Sorry For the Word Vomit…

I know it’s been awhile and I know I said I was going to stop apologizing when I missed a Wednesday or Sunday post, and I am… (yes, I do know it’s Thursday) I just don’t want anyone to think I forgot about them or this blog.

We moved three weeks ago. (A BIG, HUGE thanks to my friend John and Tetris!) I think by today, we could have the last of the boxes from the garage come inside and find their place, so that’s exciting.

That’s not entirely the reason I haven’t written though. It’s a big part of it… there is more though.

I did get offered the PCA job and yesterday finished with the paperwork and fingerprinting. I’m hopeful about starting training soon.

Babymaking is… getting a lot less fun. A lot more stress and I wonder if it’s the right thing to do anymore. I want to leave it up to God. I keep telling myself I am leaving it up to God but somehow, I keep managing to wrestle it away from him and stress over it some more.

September is right around the corner, which means many things. School is about to start. My fingers are crossed that Tayla will not struggle as she has in the past. At least, not in the same way. September 29th will be my grandma’s birthday and Noah’s due date. And the 11th, of course, is Natalie’s birthday. My eyes are stinging and my throat is closing up as I write.

I’ve been going through a lot of stuff, with the move. I have three jewelry boxes which I find pretty amusing since I don’t really wear a lot of jewelry but in one of the boxes with the bracelet she gave me for being her maid of honor. I remember shopping for her wedding dress with her… the one time she told me I was right (she should’ve gone with the ivory colored dress, the one that made her look like a princess).

The toast she made at my wedding as my maid of honor. The singing, the dancing, the hot tub. Somehow it reminded me of sneaking out on the golf course to go drinking. When she threw that party, had fliers made up and then had no idea how she got busted…

The times she took me along to some event with her friends, forcing me to have fun… ever the older sister in spirit…

And now, I feel so empty and hollow.

How can that be? I have a husband, a daughter, wonderful family and friends, yet the absence of this one particular person… makes me feel utterly alone.

I keep telling myself that once her birthday is over, it’ll get better… but after September, it will be my birthday and then after Halloween, it’ll be all about Christmas and I don’t know if I can handle that right now. I guess I don’t have to. I’ll try sticking to one day at a time.

But maybe not this day… it’s hard to reassure myself that things in my life will be okay when the world around us is in such utter chaos. I don’t have the energy to get into politics but I think we can all agree, we as a nation, are not where we’d like to be and the world right now is a scary place.

On that lovely note, I think I’ll take a nap and hope things look better when I open my eyes again.

Thanks for letting me ramble!

Peace.

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)!

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…

My Heroes

For the past couple of months, I’ve been talking to a friend of Natalie’s. Apparently we went to school together at one point but me and memories of school are eh… not generally on speaking terms. Suffice it to say, for all intents and purposes, I met him at Natalie’s funeral. Really a nice guy. A great guy. And, he (like everyone else) loves? Loved? Loves. Loves Natalie. This is a huge thing we have in common. There are probably more but we haven’t finished talking about Nat yet so I can’t tell you what they are.

Anyway, he can be a talker. (Ryan, I say that with love) Like, talks on the phone. Anyone who knows me personally, knows I can’t stand to talk on the phone. I’m not entirely sure why but I’d rather do math than talk on the phone. I’d rather watch a golf tournament than talk on the phone. I have a phone call? Sorry, paint is about to dry! You get the picture.

So, I figure it would be easier to just get together and talk face to face. I hadn’t been feeling the greatest so Friday’s coffee date got rescheduled to Saturday and Saturday turned into a threesome instead of a twosome (as I was still a little iffy feeling and didn’t want to drive so Don became my chauffer).

We pulled into his driveway and I hop out of the car to ring the bell and let him know we’re here. He greets me and tells me he wants to show me some things. I follow him inside and see his mom at the bottom of the stairs. She stands, walks to the bottom of the stairs and stops. I think maybe she has arthritis like I do and stairs are not always an option. So I start to introduce myself and make my way down the stairs. I made really good time as by the second step, I slipped and fell down the stairs. Not exactly “fell”, more like rode down the steps, on my butt. Think Christmas sledding. Like that’d been my plan, minus the saucer/toboggan.

“Mel! Are you ok?” I heard it in stereo, as both Ryan and his mom were simultaneously asking.

And, like Christmas time, my face was a red as Rudolph’s nose or Santa’s ass.

Laughing I replied “I’m fine. Other than being completely embarrassed, I’m fine.”

We talk for a few minutes and she tells me how sorry she is for the loss of my sister.

It felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I was used to hearing “I’m sorry about Natalie”. Natalie, was, someone else. Someone not necessarily my sister. Not so fucking close to me. At least that’s what I could pretend. The tears pricked my eyes and my throat started to close up.

Mercifully, Ryan changes the subject and we go upstairs to look at a couple of pictures.

Once that’s done, we pile into the car.

“Oh shit. I forgot something” Ryan says.

“What?”

“I don’t want to make you guys stop. I just forgot to go to the liquor store.”

“It’s no problem, it’s close by?” Don asked

“Yeah, are you sure you don’t mind? I feel bad, I know you don’t drink…”

“Positive. Don’t give it a second thought.”

We pull into the parking lot and Ryan jumps out.

I, still stinging (literally from the rug burn) from before, get out to smoke. I grab Natalie’s zippo and flick the wheel. Nothing. Damn it. I just fucking filled this thing.

“I wonder if they sell lighter fluid inside?” I asked Don.

He was busy trying to get the lighter to catch a flame and I disappeared into the shop.

“Mel. What are you doing?” I heard Ryan’s voice.

“I need a light. I don’t know if they sell lighter fluid in here but they’ve got to at least sell lighters…”

“Oh, God. I thought you were coming in to buy… I just would’ve felt so bad if…”

I don’t remember if I laughed or not but it was sweet how concerned he was about my sobriety. Honestly, I had zero desire to drink. I needed another lighter like I need a hole in the head but that demon I’m willing to wrestle with…

Outside, I finally get to smoke. I hadn’t smoked in a year and a half, until Natalie died. Then, even with that, I didn’t smoke that much. I almost had to force myself in the beginning. I’d lite a cigarette and burst into tears. Maybe get two or three drags off the smoke before it was all ash. I kept at it though. Determination, right? Gotta have a focus… One day I might smoke as much as once a day… but for now, it’s nice to not have the pressure of being a non-smoker.

After a little small talk, once each of us had finished our cigs, we get back into the car. As we’re pulling out of the parking lot, something catches Don’s eye.

“Did you leave anything on the hood of the car?” He asks.

“What? No. Why would I do that?” I pat my pockets, make sure I have my phone and my smokes… and the new lighter I just purchased. I unintentionally take on an accusatory tone

“You have Natalie’s lighter, right?”

He feels in his pocket, satisfied.

“Yep. Right here.”

I shake my head and chalk it up to Don’s overactive imagination when it comes to my car and things breaking, making a funny sound or flying off the hood.

“Turn left here” Ryan directs us to a coffee house.

We pull into a Dunn Brothers with loud music, bright lights and louder laughter.

“Wow. Someone’s having a party!” I say.

There’s a brief discussion on if we should stay or not. We decide to stay and I reach into my purse to grab my wallet.

There is a sinking feeling in my stomach as I grab a pen case, my insulin kit, a spare pair of glasses… no wallet.

Did I leave it on the hood of the fucking car?

You bet I did.

Fantastic. I turn on the flashlight on my phone to search the floors and under the seats, knowing damn well it wasn’t under there.

We retrace our steps and pull into a nearly empty parking lot. This looks nowhere near like where we were (to me) when Don commented on something catching his eye before disappearing.

Son of a bitch. I JUST got my bank card in the mail yesterday! Pretty much the only money I have right now? Is in that wallet. I’m thinking of the photos and the insurance cards… all the personal info and trying not to vomit.

“Don’t worry Mel. It’s on the highway somewhere. It maybe a little beat up, but it’s not gone. It’s too dark out for anyone to be able to tell what it is.” Ryan tried to reassure me.

“Hey, guess who would think this was fun and funny?” He asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure she’s doing a hell of a lot more laughing than I am” I thought.

Just stay here, we’ll go look for it.

Don and Ryan disappeared into the tall grass and the darkness.

May as well smoke. I lit up, took two drags and thought I was going to be sick. I snuffed it out with my shoe and looked to the sky. I imagined my wallet on the road. A tire mark tattooing one side of it. A tire track, right through the center of the picture of Natalie. There was also a place for a pen and I imagined that being flattened as well, spewing ink all over everything…

What. Am. I. Going. To. Do?

A couple of minutes later, I heard familiar voices.

“We found it!” one of them said, holding it up high for me to see.

I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t have a mark on it. Everything was in its place, save for my pen (which Ryan offered to go back and look for).

 

“Who’s ready for coffee?” Ryan said with a grin.