The Magnolia Story

Read it now: The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino.

I’m able to watch HGTV’s Fixer Upper house decorating and remodeling show. It features the husband Chip and wife Joanna who have four kids.

The show was an instant sensation. The book is a revelation.

The Magnolia Story is more uplifting and inspiring than any book I’ve read recently.

I recommend buying the book and keeping it on hand to read and savor.

Joanna’s wisdom is the prime selling point for buying the book:

“It was such a blessing to find myself thriving in the middle of the pain. Unless you find a way to do that, there’s always going to be this fake illusion that once you get there–wherever ‘there’ is for you–you’ll be happy. But that’s just not life.

If you can’t find happiness in the ugliness, you’re not going to find it in the beauty, either.”

I’m buying a copy to give as a gift.

More than this, the underlying theme of perpetual miracles given to Chip and Joanna Gaines can seem impossible for others to obtain.

The duo kept having an endless spate of triumph just when the hard times threatened to do them in. It’s best to overlook that they were luckier than a lot of people have been. Their financial struggles came through loud and clear in the book. It proves that they were not privileged; they were just fortunate to have benefactors who believed in them.

Finding your own benefactors could be the sole topic of a book of its own.

I say: use this book to your advantage in crafting your own “magnolia story” for yourself and your loved ones.

Be joyous when others succeed. Be proud when you succeed. Get support from others and give support to others in times of need.

Power your own flowering story’s book with love and compassion.

That’s the true message of The Magnolia Story: kindness can be a raft carrying us over to a better place.


Say Yes to Mental Health Treatment

The Republicans are set to vote into law today the gutting of mental health services enacted under the Affordable Care Act while President Obama was in office.

The Republicans are set to roll back progress by eliminating mental health treatment and charging higher premiums for fewer kinds of mental health service.

The Republicans are set to deny mental health constituents coverage for addiction treatment.

It will become illegal to have an abortion. Yet when your fetus turns 18 and develops schizophrenia or another mental illness or a drug addiction there will now be no treatment available for them. Write your elected officials and thank them for this.

Makes sense right? Makes sense to have voted into power the people who are voting today to eliminate funding for mental health services for the very people who need it.

Cue the sarcasm. Is there an emoji for sarcasm? You know where I stand.

If you live in New York State here are the telephone numbers of the elected officials you can call to tell them to vote NO for the MacArthur Amendment that denies citizens treatment for mental health.

Rep. Lee Zeldin Long Island 202-225-3826
Rep. Peter King Long Island 202-225-7896
Rep. Dan Donovan Staten Island 202-225-3371
Rep. John Faso Upper Hudson Vally 202-225-5614
Rep. Elise Stefanik North Country 202-225-4611
Rep. Claudia Tenney Binghamton 202-225-3665
Rep. Tom Reed Finger Lakes Region 202-225-3161
Rep. John Katko Syracuse 202-225-3701
Rep. Chris Collins Western NY 202-225-5265
Tell your congressperson that:
  • The American Health Care Act would leave millions of Americans without mental health coverage and strip Medicaid funding.
  • The recently-introduced “MacArthur Amendment” would let states get waivers allowing health insurance plans to¬†not cover mental health and substance use treatment and charge people with mental illness more.
  • It’s outrageous to even suggest that mental health coverage is optional and to charge people more because they have a mental health condition.
  • Medicaid coverage is also under threat. It covers important mental health services that help people with mental illness get better and stay better.
  • Please tell Representative_______ to keep what works for mental health and REJECT the American Health Care Act and the MacArthur Amendment. Thank you.

I telephoned my guy in Washington. The line was busy. I’ll call again to try to get through.

I’m posting this same blog entry in the Flourish blog.


Makeup Haul

I wanted to write about beauty and style again. I’ve been on this kick lately.

You should dress to please yourself first of all. If you ask me “Dressing well is the best revenge.” When life throws you a curve why not hit it out of the ballpark in style?

In October I’ll have been in recovery 30 years–I’ll have taken medication for 30 years with no ill health nor lasting side effects.

My love of makeup and clothes has definitely been a key factor in my success. A couple of reviewers of Left of the Dial pooh-poohed this connection. Yet I stand by my assertion that dressing in your own style works wonders.

Yes: wearing subtle beautiful makeup and dressing in your own style can be a form of mental health treatment–as an adjunct to your regular treatment.

You should absolutely dress well and wear subtle beautiful makeup if you want to feel good about your self when your circumstance in life is less than ideal.

Read the Visual Therapy book Life in Color and take the Visual Therapy Style Type Quiz. I’m a Star Chic by the way–a Star ColorType because of my black hair and pale cool skin and dark brown eyes. The book is a shortcut to finding the clothes and makeup that suit you best.

Knowing your Color and Style Types can prevent you from making costly mistakes when buying things.

I’m so over impulse shopping…and I’ve finally curbed my wandering in drugstores aimlessly buying any old makeup on a whim only to take it home and discover an hour later that it doesn’t work with my complexion.

I wanted to post a photo here of my makeup haul because I’m here to say that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good…so I wanted to feature my edited selection. A disclaimer: some of the lipstick comes from Sephora–I can’t resist the allure of that store.

This is all makeup suitable for a Winter season / Star ColorType.



NARS – Rosecliff, MUFE – C211 Rose Wood, NARS – Red Lizard, Maybelline – Smoking Red, Maybelline – Blissful Berry, Maybelline – Pretty in Plum

Eye shadows:

CoverGirl – Not Just Nudes Roses, NARS (not shown) – Nepal (cocoa-rose), Maybelline – Silken Taupe, L’Oreal – Petit Perle, L’Oreal – Violet Beaute


L’Oreal Infallible – Charcoal, Sephora – Tiramisu (espresso brown)


Clinique – Cream Chamois


NARS (not shown) – Torrid (coral pink), Beauty Salon – Primrose (nude)

(The MUFE translucent powder I don’t even wear anymore.)


Finding Our Tribe in Recovery

I say that finding our tribe in recovery is one of the best kinds of “treatment” along with therapy and medication for those of us who require medication.

This month I turn 51 years old. I’m confident when I tell readers that you can have a better life now than you did when you were younger.

A poster on a gym wall beckons: Reinvent Yourself. That’s a great strategy for mid-life: not giving up on ourselves. Setting the bar. Reaching out to try something new to discover a passion that has taken hold: whether for a guy or gal, a house, a career–whatever passion project you want to fund in your fifties.

Giving up is not an option. I have a core posse of friends. One guy has come on the scene like a possible soul mate. If you ask me developing friendships–and possible romantic partners–is the way to go in recovery.

It’s not ever too late to take up new friendships or new projects or new careers. And you can have more than one career at the same time or different careers at different times in your life.

On your birthdays when you’re 50 and older: make an impossible wish. Dream big. Reach for the stars because you can settle for the moon.

Having great friends in our lives can inoculate us from illness. If you ask me isolation breeds illness. I say: as hard as it is to do this: reach out and try to strike up a friendship or romance with a person you’re interested in.

I’m making an astonishing wish on my birthday. I’ll keep it a secret.

My mother’s aunt turned 80 and we celebrated with a party outdoors at a farmhouse. Wooden tables in the yard. Organic food fresh from the farm.

Aunt A. told us she looked forward to every new birthday–and she was 80!

Take a tip from this women: celebrate yourself at any age.

The older a person gets the more important it is to maintain social connections.

I’m going to celebrate with friends.

Fifty-one is a great time to be alive.

A Sense of Humor in Recovery

The comedian Sarah Silverman was quoted in TimeOut NY:

“Humor can change people’s minds more than anger.”

That’s true. In Left of the Dial I employed a sense of humor to talk about what happened.

I recommend attending a comedy club or watching a three-hour Looney Tunes cartoon marathon or other funny movies.

It’s true I also advocate for having a sense of humor about any perceived stigma. Forgiveness is the way to go: to forgive others who don’t understand; to forgive the illness for encroaching on our lives; to forgive our parents if we need to; to forgive whoever harmed us.

That’s where a sense of humor comes in. I really shouldn’t have had to fight for crumbs from the table to get what I wanted: my own apartment and a full-time job. Other people who don’t have a diagnosis take having these things for granted.

People living with mental illnesses shouldn’t have to fight to get these things. We should be entitled to have them too. We also are entitled to recover. We shouldn’t have to settle for the scraps that unsavory treatment providers give us either: telling us that we can’t recover.

Or practicing business-as-usual with high doses of medication and no practical career counseling and social skills training and individualized therapy as soon as we experience symptoms. The RAISE study proves that the time has come to make recovery for everyone the goal.

Recovery for everyone is a noble, worthy goal. It might not be achievable yet I will always advocate for recovery for everyone. Today more and more people who get the right help right away can and do recovery.

For a significant number of people then recovery is probable not just possible.

I first came up in a mental health system circa 1988 to 1991. I fought to have a better life. I use a sense of humor to talk about my time in that system. It was a time when it was thought that not a lot of people could recover.

This is why I ripped apart what went on with a sense of humor. I will always advocate for finding humor even in your darkest moments.

Thus my contention that attending a comedy club or watching a funny movie marathon can lift our spirits.

A Long Life to You!

baby pink sweater outside

You’re supposed to use photos in your blog entries so that Google ranks them higher in search. This photo is a little too big if you ask me.

I just say no to fillers, Botox, and lip injections. It all looks plastic to me when a woman over 40 has no wrinkles.

This photo was taken after a haircut. I recommend you have your hairstylist shoot your photo after a good haircut.

At 50 a woman should let her face breath every so often. The war paint look is aging. If you’re afraid to look at yourself, there’s more going on in your head than meets the eye. If you don’t like yourself, that’s sad when most likely you’ll have more years to live.

A guy I know who’s taken schizophrenia meds since he was 13 is now 72. A shortened life span is not inevitable. It’s a myth that needs to be retired. People who stay in mental health treatment become well enough to monitor any co-occurring medical health risks. Thus we live longer as a result.

The start is to quit smoking. My 72-year old friend didn’t ever smoke. Nor do I. I’ve always detested cigarette smoking from the time I was a young kid. I was easily nine or 10 years old when I had a distaste for cigarette smoking.

Give up smoking–I implore you to quit smoking now if you’ve taken up this life-ending habit. It’s not ever too late to quit smoking. Three women I know who smoked two packs a day for 40 years now sleep and travel everywhere with oxygen tanks.

Guaranteed to give you emphysema, COPD, and a drawn and gaunt, wrinkled-early face.

Give up drinking colas and sodas and soft drinks as the other thing you do if you still imbibe sugary or fake-sugar sweet pop. Doing only these two things–quitting smoking and not drinking colas–are the two best things a person can do. The proof is in how I look..I refused to start cigarette smoking; I refused to drink Coke or Pepsi.

Vanity is a legitimate reason for not doing any of this if you ask me. Living a happier, healthier, longer life is also a good reason for not doing any of this.

Besides…I have a date at a gastro pub that plays cool music.

A long life to you too!

Getting Credentials

Years ago SZ magazine featured people who were interviewed about what to do if you have schizophrenia and might have negative symptoms and not be able to work.

The analogy was given that if you like music you could join a band. Flame are professional artists that perform throughout America. No kidding.

I wrote at HealthCentral a news article titled: “Recovery Strategies: Getting Credentials.” It riffed on the ideas in the magazine feature.

What I championed was that you can boost your mood and your confidence by getting credentials. Like anyone else who performs in a field you can claim that title.

A woman who played the piano identified as a pianist. I identified as an athlete because I’m a fitness buff and gym fan.

Really anything positive and healthy that a person does is a form of credentialing. This was an insight I had about how to boost self-esteem.

The moral of this story is that boosting your mood and getting confidence is possible. And it’s not ever too late to try something new.

It wasn’t until I turned 46 that I started to cook from recipes all sorts of delicious food. I even created a lobster roll on my own. I was 46 too when I started to train at the gym.

Thus I make the case for getting credentials.


Research indicates expressive therapy can help heal PTSD. It can help a person recover from schizophrenia along with medication.

Art music writing yoga–anything expressive–can heal our pain according to a psychiatrist at the educational conference.

That’s how my memoir Left of the Dial differs from the other books in the field: it focuses on self-expression and creativity as the twin engines driving my recovery.

True occasional reviewers weren’t enamored of my focus on makeup and fashion. Yet I wanted to show how this contributed to my recovery along with music and books and writing–all creative arts.

On Saturday you could attend an art therapy session in the early evening at the conference. I chose turquoise construction paper and folded it in half and created an art card. On the back of the card in red bold letters spelled the word HOPE.

I’m an artist as well as a writer. A talent for art runs in my family. I have hanging in my living room a painting “Still Life With Pitcher and Fruit.” I’ve created an art gallery in my hallway.

The reviews of traditional art therapy as a modality have been mixed. Some research indicates it’s only helpful to those of us who like to do art. Yet in 2014 at the APA convention I met an MD who led her poster session on Art Making. I wrote about her findings at HealthCentral back then. She clearly demonstrated that making art had benefits for her patients.

I’m no longer employed at HealthCentral so I’m not going to link to the news articles I published there.

Yet from my own experience I can tell you: art, music, writing, dancing, reading books and engaging in cultural events did help me recover.

It’s something to possibly try out to see if it benefits a person. If it’s not something you like doing or want to pick up long-term: you can try another thing. Like sports. Or baking. Or singing.

As my father so famously told me and I recorded in Left of the Dial: “It doesn’t have to be writing. It can be ballet. You have to do something with your time.”

You can try out more than one thing to figure out what you love to do and want to do.

An author of a book claimed that watching TV was a pleasant activity for people. I abhor watching TV. I turn on the TV only to listen to the weather report before I go outside.

The moral of this story is: to each our own. You might love watching TV and not love painting or sketching.

The expression is: do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Do what you love and your recovery will be enriched.

Piece of Cake

Long-term studies reveal that about 15 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia can achieve a spontaneous remission. That’s a minority of us. If you’re so lucky, more power to you.

Taking medication is often the jet fuel that powers talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy.

We can’t keep squabbling about whether or not a person diagnosed with schizophrenia should or shouldn’t take medication. That’s not the point. It goes without saying that a minority of us won’t need ongoing maintenance medication.

The point is that for too long–going on decades now–people who needed medication have gone without it for too long.

I choose to talk about my own experiences instead of parroting clinical trials though.

The point is that individuals who require maintenance medication have been disparaged from taking it. Either we’re denied treatment or we’re told that the treatment is going to disable us or kill us.

Research indicates that people who consistently take their SZ medication live longer. Mostly because we become well enough to be proactive in getting help for other medical conditions we might have. That’s all I’ll say on this.

It’s time. The RAISE study corroborates that it’s time to set our sights higher for what individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are capable of achieving when we get the right help right away.

It’s time for mental health staff to change their tune and to offer us support, appropriate medication, and practical career and housing counseling.

The days should be long gone when everyone’s told a “take a number” from a bakery line number dispenser and get in line to buy the day’s product. For too long we were given numbers to wait in line in a bakery that sold only one product: cookies cut from the same mold.

Do bakeries even have or use that ticker that you pull out a number from anymore like they did in the 1980s?

I lived in a time when only one option was available. I lived in a time when only I and three other women dared risk creating a better life for ourselves in opposition to the prevailing wisdom that recovery wasn’t possible. I wonder if others got out after we left.

I give talks at the Zucker-Hillside IPRT and I’ve done this for over 10 years now. An IPRT is an Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Treatment Center. This one in Hollis, Queens in New York helps its clients set and achieve a goal with a 12 to 24 month completion date. I recommend the Zucker-Hillside IPRT without reservation.

Today is the day to set our sights higher.

It’s the day that now more than ever having a full and robust life is possible.

Make mine a chocolate pudding cup..

What’s yours?