It’s Hard To Be A Writer

I know it’s much more difficult to write about ones life than it is to pen a novel. The latter is fantasy, make believe. Journeys you take in your mind that release you from your own reality.

Facing the truth in front of your typewriter is another story. Sometimes is extremely painful to write about ones own life’s reality.  Those events are never erased, but lived over and over again. Pages ripped from your past that come back to haunt you and resurface things that you had hope were buried so deep that they would never resurface. 

It’s hard to be a writer. It’s hard to write about the truth. 

Copyright Sandra Hart©.  All Rights Reserved 

Facebook- Are You Wasting My Life?

Next time you’re in a bad mood, resist the urge to try and cheer yourself up by checking Facebook. It likely won’t work, according to a recent study, reports Rebecca Hiscott, Editorial Fellow, HuffPost Business. 

The reason? Even more than other areas of the Internet, Facebook makes you feel like you’re wasting your life.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook due to the fact that I am host to three different Facebook pages; my professional page, my personal page, and one of my son’s Facebook professional fan pages.

I’ve been sitting here today waiting for a new furnace to be installed in the back of the house so I have a lot of time on my hands with nothing much productive going on except for the simmering vegetable soup on the stove. Which brings me to Facebook and all the time that I spend with my FB friends.

I started thinking about exactly what posts are in my newsfeed. What is the profile of my friends and their interests. Just exactly what shows up as I scroll my newsfeed every day? Are the posts in my newsfeed a mirror of me?

Well, a lot, a whole lot of my friends love animals. Dogs, cats, kittens and unusual friendships between domestic and wild life. Videos that have circulated forever of cute, crazy and rescued animals. Then there was that crazy dentist who killed Cecil, Zimbabwe’s beloved lion. A favorite. My friends, including me, couldn’t get enough of that dentist of death! A pox on him!
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My Facebook friends and I share envious pictures of food – where we ate it and what we were doing and who we were with while we were having a good time eating food and taking pictures of it, including not-always-so-flattering selfie’s with our friends while eating at that marvelous place. I kind of feel left out of the good times when I see these friends of mine celebrating while I am sitting at home wracking my brain for a blog idea, or alone with a pile of laundry looking at me. They may be right on that point if you never ever have anything going on in your own life.
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There are the political posts and gun issue posts. This is where my friends divide. I find a spectrum of diversity on both of those issues, each friend so sure their conclusions are right. I have always believed that friends and politics don’t mix, so it is only on a rare occasion that I stick my nose into any divisive issue, rather than to have it bitten off. I don’t think FB is a forum of persuasion. Just my opinion.

And music. I love music and many of my friends also find music to be an integral part of their lives and we share all kinds of music information on Facebook. I love these posts. 

Finally, there are the myriad of shared posts with affirmations about how much we love being mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. 
Someone said to me the other day that when she logs onto Facebook and sees all of these people socializing and having a good time it makes her feel lonely. So maybe the studies are right, but I doubt in the very near future that people are going to walk away from Facebook. 
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In the meantime, in my own personal non-scientific study I do find that my friends mirror who I am and what I’m interested in reading about; with the exception of politics and keeping my nose out of it.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2015©. All rights reserved.
 

 
 

NEIGHBORS FROM HELL

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“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall….he only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Robert Frost 

Throughout centuries history has proven that wars seem to have the same issues over and over again. Borders,  power and religion. No matter how evolved we as people feel we are the cycle seems to repeat itself century after century. Which brings me back to a blog I wrote but didn’t publish last summer about my own border war.

 The best neighbor I have ever had was Fred Rogers. Really. He was in my neighborhood, the television one, of course, when I was on Romper Room. He was the best and I guess I am really spoiled by that good neighbor. As my friends and readers know, my home has almost 2 acres on a cul-de-sac with unparalleled views. But because I’m not an island I do in reality have two neighbors- one to the left and one to the right off the cul de sac. 

 Luckily, the house was built on the ocean cliff far away from those neighbors to the left and to the right, giving me privacy, but they are still there. On the right there are 60 year old tall evergreens that give me a natural fence and a wonderful neighbor. On the left I had a beautiful white lattice fence following my circle beach stone drive that was repainted white every other year to match the trim on the house. No that is not a typo. “Had” is the key word here. Had.

I am sad to admit I am a big loser. I lost the Good Neighbor Lottery. I have inherited by just being, in my opinion, The Neighbors From Hell to the left of me. If there was a trophy given, they would win the award, hands down. They reallllllyyyy know how to work it.

 In the past and during years that he and his partner have lived on my left flank (please take note of the military term), during my Florida annual absence they have turned my home into theirs by parking their boat and trailer in my driveway, hitting and damaging part of my fence, cutting down trees on my property to accommodate their view, and more or less, making themselves at home on my land.

 Then last summer, my consistent ‘turning of my cheek’ giving me whiplash, I was blindsided by the Code Officer upon my return from Florida saying my neighbor complained that I had to paint their side of my fence (because they think my house is also theirs..I guess). They are both in their 50’s-I am, well…..much older. Besides they had so much shrubbery along the property line those little mischief monkeys would have needed a machete to reach my fence. They couldn’t even see it from their yard. 

When the Code officer came to look at my legal fence, he noticed my neighbor had so many violations he made them take down all of his violations on his property ( poetic justice, finally).

By this time, my husband had gotten so angry about the whole thing he had the fence torn down before I knew it. Goodbye fence that I loved. Hello easy access to my property. Thank you Husband.

Cause and effect. 

These guys really missed my (their) fence and were real pros in the deepest state of mourning. In retaliation, one night after a few too many cocktails trying to drown their sorrows over the loss of my (their) fence, I suspect, my glass door was smashed out in our cottage, just twenty feet from my old fence line. Hummm…wonder who did that? I beefed up property security cameras inside and out. 

 Fast forward to this summer. After a quiet winter away, forgetting all about the “Fence War” and knowing the good surveillance I now have, figured it was peace…at last. I had hoped they had matured, gotten a life and moved on. Oh, why I am so cursed to be such a Pollyanna! 

Three days ago during an open house I was having, they put an almost naked mannequin on the ex-fence property line looking right at me and my company as they drove in. The wives were appalled and the husbands couldn’t take their eyes off of her! The sleeping tiger had awakened. The kids were at it again. 

 The other day they put up a new art instillation (I wish) smack dab on the property line – a row of white plastic chairs, two wooden benches with recycled metal grates of some kind leaning between them. I guess, as my daughter Alison suggested, it is their contribution to Red Neck art!

Like the Energizer Bunny they just don’t stop. Yesterday they posted two signs facing my property. KEEP OFF and POSTED NO TRESPASSING.

Since it has been probably more than six years since I have been invited onto their property, I find those signs rather sad and bizarre, wondering if those two are ever going to get over missing my fence and start acting like good neighbors. 

 So, the moral of this story for me is, “treat kids like kids”. I have taken the attitude that I always had with my children. If I don’t respond, their glee at knowing it bothers me will eventually be abated. And to be honest, I really am amazed to understand that what I think is so important to them. If they were mine, boy, would they have a big ‘time out’! 

 
(Author’s note: written in July of 2014…All is now quiet on the Western Front…I think they have given up on ‘elder abuse’ and property envy….at least until they think of something else. And I have new respect for the meaning of ‘borders without fences.’)

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.


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The Father Who Might Have Been

(The following is a reprint of an article written about my son and I by Brain And Behavior Research Foundation May 27, 2014.)

Holidays are sometimes very hard for those with depression and other forms of mental illness, so I wanted to share our story again to give hope to families who are in chaos due to mental illness to give them hope that research and cures are our biggest priority. We care about you.

In Schizophrenia’s Wake, a Son Laments the Father Who Might Have Been

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Sandra and Emerson Hart, Professional Actress from “Romper Room” and Grammy-Nominated Singer/Songwriter, Lead Singer of Tonic
Sandra and Emerson Hart

Emerson Hart is a singer-songwriter. In the 1990s, he co-founded the Grammy-nominated rock band Tonic and, as the lead singer, has written hit songs for the band’s multi-platinum albums. Emerson credits his mother, Sandra Hart, an actress and writer, for his love of language and performing, and his late father, Jennings, a singer in his youth, for handing down his musical talent. But Jennings also bequeathed to his son a darker legacy.

The most salient fact of Emerson Hart’s life from earliest childhood, one he kept hidden for years, was his father’s mental illness. Untreated and only belatedly diagnosed as schizophrenia, it manifested itself in abuse and rages that cast a shadow of unrelenting terror over the family, which included Sandra’s two small daughters from an earlier marriage. A decade ago, Emerson began confronting the family “secret” with the release of his first solo album.

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Emerson Hart, singer/songwriter

“I love kids and I wanted to be a father,” he says, “but I felt that if I continued to keep that stuff inside, it would poison my relationship with a child.” (He now has a daughter, Lucienne, age six.) Since he has gone public, many fans tell him, often in tears, that his story is theirs. This is a main reason he and his mother so strongly support the work of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation—there should be a way to diagnose and treat these illnesses before havoc is wreaked.

The story began in 1968 when “Miss Sandra,” then the Baltimore-area hostess of the children’s television show “Romper Room,” found “the perfect husband.” Jennings, she says, “was handsome and charming, had his own business, lots of friends and a beautiful Irish tenor voice.” He also, she was to learn, had great skill at hiding the symptoms of his illness.

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After Emerson’s birth in 1969, Sandra struggled to keep the family functioning. Then came a night when goaded by inner voices that told him she was unfaithful, Jennings, brandishing a screwdriver, lunged at her. She was somehow able to knock him off balance long enough to grab the children and flee. Arrested and hospitalized, Jennings was finally diagnosed and treated, but as soon as he was released and returned home, he stopped his medications and the violence resumed.

Unable to help him and increasingly concerned for her family’s well-being, Sandra divorced Jennings in 1977. Then, she says, the stalking began. “He stalked and threatened me constantly. I was certain he would kill me.” Instead, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Jennings was killed, or so it is presumed. In 1980 he vanished without a trace, believed murdered by a jealous husband.

Sandra Hart – “Behind the Magic Mirror”For Sandra, Jennings’ death brought relief, but closure came slowly. Although she married again, happily, and resumed a career as a television and film actress, it took her decades to exorcise the past. She did, finally, by writing about it in the book “Behind the Magic Mirror.” (photo above) (Romper Room fans will recognize the allusion to the show’s “magic mirror.”)

For Emerson, the death brought nightmares. “To this day,” he says, “when I’m under great stress, my father will appear in my sleep, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, smoking a cigarette and staring at me.” Because of the unresolved circumstances of the death, Emerson long feared his father might return. Another “hammer over my head,” as he calls it, was the worry that he would inherit his father’s illness.

Ultimately, however, his deepest feeling is sadness. “If my father had had the right diagnosis and medication early on, if treatment had been possible, with all the good qualities he had going, I know he would have been an awesome father.”

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You Should Have Waited

Robin, you really blindsided us yesterday. I would ask why you couldn’t hang on, stay here with all of us who enjoyed your talents. I would ask that if I didn’t know better. If I didn’t know all about your kind of depression. The kind of depression that wouldn’t matter if you had won the lottery, or if you had lost everything in your life that day. The ‘what if’s’ don’t matter. Which ever way the pendulum is swinging, it doesn’t matter. The dark cloud is always there.

I had hoped you would hang on just a little bit longer so that we would not lose another great mind to this devastating illness. There are little people like us working in the background to raise funds for illnesses like depression and other brain and behavior afflictions with the hope that there will be new cures soon. Just wished you would’ve waited, that’s all. We’ll miss you.

Mike Wallace once said the depths of depression can be so deep it seems impossible to climb up and out. And unfortunately the way out in one’s darkest moment would be the temptation to stop the pain by stopping living. So, so sorry you made that choice. You cannot be replaced.

http://bbrfoundation.org

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.

YOU CANNOT BE REPLACED

If you have followed my blog you already know how I feel about chance meetings. There are no chance meetings and every encounter we come across has to take us another step forward.

Stepping out of his truck, his red hair cut in a crew and a big broad smile he greeted me and Sophie in the cul-de-sac. He was part of the team that had come to refurbish the trim on my house.

Sophie was in her usual ‘this- is -my- territory-protect-everybody’ mode. He quickly understood and bent down to Sophie’s level and said “I’m here. I’m a friend…you’re so sweet,” and he caressed her behind her ears. Sophie was immediately his. I liked him right away, too. His name was Billy. Billy Egan.

The boss and he immediately plugged in all of their equipment to the outlets and a big music box with an iPod attached to it began playing music that I love, soft rock. Sofi and I went back to the deck and I continued with my next writing assignment.

During a break just before lunch I mentioned to Billy how much I loved his music. He smiled and seemed pleased. He only does this kind of work now and then he said because he has a source of income from speaking. Speaking? My reporter/writer ears went up. And that’s when he shared his story with me.

In a nutshell: Billy was an AP student and a varsity athlete but he was also addicted to cocaine which led to pills and eventually heroin. As his addiction grew his life changed, the downward spiral costing him his friends, his family and eventually his freedom.

He was kicked out of two colleges and after a stay in rehab and nine months clean he used again and overdosed. He ended up in jail and was left with the choice; prison or Drug Court.

Through hard work, sober houses and the structure provided by the Drug Court program Billy is coming up on five years clean from his addiction. He just finished his semester at Rutgers with a 3.8 GPA and is on the Dean’s list and is pursuing a career teaching teenagers and urban environments or alternative high schools.

I found out Billy is a member of the You Can NOT Be Replaced team and speaks to help those with addiction. He is taking the negative years of his life and turning them into a positive by giving back. Sound like familiar Karma?

Just like my son and I have been doing for mental illness awareness through Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. And my son through his other charities-each of us trying to give back in our own way. Taking what life has dealt us and making something positive of those life circumstances.

The You can NOT be replaced team does a concert and awareness fundraiser each spring in Nashville on the Vanderbilt campus and I am going to try and make a concert marriage here.

Nothing feels better than giving back, or the excitement of life throwing you a morsel of ‘no chance meetings.’

http://bit.ly/YCNBRvideo

http://www.YOUCANNOTBEREPLACED.com

Sandra Hart Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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BRAIN BEHAVIOR

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Lately, it has been hard to turn on the news. It seems as though there is so much violence among us that every day or so it easily makes its way into the headline news. And the most tragic element of it all, a great portion of the deadly violence is by persons who are mentally ill. Time and time again, it is not the guns or knives, but the instrument of death among us is a mind afflicted with mental illness.

Until we as a society wake up and make a conscience effort to erase the stigma of mental illness, arm ourselves with tools to recognize those who need help and take action by opening the attic door to the myths of brain disorders, the tragic news will only increase.

Why am I so compassionate about this? Because I care? Yes. Because I want to support research for cures? Yes. Because I am one who has recovered from the trauma of living with someone who was mentally ill? Yes. My husband was an acute paranoid schizophrenic.
http://bbrfoundation.org/stories-of-recovery/in-schizophrenia%E2%80%99s-wake-a-son-laments-the-father-who-might-have-been

As the article explains, recovery is sometimes a difficult journey for not only the patient, but those caught in the chaotic mental web that is spun around them.

I found my healing through my writing and my son, Emerson Hart through his music.

There is recovery also by giving back to society through knowledge and understanding that if diagnosed early before the illness becomes acute there is help and hope for those who are not able to rationally help themselves.

Within our communities and families let us all start a dialogue about how we can erase the stigma of mental illness and in the process save lives of both the afflicted and their potential victims. Brain Behavior is the issue, not guns.

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Sandra Hart copyright 2014. All rights reserved.