It had been hours since I first stood in the waiting area of that emergency room, texting the kids to let them know what happened, which immediately prompted phone calls for more details. I had been keeping them updated but we were waiting so long for the last couple of tests that the kids got worried when I was quiet, so they texted to see if I was still with you, and if you were ok. I snapped a photo of where we were: Together, on your gurney, still in the E.R., now waiting to have you admitted so they could do the last couple of tests that may not happen until morning.
Traumatic events seem to happen both simultaneously in the blink of an eye, and in slow-motion. Details are acute, while also a blur. I know it happened on August 5th, yet it somehow feels like it was years ago, not three months ago. I remind myself multiple times a day that you’re okay now, but the images of what happened will be burned in my memory forever.
We’ve long joked about how good I am in a crisis. When shit goes down, my practical brain kicks in to take care of whatever is about to fall apart. While good in the moment, it’s not so good on my emotions that are put on the back burner in order to get through it. In those moments before it happened on that summer day, you went from screaming in pain, to walking across our room in silence, and I briefly thought you were feeling better. But when I walked you back to bed and you said something that didn’t make sense, then crawled to the middle of our bed, flipped on your back, and had a massive, full-body seizure, I knew you were NOT feeling better and my practical brain flew into high gear as I raced to grab my phone. I know I gave the 911 operator the details of what was happening as I stood over you on our bed. I know I gave her our address and asked for an ambulance to come to our house immediately, but when your face turned so blue and the seizure wouldn’t stop, I threw the phone and held your sweat-drenched body propped up in my arms, watching blood-stained saliva drip out of the side of your mouth from biting your lip and tongue, hoping that somehow my love would be enough to help you. I don’t even remember hanging up on that call. My only thought was if you were about to die, it wasn’t going to be alone on our bed, it was going to be in my arms.
We arrived in the E.R. at the same time, you by the lights and sirens of a speeding ambulance, me by car, driving way faster than I probably should have. I was at the front desk trying to check you in and could hear you moaning in the hallway behind the wall of the receptionist area as the paramedics took you straight in for a CT scan to check you for a stroke or an aneurysm. The receptionist did her best to keep me calm, saying it was okay to take a seat and a nurse would come out to get more information on you. I turned to look at the lobby and was relieved to see so many empty seats. The lobby was split by “standard emergency” and “Covid patients.” It reminded me of the smoking and non-smoking sections on airplanes when I was a kid: completely pointless because we’re all in one closed space, breathing the same air. But when I saw there were only two Covid people, I was relieved because it meant there would be a bed available so we could get you the care you needed.
I sent a few texts and made a couple of quick phone calls to family members to let them know what happened, and left a voicemail with your manager, who would need to cancel your on-camera job the next day. I briefly looked up from my phone and out the window of the lobby area when a man with kind eyes, carrying a clipboard and a pen, came out from a side door by the receptionist area and sat down next to me. He spoke softly as he told me they recognized you and listed you as a private patient. I hadn’t even considered this getting out into press and how invasive and traumatic that would feel, but I remembered the wall of news vans lining the block for days at that hospital when Luke Perry was brought there after having a stroke, and I thanked him for doing that for us. I filled out the paper on the clipboard, handed it back to him, and he told me someone would come back out to get me as soon as you were back from the scan.
Within minutes, my name was called and I was escorted back to a room just as you were being wheeled in on a gurney. You were talking now, confused as to what happened and how you got there. It was that moment that I felt alone in this nightmare. Of course it made sense that you wouldn’t remember a seizure, but you didn’t remember at least an hour total that began before the seizure, or recalling the three paramedics showing up in our bedroom, with one asking me a bunch of health questions while two others worked to get you strapped into a device that looked like a furniture dolly with a seat and torso straps. You didn’t remember yelling about how bad your head hurt, or that I had to hold your hands as they took you to the ambulance so you wouldn’t undo the straps that were preventing you from falling off that contraption, and you didn’t remember the ambulance ride to the hospital or the CT scan you just had. I had to explain it all to you while you looked at me as if I was telling you a story about someone else’s life.
Seven hours and multiple tests later, the doctor came back in to let us know a bed was ready for you in the neurology wing. It was past visiting hours but since you had no memory of what happened, the doctor said I could go with you to help get you settled in your room and answer questions the nurses would be asking, and then I would have to go home for the night. When they finally came to get you and we headed out of your room in the E.R., I wanted to once again thank the doctor and all of the nursing staff for everything they did to help you, but you were being wheeled away so quickly that there just wasn’t time. I hoped the gratitude I expressed with each brief interaction throughout your time in that part of the hospital had been taken to heart.
Knowing I had to leave you there overnight was awful. Taking your wedding ring with me because you couldn’t wear it while getting an MRI made me feel like you were truly alone there, which was even worse. I felt like we were just getting you settled in to your new room when they came in to take you for the MRI they had originally said wouldn’t happen until morning. The nurses told me I needed to go home but to come back first thing in the morning so I could be there when the neurologist arrived. I watched them take you down the hallway, disappearing behind a set of double doors, before I walked myself down the quiet, dimly lit, empty corridors of the hospital and out into the warm night air to make the drive back to our house, alone.
I didn’t sleep that night while you were away. Every time I started to drift off, images of your blue face in my arms made my heart race and I was wide awake once again. I reached over to your side of the bed more times than I care to admit, and when you weren’t there, I’d rotate your wedding ring around my thumb, over and over. As sunlight slowly filled our bedroom the following morning, I jumped up and got myself ready to go walk in those hospital doors when visiting hours started at 8am. When the neurologist came to your room to tell us all of your tests were clear and the cause of your seizure was pinched nerves, a rapid onset migraine, and one of your anti-depressants creating the most unlikely trio of circumstances that can cause a seizure, but you would be just fine, I felt numb. I had spent the last 24 hours worrying that you had a brain tumor, or some sort of seizure disorder that we were somehow going to figure out how to navigate so you would be okay. The relief at knowing *you* were going to be okay sent a tidal wave of emotions at me that I had stuffed away in order to allow my “crisis brain” to get us through this. Once we got home, those emotions were so intense that just watching you climb into bed sent me into one of many panic attacks I would have over the weeks to come.
I’ve often heard that emotional trauma can trigger an injury somewhere on the body of the person that is affected by an experience. Some people call it a spiritual meaning, some describe it as a place where energy is stored. Whatever it is, it sounds a little woo-woo and probably not something that’s scientifically proven but knowing now what happened to me then, it does make sense. When your migraine lingered days after coming home from the hospital, I was so worried you would have another seizure. When we tried having a quiet dinner at home on my birthday, I found myself just looking at you from across our dining room table to see if the signs of a seizure were happening again. I spent nights with my hand on your arm while you slept next to me, and I would sit up and look at you with even the slightest twitch or movement you made. I was so terrified, and so exhausted, but I knew I needed to stay strong to get us through this. What I didn’t realize was just how much of a toll it was taking on me, physically.
For someone who believes that spirituality and health are connected, the low back is a significant area where emotions are stored. The L4 area of the spine is the seat of emotion, especially grief. It is also where one holds joy within their family. The lowest vertebrae, L5, represents one’s roots, their walk through life, and the relationship to their time on Earth. So when I launched out of bed in a complete panic on August 9th to the sounds of you vomiting in the kitchen sink from the migraine you still had (I thought you were having another seizure) it’s no wonder I herniated the disc in between L4 and L5. You are my heart, my soul, my partner in the life we have built together, my foundation, and in that moment, I thought you were possibly being ripped away from me forever.
While the road to my physical and emotional recovery has been slow, I know I am improving daily and will continue to do so when I focus on the future, and not on the circumstances of past. And with each passing day where I have to remind myself that all of your doctors have said this completely random series of events that caused your seizure is so unlikely to ever happen again, I still find myself checking on you in the middle of the night, or quietly panicking if I hear a loud noise coming from whatever room you’re in during the day, even though you’ve been fine. I hope I’ll get past it, but I’m not quite there yet. And while you still don’t remember the events of that day, I know neither of us will ever forget how much help our friends Bonnie, Stephanie, Donna, Steph, and Yesenia stepped up to help us out while you recovered from your seizure, and I recovered from my back surgery. I know now that in those first moments in the hospital when I thought I was alone in dealing with this, I wasn’t. The love and support was actually there all along.
In my lifetime, I have….acquired?…many an injury to myself by doing something I probably shouldn’t have been doing. Running through the house barefoot and kicking my toe on the dresser leg which ended up requiring surgery and two pins in that toe comes to mind as my most recent big mishap. But I think I may have topped that one.
On July 2nd, I went roller skating on the path that goes from Manhattan beach down to Hermosa beach and back. I’ve walked this a million times but I’ve never roller skated it. Since it was a friend’s birthday, another friend and I thought it would be fun to take the birthday girl (who recently moved here from Seattle) to enjoy our sunny beaches and partake in her new hobby of roller skating. The birthday girl has been practicing a bunch so she’s very comfortable on skates. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve skated myself but it’s always been a thing I pick up quickly once I get back on them. My other friend, however, hadn’t skated in 20 years so she needed a lot more time to get comfortable skating again. We all took our time, prepared for the inevitable falls by wearing elbow, wrist, and knee pads, and headed down the path.
Our plan was to stop for birthday brunch at an outdoor cafe I’ve been to pretty much every time I do the walk down there. We had succeeded in making it through the first part of our skating experience completely unscathed….until we didn’t. I was barely rolling when my not-so-sure-footed friend announced “I’m going down!” as she lost her balance and landed safely on her side. However, on her way down, I happened to be in front of her and when her legs shot out from under her, she accidentally kicked my right skate out from under me so fast that I didn’t have time to react. It was just *kick* and I landed full-force down on my right butt cheek. It hurt so bad and happened so quickly that I had to just sit there for a minute to process how this unbearable pain suddenly happened.
With the help of a nearby vendor who saw the whole thing happen, I got back up on my feet, and so did my friend. My fall was so hard that I wasn’t sure if the impact or the pain was what caused me to feel nauseous for 20 minutes. Honestly, I think it may have been both.
We ate our brunch and still had to skate all the way back to my car (this route is about 7 miles total) which was incredibly painful for me for about 5 minutes but once the blood started pumping through my painful butt cheek, I started to feel better. When we got back to my car, we all stretched, got in, and I drove us home. When we got to my house, my butt was killing me. I iced it and took Aleve, and figured I’d be better by morning. What I woke up to was a giant, grape jelly colored bruise the size of the palm of my hand on my right butt cheek and that side was visibly swollen, but otherwise I felt ok.
It took 2 weeks for that bruise and swelling to go away and once it did, I developed a new pain down my left leg. It felt like cramping muscles, so I spent the next 2 weeks trying to carefully stretch and use a foam roller to get my leg to relax. Weird pains started happening in my sacrum and it worried me so I went to my orthopedist on August 2nd, where he took X-rays and determined nothing was broken, it was just sciatic nerve pain. He prescribed 6 days worth of steroids to reduce the inflammation and recommended physical therapy to open up the vertebrae where the sciatic nerve connects (L4.) I felt a tiny bit of relief on the first and second day on steroids but the pain was still there, and physical therapy wasn’t going to start until August 9th.
The morning of August 9th, just two days after finishing the steroids, I was still in bed when I heard a loud crash in my kitchen (that’s a whole other story I’ll share another time) and in my panic at that sound, I launched out of bed to see if everything was ok. I made it about 6 steps when suddenly I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg, and the left side of my back was completely spazzed. I figured I tweaked myself with the way I jumped out of bed and hopefully just some gentle stretching would make it better.
That night, I did not sleep. Instead, I spent the entire night writhing in pain, unable to get comfortable in any position except being tucked into a ball face down with my butt slightly elevated because it was opening up my low back and sacrum, which took all the pressure off of it. The next morning, I called my orthopedist to ask about getting an MRI because the sciatic nerve pain was still awful, but now I also have numbness in my calf, the top of my foot, and the bottom of my left toe. My ortho was out for the week and the other doctors in that office were fully booked, but they have a second office in another nearby city where one of the orthopedists there could see me. I took that same day appointment and drove myself out there while sitting on a donut pillow to ease the pain.
The orthopedist was able to access my X-rays since the offices share that stuff. He darkened my X-ray a bit and could see compression in L4 and L5 (lower lumbar) and after examination, prescribed me some meds to calm the nerves, meds for pain, and meds for the muscle spasm in my back, and then ordered an MRI to be done asap. The MRI place suggested I take all my meds before coming in because they suspected me needing to lay on my back was going to cause a lot of discomfort, so I had a friend drive me to and from the appointment so my drugged up self could get this done.
I have had a few MRI’s done over the years but this was the first time I had to have them stop 3 TIMES because I couldn’t handle my pain, even on all those drugs. The 15 min procedure ended up taking closer to half an hour because of all of my stops. I held back tears as I met my friend back in the waiting room to get the images on CD for my orthopedist appointment this past Friday.
So….um….it’s about how I broke my butt.
Well, technically I didn’t break my butt. What I did do was have an X-ray on august 2nd that showed compression, and then I had an MRI on August 17th that showed that compression had turned into a full-blown severely herniated disc that is bulging into my spinal column and pinching a bunch of nerves, which is why I have the numbness in my leg and foot.
So anyway, this is my very long-winded way of saying this 52 year old woman who fell while roller skating now has to have back surgery this week to get that pressure off the nerves before it causes permanent damage. Super.
But hey, at least I didn’t jack myself up running through my house and kicking furniture.
And because I am on Team Gross and always want to see my insides, here’s an MRI image where you can see my vertebrae, with healthy discs in between, and then….darkness where a healthy disc *should* be but instead, it’s smooshed and bulging inward. Apparently this is a very quick procedure with a small incision that’s stitched from the inside and superglued on the outside and heals in about a week to 10 days, with 6 weeks of don’t lift anything heavy afterward. Thanks, modern medicine!
When my oldest son Ryan was in 6th grade, he was given an assignment to create a “time capsule” of things he loved and were important to him at that time so that one day, he could open it back up for a glimpse into the person he used to be, that made him who he is today. When Ryan was packing up his bedroom to move off to college, he decided that was the time to open the capsule. He laughed at toys he saved, cringed at things he thought were cool back then, and loved reading what he had written about himself at the time, and the goals he had hoped to achieve as an adult.
That’s a pretty cool thing to be able to look back on, seeing your younger self through your adult eyes. As parents, we generally tend to take a ton of pictures of our kids growing up, some save a favorite shirt, stuffed animal, book, art project, toy, first haircut clump, all the baby teeth that fell out, and the umbilical clip from birth (ok, maybe I went a little overboard on the memory box, but whatever) so that we can look back on our kids’ lives and then one day pass those keepsakes down to them (they have already told me they do NOT want the umbilical clip and teeth) so they can see themselves through our eyes.
Over the past two years, Wil has done a ton of emotional healing from a childhood where he did not feel loved by his parents. What he did feel (and had to work through as an adult) was a childhood of being bullied, used, and abused by the parents who brought him into this world. As he worked his ass off to come out of that lifelong pain, he started remembering all the ways he worked so hard to be a parent to my boys whom I brought into our relationship when Wil was 23 years old, I was 26, and the kids (Ryan and Nolan) were just 6 and 4.
I met Wil on NYE turning 1996 and after several weeks of getting to know each on our own time, I eventually introduced the kids to Wil. Nine months later we all moved in together, and three years after that, Wil and I got married. From the moment we moved in together, Wil was their father in every way a father should be to a child. He loved them unconditionally, he supported them, played with them, listened to their triumphs and struggles, and taught them how to be kind, compassionate, empathetic people, despite their biological father’s constant reminders directly to Wil that he “was not their father.” Those years are full of a ton of wonderful memories and for all of us in different ways, we also remember the pain and struggles we all had to endure at the hand of a man who was biologically the father to Ryan and Nolan, but not much else.
What I didn’t see for many years (because I was not on the internets until maybe 10 years ago) was that Wil was using his blog to write about silly or fun things the kids did with each other, with Wil, or all of us as a family (FYI, we discussed early on that we would not post pics of our kids online when they were growing up, and we agreed that he wouldn’t post super embarrassing stuff directly related to their actions, or any details of what their bio-dad was putting us all through, on his blog.) Wil would occasionally write something about the kids and then print it out for me to read (on account of me not on the internet back in 2001 when he started writing about them) before he posted it just to be sure I was ok with it but after a while, we both realized he was doing a great job sharing while respecting privacy, so he stopped printing them out for me.
Several weeks ago, Wil started going through his blog and realized he basically created a “time capsule” of Ryan and Nolan’s childhood with those posts he was writing about them from 2001 to 2011, so he decided to compile all of those stories and put them into a book for the kids, so they could see their childhood (that eventually ended with Ryan and Nolan both asking Wil to adopt them as adults so he is legally their dad as well) through Wil’s eyes. Aaaand now I’m crying. I found some pictures that I’d taken of all three of them over the years and our friend Will Hindmarch used those pictures to create a jacket for the book with those photos on the front and back covers, and on the inside flaps. With Wil’s permission, I wanted to share the cover and the final story he wrote in it, where he “introduced” his family to the internet. This book will never be for sale but all of the posts are still on Wil’s blog at wil wheaton [dot] net if you feel like spending some time scrolling back to read them all. He printed a small batch of the books so the kids could have some for themselves now, and for their own families one day, as well as for the people in our lives who became our family over the years, who love Ryan and Nolan and have been a huge part of our lives. There’s one thing we learned a long time ago and that is blood does not necessarily make a family, it’s how you nurture relationships with love, compassion, and respect for the people in your life, that makes one.
I am writing this post while I sit on the sofa in my family room, a place I have spent a lot of time sitting in since my state and county ordered non-essential workers to stay home to avoid catching and/or spreading a deadly virus that has quickly turned into a nationwide pandemic. We’re on week 7 of this order and although I know it will eventually be ok to go back out into society, it doesn’t look like it’ll be happening anytime in our immediate future.
When this all first happened, I had multiple cry-freakouts because I was so worried about the health of my family and friends, and for those who already struggle financially, struggle to keep or even have a roof over their head, struggle to get food, and just hope people who have businesses can survive this ordeal. I used to be one of those people. I am fully aware of the reality of suddenly losing the daily income of cash tips from waitressing which allowed me to put gas in my car or buy a box of cereal for my kids, or wondering if I can squeeze in one more shift at the restaurant and then race to the utility payment office with those tips to pay my electric bill before they shut it off at 5pm. This is such a difficult time for so many people, and you’re all in my heart as each passing day brings uncertainty, financial struggles, more illness, and more death, while more and more weeks get tacked on to our already lengthy quarantine.
Early on into this quarantine/stay home order, I would see people joke on social media about which secret family the cheating husbands chose to quarantine with, or people who were eating a bunch of junk food because of stress and then talking about weight gain, or laughing about day drinking to pass the time. But in between those posts, I would see concerns about spousal abuse, struggles with eating disorders or body dysmorphia being amplified during this crisis, and alcoholics struggling to stay sober when this temporary situation feels so overwhelming that it’s hard to cope. I never commented on their posts, but I saw them, and I took them to heart. But there’s one thing that I hadn’t thought of, because I hadn’t seen anyone post about it, and I have no doubt I’m not seeing it because it’s behind closed doors, in every sense of the word. Staying home doesn’t always mean it’s safe at home.
*I am about to share some statistics only. No details, no individual cases, just facts, but it is related to sexual assault, abuse, and self-harm, so if that is something that you aren’t able to hear, I understand. Please stop reading now, and take care of you.*
In the last couple of years, I have done some things to support RAINN, a non-profit organization that provides counseling and a variety of resources to assist sexual assault survivors, free of charge. After news broke that presidential candidate Donald Trump was on a recording talking about grabbing a woman’s genitals without her consent, calls into the RAINN hotline went way up. When Brett Kavanaugh had hearings before he was granted a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, we heard details from a woman who was said Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in school together, and the calls for support from RAINN once again went through the roof. Each assault incident brought to the public becomes a reminder for others of their own personal assault experience. And now with this stay at home order, there’s been some discussion about women having to stay home with a significant other who now has full-time access to assaulting her, with no reprieve of an outside world to escape to. That’s a scary thought. But the part that hadn’t occurred to me until I recently sat in on a zoom meeting with the president of RAINN, Scott Berkowitz, and several other staff and volunteers of the organization, is the thousands of minor children who are forced to stay home because of this virus going around, with a family member in the house who sexually assaults them.
I know, it’s horrifying. I have had many a cry since hearing this.
Since the stay at home orders took place in early March, more than 50% of the callers to the RAINN hotline are minors, and 8 out of 10 of these kids are living with their abuser. To put that into perspective, RAINN receives on average, 25,000 callers a month, and now, more than half of those calls are coming from minors. Many of these kids relied on their teachers, their school counselors, and their friends, to help them with this horrific situation and now, they don’t have access to that support, so some of them are turning to RAINN for help. On top of seeking help away from their abuser, these kids are also dealing with suicide idealization and self-harm because they feel trapped and helpless, so the RAINN counselors are working very hard to help these kids stay alive, as well as safe. The longer we have to stay home to avoid spreading this virus, the more these sexual assaults on minors are likely to happen. Fortunately, police and child protective services are still available and are doing all they can to help when calls come in, but the fear of spreading this virus by being taken out of a home and being placed into another is an additional issue none of us have had to face, until now. For more details, you can read this Huffington Post article.
After hearing about these kids who are seeking help from RAINN, I felt like I couldn’t just sit here and do nothing. The reason RAINN is able to help these kids- these thousands of kids who are calling in for free help- is because of donations to fund these resources RAINN provides. I spent days trying to figure out a way more people can help besides just me, in a time where many are experiencing a pay cut or no pay at all because we all have to stay home. I see so many people doing online auctions for items, or for fun virtual experiences, which is great and it is working for some people, but it leaves out those who would like one of these things but quickly get out-bid and can’t afford to stay in the auction any longer. So I came up with an idea.
I thought it would be fun to do a “drawing” for some items Wil and I have. If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably seen some of the paintings I’ve been doing. And if you follow Wil on his various social platforms, you’ve probably seen an episode or two of his YouTube series, TableTop. We have put together some board games that were played on TableTop that are signed on the game lid by each celebrity player from their respective episode, and I am (EEP!) ready to part with some of my paintings so many of you have asked about purchasing. But here’s the fun part! We are going to make these items available, one at a time, for three days each (I will post photos on Twitter and Instagram) of the item available for the drawing. The way you enter the drawing to win is by making a $10 tax-deductible donation directly to RAINN. You can increase your chances of winning by doing as many individual $10 donations as you’d like over the three days (much like buying tickets to increase your chances of having your ticket number called) and then the winner will be selected by me rolling dice and the number it lands on will be the donor I count to on the donation spreadsheet I can see on my end through my donation page. This way, you have a chance whether you donate $10 one time, or you donate multiple times. It’ll all depend on the dice! (Don’t worry, I won’t let Wil roll the dice on account of his uh…luck with that.) Sound good? Great! Here’s the items that’ll be in the drawing. And remember, they will go up one at a time, be up for three days, you can enter the drawing as many times as you’d like by doing individual $10 donations over the three days, and then I’ll roll the dice, find the donor on the list, notify you that you won, and then we’ll move on to the next item, so it doesn’t get confusing as to which item you are entering for. There are 7 items total. Each will be packaged up while wearing gloves and a face mask, and I will ship everything out once all 7 items are gone, so as to avoid going to the post office multiple times during a pandemic. This drawing is available internationally as well, you just might not receive the tax deduction for your donation outside of the U.S. Oh, and I will cover the packaging and shipping costs so there’s no additional expense to you, just your donation (or several, up to you) that helps RAINN continue to provide services these kids so desperately need right now. Here is a link to my donation page where you can make your individual donations for the drawing beginning on Wednesday, April 22nd. Also, if you aren’t interested in being part of the drawing and just want to support the organization, that’s great! Just make your donation amount anything other than the even $10 amount so I know not to include you in whichever drawing is happening at the time.
Below are photos of what will be up for the drawings. If you go to my Instagram now you can watch an IGTV video where I will show each item and give a description of them, and then every 3 days, there will be individual photos with the details in the post, and when each item has a winner, I will update in the post description who won, as well as in my Instagram stories, and on my Twitter, if you’re there. You will get an email if you are the winner, in case you miss the announcement on the social medias.
I have received several emails and messages on social media asking if I have autographed copies of my children’s book Piggy and Pug available for purchase, or if I’m going to be attending a convention somewhere soon so an in-person, autographed book can be purchased that way. I have some good news and some bad news…sort of. The bad-ish news is I am not attending anymore conventions this year. BUT! I do plan to attend a couple of conventions next year (which I will announce once we actually get ourselves into 2020) but the GOOD NEWS is you can purchase an autographed copy from me RIGHT NOW!
With the holidays rapidly approaching, I decided to make a post here with a link to purchase a signed copy of my book to receive in time for your year-end festivities or, you know, just because you’ve been asking about getting a signed copy at [NAME OF YOUR LOCAL CONVENTION I WAS NOT ABLE TO ATTEND] and it didn’t work out on account of me not being there.
I will keep this post up but once the purchase link disappears, it means I am either out of stock or it’s too close to the holiday-gift-giving-event-of-your-choice to actually receive it in time. *Note: I will do foreign and domestic orders but the foreign delivery is never guaranteed with the holiday rush, so please be patient on that or skip it this time around if you’re worried it won’t get to you in time. I will do all I can to expedite these orders but I have no control over international postal delivery schedules.*
If you have questions about my book, you can visit http://piggyandpug.com to get all the answers. If you have questions and you aren’t able to find the answer there, feel free to leave your questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them all for you.
In my early 20s, I attended a bar mitzvah and to be honest, I don’t have much memory of it. I attended as a date of someone who turned out to not be a great guy, and the whole experience was so foreign and overwhelming to me that no joke, my only memory of it is bunch of loud kids in ill-fitting fancy clothes running around everywhere. So when we were invited to attend a bar mitzvah last night for the son of a close friend of ours, we accepted, and I fully expected it to be the same experience as it was for me back in 1993 (minus the not great guy date part.)
We left our house with plenty of time to get there but of course traffic was slow and I was worried we’d be late. Wil had Waze on his phone navigating us to the location as I drove us down the freeway and on to side streets, into an unfamiliar part of the city. “In 200 feet, turn left. Then, your destination will be on your right in 400 feet” Waze announced. I made the turn, and we drove a little bit when we suddenly hear, “You have reached your destination. Your destination is on the right.” What? I didn’t see it anywhere and then apparently drove right past it. “Make a legal u-turn” Waze commanded. “Gah! I don’t see an address!” I make the u-turn and Wil points to a man at a driveway now on the left, who is verifying the visitors and opening the gate across the parking lot driveway to let them in. I pull up, give him our names and the event we’re attending, he waves us through, and I park my car in the lot. We get out of the car and walk up to the entrance, where we are stopped by a man at a podium who confirms our names on a guest list, and then another man opens the door for us and directs us up to the sanctuary where the ceremony was being be held. We took our seats just as the ceremony began.
I am personally not a religious person (I had my share of religion in the form of being required to attend a Baptist church for five years with my parents when I was a teenager) but religions/beliefs do fascinate me and since I’m older and more patient than I was the last time I attended a bar mitzvah, I was actually excited and intrigued by being there. (Since I am not Jewish, please forgive me if I mess up the names of things or just plain don’t know what things are called as I describe the experience.) A man stood at the front of the room (I’m guessing he’s a Rabbi) and spoke about the history of this ceremony. He also spoke fondly of the young man we were there to celebrate (I’m keeping names out of this to protect privacy.) There was a woman up there with him as well, who mostly did singing throughout the ceremony (Also a Rabbi? I don’t know what her title would be, sorry.) The young man and his parents were called up to the front, where a garment was placed around the young man’s shoulders; a garment decorated by his family with symbols of his name origin and the person he has grown to be. It was all quite beautiful to see his parents up there describing the symbolism and meaning behind it all. His parents sat down and the man and woman leading the ceremony held open a book (Torah?) as the young man did a sort of singing chant in Hebrew (I know I’m doing a terrible job describing the details. Apologies for that.)
The Rabbi asked everyone to take a seat and then went on to talk about Judaism and the people of Israel who have been part of it for thousands of years. When the Rabbi said “The heart of Judaism is kindness and empathy” my eyes suddenly filled with tears as my mind replayed our arrival into the synagogue and sitting down in this sanctuary.
The last time I was in a synagogue, there was just this big parking lot in front of a building that we pulled straight into, but the one we went to last night wasn’t immediately visible from the street because the driveways to enter and exit the parking lot were blocked by solid, tall, security gates and that man at the entrance checking each car that came in was dressed in a black uniform with security patches on each shoulder. At the building entrance, the two men checking everyone in were wearing the same uniform, but up close like we were, I realized they were also wearing full torso bullet-proof vests. I looked around this sanctuary we were seated in as the Rabbi talked about kindness and empathy, and thought of the people who have attended regular services in sanctuaries much like this one, and how they have been gunned down just for their beliefs; their beliefs which stem from kindness and empathy. I shook off those images and the horror these people have faced and focused back on the ceremony at hand, as a type of scroll was brought out and passages were read from it in Hebrew. I didn’t understand the words but the delivery of it was beautiful.
Near the end of the ceremony, the parents of this young man got back up in the front of the room and spoke such sweet words about him that I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. When it was over, we all went out into the building courtyard for appetizers and drinks and then into a big hall where there was music, dancing, dinner, and of course all kinds of fun things to do for the 50 or so kids who were there to support their friend on this joyous occasion. His parents put together a video montage of his life thus far and it was so sweet to see the love this young man has been surrounded by. When the video ended, some of this young man’s friends lined up on the dance floor at a microphone to share their love of him. Each one talked about how kind he is, how supportive and loving he is, and how they can always count on him to just listen when they needed someone to talk to. I was so impressed, not only by their willingness to share so publicly, but also how much they appreciated him and how in touch they are with their feelings. I don’t ever remember being that way at that age so it was truly admirable to watch (and yes, I got teary-eyed again.)
As the night came to an end (for us and our old and tired) we collected our things and said our goodbyes to old friends and new ones. I darted out to use the restroom real quick before we got on the road and saw two doors that had the same sign: “All Gender Restroom” and marveled how the adults are showing these kids how important it is to be inclusive of everyone, everywhere. I went back into the hall to tell Wil I was ready to leave, and we watched for a moment as those kids out on the dance floor held hands and jumped around to the music with their friends (who aren’t all Jewish, I think some of his friends were from school) who don’t all have the same color skin or hair texture, who are all different shapes and sizes, and they just don’t care about any of that. These kids are growing up in a society where they are surrounded by hate and fear and violence and yet here they are, showing the world that at the heart of it all, kindness and empathy is all that matters.
Fifteen some-odd years ago, Wil and I took our boys to the Grand Canyon just before Christmas. There’s a steam train you can ride up from Wiliams, Arizona that has some glass dome-top cars where you can get a better view, so that’s where we sat. The conductor told funny stories and shared some pretty cool information about the canyon and park itself on the way up. During the 2-hour ride, it started to snow and the conductor said if it was snowing when we got to the south rim we wouldn’t be able to see across the canyon but by the time we arrived, it was clear blue skies (cold as hell, but clear nonetheless.) I had been to the canyon once when I was 9 but that was it, so when we walked up to the edge, I was just as astounded by the view as our boys were. We had gotten the kids disposable cameras so they could take pictures of whatever they wanted, which they used up so quickly we had to get them each another one. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, you know no camera can ever capture the full beauty and vastness quite like seeing it for yourself. We stayed at the rim to watch the sunset and the ranger there told us the sunrise was just as beautiful as sunset, so we all decided to get up early to watch that as well.
The early morning view was incredible, for sure, but the thing that caught my eye was a small group of people on mules being guided down into the canyon by two wranglers. My youngest son and I really wanted to do that ride so we could see even more of the canyon, so I went to the front desk of the Bright Angel Lodge (which is one of 3 hotels at the south rim) to inquire about it. Turns out it sells out at least a year in advance, and it’s a trip where you ride down, spend the night at the bottom, and ride back up the next day. We were bummed we couldn’t do the ride while we were there, but made a mental note of it being one of those things we would eventually do. The man at the front desk also told me the best time of year to do the ride is October, so I added that to my mental note for this future adventure we would someday get to go on. Over the years when October rolled around, I would think about that trip and how I really needed to sign up so we could go the following year and every year, I would forget to sign up. Not this year! Well, technically I remembered because it’s October, but I wanted to see if there was a way to do it now instead of signing up a year in advance and then hoping something doesn’t come up and I’d need to cancel.
I checked availability on the national park website for the mule ride for any time this month but there was no availability for the ride or for any of the hotels at the south rim. Darn! But I saw that there was a number I could call if making online reservations wasn’t working, so I called and spoke with a super helpful guy who said he’d see if there were any mule ride spots available for any time in the month of October. Turns out there were 2 spots that had recently become available for Sunday October 13th so if I wanted to go this year, that was the only time we could do it. SOLD! The next issue would be hotel rooms. The morning of the mule ride, we would need to be up, showered, packed, had breakfast, and be ready for the orientation and ride at 6:45am. Yeouch. I did not want to drive 90 minutes from Flagstaff, or from the town outside the park several miles away, and hope there were no traffic issues which would prevent us from riding, so he checked the south rim hotel situation as well. He found us a room for Saturday night at their little hotel called Thunderbird Lodge so I nabbed that, and then a room at the Bright Angel Lodge for Monday night when we got back up from the canyon. Woohoo! The guy gave me all the ride info as far as safety, clothes, and supplies go, so I made myself a little list of what we needed. I got off the phone with him and my excitement turned to feeling SUPER anxious that I just committed myself and my son to this incredible, potentially terrifying experience, with only 10 days to prepare. EEK!
My youngest son (Nolan) has always been my adventure buddy so he didn’t seem nervous at all. I, on the other hand, was stressing out about how cold it was going to be when we started the 5 hour, 10 mile ride (25 degrees fahrenheit, and I am a WIMP in the cold) down and then how hot it would be at the bottom (about 90) and whether my bony butt was going to be able to handle riding in a saddle for 10 hours over 2 days. I ended up hardly sleeping at the hotel the night before the ride, but adrenaline kept me wide awake for the entire ride so it was fine. (I’ll share some hotel and food reviews at the end of this post.) We were given a thing called a Bota bag for drinking water because they didn’t want plastic bottles which could freak out the mules if they made a crunching sound, or any other type of water dispenser where lids could be dropped or somehow fall on the mule and scare them. The bag had a string on it which was looped around the saddle horn, and there were stops where we could fill them from a faucet, plus the wranglers carried extra water so we could refill with that, if needed. They also gave each rider a yellow rain coat in case it ended up raining (it was clear blue skies our entire trip but most of the riders-myself included-put the coat on in the morning to use as a windbreaker because it was so cold out.) The orientation was a lot of “This ride is real hard on your body, physically. It’s also only 23% humidity here at the top, and 9% at the bottom. Between the lack of humidity and the elevation changes, you MUST drink water when we say so or you are at risk for passing out. People are helicoptered out of the canyon ALL the time, so make sure you are 100% ready physically, and that you’re ok with heights.” YIPES. The way you ride a mule is completely different than a horse so they give you all the riding instruction, which you need to remember so you don’t get hurt. The actual steering of these mules isn’t necessary though. They tend to ride nose to tail, following each other on the trail, and they really do not want to die so they are very careful when they walk. As a rider, you’re pretty much just responsible for not falling off. They also strongly encourage you to not let your mule stop in its tracks to munch on things because if you let them do that too much, they slow the whole ride down and then it takes even longer to get to the bottom.
A little side note about the mules; first, a mule and a donkey/burro are not the same thing, which I did not know before this trip. They are half horse and half donkey, which makes them taller than donkeys, and have better endurance, harder hooves, tougher skin (which makes them more capable of resisting sun and rain) and have a natural resistance to disease and insects, and they have more patience than horses. So weird! They can also go a few days without food or water so the combination of their tough physical features and smarts, they are the ideal desert animal for transporting people and/or supplies, tasks that they have been doing for centuries. They carried supplies during wars, and were the perfect mode of transportation in warm climates long before cars were ever a thing. Another fun fact: mules cannot reproduce with each other because they have 63 chromosomes, so it makes them sterile. WHAT. So mules as a species have survived all this time because people have paired a male donkey to mate with a female horse. You can get all kinds of mule sizes and colors based on what type of horse the donkey is bred with. Mules can look very similar to horses but a noticeable difference is their body is wider than a horse, their ears are longer, and their feet are significantly smaller. Like, not just their hoof size but also the width apart in their stride. It’s crazy. I read up about mules before signing up for the ride because I wanted to make sure they are treated well not just for this riding experience, but in how they are trained and how they are cared for. This is not a situation like elephants being beaten into submission for riding purposes in Thailand, this is like riding a horse that has learned how to wear a saddle and a person. It isn’t cruel or inhumane, which was the most important thing for me to know before doing this. The mules at the Grand Canyon all have names and personalities, and the wranglers obviously love them to pieces. They are all very well taken care of, are surprisingly happy to receive affection (my son and I both gave our mules lots of scritches, hugs, and kisses, as well as an apple to eat before our ride back up the following morning) and they get rotated out after a ride so a new set of mules do the trip the next day while the others rest. The mules do the rides/carry supplies during their peak years of strength and endurance, and if you’re interested, you can put your name on a list to adopt a mule when they are ready to retire and enjoy some lazy days and grazing. How cool is that?
When we started the ride, I fully expected to be terrified of the height (because I am afraid of heights) but I was quickly distracted by how freaking beautiful it was down inside the canyon. I had no idea how green it was down there! (The ride starts at the top where it’s about 7,000 feet above sea level and ends at about 2,500 feet, so the plant life varies quite a bit as you head down.) Both days, I spent the majority of the time saying “WOW, LOOK AT THAT” because the view down there is so much more than what you can see from the rim. We went downhill a lot, walked along a stream, and several times, we would go back up quite a bit in altitude and then back down, before getting to Phantom Ranch (where we would spend the night) on the other side of the Colorado River, down at the very bottom. There were several moments where I was terrified because my mule (named Mabel) would walk right up to the edge up high on the cliffs of the trail and then pivot to make the turn because the trail wasn’t very wide. I know it’s second nature to them to walk these trails and I had to keep reminding myself that the mules know what they are doing but I’m not going to lie, I had to look toward the canyon wall next to me a few times and not out over the cliff, because it was too scary. It was a huge lesson in trust and patience, for sure.
The last part of the trail took us through a small cave where the wranglers said to duck our heads as we went through, and to keep hands off the cave walls so we don’t disturb the bats. WHAT. Fortunately the cave is fairly short so going through it didn’t take long but as soon as you’re through it, you go across a suspension bridge over the Colorado River that was built in 1928 by men who carried down 50-80 pounds of cable each, and then would hike back up, get more cable, and bring it down again. The only thing that has changed about this bridge is the 2×8 planks in the center that the mules walk across on. They replace those planks about every 5 years so they remain strong. Watching a river run under us that is on average 42-46 degrees year round is nerve-wracking because if we fall in, I’m going to be SO COLD and as you now know, I hate the cold. But I just kept reminding myself in the 100 years of the Grand Canyon being a national park, with mule rides being a thing there this whole time, no mule has ever fallen off the cliffs or off the bridge. Another lesson in trust, I suppose.
There were campers who’d hiked down before us with tents set up all along the stream back to the Phantom Ranch cabins where our group would be staying overnight, and as we made our way down that last part of the path, the 5 hours of adrenaline keeping me awake had faded away and I was left feeling completely exhausted, and it was only 1:30 pm. Dinner would be at 5, so they recommended going for a walk around the camp and back out to the Colorado River where there was a separate suspension bridge people could walk across (no people allowed on the mule bridge.) My son and I powered through and made the half mile walk back out to the river and walked across that bridge on principle, and then dragged ourselves back to our cabin to nap, where I only managed to sleep for 20 minutes but he slept for an hour. We got up and checked out more of the camp and then headed to dinner in the dining hall, where our group sat together at a long picnic table, and the other campers who had signed up ahead of time for a meal sat at two other long tables, and we all ate a family-style steak dinner cooked and served by staff who live down there. They offered to answer any camp related questions we had, so someone asked if they live down there year-round. Turns out they agree to one year on the job, where they work 10 days on, and 4 days off. On their days off, if they want to leave, they have to hike the other trail that’s 7 miles long (which we would take by mule on our way out) and do the same thing when they return. Crazy! But they all seemed to love it and obviously knew what they were signing up for when they got the job, so kudos to them for that commitment.
I barely made it through dinner when total exhaustion hit and I could not keep my eyes open. I’m not ashamed to admit that I went to bed at 6:30pm that night. My son managed to stay awake until 8 because he had napped longer than I did but we both slept straight through the night. We had to drop our supply bag off to be loaded back on the mules by 6:20am, eat breakfast at 6:30am, and then be ready to get back on our mules for the 5 hour, 7 mile ride out of the canyon, by 7am. We rode out of the camp and stopped along the Colorado River to watch the sun come up over the canyon wall, went back across the mule bridge, and up to the left for our new trail out. The steepness on that side is like nothing I have ever experienced before and I can see why they save that side for the ride out instead of the ride in, because I don’t know if I would have stayed for the whole ride if I had seen that from the get-go. We stopped many times to give the mules a break, and to take a drink of water and have our brains adjust to the altitude change. There was one stop where I actually felt a little woozy but knowing what it was, I made sure to drink plenty of water and take several slow, deep breaths to get enough oxygen. That side of the canyon is where you can really see the vastness and because of that, you become very aware of how high up you are. It’s beautiful for sure, but I had to keep reminding myself to trust my mule and how sure-footed she is, and that as long as I didn’t do some dumb ass thing, I wasn’t going to fall off of her. When the ride was over, I had two water blisters on two fingers and a hunk of skin torn off one knuckle because I had been holding on to the saddle horn for dear life on many of those switchbacks. And since I’m mentioning injuries, I also got a bruise about the size of my hand on the inside of my left knee and a week later, the insides of both my knees still feel tender to the touch. Was it worth it? 100%.
When we got back up to the top, we all received a silly, funny certificate for completing this journey that not many people accomplish. We said our goodbyes to our mules and were taken on a shuttle bus back to the Bright Angel Lodge, where Nolan and I went straight to the cafe and had ALL THE FOOD (and I had a freaking great IPA from a brewery in Flagstaff that I wish I could remember the name of.) We opted to spend the rest of the day lounging in our hotel room, only leaving to walk out to the rim to watch the sunset one last time, and falling asleep by 8pm.
I’ve been asked several times if I would recommend this trip and here’s my thought on that: If it’s something you have wanted to do, then yes, I highly recommend it. But if you have physical limitations or concerns, or feel you can’t get out of your own head in regards to the height fear, then no. Nothing bothers me more than someone saying “You have GOT to do _____” because the reality is, we are all unique people and something you like may not be something I like, and how much would it suck that you forced yourself to do something that makes you super uncomfortable, just because someone else said to do it? Pretty sucky.
Ok, my final thoughts on the food and accommodations, just because I feel like Trip Advisor reviews on experiences don’t always cover these things. First, the food. The food in the hotel restaurants (I have eaten at 3 restaurants up there) is definitely above average. It isn’t theme park food but it isn’t 5 star, if that makes sense. When booking the mule ride, they ask if anyone in your party is vegetarian or gluten or dairy intolerant, which is nice because they want to accommodate you for the boxed lunch you get halfway down on the first day, and your dinner and breakfast down at the ranch. My son does not digest red meat well at all and steak was the only meat being cooked for dinner at the ranch, so I had to request vegetarian for him for everything. But he also cannot handle gluten and REALLY cannot handle dairy and even though I mentioned all of these things, he was given a veggie wrap in his boxed lunch that had a flour tortilla and cream cheese inside. There were other snacks that were gluten free in the box, as well as baby carrots and an apple, so he ate those things instead, plus he brought a big bag of macadamia nuts so he munched on those, too. So if you have all of those restrictions like he does, it’s a good idea to bring your own lunch or snacks. At the ranch, he could eat the baked potato and the salad, but not the carrots because they were cooked in butter. They did bring out a big pot of vegetarian chili for the handful of vegetarians there, so he ate a lot of that. Breakfast was also a challenge but the kitchen staff brought out fruit he could eat, and he was able to eat some eggs because they weren’t cooked with milk or butter, but he definitely couldn’t eat the pancakes. There was no lunch for the ride back up but the wranglers had these tasty gluten-free fruit/oat bars to snack on that they gave to each of us at the half way point. At the restaurants, they do have vegan/vegetarian options but we noticed on the menu in the cafe that the veggie wrap he got for the boxed lunch was labeled “vegan” while listing cream cheese as one of the ingredients. Like I said, the food was good but just be aware of those things if you have dietary restrictions.
I mentioned earlier that we stayed the first night in Thunderbird Lodge, and the last night at Bright Angel Lodge. Of course, these hotels are extremely old, although they are very clean and well taken care of. But, being old, the heaters in both are these long, metal units that run along the bottom of the wall. They are connected to a modern thermostat but when they come on (primarily during the night when it’s in the 20s) they make a tapping sound that lasts for about 45 minutes at a time. Over the years, I have become a very light sleeper and even with silicone earplugs in, the tapping woke me up constantly, which is why I was so exhausted when we started the ride. I think I slept maybe 2 hours that night. OOF. At home, I have a little white noise sound machine so if I had known there would be heater noise, I would have brought that. So if you’re a light sleeper like me, be prepared for that. It’s kind of a gut-punch to pay for these pricey rooms and not get much sleep, but I tried to just chalk it up to it all being part of the experience (but I’m still giving you a heads-up because lack of sleep suuuuucks.) The cabins at the bottom of the canyon are cute but in no way, fancy. There are enough cabins that our group (10 people) could all share a cabin just with the person they traveled with, so Nolan and I got our own. There’s a wall a/c and heat unit and a small sink and private toilet, but showers are in a separate, locked building close by. If you’ve ever camped at a KOA campground, the showers are very much like that. Paranoid me wished I had brought flip-flops to shower in because even though it all appeared very clean, I was convinced I would get athlete’s foot, which did not happen. Ha! There were 2 sets of bunk beds with clean bedding in our cabin, so we each slept on the bottom bunks so we wouldn’t have to deal with one of us climbing up and down from the upper bunk. The showers have a supply of clean towels, and they do have dispensers for shampoo and body wash, but I chose to bring my own toiletries. Speaking of bringing your own stuff: Each rider is given a small drawstring bag where you can bring a maximum of 10 pounds worth of stuff. Knowing we would get filthy from the mule ride (dust gets kicked up and ends up all over your clothes. Don’t even get me started on the epic dust boogers you spend two days blowing out of your nose) so I just brought pajamas, socks, underwear, and my toiletries, with the plan of wearing the same pants, shirts, and jacket that I wore down there the day before. ( You’ll definitely want to wear layers because of the temp changes.) I will freely admit I also brought my makeup, a tiny travel hair dryer, and a brush because you can take the girl down into the canyon, but don’t take away her smooth hair or mascara and foundation!
Lastly, and maybe this goes without saying, but there is no cell phone service or internet in the canyon. There is internet inside the Bright Angel Lodge lobby, so when we stayed next door at the Thunderbird Lodge, we had no internet, and no internet in our room in the Bright Angel Lodge either. That actually ended up being the best thing. I walked into the Bright Angel Lodge lobby, logged on and used Whats App to let my husband know we arrived up there safely, logged on again the next morning to let him know we were leaving for the mule ride, and then again to let him know we made it back in one piece. I think I posted a couple of pictures to Twitter from that lobby the night before we went home, but that was it. It was an unexpected and welcome break from the outside world that my son and I both really enjoyed. Oh, and the staff at the hotels and restaurants are all very friendly, and for the mule ride, our wranglers, Katie and Maggie, were extremely helpful, patient, and informative. Don, the head wrangler who gave us all the riding and safety tips before we started, was also extremely kind, funny, and informative. One thing that isn’t mentioned beforehand is bringing money when you go down to the bottom. At the camp, the dining building is also a little gift shop and if you want, there’s beer and wine available for purchase (which seems like not the greatest idea on account of how dehydrating the whole day is, but who am I to judge.) But there are post cards that are exclusive to that camp that are sold down there that I wish I’d known about ahead of time because I really wanted to buy one and have it mailed home from the south rim mailbox. Plus, tipping the wranglers is a nice thing to do but there’s a way to do that after even if you forgot your wallet during the ride. There are envelopes at the Bright Angel Lodge front desk where you can write out who it’s for and any little message you’d like to add, put the tip inside, and then staff confirms the amount and signs it, so you are assured they will receive it. I also let the wranglers know I’d be doing that so they’d know to swing by and pick it up at the end of the day.
I have posted a few videos and pictures on my Instagram if you would like to see more than what I’ve posted here. (That link is to one post but you can scroll through to see the others.) I hope this post is useful if you’ve been considering making this journey or at least a fun read regarding something I did that you have NO DESIRE TO EVER DO. I loved the experience and can honestly say, it was an incredible one-time journey that I am so grateful we got to do.
A little over a week ago, I had this idea for a t-shirt design (which is so weird because I have never done that before. Hooray for trying new things!) that I wanted to make to sell as a fundraiser for a charity. It’s meant to convey kindness and compassion, reaching out to others to others in need (something our world so desperately needs right now) and doing it all with one of my favorite things; DOGS.
I got out my dry erase board that I used to draw little stick figure sketches for my book. Since I’m not a very good artist, I had to literally get down on one knee to figure out how that looked so I could draw it. It’s a little wonky but you can clearly see (below) what I’m going for with it. Because it was so wonky, I knew I needed to find a real artist who could translate my little drawing into something more substantial and with cleaner lines, so I took to the internet to ask for referrals to a female artist who’d be interested in doing a little project for me. I got several messages from people with links to their websites and it made me so happy to see such great work from them! I also heard from one organization called Stands who told me they could do it, and that my husband had their contact info because he’s worked with them before, so just get their info from him.
Ok, so first off, I’m a genius and didn’t know that.
I went in to Wil’s office and asked if he knew people at Stands and his response was “YES! They are amazing. It’s all women who work there (except for their one male secretary) and they do incredible work. I’ve done a few shirts with them. Why?” So I had to explain my idea and asking the internet for an artist blah blah blah and he was all “Uh, why didn’t you just ask me?”
Yeah…like I said…genius.
So Wil did an email introduction and I talked with Riley, who offered to do the artwork for me for free so I could use it wherever I wanted to support the charity of my choice, which is so completely unexpected and incredibly kind of her to do. I sent her a picture of my dry erase board drawing and she loved it and didn’t want to change much about it. I agreed and she came back with the CUTEST translation of my drawing! We sent the artwork off to Cotton Bureau and within a couple of hours, BAM! My idea was suddenly available on a shirt. HOW COOL IS THAT?
This shirt is available here for two weeks and 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these shirts will go to Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA in support of the Wiggle Waggle Walk that’s at the end of this month. The shirt comes in men’s and women’s cut, and comes in a variety of sizes. And if you’re like “Hey, I love PHS and all they do for the 11 cities they service but I don’t need a t-shirt” but would still like to support the cause, you can just make a direct tax-deductible donation to them on our personal donation page at their website!
If you’d like to see more info about the Wiggle Waggle Walk (and TINY 5 MONTH OLD MARLOWE!) Wil made this video of us during the walk back in 2012. GAH! SHE’S SO CUTE! (this video gets me choked up every time I see it, so brace yourself.)
I feel like I’ve spent most of being 49 saying “I’m almost 50!” It’s a weird thing, being almost 50. My brain still feels like I’m 30 but my body sometimes reminds me that I am not, in fact, 30 anymore. One thing that has improved with age is my appreciation for the life I have while knowing the struggles I have had to endure are in no way as tough as the struggles other people may experience.
My whole life, I have never felt comfortable receiving gifts for holidays or for my birthday. I don’t know why. It’s not like someone said something to make me feel guilty about it. I think it’s just always been part of who I am; a person who knows someone else could use that gift way more than I could, so I don’t feel right accepting it. I married a man who feels the same way I do, so that has worked out well. I much prefer doing something together over getting something material, if that makes sense.
I’m writing this on August 3rd, which is 5 days before my 50th birthday. *THIS* is the week I should have waited to say “I’m almost 50!” instead of doing it for the last 9 months, so I’m going to say it now. I’M ALMOST 50!! And because I don’t want material gifts for myself, I would like to mark this occasion by doing something for others. Over the last couple of years, I have witnessed people in our government incite hate, harassment, and even violence toward human beings for the color of their skin, who they love, their gender, their choice of religion, economic status, you name it. It’s beyond upsetting to me and it leaves me feeling sad on a smaller scale, and helpless on a larger scale. Social media has become a place that allows the visibility of all this divisiveness to reach a bigger audience that can spread hate and harassment, which fuels the fear and anger of those who seem to lack empathy for others, so they join in on it. And sitting on social media talking about it all day long or going after people about it does absolutely nothing to curb these negative actions that are taking place more and more frequently everywhere. So instead of feeling helpless, I want to help an organization that can make a positive difference on a much larger scale than anything I could do on my own.
In honor of my birthday (holy crap, 50!) I have created a donation page for the ACLU. If you’re unfamiliar with the ACLU, they’ve been around for nearly 100 years , and their mission statement is this: “An organization that works tirelessly in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the Constitution’s promise of liberty for everyone in our country.” Your tax-deductible donation, whatever amount you’re able to give, will help the ACLU help the thousands of people who need it. So if you’re a gift-giving person, please give the best birthday gift this almost 50 year old girl could ask for by helping people who could really use it. https://action.aclu.org/teamaclu/campaign/anne-wheatons-birthday-gift
For my birthday last August, I did a fundraiser in support of RAINN because of a situation within my own family. At the time, I didn’t give many details (you can read that post here if you’d like) but I knew I wanted to help an organization that provides assistance to sexual assault victims and their loved ones, because not everyone has the resources to get the help they need. I made my goal $4,900 (because I was turning 49 and I am a nerd like that) and together, we reached that goal.
After my August fundraiser, I was contacted by some organizers at RAINN to see if I would be interested in partnering with them for a few events they are doing this year in honor of their 25th anniversary, and I immediately said yes. We recently had a meeting where we discussed all of the free services they provide for sexual assault victims and their loved ones, as well as information on reporting the assault and communicating with law enforcement and how the criminal justice system works. Since 1994, RAINN has helped over 3,000,000 survivors and their loved ones get the help they need, and that help is free to them because of donations from people like you and me.
This weekend, July 12-14, I am working in support of RAINN with one their partners, Uncommon Goods, who will be donating $25 from each $60 purchase, to RAINN with their Hope Shines necklace; a moonstone pendant that glows against hammered sterling silver, rising in front of a 14k gold vermeil sun as a symbol of light and protection, and is meant to inspire its wearer to believe hope always shines through. If you would like to purchase one for yourself or get it as a gift for a friend or loved one, you can order it here.
Thank you for helping me, and Uncommon Goods, support RAINN and all they do for assault victims and their families, with your purchase this weekend. Together, we are making a difference.