Are you Depressed?

In my opinion,  psychiatrists should first test their patients for nutritional deficiencies before writing prescriptions for Zoloftor for  antipsychotics, like Zyprexa.  Conscientious doctors send patients to get lab work done prior to prescribing drugs or increasing dosages.  There are times when people do need antidepressants.   However,  other times  spinach would go far to eliminate the symptoms of depression.   Think Popeye.

If you haven’t ever tested your nutrition levels, you might inquire with either your psychiatrist or primary-care physician. Supplements can be expensive, but you can make it back  by not having to see your psychiatrist as often. You should talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re on prescription drugs.


Vitamin D

According to my doctor, Vitamin D deficiency is a major epidemic that doctors and public health officials are just beginning to realize. This deficiency has been linked to depression, dementia, and autism. Most of our levels drop off during the fall and winter months, since sunlight is the richest source.   My doctor believes that we should be getting from 5,000 to 10,000 IU  a day.  However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends most healthy adults get only about 600 IUs daily.  Hence, the widespread deficiency and increases in depression.


I am forever extolling the virtues of Magnesium, because this, like Vitamin D, is deficient in most American adults, according to my doctor, and the symptoms are not pretty.  They can, in fact, set off a chain reaction of unpleasant symptoms. Our lifestyles decrease our levels of Magnesium.  Some of the things that contribute are excess alcohol, salt, coffee, sugar, phosphoric acid (in soda), chronic stress, antibiotics, and diuretics (water pills). Magnesium is sometimes referred to as the stress antidote, the “most powerful relaxation mineral that exists,” according to Hyman. It is found in seaweed, greens, and beans. The NIH recommends a daily intake of about 400 to 420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium for adult men and 310 to 320 mg for adult women.  Magnesium Citrate can also act as a laxative, so buy your Magnesium accordingly….and time it well.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I was surprised when my results showed an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency because I eat plenty of salmon and take fish oil supplements every day. That shows you just how much fish — salmon, tuna, halibut — or flaxseeds and walnuts we need to consume to be at an optimal level. These essential minerals reduce inflammation and play a critical role in brain function, especially memory and mood. The body can’t make them, so you need to either eat them or take supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are just one of the supplements I take every day for depression

Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins like vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 can provide some incredible health benefits, including reduced stroke risk and healthy skin and nails. On the other hand, a vitamin B deficiency may impact your mental health. More than a quarter of severely depressed older women were deficient in B-12, according to one 2009 study.

The best sources of vitamin B-6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, and leafy green vegetables. For vitamin B-6, the NIH recommends a daily intake of 1.7 mg for adult men, and 1.5 mg for adult women. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk) and shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and crab. Most adults should need to consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 daily, according to the NIH.


People with a low folate level have only a 7 percent response to treatment with antidepressants. Those with high folate levels have a response of 44 percent, according to Hyman. That is why many psychiatrists are now prescribing a folate called Deplin to treat depression and improve the effectiveness of an antidepressant. I tried it and it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference; however, I have several friends who have had very positive responses to Deplin. You need not try the prescription form of Deplin. You could just start taking a folate supplement and see if you get any results. Your daily recommended folate intake depends on your gender, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and age. However, most adults need at least 400 mcg daily. You can also get your daily folate requirements by consuming foods high in folate, including dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, and citrus fruits and juices.

 Amino Acids

Amino acids — the building blocks of protein — help your brain properly function. A deficiency in amino acids may cause you to feel sluggish, foggy, unfocused, and depressed. Good sources of amino acids include beef, eggs, fish, beans, seeds, and nuts.


Iron deficiency is pretty common in women. About 20 percent of women, and 50 percent of pregnant women, are in the club. Only three percent of men are iron deficient. The most common form of anemia — an insufficient number of red blood cells — is caused by iron deficiency. Its symptoms are similar to depression: fatigue, irritability, brain fog. Most adults should consume 8 to 18 mg of iron daily, depending on age, gender, and diet, according to the NIH. Good sources of iron include red meat, fish, and poultry. If you really want to get more red blood cells, eat liver. Yuck.


This one is SO important!  Zinc is used by more enzymes (and we have over 300) than any other mineral. It is crucial to many of our systems. It activates our digestive enzymes so that we can break down our food, and works to prevent food allergies (which, in turn, averts depression in some people, since some of our mood disruptions are triggered by food allergies). It also helps our DNA to repair and produce proteins. Finally, zinc helps control inflammation and boosts our immune system. The NIH recommends a daily intake of 11 mg of zinc for adult men and 8 mg for adult women.


Like iodine, selenium is important for good thyroid function. It assists the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to the active thyroid hormone, T3. It also helps one of our important antioxidants (glutathione peroxidase) keep polyunsaturated acids in our cell membranes from getting oxidized (rancid). Most adults need about 55 mcg of selenium daily. The best food source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which contains about 544 mcg of selenium per ounce.


Iodine deficiency can be a big problem because iodine is critical for the thyroid to work as it should, and the thyroid affects more than you think: your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When it’s not functioning properly, you can feel very depressed, among other things. You can get iodine by using an iodine-enriched salt, or by eating dried seaweed, shrimp, or cod. I take a kelp supplement every morning because I have hypothyroidism. The daily recommend amount of iodine for most adults is about 150 mcg.

Oatmeal, anyone? An Evening with Ottmar Liebert

When my daughter was small, she would refer to Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert as “Oatmeal”.  “Listening to Oatmeal again, Mom?”  she would ask.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.36.40 AM© Stacy Alexander – 2015

Last night, we were treated to two hours of this graceful guitarist’s skilled execution of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard.  Liebert was joined by bassist, Jon Gagon and percussionist, Chris Steele.  They had definite chemistry, and put on an ideal show in an intimate Portland venue in the Alberta Arts District.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.40.34 AM

© Stacy Alexander

Ottmar Liebert is what guitar playing is all about.  He is in tune with his craft to the point that it seemed, at times, that he and the guitar were one instrument.  He was graceful, and seemed comfortable in his own skin, playing, most of the time, barefoot, with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, riding the waves of his own creations.   I believe he was playing a small DeVoe guitar, but it didn’t have any markings on it that I could see, so I’m not certain that is what it was.

Since 1986 Liebert has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1992 he purchased an “alt-ranchette” just outside the city, with an adobe guesthouse he built as a recording studio.  In May 2006 Liebert was ordained as a Zen monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had a very strong presence….one of peace and goodness.  Both John and I sensed this immediately as we watched him.

(I couldn’t get the video of Luna Negra to embed.  This video (above) is an earlier performance.)

I have been unable to find a video of Jon Gagnon, his bassist, but will post one here, if i do later.  He  was simply put, rock solid in every way.  Jon had a huge presence and voice on a 4 string fretless which sang like an baritone opera singer…or, at times, a French horn.  I couldn’t figure out what one of his bass instruments was at all it.  The one shown here was huge, and had a EB-like headstock and a body shape of something like a JP and a morsh.   Its  tone was full of mwah, but soulful and crying. The  fretboard was  coated with something shiny. I’d not seen anything like it before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.54.47 AMThe drummer, Chris Steele, was not to be believed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.57.15 AMI did find a video of Chris playing, and I encourage you to watch it.  He is truly a unique player, and fantastically talented.

There is a video on YouTube that I couldn’t manage to embed here.  Please look it up.  It is called “Good Drums, Bad Turtleneck” by Chris Steele.  This is the video to watch to really see this man’s talent.  You can find it here:

The Alberta Rose Theater is a sweet little venue….very small and intimate, which was the perfect place to hear a trio such as this.  John and I ate the venue’s delicious  hand pies and sipped Perrier as we basked in the warmth and beauty that these musicians presented to us. We had such a nice evening.   These guys are  true professionals…plain and simple.  They were tight, knew exactly what they were doing, and provided the audience with an amazing show.  ’nuff said.  Well…no….NOT enough said, actually.

As I was sitting there watching these incredible musicians, I though about my dear friend, another musician, and felt so sad that his life has taken the path that it has.  It could have been him up there on that stage last night….but as they say…”When you lie with pigs….”  He has made some not-so-wise choices.   I’ll leave it at that.

A New Article About my Husband

I am happy to promote this new article about my husband, Dr. John Freed, that was just published in the Brandman/Chapman University magazine.  It was written by Cindy O’Dell.  Click on her name to be taken to the original article. 

john at timberline (good)

Photo by Stacy Alexander


John Freed finds humor, meaning in history; turns it into theater

January 22, 2015 by Cindy O’Dell

Dr. John Freed, associate professor of humanities and liberal studies, finds it amusing that he’s immersed himself so personally in the very activity for which he describes himself as one of Brandman University’s chief boosters – being creative. But then Freed finds a lot of things amusing including the foibles of historic figures, the twists and turns his own career has taken and the unexpected but extreme pleasure of hearing himself introduced as “the playwright” by a theater director he admires.

Freed has been teaching college students about drama, particularly Shakespeare, for over 30 years. He’s also been a film and theatre critic. But it’s only in the last few years that he’s launched himself into writing plays, including “Figaro’s Follies” (a 2013 rewrite of the original Beaumarchais’ play on which the more famous opera “Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart is based) performed as staged readings last summer in San Francisco. “Creativity is a very important student learning outcome for our revised liberal arts core,” said Freed in a phone interview from his Bay area office. He teaches blended classes at the Walnut Creek, Fairfield and Travis Air Force Base campuses and online and divides his time between the Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, where his wife, Stacy Alexander, a mixed-media artist lives.

“This is an offshoot that links directly back to our mission of recovering the arts part of a School of Arts and Sciences,” he added.

“Dr. Freed has played an integral leadership role in the development and evolution of the School of Arts and Sciences,” according to Dean Jeremy Korr. “He’s developed a variety of innovative courses in online and blended formats and participated in the recent revision and expansion of the B.A. in Liberal Studies program for prospective teacher with our School of Education.”

Serious topics with a touch of humor


The characters of Susanna and FIgaro read through their parts at dress rehearsal.

Just as his academic interests range over a wide field, Freed’s plays defy narrow descriptions. They take on serious topics – the conflicts among classes, genders, ethnicities – but he does it by moving away from haranguing audiences and toward the comic.

“While Figaro (in both the opera and the plays) is a comic figure, he’s also challenging the hierarchy and class structure of his time. Nobody can read the original 18th century play. It’s five hours long. There are three-page long speeches that blast the aristocracy, but the play itself may well have been the catalyst for the French and other European revolutions that followed. My goal was to deliver Beaumarchais to a 21st century audience – to make the play fun and profound at the same time.”

Freed genuinely appreciated the comment forwarded to him by the literary director at Brown University: “On a personal note, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading “Figaro’s Follies.” I thought it was a fabulous adaptation, and that it both honored and enhanced its source material. Its cleverness and vitality made it a joy to read.” His other completed plays are “Love Me, Fuseli: A Play about Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Circle of Friends” (2012) and “The Merchants of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” (2014). Thanks to that trio of works, he was invited to join the Dramatists Guild of America in November. Freed prefers to think of himself as coming from the David Ives tradition drawing from both history and existing writings or plays to create his own works. In “The Merchants of Pittsburgh,” he drew on his own experiences with a Pittsburgh theater company and Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” to create a world where a Jewish theater board member takes over a production to create a more Shylock-friendly play. “You can see why somebody who has taught “Merchant of Venice” for so long can imagine a Jewish oriented version and have things believably come out that way,” said Freed. “At one critical moment near the end of the play, Shakespeare, in Portia’s voice offers Shylock that option to demonstrate the true value of the ‘quality of mercy.’”

Venturing into new worlds of theater

all hallows

 All Hallows at Hearst CastleWith his fourth work, “All Hallows at Hearst Castle,” which is currently in progress, Freed is venturing into several new worlds that are also fact-based. It’s a musical. He has a collaborator, the composer Jeff Dunn. And it’s based on redeeming the reputations of William Randolph Hearst and his life-long companion, Marion Davies, from the savagery of Orson Welles’ fictionalized version of them in “Citizen Kane.” “What he [Welles] did was horrible and just not true. They were incredibly hospitable people and very progressive in many ways,” he said and then adds, “I’m a huge San Simeon fan. In many ambivalent ways, it’s the ultimate icon of American exceptionalism.” There’s Charlie Chaplin developing a scene for “The Great Dictator” with a giant beach ball borrowed from the San Simeon pool and all the other comings and goings of the insulated world created by Hearst. “Welcome to this dear little, queer little world,” said Freed, echoing Davies’ greeting to her guests. Expect it to also include Clark Gable, Bette Davis – even Dagwood Bumstead – secret love, music, dancing, political intrigue, swordplay and self-discovery. “Things happen in history that you can’t make up. Nobody would believe it,” said Freed who wants to enlighten as well as entertain audiences.

This past year Dr. Freed has arranged with the following theaters to provide an on-going, greater than 50 percent discount on tickets for all college students, educators and members of the military (with ID cards). Contact the individual websites or box offices for details. CenterRep Theatre at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek: 925-943-7469 The San Francisco Playhouse in downtown San Francisco: 415-677-9596 Island City Opera Company in Alameda: 510-759-9771 Enlightenment is also what he wants for his students, calling teaching a lifetime activity. “No one retires from what they love to do. I feel the same way about writing as I do about teaching. In my life and career, these two activities are converging very nicely,” he said. He makes sure his students “experience” theater as well as “read” it, working with San Franciso Bay Area theater companies to provide discounted tickets (see box for details).

He brings in Michael Butler, the artistic director of CenterRep Theater in Walnut Creek, to teach a master class to his students to help them understand the background and the effort that goes into an actual live theatre performance that they had just witnessed. From academics to housing and back again Freed began his university teaching career at Penn State University, but left after 10 years, having grown “exhausted by the banality of 18 and 19 year olds.” He renovated Victorian houses in Pittsburgh and was a low-income housing community developer for Neighborhood Housing Services. Then his life did a 360, returning him to higher education. He was hired as the dean of continuing education and that first semester assigned himself to teach adult learners in the evening at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. “That totally revolutionized what I knew,” he said. He begins his courses now by going around the room (digitally speaking, if it’s an online class rather than a blended one) and asking his students what they’re experts in. And they all have “phenomenal” answers. Then he tells his students, usually in their mid-30s or older, “You were all 18 or 19 and college-worthy back then, but what would you have said you were an expert in at that age?” Usually they say “nothing much,” although a few will candidly admit that they thought they knew everything at that age. “Now the challenge is to learn from and teach that classroom of experts and be creative enough with my own materials and assignments to tap into it.”

He also appreciates the School of Arts and Sciences’ multidisciplinary approach to curriculum development that encourages him to go from “The Iliad” to Google in a single, culture and media studies course rather than just “being marooned on the island of the 16th and 17th century literature.” That’s the fate he describes had he stayed at Penn State.

“All of these opportunities are why I love to work with my students and brilliant colleagues here at Brandman.”

School Days…..

I have just rounded a corner…wait…Can one actually *round* a corner?    Let me begin again….


I have just TURNED a corner in my current school term, one of the most difficult of my academic endeavors.  This is the end of midterm.  During this week alone, I  have read 4 dense, technical chapters on brain chemistry, I have written a tediously detailed research proposal regarding a new protocol for biofeedback in the treatment of depression, and am currently working (hard) on a paper about the APA Ethics Code with regard to a schizophrenic man that has lost his feet due to frostbite.  Gripping subjects, both of them, but at this point, I am fantasizing about the arrival of summer.  I am tired.  This term has been challenging, yet invigorating at once.  I love/hate school.


Our sunny spring in Portland lasted only a couple of weeks…and then the rain returned, bringing with it cool temperatures and dark skies, so it has been like winter all over again.  There has been a chill in damp air that has necessitated my wearing my thick, terry cloth bathrobe in the mornings rather than that graceful cotton kimono that I love to wear during  the summers. We have had a fire burning in the fireplace in the mornings.  It does not seem, at all, like May.

dark skies

Today looks promising, though.  I think the skies are supposed to clear up and the temperature is predicted to rise, so we will have typically beautiful Portland spring weather now.  Welcome once again!!



My husband has returned for the summer…sort of…He has a graduation to attend in Sacramento and a business trip to San Diego, but other than that, we will be together until the beginnings of our concurrent terms at the end of summer.  Unfortunately, I have been so busy with school, and he with his online class and play writing,  that he and I have spent very little time doing anything together since his return.  That will change next month when his teaching term ends and my learning term ends.  We have many fun plans on the back burner for now.   I am going to take a term off just to unwind and recoup.  This has been a long, tough haul, but I only have 5 more classes to go!  Then, I’ll have my masters in organizational psychology to add to my other degrees and can move ahead with this business that my friends and I are planning to open.  Really looking forward to that.

Meanwhile, for the remaining part of summer, John and I will be two cool cats, just hangin’ out by the pool, traveling to some places and having fun.




Hockney in San Francisco


A press conference attended by my husband, John, was held today to celebrate the exhibit, David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition, opening on the 26th and staying up through the 20th of January at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.


The celebrated British artist  talked about his work and how he has embraced new technology to create much of his work on the iPad these days.

Hockney, one of my idols,  is the most influential and best-known British artist of his generation. More than 300 works are being shown in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making this the largest exhibition in the history of the museum.


This exhibition highlights Hockney’s ability to engage with—and gain mastery of—a wide variety of tools and media. Works range from simple pencil drawings on paper, to Bigger Yosemite, five drawings created on the iPad that capture the majesty of the American West. “Like an artist alchemist, in one minute Hockney uses a fancy digital device to make a colorful iPad drawing; in the next he shows us that he is one of our greatest draftsmen by rendering an exactingly detailed charcoal drawing of a forest scene in East Yorkshire,” notes Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and organizer of the exhibition.

Hockey is probably best known for this painting, which I’m sure, many of you will recognize:


When I heard he was going to be there today, I told John that he MUST go.  He agreed, but when he got there, he learned that it was a Press-only event.  Therefore, he promptly told the keepers of the gate that he was reporting for the Arte California blog and they gave him press credentials and let him in!  That’s my man….always thinking ahead.  🙂


I regret that I could not be there myself, but it was great that John could attend.  He said that he shot about 12 minutes worth of video which I shall upload once he sends it along to me.

This collage was John’s favorite piece in the show”

hockney collage

Thrilling experience for John.  I am so glad he got to go!