Black & White

There is a challenge going around on Facebook. Seven Photos for seven days. Each day you post a black and white picture from your daily life, with no explanation. No kids, no pets.

Today I was nominated to participate. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t just do it myself… I wanted to do it, I “liked” every post that I saw (that was participating) in hopes that someone would nominate me. I think it’s kinda funny that it happened today because the writing prompt for today was identity.

I’ve struggled for a long time with the concept of identity and actually, with the concept of black and white thinking (all or nothing- either/or vs both/and) so to get both of those things on the same day… I knew I had to post.

For a few years, “photographer” was a big part of my identity. Not nearly as long as “writer” but I almost took more pride/joy in the role of photographer. As a writer, fear got in my way so much… I was afraid to write. I was afraid to submit anything anywhere. Once I finally did, when I wound up with a rejection, it was paralyzing. The worst time being, I’d quit writing for almost a year. I was miserable. With photography though, it was instant gratification. Pictures were digital, parents were happy, I felt accomplished. Plus, I met some really cool people.

And then it happened. Whatever “it” was or is. The problems with my back. And my legs. The fibromyalgia, the chronic fatigue. I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t think I could go back to it either. Not as a job, anyway. But it was nice to go out and do something fun, snap a photo and be able to post it.

Thank God I’m back to my writing!

The “feature photograph” is the one I took and posted on Facebook. What do you think?

 

I’m Sorry, I Stink

Seriously. So bad. It started in my car.

Yesterday I took Tayla to school. When I unlocked the car and opened the door, I was about knocked on my ass. The stench of rotten eggs wafted out.

“Where is that coming from?” Tayla asked.

“I don’t know. Dad probably farted, then slammed the door shut and let it bake for us…”

We got in and I rolled the windows down and let it go.

But the stink didn’t leave.

I wondered if something was wrong with the car, or maybe I ran over a skunk and it was caught on something under the car…

So when I was done with my errands for the day, I parked next to the dumpster and started to investigate.

Immediately I found the culprit. Last Wednesday, Don’s mom sent him home with a big bowl of spaghetti. Guess who forgot about it?

I chuck it and figure that’s the end of it.

Nope.

Today, Don took Tayla to school and when he got home he said “Your car smells so bad that when Tay and I opened the doors, we both puked.”

“Seriously? You BOTH puked in my car?”

“No, just outside. It was instantaneous…”

“I threw away the spaghetti…”

Later in the day, we have to go to Mary’s to take care of the cat. I start walking toward my car (cue horror movie music) and my stomach starts to tighten. I reached out a trembling hand and pulled the door open.

“Sweet baby Jesus, wtf died in here?!”

“I told you it was bad” Don said.

“Yeah, but it was bad yesterday…”

“I got it. I found out what it was. It wasn’t the spaghetti. Remember Friday when we went to Hy-Vee and bought that frozen rotisserie chicken? It fell out of the bag and under the seat.”

“FRIDAY?! It’s Wednesday! It’s been in the 80’s!”

“Now you know why it stinks.”

I have NEVER in my LIFE smelled anything as heinous as rotting chicken. It smelled like a slaughterhouse full of diseased cattle. It smelled like Satan’s burnt asshole. It smelled like maggot riddled intestines…

I thought I was going to puke… I had to breathe through my mouth for awhile. Then, I made him stop at every gas station we passed so I could buy more air fresheners. The first place we stopped, I ran in and asked the two cashiers “what is the strongest scent you have?” They both pointed to the “Black Ice”. I told them I’d take two. As I was reaching for my wallet though, I had second thoughts.

“What if this smells worse?”

“Worse?!” Don looked at me incredulously. “It cannot possibly smell worse”.

“I mean, what if it’s scented with black licorice… I hate black licorice…” but the thought of getting back in the car, having passed up the opportunity to even TRY anything different wasn’t going to fly.

I grabbed the two Black Ice air fresheners and headed back out into the heat. I approached the car cautiously as if it were a feral animal, ready to pounce. I grabbed the door handle and notice a man walking into the gas station. He’s a big guy. Like a football player, he was wearing a Viking’s jersey too. He passed me right about the time I was opening the door and as soon as I did, it was like he walked into a glass wall. His head snapped back real fast like he’d been slapped and was turning around to see who did it. Since no one was within slapping distance, he just eyed me suspiciously and shook his head quickly, trying to shake off the vile encounter.

I got back into the mobile death trap trying to make the lemonade out of these very rotten lemons.

“Hey, we could stop the war! Save the soldiers, we can just drive this down the dirt road with the windows down and they’ll drop like flies!’

We cracked a few jokes, tried to ignore the stench that’d had only grown with the air fresheners (in case anyone is wondering, it’s not black licorice, it smells like a dude who took a bath in cologne) and my perfume that Don had sprayed vigorously before I got in… I had to hit him for that. He does it at home too… instead of changing the cat litter, he sprays my perfume… Hello? I’d like to wear that again and not think of cat shit…

My final thing of the day was to meet Ryan and my mom for coffee to celebrate Natalie’s sober date.

I was feeling good about going, I wasn’t too late and then, I was horrified. The car smell had permeated my clothes and purse! OMG. No one said anything but it wasn’t long before the odor reached from my t-shirt to my nostrils and I had to get out of there! Actually, I had to be home before Tayla went to bed because she has to get up early for school… but ugh.

Gross. So, if anyone has to see me within the next couple of days to a week- I’ll probably reek. I’m sorry!

Natalie’s On My Mind

I don’t know if she’s here because I’ve been thinking about her so much or I’ve been thinking so much about her that she’s here… It doesn’t matter I guess.

It probably has a lot to do with the writing I’ve been doing. The sister piece last week and dealing with her loss for another project due Friday…

I had a dream about her last night. I don’t think it was a visit. It didn’t feel like one. I saw her, I hugged her, I yelled at her for making us all worry ourselves sick. Turns out she’d been lost in an oil field for 14 months (???) I cried so hard with relief and then, Justin (my brother) went missing. Once I noticed Justin was gone, Natalie was gone again too.

When I woke up, I had that moment or two of not knowing what was going on and that fleeting feeling that she was still here. I actually told my brain to keep it down because if I was allowed to fully think out that thought, I’d know it wasn’t true and I couldn’t pretend. Ugh.

Last night we didn’t go anywhere to see fireworks. Tayla didn’t care that much and I’m not dealing with traffic and mosquitos for myself. Don was actually home, I don’t remember the last year the three of us were together. We were watching Spongebob when the noise got SO LOUD. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw flashes of light. I went out onto the deck and we basically had a front row seat. There was a line of trees but there was a dip in the middle, right where the fireworks were! They were beautiful. I even saw a few red hearts! I’ve never seen those before… and there were four. Not all at the same time but still…

Today we continued to pack. We did the front hall closet today which was filled with jackets and vests of Nat’s. Tayla and I tried them on and boxed them up. I can’t bear to part with them yet. Not even the ones that don’t fit either of us or neither of us would wear. There was a wave of sadness.

Onto my desk… I have a corkboard attached to my desk and a lot of pictures hanging up. I started to unpin them and put them in a photo album. Flipping through the pictures, there were more of Nat and me as little girls than I remembered… Another wave.

A song on the radio. An old card she’d sent. Memories. Wave after wave. I couldn’t get away from it. Even when we went to Don’s mom’s house. “Johnny Dangerously” was on TV. She loved that movie and we would quote it a lot.

God, I miss her so much.

I’m supposed to write about persisting and overcoming and I feel like a hypocrite whenever I start to write. I don’t feel like I’m overcoming this grief. I wonder every day if this will be the day and get swept up in the waves and carried away… I am persisting, I guess. I don’t feel very triumphant but I probably never will. Not when it comes to this grief. I’ll never overcome it or get over it… I’ll just have to continue living with it. Hopefully. it will lessen. I’m sure it won’t ever go away and I don’t really want it to.

“Grief can only live where love lived first”.

Acme’s Funniest Person Contest

Many of you know that last night I participated in Acme’s Funniest Person in the Twin Cities Contest. This is my third year entering and I’ve got to say, I LOVE it. I love Acme. I love the stage, the people, the crowd, the atmosphere… The headlining comedian last night said that being on the Acme stage was a dream come true. Some people laughed, even though I’m not sure he was joking… maybe but I didn’t laugh. It is a dream come true. This stage has hosted some of the hottest comedians today. Lewis Black, Arj Barker, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan and Louis C.K., not to mention two of my favorites: Chad Daniels and Jenny Zigrino. So, yes, standing where they stood? It IS a dream come true. Next dream? Stand on that stage and get paid. But, that’s a ways off, I know. Something to strive for, right?

Yesterday was a difficult day. I woke up not feeling well. Physically I ached. I was tired and sore. Mentally, I felt unprepared. Unfunny. Unworthy. I texted my best friend Shar, “I don’t want to go tonight. Not feeling well.” She asked what the real reason I didn’t want to go was and I told her. She did her due diligence, assuring me I am funny. I am good enough and she loves me, despite how I may feel about myself.

I went over and over my routine. Timing it, deciding I didn’t like it. Changing it. Timing it. Changing it. On and on… before I knew it, it was time to go.

Ugh, no matter how many times I do this, I get scared sick. I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t concentrate or sit still or listen…

I met the three other contestants. One guy, Josh, it was his 4th year entering the FPC. I believe it was Brandon’s second year, it was Brian’s first year and my third. Everyone was really nice. Brandon especially. He was quirky behind the curtain, funny in front of the mic and an all around encouraging person. I was definitely ok with losing to him!

So I didn’t win my night, but I had fun … a lot of laughs and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my score was high enough to make it to the top 25 and I’ll advance to the semi-finals in August!

Oh, I almost forgot! Natalie was there too. We parked behind a car whose license plate read HELLO. I thought “Um, hi” whoever you are… Then, in the bathroom, there was a door in the back. It looked like it had said Natural Disaster Shelter or something like that but the sticker had been ripped and now just said Nat. The final (because they come in 3’s) was when I was telling Don about the signs and I looked up and Shar and my mom were standing on either side of the parking spot 444. (A sign that angels are around)!

Oh Look, More Growth (gag)

Two steps out of Darlene Merchant’s office I thought:

“Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why do I keep coming here when I know it will rip me…”

“Because” I interrupted “you know it helps”.

I lost my argument and won, I guess.

I had another Accelerated Resolution Therapy session today.

It had been awhile but I remembered exactly where we’d left off.

Each of us experienced an individual loss of Natalie. I lost a sister, my parents lost a daughter, so many people lost a friend… I think all of us were so in shock, I don’t remember hugging anyone. Except for Enid, right when I walked in the door. In the ART session, I needed a family hug. I needed to honor the loss of a family member, not just a sister but our entire family dynamic was forever changed. There was now a huge hole in our five person family.

So today we processed what happened once we got to LaSalle Apartments. It was the most agonizing wait. I can already feel my chest tighten, just thinking about it. What a contrast… it was a gorgeous day, the building was bright, clean and classic.

I remember sitting and holding myself. Pacing. Wondering what the fuck was taking so looong.

It was a nice conference room, big enough to accommodate all 10 of us. Room to roam but every second spent not talking to anyone who knew what was going on… It felt like my skin was on fire. I was fully awake, alive and still burning in Hell.

Finally, the Medical Examiner came to speak to us. Asked about her medical history etc.

It was when the detectives took my parents up to see Natalie for the last time that I lost it. It’s when reality set in that I would never see her again. Not the way I remembered her.

How we’ve been doing the ART in my sessions, is I go through the scene in my mind a couple of times. I do some body scans, notice what I’m feeling. Sometimes I sit with it then try to move it, other times I just move on to the “director’s scene”. I knew I was ready to move on because the director tried to jump in at every chance.

Here’s what happened once I “re-wrote the scene”.

Jessica let me into the apartment. I started yelling at the M.E. and the cops to get out. Just GET OUT. Once they were gone, I laid down on the bed with her. I held her. I cried into her hair. I told her I was sorry. When I looked up, Justin was on the bed too. The three of us held hands. At this point, I know my brain was tired and overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do because I saw my parents near the bed but they were like holograms. They were flickering, like I wasn’t sure if they should be there or it should just be us siblings. I ran through a quick log of memories, of the three of us. At the cabin, on vacation, when Justin was just a little guy…

God, it hurts.

Then I was down in the conference room. The M.E. started to name “the name of the deceased is…”

I flew towards him.

“Stop! Just stop.” I clamped my hand over his mouth.

“Not today. Don’t do this today. We need just one more day.” I told him.

By now I was sobbing.

We did a body scan and at first, I saw myself trying to push this mountain of grief away. It wouldn’t budge. I heard Nat laughing.

“You won’t get it to go that way,” she said.

Clouds appeared and parted. Sun rays came down, spilling onto the pile of unimaginable sadness and melted it. It looked like lava but quickly cooled and turned into a river.

We ended, as we always do, going across the bridge. Towards grandma’s fountain.

I started with my hospital blanket (because of the rough texture) around my shoulders and I leaned over the bridge to feed some koi fish. It was peaceful.

When I was ready, I finished crossing the bridge, taking my seat in front of the fountain. I tipped my head back, indulging in the slight breeze that blew before the sun set and the multi-colored lights of the fountain came on.

I felt almost… content. There was still a sadness. Originally, my body had felt heavy. Tired. Weighed down. Now, I was still tired but not in the same way. I was exhausted from feeling and working. I felt sad, but like the first few layers of lead had been lifted.

I’m not really looking forward to going back next week but I know I will.

I know I will and it will help.

 

Me Time

It’s been a rough couple of days. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of losing Noah and today marks 11 months since Natalie passed.

Yesterday morning I woke up with tears in my eyes and reached for “Noah” (the reborn doll) and held him. I rocked him and rubbed his back while tears silently slipped away.

I looked over at Don, still in a dead sleep and I rested Noah on his chest, trying to remember what it looked like when Tayla was that tiny…

I indulged in my grief for a few more minutes and then got ready to start the day.

I had an appointment with the endocrinology department to follow up on my diabetes.

The nurse took me back to a room and asked if I wanted to have my A1c drawn. (The A1c is a blood test that measures what percent of glucose, or sugar has bonded to your blood cells. It changes every 3 months and I was told if I got it down to seven percent before I got pregnant, it would be like I wasn’t diabetic at all.)

“It’s only been three weeks” I told the nurse.

“So do you want to skip it? Shey said to leave it up to you…”

I thought about it for a moment before replying.

“I HAVE been kicking tons of ass these past three weeks, let’s check it!”

Why I volunteered to have myself poked again when I know damn well I have to do it to myself seven more times throughout the day is beyond me.

She pricked my finger and took my meter to download all the information and told me Shey would be with me shortly.

A couple of minutes later, she knocked on the door as she walked into the room.

“Did she tell you?” Shey asked

“Tell me what?”

“Your A1c, it changes and in what takes people three months to do, you have done in three weeks. You have dropped an entire percentage point! You need to find something really nice to do for yourself… this is great work. Some women get pedicures, others get flowers…”

I cut her off.

“I can have flowers or I can have cats” I told her.

Later that night I went to my group, it was good to be around people even though I didn’t feel very social. Sometimes anything is better than being alone with my thoughts.

“One down, one to go” I thought as I readied for bed.

I woke up this morning thinking about her. It was a thought I’m pretty sure I’ve had before, but this morning I felt it.

“God, I am so lucky to have had Nat in my life. Such a phenomenal person… I’m so thankful to have had what time I did with her.”

I actually did a double take, you know, to see who the fuck was thinking these almost foreign words… then, as cheesy as it sounds? I felt my heart smile. I felt at peace. It lasted only a minute as the flood of other memories came frantically on top of one another, all fighting for their 15 minutes but I did wonder how much of it had to do with the A.R.T therapy.

On top of it being the 11 month anniversary, it’s a damn dreary day… so, I decided what I wanted to do for myself and thought it also was something Nat would like too.

I went back to Empire Beauty School and had my hair done. I also listened to The Steve Miller Band, The Joker, and heard Nat sing along like she used to do-

“Cause I’m a picker, I’m a grinner
I’m a lover, and I’m a sinner
I play my music in the sun
I’m a joker, I’m a smoker
I’m a midnight toker
I sure don’t want to hurt no one”

“Well don’t you worry, don’t worry, no don’t worry mama
Cause I’m right here at home”

Sometimes when I think about her too much, I want to just hurry up through life and be done with it so I can be with her again… and as much as I miss her and how much it hurts, another song comes to mind…

See You Again.

Why did I just do that to myself?!?!? If you have kleenex nearby and want a good cry, check out the video above. It has the lyrics posted that that’s what broke me. Momentarily.

So, what did I do with my hair? Oddly enough, I was excited to get it back to my “normal”, natural, boring (no crazy colors) color with a few highlights. Again, they did a fantastic job! Really happy with the results!

shareFromBeautyPlus

Not the greatest pic but good enough, dammit. And good enough is kinda what I’ve been going for… so… NAILED IT.

It’s Time

via Daily Prompt: Nervous

It’s time. Not to let go per se, or even move on… it’s just time to get back into what I was doing before Noah, before Natalie.

Specifically, it’s time for me to get back into comedy. I did my one stand up act at Acme in June and haven’t been anywhere since.

Prior to that, I’ve done open mic nights at Acme Comedy Club, Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy and The Joke Joint. I made it my new year’s resolution to get out at least once a month to do comedy. Nope, not yet.

I’ve been going back and forth, do I want to do this? I am even capable of doing this? It would be good to swing back to the lighter side but nothing even feels funny… So, maybe I have to act opposite my depression and get out there anyway. Do I wait until I feel better to call a friend or do I call a friend and then feel better?

Getting back into writing comedy has been in the back of my mind, not the way back but further than it should’ve been. Until yesterday. I got an email from House of Comedy at the Mall of America. They are running their “Funniest Person with a Day Job” contest.

I thought, ok, here’s that little nudge I need to get me going. I went to the website to sign up and found there is an application process! I’ve never had to do that before. Usually, I submit my name and they email me back with a date and time, that’s it.

This application wants me to describe my act, tell them what makes me different than other performers, let them know of any needs upfront… I don’t know. It just felt daunting. Surprising. I thought about it for a day and about half an hour ago, I submitted my application.

Now for the fun part: ready, get set, WAIT!

The Ride of My Life

This is a true story that I wrote a few years ago… I’m posting it now because this blog could use a little lightening up…

Some people who have read it before have said “it’s a little over the top, don’t you think?”

Of course it is! I wrote it! Have you met me??? Yes, it’s dramatic and over the top and intended to be that way… sarcasm isn’t always a bad thing…

Enough of the disclaimer.

“You. On a roller coaster. By yourself. Uh huh.” Admittedly, it was not one of my better mothering moments, but we were at THE MALL OF AMERICA and in that type of environment, my sanity is scarce. I remembered the last time we were here. The safety bar came down on my lap and cut off my circulation. A rickety ride jerked me every direction. I got nauseous. She looked up at me with hopeful eyes, steadfast in her resolve to ride. I looked at her, seeing only the end result: wasted time, screaming kids, long lines and me, having to find a way to calm her down and lead her back through the mass of humanity.

“We don’t have enough points for that ride.”

“We could buy more…”

“I don’t want to throw money away.”

“You won’t. I PROMISE.”

I’m not positive, but I think I may have huffed and stomped my feet all the way to the ticket counter, trading my her fit for my own.

We took our place in the “line ride”. It wove us around and through a damp, humid cave for a good half hour before we could see the light and the large puddles of water from the other side. It was unbearable. I had to do something to take my mind off the invisible war between too much cologne and not enough deodorant. I don’t know who was winning but everyone with a sense of smell was losing.

As we neared the front of the line and got further from the cave, I gasped for fresher air. I filled my lungs with the slightly less offensive stench of chlorine and disinfectant. I also noticed her sliding backward slowly. There were only a few people ahead of us now. There would surely be enough room for her on the next run.

The Log Chute. What kind of name is that anyway? When I hear that, the last thing I think of is fun… Riding on a hard seat, listening to the gears turn as you get higher and higher, the sensation of my own mortality presenting itself to me in a 4 foot drop and to top it off, getting drenched? Pass.

The water ride ground to a sloshing stop in front of us.

I turned around; expecting to see Tayla inching back toward the cave we’d just escaped and found she wasn’t there. Panicked, I spun around and caught sight of her standing right on top of that bright, yellow line. She looked nervous … and determined.

“Ok, you don’t have to go on the ride…” I didn’t say this out loud, I guess I was too stunned to say anything. Before my maternal instincts kicked in, a minimum wage, underage ticket taker had her in his grips! How qualified was this kid? He saw an obviously confident and eager kid, at the front of a line and just ushered her into the first available seat! Right in front of her mother! Shouldn’t he have at least inspected every seat to be sure she got the safest and the driest? Within the space of a minute, the log had emptied and refilled to capacity while I stood by, mouth agape and frozen in disbelief as my baby was basically kidnapped by a clearly power crazy ticket scanner and button pusher. She was whisked away on a certainly fatal last ride.

I don’t even think she looked back. Not a care in the word or the faintest understanding that 90 seconds from now, life would never be the same.

About the time she was almost completely out of sight, my speaking ability returned. Oh my God. Oh my God. It started out as a mutter then grew with increasing intensity. Frantically I turned to people for help. I saw a dizzying circle of people surrounding me. The offered sympathetic smiles and heads nodded in agreement. “No! Stop smiling and nodding! It’s not ok! She’s never done anything like this before in her life!” Sickening images barraged me as the tightly corralled waves smashed against the faux wooden logs of the disaster bound.

Was she scared? Of course she was, she had to be, right? Oh God. What if she is so scared, she tries to climb out? She’s a tiny girl, surely capable of slipping out of the sturdiest of restraints. She’d see how close she was to the solid, non-moving cave rock and underestimate the jump. She probably slip in a stupid puddle and get run over by the very ride she’d just gotten off… My imagination had also gone off the track as I tried to envision how I was going to explain to mall security that is wasn’t so much a missing person as missing pieces of a person. A macabre treasure hunt it would be. A swing from another ride caught my peripheral vision and I nearly gagged as I was sure I’d just seen an arm or a leg unattached fly through the air. I watched for the ride water to run red. Tunnel vision was taking over. Thousands of pins pricked my eyes, serpents swam in my stomach and air clung to my lungs.

“Mom! Mom!” I heard. Oh God, I’m already hearing her voice from the other side! It was true. While I was still facing the open tunnel through which she had disappeared, the ride had come full circle and she was behind me. Bright eyed, excited and most importantly, in one piece.

I hadn’t yet moved to the exit side of the ride and this was no time for protocol. I cut through an empty seat and grabbed my very brave girl. I cried as I held her close.

“Mom?” she asked.

“Yes” I thought. Whatever it is, yes…

“Can I go again?” She asked with a wink.

End the Epidemic Expo- Recap

Oh shiitake mushrooms… (My way of saying I messed up on Sunday and I’m sorry, see how much shorter it can be?)

I started this blog six months ago and have written faithfully, twice a week. I did it when Noah died. On Mother’s Day. Right after Natalie died. What could have possibly kept me from the practice that I hold so dear?

Disappointment. Sounds pretty lackluster but I assure you, it was a SPECTACULAR disappointment.

I’ve spent the past several days looking for my spin doctors. After spending the better part of three months pushing myself to get this “End the Epidemic” Expo going, I’d expected big things. Or, at least bigger things.

Here’s how the day played out:

Saturday a.m. I am up and moving by 6:00. I type out a very rough draft of the timeline for the days’ events. I am a little panicky about the open slot from 4:00-6:00 but overall, impressed by how much came together.

Call from dad.

“Can you swing by the shop and pick up the little table and chairs that sit outside? Mom wants them for her tarot reading.”

There is some finalizing of details and the enlightenment that we don’t have to wait until 10:00 or 10:30 to start setting up.

“Great! I’ll see if Justin can help with that part then.”

A little time goes by and there is a follow up call.

“Ang has got a ton of stuff. My car is packed. I can’t fit one more thing inside. Can you find out if someone is coming over to help haul the rest of the stuff? I think Barb was going to help out…”

I call Barb. Voicemail.

I nervously hope she’s not answering because she’s driving.

I send a text, not realizing that’s probably worse.

I call my mom. Voicemail.

Text. No reply.

I’m supposed to pick up Shar at 9:30 and I still have to make copies at Kinko’s.

She can meet me at Kinko’s.

I forget to make the fucking copies.

I sit in the car, not knowing if I should go to Minneapolis to help the set up or head towards Eden Prairie for the rest of the display stuff.

I figured since I hadn’t heard anything… things had gotten figured out.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Just as we’re pulling into the church parking lot (a little after 10:30, expo starts at 11) the phone rings.

Honestly at this point? I don’t even remembered who called. The just of the convo was there was too much stuff to fit everyone in the vehicle and Mary Grace (17 year old cousin in from TN, super sweet & incredibly talented) needs a ride.

I turn the car around. I look at the time and it’s 10:45. I start laughing. A big, full, hearty laugh. Tears were not far behind, I was laughing that hard. Shar and Tayla look at me with a mixture of curiosity, amusement and a little bit of fear.

“What is so funny?” one of them asked.

I coughed the words out like a cat with a hairball. Between bouts and new waves of laughter, I say “It’s 15 minutes until show time and we’re driving AWAY from the church.” It reminded me of the time Don and I took a road trip to see my grandma. The nine hour drive ended up closer to 14 hours because we got lost in Iowa. Seriously? How do you get lost in IOWA? Anyway, the was an electric blue house that we’d passed several times before. Once we rounded the corner and saw the white trim of that fucking blue house… Don started to laugh. Hysterically. “We’re never going to find it” he said. “We’re never going to get there. May as well get comfy in the car, we live here now.” So, it was THAT kind of laughter. The laugh of desperation.

I pull into my parents driveway and see a large SUV with all the doors and trunk open. The two little wiener dogs come outside and spill down the steps, anxious to greet us.

Barb is inside, sitting on the bottom step of the staircase, shaking her head.

I start to call for mom.

“There’s still two more crates downstairs that need to go…”

I pack the two containers in the back and that’s all I can take. I can’t put the backseats down because I’ve got two kiddos in the back.

So I floor it, go as fast as I can (within the legal speed limit, of course) and we make it back to the church by about 11:30. My only saving grace is that the itinerary I posted earlier didn’t show much of anything scheduled until noon.

Finally through the Sanctuary doors to find things… looking pretty good. A lot of stuff is set up. I grab a card table, tablecloth and set up my own stuff while trying to slow my breathing and reminding myself I didn’t need to rush anymore.

The first speaker is scheduled from 12:30-1:00. By 12:20, I haven’t seen or heard anyone come into the church. I’m starting to get nervous.

Instead of Natalie’s music playing, it’s some kind of religious muzak. The 14 foot (approx) big screen is still rolled up (instead of a slideshow of photos of Natalie or the music video for Soldiers of Love by Sade).

There are people in the church, maybe a dozen? They are all here to help us set up, offer services or be emotional support (or all three)

“It’s five minutes until the first speaker is scheduled to go on… where the hell are they?”

“Oh, yeah. He’s here. He’s here. He uh, locked his presentation and notes in his car. The locksmith will be about 20 minutes.”

FanFuckingTastic.

I had someone else scheduled to go on from 1:00-2:00, so my stomach is knotting up. In a weird way, not having anyone there was a saving grace. There was a lot of flexibility.

Locksmith shows up, speakers grabs his stuff and does his thang. He was from Progress Valley and knowledgeable with how the brain reacts differently to opioids than other drugs. It was fun! As odd as that sounds, it was interactive, informative, engaging, so interesting. I learned a ton! He spoke to our small group, which may have been smaller than 12 as people rotated smoke breaks…

The next presenter, from Valhalla Place, I was so excited to have come. I’d only met her once before and it was very brief but she is so good at what she does! So much to offer and share. She had to be somewhere at 2:30. I don’t remember what time it was, but it wasn’t looking good. Until a couple of coworkers showed up and were unwittingly volunteered to take her place. Because the day got off to a rocky start and we didn’t start on schedule, time slots were running into other time slots.

Jesse Seward, the musician who came to perform (and later I found out, actually knew Natalie) had also come early to help us set up. I had him down to sing from 3:30-4:00, he thought it was 3:00-3:30. There is a minor hysteria as I’m searching the church for the pianist (whom I hadn’t met, didn’t have a name so how would I know him/her if I saw her?).

The volunteers heard they got bumped back to 4:00 and had to leave. I wanted them to stay but there still wasn’t anyone there, not who didn’t come with us… I told them I appreciated their willingness to come and apologized for the confusion. He told me he felt bad and told him (in part to reassure myself) that this is merely a learning experience. It’s not going to run perfectly the first time out on the floor…

Jesse sang. It was beautiful. My phone ran out of memory and I didn’t get any of it.

 

“If anyone needs me, I’m going to my car to cry for five minutes, have a cigarette and come back in.”

There were a lot of sympathetic nods.

Tayla asked if she could come with. I told her of course. It’d been a long day in those few hours.

I get to the bottom of the stairs and start to push on the door when I heard a sickening crack and a thud from behind me.

Tayla had fallen down the stairs. She didn’t get up right away and she seemed very, out of it. She kept falling asleep. She didn’t look good. Someone suggested I take her to the E.R., sadly, this was the high point of the day for me. I was ready to change the name from End the Epidemic to End the Expo!

We drove to Fairview Southdale hospital where we received the fastest visit in history. Seriously, it was so fast, I considered pushing her down a bigger flight of stairs. Just kidding. Mostly.

I dreaded going back to the church. To dealing with the emptiness. The deep well of sadness that was threatening to overflow.

We were pulling into the parking lot just before 6:00 and almost everything was packed up. People were leaving, the people who came with us. “There just wasn’t anybody there” someone said in response to the question I didn’t ask.

I dropped my head back and saw through the partly dark clouds, a rainbow. A rainbow that I saw both end of. It felt right, to see it but not in response to how the day went.

It wasn’t just how much time I spent making the flier or how many people got them, it’s that almost everyone was EXCITED to come. “I’ll for sure be there!”, “Oh man, I’ve got a couple of friends who NEED this, we’ll be there”, “This is a wonderful thing you’re doing, see you Saturday” … it just didn’t make sense that from 11:00-6:00 no one. showed. up.

In the car on the way home, Tayla asked me if the day was a complete failure.

“Ya know honey, it kinda looks that way doesn’t it? But we don’t always (in fact, rarely) see how our actions or words might affect someone. At the very least, there are now seven more people who have Naloxone and can possibly save a life. I personally got a lot out of the first speaker. Who knows what someone else may get out of having gotten a flier? They didn’t make it this time, but maybe it planted a seed… maybe they acknowledged on a very small scale that they have a problem and need help… You just don’t know.”

So that’s the story I’m sticking with…

Do You Hear Me Now?

I read a story today that… unfortunately, I believed. The title was “Plane Crew Nearly Lets Passenger Die Because They Couldn’t Believe A Black Woman Was A Doctor”. You can read the full article here. The just of it is she was discriminated against because she didn’t look like a doctor. The flight attendants were rude to say the least and potentially dangerous. I can’t even imagine a situation where I’d volunteer medical advice or intervention without the proper “credentials”. What were they thinking?!

Natalie didn’t look the part of an addict, either. She had the behaviors for sure but just by looking at her, you probably wouldn’t pick up on it. She had expensive taste. Ever since I can remember… What kind of kid orders LOBSTER and escargot? Anyway…

I feel like at least some part of the the world’s population needs remedial kindergarten classes. Hold up a photo of an African American. “Doctor” I would say while pointing at the pic. Hold up a photo of Nat “Addict”. Either forget any stereotype you have or, if that’s not possible, imagine everyone you know in every role you can think of. It is possible. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around “us” being able to send men to the moon, to Mars, wherever but still question whether or black woman can be a doctor? WTF dude.

I guess it’s bothering me more than it normally would because of the chilly reception I’ve gotten from most everyone I talk to about the expo. More specifically, about hanging a freaking flier on their community board or slip them into the break room for anyone to see.

“We don’t do anything like that”

Like what? Like nothing? Just wait until I leave to throw it away if it bothers you… Lie to me. Make me think for a second or two that I might make a difference to someone. (I’m getting super tired, I can tell because I know I’m making a difference and I’m letting the little things get to me). Take the Go Fund Me page for example. Tons and tons of requests for money to cover anything from a dream vacation to funeral expenses. A surgery or a gift to start out married life right. The pet section is heart wrenching. People as a whole have a soft spot for animals, many of them valuing the life of an animal over the the quality of living for a human.

So. New campaign strategy. Help raise money to keep our animals with their humans! Pets need to be taken care of, who will do it once the addict is gone? I don’t want them (or anyone) to suffer through that… What’da think?

Maybe this will help. Natalie Patterson’s spoken word poem, “I Know Someone” is an emotional offering of sympathy and understanding.

We’ve GOT TO STOP THE STIGMA that goes along with drug addictions & mental health issues. It is my job, my goal to keep peoples’ focus and attention on love. Loving yourself, loving others, being decent and kind… and I can’t do it alone.

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