The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Real Tweets



Horseback fun in Alpine Meadows


I’ve been missing reading your blogs in Alpine Meadows, but it’s good to be forced to unplug every now and then. Although there is no Wi-Fi in our cabin, I brought along my MacBook and Avonlea figured out how to use the Mac’s iMovie app. I didn’t even know I had iMovie or what it is, so it’s very cool to have my ten-year-old show it to me. (And here I am, a former American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women intern!) Anyway, Avi and her sister had a blast making a bunch of trailers; see below for one wacky example.

I’ve been low-tech for the most part, taking long hikes with Lucy. We’ve been exploring trails overlooking the appropriately named Red Dog Ridge. I love hiking – I used to do it all the time in L.A. Hiking reminds me of the happiest times in my life in which the word “bipolar” wasn’t part of my lexicon. 

Watching Lucy sniff wildflowers and tree stumps, her tongue lolling out to the side in ecstasy, is one of the best parts of this trip. We haven’t run into any bears yet, but I’m on the lookout, and I know what to do if we have an ursine encounter. (Mom, do NOT worry!) Lucy’s ear-splitting barking will help frighten them away, and I’m to make very loud noises, and/or sing loudly. Craig said that if I belt out my beloved Crowded House catalogue, my shrill voice is guaranteed to drive away any bear.

In the evenings we’ve been watching a BBC series called From Lark Rise to Candleford. For you Downton Abbey addicts it has the fantastic actor Brendon Coyle, a.k.a. Downton Abbey’s John Bates.

I haven’t been writing as much as I hoped I would, but I’ll be honest with you – I’d rather hike than write! Plus I’ll be doing some heavy-duty writing soon enough. Want to join me? There’s still room in my Catamaran Writing Conference Nonfiction workshop with Frances Lefkowitz. Lefkowitz is the author of an incredible memoir  * entitled To Have Not and the founder of the Community Memoir Project. She has taught memoir courses alongside luminaries including the high holy Cheryl Strayed. The registration deadline has been extended to August 1. Visit for details.

I look forward to catching up with your lives next week when I plug back in to my daily dose of reading devouring your blogs.

Have a great weekend!


 * That’s for you, L.E. Henderson, author of the five-star A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom: One Author’s Journey Through Writer’s Block and Beyond.

This prolific writer lives with bipolar and has been a tremendous inspiration. I do declare…“titled” is so pedestrian!


Bears, Shrinks & Mindfulness


Yesterday I blogged that I’m following a new “negativity diet” and I declared:

“I’m going to be more circumspect with what I surround myself with such as social media, my inner-dialogues, and my environment.  Less Facebook, more time with my girls.  Less worry about what others think of me, more nature excursions.  Less obsession with the future, more present-moment focus.”

Well, when I began following my new credo, it didn’t go so well.

While I felt optimistic in the morning (and a bit happily wired on my coffee), the day turned out to be difficult.  I faced a few situations that tested my new-and-improved attitude, most of which I failed.  I won’t give up after one disappointing day, but I was daunted by the time evening came.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, our daughters were still on the tail-ends of their colds.  In retrospect, I’m sure their colds were partly responsible for their peevishness and disobedience.  They, like me, had been cooped up for days and we were all out of sorts.

One day while watching the Disney channel with my girls, a preview for Disney’s new Bears movie was shown.  Since our entire family likes bears (from a distance)  I suggested that we go to the Bears matinee on Easter.  We seldom go to the movies, so the girls definitely wanted to go and my husband did too.  I  liked the idea of a nature-oriented film rather than a blaring, violent, “kids’ film” ,and the Bears movie featured real-life bears in their natural Alaskan habitat over a course of a year in a mom and her cubs’ life.

Off we went!

We arrived at the theater on the early side and we found some good seats.  A woman and her male companion arrived close to the start time, and she sat next to me.  When the previews started running, the lady gave a running commentary about everything she saw that made me want to yell, “Shut the *&%$ up!”

So much for lightness!  So much for compassion and positivity!

Thankfully she stopped talking when Bears began.  It’s good that she silenced herself, because  I have “talking during the movie rage”.  I shouldn’t joke about that, really, as I recently read about a man who had honest-to-God movie rage and he shot a fellow movie goer because the guy was texting someone.

The movie was spectacular, entertaining, and heartwarming without being too saccharine.  It wasn’t too long either (78 minutes) although come to think of it, when the previews were added in, the overall time we spent there was close to two hours. That was a long time for me to sit still and focus while alongside my two children, one of whom was being a super-squirmy worm.

I found myself becoming impatient while watching Bears, as much as I liked it.  I felt the uncomfortable sensation of wanting it to end so we could go do the next task.  In a weird way I felt like I was meditating as I had to keep bringing my mind back to noticing all the details of the film.  My mind wandered off again and again and I kept bringing it back.  (Does this sound familiar to anyone?)

I realized it was a nice change to watch a movie that had absolutely nothing to do with human behavior, namely bipolar disorder.  At one point my mind wandered off (pretty far, and pretty wackily, I’ll admit) and I thought, “How nice that bears don’t, as far as we can tell, have shrinks!”  How refreshing!

Despite the fact that bears didn’t take meds or go to hospitals, they certainly did not have it easy, as the film made that fact crystal-clear.  I wasn’t wistfully wishing that I was a bear instead of a human as the end credits rolled.  But it was cool to view life from an entirely different perspective.  (The preview we saw for the upcoming Disney Imax documentary Island of Lemurs Madagascar looks like it will be incredible as well.)


As we exited the cool theater into the blinding sun, Craig and I reminisced about our two personal bear memories, which were very vivid, with our girls.  Years ago Craig, an avid backpacker, camped in Yosemite.   He made the foolish mistake of keeping some peanuts in his tent in bear country, and a bear paid a little visit.  This bear wasn’t there to sell Avon products.  He/she stepped on Craig’s foot, through the tent, resulting in unbelievable pain.  Things could have been much worse, obviously – the bear could have come inside the tent, and I shudder to think what the end of that story could have been.

Our family had a bear experience in Tahoe that I will never forget.   We found a beautiful Alpine Meadows rental on Craigslist, and the owner gave us an affordable rate.  The house was stunning, set on a steep hillside in bear territory.  The first time we visited the “Munchkin House” we noticed some prominent bear claw scratches on the wooden dinner table and on the windowsills inside the kitchen.  The rental owner made sure we were well aware of all the bear safety rules to follow.

One afternoon while hanging out at the Munchkin, Craig napped upstairs while I showered.  The girls were in the downstairs living room watching a video.  Earlier in the day Craig stopped at the market and he brought a bunch of groceries into the kitchen, accidentally leaving the front door cracked open. He never left that door open before; out of all four of us, he was the most careful in following the bear rules.  I came out of the shower and walked downstairs in a robe, drying my hair with towel, relaxed.  At the base of the stairs I looked straight across the room out the picture window facing a hillside, and there was a big bear looking right back at me.

I freaked and started yelling, and the bear ambled up the hill behind the house and disappeared.

I went to the front door and I saw garbage scattered all over doorway area,a spot that couldn’t be seen from the living room.  At first we thought a dog had made the mess, but then after my sighting it was clear that the bear, quiet as a mouse, came into the house with the girls in the other room, dug through the garbage, and then took off.  The bear easily could have come into the main part of the house where the girls were hanging out.  Once again, some Harwoods were spared bear agony.

Ah, da bears.

Yesterday, the day after Easter, went much more smoothly.  I practiced each section of my negativity diet better than I did on Sunday.  I stayed away from my computer for most of the day ,and I spent time with my daughters as they had the day off from school.  I tried my best to stay in the moment as much as I could.  We spent several hours outside together in the redwoods surrounding our house.  I sat on our entry steps leisurely painting my toenails electric blue while Avi and Rilla played with our three chickens.

Watching my girls laugh together in the warm air, I felt so thankful to see them get along after their spats over the previous week.  Even though I sat less than ten feet away from where a truck bashed through our fence (see my “Almost” post), I felt safe.  We weren’t in danger of bears popping up at our front door and I had my own little “cubs” close to me under my protection.  During moments like this, I don’t pine for riches or accolades of any sort.  I am more content than I ever thought would be possible.

After being hospitalized numerous times for bipolar disorder, and my not having been taken outside by staff even once during those dark times (something I’ll never understand) I have an unusually strong appreciation for being in a beautiful outdoor setting.  Alongside my happy girls and our slightly freaked-out chickens in the warm spring air, I was in the moment, and I found myself in the best place, literally and figuratively, that I could imagine.