Archives for posts with tag: Las Vegas

My life changed forever the minute my son, Carl, disappeared and my then six year old daughter (Ava) told me she thought she was at fault for his disappearance and began talking of suicide. Fifteen years after his disappearance, my son came to me in a dream which lead me to find him. He had been murdered at the time of his disappearance by a Dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department who investigated the murder! Ava’s suicidal tendencies became more frequent…especially after we found out what had happened to Carl.

Ava was successful in her final attempt, as promised, after her estranged husband told her he had a girlfriend and, even after her pleas for him to help her through the transition and warnings that she was suicidal, he chose to ignore the warnings from me and others.

The night Ava died, I was with my mother in the emergency room with my mom…she was dying…too. I was always the closest one to her (and her to me) so I was the only one to take care of both of them. Ava was 2500 miles away. Mom was 100 miles away. I was awakened at 6:00 A.M. to my new horrible truth. Ava was dead. Mom was sick. I was alone in it all.

When I spoke with my therapist about how I felt, I was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. Some of the symptoms were: I felt like I’d had a stroke and couldn’t remember words; I disassociated; I felt as if  my skin had been removed from my body; I couldn’t leave the house for any reason; and when I did, all I wanted to do was scream out, “DON’T YOU PEOPLE KNOW SHE’S DEAD?”

Montana became my lifeline. Literally. She and I are inseparable. She has traveled with me about 90,000 miles over her eight plus years and has been welcomed in hundreds of facilities since her Service Dog status. I’ve only had slight hick-ups but once told of her status, never refused.

I’m on this trip four years after Ava’s death in the hope that I can move another baby step forward with reconnecting with loved ones who live in the West and to see the places Ava and I had visited together as well as find new ones to hold dear with her in my heart. Plus, driving back roads has always been a healing exercise.

Why do I tell you all this? The groundwork for yesterday’s crescendo.

We went to Venice Beach. I hadn’t been there for at least eight years and I wouldn’t have gone had I known how nasty it had gotten. I wouldn’t have put myself, Montana nor my sweet daughter-by-another mother through it.

So many filthy, doped-up homeless people; crowds; confusion; more filth; a thousand bicycles & skateboards aggressively darting to and fro around us tormenting us all but especially Montana; coupled with great re-b0nding, understanding and love.

To end my visit in LA we decided to visit a middle eastern restaurant…Lebanese to be specific. We all walk in…my daugher-by-another mother, her husband, Montana and me. We were told at the door that they would not serve us because of Montana. I quickly corrected their mistake and a learned waiter seated us. The greeter called the owner (I knew that’s what she was doing) and approached us again as she spoke with the owner telling us  we were not welcome in their establishment even though they understood the ramifications of their actions.

When she told us to leave, I refused and said I wanted to speak directly with the owner at which point she handed me the phone. The woman on the other end of the line immediately started shouting in broken English that she did not have to abide by the laws of this country and other things I couldn’t understand. She rattled on incessantly not allowing me to speak and continued to speak.

The owner came to the restaurant and continued in this manner. I finally really lost it when she said, “This is California and I don’t have to let you stay here. I don’t have to abide by this law!”

I replied over her continued rant, “I don’t know what country you’re from but you’re living in the United States and California was made a state in 1850. This is a FEDERAL law you’re violating. I’ll be lodging a complaint which could result in a $10,000 fine against you.”

The owner’s parting words to me were, “You don’t have a disability! Get out!”

I was so shaken that I couldn’t eat. I was nauseous and horribly upset. All I wanted to do is be in my own home…3000 miles away. I knew this could happen because having PTSD is triggered by several very personal things. Could be loud noises, confusion, arguing, and many other triggers. Thank goodness I’d been proactive regarding the possibility of being confronted by this kind of stupidity and booked myself  to stay in a lovely and friendly AirBnB apartment by the PCH or else I wouldn’t have made it back before collapsing in tears for the whole remainder of the night.

It’s only now, over 24 hours after the fact that I can even write about it. I’m not proofing…just writing…puking, actually…the story because, for some reason, I’ve been chosen to TEACH people that just because you don’t SEE the mental imbalance, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! DO YOU ALWAYS SEE CANCER? NO!

NONE OF AVA’S FRIENDS KNEW SHE WAS SUICIDAL SO DID THAT MAKE IT UNTRUE? IS SHE REALLY ALIVE SOMEWHERE? OR IS SHE DEAD?

If you want to help support our website avascorner.org  [Ava’s Corner, Inc., a non-profit public charity & 501(c)3] which I stared after Ava’s death to provide one-stop-shopping for education on mental imbalances and creative coping skills, please share this post so others will benefit from this horrific exercise I experienced. I never chose this path. Quite the reverse…I was chosen. But, if it were my choice…I’d chose to have my daughter back.

Email me if you want the name of the restaurant.

TODAY? I shared some of my story with my new friend…the lady who owned the AirBnB apartment where I stayed. Thanks for listening. You and my closest and dearest helped me get okay so I could drive to Vegas Baby today…swollen eyes, headache, broken heart and all.

These pictures are AFTER the LA cluster expressway nightmares and finally got on I-15 North. Temps from 87 all the way up to 113 degrees!

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The good news? I’m staying with another wonderful daughter-by-another mother! I’m safe with her. She made sure of it before I left by telling me she had my room all ready for me and Montana.

Now I can look forward to seeing more of Ava’s friends and my other Chirrens.

HAPPY TAILS!

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Today is Carl’s birthday.

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

Me me and Carl on his first birthday!

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

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

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

My blue eyed baby…Carl around age 8.

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

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

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

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

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

The last picture taken of the three of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I took these treasures which represented their innocence and hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our first major road trip in 2009 together

Our first major road trip in 2009 together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

Ava singing

Ava singing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

I have said it before and I’ll say it over and over because I’m a break the rules kinda’ girl when it comes to my retirement years…just in case there was some confusion ’bout that! I travel outside the box, write that way and, now, I’ve written a website to help Las Vegas performers and artists of all persuasions to find outlets and resources in a way that everyone says it shouldn’t be! Oh well. I was TOLD how the Home Page  was supposed to look in early April as I drove back to Las Vegas to handle Ava’s final affairs. And, as  I travelled with her small urn to the redwood forest where more was revealed and so forth as we drove through this great country into Montreal and back home again. I have followed very specific instructions. So if any of you web techies go nuts over the design, keep quiet! But if you have a valid point, I’m interested…always! And if you don’t believe in a greater power, you’re just making it harder on yourself than you need to!

So, here’s the latest. As of last weekend, we had no entertainers lined up and, as of today, we’ll be packed with a wide variety of grateful performers and artists all interested in helping to raise awareness of Vegas’s horrific suicide statistics because they have been personally touched by it in their families, friends or co-workers. All it takes is knowledge and perseverence and getting the right help in time.

This website has resources specific to bipolar, borderline personality disorder, the available facilities and other more alternative methods of healing like art, music and yoga therapy and to encourage friends and family not to be afraid of the bright light that MUST be aimed in the dark corners of brain malfunctions of this type because I think the statistics prove out more suicides result from these disorders.

My beautiful daughter wasn’t properly diagnosed as BPD until she met a psychologist, Andy, in late 2005, even though she had been seeing psychiatrist, therapists and psychologists since she was ten. However, the leading psychiatrist who handled Ava’s medications and therapy was treating her for Bipolar because that was easier. That’s my conclusion after interviewing people in the industry who automatically shove BPD’s under the rug as not being treatable. Her doctor was so highly revered in Georgia that we couldn’t get second opinions from anyone after they learned of his involvement. She had to be hospitalized to take her off the cocktail of six meds he had her taking in 2005. She continued to see him when in Atlanta and he continued to give her meds. It was the easy way out. I trusted this learned man. If you’re a parent of a bipolar or BPD child, arm yourself with knowledge. Our website provides that with links to reliable resources of information.

As this fledgling website grows, so will city speciic therapy alternatives but Ava’s Corner can be used now everywhere to work on that learning curve regardless of where you live. But for now, we want to help one family, one person, one life change for the better because of our one-stop-shopping approach to valuable information.

By the way, I’ve been “told” it will go global to buckle my seatbelt. So, watch along with me to see how it goes!

Ava’s Corner, inc. Mission Statement bears repeating:

“Ava’s Corner is a website constructed to encourage healing through creative energy shedding light into the dark corners of mental disorders. Artists of all genres can come to the Avascorner.org forum to voice their suffering through art, music, Videography, photography or poetry.

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

These resources include broad scopes of therapy and self-expression to encourage loved ones to get the help they need.”

Here’s the press release that went out today.

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Donna Friend (404) 313-3707

avascornerorg@yahoo.com

NEW RESOURCE OFFERS HELP, SUPPORT TO CREATIVE PERFORMERS —Singer Elisa Furr, Comedian Penny Wiggins headline Dec. 2 AvasCorner.com Launch Party— Las Vegas, November 27, 2012—

On December 2, AvasCorner.com brings a much-needed suicide prevention resource to Las Vegas’s creative community, and in true Vegas style, the site launch party celebrates the performers it’s designed to support.

The site is the creative labor of Donna Friend, whose daughter Ava Kaufman committed suicide earlier this year in her Vegas home. Like so many performers, Ava—an opera singer, animal activist, and graduate of UNLV—struggled with depression and borderline personality disorder that she hid beneath a confident veneer.

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

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

The website reveal and walkthrough begins at 6 p.m.; come early for appetizers and a jazz ensemble. The entertainment starts at 7 p.m., and features Ava’s friends in the Las Vegas community, including local performers singer Elisa Furr, comedian Penny Wiggins, singer Kelly Vohnn, and musician Charly Urso.

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

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

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

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

Ava’s Corner Logo – her own 1993 art of the lion and the wolf. Both significant to her.

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

 

THE PRESS RELEASE WENT OUT TODAY TO LAS VEGAS AND SURROUNDING AREAS. HERE IT IS:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Donna Friend (404) 313-3707 avascornerorg@yahoo.com avascorner.org

NEW RESOURCE OFFERS HELP, SUPPORT TO CREATIVE PERFORMERS

—AvasCorner.org launches December 2, 2012—Las Vegas, November 16, 2012—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving.

Newborn Ava

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

Ava in the “Mikado” 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trails!

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

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

 

 

The last item on my Vegas-Baby to-do list before leaving to go camping was to  visit  the Bellagio and their Gallery of Fine Art. I get to the Bellagio alright, I just  never  seem to get there at the right time… like when they’re open. So, I made a  plan to  just do it.

The Bellagio is my favorite casino/hotel facility in Vegas-Baby. It has real  uptown  class and it has Chihuly… lots and lots of Chihuly! Who is Chihuly, you  say? Dale  Chihuly is a master of blown glass in art form of world renown. He  takes glass,  adds color and design and makes it art… a poppy field hanging  from a ceiling or  an arrangement in a vase or items floating in water or items  holding water. He has  a remarkable talent.

Here is the poppy field hanging from the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel lobby.

Poppy field hanging fromBellagio Lobby ceiling

Closer view:

Up close and personal

Closer...

really close

Or maybe you’d like the bouquet of Chihuly:

Huge Chihuly Bouquet

Now for the class part. How’s this for a swimming pool? Oops. Can’t see the  pool for the trees? Don’t worry. It’s there and BIG!

Really... there's a pool back there behind all the trees and landscaping.

The Bellagio also has one of the finest atriums ever that they decorate with  different themes representing a holiday, season or event. So far, I’ve seen  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Year of the whatever 2010 was in the Chinese  calendar and whatever this month’s that looked somewhat Americana 1890’s.  It’s more fun to me not really knowing the theme and deciding for myself. You  try it. What do you think?

Ferris Wheel with American Flags hanging everywhere

and the carousel…

see the carousel behind these people gawking at water?

Those people are watching the water jump up out of the pool and slap back  down. I’d rather look at the ferris wheel myself.

I paid my Senior rate to get into the Art Gallery that I’d heard so much about and  was pretty disappointed for my $12.oo fee. They only had 30 pieces of art  ranging from some really good Impressionists to some less impressive “art”.

I’m just sayin’ I get more bang for my buck at real museums that don’t empty into  the photo gallery of a local famous photographer. It’s like they get you “high” on  the more valuable Monet, Chagall art so this photographer’s prices don’t look so  bad. I’m not saying he’s not a good photographer. He is. And, if you fly me  around the world with the equipment he has, i could probably make some pretty  good pictures. Actually, me and my little Canon make darn good pictures going  80 MPH through the windshield, don’t you think? I need to sell some of my  stuffs too!

Tomorrow is packing day. It’s going to be short of a miracle to get my  daughter outta’ town Tuesday morning. Everyone is wanting her to drop by a  party or to see her before she goes and she hasn’t even packed yet and she has to  pack for camping, for Atlanta and for Austria! Oh, did I tell you she’ll be gone  for three months?

Tomorrow should be fun!

Happy Trails!

As a person who likes to move… correction… must move… it’s been quite the test to be still for the last two weeks when I have so much I want to do and see while out west but you know why I’ve been docile… a recalcitrant docile, but docile nonetheless. So, it was a necessity for me to take the day off and break out of the house and the city.

As my only rule is to go to new places, I remembered that I hadn’t every gone to the old Vegas on Fremont Street, to Boulder City near Hoover Dam nor to the Gallery at the Bellagio. It was my intentions to go to all three but I had so much fun in Boulder City that number 3 will have to wait until tomorrow.

Montana and I weren’t too impressed with Fremont Street after we’d driven the length of it and figured we’d come back this way after Boulder City just to see if we just weren’t paying attention. We did notice some kind of pavilion area where some older places still remained but it looked under construction, it was hot and I couldn’t leave Montana in the truck. After all, I had to bring her ’cause she was getting a little stir crazy all the cats jumping around taunting her, poor baby… so many cats to keep up with for one little dog.

My daughter told me when she first moved to Las Vegas that she’d driven around that area and had fallen in love with the small, quaint town with its “dog friendly” residents. So, off to Boulder City near the Hoover Dam we went.

It seems that my body alerts me when nearing high voltage lines and it didn’t fail me today. I started getting that funky mini-panic feeling and pulled over on the side of the road to check my map. Yep. I was getting way too close to the Hoover Dam area instead of in the town of Boulder City. Right when I’d pulled over, I saw Lake Mead. It was absolutely beautiful with the mountain and sky backdrop but was also painful to also see how low the water levels still are. We need some of the water in Louisiana and Mississippi shipped to Lake Mead! Hey! Just build a cross-country pipe to send excess water in the south out west! Oops. I digress.

Lake Mead-white line on opposite bank shows old water line

Lake Mead - See the old water lines on spit of land to the right?

The first time I saw Lake Mead, I was told it was down SIXTY FEET! Now it’s “only” down about 27 feet from full pool. It’s only dropped this low three times since it was built 80-odd years ago. Like I said, pipe it in from the Mississippi River!

Feeling my way away from Hoover Dam so as to not get any closer than I must to take good pictures of the lake, I move in the opposite direction and stumble into this adorable 1950’s town, park Silver and get Montana out to stretch our legs. I don’t know who was happier to get outta’ the truck at this point!

First place we stopped on our walk was a rock shop, of course, called Nature’s Art & Gifts (www.NaturesArtAndGifts.com). It’s widely known that I’m a rock junky and have a wide assortment of rocks from all over the world that my dad collected and gave to me. I also have a rock garden where I “grow” them when the weeds don’t choke them out. Actually, they’re rocks my son and mother collected on their annual trip west when he was between the ages of  5 and 10. I can’t tell you how precious they are to me.

As Montana and I stood drooling over the outdoor display, Judy, who worked inside, came out and invited both of us in! You coulda’ knocked me over with a feather. Judy and I instantly became best friends. I told her that I write about my travels and, as I was talking, Judy recognized the parched voice of an easterner’s dry throat and promptly handed a cup of water to me and a bowl for Montana.

Then, I was telling my new best friend, Judy, about my daughter’s journey to Austria to study at an intensive opera workshop and Judy remembered my daughter coming to see her three years before! Sure enough, my girl went to the same store, made friends with Judy and told her she had just moved to Las Vegas to study at UNLV! I couldn’t believe it so I whipped out my handy dandy photo of Ava and sure ‘nuf, Judy said that was the same young lady. How ’bout that, folks. There was no way I wasn’t gonna’ buy something from Judy at this point!

Judy then tells me about this rock that’s good for the throat Chakra and I’m sold. I spend the loveliest time in that shop digging for treasures and Judy helped me find all the rocks Ava needs to take with her to Austria to help her with Chakra kinda’ thangs.

Boulder City central-Nature's Art & Gifts on left past Ace Hardware

Montana and I crossed the street aiming for more “shiny” objects to get distracted by when Montana saw a cow! She got so excited that I just had to stop and take her picture with it.

"Is that cow still looking at me?

Then we came across a gypsy who could tell our fortunes.

Local psychic

Then we came across a lovely little sidewalk cafe called Milo’s Cellar (www.MilosCellar.com) which also has an inn (www.MilosInn.com). I wasn’t sure Montana would be welcome but shoulda’ known I was in a good place. The waitress signaled to me to come on over to a table and promptly and without solicitation brought Montana a cool bowl of water.

Milo's Cellar Sidewalk Cafe

I recommend the fresh brewed tea, “Tuscany” sandwich with potato salad. It was all very fresh and the view wasn’t too bad either. The guy sitting across the sidewalk from me looked like Paul Newman AND his cowboy boots were dirty (yeah baby) AND he was drinking wine with his lunch! Too cool.

can you see Paul Newman?

Montana had complained about having to be good while I ate so we had to get movin’ on down the road. We talked it over and we decided to give Freemont Street another chance and I’m glad we did. It’s funny how you see things differently… going vs. coming.

Vegas-Baby circa 1950's

Yippee! Looks like Roy Rogers and Trigger!

Talk about a big stiletto!

Talk about a B-I-G Stiletto!

What strange looking show girl

As I approached Las Vegas Boulevard, I’d realized that I’d never driven the length of it so that was our next and last phase of our day adventure… driving in traffic for miles through areas I wasn’t sure I should be in with the windows down to the magnificence of the current “strip”. It was still early enough in the day to not be in the bumper car fiasco that often happens at night in this area and also to be able to clearly see the buildings around me and not have them get lost in all the bright lights.

One set of buildings stood out… Encore:

Encore!

So, I leave it all with you tonight… my whole day adventure. Tomorrow I’m going to the Bellagio to see the Gallery. That’s another thing I never quite make happen when I’m here and it’s happening tomorrow!

Happy Trails!