Friday, December 31, 2010

How to Make Vegetarian Ozoni Soup

It's a Japanese tradition to make ozoni (aka mochi soup) on New Year's Day. Last year I made it after a friend posted a link to a recipe on Facebook. I'd forgotten all about it but got really excited and drove around town to find all of the necessary ingredients. I wanted to repost the recipe today so that if you want to make ozoni on New Year's Day you can go shopping today while more stores are open.
CLICK HERE for my recipe and the step-by-step photo tutorial I created last New Year's Day. The page has been receiving a ton of traffic in the past two weeks as people prepare for the holiday.

This year I'll be making a vegetarian ozoni. Come to think of it, it will be vegan ozoni. It'll be easy. I'll leave out the chicken and fish cake and will use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Along with the mochi I'll still add carrot, napa cabbage and lotus and may add in another vegetable or two like boiled sweet potato and maybe green beans. I'll post next week and let you know how it turned out.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Signing Up for about.me

This morning my friend Vicki posted on Facebook that she had signed up for about.me a web directory where you create a single profile page and add links to other accounts you have on the web. You also get a dashboard that shows visits to your page, clicks to your links and links back to you. For free.

While I didn't feel the need to sign up, I did because if I didn't sign up for my own name, someone else could. Same goes for other social media websites. For years I resisted creating a business profile on Yelp because it would be just one more thing to manage. Then I heard a guest speaker at a presentation point out that if I don't sign up for my own business name, someone else could, and often people do, with ill intentions. So I signed up. And will continue to whenever I see new sites that may be beneficial to my online presence or could be harmful if someone else takes them because I didn't.

You can do a little or a lot once you create a profile online. The point is to protect your personal or company name by making sure that you control the online dissemination of information associated to you or your company whenever possible. Plus about.me is a great way to help market my blog and website for free! I could have left the profile standard with a plain background and just my name and a brief bio but why not add my blog feed and link to my website? That's all I did. Oh, and of course I added a custom background. But I didn't have to :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beautiful Pink Water Lily Pictures to Brighten Your Day

Ten years ago, shortly after I began my former business creating custom bridal accessories, a client gave me what I'm almost certain is a Nymphaea Hollandia (Darwin) or could possibly be a Nymphaea Madame Wilfron Gonnere water lily plant as a thank you gift.

Over the years the plant has been thriving in a small, pond, container garden (similar to these) with tiny mosquito fish and receiving full sun each day in my yard. Each year it blooms these petite, 36 petal, double (meaning more than the standard number of petals), peony style flowers that are usually 4" to 5" in diameter.

With all of the snow and rain slamming the nation right now I thought it might be a nice time to post this pink lily blossom to share an image of summertime to either reminisce over or look forward to :)

I couldn't choose which was the best so I'm sharing all four of my favorite pictures I took of this small blossom this past summer. If you're interested in keeping a water lily like the Nymphaea Hollandia (Darwin) or Nymphaea Madame Wilfron Gonnere, I can share that mine has been very easy to care for, winters outdoors (they're hardy in zones 4-9) and they're available online on various websites.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Baked Kale Chips... A Delicious and Healthy Snack

I love salty snacks so when my mom asked me if I'd ever made baked kale chips I was immediately intrigued. "They come out really crisp and they're so easy to make. You just cut them up, add some oil, salt and bake them" She said. There are all kinds of recipes online so I Googled "Baked Kale Chips" and "Oven Roasted Kale Chips" to find one. Then I was off to the Downtown Campbell Famers' Market to buy some fresh kale.

I found two vendors with organic kale. One was Tomatero Farms from Watsonville and the other was Happy Boy Farms. I've always known that kale is one of the most nutrient dense leafy greens because I used to feed it to my pet parrot due to it's high concentration of vitamin K, C and A. Other health benefits of kale include: It is a natural anti-inflammatory agent, lowers cholesterol and saturated fats, has a decent amount of fiber and has all kinds of nutrients like copper, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, omega fatty acids, protein, folate, phosphorus and other goodies including four B vitamins. CLICK HERE to read more about the health benefits of Kale on the LIvestrong website.

I remember how hard it used to be to find organics and love that now organic is an option seemingly everywhere from the Farmers' Market to Whole Foods to Safeway!

I chose the Tuscan Kale, also known as Lacinato and Dinosaur Kale, which has a very bumpy texture to its bluish-green colored leaves.

And I couldn't resist buying some Rainbow Swiss Chard just because it looked so pretty! In the end I won't do the chard again. It came out ok but neither the flavor or texture were as appealing to me as the kale is.

My expectations were really high that my life was about to be transformed by baked kale chips. I would eat them for snacks and be a better, healthier and more energized person who experienced more enjoyment in my life from all of the nutrients I was about to consume from my future, favorite snack food!

I made one batch of baked kale and one batch of baked chard chips.

I rinsed the whole leaves and cut the leaf away from the stems which you can use for another recipe, compost or discard. After slicing all of the leaves from the stems I cut them into short, bite sized pieces.

I took the bite sized pieces and washed them a second time using a salad spinner to help dry them. To get them as dry as possible I also blotted them on some paper towels. The next step is so easy, you toss the cut kale in a large bowl with a bit of olive oil until it's coated.

This is the Raw Kale about to be Baked

Spread the kale on a cookie sheet and lightly salt. The recipe called for tossing a pre-measured amount of salt into the bowl but the first time I did that it came out way too salty so instead I used a salt shaker and salted as I would to taste which turned out perfectly on my subsequent batches.

And this is the kale after it's done baking in the oven. It looks almost the same just shrunken down a bit, shiny from the oil and some of the leaves are flatter and beginning to brown. I found using the convection option on my oven worked better by shortening the baking time than using the conventional baking option but either way worked just fine.

I started out using this "Baked Kale Chip" recipe on AllRecipes.com by Lucy DelRey. Below are my modified instructions based on her recipe.


1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil (add more if needed to coat all of the leaves)
salt (to taste)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Wash the kale
  • Using a knife, remove the leaves from the thick, white stems and cut into bite size pieces.
  • Thoroughly dry the kale using a salad spinner or pat down with paper towels.
  • Put the kale into a bowl and pour in the olive oil. Toss with a wooden spoon until the kale is shiny and well coated.
  • Place on the cookie sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake until the edges are about to brown but are not burnt, 10 to 18 minutes.
  • The chips should be very, very crisp when you remove them from the oven.
  •  I used a thin metal spatula to lift the chips off of the cookie sheet when they were done baking.
More tips

Baking Time: Just like the recipe said, baking for 10 minutes at 350º produced perfectly crisp, paper thin chips of kale. (depending on your oven you may need to bake longer to achieve the desired crispness).

In the Oven: I found baking one sheet at a time in the conventional oven worked better than layering two cookie sheets at one time. With a convection oven two at once might be ok but I found the lower tray didn't crisp as quickly or as well as the top sheet did.

Parchment: The first time I used the parchment recommended in Lucy's recipe to line the cookie sheet, on subsequent batches I didn't and they came out just fine.

Storage: Do not use airtight containers to store leftovers as I'd read that makes them soggy. In a bowl on the counter with just a paper towel over the top kept mine as crisp as when they came out of the oven for up to two. They may stay crisp even longer, mine just never last that long because I eat them all too fast.

Variations: There are also many variations that call for adding a splash of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar while you toss the chips in the oil. I tried it once with apple cider vinegar but couldn't really taste the vinegar so next time I'll use more. You can also add in some truffle oil, which I'm also going to try on a future batch. Other seasoning options include pepper, garlic salt and sesame seeds.

Hopefully you'll like them as much as I do and we can all enjoy baked kale chips together and snack our way to better health!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Funny Christmas Disasters

Here's the thing, while perfection is often the goal, it's life's imperfections that often make it more interesting and create the most memorable moments. As many of you celebrate Christmas today keep in mind that disappointments may occur despite your best intentions and preparations. But that's ok :) Below are two less than stellar holiday experiences I had growing up, both of which crack me up today...

Bad Santa Photo

Of course the goal it to capture a classic image of you, on Santa's knee, looking super cute and smiling at the camera. But things don't always turn out that way.

To this Santa I was just another nameless, wailing child at Valu-Mart, a discount shopping chain. For years this photo served as a stressful and tragic reminder that I didn't like Santa, and Santa didn't like me. Where was the jolly smile? Where was Santa's trademark "ho, ho, ho?" With hindsight I think Santa was either there for a paycheck, and clearly whatever hourly rate he was being paid wasn't enough to put a smile on his face and have to put up with the likes of me at the same time. Or he was there volunteering and didn't feel obligated to smile for hysterical children. Either way I can't say I blame him. LOL

If you look really closely you can see I was drooling I was crying so hard.

When compared to the elaborate, sometimes bordering on theatrical, Santa photo backdrops I've seen at malls these days this photo from my childhood, particularly the too-small-sheet-as-background, is hilarious!

The Worst Christmas Tree

Then there was the year my Dad decided to save money and instead of buying a Christmas tree he would drive up to his friend Mac's property and chop one down himself. We were so excited. A free, freshly cut tree from the woods had to be better than those pre-cut trees you could buy around town. We eagerly awaited my dad returning victoriously with his pine scented bounty. When he did come home we were speechless...

The tree had a big gaping area with no branches. Our hopes of the most lush tree we'd ever imagined quickly evaporated as we gazed at this branch deficient specimen.

Ah, but my dad had a plan... He'd chopped down a second smaller tree that he intended to use as a patch to fill the gap in the first tree MacGyver style.

After trimming half the branches off, so he could press the trunks together, he was ready to lash the two awkwardly shaped trees together. It all just seemed so wrong.


You could hardly see the rope when he was done. As we came to grips with the situation we figured we may as well make the best of it and move forward. And guess what? After the tree was strung with lights and decorated, it didn't look half bad.

In fact, (at night) it looked pretty darn ok! So in the end our disappointment turned into a really funny Christmas tree story that we good-naturedly teased my dad about for years and still makes me laugh to this day.

Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus... Which Holiday do You Celebrate?

When I was a kid there were two holidays. Almost everyone I knew celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah wasn't good or bad, just different. People and signs said Merry Christmas all over town and everyone smiled. It was a happy time.


Now it makes me sad to read in the news how the holidays are becoming more divisive year by year. Defined as religious Christmas, retail Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Festivus (which most people were introduced to in an episode of Seinfeld), there is an inability or choice by some, that doesn't allow holiday greetings to be accepted by different religions or belief systems.


I don't understand why it has to be this way. Why can't we celebrate our own beliefs and allow others to not only celebrate but include us in theirs with no criticism? I've been invited to and have attended many diverse events including an adult Bat Mitzvah, an Episcopalian wedding, Catholic mass and 2 Buddhist funerals even though I wasn't baptized or raised any of these religions... So I welcome the opportunity to help others celebrate their holidays as well.


The thing is, I accept we aren't all the same and rather than be divided or torn apart, I choose to celebrate our differences. Instead of focusing on the words, I appreciate the intention when being wished a happy or merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or the all inclusive "Happy Holidays" and will simply say "Thank You." I don't have to practice, understand or believe in every aspect of every religion or secular (non-religious) group to accept a gesture of goodwill. When someone wishes me a holiday greeting different than the one I observe I can honestly say I've never felt negated or disrespected. I've always felt welcomed, even for a moment, in the holiday they are offering to share with me.


So today I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to wish me a holiday greeting by mail, email or on Facebook and hope everyone has already or will enjoy a holiday season full of laughter, love, peace, goodwill, merriment, celebration, generosity and acceptance.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is Your Child Ready for The Nutcracker?

Kids loved the mice!

I think a lot of parents probably ask themselves "Is my child old enough to attend the Nutcracker?" After attending a family matinee I'd like to offer a few simple suggestions I hope you'll find useful:
  1. Don't make your kids sit and wait in the theater for 30 minutes (or more) before the performance begins.

    Let them enjoy the music, decorations and other kids in the lobby for as long as possible. The show is over 2 hours long so letting them burn off as much energy as possible beforehand is a good idea.

  2. Make sure your child wants to attend.

    If they don't they may act up during some or most of the performance. While I understand wanting to introduce them to the ballet at an early age, do it too soon and you may inadvertently turn them off from ever wanting to attend again. A simple solution is to...

  3. Explain the story to your kids before the day of the show.

    Maybe pick up a storybook and read it to them at bedtime so that not only will you create anticipation for the performance, they will understand what is happening onstage. A little girl to my left was whispering almost constantly to her guardian "Why is that happening?" It wasn't obtrusive, her little voice was so cute, but she was clearly confused by what was taking place onstage.

  4. Consider not what age is appropriate but their maturity level and their ability to sit through a 2 hour and 8 minute performance when deciding if your child is ready for The Nutcracker. If they aren't ready for a full length production taking them to a shorter "abridged" version for kids (if one is available) is a far better solution than forcing them to attend the full production where they, you and the audience members around them will be unable to fully enjoy the performance.

    The little girl to my right got bored about two thirds of the way through the performance. To say she began fidgeting would be an understatement. Among other ways she found to amuse herself were loudly sighing and resting her feet on the two seat backs in front of her then shaking her legs in time with the music. The lady who endured her right foot had to turn around twice to ask her to stop. She was also sliding down in her seat so low that she was basically sitting on the floor with her head on her seat. She did this so dramatically that she fell off completely a couple of times. Eventually she moved on to standing up, letting her seat go up, then she'd sit on the top of the seat in the upright position like a booster chair. At one point she even kicked me in the leg by accident. I really don't think it was her fault though. She simply wasn't mature enough to last through such a long performance. As much as I didn't blame her I'll confess I thought it was incredibly impolite that her guardian barely exerted any effort to convince her to stop kicking the one lady's seat (the rest of the bad behavior she ignored completely) and she never even tried to take her out of the theater to settle her down.

    At the end of the day I don't think it's a question about age appropriateness but rather one of interest. IMO a three year old who wants to be there is going to be a better audience member than a thirty year old who doesn't. There were dozens of children all around me, younger than this little girl, who were mesmerized from beginning to end so in this case I think age is just a number.

  5. Aisle seats might be the right seats.

    If you're determined to go but are unsure if your child is going to be able to sit through the entire performance, go but be sure to get aisle seats. That way if he or she needs a little break you can easily exit the theater without having to walk in front of other patrons to do so.

And here's my review after attending the Ballet San Jose Nutcracker 2010

YAY! I finally attended The Nutcracker Ballet for the first time. It was at the San Jose Performing Arts Center in downtown San Jose, CA. located on Almaden Blvd between Park and West San Carlos. The over 2500 seat theater is less than one block from the light rail line, a block away from the Convention Center, and there are plenty of parking options nearby.

I looked up the address before I left because I wasn't sure I'd be able to spot the theater. Turns out I couldn't miss the huge red sign on the building's exterior and when I walked in I knew I was in the right place because there were nutcracker's everywhere. There were even two large ones you could stand beside and take your photo with.

Ballet slippers hanging on a Christmas tree in the lobby.

To be honest I didn't realize when I purchased my ticket that I was attending a "Family Day" matinee. I didn't mind though, I thought seeing it with kids would add to the fun and excitement. And I was right. It was really fun to see the little girls all dressed up in their party dresses and pull on tu-tus. One little boy in the row ahead of me was wearing a full nutcracker costume! He was adorable. It was also really cute to hear the excitement in their voices out in the lobby before the show, and so many ooohing and ahhing in unison during the performance. They laughed at the mice and all did really well through the first half. After the intermission was a slightly different story.

The Choir and Gift Shop

The show began at 1:30 in the afternoon but there were things to do beforehand. At 12:45 the Mountain View High School Madrigals choir performed in the main lobby and there was a man with a guitar at the other end of the main hallway singing holiday carols. They really set a festive mood!

The gift shop was set up along the main hallway that spans the back of the theater so as you worked your way to the theater entrances to find your seat you couldn't help but stroll past all of the merchandise. I thought it was nice that if you wanted a fairly inexpensive memento there were small "Nutcracker" themed Christmas tree ornaments for as little as $10. I purchased a ridiculously cute "Evil Mouse King" ornament as a souvenir of my first Nutcracker. There were also rows of brightly colored, full sized Nutcrackers, a book, SJ Ballet T-shirts and more.

I had a fantastic seat! I was in the sixth row just right of center stage which may be the best row in the house. Ideally I think you would want to sit from row 4 back. Rows 1-3 seemed like they might be a bit too close and you'd have to tilt your head back and look up to see the stage. Photos are allowed in the lobby areas but not in the theater during the performance. I took this picture of the stage (from my seat) well before the performance began.

The ballet, directed by Dennis Nahat, was enchanting. It took a little getting used to that there is no speaking whatsoever. It did make me realize how much we are able to convey using only facial expressions and body language. Something to consider in your day to day life. Your voice may be saying one thing but what are your face and body language saying? Basically it only reconfirmed what Mark Ferrelll taught me at the MC Workshop I took earlier this year. When you say "It's a pleasure to be here" you should be smiling, not frowning. Every moment the performers are onstage they are acting, especially when they aren't the one in the spotlight. They keep emoting their gleeful expressions, maintain their energy level and continue to create the "mood" for the other dancers.

This image from the Ballet San Jose.org website

I also appreciated the ethnic diversity of the dance company. Reading the program it was fascinating to learn that the dancers come not only from across the United States but also from Argentina, Cuba, Wales, China, Japan, Russia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Australia.

The dancing was really beautiful. I loved the costumes, the accessories, the set designs and even the lighting was something I appreciated because I know so many event lighting companies. Needless to say I was amazed at the athleticism of the dancers. Particularly the dancing "en pointe" (on the tips of the toes like the ballerina in the photo above). I've seen it done on tv and in movies but it's so much more impressive in real life. Equally impressive were the aerial splits by Prince Alexis. In The Nutcracker the lead danseur does a continuous series of them that take him across and around one side of the stage. It was an incredible display of physical strength. I also loved when the children from the Ballet San Jose School played the little mice in the combat scene. They were sooooooo cute!

So there I was trying my best to ignore the little girl with ants-in-her-pants beside me when all of a sudden the adult/woman behind me bent forward to get something out of her purse? I don't know what she was doing. Next thing I know she bonks me in the back of my head! I think it was the front of her head whacking into the back of mine... During the performance! Classic! At that point all I could do was shake my head and LOTI (Laugh on the Inside). Several friends have said I should have gone to an evening performance and both circumstances would have been avoided. Next time I'll know!

Also, a little FYI. I parked at Adobe (I LOVE Adobe Photoshop) whose offices are on Park Ave directly across the street from the theater. I entered the Adobe parking lot on Park Ave and headed down to their basement event parking area. It only cost $5.00, cash only.

So that was my first ballet experience in a nutshell! I had a great time and am very glad I went. The dancers were even more impressive than I'd dreamt they would be. They were so elegant and talented. Though there is a distinction that needs to be made between talent and the dedication it must take to achieve their skill level, which was awe inspiring. If you've never been I would urge you to go at least once. Read the story online or get there early if an abridged version is printed in your program. As an adult you would figure it all out while watching but I think you'll enjoy the show more if you don't have to think too much and can instead simply sit back and soak the performance in.

To learn more about the remaining performances through December 26, 2010 and to purchase tickets CLICK HERE to visit the Ballet San Jose.org website.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thatcher's Gourmet Cheddar Cheese Corns and Caramel Corn

For the holidays I did something I'd been wanting to do for over a year. Ever since the first time I tried Thatcher's Gourmet Popcorn back in October 2009 at the San Francisco Dream Wedding Giveaway "Meet the Dream Team" event I've thought about ordering more just for fun and all for me. But I hadn't because I was afraid it would be a slippery slope. If I ordered some, would I keep ordering it again and again? When Kevin Chin gave me a huge bag of leftover white cheddar popcorn that night, I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days because I couldn't help myself.
Thatcher's Popcorn Dessert Bar by Nancy Liu Chin

Well, I decided it would be a simple pleasure to enjoy. Now only time will tell if Thatcher's becomes a regular, monthly, household expense. On the positive side there are much more expensive and less healthy habits I could take up... On their website the description for the white cheddar popcorn reads:
"This is so cheddary and flavorful it's hard to believe it's healthy! Try eating only one of these!
Um, by one I hope they mean one bag, not one piece, because that's how I've been eating mine. LOL. Hubby called it. As soon as the box arrived he said "You'll be eating it a bag at a time!" He knows me so well.

I Ordered Chedder, White Chedder and Caramel Corn

But perhaps the coolest thing was that tasting Thatcher's caramel corn made me reminisce all the way back to when I was a little kid. When I ate the first piece it reminded me of when my cousin Tami lived near a mall that had a caramel corn shop. Caramel corn isn't easy to find in San Jose and the kind that comes in the three-flavor-tins you can buy at the drugstore at holiday time doesn't begin to compare to the flavor of fresh, crunchy, candy coated caramel corn.

So one bite and *woosh* it was like taking a trip back in time. I remembered what the shop looked like and ooooh the sugary, caramel way it smelled and how they used to sell caramel corn faces on a stick...

Yes, I said a caramel corn face on a stick! The caramel corn was held together and formed into a flattened, round disc with a thin coating of melted, shiny, ooey gooey corn syrup that dried as it cooled. With licorice allsort eyes, a gum drop nose and a red rope licorice mouth the face was as yummy as it was cute. Wow. I hadn't thought about those caramel corn faces for at least two decades! That single taste was like the scene in the movie Ratatouille when Anton Ego (the snide and snobbish food critic) is transformed back to when he was a little boy when he tasted a dish that reminded him of his childhood... It was just like that except I didn't become a younger and shrunken down version of myself like in the movie. Man that would have freaked out my hubby if I had since he was sitting on the couch next to me  :) LOL

If you live out of the area there is a nominal shipping fee that becomes a better deal as you order more popcorn! If you live in the Bay Area you can place an order on Thatcher's website and I guess judging by your zip code it will also give you the option to pick up your order in person if you're local.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Feeling Suicidal? It Gets Better

While it's not a secret, very few people know that for over two decades I suffered from clinical depression.

At its core, suicide caused by depression is often a desperate attempt by a mind incapable of thinking clearly to seek relief from loneliness so palpable that it can cause physical pain, despair so deep you can't see any light at the end of the tunnel and emotional exhaustion so overwhelming that you just feel too tired to go on.

I know this because I've been there and have survived several episodes of clinical/major depression that twice brought me to the brink of suicide. The thing is, people (both the sufferer and those around them) often mistake clinical depression for sadness which is the equivalent of mistaking cancer for a common cold and not seeking treatment. They are distinctly different, and one is potentially more fatal than the other.

So why talk about it now? Because our country seems to be waking up to the realization that part of the solution in stopping suicides is to be willing to talk about the problem.

Most importantly, I think there's an unintended consequence when it comes to the belief many of us were taught as children (whether by our parents or society) that suicide is the "ultimate act" of selfishness or cowardice. The additional perception (by many) that needing counseling and/or medications are signs of "weakness" and these negative stigmas undoubtedly, but not intentionally, stop some people from seeking the help they need. What society (and that inner voice in our own minds) has created, and continues to perpetuate, is a culture where so much stigma and shame is connected to the act of suicide that it causes those contemplating it to hide their feelings. The result? A dangerous, downward spiral is allowed to progress unchecked.

People don't Choose to be Despressed Instead of Happy

What I can't help but wonder is this: If depressed people weren't afraid of being labeled by society, judged by their families, made fun of by friends, possibly losing their jobs or the potential to be promoted by their employers, would more of them seek help before it's too late? Ultimately the decision to end one's own life is each person's and theirs alone. But, to cast blame and label someone who committed suicide as selfish or cowardly isn't fair because suffering from clinical depression is not a choice and suicide is a decision often made by a depressed mind incapable of thinking clearly.

Statistics say as many as 60% to 90% of people who die by suicide suffer from clinical depression, a mood disorder, or another diagnosable mental disorder that they are not being treated for or they are being under treated for. IMO one of the most dangerous elements of depression is that you feel you're coping satisfactorily even when you aren't. Once you are in depression's grip, you lose perspective and the ability to think rationally at all times. Which means trying to wait out depression is often a mistake because you won't always be able to recognize you've reached a point where you need help.

The easiest way for me to explain the difference between sadness and depression is by using pictures:

We all experience sadness from time to time in the same transitory way we experience all other emotions like elation, anger, embarrassment, etc., perhaps for seconds, minutes, hours or sometimes days.

Depression is different. Depression may be a physical, mental, chemical, or genetic illness that causes emotional suffering that ranges from sadness to anguish to despair and can last for weeks, months or years and can intensify over time. It made me feel alone even when I was surrounded by family and friends. It felt like being in a deep, dark hole from which escape was hopeless and impossible. I felt like a failure (stupid, and insignificant) and was certain that, after the initial shock, people would move on once I was gone. I had lost both family and friends to death. I knew that there is a period of anger and grief but then there is acceptance and life goes on. At the time I thought it was ok to go because in my depressed reality, I was already gone. I felt so empty inside, like who I used to be didn't exist anymore. That made it ok to leave physically, because inside (mentally, emotionally and spiritually) I felt like I was already dead.

My depression began when I was a teenager and surfaced intermittently for around 20 years with episodes lasting anywhere from months to 4-5 years at a time. The concern of a friend saved me the first time I was on the brink of suicide. I was in college carrying 20 credits, had moved out of my parent's house, was working part time to support myself and suffered two significant losses on the same day. One was the suicide of someone I loved dearly. After a while suicidal urges and planning how to take my own life began occupying my thoughts. I simply wasn't able to cope. I told a friend, who told her mom who was a therapist. Her mom offered to talk to me (in free counseling sessions) for several months until I was out of danger.

Depression made my life feel overcast with just a sliver of light.

Over the years I sought private counseling on several more occasions. I also called the national suicide hotline (1-800-784-2433) and counselors there talked me through some really tough nights. If you are suffering, whatever you do, do not buy into the stigma that to need help is a sign of weakness. I'm telling you that to acknowledge you need help and to seek it out takes a tremendous amount of strength. None of us are perfect and we aren't always equipped to deal with the stress and trauma that life often dumps upon us.

The "It Gets Better Project" is creating a dialog about suicide that our society has been uncomfortable with for far too long. While "It Gets Better" focuses on the the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community, the individual messages of resilience and recovery from suicidal feelings really transcend the LGBT community and encompass all of us and the fact that it's possible for any of us to suffer from suicidal depression at some point in our lives. It's part of the human condition.

Even social networking giant "Facebook" is putting in place a new way for members to send an alert that another member has threatened suicide on their website. CLICK HERE to visit the "Suicide" help page on Facebook.

At the time I didn't think anyone would miss me. Later, I realized they would have.

If you do open up to someone and they respond negatively or are judgmental, open up to someone else and don't be upset with the person who didn't know what to say or how to help. While some may know intuitively and others may have learned, most of us weren't raised or trained to know what the "right things" to say are in the face of suicide. It isn't that we don't care, we simply don't know how to help. People who can help include:
  • Counselors at the Anonymous Suicide Hot Line at 1-800-784-2433.
  • A Psychologist can give you counseling and psychotherapy and may have a Doctoral Degree or Ph. D.. (This is who helped me when I went through counseling.) 
  • A Psychiatrist can give you counseling and/or medications because they are a Medical Doctor (M.D).
  • Your General Practitioner Doctor can diagnose your depression and refer you to a Psychologist or Psychiatrist. They may even want to give you anti-depressent medications but they will not address any underlying cause(s) of your depression or teach you coping skills the way a Psychologist or Psychiatrist will.
With counseling I saw the possibility of moving in a new direction.

Some of the most helpful things we can do if someone tells us they are or have been feeling suicidal is to listen, accept their feelings (don't try to tell them they are wrong), urge them to seek professional help, tell them you don't want them to commit suicide and ask what you can do to help. Often just having someone to talk to about their problems can make them feel less lonely and can be a first step towards recovery. For now, you can learn some of the best ways to respond to a person in distress on websites like MetanoiaStop A Suicide, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Common responses that are not helpful are saying:
  • That contemplating suicide is selfish or stupid. This only confirms every negative, self hating emotion the person is already experiencing and does not help. 
  • Others are worse off. While normally someone might agree, when depressed, this comment can feel dismissive of the pain they are suffering from. The pain a person from depression suffers from isn't rational or relative to any other suffering. It is what it is and the intensity of it can be unbearable.
  • That God doesn't give people more than they can bear. For many, God (or life for the non-religious) does give some people more than they can bear. Others who have committed suicide and mental illness can be viewed as proof that some of us have limitations on how much we are able to bear. To a person of devout faith they may agree with this commonly accepted interpretation of Corinthians (1 Cor 10:13, from which the quote originates) when they are in a clear frame of mind. But when suicidally depressed their faith may slip from their grasp. I don't mean this in a blasphemous way nor do I want to start a theological debate. I'm just offering a perspective of how this statement may not help someone who is clinically depressed and may cause them to feel more despair, over their inability to bear or cope with what they are going through (because now they are failing both God's expectations and yours), rather than give the comfort the statement was intended to create.
  • "Snap out of it" or to "get over it." That's not how depression works so these suggestions aren't helpful at all no matter how well intended. You would't tell someone with any other potentially fatal medical condition to snap it away or to just get over it, yet many people truly believe that overcoming depression is that easy.
Things look different once the depression is gone...

If you ever feel that suicide is your only option please call the suicide hot line and talk to a counselor before taking your own life. I'm telling you that you do have another choice. Asking for help is the other choice to suicide.

National Suicide Hotlines
Toll-Free / 24 hours a day / 7 days a week


Suicide Prevention Hotline

Crisis Text Hotline

Deaf Hotline: Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Worldwide Suicide Helplines can be found at Befrienders Wordlwide.

The last time I felt suicidal was in 1998 and can honestly say I don't ever expect to feel that way again. I now have boundaries in my day to day life that stop me from going down the wrong path with people or situations that are emotionally unhealthy for me. I've also learned how to ask for help and accept it from others. These life skills have protected me from falling back into depression at times when previously I would have been vulnerable to it.

If you are in that dark and lonely space and the idea of killing yourself has begun to fill your thoughts, I hope this post will help you to reconsider and seek professional help. Even if you feel hopeless, like there's no way you'll ever feel happy again, my life is proof that it does get better. You just have to stick around long enough to see it happen.

These are just some of the things I've read in dark moments that have lifted me up and helped me to create the path I am on now:


The Road Less Traveled (M. Scott Peck)

When Bad Things Happen To Good People (Harold S. Kushner)

Awakening to the Sacred (Lama Surya Das)

Wild (Cheryl Strayed)

Women Who Run With The Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estés)

Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson "The Bloggess")


Adventures in Depression (From the Hyperbole and a Half Blog)

Depression Part Two (From the Hyperbole and a Half Blog)

What It’s Like To Be In Love When You Have Depression (Article from Thought Catalog)

The information and suggestions in this post are given from a personal perspective and should not be interpreted as professional medical advice. Please consult a professional Counselor, Doctor, Psychiatrist or Psychologist for help regarding depression and/or suicide.