Archives for posts with tag: Georgia

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.

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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.

Ava loved animals of all kinds and people of all types. She definitely would want to take in this beautiful animal if she could. After all, she adopted Jake, a wolf mix who could be quite challenging.

Please read below about Alejandro. He’s bilingual! He takes commands in English and Portuguese! He needs plenty of room to play and run as well as a strong pack leader.

I’ve been coaching Stacey on some Alpha training skills to use with him and he’s responding well but still needs a new home!

PLEASE HELP STACEY FIND A HOME FOR HER THREE YEAR OLD PURE BRED WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD, ALI…FREE TO THE RIGHT HOME!

Stacey got a frantic phone call from a friend three years ago saying that she HAD to go see this pure bred white German Shepherd pup who was going to be killed just by the breeder just because he didn’t have perfect ears. Stacey’s big heart which reminds me ever so much of Ava’s, couldn’t stand the thought of a dog being destroyed for such a reason and, without a second thought, took the pup in. She massaged his ears to help them grow straight and loved him unconditionally.

Stacey lived in an apartment complex which was known to have problems and Ali protected her from harm on several occasions just by being in the apartment and letting would-be burglars know of his presence.  After all, that’s what German Shepherds do best…protect and defend…and that’s exactly what he did for the last three years.

Now that Stacey has moved in to live with Mom to help our family, Ali can’t be inside any more sleeping at the foot of Stacey’s bed. He’s outside and adjusted well but there’s no fenced yard and he needs more attention than she can give. Also, Stacey is helping her son take care of her young grandson which Ali tends to play too rough for the little guy.

Even though Ali responds well to authority, structure and exercise , it would not be good for him to be around young children or the elderly.

Ali has just received all his shots for the year and his next vaccinations will be due September 30, 2014. He has the heart worm shot that will be due in March 2014. He also has 7 months worth of flea and tick protection. He has been neutered and he has an active microchip implant and is crate trained (which would come with him).

It hurts her to have to re-home him because she does love Ali.

Alejandro speaks Portugese!

Alejandro speaks Portuguese!

Please contact me via this post or at fromafriend7491@yahoo.com if you or someone you know is interested in helping our family out find the right fur-ever home for Ali.

And, thank you  in advance for your consideration and concerns.

My whole life has been a constant arm wrestle with my brain on paying attention, focusing on focusing, not losing my temper, not taking things personally, searching for the good wrapped around all the bad, and, last but not least, finding peace and unconditional love on the human level.

Me with Mom 1950. She wore this skirt to the store so I could find her. I was always getting lost looking at all the pretty colors on the labels and boxes.

Me with Mom 1950. She wore this skirt to the store so I could find her. I was always getting lost looking at all the pretty colors on the labels and boxes.

My mother is the opposite of me. She was born with all the above. Why is it that we’ve been bound together in this life? Her to teach me all of the above and me to teach her how to let go and play? Who knows, but I do know this, she IS my true definition of unconditional love on the earthly plane.

Any patience I may exhibit here…on earth…is from what she has spent the last sixty-five years teaching me in direct combination with all that life has thrown at me, humbling me to acquiesce.

I know myself better than most people because I have spent a lifetime working on knowing me. At the very impressionable age of nineteen, I was told by some very learned Europeans that earth is where we come to learn and grow. I believed, IF…just IF these learned Europeans were right, I was going to work my ass off to learn from everything thrown at me. Their learned opinions came also at the same time Mom told me to read the book, The Power of Positive Thinking. It only made sense to combine the two efforts and, hence, my daily practice was born.

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

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

I had figured the whole game out by the time I was nineteen! Imagine that! Now all I had to do was practice for the next 16,790 days (not counting Leap Years) just to get to today. But, I still don’t have any patience or good concentration without struggle or anything that might resemble a good caregiver.

It’s taking care of my ninety-three year old mother for more than a few weeks which brings me to my knees and reminds me of my battles…past, present and future.

I love my mother more than I love anyone simply because I’ve lived through so much with her where she has had my back, front, sides, top and bottom. And, if I were capable of doing all I needed to do to attend to her last days, I would if it were not for all the horror I’ve faced in my last 16,790…especially the last 545, give or take a day or two.

See, I do my best healing alone. I like being alone. I’m crowded when I’m not alone especially since Ava’s death. And, as the airlines tell you, “put the oxygen mask on yourself first,” it’s what I must do but with great trepidation and a guilty-yet-not-guilty gut feeling.

So, I’m putting my mom in the hands of professionals who need to understand they have the most precious person in their care .

Well, they probably also should know  it’s been said that the only difference between me and the Incredible Hulk is that I don’t turn green!

Happy Trails (or Trials)!

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.

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 AvasCorner.org. 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.

ZenGarden1*

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.

ZenLookDown

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.

zenFocalPt

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 Avascorner.org 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).

It was wonderful being with my daughter’s dear friend of eighteen years and her precious baby who celebrated her first birthday recently. They live in Florida, and, anytime I’m on the west coast, it gives me a good excuse to go to my favorite beach. I can’t tell you the name because it’ll become my hated beach…too many people will show up and ruin it for me!

Where's Montana? On the beach!

Where’s Montana? On the beach!

As I was drooling over the small black line roads everyone tries to avoid, I found a new treasure. There’s no using the GPS when you’re going back roads. It’s map all the way!

Florida back road through Three Rivers State Park. Ponds loaded with wildlife and  fishing lakes.

Florida back road through Three Rivers State Park. Ponds loaded with wildlife and fishing lakes.

Back roads lined with blooming bright red clover and thistle!

Back roads lined with blooming bright red clover and thistle!

Lily Pads floating lazily in the ponds.

Lily Pads floating lazily in the ponds.

Blooming thistle.

Blooming thistle.

Beautiful Spanish Moss draped oaks and mysterious dwellings tickling one’s imagination about who lives/lived there and where in the world did they work? There’s nothing for miles!

What a view!

What a view!

Then you cross the Georgia State line and the terrain switches to commercial pine thickets and agricultural fields.

Then you cross the Georgia State line and the terrain switches to commercial pine thickets and agricultural fields.

Fields and old houses of a different nature.

Fields and old houses of a different nature.

I've passed by this State Park a million times over the last 45 years of taking back roads to my favorite beach but I'd never taken the time to go to it. This time I did. Kolomoki Mounds was intriguing and I'll go back.

I’ve passed by this State Park a million times over the years of taking back roads but I’d never taken the time to go to it. This time I did. Kolomoki Mounds was intriguing and I’ll go back.

Then civilization! I just love this beautiful south Georgia town. Blakely, Georgia is so very quaint.

Driving by Quail Motel has been part of my back roads experience for over 45 years. I never see cars there!

Driving by Quail Motel has been part of my back roads experience for years. I never see cars there! Bates Motel?

At the red light near Quail Motel looking toward the square in downtown Blakely.

At the red light near Quail Motel looking toward the square in downtown Blakely.

Early County Courthouse in Blakely, Georgia.

Early County Courthouse in Blakely, Georgia completed in 1905.

Early County shows off their history on the side of their downtown buildings.

Early County shows off their history on the side of their downtown buildings.

BkRdsGaSmTwnd4-21-13

And the last thing you see as you leave Blakely, is beautiful roses planted along the sidewalks instead of trees! They were in full bloom!

And the last thing you see as you leave Blakely, is beautiful roses planted along the sidewalks instead of trees! They were in full bloom!

Even though I’ve traversed this route for many years, I never get tired of the quaint small town feel as you weave around the squares and watch the locals chatting as they walk along the sidewalks. It’s just southern and I’ll continue celebrating my history and the joys my parents gave me by taking me on this roads as a child.

Happy trails!

I gotta’ say that I-80 from Nevada to Ohio is either rolling fields of agri crops or huge pasture land for cattle with range of vegetation from scrub to some of the most lush green you’ve ever seen. As you already know, I loved the farms in Iowa and Illinois was similar but not as spectacular.

KOA at Rock Island, Illinois was nice and this was my view from the camper BUT…PLEASE GET DECOY GEESE! The goose poop covered every square inch of my space! Is that why I only paid $30 instead of $45? Really?

Doesn’t it look like Iowa? This wasn’t far from Iowa…as the crow flies…or as I fly! LOL

They scrambled this beautiful farmland with this stuff just like Iowa or was it Nebraska? Which ever, it still looks weird.

Funky lil farms and outbuildings here as there…wherever that was! It’s all a blur now that they all look-alike! Cool picture crooked like it is! LOL

So pretty!

Love old barns…guess you knew that by now tho.

And then…

INDIANA! Notice there are NO pictures of Indiana because there is absolutely NOTHING on I-80 East to take a picture of! It doesn’t matter if you’re driving south to north or west to east…just nothing screams out to my camera. Sorry guys. I couldn’t find one…not even one picture to take in Indiana but the second I crossed over into Ohio, I thought I’d gotten back on the wrong highway again and was in Iowa! The farm houses looked just like the ones there! Incredible!

But first I had to get lost in Michigan which looked a great deal like some of the back roads of Georgia!

Lost in thoughts, I suddenly realized I was in MICHIGAN! WHAT? How did that happen? Oh my  TomTom routed me to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side! LOL Thankfully, I only had to go about six  miles on back Michigan roads to recover. The good news is that I discovered a little piece of Georgia on that back road!

What a pretty little house even if a telephone pole interrupts the view!

This reminds me of some of my favorite back roads which I take going to the Florida panhandle!

THEN OHIO! WHAM! What a contrast to Indiana! Back to the beautiful farm lands of Iowa and Illinois on I-80.

Crooked or not, it’s still beautiful!

The Toll highways surprise this southerner as we don’t have them there. They just don’t seem to be worth the cost. I’m going back roads the rest of the way! Well, maybe not if I-80 doesn’t have a toll for the rest of the way! LOL

 Another thing about Iowa that I meant to mention yesterday is that there is a great deal of construction going along I-80 through Iowa through Illinois and Indiana but the worst part is that there were hundreds of dead deer. So word: DON’T DRIVE AT NIGHT ON I-80 because you’ll either get challenged by the construction or by a deer!

The other part of the story is that my fav Motel 6 has been bought by the company that owns Hilton so I can only hope and pray they get their internet issues corrected where it’s FREE with the room. As the young woman at the front desk said, “It should be free with the room. Heck, even McDonald’s has free internet!” I totally agree especially when it SUCKS as badly as it does in your corporate owned hotels. You franchise units take care of business!

Tomorrow, I’m scheduled to camp at Niagara Falls for the next few days (US side, that is) until crossing the border. I’m so excited! It’s a lifetime dream and this trip is extended because it is a necessity for my sanity since my daughter’s death. I haven’t written about it much because I just can’t do it yet. Just continue to follow me on this healing heart adventure because it feels good knowing my friends are coming along for the ride.

Happy Trails.