Archives for posts with tag: Avascorner.org

This past ten plus days has been most awesome! It’s been jam packed with excitement, meltdowns and memories.

My daughter, Ava, lived here in her happiest and saddest days here. She found her tribes (she had no less than four all at once) who gave this amazing woman the love and support she needed to stay with us a little longer. But it was the bullying at work and at home that done her in.

In driving around this town she dearly loved, I have serious brain jerking going on with being here for the first time over three years. It’s a constant arm wrestle in my brain with  trying to stay in the moment and not get triggered into the past…which, I believe, is the cause of PTSD…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…more aptly named Past Trauma Disorder.

However, this is totally what this whole trip is about…my healing through driving the back roads, soul searching and seeing my Vegas Chirrens!

I’m blessed to have a close, loving relationship with Ava’s BFF, Jenni Lee. She’s not only a master French Horn performer but an entrepreneur who is putting together an all female brass quartet called ELECTRA BRASS! Check them out!

Montana and I are hold up in her lovely home and in our safe place for when things get tough. They got tough the other day at Costco in Summerlin and I won’t be going back to that store. Got way too many looks like that woman in the Lebanese restaurant in LA but Montana took charge as she’s supposed to do and got me right out of there without my having a total meltdown.

In contrast, I’ve had some amazing reconnections with Ava’s friends who are local performers like Penny Wiggins (comedian who performs in Vegas before the Chris Angel Show) and Kelly Vohnn (multi-talented tribute artist and comedian) at a brunch. Saw old friends and made new ones!

2016-6-11KellyBrunch

Last night Montana and I got the VIP treatment by Murray SawChuck at his magic show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Vegas!

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Today, I get to see a newborn baby of another one of Ava’s remarkable, talented BFFs who is the new mommy married to an incredible gentle man. Can’t wait to get some neck sugar from Ellie!

This week? Going to see my Jenni’s ELECTRA BRASS practice tomorrow after lunch with Murray (sounds like a movie) and to their first formal performance on Thursday!

HAPPY TAILS!

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I hereby proclaim this Zombie Christmas! It’s amazing! Every person coming in the store or meet in other stores, banks, etc. have NO Christmas spirit this year! NONE…especially me.
I expected that knowing it was my first Christmas ever without Mom…and I’m not just talking about her being alive all my life…but present. Mom, Carl, Ava and I always had Christmas together even those rare times that Abe and I went out of town. We celebrated Christmas Day with Mom and then left knowing another family member would be with her while we were gone.
Now that all three of my closest loved ones are gone, the “spirit” of it all feels empty, shallow and hard for me to connect. The traditions which once were so very important…family, advent wreath, scripture readings, snuggling while watching old movies, making that special gift for special persons, sharing the love…gone with the passing of that wonderful woman.
I’m not being morose…just honest. I’m not more depressed than I have been for the last 4 years or so but this year is more empty without Mom. It’s normal to feel this level of grief during these holidays and I’m embracing this tsunami as I tell others to do. I’m not wallowing in it; I’m waxing my surfboard to find my life after…after Carl…after Ava…now, after Mom.
I’m trying to dream of buying a small RV and traveling again. I often push myself toward that end…sometimes harder than others…sometimes…not at all but that’s all a part of my normal.
That’s what I preach to those who will listen about our mission at Ava’s Corner…define YOUR normal and create ways to maintain it when life kicks you upside the head. That’s all I’m doing right now and it’s all I have energy to do.
To my friends who celebrate the reason for the season, I wish you all much love, joy, peace and happiness during this most sacred time to celebrate the birth of our faith (regardless of the subsequent “pagan” influence) and to take hope in the future of the New Year (regardless of the current & upcoming most “pagan” world issues).

MeAvaSanta1994

Every DAY is Mental Health Awareness DAY here at Ava’s Corner…as we try to help those of us who are challenged with our brains’ alternate states to define “normal” one person at a time…and often one minute at a time.
YOUR best normal is what you should strive for (not someone else’s definition of that) and, when life throws you a curve ball, find that new normal for you to try to maintain.
My normal before Ava Kauffman’s death was being on the phone with her any time of the day or night helping her stay focused on completing her degree and encouraging her to think past the moment of depression into a positive future. However, my life after that horrific phone call at 6:00 AM on March 23rd changed my “normal” forever. I now struggle with PTSD as a result of 40 years of cumulative angst, pain, anxiety and struggle to help my son help himself to stay alive (he was murdered), help Ava stay alive (she killed herself) and, finally, help my 90+ year old Mom stay alive in her last years.

Carl, Ava and me April 1984

Carl, Ava and me April 1984

 

Yeah!

Mom watching fireworks from my deck in 2011…before the world stopped spinning. 

The difference? As a mother, you ALWAYS have HOPE that prayers, hard work in helping your children, etc. will help them see a brighter tomorrow. When ALL fails and the most important people in your life are all gone…critical support team, best friends, loved ones…some of us struggle.

People who don’t really “know” me think I’m strong and dumber ones have asked me if Montana was one of those “fake” service dogs. That’s about the time they might just find out exactly why I have her! Word of caution! Don’t ask that!

Remember, you don’t always “see” who we are but that doesn’t make us whole! It makes us in a constant state of healing. The trick is finding YOUR very own way of creative coping and healing!

 

Montana doggie park 10-10 taken by Maya

Montana is MY creative coping mechanism. I could leave the house without her!

How many of you know someone who served in the military during World War II? How many of you heard them tell stories of sacrifice, pain (lice, foot rot, empty bellies), injury (medal plates in the head), death, poor upper level planning (D-Day landing nightmares), no equipment (WWI issue guns w/little or no ammunition), POW stories (Bataan Death March), adventures and misadventures?

Ed Friend leader of WWII Vet organization 10-1945

My Dad (middle) helped organize WWII Vet group!

 

Well, I have and am proud to say my Uncle Bruce survived D-Day and has talked about the horrors of it everyday since. How they were taken to the wrong drop off point and were told to get into water too deep with 40 pound backpacks on causing so many to drown. How they were so horribly mowed down by German machine guns on the beaches and so many other stories. My father’s flying escapades as confidential courier and goods/troop transport. My Uncle-in-law’s survival of the Bataan Death March and how 10,000 Japanese contained 40,000 Americans because we had no ammunition or rifles that worked and how General McArthur abandoned his men there.

Bruce Friend-1944 photo and story of his D-Day experiences!

Uncle Bruce Friend and the article about how his D-Day turned out!

How many of you have heard personal accounts of the Cuban Missile Crisis? How close we were to WWIII because of Russia sending missile installations to Cuba? I remember it well as I had a brother in the Navy who was on the front line of it. His stories are incredible.

This is a time, as is everyday, to pay our respects for ALL service persons, of yesteryear and today, and to do all we can to assist them in proper healthcare, emotional support and help them re-integrate with their families, friends and loved ones. I know I could never have survived the rigors of boot camp not because I couldn’t have physically performed but because it would have killed too much of my soul. Creative people are like that.

I just finished watching two movies out of my love of WWII history as well as the characters leading this country’s men during that most awful two-front war. “Patton” was a remarkable, revealing depiction of an extraordinary visionary and leader/warrior. He was so passionate about what he was supposed to do with his life that nothing else mattered. I then watched “The Last Days of Patton” which revealed the irony of this larger-than-life man’s last days and how it conflicted with everything he had envisioned for himself.

We, at Ava’s Corner, Inc., understand and appreciate those who make these sacrifices and their challenges upon returning. Please go to http://www.avascorner.org and find our “Military” tab under “Resource Center.” We try to keep up with all the wonderful non-profit programs available but if you know of one we need to add, please contact us!

It takes great leaders willing to sacrifice much to create a safe country. I’m ready for that again, aren’t you? Be sure to vote in all upcoming elections to ensure such a day in our future and that of our loved ones.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

As far back as I can remember having a child, we, either Mom, Carl and I or Mom, Ava and I, traveled around north Georgia to the various Native American Festivals absorbing their heritage (multi-tribal events are coolest), cultures, customs and regalia.

As in most traditions, Mom initiated them and Dad happily participated if it involved taking Carl. Dad loved to see what that kid would say or do with new environments. One year when Carl was about seven, Dad and Mom took Carl and me to the Cherokee Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. My father’s mother, who lived in Palm Springs, California at that time, sent Carl a full Native American costume with headdress and all for his birthday. It only was fitting for Carl to insist on wearing it to see his relatives. My blue-eyed blonde son was sure even at an early age that he was a Native of this land. He was if only in spirit.

Carl on the war path!

Carl on the war path circa 1973!

He had also gotten that year this amazing horse with some of the finest springs made! He literally bounced on it all over Mom’s front yard! Notice his feet are not on the posts but down in bareback riding posture! All I had to do was tell him that’s how the real Indians rode their horses and that was that!

As Mom, Dad, Carl outfitted as above and I walked up the pathway to the village, there was an elderly tribesman sitting on a blanket. His face firm as if carved from wood. His eyes staring ahead as if he were blind. Without hesitation, Carl slowly folded up mimicking the position of the elder, leaned toward the man and whispered, “I’m an Indian, too!”

We adults held our breath knowing protocol normally wouldn’t allow such a spacial invasion but Carl was different. He was charismatic, magical and sent his energy ahead of him to the elder. We waited as the two enjoyed their visit and Carl was ready for the next part of his adventure.

It was fifteen years after Carl was missing before he came to me in a dream and guided me to find him. A few months later, Ava insisted on us going to a medium, Candice. When she channeled Carl, it was pretty remarkable. So much so that she told Carl she wanted to work with him from now on because he was such a great energy. He revealed that after he died, he wandered around his body for a few days near Indian Springs, Ga. and it was the Indians who came to him and guided him on his journey on the other side.

Carl had already told us years ago through the medium Candice that he had ascended to the fifth and had to get permission to go back down to the fourth to communicate with us. That he was now known as the “Great Warrior” and that the three of us (me, Carl and Ava) would write a book of that name telling the world the great truth and how there is no shame in it. Carl said that I was known there as “Woman with Great Knowledge” and that I had access to the Akashic Records. I’ve often wondered what that great truth might be. I’m thinking I might just have a clue now!

There’s so much more but this blog is about yesterday’s journey.

The minute Ava was old enough to go, we attended many Native American Festivals up until she moved to Vegas in late 2008. She and I both preferred the Rolling Thunder Mother’s Day event that has been in Canton, Ga for the past decade or so. The last Festival she and I attended was the year she left for Vegas (2008) for our Mother’s Day celebration. It was our thing. There, I bought her a feather hair thingie.

It was all those memories that bubbled like soda as I pondered how I was going to spend this Mother’s Day. I was reminded of how much fun we’d had at the one in Canton and determined that was just exactly what I was going to do. I announced to friends and family that I needed drum healing. I could hear them calling to me…healing my soul.

As I drove alone to Canton yesterday, I wished I’d brought something of Ava’s with me appropriate for the event. I looked in my rear view mirror and there it was…those feathers, bundled together with leather strips…tendrils of her hair still tangled in the design of the ornament as if they were meant to be there from its creation.

I then remembered that I keep Carl’s red, white and blue marble and Ava’s hair clip in my truck. I couldn’t wait for the next red light! I attached her feather ornament to the clip, put it in my hair and tucked Carl’s marble into my pocket. Suddenly, I felt better about my solo journey of release, healing and connecting…not really celebrating.

As I walked alone from the car to the facility, I spoke to Ava asking if she was with me. I really wanted to be holding her hand or have our arms locked around each other walking in unison as we always did. I felt a pressure in my right hand…a weight as if she had put her hand there. As soon as I acknowledged it, she affirmed it to be her. She held my hand for about ten steps or so until my mind wandered off considering the terrain and at least ten other things.

Shored by the mornings affirmations and confident Montana was safe at home, I made my rounds inside the circle of venders inhaling the fresh, clean, cool air and making note of which vender was a regular and taking an overall account of their offerings. Unfortunately for me, there were no surprises in the first half but I was sure not to be disappointed as I walked toward the area you can normally find the educational section in the rear. This is where you can learn most about that person’s tribal customs and see daily chores performed in yesteryear ways.

 

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

The first area was how to skin and cure hides. Interesting as it was, I was hungry therefore drawn toward the man cooking.

IndFestTP2

IndFestCook2 IndFestCook3

 

 

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The MC announced the calling for the celebration to begin. The rhythm of the drums prepared me for the wonderful events to unfold as I came back around full circle. where I found a dear friend, Fred, who owns Prairie Trails in Helen, GA. Look closely at Fred’s famous hat! Go check out his store online at http://helenga.org/business/prairie-trails and support local enterprises including http://www.avascorner.org as he has several pieces of my Native American jewelry for sale to help support Ava’s Corner, Inc.!

IndFestFredPrairieTrails

I always enjoy catching up with Fred and seeing his crazy hat! He told me that many of his longtime local suppliers had all closed and that he was struggling to keep going as well. We know that story to be repeated in the Historic Clayton, Georgia area near where I live as well.  that he introduced me to Karen. I was about to leave when he became insistent for me to wait for him to introduce me to this young woman he’d just met. Her name is Kaaren Renee Robb, Founder, Host & Sound Clinician…”Growing a community of people dedicated to advocating for, participating in and spreading the good news about sound & music healing.”

This young woman held up her drum and started singing. If my eyes were closed, I would insist it was Ava singing. Ava had actually tried various creative vocalizations one of which happened to be chanting into a drum ten years ago! WOW! Of course, I started sobbing and told Karen about Ava. She asked if she could do a drum/music healing on my heart. That would be a YES PLEASE in loud internal screams! After all, I’d announced I was coming for drum healing, right? Really? How much more on point can you get than that?

I stood still, eyes closed, hands down as she sang and tapped the drum starting in my heart region. I felt the vibrations as she moved around me. It was so very familiar…a deja vous experience so much like the hundreds I had throughout 2012 after Ava’s passing.

Karen Robb, Founder, Music City Alliance for Sound & Music Healing

Karen Robb, Founder, Music City Alliance for Sound & Music Healing performing healing on our new friend who channels from the other side!

 

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

The other woman is a channel for the other side who proceeded to tell me that Ava had been tired of the struggling on this side and wanted to accelerate her process to ascend to the fourth dimension. She said we would meet again on the fifth and that Ava had a surprise for me for Mother’s Day.

As I turned toward the inner circle where the dancers performed, I found I walked with greater peace. The drumming was renewed and the dancers (my favorite part) were in full regalia!

I had my favorites. The young woman in red teaching her daughter how to shawl dance was magical!

I had my favorites. The young woman in red teaching her daughter how to shawl dance was magical!

IndFestDancer2 IndFestDancer3 IndFestDancer4  IndFestDancer6 IndFestDancer7 IndFestDancer8 IndFestDancer9 IndFestDancer10 IndFestDancer10b IndFestDancer11 IndFestDancer12 IndFestDancer13 IndFestDancer13b IndFestDancerFringe1 IndFestDancerFringe2 IndFestDancerFringe3 IndFestDancerShawl1 IndFestDancerShawl2

Happy Mother’s Day to those mamas out there who follow this Warrior Eagle Donna Mama as one of my chirren has named me on this site. There’s so much more to come!

Happy Trails (or, if trials, remember to surf the tsunami)!

 

Today is Carl’s birthday.

I had figured it all out by Carl's first birthday!

Me me and Carl on his first birthday!

When he was little, we celebrated it with the Birthday Frog bringing him presents. He wondered why there was an Easter Bunny, Sandra Claus for Christmas, etc. and nothing for birthdays. So, we created one.

Carl’s laugh was infectious and like music to my ears and his sense of humor wonderful. He loved to fish better than anything other than science and taught himself how to make his own fly lures at eight for fly fishing. At first, he caught more limbs than fish but he didn’t stop trying.

My blue eyed baby...Carl around age 8.

My blue eyed baby…Carl around age 8.

When he was sent to military school by Ava’s father, it changed him forever. He became a hurt and angry young man who had succumbed to hazing and learned how to drink and smoke pot at the age of thirteen. He took his life down a tragic path regardless of the time, money and help I could get and, by the age of eighteen years, two months he had disappeared.

Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.

Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.

For the fifteen years he was a “missing person,” I spent this day praying and fasting as I cut trees and bushes at Mom’s just to get through the day wondering if I’d ever know what had happened to him.

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.

The last picture taken of the three of us.

After I found he had been murdered, I spent the first six years fantasizing about killing his murderer who was already dead! Irrational, emotional and illogical however it was what happened.

These last few years, I’ve been trying to do something to celebrate who he was before he got sidetracked from a creative, happy, talented, bright child into a tortured soul. One year I spent time with the Native Americans at their mounds near Macon, GA. Other more spiritual adventures included traveling to his favorite fishing holes or visiting places out of town that he loved.

While I was pulling weeds out of my little patch of flowers I stole from Mother Nature this past week in meditation of this day, I knew I wanted to do something totally different.

I remembered that I’d found one of his old fishing lures as I cleaned out his tackle box…one he’d missed when he was selling his precious treasures for drugs. I’d carefully placed the hook still attached to a piece of line next to some of Ava’s treasures. Somehow, I knew I wanted to take these relics of their respective childhood to them.

Having just ordered Ava’s marker, it seemed fitting that I go to the cemetery where they now are side-by-side. They absolutely adored each other from the day Ava was born.

I thought I was going to go alone because so many things like this are uncomfortable for others to deal with and I’ve had to do so much of my hardest work alone. I was surprised to have the comfort and company of my good friend and neighbor, Jackie Miles, volunteer to go with me. This time, I thought, I’m going to have someone who understands what this day is all about.

I took these treasures which represented their innocence and hope.

At Ava’s request, Carl’s marker had a circle cut into the granite when we finally put in his marker ten years ago. As I looked at Carl’s lure, I knew it represented his innocence; his name tag from military school represented what stole both his innocence and hope away. I placed the fishing hook down into the circle and buried his name plate above his remains.

For Ava, I had a tiny pink bow she wore in her hair as a baby. She was born with more hair than most adults have and I needed to keep it pulled away from her face! This tiny pink bow represented her innocence. I buried it over her remains. I’d found the key to Ava’s treasured Vegas home which had a happy young woman’s face on it. It reminded me how happy she was to have that hope of her marriage working but knowing it’s where she tragically ended it because she had no hope. I placed it beside Carl’s fishing lure already in the circle on his marker and poured sealant over them.

I spoke to each one, apologizing to Carl for being so absorbed in Ava’s death to pay much tribute to him these last two years and reminded him of my unconditional love for him. I told Ava that I would love her unconditionally forever as well but that I was still upset over her permanent decision to a temporary problem and that she darn well better help us help others with Avascorner.org because we need her.

I walked around and visited my other relatives resting there and drove off to visit Mom at the facility where she’s, hopefully, getting better. Mom looked better than I ever hoped for. I even got to see the doctor and we all had a nice chat as Jackie perked up the room with rearranging Mom’s flowers and clearing the old ones out.

It was on our drive back toward home that we knew we were surrounded by Guardian Angels.

We were approaching I-85 on I-285 East at Malfunction Junction (aka Spaghetti Junction) when I noticed the cars in front of the truck directly ahead of me were stopped. The white Expedition with blacked out windows immediately in front of me never put on their brakes and ka-pow slammed into the stopped vehicles. I knew there hadn’t been a car to my right a second ago and I only had about that much notice. I pulled over in total faith preferring to be sideswiped over than becoming involved in that fray.

As I continued past the occurring wreck, we drove into what felt like time-lapse photography…a spray and also a barrage of black glass and car parts for me to dodge.

Well, I gotta say that’s the worst wreck I was never in and saw firsthand. Jackie and I both started saying our “Thank you GODs” over and over hardly believing we’d missed being horribly injured just by a second or two. WOW!

We kept hearing the replay of the horrific sounds coming from the impact for miles and continued to say our “Thanks.”

So, Happy Birthday, Carl. We still need you and will love you forever. But, hey, Ava, can we make your birthday a little less exciting?

At this time in my life, coming up with a topic concerning my best decision is quite the challenge because most of my “best” decisions are followed by strange, and, sometimes, tragic outcomes. This topic has catapulted me into a plethora of reflections this last month or so especially with the hallmark birthday which includes the number six at the beginning and the end of it.

First, I was sure it was when I was ten and my sister introduced to me of the Classics Section of the local library (specifically, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy) which spurned me onward to bigger-than-life European history such as that of Catherine the Great and, eventually, to biographies of other famous and infamous women in history. It was their stories that made my  ancestors’  journeys burst forth with life…resuscitating them to breathe again through me. Their struggles for religious freedom or desire to invent a better bicycle brake or to be the best American Impressionist artist was the cause and effect of my destiny to fall in love with writing and, eventually, travel the back roads of the US and Canada writing this blog, fromafriend7491.com!

Our first major road trip in 2009 together

Our first major road trip in 2009 together.

But, then I remember being twenty-eight when I was sure my best decision was marrying the man I was deaf-dumb-and-blind in love with which was only followed by horrific tragedy and unbelievable loss that I surely couldn’t include that as my best anything except what I shouldn’t have done.

With her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Ava with her beloved big brother, Carl. They loved each other so much!

Now I’m down to the one decision for which I’m truly proud; however, to be totally truthful, it wasn’t even my decision. It was a directive from my reliable third party directly related to a tragedy…the suicide of my beautiful gypsy opera singing daughter who lived/worked in Las Vegas, Nevada with her estranged husband.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

Belly dancing magic in 2002. She looks like she has wings. Maybe, now she does.

As I drove west from my home in Georgia to handle Ava’s final affairs in early April, 2012, my reliable third party (call it God, Higher Power or whatever you wish) spoke to me in clear directives as he always does. Yes, my reliable third party always speaks to me in a very authoritative male voice. “Create an internet site to help others,” was all that was said.

As I love to drive the open road and have been doing for several years writing blogs about camping my way west alone with my dog, I have a tendency to drive anywhere from twenty-four to thirty-six hours with only pit stops and short naps. My anxiety of seeing the steel-hearted devil who was married to my daughter kept me pushing forward so as to get to my daughter’s house, git ‘er done (“Git ‘er Done Donna” is what they call me) and hit the open road again to parts unknown.

As you can well understand, my focus was on my grief and was totally not interested in hearing any message from my reliable third party concerning a task so outside my realm of expertise or knowledge. I wanted to focus on my loss, grief and how to move through finalizing things in Las Vegas and spending time on the real open road healing.

I argued. I argued my best to a silent, unrelenting audience, “I don’t know anything about creating websites!” I might as well have never even made that argument as it went flat as a fritter. Nothing. No response, no guidance, nothing for over twenty-four hours!

Finally, somewhere west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, I screamed at the silence, “What  has my forty-six years of real estate law experience got to do with creating a website?”

Finally, a response, “It taught you how to do the impossible!”

Ya’ know, I couldn’t argue with that one so my only retort was, “Now what?”

“Ask,” was the response but I knew what the real message was. I was to ask Ava’s friends who live and work in the performance industry in Las Vegas. So, I did and they all were excited for me to jump into this turbulent, bottomless task.

I started beating the drums and doing my research. I discovered that Las Vegas has a suicide rate fifty percent (50%) higher than the national average and has over eighteen bipolar therapy clinics. I obviously needed to start right there in Las Vegas.

My daughter had over 150 professional performer friends show up for her Las Vegas memorial and more would have been there but couldn’t because they had to work. Ava  was so very loved there and not a single person knew of her pain or despair save me. That’s quite a daunting task for one person and I didn’t want another friend, family or loved one to feel like there wasn’t a better decision for them to make or website to go like those my daughter visited her last night.

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

After returning home, I sat down at the computer and outlined the design of the website in forty-five pages in thirty days. I turned it over to a friend of Ava’s who was a web designer in New York during the .com days and she said it was the most detailed design she had ever seen. I didn’t want there to be any confusion about what I was “told” it was going to look like! After all, I was just following orders…very specific ones at that. This website HAD to be personal because there is NOTHING about suicide that isn’t personal. It had to be called “Ava’s Corner,” it needed to be entertaining and it had to be launched on December 2, 2012.

With the love and support of her friends, we launched the Avascorner.org website in Las Vegas on December 2, 2012. We had performers and live feed for Ava’s friends all over the world to connect with us and Avascorner.org. It was the fledgling version of the vision I was given but it was a beginning. Later, my reliable third party reminded me the reason for that date (12/02/2012) because there are more suicides in December than any other month of the year…one very close to home.

We incorporated Ava’s Corner, Inc. right before the kickoff event in 2012 and we’ve just celebrated our first year and we are getting feedback from friends and strangers alike that we’re making a difference. We got our 501(c)3 IRS certification as a non-profit public charity, which I filed myself…a true miracle as  I hate dealing with any kind of government related paperwork; however, once again, I was told I could handle it. And, I did.

We have an all volunteer Board of Directors who have experience in finance, website building, law and professional performer…all the elements needed to make a team who loved Ava and who see the vision of saving lives and educating people in what I call brain malfunctions like Bipolar Disorders (BD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as Ava had, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and others.

Ava singing

Ava singing

Our broader Mission Statement:  “Ava’s Corner is a website constructed to encourage healing through creative energy and shedding light into the dark corners of mental disorders.

All friends or family of those suffering from brain disorders are welcome to utilize our education and support tools as well as participate in Ava’s Corner forums.”

We’re actively raising money to catapult this site into the final phase wherein members can create their own cyber community of support, freely expressing their pain through art, writing, videos, singing or other artistic endeavors as my daughter did. We have posted all the ways she found to cope until she couldn’t overcome all the negative influences of being bullied at home and at work. We had her thirty-five years, six months and ten days and we are all blessed to have had this remarkable, loving woman in our lives.

Ava's last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that...a star and an exhausted blue being.

Ava’s last painting from late February, 2012. Fitting that it has stars and an exhausted blue being. She was all that…a star and an exhausted blue being.

There are other remarkable, loving people in our lives who need help and we at Ava’s Corner, Inc. and avascorner.org hope we can be there for them worldwide before another year goes by.

Ava was not just my daughter but my best friend and confidant. I have struggled valiantly these past two years to regain functions prior to March 2, 2012 as rote. I suffered from stroke-like symptoms of loss of vocabulary, thought processing, coping and more. I have only recently felt “alive” again…actually on the wee hours of December 7, 2013. I guess I’ll find out some day why that day other than the day this article was due…or that Ava visited me that morning and gave me clarity. Yes, Ava comes to me but that’s being saved for a book.

So, as I said, pain and joy, joy and pain can’t be separated when you have lived, loved and listened when making a best decision. It’s something that comes directly from the soul.

MAD DOGS AND ENGLISH MEN!

PEARLS:
My wonderful neighbors, Sandy and Brian, share their newspaper with me. It’s our weekly face-to-face and I love it. We text all week-long and, when we see each other outside across the river, we “holler” back and forth greetings and news as in days of yesteryear. It’s a quaint and lovely thing we do for staying connected as we all go through our life challenges.

Communication is such an important thing for us to maintain and texting isn’t necessarily the way to do it. It’s a monologue or your thoughts or their thoughts. It’s not in any way a conversation. Face-to-face is communication. Even phone conversations are difficult especially when one of the party is stressed or easily sidetracked.

In this day of “staying connected” via LinkedIn, Tweeting, Facebook or texting, I urge you to remember that these are mere tools for a superficial outreach and not meant to be a substitute for the real deal…face-to-face.

MONOLOGUE:
My monologue today is about snakes, August and Dog Days. I always thought “Dog Days” referred to that time in deep south summers (typically in August) when dogs go mad from rabies (the olden days when dogs weren’t inoculated). But locals have informed me that August Dog Days relates to snakes shedding…which makes them quick to strike as their old skin covers their eyes and blinds them.

The front page news of this weeks paper (shared by my neighbors…see there really is a dot connecting these two topics) is about a local builder who got home about 9:30 PM and put his foot out of his truck and felt like he was hit by a baseball bat. He walked around in front of his truck looking for the culprit. Finally, the pain became excruciating and realized he’d been bitten by a major poisonous snake…probably aTimber Rattler. I’ve heard from other similar snake stories from this summer that being bitten by a Timber Rattler is like being hit by a baseball bat. This contractor still can’t work because of the pain.

Here’s my main point…with all the rain we’ve had, the burrows and dens that snakes normally reside are flooded leaving them to evacuate lower grounds. Look before you leap…even in dark of night when snakes are usually underground…and watch out for your pets. A Copperhead ate this man’s little kitten. He killed the Copperhead but still got bitten in his own driveway at night.

I don’t know about you, but my retirement footwear is a flip-flop. It doesn’t provide much protection from snakes. So, I too must be ever watchful. Be safe…it’s not just the dogs that get mad in August!

Jennifer, hit the ground running. She adored her big brother, Carl, at their first meeting in the hospital when she was born. Carl watched his baby sister raise up on her two palms and turned her head from side to side as if telling everyone to turn off the bright lights! He was so tickled by this that he ran into the recovery room to report to me. His eyes gleamed as he told all about what she looked like as if I hadn’t seen the baby at all!

Carl loved to fish better than anything and Ava loved her brother more. Here's Carl with his prized catfish.
Carl loved to fish better than anything and Ava loved her brother more. Here’s Carl with his prized catfish.

Carl and Jennifer laughed and screamed and played like two puppies…joyful as if to have found each other again during their first eighteen months as siblings. Everything started to unravel the day Carl’s step-father attended a meeting at the school. Carl was not the cookie cutter kid. He didn’t fit a mold for many reasons and the DeKalb County school system wanted to test him every year he was in their system but couldn’t find anything “wrong” with him.

In the seventh grade, a very “special” county worker tested Carl and reported to me that Carl just didn’t fit in at school. She reported he dressed too nicely, had his hair cut too short and was known as “preacher” because he carried his Bible to school.

My blue eyed baby...Carl around age 8.
My blue-eyed baby…Carl around age 8.

Outraged by the audacity of this county employee, I shared this report with Carl’s step-father. He went berserk and demanded a meeting with the Principal. Fool that I was, I thought he was finally being supportive and acting like the father he should have been these last two years and a half years.

After their meeting that fateful Thursday, Carl’s step-father decided Carl should go to military school on Sunday in the spring of his twelfth year. His step-father totally failed to understand Carl’s sensitivity and artistic brilliance.

Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.
Carl about the time his step-father decided he needed military school.

I had dated boys who had attended military school and thought the disciplinary training might be good for Carl even though my heart was broken over this outrageous unilateral decision.  And, although I was known to be a strong, independent woman, I felt powerless to stop him. I’d never lived with a man other than my father and older brothers and didn’t have a clue on how to usurp my own authority over a man much less a husband. All I knew to do was pray the Lord would slam the doors shut to prevent my determined husband’s decision, confident he could never come up with the money necessary to carry out his plan. Even years of  therapy didn’t give me the tools I needed for this nightmare. So, on the third day, Carl and his step father flew to the Florida winter camp of the military school designated to train and mold him for the next three months and twenty days.

Carl called me often…crying from the terrible hazing and unfairness of the system. As soon as the boys relocated to Georgia, Jennifer and I would drive to spend every visitors day with Carl trying to encourage him to learn from the experience and be his cheerleader assuring him he would be back home. It was after one of those visits that I came back home knowing things were getting ready to change. I had my spine back and wasn’t going to be bullied by her husband any more.

But, it was too late for Carl. He came home an angry, bitter thirteen year old. Sadly, military school had taught Carl about hazing, abandonment, drinking and drugs. Not a single therapy session gave me the tools to handle this conundrum. I ended the ruse of a marriage to save my children but Carl’s psychological damage was done and Jennifer’s was just beginning to show at a whole new level.

In those days, there were no resources readily available like today. Everything learned was done by hundreds of hours spent on the phone begging strangers for help, resources and/or funds. My fight for the mental health Carl needed over the next six years included therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, attorneys, psychological testing, law suits against local School Board, numerous unproductive meetings and red knees from praying but every single time I thought I had the answer, a tragedy would strike from outer space and topple all the hard work into ashes. Hope was hard to come by but it was all I had. Carl’s drug exploration continued until the day he disappeared when he was just two months past his eighteenth birthday in 1984 when there were no resources for missing young adults.

Jennifer was six years old the last time she saw Carl. He was celebrating his eighteenth birthday at their grandmother’s house. He was getting his driver’s license, a car and his freedom. There was a big fight and he got into his car.

Jennifer ran outside to tell him she loved him but hesitated. He drove off not knowing he was leaving the six-year-old forever blaming herself for his disappearance sure that if she had told him how much she loved him as she intended to do, he would have stayed and been safe. No amount of words, therapy or assurances ever convinced her otherwise.

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.
The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.

The only thing consistent about Jennifer’s father was his absence…emotional and physical. Jennifer’s losses were coupled with challenges she had from birth.  Days old, she began displaying severe separation anxiety. When I tried to take a shower or do anything without Jennifer glued to my hip, she would cry so hard she would hyperventilate. This little one was presenting challenges the pediatricians would categorize as spoiling her. They didn’t know anything about mental health…only physical.

Washing her hair was like pure torture to her. She screamed so loudly the first time I washed her hair that the neighbors came running to see what was wrong with her. They saw me holding her closely while she was on the kitchen counter next to the sink, my hand gently messaging her head while the water trickled. I was as stunned as they were. I didn’t know until after her death that this is one of the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome in children!

Dropping Jennifer off at pre-K was always a traumatic experience to her. She would stand at the windows watching as I drove off as if it was going to be the last time she ever going to see me.

Out of compassion and understanding of this child’s challenges, I spent all my non-working time with her trying to give her the love and support she needed. But, Jennifer’s need for love was insatiable. There was no way I could fill the void Jennifer’s father and brother left behind but I sure tried to give her lots of love and stability because I discovered early on that her brain didn’t process like most and I didn’t know anything else to do.

From past experience, I knew the public school system didn’t know how to deal with an intelligent child who couldn’t “fit” into a box so I moved back into Mom’s so Jennifer could attend the private Christian school affiliated with our church. I kept waiting for Jennifer to settle into the school but even these teachers weren’t trained to know how to deal with a child who didn’t fit into the mold.

The therapist Jennifer had been seeing since age ten was seeing wasn’t any help either. I withdrew her before the seventh grade and home schooled this hormonal hellcat for the next year. As Jennifer progressed through puberty, she resented her body changes…willing it not to happen. She told me she didn’t want to be a woman. It was during those pre-teen years that she started talking about suicide. Jennifer’s psychiatrist didn’t know what to do with her either never giving a hint of treatment or diagnosis.

In the hope of getting Jennifer outside of herself, I had kept her enrolled in many activities from modeling, modern dance to ballet to competitive ice skating since she was two years old. It was one of Jennifer’s older friends at the ice skating rink when Jennifer was eleven years old who mentioned to me that she, herself, had a chemical imbalance and that it might just be what was wrong with Jennifer. I didn’t know what that meant and, in 1990, there wasn’t much available about it…no internet or resources at the public library about this brain malfunction. What I did learn was it was possible for the brain to fail to produce the right chemicals for the brain to process information properly. That sure sounded like it might be the answer but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just drugging Jennifer as none of her therapists ever mentioned this disorder. Drugging my daughter for everyone else’s convenience wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to make sure that Jennifer’s demanding, narcissistic, clingy tendencies weren’t due to me needing to be more or do more.

The summer of 1991 was tragic. Jennifer was involved with an unitarian youth group who allowed the thirteen-year-old Jennifer to associate with an eighteen-year-old pedophile. After the pedophile raped her, Jennifer dissociated for the first time. She became more outwardly angry at me and more inward in her behavior until she attempted  suicide just six days before my father died. Knowing how much Jennifer hated doctors and needles, I was sure the Emergency Room visit would surely jerk her out of her strange behavior. Strangely, it fed the monster which always needed more and more attention. I now know that she was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

It was time. Medication was in order. First the doctors tried Prozac but to no avail; they doubled and tripled it but nothing helped her chronic, severe depression. They tried every anti-depressant available but nothing worked. In fact, her depression got worse.

It was 1992 when I purchased our first home (with no job, no money or reliable income) through an elderly gentleman who owned hundreds of rental houses. I  did all the paperwork for a seller finance and presented it to him; I could because I had been in the real estate legal business for many years. The owner was very happy to help us realize our dream. However, being in this house would mean  Jennifer would have to attend public school. The good news, as I told her, was she could start off with a clean slate. No one knew she’d been raped or knew any of her past. It would be up to her to share what she wanted. She could just be fourteen years old and try out for team sports at the new high school while the doctors played with her meds.

Public school proved to be a disaster for Jennifer as it was for Carl. During the summer of 1992, Jennifer started acting strangely aggressive and defensive. I asked her to sit down and talk with me about what she was going through. We realized she was steeling herself for going back to the public school. I couldn’t put her through it. I searched our new community for a private school to put her in and there was one. All I needed was six thousand dollars. It might as well have been six million as I was still self-employed. Somehow, I made it happen and everything rocked along for the next school year and summer until the wheels started falling off the wagon again.

I registered her for the private school again because I had no direction from any of her therapists, the school or my counselors. Plus, I needed to find work. I couldn’t keep this up no matter how much I wanted to be home for her. In March, 1993, I went back to work full-time. In May, Jennifer called me to say she was going to kill someone at school and then herself.  I walked out of work without even telling anyone what had happened.

When I got home, she was sitting in her room holding a knife totally dissociated. I couldn’t reach her at all. I cried and phoned everyone I knew to call…therapists, doctors, family, school. Finally, my only choice was to call the police. Here I was again but, this time with my daughter. I hadn’t had any good experiences with getting help from the police before so I didn’t have any good expectations with this scene either.

I hadn’t had any good experiences with getting help from the police before so I didn’t have any good expectations with this scene either. She was on large doses of Zoloft. She was now sixteen years old. The most amazing thing happened when the police came. They were wonderful! They spent hours talking with her, helping her reconnect with reality. We dodged another bullet but not for long.

By the time she was seventeen, I had gone as far as I could go without having another nervous breakdown. I was drowning. I had to keep my own head above water if I wanted to help this strong-willed, independent, recalcitrant, self-destructive, narcissistic, chronically depressed, drop out teen. She thought she had all the answers and, by now, was wanting emancipation. I felt I had done all I could do and the world would have to finish raising her.

Every weekend for six weeks, I sold everything in our home. I rented the house out and moved in with a friend. She asked what she was supposed to do and I told her to call her father because I didn’t have any more answers to her questions. For the first time in her life, her father was there for her even if it was for selfish reasons. His mother had recently died and he needed someone to pack up her belongings and label the boxes. She could move into her other grandmother’s house if she was willing to do the work. Jennifer moved in and turned that quiet neighborhood on it’s ears with her tattooed friends and late night partying. After a respite, I could give her a helping hand up as long as she was helping herself.

It was late 1994 when I heard her sing opera aria for the first time as we packed her up to move. I couldn’t believe my ears. She was blessed! She needed to be learning music. It had always been her passion from birth. It was the only thing that would calm her down as a fretful baby or as a disturbed teen. She delved herself into all kinds of music. She never discriminated…heavy metal bands, hair bands of the 80’s, Mozart, big band sounds, opera, jazz, blues…everything. It was then that I told her I would provide for her living expenses (except for gas, car insurance and spending cash) as long as she obtained her GED and registered for a full schedule at the community college toward a degree…any degree. She now had a dream and her private lessons started immediately as she obtained her GED and moved forward with her college goals.

The next ten years were wrought with psychiatrists sleeping through sessions, group therapy, medications, breakdowns, suicide attempts, failed treatments, successes, failures, highs, lows, research into what was wrong with her and, finally, marriage.

It was a therapist who finally diagnosed Ava right before her marriage as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She has a diary full of documented moods, thoughts and fears. She was very fearful…of everything and nothing. It is one of the most prevalent common denominator of this brain malfunction. When she was diagnosed, there wasn’t much research about this condition.

In the meantime, her psychiatrist was treating her for Bipolar Disorder with antidepressants and not even addressing her prior diagnosis at all. I have several family members in the mental health care industry in a range of jobs from admissions to certified therapists to college professors. They all say the same thing. Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis is one that has no chemical treatment and, until recently, little therapy treatments with any substantial result. The “professionals” appear to all have the attitude there is absolutely nothing which can be done to help people with this disorder.

There is hope, however, due to an ever-increasing diagnosis of this brain malfunction. There is a treatment called “Dialectical Treatment” which helps. It doesn’t have to end the way Ava chose to.

Ava was an opera singer in Las Vegas (an unforgiving town) married to the wrong person. She was bullied at work by her co-workers and at home by her estranged husband. She was exhausted from a grueling two year, accelerated college schedule trying to finish her degree in vocal performance so she could have financial freedom and all that would mean for her future.

She chose, however, to take advantage of the perfect storm. All her closest support members were in the Emergency Room dealing with life threatening issues. Friends in Vegas were oblivious of her despair or intentions as is customary with BPD.

Ava took her life on the night of March 23, 2012. Since then, I’ve been caught up in a tsunami of grief and work.

It was during my drive back to Vegas just a few short weeks after her death to attend to Ava’s final affairs that I was “told” to create a website to help others. Not having any experience in such matters caused me great confusion about the directive. I argued and negotiated. I was “told” to “just ask.” So I did. I asked all her friends in Vegas and they immediately responded “YES!”

At that time, I didn’t know that the suicide rate in Las Vegas was fifty percent higher than the national average.

With the help of Ava’s closest friends I now call my chirrens and through nothing short of many miracles, AvasCorner.org (AvasCorner.net and AvasCorner.com) was kicked off on December 2, 2012, just in time for the holidays…the month that has the highest suicide rate of the year.

I designed it and professional volunteers put the vision into action. Ava’s Corner, Inc. is a Georgia corporation with 501(c)3 non-profit public charity status with the IRS. We are a grassroots project to change lives giving them new ways of thinking about therapy through Art, Music, Yoga, Massage and more. We want to help our visitors find hope. The mental health industry may have given up on our loved ones with brain malfunctions, but AvasCorner.org (.net & .com)  hasn’t. We’re here for them.

http://www.avascorner.org/

I was startled when my therapist used that diagnosis for what I have been feeling these last sixteen months…startled enough to evaluate and re-think it all.

When I think of people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I think of our brave men and women who have faced the battlefield or the people injured in horrific acts of violence like 9/11 or the Boston bombings. I have never thought of my life, but I guess I should have and maybe so should you if you feel like I have and do.

After my daughter’s suicide, I was “told” by my Reliable Third Party to design and build a website to help others. Through the hand of my Reliable Third Party and the love and support of Ava’s friends, AvasCorner.org exists. So, I naturally went to my own resources to find out more about this condition. I share two and you can go to AvasCorner.org for more informational websites on this condition.

Acute stress reaction – Hypervigilance – Category:Posttraumatic stress …

NIMH · Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic…ptsd/index.shtml

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) A booklet on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) that explains what it is, treatment options, and how to get help.

*****

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental condition which is a lasting consequence of traumatic events.

*****

After re-reading these articles, I went back in time to evaluate my own symptoms. My first questions were: “When and how did it start?” The only answer I could muster was: “The minute I heard she had killed herself.”

I thought hearing of my son’s murder was surely the most horrific event a parent could face, and it was, but it came after he had been missing fifteen years. I knew he had to be dead because, at a minimum, he wasn’t asking for money! That sounds cynical but every eighteen-year-old needs money from their parents, don’t they? Also, my pain from Carl’s disappearance was often distracted in the measurement of   seconds during those fifteen years with helping Ava find hope to stay alive and functional. She was my mission, the love of my life, my joy and my greatest pain.

However, “that” minute…”that” phone call will be forever engrained, frozen, carved, jolted into my bloodstream as the most horrific trauma a human could face. Ava’s estranged husband…sobbing…hysterical…barely audible…telling me this disgusting, revolting, unbelievable truth. I spent the whole day throwing up and hearing deep soul-sounds come from my vocal cords which had originated from my core. My sister said I was also on the computer emailing Ava’s friends and answering their questions on Facebook. I don’t remember that part but I’m glad I did and could.

Thanks to my sister’s careful planning and execution, I was whisked away like royalty. I don’t remember getting to Vegas but I do remember seeing Eric and Cheryl who hosted our stay. They were dear friends of Ava’s…and still are. The five days I was in Vegas was truly an “out-of-body” experience because only moments of memory have stayed with me, the return trip with her ashes, her burial and my return to my cabin, which is when “it” hit.

My first recollection is having to go to Wal-Mart to pick up necessities. It was all I could do to muster up enough energy to run that gauntlet. I was walking rapidly through the store trying to hurry through my task when I found myself wanting to SCREAM as loudly as I could to the other customers, “How can you walk around so normally? DON’T YOU KNOW SHE’S DEAD?” It was such a task to suppress this urge that I walked out without buying a single thing.

I was reminded of that moment just a couple of weeks ago when Alicia and her sweet autistic son were visiting me from Ohio. We went to the local outdoor flea market.  The little guy had a melt down because there were too many people in the area we were approaching. I “got” it. Ava had been that way as a child as well (but not as severely) and I certainly had been that way most of last year. Too many strangers around freaked me out.

In trying to describe to my therapist, friends and family why my innate outgoing personality had disappeared, all I could say is that my skin had been ripped off that day leaving me raw, filterless and extremely vulnerable…which prohibited loud noises or fast moves until after noon and even then, they had best be for legitimate reasons. Knowing “they” couldn’t understand even with the graphic explanations was understandable because it’s one of those things you just have to live to grasp and I don’t wish it on any one…which makes me tolerate their ignorance with love.

Weeks went by without my being able to even go outside my own doors. Paranoia creeped in that I was constantly being watched by Ava. When I got like that, I couldn’t “speak” to her star without succumbing to terrible pain from her deep inside  my soul. It was all just too much to feel and stay alive, so I stopped going outside after dark…stopped talking to her through “her star…” unconsciously holding my breath until it returned naturally.

As a writer, quick thinker and even faster talker, words have been critical to my existence, self-esteem and an extension of my soul. That day, sixteen months ago, stripped my brain of most of the words I have been used to having at the tip of my brain. For this last year, I’ve felt as if I had had a stroke…struggling daily to retrieve those words always available to me but now some distant, vague memory. I’ve worked hard reviving them…reading dictionaries, watching foreign films to not only block my horrific messages but to feed my ADD and desire to bring languages back to my brain. Seems to be working but I’m still feeling a bit retarded in the word department. The most important part of this lesson is that I can SEE improvement…even if it is microscopic…much like when I had my nervous breakdowns…microscopic improvement is valuable.

It was more than a miracle that I lived through July, 2012. Montana, the grace of God, the love of my friends and family kept me going. If it hadn’t been for taking care of Montana and taking her outside, I wouldn’t have ever left the house. If I hadn’t trained her from the day she found me to be my “service dog” without understanding the why behind that drive, I wouldn’t have survived the year. Ava’s pull to have me with her was strong and extremely painful.

I’m sharing this with you because you who have suffered similarly, do as I say do and not as I did. I recognize trauma in others but not in myself. I did listen to my instincts as I have always done, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this condition being mine…but it is.

It surely is and it helps me having a name for what’s going on because I know it will leave with the right therapy, hard work and treatments.

It gives me hope. The hope that others who are suffering will reach out to AvasCorner.org for answers, directions and understanding. I just didn’t apply my own resources to myself.

I’m just sayin’…

Happy Trails (or trials).

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.

The last picture taken of the three of us in March, 1984. Twenty-eight years later, Ava was gone too in that same month.