific day that I never wanted to celebrate again and so, with his understanding, I sold it to buy my RT ticket to Europe and to begin making deposits on apartment rentals in 3 cities: Toulouse, FR, Brighton, UK and Amsterdam.

Toulouse France La Garonne

La Garonne – Toulouse, France

I’d been to Paris twice before (though it’s been years); Rach had been to France twice as well. Neither of us had ever been to Toulouse, which is primarily why I chose this southwestern French city. They call it “la ville rose” because nearly every building is made from brick. It’s very pretty here and though I haven’t seen the sun during my stay, the weather has been mild and I’ve been able to walk everywhere. I think Rachel would have liked Toulouse… Very nice shopping (with lots of vintage shops), excellent restaurants, cafés and bakeries, and “just enough” to do without being overwhelmed with stuff to do. It’s a city for sure, but not at all like Paris where you need to plan your days in order to fit in museums, monuments and all of the arrondissements. Like Paris though, Toulouseans are still very “French” – they walk super fast (always in a hurry to get somewhere, though not sure where), drive kind of crazy (I don’t even know why crosswalks exist in France – if there isn’t a crosslight, nobody stops for you), and they all look a bit grumpy at first. Actually, Rachel would have been a perfect Parisian. She had the walk, the great sense of style, the crazy driving, the cigarettes, beautiful hair, rad collection of shoes, and a natural scowl until you got to know her ;)

I’m straying… This entry isn’t really meant to be about Rachel and how much I miss her and how much the holidays suck without her. I wouldn’t even be here if that were not the case. Nearly every shop has some cute little thing that I know she would have liked and that I would have bought for her if this was a “real” vacation and she was still here. Today I stood outside one such a shop with many cute things in its window; I would have bought Rachel the set of tiny teaspoons with cats painted on them. For me, the set with owls. To my left was one of dozens of historic churches in Toulouse; sitting on the church steps was a guy, couldn’t have been more than 21 years old, clearly homeless, with 2 dogs. I suddenly felt sick and petty. Was I seriously going to buy some overpriced teaspoons that I don’t even need?

Notre Dame in Toulouse

The “other” Notre Dame – in Toulouse, France

The guy, probably handsome under all the grit, was dirty and tired looking. One of his dogs was asleep, its head resting on the guy’s lap; the other sitting loyally beside him. He wasn’t soliciting per sé, I mean, I think his presence was probably enough anyway. I watched as most people walked past him without a glance, a few handing him a coin or two as they entered the church. He accepted their donations graciously and put the change into a small wallet in a beat up backpack. It was mid day so I found the closest sandwich shop which happened to not even be French, but rather Greek, and ordered a steak frites kabob (I don’t even know what that is but it seemed like it would be filling) and a bottle of water.

Few people ever speak to the homeless; Bruce almost always does – especially if they are a veteran. Maybe it’s stupid but I think it’s nice to actually talk to someone rather than just throw a buck at them and walk away, especially at the holidays. So I asked the kid, in my sucky French, if he had eaten today and he said no. I gave him the bag of food and said “pour  vous.” Then I gave him a few Euro and told him that I know that the holidays are difficult. I said hello to his dog that wasn’t napping, wished him well and left. Obviously, I don’t know the difficulty he faces, clearly not; but I do know the holidays are especially tough for a lot of people in many different ways for a variety of reasons.

Ok, so my point from that very verbose story is just this: I am choosing to spend the holidays alone. Many people do not have a choice, they are just alone. Be grateful for what you have and who you have – and hold on to it because it can disappear faster than you can imagine; and once it’s gone you don’t always get a second chance.

Be safe and stay warm.

Rach, wherever you are, I hope this and every birthday is filled with laughter and unicorns and cupcakes and kittens. xoxo ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

My brother-in-law and I share an affinity for Oreo cookies, double stuf at minimum, mega stuf whenever possible. As a vegan, I have a special appreciation for America’s best selling cookie; after all, they may not be organic or free of high fructose corn syrup, but they are made from fairly minimal ingredients and have always been vegan and free of artificial colors.

Oreo ingredients

Original Oreo ingredients

Halloween Oreos with artificial colors made from chemicals As summer winds down this Labor Day weekend, Halloween stock is hitting the shelves of supermarkets everywhere. Dave, my brother-in-law, was pretty excited to tell me about the “Halloween edition” Oreos he had just purchased. My immediate response: “Are they orange?”

Now, I hate to be a downer amongst those of you who enjoy seeing your favorite treats decked out for the holidays; pastel sugar dough at Easter, red and green frosting at Christmastime, bright orange Oreo creme at Halloween but here’s the thing… those dyes being used to color what was once white are made from chemicals!

The most commonly used dyes in foods in the US are yellow 5, yellow 6, and red 40. They’re in everything from Doritos and Cheetos to Fruit Loops to Dannon Fruit Blend Yogurt to Gatorade. These dyes have been linked to allergies, hyperactivity in children, rashes, and more. The Halloween Oreos I just mentioned contain yellow 5 and yellow 6 lake. Yellow 6 lake is comprised of Benzenesulphonic acid (does anyone even know what that is??) that has been treated with hydrochloric acid and sodium nitrate. It has been banned in Austria, Norway, and Finland. “But they have fun bat shapes on them,” Dave said….

Sigh.

I realize I can be a bit fanatical about what I eat (and don’t eat.) I have a bit of an obsession with buying foods that are organic and/or from local, sustainable farms. I do read more labels than the average person and I have been known to (frequently) google anything unfamiliar on the spot, whether it be on a menu or a  food label. I certainly do not expect anyone to change their lifestyle (unless it was already in their plans), but if given the choice of two identical products – one WITH yellow 6 or red 40 and one WITHOUT, I would like to think that maybe some (most?) of you will consider trading fun for health.

And as Halloween edges closer, consider reading a label or two and buy the candy without the chemical coloring. An article in the Huff Post last year mentioned the same 3 dyes I just listed and their link to ADHD in children. Elimination diets showed such major improvements in children’s overall health and behavior that Change.org launched a national campaign urging M&M/Mars to switch to natural food color sources for their M&M candies (By the way, the European versions made by M&M/Mars contain mostly natural ingredients!!) You can read the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-f-jacobson/mms-artificial-dyes_b_4116130.html

Well, that’s it. Thanks for the inspiration Dave…. How about if you throw away the rest of your orange Oreos and I’ll send you a box of Mega Stuf as compensation?

Oreo fun » » Look Dave! These are fun Oreos and no artificial colors!

Have you ever met someone that you disliked immediately? I am not referring to someone who gives off a poor first impression, I mean someone whose entire being gives you a negative, judgmental and vindictive energy? Ok, maybe you haven’t…. But I had the “pleasure” of meeting such a person several nights ago.  Because he is a friend of a dear and wonderful friend, I won’t go into detail about what he said to and at me that was so hurtful and cold but during his diatribe, the topic of which included Rachel’s death, he told me that I was spending too much time feeling sorry for myself and playing the “poor me” role. Eventually I was able to get out of the conversation and I left the party shortly thereafter.

Since that day I have been thinking about that comment (in addition to the hundreds of other thoughts that fly through my Tear drophead every day.) Is he right? Is that piece of shit seeing something that I’m not?

I know that everything is relative and that my grief is not the same as the pain of someone battling cancer or the anguish of someone with PTSD after coming home from service abroad. I know I should be grateful for my health and my home and my dogs and my friends. I know that I am fortunate to have more than so many other people in this world and to live in a country that operates under (well, at least the guise of) a democracy. I really do know all of this; and yet every spare thought turns to my loss. I miss my sister. I want to rewind the clock – and not just for me; for her husband, for her friends, for her cats.

Every day continues to be a struggle just to get out of bed. I am exhausted all of the time and nobody knows why; and I don’t mean normal, every day yawning, need a cup of coffee tired… I’m talking nodding off driving to and from work tired. I take vitamins, have seen the doctor, have had bloodwork (all normal.) I have resorted to 5-hour energy drinks. I used to not need one until around lunchtime. These days if I don’t down one by 9:30am I’ll be asleep at my desk.

My only conclusion is simply this: I am a chronically depressed person grieving the loss of my identical twin, best friend, and only family. So, I guess if that sounds like a “poor me” excuse to be sad, pessimistic and tired then so be it. I am not able to be any other way right now.

So, once again I will be rambling “off topic” so to speak. But this will be a short entry I think – just a couple quick thoughts to jot down.

I was at the salon this afternoon having my roots touched up (the curse of having hair colored several shades darker than my natural hue, not to mention all those disgusting grays) and was chatting with the stylist, a very sweet young woman named Jaclyn. I forget how we got on the topic, but we were actually talking about dog rescue and she wanted to hear about my pups and how I got involved in fostering, etc etc. Jaclyn interjected with a comment relating to her sister and said, “oh, my twin sister..”

imageShe never got a chance to finish the sentence. My heart sunk and I told her that I have… had…. have… a twin.  I couldn’t figure out which tense to use – past or present. I have that problem a lot when talking about Rachel. I spent the rest of my appointment in relative silence and reflection thinking about how great I had it – I was a twin. I had Rachel. I was half of something unique and special and had the coolest, bravest, most awesome sister in the world…. I just wished I had realized that when she was here.

Growing up a twin doesn’t seem unique or special because it’s all you know. We didn’t have other siblings so we had no frame of reference. If anything, it seemed burdensome at times; and it was during those times that people would tell us to appreciate each other because what we had was special. But, those were the same people nagging us to floss and clean our room so who listens to them?

I could add this to my long list of regrets but is it worth it? I’m pretty sure Rach knew how much I loved her. I can’t change the past and I can’t replace this missing chunk of my heart; but I can remind everyone, myself included, that we are all part of something special and it should be cherished because you never know when it may end.

xoxo

“To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
– Albus Dumbledore

Rarely, if ever, do I write about anything political (unless it’s related to organic foods or Monsanto or something like that) but I am aggravated this evening and have some thoughts to jot down.

By now I am sure most of the civilized world knows that a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down over Ukranian airspace, killing all 295 passengers and crew. Neither The Ukraine nor Russia are assuming responsibility for this tragedy at the moment, even though both sides own Buk launchers capable of firing missiles well beyond the plane’s last reported position at 33,000 feet. Investigators also seem to have traced the approximate source of the launcher to a small town in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.

There has been unrest between Ukraine and Russia for a while now and missiles have been firing at each other’s war planes on a regular basis. So much so, that airlines were asked not to fly over Ukranian airspace. Ok, so those seem to be the general facts at the moment and I am sure the conspiracy theorists are busy putting together all sorts of elaborate explanations for this disaster and I will be interested in hearing all of them. In particular, I’m interested in knowing why Malaysian Airlines was traveling over Ukranian airspace in the first place and why this is the second Malaysian Airlines plane to make the headlines within the past several months (think back a few months…. One disappeared, remember?)

Regardless of the theories or the politics this is indeed a tragedy but sadly, as this story slides off the front page – or should a Kardashian have a clandestine wedding – it will all be quickly forgotten. People are sad today… But are they really? Are they sad because 295 just perished or because there is political unrest between Russia and Ukraine and they’re just finding out? Or are they sad because it pushed Kelly Ripa’s opinion of Botox lower down on the news totem pole?

HeadlinesAnd what about yesterday’s headline? Does anyone even remember what it was? What about the rest of the world? Does anyone care that 3 Israeli teens and one Palestinian teenager are dead because of all the fighting between Israel and Gaza? There is so much violence in that region right now that political leadership has practically crumbled and no one is stepping in to help. Maybe 4 dead teens are not enough to satisfy a memorable front page so let’s move on.

Remember the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Renee Russo? You know that was based on a book, right? The book is The Hot Zone (and so much better than the movie) and describes the “real” Ebola virus as it was first discovered in Africa. Guess what? Ebola is back and it’s spreading. The death toll in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia was nearly 500 on July 1st and the World Health Organization is calling this the “largest and deadliest” Ebola outbreak ever.

Anyone remember Darfur? It was “trendy” to support Darfur a while back. There were concerts and pledge drives and t-shirts and all sorts of stuff. The genocide there was horrific and practically unspeakable. Did everyone think it ended when the story slipped off the front page? There are currently waves of violence in Darfur and hundreds of thousands of families are displaced from their homes. The genocide may be gone, but the rebels are still there and they are still killing.

PLEASE do not take this post the wrong way. I am not suggesting that people don’t care. Clearly it would be nearly impossible to stay up to date on everything happening in the world all the time and obviously everybody cannot support every cause. The purpose of this blog is to simply point out that there is news beyond the “flavor of the week.”

Ten years ago I decided I wanted my “cause” to be dog rescue and that is where I devote my extra time. The last time shelter euthanization statistics were measured was in 2008 and reports showed that 3.7 million animals are euthanized in shelters every year in the United States. That number however, is much lower than the actual statistic, because many shelters did not even respond to the questionnaire. On top of that there is the issue of puppy mills, education on the importance of spaying and neutering, finding “forever” home for our unwanted babies so that they will never be homeless again. I have fostered, adopted, transported, assisted with intake, and donated both time and money towards this cause because it is something I believe can be changed.

I believe that everyone should have a cause – that belief was the initial reason I started this blog. “If you don’t who will….” Whether it’s animals or trees or Darfur or your town’s little league team. There are so many causes and so many to ways to help… Whether it’s your time, money, attendance at a rally, or just your signature on a petition. There are living things (people, animals, forests) suffering all over the world and just because they didn’t make today’s headline doesn’t mean they’ve gone away or gotten better.

Thanks for reading.
xo

It was certainly never my intention for this blog to “evolve” outside the topic of dog rescue, but I guess just as people change so do our blogs. So the vegan writings came along and now, it seems mental illness is rearing its ugly head into my snippets. So, apologies in advance, I guess. I suppose I will have to change the name of the blog at some point… Well, maybe not considering so few people actually read it…. Anyway, on with the post.

A couple months ago I found and joined a group on Facebook for “Twinless twins” – basically, just as the name implies, a spot where twins who have lost their twin can post, look for support, etc etc. I haven’t found it to be all that appealing or helpful as I noticed that as people post, the response tend to all be the same: “hang in there” “twin hugs” “thinking of you” etc. I think the twin hugs reply irks me the most. I no longer have a twin so how do I give a twin hug? Ok, I’m straying… Anyway, a few days ago, a young man from Western Europe posted something along the lines of “my twin brother died in the most horrible way and I could use some support” Now I realize all death is horrible but when I read something like that I instantly think suicide or horrific accident. Many people in the group responded and, per usual every single response read something along the lines of “so sorry, twin hugs”

Not one person inquired as to what had happened to make his brother’s death particularly horrible and it sort of seems to me that if someone puts that out there then it’s probably because they want to talk about it, no? So, I messaged the man privately and offered to listen. Briefly I told him the circumstances surrounding Rachel’s death (which I would describe as “the most horrible”) and let him know that if wanted to talk/write about it, I would listen. He responded the next day. Like Rach, his twin was also mentally ill, suffering from (though in denial) bipolar disorder among other things and working as a police officer in Lisbon; he had shot himself with his own service weapon just 6 weeks ago. There were photos of his brother taken just a week or so before his suicide and he looked content, not like a man on the edge. Just another tragedy of a sibling “faking it” while the disease ran rampant.

It has been just over six months since Rachel’s death and I never thought I would be saying this but I actually wrote back to this stranger overseas telling him that though it never gets better, and your heart never heals, and the emptiness never subsides, you do start to become “functional” once again. I wouldn’t have been able to even fathom writing that at six weeks… Or even 3 months.

I am reading a book (a memoir) written about an entire family who was/is bipolar (why I torture myself I have no idea) – the author quotes a statistic that 1 in every 4 cases of bipolar disorder end in suicide. I was only on page 23 of the book and the author was writing about meds – about how lithium and depakote weren’t enough for his father so they had to step it up to something much more powerful – in this case, seroquel. And all I could think of was Rachel. She took so much seroquel (along with other meds) and they might as well have been m&ms. They did nothing to help her. I say “they” referring to the seroquel but actually “they” is so much more than just the drug…. “They” is the health insurance company, her doctors, the hospitals, this shitty broken joke of a health care system we have in this country and finally, the stigma that is still attached to mental illness making it so difficult to be properly diagnosed and treated urgently and professionally with respect and dignity.

Rach and me on a good day... Green Day concert in LA 2009

Rach and me on a good day… Green Day concert in LA 2009

One in Four? Could that statistic really be true? I guess why wouldn’t it be… Your brain is scrambled, to the afflicted, nobody seems to care or understand, mental anguish begins to turn into physical pain – there really is no other alternative that makes sense. I guess statistics really don’t matter too much when you are the twin left behind. I find myself constantly questioning my purpose and my “role.” I was born from half an egg – Rach got the other half. Without her what is my purpose? I was meant to be a twin. Can there even be a Twinless twin? I mean, without your twin are you still a twin? Is she out there somewhere? Will she wait for me? How long do I have to wait to see her again?

I miss my sister. I miss her advice. I miss her talking a mile a minute. I miss facetiming with her. I miss going into vintage shops and only thinking of her as I perused the racks. I miss her yelling at me for walking too slowly. I miss our late night chats when I visited her on the west coast… She’d always wake up between midnight and 2am and go into the den where I was on the sofa bed. We’d get a snack and chat about mindless dribble like little kids. Then she’d snuggle under the covers and sleep in the den with me, by morning she’d be wrapped up like a burrito and I’d have no blanket to speak of, lol.

I’m glad that I can now start remembering these things and smile about them without breaking down in tears every time. Still though, I write about them with a heavy heart that aches more with each letter I type.

So I guess that’s enough for tonight. Sleep well. I hope my new FB friend is doing as well as he can be. Rach, I love you and I miss you. xoxo 💛💙💜💚❤️

peanuts-lucy-psychiatristSo just a quick observation since I am at work but want to get this down before it’s completely out of my head (plus the server is rebooting so I’ve got like 5 minutes.) I had an appointment with my psychiatrist yesterday (don’t judge, we pretty much all have one, don’t we?) I had scheduled the last appointment of the day – 4:30pm and walked in right on time. The waiting room was completely full, not even one seat available. Granted there are 2 or 3 other doctors who work in that office on Mondays so not everyone was waiting for my particular doctor. The room was filled primary with menopausal mothers and their teenage children. Now, I know for a fact they were menopausal because they spoke endlessly with the other mothers about the extent of the sufferings of menopause: the weight they had gained, the tiredness, the inability to work, the drugs they *think* they should be taking but aren’t prescribed vs. the drugs they are being prescribed.

It was around this time I was thinking that HIPAA should institute a no talking policy in doctor office waiting areas for privacy reasons…. Or maybe just for sanity’s sake. Meanwhile the teenagers were slumped over their chairs, head in hands, mumbling. Not sure if it was to themselves or their parent. Menopausal talk soon transitioned to conversations about their kids’ illnesses. Acronyms were flying: ADD, ADHD, OCD, PTSD… it was like a contest to see whose child had been diagnosed with more acronyms and given more scrips.

Sigh… I had been there more than an hour. I watched as the chosen ones floated out of their doc’s offices, scrips in hand with quirky little grins on their faces, as if the world was good again. After 75 minutes, it was my turn and as I walked towards my psych’s office I heard some of the menopausal women saying “wow she’s been waiting a while” and “finally, it’s her turn” — how nice to know they cared.

After a quick perusal of my file, Doc remembered that he hadn’t seen me since January and that yes, I am the one whose twin sister had committed suicide on Christmas, and yes, Christmas was our birthday and yes, I had already been clinically depressed before Rachel’s death and no, I was not bipolar as Rachel had been. Folder closed, and the dreaded question, “so, how are you doing?” It’s a catch 22 – if you lie, you don’t get the meds that are keeping you alive and if you tell the truth you could potentially be committed so I sort of mumbled my way through it. Good days and bad, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. His ultimate diagnoses – let’s add yet another med to my cocktail because I am clearly not doing well. Low dose, of course, nothing to worry about, etc etc. just give it a try.

So I ask? What is the logic here? I am depressed, I am not insane. I am grieving, I miss my sister but I am functioning. Am I experiencing joy, he wants to know. What is joy? Do I even know what that is? Another pill isn’t going to bring me joy and it certainly is not going to bring back Rachel.

I will continue my daily cocktail as it has been and I will continue to cry every day and I will keep seeing my therapist and leaning on my friends when I can’t stand straight. I will keep trying to exist until maybe one day I don’t have to work so hard at it.

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