Sunday, October 19, 2014

For Gran

Two years ago, on this day, my Grandmother, my Gran, Lorraine Marion Conyack Harle Yahn, left her tired, hurting body behind, released her physical tether to this world, and set off on the ultimate journey to the great beyond.

My earliest memory of my grandma is her driving me and my friend David to school. David lived across the street and he and I went to a Montessori kindergarten across town. David lived with his grandmother, he saw her every day, but this was the only time my grandma had ever taken me to school. She lived on the other side of the country, so this was an occasion, it was special. It was Christmastime and my parents were out of town. This would be the only time in my life I remember seeing my grandma during the holidays and the only time she was the sole caregiver for my sister and myself. Our relatives lived too far and flights were too expensive. Summers were for visiting. Holidays were for staying home. She would later tell me that her boss didn't want to give her the time off to come, but she came anyway, and was fired. She said she never regretted it, because she knew that it was important for her to make that trip and stay with us. It was just as special for her as it was for me.

I probably only saw her a handful of times over the next ten years, but she always called and sent cards on holidays and special occasions. Then when I was fifteen I went to the East Coast over the summer and stayed with various relatives for a few days at a time. It was the summer after my grandpa died and my aunts were still going through the house trying to clear it out, my grandma fighting them every step of the way. I was to stay with her a week and distract her while they threw out truckloads of old magazines, empty mayonnaise jars, my grandpa's lifetime supply of vitamins, and donated their own childhood toys and clothes and unopened items from The Home Shopping Network. One of the things we did was go see a movie, which neither of us had researched well, called Scary Movie. If I had to make a list of movies to never see with your grandmother, that would be one. Neither of us laughed, neither of us looked the other in the eye, neither of us ever spoke of the movie ever again.

I saw her more frequently after that, being older and having the means to travel to the East Coast to see her. Later in my twenties, I started calling my sister, my parents, and her, every Sunday. If I didn't call, when I awoke Monday morning there would be a voicemail from her berating me for not calling her. I hardly ever missed a call, but I still have a few of those messages saved on my phone. We talked about everything and nothing. I told her the zany things I was doing and the places I was visiting and she told me the things she or my mom, or aunts, had done when they were young. We laughed and laughed.

For her 80th birthday, a bunch of my family gathered in her town to throw a birthday party for her. She told me it was the best day of her life. On that day, we asked her questions about her life and sat around soaking in her answers. We knew they were important questions to ask and somehow we knew it was the last chance we'd have to ask them. We asked about her childhood, her loves, the places she'd visit if she had the chance.

"The rocky coast of Maine," she said.

That was the last time I ever saw her. But I had made her a promise.

"I'll take you there, someday," I told her. And so, I did.

That was two years ago, but this is the first time I've looked at the photos and videos. I wasn't ready until now. But today I'm also five years clean and sober, and I'm working on letting go of painful things I'm carrying around, or things I've put off because they'll bring about strong emotions. Today, something inside told me it was time to to visit the emotions around her death and let them go. So I'm doing just that.

I had two great friends with me on the trip, and the three of us and Gran had a blast. I could hear her laughter in the waves.

We took her to some local eateries for old fashioned ice cream and donuts.


 We took her to beaches, lighthouses, and islands.

And then on the last day, I left some of her there, and some of myself, too, and brought part of Maine back with me.

I just watched the video of that moment, and it was simple and poignant, and the perfect send off to someone who will always be with me, no matter where I go.

Just like the trip Gran knew she needed to make to see me when I was young, this was a trip I needed to take with her, and it was the best promise I've ever kept.

“I wish you could have been there for the sun and the rain and the long, hard hills. For the sound of a thousand conversations scattered along the road. For the people laughing and crying and remembering at the end. But, mainly, I wish you could have been there.”  -Brian Andreas, Story People

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


I was talking to a new friend last week about fear, having just watched Divergent with my roommate and being in the midst of another year of Delusion. If you are unfamiliar, in Divergent, people are placed into a video game-esque simulated situation within their own mind, where they must confront and conquer all their greatest fears, and Delusion is interactive horror theater where the audience must participate in order to advance the story. My friend mentioned the usual situations, like being trapped inside a car that is sinking in a lake, and then turned the conversation on me. The only thing that came to mind was getting sick again.

Most people fear outlandish or extraordinary circumstances that are highly unlikely and that they will probably never actually experience. My fear is something I've lived through. Something I'm familiar with. Something I'd be horrified to live through again.

And it has been on my mind, because my stomach felt ucky for over a week, which always kicks me into survival mode. I got it checked out, and, surprise, it's because I'm not eating the things I should be eating. I've gotten a little lax in my diet, and that's just inviting this junk to come back, so I'm cutting back again. Way to go, Genius.

That being said, I'm now realizing that what I told her wasn't the whole story. Yes, I'm afraid of having to tailor my life around this illness my whole life and I'm afraid of it always being in the back of my mind. But, I'm more afraid that I'm becoming bitter and resentful about it, and I'm afraid that I was actually a better person when I was sick. It's amazing how thinking you're dying changes your perspective.

Some of my closest friends have taken to jokingly point out when I say I don't like something, and it's upsetting to think that I've become one of those negative people. I've always been honest with my feelings, but I was never this vocal or curt in my life, even when I was in immense emotional or physical pain, and this is not who I want to be. I think I got to the point where I had nothing left to lose, and was so embittered about people not saying the things that needed saying when they had the chance, that I let my tact and grace filter out with the toxins in my blood, and now I'm left with a toxic viewpoint.

I thought I processed everything that's happened, but it's becoming apparent that I didn't and that is also scary. (I know it will take time and I'm working on it.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my fear is that I'm not allowing myself to be a better person after having lived through all this and if that's the case, then what was the fucking point? And even scarier, I know that there probably wasn't a point, because shit just happens, and I'm supposed to create a point, but I'm still so upset that it happened in the first place that I'd rather project that anger onto everything else in my life and poison the atmosphere around me than to fashion the point. And that is the scariest thing I can imagine.

I was given a second lease on life, and I'm happier than I've ever been in my life, so how dare I put out any negative energy! From now on, I'm going to stop saying I don't like things unless specifically asked and I'm going to start putting forth as much positive energy as I can muster. After all, you get what you give, right? I owe it to myself and to everyone around me. If I'm going to be a total asshole, then I may as well have just died. And that's probably the scariest thing I've ever written throughout this whole blog.

"Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones." -Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You CAN Eat That

Updated List!!

-B-complex vitamins or selenium (unless labeled Vegetarian and "yeast-free")
- soy sauce, root beer or sauerkraut
-Pickled, smoked or dried meat
-Pork or Beef
-Tamari and Miso
-Tofu or soy products (including edamame)
-High glycemic index foods

-ALL cheese or milk product
-Anything containing yeast
-Breads- cereal, cake, rolls, pretzels, pastries, cookies, sweets, pizza
-Commercially prepared or processed food- soup, dried nuts/fruit, chips, cider,
-Vinegar- mustard, salad dressing, pickles, BBQ sauce, mayo, olives
-Peanuts, pecans, or pistachios
-Malt or chocolate
-Canned/prepared tomatoes (fresh ok)
-Sugar- honey, syrup, brown sugar, fruit juice, processed, high fructose corn syrup
-Figs, prunes, dates, raisins
-Artificial colors or flavors
-Anything processed, frozen or canned
-Whole wheat
-Shitake or maitake mushrooms (not recommended)

-Fresh/steamed vegs:cabbage, kholrabi, brussel sprouts, brocoli, cauliflower, broc sprouts, onions, kale, garlic, beets, artichokes, red/green vegs, leafy vegs, corn, fresh tomatos, rutabegas, avacado, celeriac, snow peas, chives, collards, turnip, squash, dandelion, wax beans, green beans, eggplant, zucchini, kohlrabi, leeks, okra, spinich, cucumber, lettuce, watercress, romaneesco, ginger, endive, fennel, asparagus, bok choy, arugula, celery, chard, pepper, mustard greens, radish, sweet potatoes
-Fresh/free-range/organic/lean protein-chicken, turkey, egg white, fish once/wk
-Herbs(fresh, organic)- basil, mint, cilantro, chervil, dill, parsley, rosemary, tarragon
-Raw lacto-fermented pickles (Bubbies)
-Beans- yellow & green peas, lentils, kidney, pinto, mung, garbanzo (chickpeas), adzuki, red, lima
-Complex carbs (15g/meal, 50g/day max)-buckwheat, millet, quinoa, whole grain oatmeal
-Rice- brown, rice cakes(DR approved), rice crackers(DR approved), rice pasta(sparingly), rice milk(sparingly)
-Unprocessed nuts & seeds- flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower (butter, too), almonds (butter, too)
-Unrefined oils- olive, sesame, safflower, corn
-Fruit- banana, black currents, cranberries
-Coconut oil- organic, unsweetened
-Stevia sweetener
-Roasted nuts
-Fruit (except for one serving of aproved fruits when blood sugar is low)
-Walnut and cashews

Thursday, May 22, 2014

4 For You Glen Coco!

It's been 4 years since my diagnosis. I celebrated today with some rooftop poolside lounging and homemade tacos.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Four years ago I went skiing for the first time and it forever changed my life. Little did I know that crossing that activity off my Bucket List would create an avalanche of misfortune, that would take me three years to claw my way out of, and would throw dynamite into the center of my life, destroying everything I revered, while creating a staggeringly beautiful new life as the ash settled.

I started this blog in June 2010 after being diagnosed with Aspergillosis, the result of falling on my face skiing, which I recounted two years later, if you care to revisit those narratives. Fast forwarding to a year or so after that, I was told that the fungus was no longer growing, and then a little time later, I was informed that my illness no longer posed an immediate threat but was still hovering on the horizon.

Then last year, I got some news that allowed me to let out the leaden breath that I had been holding in for the previous three years: my illness, the one I was never expected to survive, had subsided. I was not cured, per say, but the fungus was not active, and they expected it to stay that way indefinitely, which it has. It has been 8 months since then, and in that time I've had a few sore throats, ear infections, and upset stomachs, but no noteworthy active threats! While I still experience residual effects of the ordeal, they are now an integrated part of my life and no new problems have arisen. I've actually felt ALIVE, for probably the first time in my life.

If you'll recall, I got sober a few months before I got sick. It's one of those situations where my drinking habits helped create the situation that got me sick, getting sober kick started it, and on the other hand, if I hadn't been sober I wouldn't have survived, nor been able to emotionally handle it. Life is complicated and layered and oh so weird.

I feel like I've lived five lifetimes. I'm not the person I was a few years ago. That person wasn't really alive. That person was surviving. And when push came to shove and I was face to face with my addictions and my mortality, this me, the real me, fought like fucking hell to be alive and, let me tell you, it was worth it. I don't know if I would be this person if I wasn't an Addict/Alcoholic with Aspergillosis (that's a lot of A) or not, who knows. Maybe something else would have prompted the shift. I think this me was always there, flying under the radar and popping out from time to time, so maybe I just needed a stick of dynamite to get out.

This is a really long-winded intro to what I'm really trying to get to...

When I shared that amazing, important news, I didn't know how to feel, or what to say, or how to be, or what to do. My life was moving really fast then and I wanted to grab as much of it as I could, because I could. So I pushed those feelings aside and went on with my days. Then yesterday, I spoke on the phone (can we take a moment to note the fact that the previous me NEVER spoke on the phone to anyone) with someone who went through a similar situation with their health and is also doing better these days, I learned of a young woman named Sarah Jones who tragically died while filming on location for a movie, and I looked at a calendar and realized today's date. Then I couldn't sleep. All the thoughts and emotions I'd been ignoring for the last 8 months caught up to me.

I think what I've figured out is that I don't have it all figured out, and that's okay.

I don't know why this happened to me or to others, or why some of us survive and some don't. I don't have anything profound to say today about my survival and there are even some days I completely forget that shitstorm even happened at all. There are other days when it's all I can think about, or other people in a similar situation come to me for advice and I don't know what to tell them. Some days I'm really fucking angry because health care in this country is a joke and because people in other countries don't even know what health care is. Some of the time I'm profoundly sad over the fact that my illness means I can never physically have my own children and other times I'm thankful to have something to blame if I don't actually want to have any. There have been days I was thankful for the things I've learned the last 4 years and days that I recounted all the things I have lost or missed out on.

I'm resentful toward myself for not having a more profound reaction to the news and I think part of it is fear that if I don't have death staring me directly in the eyes that I may lose my zest for life and start taking things for granted. I fear living a lackluster life far more than I fear dying. Now that I know what it feels like to be fully, deeply, really ALIVE, I'm afraid of losing it.

That's what I've been running from for 8 months: fear of losing my urgency to live. Now that I've admitted it, I am ready to confront it and I encourage all of you to confront what you fear. We can all help each other live life to the fullest, to do the things that make us happy, and to help others find and do what makes them happy. Deal?

I made an active decision along the way to find joy even in the bleakest moments, to find something to be grateful for every day, and to say no to things that don't make me feel alive. If I could turn on that mentality while writhing in endless physical torment, I guess I can summon it when I'm grumpy or uninspired. So, I guess the whole point I am trying to make is that I choose to be happy and I hope to continue checking that box every morning, no matter the circumstances. I hope you'll join me in doing the same.

I'm so grateful to be here and, as always, thank you for accompanying me on the journey.

“Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.” - Robert Cody

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's Been A While...

Quite a while, actually. Six months to the day. I've meant to write, really. That's what they always say. I guess, in this case, the "no news is good news" cliche rings true. I haven't written, because there hasn't been much to write about regarding my health.

These days, I'm doing the things I want to do and enjoying being healthier than I can remember being in many years. And also, I got tired of focusing so much on my illness, so I simply didn't focus on it as much, because I didn't have to. Obviously, it's always on my mind, and it still limits the way I do certain things, but there were so many other wonderful things to enjoy and be out doing instead of sitting at home writing.

Here's where I am with my health these days:

I still live with pain, every day, mostly in my bionic foot, joints, chest, and spine, but I've found that being busy and staying active helps. It could be that it loosens me up, or that I'm too preoccupied to dwell, but nonetheless, it helps.

I still spend 10 to 12 hours a day in bed, and a lot of my day sitting, but I'm still able to get done what I want to do for the most part.

I eat more things now, like some starches, and basically all nuts, and any fruit I desire, and sometimes (very rarely) even gluten and cheese (I usually pay dearly for it). Shocking, right? I still stay away from eating mammals, sugar (I've cheated a few times lately, not going to lie), soy, and fungus, I try not to eat anything modified or processed, and continue to get my blood tested. So far, so good. 

I'm currently toying with adding honey, Agave, and certain types of chocolate to my diet, but I have a major sweet tooth, so the idea scares me.

And here's what I've been up to in the last six months:

I traveled to Boston, Rhode Island, Maine, San Diego, and San Francisco.

I spent time with people I care about, especially my entire family.

I was Box Office Manager for the interactive horror play called Delusion and met a bunch of celebrities like Laura Prepon, Nathan Fillion, Lance Bass, and Neil Patrick Harris.

I interned at GLAM Magazine and interviewed a bunch of people including Margaret Cho.

I booked guests, like Paula Patton, for a talk show and a radio show.

I went to tapings of a ton of game and talk shows such as Chelsea Lately and The Price Is Right.

I visited museums, parks, and galleries.

I went to a ton of concerts, plays, movies, and events.

I photographed premieres and red carpets.

I produced a reunion event for fans of South of Nowhere with the cast and crew.

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

And here's what is coming up in the next six months:

I'm turning 29- EEK!

My niece is turning 2.

My parents are coming to visit.

I'm doing Color Me Rad again.

My 3rd year on the red carpet at The Daytime Emmys.

And hopefully a bunch of other rad things!

Until the next time...