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Proust Questionnaire. Guest blogger Dr. Paul Alan Cox




Good morning from Paris.

As we continue our Proust Questionnaire series, I thought I would give you a little update regarding “my condition.” Baby steps, baby steps. I finally ate some hummus and believe me, that is a miracle. Baba ganoush is next. It is easy to get discouraged but I am trying everything in my power to stay mentally strong so that my stupid body can get stronger. However, I just want to kill everyone. I watched an ALS documentary over the weekend called, Hope for Steve, and I don’t think I should have. It depressed me and I usually don’t get depressed. I kept thinking as I watched the documentary, “How horrible would it be if I got ALS.” And then I remembered that I do have ALS. So, needless to say, I am a bit down… so it’s best if I don’t do a lot of writing because I might inadvertently/purposely offend just about everyone.

So, let’s just talk about someone more positive (and smarter) than I am… Dr. Paul Alan Cox. My ALS hero. In 1997, TIME magazine named Dr. Cox one of 11 “Heroes of Medicine” for his work in ethnobotanical drug discovery. This accolade is just the beginning for this gentleman. I am not going to say another word until you go to his website HERE and read for yourself the marvel of a man he is... I’ll wait…

See! Now this is the guy that you want on your team! And, I am lucky enough to have him in my corner… And my apartment for that matter. Yes, you heard me, Dr. Paul Alan Cox makes house calls… to Paris.

A couple of years ago, Dr. Cox and his brilliant friend, producer Bo Landin, started their endeavor to make a documentary on ALS and asked yours truly to be a part of it. I was honored but I was also worried that I would look like a fat fuck on screen so I had some hesitations but I did it anyway… For the sake of ALS and because I would do anything for Dr. Cox because he has made it his sole mission in life to cure ALS…. And because he is adorable.

Dr. Cox believes that ALS stems from a toxin… And I agree. You can read his whole theory HERE. If Dr. Cox cures ALS it will also help those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s so his research will pretty much affect everyone. And this is why he is my hero.

Now, let’s listen to him for a while because, trust me, he is far more interesting than I am.

Proust question for Dr. Cox: Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Dr. Cox‘s Answer: French Philosopher Albert Camus

ALS is a disease with no known cause, no known cure, and only one drug approved in 1994 that adds a few months of life to patients. People sometimes ask me why I founded a non-for-profit research Institute whose aim is to discover new drugs for ALS.  Funding a research charity is often hard, and coming from a very different research background (I am an ethnobotanist) and approach (environmental triggers instead of genetic causes) often leads me and my small team to be considered as outsiders in the broader ALS research community.

Raising the funds necessary for laboratory rent, equipment maintenance, staff salaries, clinical trials, etc. sometimes strikes me as like Sisyphean labor. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was sentenced to roll a large stone up the side of the valley every day, only to watch it roll down at night. Albert Camus in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus considered his plight. He wrote “The struggle to the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. We must imagine Sisyphus as happy.”  

That certainly has been the case with me. We are making good progress in our ALS research and have discovered an experimental drug, which Ellie is taking, which promises to slow disease progression in ALS patients. It was wonderful two weeks ago for my wife Barbara and I to visit Ellie, and to be cheered and encouraged by her. Sisyphus is indeed happy.


Don’t you just love Dr. Cox. I sure do!

Ellie’s question: What is your favorite charity?

Dr. Cox’s answer: Institute for EthnoMedicine. http://ethnomedicine.org/make-a-difference/


*Something you don’t know about me? I am completely obsessed with the HBO series, VEEP. Have you ever watched this? It is brilliant. The writing… Genius. I am not sure if I am proud of this but I have a feeling that I would be the same exact President as Julia Louis-Dryfus’s (who, FYI, was my neighbor in Santa Barbara) character, Selena, would be… Judgmental with a lot of F words and zero tolerance for BS but well dressed. My favorite are her parenting skills or lack thereof. In the last episode, she looked at her daughter, Kathryn, just before a big important meeting, and said to her, “Why is that your hair.”

Love.
A toute!

Proust Questionnaire Guest Blogger Jamie Brisick



Well, hello again! Excuse my absence… reality got in the way. As much as I would like to while away my day writing my blog, doing my shop, policing my family, or spending the day outside in the Palais Royal, sometimes my life gets in the way. As much as I like to pretend that I am “normal”, alas, I am not. This week as I was packaging up all of your purchases from the sale, my beautiful little feeding tube started to interrupt my life and I had to “tend” to it. Hell on earth is an understatement. Not to bore you with the details or the gore… let’s just say that I survived… barely. Painkillers are my new best friend. I don’t even need them anymore as the pain has subsided… but I’m gonna continue our friendship, regardless.
While I am recuperating for the 100th fucking time, let’s continue our Proust Questionnaire with my friends because at this juncture they are far more interesting than this chick over here in Paris with stupid ALS.

Today’s Q & A is from my friend, Jamie Brisick. Truth be told, Jamie is my first crush. I was 16 or 17 years old and I met Jamie at the beach and fell head over heels in love. How could I not? He was a dashing intellectual… surfer. Usually intellectual and surfer do not go hand in hand but in Jamie’s case, he was exactly that. On top of this, he was also the funniest, wittiest, most handsome man on earth… still is to this day. But don’t tell him that I said any of this. For our 1st date, if you could call it that, Jamie took me to Zooma Sushi in Malibu for dinner and as the waiter asked for our drink order Jamie looked at me and said, “Care for a Fresca?” I was in love. I like to call him Dogface just to keep his ego intact. Jamie went from surfer to editor of Surfer Magazine to brilliant author penning 2 books. His latest book, Becoming Westerly, is a beautiful tribute to a delicate subject. “BECOMING WESTERLY is much more than a book about a celebrated surfer who becomes a woman—in this case, a dude who becomes a diva. Brisick presents us with a case study of narcissism, of the pathology of celebrity, and a detailed look at the complex world of competitive surfing. It is a funny and painful book, too, and one I greatly enjoyed. —Paul Theroux, Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories, The Last Train to Zona Verde, The Great Railway Bazaar and Mosquito Coast

 
 

Discover Jamie more through his website, http://jamiebrisick.com, and I am sure you will become as smitten with him as I was am with Dogface.
Proust Questionnaire for Jamie: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Jamie’s Answer: For me, the lowest depth of misery has been doing something that feels wholly out of line with who I am, what I believe in, what makes me happy. This can come in many forms. I have felt it in a shitty relationship, where I feel like everything is compromise. But most terrifying for me has been when I've felt it in my work.

 I'm spoiled. I've been fortunate enough to align work with the things I love. But every once in a while that gets skewed. A long while back I took a job as the editor of a surfing magazine. I thought it would be "playing in the sand box." Instead, I inherited a nightmare of Excel spread sheets that were far beyond my skill set. I was exposed to the harsh truth of compromised magazine making: advertisers called the shot. I was also expected to be a kind of glad-handing puppet/frontman, a smiling and baby-kissing politician of sorts. That felt dishonest. It felt like I was trying to live someone else's version of me. That was miserable.
As a writer I feel this on a simpler, more immediate scale when I take on a gig that I have no connection with. Writing is tough enough as it is, but writing about something you don't care about is torture. It's a microcosm of falling out of your own flow, losing your mojo, disconnecting from your instincts and intuition.

I have experienced severe loss (my brother many years ago, my wife just recently), and that's more painful than any of the above. But I wouldn't quite call that misery. That's something else.

Thank you, Jamie. You never disappoint.  

Ellie’s Question: What is your favorite charity?
Jamie’s Answer: Waves 4 Water. http://www.wavesforwater.org/about/story


The Have Some Decorum Home Shop is Open!




The shop is open!
 
To shop click HERE!
 
 
You can always shop 24/7 on the homepage by clicking the SHOP icon on the right sidebar!


Welcome Back the Have Some Decorum Home Shop


Good morning from beautiful Paris.

Now that I have gotten that last blog off of my chest, let’s move forward, shall we?

No better way to start the week than with a Have Some Decorum Home Sale!
 
This sale is all about black lacquered chinoiserie, gold gilt mirrors and blue and white porcelain chinoiserie because… Why not! I will not rest until each and every one of you has at least one piece. 😀

I thought I would give you a little sneak peek to whet your whistle. I will also be giving more sneak peeks everyday on Instagram HERE until the sale starts which is…

Wednesday, May 18 at exactly 10am Pacific Standard Time!

Let’s start with the black lacquered chinoiserie. Do you know why I love these pieces so much? Lots of reasons… I love their elegance… The black lacquer, because they are Napoleon III, the charming scenes that include cherry blossoms, birds, weeping willows, and the imperial look of the Chinamen, women, and children… And the colors! Black, gold, persimmon, ivory, and the occasional pink, turquoise, or sage green. I mean, what's not to love. Some of the pieces for Wednesday’s sale include jewelry boxes, flower vases, match boxes, trays, and trinket boxes. Let's take a look…




 
Next up, my beloved gold gilt mirrors. This sale has two of my favorites… The sunburst mirrors. There are two available and if you get to the sale fast enough you can purchase two so you will have a pair… Which is golden. A pair! Do you remember the blog I did about the Victoria Press auction? If not, check it out HERE. One of my favorite rooms was the room that she had with the gigantic sunburst on the ceiling. Look look look…

 


This is what you could do with the sunburst mirrors that will be available on the shop Wednesday if you don't want to use them in the traditional sense, don't you think! Fabulous! I would even drop a chandelier out of it like my friend Nancy did. But they would still look great as mirrors too!

 


I also have a very special gilt OWL mirror that is so charming I could die… Take a look!

 


As always, I have a drop dead gorgeous collection of blue and white Chinese porcelain! Some of your favorites are back in stock as well as some new pieces… Vases, jars, lamps, orchid pots, and more. Take a look…



 
The other categories will be open on the shop as well… Baskets, lamps, porcelain flowers, accessories, books, etc!

The shop opens back up Wednesday, May 18 at exactly 10am Pacific Standard Time!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram HERE for more sneak peeks!


Love to all of you!

#April2016



Let me start this blog by saying… I am so fucking sick of myself. By the way, if your delicate ears cannot handle a few swear words (at least 2-300 per paragraph) this is not the blog for you.

And also, this is a super long blog, more like a novel… or a police complaint.
Many of you have asked how I am. I hesitate to answer because it ain’t so pretty. However, be careful what you ask for because today I am going to tell you… I apologize in advance.

In all honesty, I feel like a death row inmate waiting for my execution for a crime I did not commit (or, did I?). Dead girl (not) walking. I have even considered my last meal (Mrs. Wilkes Savannah, Georgia fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, biscuits and 16 glasses of sweet tea). As you know, my French doctor has confirmed that I am in the final stages of ALS. I could die at any moment… but here is the thing… I keep waking up every fucking morning.
When I was young, my sister and I would get ready for bed… put on our floor length nightgowns and kneel by our twin size canopy beds, clasp our hands and pray…

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take”
I swear to God, we said this prayer every night. I would say it, but did I really mean it? I was so young, but here I am, aged 46, finding myself laying here sacked with ALS looking out my window of the Palais Royal and uttering the same prayer…

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take”


But this time, I mean it. I am ready to go but every morning I wake up and think to myself, “What are you still doing here, moron?”
For the past almost 6 years, ALS has been hard… very hard. But now, these past 2 months have been complete hell and I did not think that I was cut out for this kind of struggle and I was resigned to let myself succumb to the inevitable. I mean, how would you feel if you could not… hold your head up, open your mouth wide enough for a toothbrush to fit, swallow your favorite chai tea with vanilla soy milk, eat even old lady mashed potatoes or a fucking raspberry, or most importantly, dictate into your voice recognition software… which bring me to my next grievance…

Autonomy is the key to life. It truly is. Try having it taken away from you for one day and you will realize the importance of it. My voice recognition software was my autonomy… my freedom. I emancipated myself from ALS with my computer. I could do everything… my blog, my book, my shop, my emails, surf the web, write letters, research exhibits and do exactly as I pleased… and now that has all been taken away because my voice is too weak… and it is quite frankly, driving me crazy. I now have to rely on my 3 caregivers. Caregivers they are… executive assistants they are not. Try asking a grown Filipino man to design a Paperless Post greeting card for you. Let me tell you, it’s hell… Hell on earth. They are ready to kill me… and the feeling is mutual.

So I continue to ask myself, “Why the fuck am I still here?”
I thought that I had my house in order and was ready to depart. I even went to my beloved church and said to The Man, “Dude, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

However, for some reason, I am still here. Why? Why? Why? What else do I have to do, to accomplish, to resolve, to prove?
It turns out I don’t have to do any of those things… I only have one thing to do… continue to raise Gracie. Not that any child is ever “ready” to have their mother die but I thought that Grace was “ready enough.” How stupid was I? For Grace’s entire life she has been perfect. She has never even had a “time-out.” I never even needed to baby proof our house because Grace never touched anything… she just sat there, darling as ever, looking at her books. Even her teenage years were flawless. And then, #April2016 happened. Gracie decided to turn into an asshole. An asshole with support… let me explain.

I am not a conventional mother. That comes with pros and cons. Grace is my life and she can do no wrong in my book until she does and then my “unorthodox” parenting skills come into play. My husband explains it as, “You let Gracie slide and slide and slide and then you explode.” C’est vrai. It usually goes like this, “Gracie, please clean your room. Gracie, clean your room. GRACIE, CLEAN YOUR FUCKING ROOM!” She usually just ignores me and cleans her room whenever she sees fit and I usually just let it slide. However, there are certain things that I do not let slide… school work, job responsibilities, politeness, thank you cards and taking a minuscule responsibility in me.
The first day that I was diagnosed with ALS, I made a promise to myself not to burden Gracie with my bullshit. This was my disease and I wanted her to have as normal of childhood as possible. David and I have made this possible, thank you very much. However, occasionally, little Gracie is expected to help out. From time to time, caregivers flake… they are human (which is not an excuse, in my book). This is when Gracie has to help out, for fucks sake. She hates it, I hate it, David hates it… but it is necessary sometimes. Such is the case of #April2016. I had to unexpectedly fire my new caregiver because he was caught taking pictures of me while I slept. While I was flattered, I still had to let him go. Relax, I rehired him because he is a great caregiver even if he is a little bit creepy. I am laughing because he is the one who is typing this. Anywho, being one caregiver down, poor little Grace had to help out… for 4 hours. Boo Hoo. Grace protested. I exploded.

To make a long story short, Grace decided that this was the perfect opportunity in her career to rebel. Gracie convinced her (part-time) biological father, Dylan, that I was a lunatic and was, I think she cleverly used the term “psychologically verbally abusing” her by calling her a “selfish pig”… a la Alec Baldwin. I have no regrets, she was indeed, a selfish pig. This is what I was talking about with my unorthodox parenting skills. Well, Gracie didn’t take kindly to this criticism and decided to… convince her college professors (and the dean of her school, for that matter) that she was “under undue stress” and needed to excuse herself from the last month of the semester and finish her projects “remotely” and fly to California “to recuperate.” While I commend her for her initiative and manipulation skills, her actions are wholly inexcusable on every level, especially the part where Gracie did not tell me ANY OF THIS! Yes, you heard me correctly, I did not know about any of this. However, Gracie’s father knew… he paid for her plane ticket. Gracie’s aunt Heather knew… she called Gracie’s school to confirm Gracie’s request. Gracie’s grandparents knew… they picked her up at the airport. David knew… he ordered her an Uber to go the airport. My best friend, Jenny knew… she told Gracie that Gracie could stay at her house in LA.
NEEDLESS TO SAY,
I FUCKING EXPOLDED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My whole world collapsed. While I was busy trying to recuperate from the hellish previous 3 weeks at the palliative care center, little did I know, Grace and her cohorts were busy scheming for Gracie’s departure. Trust me, this took some planning. Without boring you with ugly details, mark my words… the word “catastrophic” does not do the situation justice.
The funny part and most rewarding part (for me) of this whole ordeal is that Gracie’s father, aunt, grandparents, David and Jenny were all used, unbeknownst to them, like pawns in Gracie’s federal prison like scheme. Gracie led all of them to believe that the stress of my ALS was just too much for her and that the stress of my ALS was affecting my “cognitive reasoning” and therefore, poor little Gracie needed to escape. What these fools didn’t know was that Gracie, in actuality, didn’t want to finish a 30-page school research paper due at the end of May, that there happened to be a boy in Los Angeles that Gracie wanted to see and she was craving an In-N-Out Burger. Of course, this gaggle of morons was not privy to any of this because they were under Gracie’s charming spell and because THEY ARE NOT HER PARENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And by the way, my cognitive reasoning skills are in tip-top shape… ask my doctor… and this is why I am fully aware of Gracie’s bullshit. Oh, also, Gracie told everyone that I was a terrible mother because I wouldn’t let her go to public school. Ask me if I care? By the way, this was the public school that had an on-site daycare for the student’s babies!  
Want to know my mental state after Gracie got on that airplane leaving Paris and me? Cry me a river is an understatement. Furor and revenge is more like it. I knew that I could get Grace back under control but what was more upsetting to me was the betrayal of those whom I trusted to take care of Grace in the likely event of my death. Here they were faced with Gracie’s first indiscretion and they failed miserably. I mean, c’mon, who lets a kid leave school before finals and go on vacation to LA leaving behind a mother who is about to fucking die? Idiots, that’s who!

So, now, I can’t die peacefully as planned. Now I have to stay alive to continue to raise Gracie because I don’t trust anyone else to do the job up to my standards (except Yolanda and Diandra, of course). I even went to my church and had to ask God to retract my request.
So, here I am, forcing myself, willing myself to stay alive. Ask me how difficult this is? I’ll tell ya…

ALS is ravaging my body. I spend the entire day fighting whatever it is that is trying to kill me. I have quadrupled the dosage of an experimental “drug” that is supposed to block the toxin of ALS. I never did this before because the safety has never been proven, but now I have nothing to lose, so fire away. I take it 10 times a day. I shove in my feeding tube every half hour the following: Kale, spinach, cucumber, fennel, coriander, coconut water, coconut oil, carrots, green peas, whole grain brown rice, sprouted quinoa, sweet potatoes, garlic, rosemary, ginger, lemon, flax seed oil, turmeric, almond butter, beets, pomegranate, blueberries, celery, broccoli, garbanzo beans, seaweed and every other healthy fucking thing I can think of. Bored yet? Think how I feel… I do it every half hour. Every half hour! I do it because I cannot die yet and let those incompetent Judases parent Gracie.
After 2 weeks of ranting and raving, I got Grace back to Paris… we had some words… she apologized… I did not (because I do not negotiate with terrorists)… and we are back on track. No, I do not forgive Gracie’s accessories in her crime… they can all fuck off except David and Jenny who I forgave… just because.

Sorry for this lengthy explanation but remember, it is your fault because you asked how I was doing.
So, where do we go from here?

I have decided that I will not leave this earth without kicking and screaming, fighting tooth and nail no matter how ugly it gets, even if I am on my last breath… I will not abandon my post… my daughter. This could be a week or 3 months. The stages of ALS can vary. Isn’t that fun?
I am sure Gracie will be just thrilled. To reward Gracie with her bad behavior I have decided to over-parent her even more than I already do. I have secretly inserted a tracking device under her skin… just kidding… no I’m not.

In the meantime, while I am trying to stay alive, I thought we should make the best of it.
Let’s talk about adaptation… I have had to adapt to a lot. Canes, walkers, wheelchairs, feeding tubes, handicapped toilets for fucks sake, breathing machines, daily medication, caregivers and adaptation computer software. I always told myself that I had my limits as well. I told myself that I would never live past the point when I could not speak. What’s the point, really?

But here we are… I can barely speak but I need to! So what are we going to do, my friends? I have to adapt, obviously. Enter Eye Tracking Computer Software. Geeky and embarrassing, I know, but fuck, what else am I going to do? Gracie needs her mother! I guess I should be grateful that eye tracking software even exists but #ItSucks.
On top of having to need eye tracking software, now I have to pay for it and it is expensive as fuck. If you want to know how expensive ALS is, please refer to everyone’s favorite blog posting of mine titled, Dear Fat Fuck, HERE. Leave it to me to get the most expensive disease on earth… 24 hour caregivers, breathing machines, imported feeding tube formula, medication (FDA approved and non-approved), doctors that charge 150 euros per hour, kinesiologist, massage therapist, daily nurses, and blah, blah, blah… I am so high maintenance it’s revolting. Thanks to my best friend, Yolanda Hadid, who established a donation page for me, HERE, I can afford some of the cost but it in no way covers all the expenses of ALS. Thank you to all of you who have donated and thank you to Yolanda.

Also, I want to thank all of you for your cards, gifts and flowers. Remember when Gracie called you my “imaginary friends?” Well, that same Gracie would rush over to my apartment and eagerly open every single one of your cards and read your kind words to me. One day, my caregiver, Michael, started to open the cards and Gracie protested, “Let me do it!” She loved it. Imagine that!
I am grateful that Gracie and I recovered from #April2016. The good news is that I know how to multi-task. I will continue to hover over Gracie, I will learn to adapt to the eye tracking software, I will continue to take pictures of the hot French guy outside my window and post it on Instagam HERE, I will continue my blog, go to exhibits, try to stay alive, take illegal medication, share my life with you… AND… I will reopen my shop!

You won’t believe this but little Gracie finally decided to take an interest in my shop. She has been in training for almost 21 years and has a trained eye that rivals the best of them. She can spot chinoiserie from a mile away. She knows good gilt mirrors when she sees one and her computer skills are magnifique! So Gracie is now my #1 Have Some Decorum Shop Girl. We have put together a fantastic collection of antiques that will be available next week!
As my friend Hollye says, “Look for the silver lining.” Even though Gracie and I barely survived #April2016, we did come out of it with a new understanding…
I am her mother and what I say… goes.

Thank you for asking how I have been doing. Are you disappointed that you did? Didn’t expect all of this, did you? I am sure many of you, if not all of you, have some sort of similar experience with your children as well. I am laughing thinking of the comments that I will receive for this blog. I swear to God, if any of you dare to tell me that Grace is just acting out of anger because of my ALS, I will puke. She isn’t… she just didn’t want to do her homework for the first time in her life.

THE END.

Proust Questionnaire. Guest Blogger Hollye Jacobs


 
Hollye. Hollye. Hollye. One of my life’s regrets is not meeting Hollye Jacobs sooner… Preferably the day I was born so then we could have been lifelong best friends. Hollye is my kind of girl. She is so adorable it’s disgusting, she is so smart it’s embarrassing, she has Mid-Western values, loves chinoiserie, worries about her darling daughter as much as I worry about Grace, has a supportive loving husband, has a potager garden, drinks green juice religiously, has a fierce work ethic, uses proper grammar, and is always, always a lady even when she drops the occasional (necessary) F-bomb. Despite her fairytale life, this chick is as real as it gets.

The most interesting characteristics about my dear Hollye, surprisingly, are her flaws, which, in my book, are her greatest attributes. You see, Hollye may look perfect on the outside but circumstances have deepened Hollye to be one of the most soulful, fearless, giving, intriguing women I have ever been lucky enough to call a friend.

Why, you ask? Not that a disease defines a woman… but with Hollye her disease became her life's mission… To help other women. Hollye moved to Santa Barbara from Chicago to enjoy “The Good Life”. Then… BOOM! A lump. BOOM! A diagnosis. BOOM! Chemotherapy. BOOM! Double mastectomy.

Like so many of us, Hollye could have crawled into a ball and climbed into her 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and dealt with her breast cancer privately but, no… Hollye took her experience and her knowledge and wrote a best-selling book, The Silver Lining, and has a brilliant website, The Silver Pen, guiding other women through every scary step of a breast cancer diagnosis. Hollye did this with honesty, optimism, inspiration, dignity, and selflessness. And that, my friends, is why I admire this woman as much as humanly possible. I think you all will agree…


Proust Question for Hollye: What is your greatest regret?

Hollye’s Answer: What Do I Regret?  In a word: Fear.
From the time I was a little girl, fear has been the one constant in my life. It was the monster under my bed. It was the bully on the playground.

My childhood was consumed with feelings of worthlessness, loneliness and emptiness.

Ouch, I know. Trust me, it hurt just as much to write it as it did to read it. To add insult to injury, when I tried to express my innermost thoughts & feelings, I was told by the adults in my life that I was “ridiculous” and to “get over it.” You know what I did?  I believed them. Quickly I learned: don’t tell, don’t talk, don’t feel.

In an attempt to prove my worthiness, I spent an exorbitant amount of energy trying to get love from adults who couldn’t (I’m choosing to say couldn’t rather than wouldn’t) love me. The concept of self-love was considered shameful and even downright laughable.

My world taught me that if I looked pretty enough, if I achieved enough, if I scored high enough, if I behaved well enough, well then, I might – just maybe, possibly – make it through another day. I internalized this message with gusto and practiced these beliefs on a daily – make that hourly – basis.

So, I became an incredibly well dressed overachiever. In high school, I was the first girl on the boys’ soccer team. I was the President of the student body. I was the “Most Improved” on the swim team. I was a state rated Orator on the Speech and Debate Team. I was awarded the Best Dressed Student.

I was this. I was that. But somehow, nothing was ever enough.

Fear – of not having enough, doing enough, being enough – became my constant companion, my confidant.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a voice in my head that beckoned – demanded, really - that I do more, pursue more, seek more.  The voice is insatiable and carries the Tony Duquette-esqe the mantra: More. Is. More.

This philosophy has persisted – with vigor – into my adulthood. I have two undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees, but feared that I wasn’t educated enough. In my 20s, I worked two full-time jobs: one selling couture clothing at Ralph Lauren and the other working in the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital, but I didn’t feel like I was working hard enough. I ran three marathons, but feared that I wasn’t fit enough.

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  In an attempt to help others through the process, I wrote what became a New York Times bestselling book, but feared that wasn’t enough. A f’ing bestselling book!

For the record, I acknowledge my absurdity. I know that I have been my own accuser, judge and executioner. I fully own the fact that my self-judgmental energy has created a prison of my own making.

Last fall, when I saw myself reflected in the cherubical face, words and actions of my 10 year-old daughter, I was scared s**tless.  My first thought was that this cycle has to STOP. NOW. WITH ME.

I cannot and will not – knowingly – allow her to live with fear. What I believe in my heart of hearts is that the very best way to ensure that the seeds of this fearful way of life are not planted in her is to model a health-FULL way of living myself, one that is free of fear. 

So, last fall, I made the conscious decision to stop living in the problem – fear – and start living in the answer – freedom. This is not an easy process. Ha! In fact it is incredibly difficult. I regret living a fearful life for the majority of my life (to date), but the silver lining is that I believe that it IS possible. 

These days, I am about progress, not perfection.

Hollye, you are remarkable. Thank you!
Ellie’s Question: What is your favorite charity?

Hollye’s Answer: Dream Foundation. http://www.dreamfoundation.org/

Proust Questionnaire. Guest Blogger Christy


Christy and Grace in the Bahamas
2011
 
Well, it looks like all of you love Stephen as much as I do! On what occasion do I lie? Never. I am incapable of lying. This trait can be both rewarding and debilitating.

Okay, on to today’s guest blogger… Christy. Christy is super private but I can tell you that she is the best person I know. Her moral compass is pointed due North in the direction of all that is good and pure. She spends her day, time and energy helping others in need… And on top of that she is pretty, a Stanford graduate, a Texan, makes a mean guacamole and is the best mother a kid could ask for.

Proust Question for Christy: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Christy’s Answer: Ellie, if your friends and fans cannot hear directly FROM you as you temporarily rest your voice, I think they would like to hear ABOUT you!

The meaning behind the popularity of, and devotion to this space is being connected to you. 

Since you will not brag, I would like to do that for you.  

Your greatest achievement and gift in my view is your daughter Grace!  You have shared many of the relatable rewarding and distressing interactions between moms, kids, and teens.  Grace is AMAZING!!!!

Grace is honest, very smart, funny, kind, discerning, resourceful, and has her own sense of style.  As her mother, you have kept her very close, even exposing her (as we all have done with our own kids) to some situations that are beyond her years in content.  Through your diverse friendships and experiences in art, music, travel, work, design, cuisine, and writing, you show Gracie-literally- the world.  You always bring Grace with you.  I have not ever known of a trip or dinner party in which you have not included her. In listening to you, your friends and family, some sane and some colorful (I consider myself both), she has learned to THINK and emulate qualities she admires, and avoid those that she does not.  By the Grace of God.  You encourage her to be close to her father and you married someone who has been very kind to her.  You dress with “decorum", and in spite of a lovely figure which you could show off more obviously, you instead show Grace your grace in appearance and apparel.  

You encourage her sense of humor by demonstrating yours, in fun times, in extremely stressful times, and during embarrassing times.  One of my favorite stories when Grace was younger is when you took her on the Ferris wheel in Paris, and your skirt flew up revealing your Spanx.  Grace was so embarrassed and you laughed and laughed, with yourself and later with your friends.  What a gift, and what a wonderful mom that would get ON a Ferris wheel in a dress for her daughter!  Your bravery in recent years has been remarkable to say the least.  When you and Grace and I drove to the hospital as you faced intense surgery and risk, we laughed, you saw a rainbow over the Pacific, and we all ate cheeseburgers.  The next day in ICU as you woke up after your surgery, Grace and David and Jenny within your arm’s reach, you looked at me and said, “I’m alive, you can change your shirt now.”    (Apparently my burger had dripped.) You show your daughter- and MANY of us- that you can be brave, go for life, and sometimes what we think is a huge deal, is not, or even when it is, we can get through it.

What greater gift in our lives than children!? Biological, adopted, our friends’ children, pets that are our children--I have 6 four-legged children and have rescued others as well—MOST WOMEN have MOTHERED with or without their own natural children.  The other women you have asked to guest write for your blog also have great children, and are kind to other children as you are, probably that is the deepest part of your bond.

Ellie, toast yourself on Mother’s Day!!!  You will see Grace continue to have outstanding opportunities and demonstrate excellence and decorum!!!  

My sincere wish is for more people to be kind to children, ALL children, and animals.  Yours, mine, and others.  Children are born innocent and can grow into lovely people, either because of us, or in spite of our challenges and mistakes, by the Grace of God.  

Thank you, Christy. I would normally never toot my own horn but since you did it for me out of pure love… I accept and I thank you.

P.S. Do you want to hear something funny?

Today is Mother’s day and my lovely little Gracie showed up to my apartment late and empty handed. So, of course, I read her the Riot Act and then forced her back on to the streets of Paris on a Sunday to search for flowers and a card for her dear mother knowing full well that every shop is closed on Sunday and I depleted her bank account so she has no cash to pay even if she finds crappy flowers at an overpriced Arabic bodega. That is called “Parenting 101”, my friends.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Proust Questionnaire. Guest Blogger Stephen Andrew Jones



 
So glad you like my guest blog series! I am so appreciative that my friends are up for this challenge. Also, thank you for all of your answers as well! My answer to the question is simple. My favorite literary hero in fiction is Miss Piggle-Wiggle. I learned more about “doing the right thing” from Miss Piggle Wiggle than I did from my parents, my school teachers, my Sunday school teachers, my sports coaches, and any self-help book combined! I devoured the books when I was a kid.
Okay, on to the next question and today’s guest blogger! Our favorite… Stephen Andrew Jones! If you read my blog, you should be well aware of this gentleman. If not, go to his blog, HERE, start from the beginning and when you finish every blog that he has ever written you will fall in love as the rest of us have and understand our obsession.
Okay, here we go…

Proust Question for Stephen: On what occasion do you lie?

Stephen’s Answer: Well, I lie constantly.  How much butter is in this? Oh! hardly any! Is that your second g&t? Oh, gosh, no.  It's my first. Tell me the truth, do you like my new couch? Of course! It really pulls the room together.

There's a lot of fucking butter and you know it, it’s my third gin and tonic and mind your own business I'm not driving, and that sofa is so ugly I have PTSD. I will readily lie to put a contentious situation at ease, protect someone's feelings, or protect individuality/creativity. Other than that, I'm much more of an omitter than a liar. As a middle child and a relatively calm Taurus, I am a skilled peacekeeper. Part of keeping the peace is spackling together a narrative with input from both assholes while driving it somewhere else. If she says I'm sorry he's such a braindead jackass and he says I'm sorry but I did nothing wrong, then you tell him she said she was sorry and tell her he said he recognizes his fault in this and is sorry. I think you can spend a lot of time debating the truth and get nowhere or you can cleverly fluff details and move on.
Also I tend to lie to men a lot more than women. I think in a broad scope, men are more comfortable being lied to. Truth be told, men don't really care what happens around them as long as there's food and blowjobs. Women, on the other hand, will sniff out the truth and find it eventually. So I've always found it's best to give them the whole story. Also, women have better memories of conversations. Perhaps because they listen. You can go back later and tell a man you said something different and provide a few plucked from oblivion details and nod strongly and he'll be like uh, yeah, that's right

I will also lie to wade through bureaucracy. When I was in high school, there was a miserable woman in charge of attendance. Imagine Ted Cruz with less zest for life. This woman was determined to hold my feet to the fire for skipping school as I saw fit. Listen, I'm not saying education isn't important but I am saying going tanning and collecting jadeite are more important. One of my routines was to leave for school on time, hit the tanning salon when it opened at 8, then drive to a small town called Lebanon and sift the antique stores. At the school in the morning, there was a parent volunteer to help attendance bitch with answering calls from parents to report their kid's absence. I would call the school from the tanning salon phone or the carryout next-door until I got attendance bitch, then speed dial the school on my cell phone so I'd get sweet volunteer mom. My junior year, she caught me and screwed me over when I called impersonating my dad. I got volunteer mom as planned and she said just a moment, please and I heard attendance bitch's shrill voice. Andrew, I know it's you. I should have given up there but I insisted No. This is Dr. Jones. (my dad would literally sooner die than address himself to anyone as Dr. Jones. His patients hardly even call him that). She said well do you mind if I call your house to verify? Uuugh fuck. In about two seconds, I got an irate call from my dad. My poor parents. She may have won the battle. Over the summer, I did not do my summer reading but I did acquaint myself with privacy laws and regulations regarding schools and doctor’s offices. I'm not going to come out and admit to anything buuut I found a loophole and jumped through it regularly with abandon and attendance bitch couldn't do a damn thing. 
Nowadays, I would say the most frequent lies I tell involve my idea of being gracious and kind. There are some people who are so proud to tell you that they can't even lie if they try. Congratufuckinglations. 

 
When someone asks for your opinion, more often than not they are asking for your approval. When someone shows me their remodeled kitchen and asks do you think I chose the right countertops? Because I have a narrow view of what I love in a kitchen (non-Ellie approved white quartz), usually I do not. What could possibly be gained from me being a douche and saying “No”, that granite looks like geologic schizophrenia? The person is asking for reassurance, not your personal design philosophy. My rule is if it's too late for the truth to be helpful, lie. If someone put their heart and soul into a creative outlet like a painting, remodel, party, poem, or erotic e-book and it's finished, your constructive criticism is actually just rude. And I will always politely lie in a group to bypass someone's embarrassment. 

And lastly, certainly the most difficult lie to tell. The one that haunts my dreams and rattles me to the core. Oh don't worry about it! It's fine! I have a million of these and love shopping for more anyway! I am, of course, talking about when someone drops one of your plates or glasses. Give me strength, Lord. I buy beautiful tabletop goods to use and enjoy. Sometimes that means they are loved to death.  Even if you detest the dropper and wonder if it was an accident at all and are about to stroke out in rage--you must cry on the inside but laugh on the outside, sweep it up, assure the dipshit asshole motherfucker that it's no big deal, pour them a new glass, and keep your party on track. For God's sake, have some decorum.
Thank you, Stephen!

Ellie’s Question: Stephen, what is your favorite charity?
Stephen's Answer: ASPCA. https://www.aspca.org/

Proust Questionnaire. Guest Blogger Rex John


Bonjour from Paris!

Today we start with our first guest blogger, Rex John! Rex is one of my most favorite people on the face of the earth. Not only is Rex one of the kindest, wisest and most evolved human beings that I have ever met but he is also the funniest which, in my book, is golden. Before Rex retired, he had a real job but I don’t know what that was because I never really asked… but I assume it was super important. I do know that Rex is a superb writer and he has written several books available HERE and HERE. I could publish the email correspondence between Rex and I and it would be a New York Times best-selling book due to Rex’s hysterical “spit out your coffee” humor. Rex also wrote the forward to my book, AND SO IT IS, and for that I am forever grateful.

So, as I mentioned in the previous blog HERE, I am going to give my friends a question from the Proust Questionnaire and then we can sit back and enjoy their answers. I also thought it would be fun if all of you left your own personal Proust answers to the daily question in the comments section!

Here we go…

Proust Question: Who is your hero of fiction?

Rex’s Answer: The person who writes it, of course.   Oh — that would be me: wannabe fiction writer.  

Okay, okay, I’ll be serious — and I will resist the temptation to choose Carson Kirkpatrick from my own book, “Makeovers” — even though I created him to be socially engaged in a diabolical, psychopathic sort of way — sort of like certain politicians.

But if I leave myself and my own characters out of the mix, I’m still torn. I really like “Boo” Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” who was first portrayed as a nut job recluse, but who turns out to just want love and friendship, like all of us.   

I also like Stephen Dedalus, in James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” who famously said, “When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”

But what about Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”?  She acts vain and empty-headed but she came up with a brilliant strategy I often use myself: “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.”

No, wait!  Now I remember who my all-time favorite hero of fiction is — A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh,” of course.  It is Pooh himself who says things like:

“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise,” (this actually speaks to me!)

and, 

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.”  (This, too.)

Or, my all-time favorite: 

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.”

True dat, Pooh.  True dat.

Good answer, Rex!

Now, I thought it would be fun if I asked each guest blogger what their favorite charity is because you can really get a sense of who a person is by what they support.

Ellie’s Question: Rex, what is your favorite charity?

Rex’s Answer: Favorite charity?  I have several I really like, but since you’ve asked a question about literary figures, I think of literacy and I’ve always liked The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy because there are 36 million Americans who can’t read!  (Which explains a lot, I’m afraid.) http://barbarabush.org

Thank you, Rex! Stay tuned for our next guest blogger... Hint... SAJ!