Thursday, July 10, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Sharon Van Etten

Erica Rivera spoke to Sharon Van Etten, the velvet hammer of indie singer-songwriters. Rivera asked Van Etten about mysticism, violence in her lyrics, and toxic relationships. Read the Q&A in this week's print issue of or online here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Leadership Minnesota

Erica Rivera profiled Leadership Minnesota, a program designed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to help business leaders better understand the state's economy. Read about this training program in the July 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles tenKsolar

Erica Rivera profiled tenKsolar, manufacturer of revolutionary solar panels that are making green energy even greener. Read about the company's product and its success in the marketplace in the July 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles The Emily Program

Erica Rivera spoke to the founder and several staff members of The Emily Program, a groundbreaking treatment center for eating disorders that began in Minnesota and is expanding nationally. Read about this life-changing approach to health care in the July 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Filson and Shinola

Erica Rivera profiled Detroit-based bicycle maker Shinola and Seattle-based outerwear company Filson, both opening new storefronts in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. Read about these fashion forward companies in the July 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Von Hanson's Meats

Erica Rivera profiled one of the rare butcher shops in the state of Minnesota that has thrived as a chain. Read about Von Hanson's growth in the July 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Julie Allinson of Eyebobs

Erica Rivera interviewed Julie Allinson, founder of Eyebobs, a company whose stylish reading glasses have been seen on the likes of Katie Couric and Andrew Zimmmern. Read the company's growth story in the July 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Erica Rivera Writes Cover Story for Minnesota Business Magazine

Erica Rivera interviewed Hans Early-Nelson, founder of Primitive Precision, for the cover story of the July 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine. Read the feature on this modern day metalworker in print or online here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A New Arrival

Erica Rivera and family have adopted an eight-week-old domestic shorthair kitten. Now known as Tom Waits, the black and white kitten was likely a farm orphan before arriving at the Animal Humane Society of Minnesota in Buffalo, where the Riveras fell in love with him. Tom Waits joins fellow shorthair cat Anna, dachshund Mister, and hamster Martin.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Valerie June

Erica Rivera spoke to Southern musician Valerie June about finding her voice in the church and managing diabetes on tour in anticipation of her Rock the Garden appearance. Read the Q&A on here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Dan Madsen of Dusty Signs

Erica Rivera interviewed Dan Madsen of Dusty Signs, a company bringing back the art of hand-painted advertising. Read about his latest projects in the June 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Clockwork Active Media

Erica Rivera interviewed Meghan Wilker and Nancy Lyons, COO and CEO of Clockwork Active Media in Minneapolis. Read how these "Geek Girls" empower creativity in the June 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Jean Kane of Welsh & Colliers

Erica Rivera recently interviewed Jean Kane, one of the few women at the top of the commercial real estate industry in the state of Minnesota. Read how she came to run Welsh & Colliers in the June 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine or online here.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Sanborn Canoe Company

Erica Rivera profiled the Winona based Sanborn Canoe Company for Minnesota Business magazine. Read about this artisanal return to boat making in the June 2014 issue or online here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Salon Rouge

Erica Rivera explains why you should head to Salon Rouge tout de suite for some Paris-themed pampering in the June 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine. Read it in print or online here.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Bill Perrine

Erica Rivera profiled Bill Perrine, an event planner for Land O' Lakes who believes in the value of face time. Read the article in the Summer 2014 issue of MN Meetings + Events or online here.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Sean Patton

Erica Rivera interviewed comic Sean Patton, an opinionated New Orleans native. Read up on Patton's brain-bullying concept, why he doesn't get offended by other comics' jokes, and the lack of relationship humor in his act in the Q&A on here!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Erica Rivera Wins First Place in the Dakota County Library Poetry Contest

Erica Rivera has been awarded the First Place prize in the 2014 Dakota Country Library's Poetry Contest. This is the third time Rivera's poetry has won an award in the contest.


I reach across the mystery of you with words, write
a phosphorescent spotlight to tempt you towards the page
you were never really mine but our memory is
and I hold onto it, steadfast, love it

harder than the whiskey that sours you from the inside out
harder than the gaggle of pretty girls that giggle at your wit
harder than you devour bloody steaks business deals bank accounts 
harder than you hate your mean-fisted father

Maybe I didn’t truly know you but I knew what I wanted to
that was enough, Irish eyes, and in the end
we all want our secrets told
this is mine: I miss you still, and will, ‘til every tomorrow dies

~ Erica Rivera

Friday, May 23, 2014

Listen Up

When it comes to mental health, the consequences of mismanaged care can be fatal. Twenty-two veterans take their own lives every day. Couple that with the recent allegations that VAs have been stonewalling veterans seeking treatment, and you have an epidemic.

The other day on Fox News (which I only watch because it's what's on at the gym), a widow came on the show to tell the story of her late husband, a veteran who was turned away from the VA in Texas when he presented with suicidal ideation. He'd been diagnosed with depression previously, and his treatment had consisted of appointment after appointment with different psychiatrists. After the VA turned him away, he committed suicide.

I don't know what makes me more upset--that the veteran was denied treatment or that the VA's idea of "treatment" is psychiatry. I do not believe depression can be healed solely by psychiatrists. They have medical degrees. They approach mental illness from a different standpoint than psychologists. Psychiatrists are drug dealers. Their purpose is to push pills and play with chemistry. They schedule appointments in 15-minute increments. They do not look for the root of mental illness; they focus on symptom management.

Seeing a psychiatrist for severe depression is like sending someone with a broken bone to massage therapy or shooting them up with morphine: Some people will experience relief some of the time with prescription drugs, but they are not a cure-all. They are certainly not a tourniquet in an emergency situation. They're not even a Band-Aid because medication can take weeks to change a person's chemistry-- if it works at all.

Even pharmaceutical companies know that their drugs' efficacy is bogus. Listen to television ads closely and you'll hear disclaimers like "Antidepressants may worsen depression or cause suicidal ideation in children, teens, and adults." That sounds to me like a drug that should never have been green-lit to go on the market, given that it can exacerbate the condition it was meant to treat.

When a veteran--or anyone else for that matter--shows up in an emergency room with suicidal thoughts, a hospital's response should not be to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist. What they need to do is put on their listening ears and give that person their full attention. It takes a hell of a lot of courage for anyone who suffers from depression to ask for help. I imagine it takes twice that much courage for a member of the armed forces, who's been trained to be "tough," to come forward and admit they can't fight their demons anymore.

When people are in so much pain that death is their next best option, what they need is not a waiting list or an appointment in the future. (Depression has an uncanny way of manipulating time. Even two days can seem like an insufferable eternity.) What people need is a safe place to release their pain and a compassionate person to act as an advocate and a guide during that process. And they needed all that long before they finally asked for help. Showing up in the E.R. is like the last-ditch attempt before detonating.

I'm not saying drugs can't be one of the weapons used in the arsenal against depression. They can be. But there are plenty of other factors that can change a person's brain chemistry in a more natural and cost-effective way. Exercise, nutrition, support groups, yoga, and meditation are just some of the ways to relieve depression. Psychologists and counselors should be the first professionals consulted, not psychiatrists. Psychologists specialize in talk therapy, relationship building, and other techniques to help people overcome their pain and give them tools to not only survive, but thrive.

My belief that medications are not the best way to treat depression comes from personal experience. Some time after my second daughter was born, I became depressed. I was initially put on Zoloft, which completely obliterated my sex drive and made it impossible for me to orgasm, which, when you're married, can cause more damage to a relationship than depression does! Over the years, I later switched to Prozac, which made me completely incapable of feeling anything--good or bad--and caused weight gain.

Finally, I found a doctor who would prescribe Wellbutrin, which is contraindicated for those who've had eating disorders because it could cause seizures. Given how depressed I was, I would have rather had the slight seizure risk than the overwhelming certainty that life was not worth living. I improved greatly on Wellbutrin. I had energy again. I lost the weight I gained on Prozac. My sex drive was back to normal--and sometimes, I thought, even higher than normal!

So medication was a magic bullet...until my insurance company decided it was no longer going to shell out the big bucks for brand-name Wellbutrin. I was force to choose between paying hundreds of dollars a month for the brand-name or to switch to a generic called Bupropion. I couldn't afford the former, so I "chose" the latter. Within a few weeks after making the switch, my shiny happy attitude was gone. I felt exactly like I'd had before trying any drugs at all. For a while, I thought it was all in my head. I wondered what I'd done wrong to make myself feel so awful again. I did some research and guess what? Even the FDA admits that Bupropion is not as effective as brand-name Wellbutrin.

My doctor and I began the Russian roulette of antidepressants. I went through several brands in a few months' time. All of them had noticeable side effects. Effexor made me sweat profusely, and made me shake--both unacceptable given that I was working in catering at the time and was expected to look calm, cool, and collected as I circulated through a crowded room, balancing a tray of champagne glasses or a stack of plates on my hand. The last antidepressant I took, Lexapro, made me fantasize about killing myself even when things were going well.

In February 2011, I took my last antidepressant pill. I had a sinus infection, was terribly depressed, and my then-boyfriend had gone on vacation without me. I figured I couldn't possibly feel any worse off the medication than I did on it. I quit cold turkey (which I've since learned you're not supposed to do, though why should we believe anything the drug companies recommend?), spent a week crying miserably, then began feeling better, little by little, without drugs. By using the aforementioned alternative therapies and educating myself about my condition, I've reached a place in my life where I experience depressive episodes one or two days every couple of months. It's manageable, if unpleasant. I'm doing so well, I haven't even seen a therapist (who I would previously see up to two times a week) in two years.

That's a long-winded way of saying: It can get better. And the health care system can do better. It has to do better, for our veterans and for everyone else struggling with mental illness.

A while back, I wrote about the importance of speaking up if you see someone struggling. Today, I want to complement that post by emphasizing the importance of listening. The downfall of our high-tech society just might be an unwillingness and inability to have meaningful conversations face to face. If you see someone in pain--and especially if they ask for help--listen to their needs. Then do whatever you can to make them feel supported and safe.

This Memorial Day, let's remember those who didn't get the help they deserved--and let's vow not to let any more veterans slip through the cracks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Ryan Traster (Again!)

Erica Rivera recently interviewed Minnesota native Ryan Traster, a musician she originally met when he released his debut EP in 2010. Traster's latest recording was inspired by a hedonistic period in L.A. Read the Q&A on here!
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