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She had an innate love for cats...and cat torture!

She had an innate love for cats…and cat torture!

When Ava came to the cabin, she always wanted to go to out local animal shelter to make sure things were being done right. I, of course, would get side tracked with the dogs and puppy breath while she went straight for the cats.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever.

One time before she moved to Vegas as we walked through the facility, she heard something I didn’t…a kitten in distress. I lost her. As I rambled around listening out for her voice, I was directed to the clinic area where a badly burned kitten had been found in a dumpster, apparently someone threw hot oil in the dumpster not knowing the kitten was there (we made that assumption not being to accept any other version). The staff was going to put the kitten down…it was only a few weeks old (eyes still blue) but Ava wasn’t going to have that.

It was Saturday around noon and the vet was already closed but Ava wasn’t going to hear of anything other than getting help for this lil fur ball. At her insistence, the shelter called the back office of the vet’s and told them we were bringing the kitten over to them and we’d be paying for its medical needs. We rushed the poor lil bugger over there and the vet & staff took it and said they’d call us with how it was doing.

The beautiful part of this story is that one of the vet techs fell in love with the kitten as she fostered it back to health, adopted it and called it Krispy!

I tell you this story because I have started donating kitty litter and cat food to the re-vamped shelter in Ava’s memory. The young man, Chris, who is in charge of the new, transparent facility is familiar with brain malfunctions and is helping me get the word out about Ava’s happy today because we got her kitties taken care of.

Reach out in a meaningful way to honor those who are gone in a way they would do if they were here. It helps you heal.

When she was in Graz 2011 studying, she went to the Presidential Palace. This peacock recognized her beauty and flirted with her immediately. Every animal felt like he did. They all recognized her embracing spirit.

When she was in Graz 2011 studying, she went to the Presidential Palace. This peacock recognized her beauty and flirted with her immediately. Every animal felt like he did. They all recognized her embracing spirit.


My years of formal art training in college and core of creative DNA, force the “Get ‘er Done Donna” to stop and “listen” to the art form to guide my hands. I’ve been praying since its inception for a direction. And, as happens, the more research I did on the traditional Zen garden the more I knew it would take on a life of its own…and it did.

As I placed the focal points in the area to be the Zen garden the other night, I was “told” it was about the passage of time. It was only natural that the heart-of-pine which meant so much Sumner, Ava and me and has withstood the test time these last nine years in this very area was intentionally placed to mark time by its shadow. The other items were placed not so consciously but more as by direction. So, it wasn’t until today when I was pulling it all together that I noticed the placements of these items corresponded with time on a clock.


It took off from there. The Heart-of-Pine stands proudly marking hours of life.

Twelve o’clock seemed to be the hour Ava was the most active…it could have been AM or PM, it didn’t matter. The noon/midnight hour is the small piece of driftwood between the cactus and the heart-of-pine toward the point. It’s also when I fell asleep…exhausted from the weeks events… as she spoke her last words to me.

Focal Point is the Heart-of-Pine standing tall with the help of the rocks Carl brought back from his mine years ago.

Focal Point is the Heart-of-Pine standing tall with the help of the rocks Carl brought back from his mine years ago.

Three o’clock was when I had to pick Ava up from school or her college classes were over for the day. Three PM is the rock on its side to the right.

Zen garden from the stream that runs to the left of it.

Zen garden from the stream that runs to the left of it. Three o’clock is the rock pointing to the right toward the railroad ties.

Six o’clock A.M is when I heard about Ava’s suicide. It is the dark stone near the aloe plant and the line of polished rocks marks her last night.


Seven o’clock A.M. was when Ava was born. It is the line of sea shells which Ava and I collected on our last trip to our favorite beach in 2008 before she moved to Las Vegas. She loved the beach and we spent many vacations there during her childhood and in her growing-up years. I can’t go there without thinking of both my children because we spent so many happy hours walking those beaches. There are only a few  pebbles within the line next to the shells as there were only a few of us who have that memories of that precious moment…the birth of  Jennifer.

The white sand without any other pebbles between six and seven signifies the memories between her birth and death which belong only to me and her. The few pebbles within that white sand signifies those closest to me and the Ava she became after changing her birth name. They are few but precious.

Nine o’clock P.M. was the time she was driving home from her friends’ house contemplating what she was going to do that night. It is the rock to left.


Ten o’clock P.M. signifies the time she left us. It is the big rock with pebbles on top. It is a big rock for a life-altering event with memories from us all covering that event.

Eleven o’clock P.M. is when she called me for the last time on Friday, March 23rd. It  is the cactus on the log because it signifies growth with prickles. River pebbles are in that pot as well as we all have our last memories/conversations with her.

The most significant thing to remember about this memory garden is that ALL the  river pebbles covering the area signify the memories we have of her…so many for so few years…even those who met her after her death through their songs in her memory, through or from her friends, family and loved ones.

Ava's Star shines blinks "hello" right above the end of the wolf's nose above the tree line.

Ava’s Star shines blinks “hello” right above the end of the wolf’s nose above the tree line.

What you don’t know is that this is where I stand to see her star each clear night. It appears directly over the wolf’s nose above the tree line to the right of the stream beside the Zen Memory Garden which overlooks Carl’s Garden below.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever.

Ava and Jake. He is a very special and holds dear a special place in my heart forever1`

Ava owned a wolf, Jake, who saved her life. She had to give him up if she wanted to travel with the man she wanted to marry. When I couldn’t keep him, I bought the wolf /cactus sculpture because I, too, was saddened from the loss. She regretted giving up her wolf for the rest of her life.

Some of you are going to say how sad it is for me to mark these times in this way and that’s okay. It’s MY Zen Memory Garden and this is where I am one year after her death. It will probably change a great deal and that’s exactly what I love about this kind of art/sculpture. It has its own life.

After we found out about how Carl died, I built a fence here with some of the wood I found at the burned out structure of the house where he was killed. It started out as a horizontal structure but, over time, it became a vertical one as I healed. The only part remaining is one piece of charred wood. I keep it close…on the front deck overlooking his garden

I envision a metamorphosis happening with this area as well and I look forward to seeing my progress.

Happy Trails (or Trials as the case may be).

The last photo taken of Ava and me when we were on our camping trip summer, 2011.

The last photo taken of Ava and me when we were on our camping trip summer, 2011.

How is it possible for time to crawl in microsecond intervals during that first year of loss of your child yet fly with the speed of light?

It was twelve months ago, almost to the day when I first started writing this blog. A year ago, I felt as if I was a part of the “Bodies” exhibit where all the skin has been stripped from my body. To say I was raw, vulnerable, humbled and in great pain is an understatement. Yes, Ava was my only daughter and only surviving child but she was my best friend in the whole world. We shared secrets to the very end. I had every expectation to believe she would be there the next morning when I called her to tell her I loved her even though she’d promised to not fail on her next attempted suicide.

For her whole life, she struggled to get the confidence she needed to live a happy life through numerous therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, therapists (both group and individual), food modifications, purification, yoga, cleansing, books, education, medications, relationships and family but there just was never enough love,  support or positive direction for her insatiable appetite which was conjoined with her innate fascination with death and fatalistic nature.

She was consistently misdiagnosed by some of the most prominent psychiatrists in Atlanta whose only directive was to keep giving her a cocktail of drugs hoping it would help her instead doing a better job of digging deeper into who she was to find the truth. A “mere” therapist was able to pinpoint  her BPD in 2005. His diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) hit the nail on the head…one which has no magic pill and only the intense Dialectical therapy to help cope with the symptoms.

No psychiatrist took the effort to get past her veneer to see the truth under the surface. If it had been their child, would they have treated her the same?

The problem was that there was no research for this brain malfunction (as I term it) readily available until more recent years. A little too little too late. From my understanding, it wasn’t a popular brain malfunction to receive funding for so the woman who did the most groundbreaking research on it had to slant her research toward the Bipolar side of this very complex disorder. BPD can include combinations of other brain malfunctions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar Disorder [both I and II] (BD) and Narcissism, just to name a few. People with BPD typically have severe separation anxiety, very sensitive, intelligent, artistic and musically inclined.. To say they don’t detach easily from failed relationships is a gross understatement. Ava exhibited all of these characteristics from day one yet only ONE professional dug deep enough to recognize the complexities of her brain malfunctions and name it. Yep. I’d say the mental health care system chronically failed us.


Newborn Ava holding her head up at birth!

Newborn Ava holding her head up at birth!

Minutes old Ava began this world by doing a push-up and turning her head from side-to-side as if complaining about the process she’d just been subjected to, the bright lights or all of it. She was immediately expressive…her face, her highest-possible-pitch screams (Lord, yes, her C above high C), her grunts, arm gestures and more. She’d scream like I was killing her when I’d wash her hair and would go into full blown panic attacks when I stepped out of her sight and into the shower. Her sleep patterns were never normal and I now believe she may have also had autism and dyslexia.

The second they brought her to me in the hospital, I worked hard trying to find patterns which triggered her strange behavior. For example, I thought she was afraid of the sound of the shower until I took her into it with me out of desperation and she loved it! That’s when I realized it was being away from me which triggered her full-blown panic attack. She was six days old. I asked the pediatrician and he said I was spoiling her. I was outraged with his stupidity and he was a highly recognized doctor! I was spoiling a six-day-old baby by feeding and changing her. I knew I was on my own.

Ava always wanted to be sitting up…from birth…only relaxing when nursing.  Once she was strong enough, I’d prop her up with pillows, sheets and anything else in an upright position just to gain time to do two-handed chores as I soon figured out that I had to carry her on my hip. One afternoon, six-week-old Ava was so propped in her swing watching the Muppet Show on in the next room while I cooked dinner. Ava laughed out loud! I ran into see if there was something wrong. She was deeply engrossed in their antics kicking and laughing! All I could think was, “Thank goodness! I found something that makes her happy!”

Happy Baby is a sleeping baby. I always thought this should be a mattress commercial.

Happy Baby is a sleeping baby. I always thought this should be a mattress commercial.

She was born loving animals (especially cats) and her big brother, Carl.

Her dad brought home a kitten we named Tigger (that’s T-I-double GOO-ER, thank you). As Tigger sauntered through his domain, Ava, sitting in her walker, squealed in delight as she reached out for his tail. It wasn’t until her second fall season while learning to jump in leaf piles that she mastered the art of kitten capture and torture! This was another stray kitten her father brought home for us to find a home for. He ended up moving next door.

She had an innate love for cats...and cat torture!

She had an innate love for cats…and cat torture!

Ava ruled the world and we let her. She was good at it. She would never be ignored…EVER!

She had her way of not being ignored!

She certainly had her own way of not being ignored! I was taking classes at GSU and had just gotten home…exhausted…when she decided I’d been away too long!

She always had her own sense of style from the minute she could sit by herself and figure out where things were supposed to go. If I dressed her in something she didn’t want to wear…off it came…even at six months old!

This day, she decided her dad's shoes were just what she needed to complete her ensemble. She wasn't walking yet but that didn't matter!

This day, she decided her dad’s shoes were just what she needed to complete her ensemble. She wasn’t walking yet but that didn’t matter!

When Ava wouldn’t go to sleep, we would put her on the back of my bicycle and take turns riding around our neighborhood to get her to fall asleep. Worked  like a charm every time. It was Carl’s turn this night! She was thrilled to have him at the helm. She just laughed and played until I took the reins.

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

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

Carl loved torturing Ava as much as Ava loved torturing the cats. She understood his teasing before she could speak and giggled when he’d say those magic words…his magic words which always got her going. If he had food, she would push her walker with the tip of her toes (she was still very little) over to him and say, “I onna bi bi.” Translated, “I want a bite bite.” Carl turned it around and said back to her (every time), “You want a butt bite?” He’d pick her up and give her a big, loving brother nibble on her diaper clad bottom and she’d squeal with delight. As I said, they had their own language and love…one beyond time and earthly space.

When Ava was just six years old, her eighteen-year-old brother, Carl, disappeared without a trace.

This was the last picture ever taken of the three of us...March, 1984. Poignant, huh?

This was the last picture ever taken of the three of us…March, 1984. Poignant, huh?

The loss of him in her life totally devastated her. The last time she saw him was his eighteenth birthday. We had a little party. He was angry at life and took it out on his grandmother. He walked out the door in a rage. Ava went to tell him she loved him but hesitated. He drove off and she never got to tell him. She was sure he would have never left had he known how much she loved him. She was eight years old when she told me this. No amount of love or assurances could get her to change her mind about the powers she thought she had over life and death.

We didn’t know for fifteen years what had happened to him. Those fifteen years were full of an emptiness that neither one of us could do anything about no matter how hard we tried.

Carl came to us both in dreams within a couple of days of each other in early September, 1999…fifteen years after his disappearance. We were torn with joy of knowing what had happened but ripped to shreds after learning of his murder. She had always secretly thought I’d made him mad that last day she’d seen him and that he was staying away from us because of me. Even though her adult mind understood, her six-year-old self just couldn’t grasp her reality any other way.

Ava secretly planted this gardenia in Carl's memory at our house after finding him. She was 22. When we sold the house, we moved the plant to my mom's where it still thrives.

Ava secretly planted this gardenia in Carl’s memory at our house after finding him. She was 22. When we sold the house, we moved the plant to my mom’s where it still thrives.

It was right after this picture was taken that Ava attempted her first serious suicide. The others were just warm-ups to this one. It was 2000 and I  My instincts screamed to me that night to rush over to the house. I found her overdosed and watching “Titanic.” She lied about the number of pills she had taken. I couldn’t find a single hospital to take her because it was mental anguish she suffered from and not physical. She didn’t have insurance. She was too old to be included on my coverage at work even though she was still my dependent. My boyfriend helped me take her with us. We put a mattress on the floor in his living room and I stayed with my hand on her chest until she woke up thirty-six hours later. When she awoke, she said, “I guess it’s meant for me to be alive because I sure took enough to die.” She asked me to re-tell that event to her several times over the coming years including that day…that final day when she decided to leave.

Ava was beautiful, loved, talented, intelligent, diverse, embracing, courageous, loyal, loving, best friend you could ever have and yet, she never felt loved, lovable or wanted.

When she was in Graz 2011 studying, she went to the Presidential Palace. This peacock recognized her beauty and flirted with her immediately. Every animal felt like he did. They all recognized her embracing spirit.

When she was in Graz, Austria in 2011 studying, she went to the Presidential Palace. This peacock recognized her beauty and flirted with her immediately. Every animal felt like he did. They all recognized her embracing spirit.

You bottled up ALL your pain and kept them safe from us, yes even me,
And only let them out a little at a time for the world to see.
We thought, at those times, it was pure insanity.
But it wasn’t…it was pure humanity.

EVERY hurt stayed alive bottled up inside
And, when remembered, would all collide.
That’s what happened that fateful night…
They all came to life in your sight.
They collided and couldn’t be contained
So only your empty body was all that remained.

Now I search every day of my life
For all your hurt and all your strife.
I want to remember each and every one
Because they are a part of what made you done.
I love you dear daughter, o’ heart of mine,
I want you here so I don’t need to rewind.

I want to see you dancing in the rain,
Getting out all your pain
See you laughing in the sun
And playing on the beach having fun
Yep, I need all these things to be
And not these ashes next to me.

For more reliable information on Borderline Personality Disorder, visit these two sites:  and

There are no words for the tsunami of pain and loss which consumes you when you lose a child especially to murder and suicide. It’s our goal at Ava’s Corner, Inc. (a Georgia non-profit corporation/501(c)3 application submitted) to give alternative therapies (yoga, message, art, music, physical, homeopathic, etc.) as well as a safe  place for  people like Ava to create a support cyber-community where one can express pain without disdain or bullying. Ava had a loving community but no one same me knew she was suicidal. It takes a village.

To do that, we must have funds to provide full-time monitoring to prevent inappropriate dialogue and posts as well as additional programs, web space and personnel. We have starting a fund raising campaign at

Please visit our campaign and search your heart. We need your support for this very important effort to help our friends, family and loved ones to find alternatives to taking their own lives.

Inside of Ava’s Memorial in Las Vegas in March of this year. There were hundreds of business people, professors, performers and artists in attendance and they were all friends. You just never know who is this depressed until you’re ready to assume all is not as it seems. Ava’s death sure screamed that to all who know and love her (present tense intentional).




Contact: Donna Friend (404) 313-3707


— launches December 2, 2012—Las Vegas, November 16, 2012—

When Ava Kaufman committed suicide in her Las Vegas home earlier this year, she added another name to Las Vegas’s disturbingly high suicide rate. The UNLV student and opera singer was a beloved friend and daughter, a tireless social and animal advocate, and a talented performer, but like so many of the creative people who find their way to Las Vegas, Ava was also struggling with borderline personality disorder and depression that she never shared with her friends.

“After Ava passed away, I learned that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for people between the ages of 18 and 65,” said Donna Friend, Ava’s mother. “I wanted Ava’s death to change that. And that’s why we’re launching Ava’s Corner.”

The website, launching on December 2, offers a safe place for Las Vegas’s creative community to share their struggles through conversation and creative works, creating a support network to remind depressed or suicidal performers that they are not alone. The site also offers resources, from suicide prevention hotlines for severely depressed visitors to local listings for music and art therapy. People who suspect their friends or family may be struggling with personality disorders or depression can also find information to help them better understand and support their loved ones. Members who struggle with bullying or on-the-job harassment can find support tools and resources. The heart of the site, though, is the ability to share with other people who are struggling with the same issues.

“ is a safe haven reminding its members and visitors that you are never as alone as you think you are and as Ava felt she was in her last days. That awful night, Ava couldn’t remember that hundreds of loving friends would have done anything to help her. At, you don’t have to phone a friend if you don’t want to; you can reach out to any venue on this site to find hope and comfort,” explains Friend.

Friend started work on with a small group of committed workers, many of whom had known her daughter in Las Vegas and, like Friend, felt inspired to build a meaningful tribute to Ava’s memory. It felt only natural to launch in Las Vegas, the city where Ava, who had struggled with depression for much of her life, found her “tribe” for the first time. The fact that Las Vegas residents are fifty percent more likely to commit suicide than other U.S. resi- dents and that so many of them pursue the same creative passions Ava embraced were also factors in the decision.

“Without performers, Vegas is just another desert,” Friend says.

Members of the media are invited to attend the launch party on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at The Olive Mediterranean Restaurant (3850 E. Sunset Rd.) from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. RSVP to Donna Friend with your name and the name of your media outlet at by November 30.

Ava’s Corner logo is taken from a cut out Ava did in 1993. It’s of a wolf (on left) and a lion. Ava always connected to the wolf and, in our family, we have lionesses. It was more than appropriate for this piece of her art work to be the website’s logo.

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

Kinda’ weird how Thanksgiving comes on the eighth month anniversary of Ava’s leaving us but it does make me pause and try to find the silver lining in the message. The easiest one to find is that a handful of dedicated individuals came together at the first calling to help build, create, engineer and formulate what is going to be an amazing tool for hurting creative people like Ava in Las Vegas (and beyond) to find comfort in knowing others who feel as they do are there listening and caring. kicks off on Sunday, December 2, 2012 in Las Vegas thanks to these incredibly giving, loving, pay-it forward kinda’ folks.

The harder part in finding “thanksgiving” is the loss of my best friend and daughter who alternated from being a brilliant light in the night to the darkest of dark. But, I would take all the dark, heavy nightmare stuff back in a blink if I she were here again. Did I get exhausted and frustrated? Absolutely! But, somehow God gave this impatient person, flawed in many ways, the unconditional love that enveloped my soul in the form of my shooting star, Ava.

They say when you see a star that it’s really already gone. It’s true.

After Ava left, I stood on my deck looking up at the black velvet night sky where God placed twinkling diamonds for us to enjoy. There was one in particular that was brightly flickered in a seemingly meaningful pattern. It was, on that night, anointed Ava’s Star.

Every night since coming back home from Vegas in July, as Montana did her final “business” for the night, I would talk to the star and feel a connection with Ava. A real connection like that umbilical cord which was never severed that we both felt while she was here.

Recently, I couldn’t find her star in the sky. I knew it had taken its autumnal course away from its normal spot, but that knowledge gave me little comfort. I stood frozen as I examined the sky hoping to find Ava’s Star. My final logic (after some panic) was that it was probably too early and that I just needed to look again when it was darker.

As Montana has me trained to take her out when she rings the camel bells hanging from the door knob (that Ava gave her because who else would give a dog camel bells for Christmas to train their owner but Ava),  I took her out upon her signal. This time, the sky was black/blue velvet but I still had trouble finding Ava’s Star.

I stared at the western sky trying (in vain) to recognize the surrounding stars. I obviously was looking too high because, just then, a shooting star blazed from the spot where I was looking right down to the tree-lined horizon leading me right to it. I probably can count on my fingers how many shooting stars I’ve seen in my life…maybe even on one hand.

I proceeded to try to memorize the surrounding stars so I could find her even though she’ll be moving again.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find her when I got to Vegas but now I know I just need to look westward for a shooting star. Ava, I love you forever…my very own star.

Look for and I pray you will never need it nor know anyone depressed enough to need this site. However, it’ll be there waiting for the one life we hope to save.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Newborn Ava

I was blessed to have been chosen by a remarkable soul to be her mother. She challenged me on all levels of my knowledge, experience and capacity for love. She filled my life with drama, trauma,  jubilation, extremes, shock and awe. I was quite proud that I lived  a life outside the “box” but she took that to a whole other level as she never recognized there was a “box” at all. She broadened my horizons like no one else in the world could have ever done because she was such an integral part of my existence. I don’t know how I’ll ever continue without hearing her amazing angelic voice singing “O mio babbino caro” or just her voice on a daily phone call or a big hug from my girl.

Ava in the “Mikado” 2008

Why? Where did she go? What happened? Is she dead?

She was so sensitive, fragile, creative and unique. Yet, she was so broken by her failed marriage, exhausted from the last two semesters of  college, anxious to be recognized for her operatic talent and, finally, being bullied, that she couldn’t find her way out of her depression to see all the blessings of the next day that she took her life.

I had been arm wrestling with her for a couple of days over the painful familiar subject of suicide and I knew I was losing ground but she had pulled through rough spots like this before. Right at the crescendo, when I needed to be 100% present, I couldn’t be because I had to rush to Atlanta to take my ailing 91-year-0ld mother to the emergency room. Right when I needed to be with her, holding her hand, I had to stay in Atlanta. When I needed to be with her, I couldn’t.

I’ll NEVER forget her final expressionless words to me, “sleep good Mom”  as I passed out from sheer exhaustion from being on the phone with her around the clock for the last 72 hours and Mom’s sudden critical illness.

I wish I could remember every word she said over those last days as clearly as I remember her “goodbye” but I can’t. I talked with her about eighteen times each twenty-four hour period of those last days trying to help her cope with all the bullying she’d endured those last months of her life.

Now the questions become:  How do I carry on?  How do I let go of thinking I could have stopped her? How do I help others thinking of doing the same thing to get a glimpse of the nightmare their decision creates? How do I reach ONE person in such depths of despair? After all, I sure couldn’t reach my own daughter that last day to keep her from taking her life. It’s a reality I will live with regardless of all the platitudes used in times like these. Those words are caring attempts to comfort me in this horrendous time, but platitudes nonetheless.

I’ve been home for a month now and it has been excruciating. Everything reminds me of her. The drive home through Virginia and Tennessee only served to remind me of our trip down those same roads last year. Upon arriving home, I emotionally deflated like an old balloon and that’s where I’ve been…haunted by her smell, laugh and pain…but also exhausted, brain-dead and unable to move most days but making myself go out at least once a week. All I’ve been able to do is pull weeds, do yard work (sometimes for only five minutes) and watch French foreign films and BBC Presentations as they have helped me keep my sanity for I know I have a job to do…I just can’t do it right now.

Finally, after four weeks, I have turned a corner on that first full moon of the blue moon phase of August, 2012. Blue moon is when there are two full moons in one month and, seeing as how my moon is in Cancer, it only makes sense that it would happen on a blue moon. I’ve turned a corner. I’m not sure what corner but my hair has started growing again after four months and I’m not constantly depressed these last four days. I’m thinking again about what needs to be done for the website (although I can’t quite work on it again yet). I hear the clock ticking and know I need to move forward with my life as everyone else seems to be doing. I’m jealous they can do it while I’m stuck in purgatory. I’m jealous they have “found” happiness while I’m still in such pain. But, it’s not a bad jealousy…just a normal one.

I hope that I, too, will find happiness one day for I truly never have experienced that phenomenon and that’s been part of my depression…that reality. As I always say, however, it’s okay to recognize the realities of your existence enabling you to accept it for what it is. My resilience of spirit tells me it will come in a way not anticipated and I look forward to the surprise.

I just hope it involves writing and more back road travels.

Happy Trails!

Graduation Day – Bachelor of Music (Vocal Performance) 12-2011. The last time I saw her happy.

© Donna Friend 8-5-2012  All rights reserved.



Yesterday, Mirjana and I explored a section of Montreal called “Mile-End.” For Atlantans, it’s Montreal’s Little Five Points. I immediately saw a man my age (or older) with his very gray hair dyed red on top! Yep, I was finally in the right place! My gypsy-belly-dancing-opera-singing-daughter loved living in Little Five Points and she certainly felt at home in Mile-End when she was here visiting Mirjana and Una a few years ago. I loved it too and looked for her face in every passerby, at every turn and in every shop. I just knew she was there with us enjoying authentic Italian coffee at Cafe Olympico where more than forty locals sat on the shaded deck watching soccer on the big flat screen TV out of the mid-day sun.

Mirjana’s craving for a falafel pocket sandwich from what she touted as being a great little vegetarian restaurant called “The Green Panther” wasn’t exactly my idea of lunch. I’m definitely carnivorous and was drooling for a tasty fish or meat salad of some sort, but out of respect for the journey and for Ava (who loved vegetarian food), I jumped in with both feet. The sandwich wasn’t half bad! I’m not sure I’ll ever order it again but I did enjoy the experience and the company as well.

As Montreal is very French, I was quite surprised at the used bookstore and shops which appeared more English influenced than French. There were many “old friends” in the bookstore for sale. It was a welcomed relief to all the French street names and menus sans translations! Try driving in a foreign country with a TomTom faking French! LOL It’s been challenging to say the least!

As I’d wanted to have something of a more French cuisine for dessert, we decided to try a little place called “La Crepiere” at 221 rue St. Viateur Ouest owned and operated by a dedicated crepe lover, Catherine Perrot. She created such a beautiful display of my apple and caramel crepe that I wanted to take a picture of it, remembering only then that I’d left my camera behind. My only choice was to dive in, and that I did. It was light and delicious just as I’d expected. It’s a must-do when in Montreal.

We were confident that the $7.75 we’d paid into the parking meter $7.75 would certainly allow us enough time to explore two hours here, we were confident we wouldn’t get hit with their notorious  $45.00 parking ticket but we were so wrong. When we walked directly across the street to get into the car from the crepe restaurant, there it was…all red and white. What a great welcoming. I was just about over the rude drivers who blow their horns way too much (but not as much as New Yorkers…I doubt if any other city blows it like NYC) and display their aggravation at your confusion on where to turn even or that you’re walking too slowly across the pedestrian cross-walk but this was the ultimate unwelcoming.

We’d put in $2.25 and bought 45 minutes of parking. Two minutes later, we put in more money to five us more time. We went back and deposited yet more money now paying the equivalent (buy their own parking meter standards) of 3 hours 44 minutes of which we only used w hours 31 minutes. How outrageous that their parking meters do NOT give you, the customer, credit for the time already paid for into the meter such that every time you put money in, the meter starts over! WHAT A RIP OFF! In the US, you put money in, go back and add more money to the meter and get credit for funds paid. NOT HERE! Note to self, walk next time and leave truck in free parking area!

Ava singing

On a different note, I came to see Una and Mirjana in Montreal not only to help us heal from this tragic loss but to have Mirjana’s feedback and brainstorming help in the development of (see earlier blog). Mirjana (daughter-from-another-mother who was Ava’s mentor and big sister) is an accomplished international director and performer as well as having been a professor. Her artistic background coupled with a similar life experiences lends valuable insight into formulating the right format for the site. Needless to say, Mirjana has been instrumental in thinking through the structure of the website with me. will help performers like my daughter during their time of crisis. Stephanie (a daughter-by-another-mother who resides in Vegas) has been my site angel who volunteered to take on the learning curve for the greater good. It’s my job to stay focused on the big picture and try to raise money for the non-profit organization to fund all I want to do to help performers. After all, they’re willing to spill their guts onto the stage every night just to entertain us.

We should support ALL variations of artistic expression whether it be poetry, painting, pantomime or pictures…it’s all art. Artists have, by nature, a sensitive side the rest of us can ignore or tune out…example…rude drivers are probably not artistic! However, it’s the sensitive ones like Ava who remind us of our humanity to hug trees and care for this earth through recycling and to spay and neuter to reduce the number of homeless or euthanized pets. They, like our artistic forefathers (Mozart, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Jackson Pollock),  contribute something valuable to our system of living and need to feel cherished and have a special need for an outlet of their passions.

And, for those artists like Ava who have mental malfunctions, they need extra understanding, love and support and that’s what we want to provide with Our goal is to provide a creative venue for self-expression, reliable websites to educate on how to combat bullying and other inappropriate work interaction, suggested places for healing through music or art and informative sites on various disorders. We also want to give reliable website addresses which provide examples of characteristics exhibited in early childhood which indicate mental malfunctions but, for obvious reasons, can’t be diagnosed until much later, as in Ava’s case. I created the expression “mental malfunctions” as that’s what Ava had. Mental illness indicates positive results from therapy or a chemical remedy, i.e., Bipolar disorders and schizophrenia can be treated with both. Borderline Personality Disorder doesn’t respond to anything but unconditional love.

I’m initiating the site’s focus in Las Vegas because that’s where my daughter performed, amassed hundreds of friends and industry connections, and where the suicide rate is 50% higher than the national average (see but our long-term goal with funding and help from performance-based colleges will spread this effort worldwide. We hope to have a launching of the website and Listen Lines by the end of this year or early next winter. Our theme for the Vegas launch is: “Without performers, Vegas is just another desert.”

Happy Trails!