Thursday, October 30, 2014

Football vs Football

As many of my readers know, I am a die-hard football fan. In fact, if you ask the people who know me best to describe my passion for football, the word "rabid" will most likely be used. I love the game. I love screaming at my television until the neighbors complain (they don't of course; this is the South and everyone is yelling at the tv on Saturday.) I've had a passion for football since I was a young girl watching with my dad. Unfortunately, my dad and I are no longer allowed to watch together at my parents' house because we "get too carried away." Go figure.

Football, American football, has long been my go-to sport. I look forward to football season the way kids look forward to Christmas. Recently, however, I have discovered the other football. The "true" football. The game that we Yanks refer to as soccer.

I got interested during this year's World Cup. I watched a number of matches and was intrigued at the pace of the game and the skill of the players. Lately, due in large part to my Italian friend Maurizio, I've begun following Associazione Sportiva Roma (A.S. Roma or just Roma for short.)

Football players have to be in incredible shape and... wait, what was I talking about?

This type of football moves at a much more constant pace, which I really like. There are not numerous stops and starts. In American football a minute may last ten minutes with all the lining up, time-outs, moving of chains, etc. Of course, there are pros and cons to this too. Constant action means no commercial breaks, but it also means no bathroom breaks.  If you step away from the television to empty your bladder or refill your chip bowl, you're liable to miss something.

Of course the rules of the two games are vastly different. In fact, the only thing they really share in common is the name. I am still learning the rules of football (soccer.)  I've been reading and trying to give names to the plays I've seen and heard described in the matches I've watched. That's one problem I've had with following Roma. The televised matches I've watched online have mostly been in Italian, and I only speak Italian in my sleep (so my husband tells me.)  I've managed to find a few matches on British channels, but frankly sometimes I can't understand what they are saying either.

I understand the penalties and fouls in soccer, though it amuses me somewhat when the players make a dramatic spectacle of falling down. In American football, it's all about throwing down and hitting hard. Not to say that soccer players aren't tough. They play without padding after all. And if anything, they demonstrate "football" much better than American football players ever could. The things soccer players do with their feet are simply amazing: scissor kicks and all kinds of fancy offensive and defensive footwork. American football is mainly about throwing, catching, running and tackling, with a few kicks thrown in here and there to score extra points or to boot the ball to the other end of the field.
I may or may not have thought Juventus was a team of referees. 

While I don't think soccer can dethrone some good ol' SEC football in my heart, I am keenly interested in the game. I keep an eye on the scores and stats and watch matches when I can get access to them. They're exciting and dramatic to say the least. Saturdays, of course, are all about Alabama football. After all, we have games like this:

Just a warm-up, really.

Football/Soccer isn't the hard-hitting high-scoring event that American football is, but it's still a thrill to watch. It also has its own rabid fans who go nuts in the stands and scream at their televisions. It can get wild with brawls, cheap shots, and adrenaline-fueled ugliness. I think the most striking thing to me is the loyalty to and pride in one's team.  That seems to be universal. Whether it's the wearing of the team colors to support the Giallorossi, or the greetings of "Roll Tide" on game day, fan pride seems to be a driving force in both sports. Wins and losses are deeply felt by players and fans alike. They may be "just games," but they are also serious business. 

Perhaps that is the draw. A tough loss is excruciating but is later brushed off as not important. A hard-fought victory however, is memorialized in "Best-Of" reels, posters, and conversations in later years about where you were when it happened. It's gritty, it's glorious, it's football.

And Maurizio, this:

Is Alabama's version of this:

Roll Roma.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Handmaiden of Creativity

I do not believe in mere luck or coincidence. I think everything happens for a reason and has a design. It's for this reason that I felt compelled to write this post today. I had already been considering a blog post about my emotional issues and my creative therapy, when just a few moments ago an article popped up on my Facebook timeline about one man's study of the relationship between anxiety and creativity.

So here's where I get real honest.  Hi, my name is Amy and I suffer from depression and anxiety. When I say depression, I don't mean that I occasionally feel a little blue. I'm talking about the soul-sucking black hole that opens up without warning and makes me feel like everything is wrong, nothing will ever be right, and I should just save myself some heartache and drink some rat poison. That kind of depression.  As for the anxiety, that seems to be an off-shoot of the depression.  I've dealt with both since I was a teenager. From what I understand from my doctors, the parts of me that produce certain hormones are over-achievers which leads to an unfortunate chemical imbalance. My emotional problems stem from a physical condition. They are not in my head, nor beyond control.

Control though, is the issue.  I've had surgeries, had some over-achieving hormone-making bits removed, tried chemical regulators, etc. Such treatments help, for a while.  I have also tried self-medicating with mixed results. Mood-altering substances, prescribed or otherwise, can make you feel floaty and invincible, but eventually you have to come back down and the crash can be catastrophic.

The best and longest-lasting treatment that I have found is simply losing myself in a creative pursuit. My first bout with depression came when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I had no idea what was going on and my parents chalked up my moodiness to teenage angst. I wanted to die. I was miserable, listless, un-engaged. My grades suffered and I had very few friends. Then, one day during the free-writing portion of my 10th grade English class, I heard some music that inspired me. The music led to a story idea and the story idea led to months of afternoons on my front porch scribbling furiously in a spiral-bound notebook. I wrote madly, sometimes sobbing as I did. The story was terrible, but after weeks upon weeks of writing, I found I didn't feel quite so hopeless anymore. A lot of the dark feelings that I had kept bottled up inside had worked themselves out onto my tear-stained pages. It didn't matter so much that the story sucked; the process had been cathartic and I emerged on the other side of it whole.

I owe a lot to Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman

My next major struggle with depression hit many years later after the birth of my first child. Childbirth does terrible things to your hormonal balance and I suffered major postpartum depression.  I was still bogged under its effects when my son turned two. I was a single mom, living with my parents, with no job and no means of supporting myself. I was largely isolated and at the time I didn't drive at all. I began to see a therapist, who wisely suggested I get involved in a local community theatre group as a means to meet people and refocus my emotions. I auditioned for a summer musical, landed a lead role, and proceeded to once again pour out all the negative emotions I had been dealing with. It was exhausting, but I dragged out all the dark thoughts and ugly feelings and tossed them onto the stage and left them there.

In 2002 I played Maria in a summer production of The Sound of Music.

Fast-forward twelve years and another physical change has resulted in more chemical imbalance. I have moments of intense anxiety and days when I spiral down into the darkness of depression. Through it all my husband has been supportive and comforting, talking me through panic attacks and bringing me gelato on the black days. I know though, that I have to work through the emotional roller-coaster. It's hard, but beneficial for me to keep writing, singing, sketching, photographing, etc. in order to be well. Creative pursuits have always been healing for me. They aren't just distractions. When I'm creatively engaged, I can take the sadness, fear, pain and use them as tools. They become my paints, my pen, my words. That's a large part of the reason I am writing this post. Today has been a difficult day emotionally. I know it all originates in the chemicals in my body, but there are external triggers that are often difficult to recognize and avoid. 

I hope that in sharing this I can help someone dealing with these issues. Emotional problems seem to go hand-in-hand with Art. If you are a creative, you likely suffer from depression, anxiety or some other emotional disorder, though no one knows why. Perhaps it is that people who suffer from emotional problems are given Art as a means of coping and as a way to balance the effects of such disorders. I think of Vincent Van Gogh madly slapping paint on his canvases day after day and I'm reminded of myself, hurriedly scribbling words on a page until my hands cramped. Perhaps I've been given Art as a Medicine to my Madness. I may be another fou roux, but hopefully something beautiful will come out of it.  

Even if Art isn't your forte, you can take advantage of its benefits. Coloring, yes coloring with crayons or colored pencils, has been shown to aid in stress relief. I recently printed out some coloring pages, put on some relaxing music and added some color to this:

Yes, it's Vincent's bedroom...with my own touches.

It was incredibly therapeutic and it brought me through a rough spell of near-crippling anxiety. I don't wish for my emotional issues to become my identity. I am not just a depressed and anxious person. I am a writer who is working through her demons, and I'm doing it with the most powerful drug I know: ART.  

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Save Weiss Lake

I recently wrote about the lake near my home.  I described the water, the trees, the wildlife, etc.  I wrote about the lake as a place of reflection and meditation, of serenity and solitude.  I neglected to mention that the lake, my lake, is sick.  Weiss Lake, the place that has become not only my home, but also my creative haven, is in serious condition.  Years of abuse, pollution and outright neglect have left the once-pristine lake a place of refuse and decay and most people are not interested in changing that.

There is however, a glimmer of hope.  For the past year and a half, I have had the privilege of serving as Secretary for the aptly named Save Weiss Lake Foundation.  The Save Weiss Lake Foundation was created by a handful of local citizens who cared enough about the sad condition of the lake to form a group to try to make it better.  The Save Weiss Lake Foundation is now an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with currently around 150 members.  We have regular monthly meetings and most recently had our first annual Member Meeting in which we discussed our progress thus far.

So why am I writing about this in my blog?  Simple.  We need help.  At this moment our voice in the community is very small.  However, the more members and support we have, the larger and louder our voice will be.  A stronger voice means we can get more done in terms of community and political backing.  In the world of politics, money and numbers speak, and we currently have little of either.

Weiss Lake was once buzzing with tourist activity.  People came from all over to enjoy the beautiful lake and its surroundings.  With the deterioration of the lake, the tourists have fled to greener pastures and clearer waters.  The once flourishing independent restaurants, hotels and stores have shut down and for the most part, have vanished completely.  The condition of the lake is not just an ecological concern, but an economical concern as well.

It's also a matter of public health.  The pollutants in the lake, whether from septic pipes or dumped trash are poisoning the water and the aquatic life.  Weiss Lake is not just a recreational area.  For many residents, it is a daily food source.  The long-term health ramifications of eating fish from Weiss Lake are still unknown, but it seems clear that this could be a problem for people who eat from the lake regularly.
                                                          We want to keep this...
                                                             From becoming this.

Save Weiss Lake Foundation needs a lot of support and aid in order to address the issues with the lake and see them remedied.  The good news is that you don't have to live on the lake or even in this state to help!  You can be a part of making the world a better place right from wherever you are, and it only takes a few moments.  If you wish to do a good work and support a great cause, I urge you to visit Save Weiss Lake.  Read about the lake and our efforts and consider becoming a member, or at least making a small donation. This is a volunteer organization, so all funds go directly toward lake-centered projects and research.  Join us in making a great place even better and safe for future generations to enjoy.  It's an investment in the future, not just of Weiss Lake, but of a whole community.

Please visit for more information, to become a member, or to make a donation. You can make donations via our PayPal account, so all transactions are quick and secure!  Thanks in advance for your interest and assistance.  Every person and every little bit counts.