Archives for posts with tag: journaling

We explored a new section of the Jedediah Smith Redwood Forest today. It’s a one lane dirt road, and at times, barely wide enough for your car to fit between the redwoods! It’s a magnificent old growth area which has obviously withstood fire, pestilence and people for at least a thousand years. Let’s just pray it’ll be around another thousand if we don’t screw it all up with pollution, politics and people!

One of my favorite pictures from today is of course a burl piece resembling an orangutan! Maybe it looks like something else to you! Take a gander!

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Jenni will post the video from today’s drive on FB as WP seems to always give me heartburn when I try to upload it through here…probably because I haven’t upgraded from the “free” version as yet!

Our adventure began at the “Trees of Mystery” shop where we found Sasquatch and an authentic Indigenous Peoples (you may refer to them as Native Americans) museum. It was quite an impressive collection for such a small town!

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So, here are the still shots of the redwoods from today!

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Where’s Montana? She’s in the redwood forest!

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Conjoined triplets at the base with a twisted sistah in the middle! LOL

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Rare sighting of the Banana Slug! This one is a baby compared to the one I saw in this forest 20 years ago!

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Looks like an eagle with its wings spread. What does it look like to you?

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Nothing goes unused in the forest! Note that this young redwood germinated and is growing from a fallen one along with all the ferns in the next photo!

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Same fallen tree as the one immediately above!

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HAPPY TAILS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY TAILS!

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

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

Carl on the war path!

Carl on the war path circa 1973!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Teepee where these historians reside during the Festival

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

Outdoor primitive cooking for sure!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

Me after my sound/music healing with new friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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).

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.

Even though both my children are deceased, the mothering instinct, although weak at the beginning for me, became stronger than death through the daily practice over forty-six years of hands-0n caring, nurturing and loving another human being. It’s become so involuntary that it spews from your soul in turrets-like spontaneity directed at strangers and loved ones alike. I refuse to apologize for it. It is what it is.

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

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

I loved both of my children in their uniqueness. Both of them had a wonderful sense of humor, loved to have a good time, had an innate artistic talent which still baffles me and possessed a sensitivity to the world which made it hard for him to stay around long.

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.

Ava loved animals more than anything else. She even saved spiders from the bottom of my shoe. If she knew I was in hot pursuit of a spider, she'd run in, collect it and set it free outside.

Ava loved animals more than anything else. She even saved spiders from the bottom of my shoe. If she knew I was in hot pursuit of a spider, she’d run in, collect it and set it free outside.

Did I screw up in my raising him? Absolutely. Did I learn from those mistakes? Absolutely. Would I do anything differently? Absolutely. Will I love him forever? Absolutely. He was my son and there will never come a day when hearing someone talk about “their son” doesn’t cause me pain in my soul because my boy is gone. So gone that I don’t “hear” from him any more. It’s been 28 years with a count in a million seconds since he disappeared.

Although it’s been only a year since Ava left…it’s counted in milli-seconds. After all, we were connected at the hip from her birth to her death. We had an umbilical-telepathic connection which I’ve only felt with one other person in my life…my mom. We’ve been able to communicate transatlantic, transpacific or trans-life. Although she’s been quiet these last few days, I know she’s still around because when I ask Montana, “Where’s Ava?” she always looks toward the same corner (usually over my right shoulder) toward the ceiling where she first “appeared” a few months ago when my daughter-by-another-mother, Stacey, was up here visiting.

I still see her in her Rainbow Bright costume for her “Moving to Vegas party” in 2008 because she was such a fun-loving, child-at-heart blessing in my life.

Ava Rainbow Bright 2008

Ava Rainbow Bright 2008

I’m working hard on staying focused on my 92+ year old mom’s day but couldn’t help but digress into my own space while she napped…watching “Guarding Tess.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Trails!

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.

 

 

As promised, Sautee, Georgia was my next Georgia back roads stop. I do have my favorites as I’m so not a shopper. Actually, I hate shopping but what I do like is seeing other artists with their talents displayed in a store with price tags on them.

Art, you see, comes in all shapes, sizes, styles, languages, media and methods. Music is an art that holds very few choices of notes but an endless supply of combinations,genre, rhythms, intensity, chaos, synergy, synchronization and style. As does sculpting, painting, carving, turning, throwing and turbulence.

For the size of the area, the junction of  a T-bone, back road intersection of two little known highways (255 and 17), it never ceases to amaze me, lo’ these last 10 years or more, how it holds jewels of art.

Old Sautee Store is the backbone of this small but growing community of stores.

Old Sautee Store, Sautee, GA

Old Sautee Store, established 1872 (www.oldsauteestore.com), has the absolute best Farmer Cheese on the planet. Farmer Cheese is a mild, tasty white cheese that’s fabulous with grapes, apples, crackers and wine. Yum. It also has some handsome Grog to be served with their ginger cookies, of course.

Shelves stocked with items from yesteryear.

When you walk into the front door, you’re reminded instantly of Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons. This general store was at a critical juncture for all who needed dry goods or tinctures in the late 1800’s living in this ancient Native American community. Old Sautee Store holds authentic treasures of the past with shelves stocked with products from days of old. It’s the charms of yesterday that beckon you to delve deeper into this quaint store.

Outside again, you are invited to have a snack or a delicious lunch inside the Deli inside Old Sautee Market which brings to mind an era of grass-covered roofs of the old country.

Old Sautee Market (and Deli)

Shapiro’s always promises a display of some of the finest artisans’ (local and not) wares of both the unique and challenging varieties. From delicate, unique hand-crafted jewelry to a huge moose sculpture made from wheel hubs and steel, this shop is one of my all time favorites. It’s always a surprise when you go inside!

Shapiro's at Sautee, GA

A peek inside Shapiro's.

My next stop is always to see my friends at Prairie Trails (706-878-8284). Fred Tinsley is always engaging and knowledgeable in the fine arts of Native American cultures. He is deeply steeped in their art, history and lives as he travels around to various reservations to collect only the finest items for sale in his shop.

Prairie Trails at Sautee, GA

As you can see, there is not only a fine display of Native jewelry but also music, weaponry, Kachinas, pottery, knives, drums, leather goods and other paraphernalia.

Fred Tinsley, proprieter

Next stop in this little area, all within easy walking distance from each other, is Sweetfield Mountain Company to meet Judy Hancock (706-878-3555).

Sweetfield Mountain Company, Sautee, GA

At Sweetfield, they have an eclectic variety of clothing, leather accessories, jewelry and home decor featuring favorites from Brighton and Pendleton as well as from local artists.

Judy at Sweetfield Mountain Merchandise in Sautee, GA

After leaving Sautee, my favorite easy and most breath-taking hike is just down the road a bit on my way home. It’s a little known place called Minnehaha Falls in the Seed Lake area of Rabun County.

Minnehaha Falls, Rabun County, GA

Full view of Minnehaha Falls

Now, it was time to get back to the cabin and crank up for the first day of our annual family reunion.

Happy Trails!

We’ve had the best time in this sleepy little mountain town visiting friends and getting to know the quaint town of about 150,000 they call home. Roanoke Virginia is a mixture of mountains, valleys, old buildings and houses with some new blood.

Yesterday, we had breakfast at Thelma’s Chicken & Waffles (www.thelmaschickenandwaffles.biz 540-343-8888) in downtown Roanoke. Not only was the food amazing but the lady who served us made the whole experience that much more wonderful. The sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her face framed her fabulous energy. The cost was reasonable. Because it was Sunday morning, the place was packed and we ended up being there longer than planned but it was all good.

Issac’s Mediterranean Restaurant (theisaacsrestaurant.com) is one of the best of its kind. I haven’t had better Gyro… ever. The meat was fresh,tender, tasty and juicy. The sautéed kale was the best as was the Vegi Plate. Big recommendation.

Next, we stopped at Local Roots (localrootscafe.com) to try their Cherry-Tini martini-type drink made with fresh squeezed cherry juice, vodka and other good stuff.

The last stop was to see “Midnight in Paris”. The theater reminded me of a mini-Fox Theater in Atlanta. Nice atmosphere and a not-t00-complicated movie with great company.

We headed home via the Blue Ridge Mountains down I-81. The lush vegetation was a pleasant relief to all the vast arid areas I’d just been in for the last month. My daughter and I felt like our skin was sucking up all the moisture in the air like a fish gasping for oxygen when it’s outta’ water.

Blue Ridge Mountains I-81

GREEN!

Then you get into North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains come alive!

North Carolina Blue Ridge View

North Carolina

As my home is nestled in northeast Georgia between North and South Carolina, I’m a little partial to the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain views. Just sayin’!

Happy Trails!