6.29.2007

LaUGH-TaSTiC SKeTCH-O-PaLOOZa

We're doin' it again, baby. But this year, less "tribute" and MORE kah-medy.

Sunday August 26th 7:30 pm

LaUGH-TaSTiC SKeTCH-O-PaLOOZa

@ World Cafe Live Philadelphia to benefit Jefferson Hospital

Tickets $15
Event open to the public - Tix to go on sale SOON at www.worldcafelive.com

More info:
HERE http://dgoldyoung.googlepages.com/2ndannualworldcafelivecomedyfestival2

**********************************************

FEATURING:
(click on titles to access performer websites)


Master of Ceremonies:
DonDon the full Montrey
...of Die Actor Die, ComedySportz, and Bad Hair Sketch










ComedySportz Philadelphia










Bad Hair Sketch






Barrymore Award Winner, Jen Childs










Rowan and Hastings








Tongue and Groove Improv











Suburban Love Songs, Choreographed by Karen Getz



6.27.2007

Posttraumatic Growth

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my research is being shaped by the events of the past two years. My latest pursuits, with my colleague Scott, involve examining how online dating profiles of widows and widowers serve as a springboard to their "new" lives - and illustrate how they are incorporating their loss into their narratives of self.


In the process of researching this topic, I came upon the following article. If you ever feel sympathy for me, I urge you to read this excerpt. It describes the concept of "posttraumatic growth," the general phenomenon that I've been alluding to through my posts.

While I do feel sad when I'm "in it," I also feel that my experiences have given me some things I wouldn't ever want to live without - a deeper understanding of what "it's" really all about, the beauty of each and every connection I have with people around me, as well as a sense of my own personal strength. Apparently, all of these developments are well documented in the aftermath of traumatic events of all kinds.

Through human suffering is where we find beauty. Not necessarily Happiness, per se... but beauty.

Posttraumatic Growth: A New Perspective on Psychotraumatology

There is a long tradition in psychiatry, reaching at least back to World War I, of studying the response of people who are faced with traumatic circumstances and devising ways to restore them to psychological health. The main focus of this work has been on the ways in which traumatic events are precursors to psychological and physical problems. This negative focus is understandable and appropriate to the requirements of these contexts. However, only a minority of people exposed to traumatic events develop long-standing psychiatric disorders.

Although not prevalent in either clinical or research settings, there has been a very long tradition of viewing human suffering as offering the possibility for the origin of significant good. A central theme of much philosophical inquiry--and the work of novelists, dramatists and poets--has included attempts to understand and discover the meaning of human suffering (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 1995). In the 20th century, several clinicians and scientists have addressed the ways in which critical life crises offered possibilities for positive personal change (e.g., Caplan, 1964; Frankl, 1963; Maslow, 1970; Yalom and Lieberman, 1991). However, the widespread assumption that trauma will often result in disorder should not be replaced with expectations that growth is an inevitable result. Instead, continuing personal distress and growth often coexist (Cadell et al., 2003).

In the developing literature on posttraumatic growth, we have found that reports of growth experiences in the aftermath of traumatic events far outnumber reports of psychiatric disorders (Quarantelli, 1985; Tedeschi, 1999). This is despite the fact that we are concerned with truly traumatic circumstances rather than everyday stressors. Reports of posttraumatic growth have been found in people who have experienced bereavement, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV infection, cancer, bone marrow transplantation, heart attacks, coping with the medical problems of children, transportation accidents, house fires, sexual assault and sexual abuse, combat, refugee experiences, and being taken hostage (Tedeschi and Calhoun, in press).

The Domains of Posttraumatic Growth

The kinds of positive changes individuals experience in their struggles with trauma are reflected in models of posttraumatic growth that we have been building (Calhoun and Tedeschi, 1998) and in a measure of posttraumatic growth that we developed based on interviews with many trauma survivors (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 1996).

These changes include:

  • improved relationships
  • new possibilities for one's life
  • a greater appreciation for life
  • a greater sense of personal strength and spiritual development.

There appears to be a basic paradox apprehended by trauma survivors who report these aspects of posttraumatic growth: Their losses have produced valuable gains.

We also find that other paradoxes are involved. For example: "I am more vulnerable, yet stronger." Individuals who experience traumatic life events tend to report--not surprisingly--an increased sense of vulnerability, congruent with the experience of suffering in ways they may not have been able to control or prevent. However, these same people also may report an increased sense of their own capacities to survive and prevail (Calhoun and Tedeschi, 1999).

Another experience often reported by trauma survivors is a need to talk about the traumatic events, which sets into motion tests of interpersonal relationships--some pass, others fail. They also may find themselves becoming more comfortable with intimacy and having a greater sense of compassion for others who experience life difficulties.

Individuals who face trauma may be more likely to become cognitively engaged with fundamental existential questions about death and the purpose of life. A commonly reported change is for the individual to value the smaller things in life more and also to consider important changes in the religious, spiritual and existential components of philosophies of life. The specific content varies, of course, contingent on the individual's initial belief system and the cultural contexts within which the struggle with a life crisis occurs. A common theme, however, is that after a spiritual or existential quest, philosophies of life can become more fully developed, satisfying and meaningful. It appears that for many trauma survivors, a period of questioning their beliefs is ushered in because existential or spiritual issues have become more salient and less abstract.

Although firm answers to the questions raised by trauma--why do traumatic events happen, what is the point to my life now that this trauma has occurred, why should I continue to struggle--are not necessarily found, grappling with these issues often produces a satisfaction in trauma survivors so that they are experiencing life at a deeper level of awareness. It should be clear by now that the reflections on one's traumas and their aftermath are often unpleasant, although necessary in reconstructing the life narrative and establishing a wiser perspective on living that accommodates these difficult circumstances. Therefore, posttraumatic growth does not necessarily yield less emotional distress.

Cognitive Engagement and Growth

A central theme of the life challenges that are the focus here is their seismic nature (Calhoun and Tedeschi, 1998). Much like earthquakes can impact the physical environment, traumatic circumstances, characterized by their unusual, uncontrollable, potentially irreversible and threatening qualities, can produce an upheaval in trauma survivors' major assumptions about the world, their place in it and how they make sense of their daily lives. In reconsidering these assumptions, there are the seeds for new perspectives on all these matters and a sense that valuable--although painful--lessons have been learned.

Dr. Tedeschi is professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Dr. Calhoun is professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Both authors have written three books and numerous articles on posttraumatic growth.

References

Antoni MH, Lehman JM, Kilbourn KM et al. (2001), Cognitive-behavioral stress management intervention decreases the prevalence of depression and enhances benefit finding among women under treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Health Psychol 20(1):20-32 [see comment].

Cadell S, Regehr C, Hemsworth D (2003), Factors contributing to posttraumatic growth: a proposed structural equation model. Am J Orthopsychiatry 73(3):279-287.

Calhoun LG, Tedeschi RG (1998), Posttraumatic growth: future directions. In: Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the Aftermath of Crisis, Tedeschi RG, Park CL, Calhoun LG, eds. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, pp215-238.

Calhoun LG, Tedeschi RG (1999), Facilitating Posttraumatic Growth: A Clinician's Guide. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Calhoun LG, Tedeschi RG (2000), Early posttraumatic interventions: facilitating possibilities for growth. In: Posttraumatic Stress Intervention: Challenges, Issues, and Perspectives, Violanti JM, Paton D, Dunning C, eds. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas Publishers, pp135-152.

Caplan G (1964), Principles of Preventive Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

Frankl VE (1963), Man's Search for Meaning; An Introduction to Logotherapy, Lasch I, trans. Boston: Beacon Press.

Maslow AH (1970), Motivation and Personality, 2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row.

McAdams DP (1993), The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self. New York: W. Morrow.

Quarantelli EL (1985), An assessment of conflicting views on mental health: the consequences of traumatic events. In: Trauma and Its Wake: The Study and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, vol. 1b, Figley CR, ed. New York: Brunner-Mazel, pp173-218.

Tedeschi RG (1999), Violence transformed: posttraumatic growth in survivors and their societies. Aggression and Violent Behavior 4(3):319-341.

Tedeschi RG, Calhoun LG (1995), Trauma & Transformation: Growing in the Aftermath of Suffering. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Tedeschi RG, Calhoun LG (1996), The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: measuring the positive legacy of trauma. J Trauma Stress 9(3):455-471.

Tedeschi RG, Calhoun LG (in press), Posttraumatic growth: conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psych Inquiry.

Yalom ID, Lieberman MA (1991), Bereavement and heightened existential awareness. Psychiatry 54(4):334-345.

6.22.2007

Flashback

My access to my computer files and email at Annenberg ends on June 30th, so I have been working with the IT folks to download and archive some old things - including old old emails that I thought were long gone. In the weeks after his death, I searched everywhere to find ways to be with Mike, but I couldn't locate these old emails anywhere.

And now they're back.


There is so much beauty in Mike's words. In his references to Buddhism (which i am finally starting to understand), in his appreciation of friends, and in the thoughtfulness of his gestures.

I had to take a few minutes today to post some of these:

*******************************

To: ComedySportz
Sent: February 14, 2000, 11:24 am

In lieu of a valentine, I send you this note of affirmation. Yes, it's gooey new-ageism, but I'm a gooey, new-age kind of guy. And who are you to argue with the Buddha?

The practice of 'Metta', uncovering the force of love that can uproot fear, anger, and guilt, begins with befriending ourselves. The foundation of metta practice is to know how to be our own friend.

According to the
Buddha, "You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."

How few of us
embrace ourselves in this way! With metta practice we uncover the possiblity of truly respecting ourselves. We discover, as WaltWhitman put it, "I am larger and better than I thought. I did not think I held so much goodness."

-Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness

*********

From: Mike Young
To: Dannagal Goldthwaite
Sent: May 6, 2002 11:58 am

Hi smoosher!

I had a productive and fun weekend with you, smoosher. We had a fun date on Friday, got lots done around the house, did both ComedySportz shows, and had Michaela over for Alias. And in just a few days, we get to go camping together. Yay!
Love you,
m

**********************************
The year that I got into ComedySportz, Mike sent everyone a "Super-Survey" to fill out. It was such a great way to get to know everyone. And now I have his. What a gift to be able to read his answers again. And he makes so many references to you guys... all of the amazing friends in his life. It's a joy to read:

Here's the Ultimate Survey. A blank one to fill out and forward is at the
end. I've saved most of the ComedySportz ones, and can forward them to you
sometime. Be forewarned that this takes a long time to fill out.

The Ultimate Survey for: Mike Young

Nicknames: World. (sadly, not a very interesting story behind the nickname.)

Hometown: Originally from suburbs of Cleveland, but consider Philly my hometown.

School: U Penn

Croutons or Bacon Bits: Croutons

Favorite Salad Dressing: my own Caesar

Do you drink: no

Shampoo or Conditioner: both

Have you ever gone skinny dipping: Yup

Do you make fun of people: I try not to make fun of strangers, but I am a chronic teaser of friends.

Three Favorite Movies: Raising Arizona, West Side Story, Godfather

Have you ever been convicted of a crime: no

Best Online Friends: Francine Rosenthal, thanks to her e-addiction; Kevin Dougherty for quick jokes. I feel I should mention how much I enjoy the e-musings of Fred Siegel, whose comic timing in e-mail format is impeccable.

One pillow or two: two

Pets: none


Favorite Music: vaguely XPN.


Hobbies: photography, fantasy baseball, reading, making lists of favorite things to e-mail to friends, hiking

Dream Car: some kind of convertible. I'm not very into cars.

What kind of car do you drive: 96 Saturn SL2


Words or phrases you overuse: D'oh, awesome, aw yeah. I'm a big fan of slang, and am constantly on the lookout for a new phrase I can appropriate to appear hip.

Toothpaste: varies. I guess I'm more Colgate than Crest.

Favorite food: Pizza, ice cream, and pizza-flavored ice cream. Duck and most game, such as rabbit. Cilantro and sour cream on a burrito.

Current crush: Sharon Lawrence. Whoever plays Judy on Once and Again. I have had a long-standing platonic crush on Jen Childs, and most of the women in ComedySportz.

Piercing or tattoos: Two piercings in right ear. Not interested in tattoos, because I can't imagine being 73, looking at my sagging, tattooed flesh, and not thinking, "What a colossal mistake."

Most romantic thing that ever happened to you: back in high school, I had just broken up with the first true love of my life (or rather, she broke up with me). I started hanging out with Michelle Auerbach, who had also just broken up with a true love. Michelle was my first puppy-love crush in junior high, and I had just a few months prior to our respective breakups that she also had a crush on me in junior high.

We decided to see a movie one night to keep each other from being miserable. There was all this great sexual tension in the evening: both of us were terribly lonely, but didn't want to openly admit our craving for another person's touch. Afterwards, we sat on the golf course behind her grandparents' condo talking. It was a perfect, starlit, autumn night. At one point, I leaned back on the grass, and she suggested I put my head in her lap. Eventually, she started stroking my hair. We stopped talking, and I looked up into her eyes and said, "Would you be terribly offended if I were to kiss you right now?" She whispered no, and we shared a deliciously soft kiss that I can still taste.

The relationship barely lasted beyond that night, but that night stays with me.

How do you characterize yourself (hopeless romantic or non-romantic): tough choice, but I guess I'd fall more on the hopeless than non- side. Perhaps a romantic realist.

Favorite town to chill in: San Fransisco

Favorite Ice Cream: Coffee oreo, which I haven't seen in a few years. Otherwise, Starbucks Coffee Almond Fudge.

Favorite Website: Jesse's Word Of the Day, the Onion.

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: Peach juice, Dr. Pepper or its generic knockoffs, such as Dr. Thirst or Dr. Riffic

Bed Time: Usually between 11-12.

Adidas, Nike, or Reebok
: whatever's on sale


Favorite Shoes: Timberland brown suede wingtips. I can wear them with jeans or with a suit.

Favorite Cologne/Perfume: Paul Sebastian

Favorite Songs at the Moment: Sweet Surrender by Sarah McLaughlin has been haunting me for over a year, but at this moment it's She Don't Use Jelly by Ben Folds Five and I'd Like That by XTC.

Favorite Musical Groups: Marshall Crenshaw, Joe Jackson. k.d. lang could sing names from the phone book and I would be entertained. I will always have a soft spot for the mindless 80s pop of Hall & Oates.

Favorite Subject in High School: Mechanical Drawing and Math. For some reason, I always thought math was fun.

Least Favorite Subject: Physics and Latin

Favorite Books: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Favorite Alcoholic Drink: n/a, as I am allergic. Scott Greer has turned me on to Calvedos, though.

Favorite Sport to watch: NBA or NFL, baseball playoffs, or olympic
volleyball.

Favorite Season: autumn


Most recent humiliating moment: I can't recall any. I must be extraordinarily good at blocking out those moments from memory. Either that or marijuana really does cause short-term memory loss.

Occupation: Director of Graphic Services at Disc Makers, Producing Artistic Director of ComedySportz.

Craziest or silliest person I know: Karen Getz. I mean, she's just nuts.

Indoors or Outdoors person: overall indoors, but with strong outdoor tendencies. Way outdoor, like camping in the mountains.

Any children: no

Loudest Person you know: Jim Carpenter, especially when you add in the laughs of everyone else around him. Or Jim Comorote with a couple beers in him.

Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving, because it's one that everyone can celebrate, and it's appropriate to share it with friends as well as family. I've been fortunate enough to have Thanksgiving with seven different groups of people over the years, and each time has been an education and a privilege. What do you look for in the opposite sex: Sense of humor is of utmost importance. Intelligence. Cute face.

Say one nice thing about the person who sent this: I've directed Kelly in ComedySportz for seven years, and she has always been an exemplary player: amazingly consistent, funny, and willing to work. Everyone in the group can turn around on stage, see her, and instantly feel safe. As a player, she is one of my heroes.

*********************

When I filled out the supersurvey (this was before we were officially "dating")... it was Mike who had sent it to me... so I wrote this:

Say one nice thing about the person who sent this: Mike Young is painfully talented, effortlessly gentle and truly committed to his art. He also has a way of making you feel like you are the funniest person in the world and the object of his undivided attention. I always want to hug him.


-- To which he replied to me via email:

Danna -

I just wanted you to know how happy your comment at the end of your Survey has made me. I've read it repeatedly, and it still makes me smile. It's one of the nicest compliments I've ever received.

There's also a real thrill in having a compliment in print be circulated amongst your friends. I'm thinking of how I can give everyone the opportunity to feel this way.

Thanks again!
m

6.15.2007

Mike's Tree

Thank you for all the calls and texts and emails and posts. I always think there's no way that people are reading this anymore - given the infrequency of my posts these days -- but there you are!

So, get this crazy story:

For months I have thought that I want to plant a tree for mike in our backyard with his ashes in the soil underneath. I thought about doing it on the anniversary of his death - but that just doesn't feel right. Finally a couple of months ago, I figured that planting it on our anniversary would be ideal.

The problem was, I couldn't seem to get my act
together to go get the tree. Everytime I imagined going to purchase the tree, I imagined having the hassle with the people who worked at the store, having to pay for it and struggling to get it to my car, wondering if it would fit blah blah blah. It made the whole thing seem so... ordinary and tied to the bullshit of normal life. I felt like all that would take the beauty away from the experience. So, I never went.

Wednesday, June 13th (day before anniversary), I
'm in my office at Delaware and Heide calls me.

"Hey, you working?"


"Yeah, I'm at the office."


"Oh.. that's too b
ad. I was going to ask if you wanted to take a little trip with me to a nursery out in Marlton."

"A nursery?"

Now, Heide had no idea about my tentative tree plan. None at all.


"Yeah." "

Do they have trees there?"


"Ummm.. yeah. It's a nursery! Can I pic
k something up for you?"


So, I told her the whole thing -- she agreed that this was a weird weird coincidence. I asked her to look for magnolias and cherry trees and to ca
ll me from the place.

For
the record - no one has EVER randomly called me to ask if I want to go to or need anything from a plant nursery. This was just weird.

So, she calls me from the place and she says she has found a magnolia... but even better, she says, is a different ornamental tree she's found... she says it's called a "crepe myrtle," but she's never heard of it before.

"Oh my god. I know what those are," I say, "They have that two-toned bark, right? almost like camouflage or something."


"Well, this one doesn't, but it's young. Let me look a
t the tag...... Yes! 'Crepe Myrtles famous for their cinnamon colored and spotted bark and for large beautiful blooms in the summer.'"

"This is so weird, " i say.

Why is this weird?


Well, recall that trip to Charleston, SC that Mike and I took in early March of last year - The one that he refused to postpone? The one that basically delayed his radiation therapy? The one where I realized that he was so not right... getting lost, overdrawing our bank account, sleeping 16 hours a d
ay?

There were a few beautiful moments during that trip. My favorite was a horse-drawn carriage ride we took through the historic district. And on that ride, Mike was struck by these trees - these intricate, sculpture-like trees with two-tones of bark.

He even asked
the driver (we were in the front), "What are these trees? they are amazing."

"Those are crepe myrtles, my friend. Charleston is famous for them. As beautiful without the leaves as they are when they're in full bloom. They're like nature's artwork, aren't they?"

So... that's the tree that Heide found.
She delivered it to my driveway - so I didn't have any hassle involved at all.

Yesterday morning, my friend Colin (longtime friend who just moved to Philly) dug the hole. CSM and Michelle kept the morning full of laughter and helped fill in the hole around the tree with me.

It was the first time since last fall that I had opened up the box of Mike's ashes. And I had never actually touched his ashes before. It felt so good to hold him in my hand. The ashes were so fine, like dust, but with chunks of his bones in them. I sobbed so hard, I couldn't breathe. Michelle wiped my face with her sweatshirt as I held Mike in my hand. I had a sudden urge to be in the bag of ashes - or to cover myself in them - or maybe even consume them somehow. It was a feeling of closeness to him that I wanted to make last forever.

But instead, I t
ook a few handfuls and spread them around the base of the tree. We hadn't yet completely filled in the hole, so the ashes were about 4 inches down into the ground. Then we filled it in, mulched around it, and watered it.

My afternoon was a lovely time with Miss Wah in my old Queen Village hood getting pedicures and laughing so much. It was the perfect post-burying activity.

I picked bax up from sch
ool and introduced him to Daddy's tree. He loves it. He knows it's special. He even kissed it.

Julie and Jack stopped by to check in. Carrie came over at dinner time with champagne and chinese food in hand. She took the lead on bax's bedtime routine because I was just so tired. She cleaned up the kitchen and we sat on the porch in our jackets because it was so chilly.

Quite a day. As odd as it seems, I consider myself to be so very lucky. I am taken care of by such wonderful peop
le. I just hope that I can give back as much as has been given to me.

love, danna

6.14.2007

Happy Anniversary, Smoosher

June 14, 2003. It was such a beautiful day. After like 6 weeks of rain, suddenly the clouds parted. It was so lush and green. I cried through my vows. I asked if anyone had a tissue. Mike pulled one right out of his suit pocket.

Our first dance of the morning was Norah Jones "Don't know Why." We held each other so tightly. It was more like a long long hug than a dance.

We did our cute and charming Karen Getzola dance to Martin Sexton's Diggin Me (
Go here to track #14) and our friends smiled and laughed at our childlike play.

We were so so very happy. I feel so lucky to have had that day.

Here are some additional photos from some of Mike's absolute favorite times.

Cooking pancakes with tomtom while camping in summer 2002.

Summer at the Vineyard with the family.

Andre and Marianne's wedding.


I miss you so much, Michael.

I'm doing ok. I think you would be so proud of us. But sometimes I feel such a deep longing to be with you... that I wonder if I'll make it. I know that I will.. but sometimes it just feels like this can't be real. You can't be gone... right?

But it is real. This is our story, smoosher. And it keeps going. Your boy is so amazing. He's in a big boy bed now, Mike. Can you believe it? He makes jokes and acts sassy and has a sparkle in his eye. He looks so much like you. God... would you love spending time with him. You would love it. His giggle makes me feel so much joy. I hate that he can't be with you. I hate it.

He asked the other day if I could go to the moon and you could come home. I laughed as I imagined you mocking and joking with me about how our boy was ready to "off" me to get you back here. I had to explain to him, once again, that you're not away on a trip. You're not going to come home. You're up there for good.

But, as bad as I feel... I think about last year's wedding anniversary and how heartbreaking it was to sit across from you sitting in that wheelchair at Magee rehab hospital while Jim and Mary pretended to wait on us while we ate our special take-out from Le Bec Fin. You couldn't see the food on your plate, didn't know it was our anniversary, were slumped so far in your chair, you would drift off, didn't speak much, eyes would fall shut.

That was not a life suitable for such an amazing, bright, talented, warm, joyful and energetic man. It killed us to see you there like that, knowing how the "real" you would have been so angry that this is where you found yourself. I couldn't bear to think of how Mike Young would have thought about that entire time period. The man who is so self-sufficient and hates being sick and hates pity, and who - above all - wants respect and dignity - and to be a source of strength and joy for others... would have found that entire time so dreadful.

I feel such a sense of peace knowing that you're not in that terrible place, mike. That you're liberated from that body that had you so trapped. But I miss you more than you will ever ever know. We all do. The world isn't quite right without you here.

We're finding our way, smoosher. We'll be ok... but it's just not quite right.


I love you, smoosher.
love,
smoosher



Playing with his boy. His beautiful boy.