Saturday, November 28, 2015

AM~Erica is Quietly Thankful in Tradition

So anyway...

A couple of days ago, our family took part in  a day that so many other families do on the 4th Thursday of every November: feasting and giving thanks.

Don't get me wrong, gratitude is regularly given, but this is supposed to be some sort of beautiful culmination with others on THIS day.

Our day began as it has the past several years. Some background first:

When we moved back to the KC area after 3 years in St. Louis, it became easier to handle holidays like this one. Why? Because our family was pretty much all in KC. It was good to be home! However, when we returned, it became apparent that gathering at my grandmother's house for brunch (as we had done for so many years, as far back as I can remember) may be difficult. Not only for her, but to get all of us out there, and to make sure food was brought in. So we decided that we would love to host the Thanksgiving brunch at our house. So, like Captain Picard's #1, we made it so.

My grandmother made about 3 of the years, but got to where she didn't feel comfortable leaving her abode. Those years, we made a point to take her some dessert so someone could be with her.

Also in the past, we would have big dinners with my in-laws. As time & circumstances scooted around in many different ways & forms, we decided to host the evening meal, too. After my grandmother passed (still missing her dearly), and with some topsy-turvy craziness, we were holding the meal at our house.

Now then, we still held our brunch with my folks & brother, as we've done for several years now. We cooked up eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, fried potato hash browns, and cinnamon rolls. With some kitchen renovations going on at my parents' house, we cooked everything. Which was fine by us. We actually keep it simple enough to be able to do so.

After a really nice visit with my folks, they left to go out to my uncles for the afternoon/evening. This is when we would generally get ready for my in-laws to come that afternoon & evening for the big meal...but this year was different.

Most of the in-laws had moved over the spring & summer. With some health issues & other circumstances, none of them would be coming to our house. Now then, we did let one of them know they were welcome to come, as my sister-in-law is in town due to life circumstances - so we made sure to let her know she could come over & we would have food.

As it turned out, she had gone ahead & made plans with a friend she was staying with. Sad she couldn't join us, but it was OK.

There was so much rain! It just rained, and rained, and rained...
My hubby had gotten a new (to us) smoker from my dad. My hubby was really excited to use it to smoke our turkey AND ham for the evening's feast! With scooting our patio table closer to the smoker to put the umbrella up to protect the smoker a bit, it was a crazy-ingenius way to keep the smoker going.

Eventually I made most of the other dishes, and my hubby took over the yams & rolls.

By the time dinnertime rolled around we had a delightful spread:

First up is the meat. My hubby smoked a beautiful turkey & ham. It was his first time EVER to brine a turkey, and even smoke a turkey. Everything was smokey-delicious & was better than restaurant our family's own humble opinion.

The kiddos voted to have mac and cheese as a side, of course. So I bumped it up to Pirate's Booty brand aged white cheddar shells and cheese, then added a sprinkle of parsley to make it appear fancier. Kids loved it! YAY!

My hubby took care of the yams. Simple yams with a few marshmallows to be warmed & toasted in the oven.

I make the cranberry sauce! Homemade stuff around here. It makes me happy when I get to make it.
(recipe HERE)

When we were originally putting our menu together, we talked to the kiddos about what they might want. Teen Boy, one of our pickier eaters, said that he couldn't imagine the Thanksgiving feast without things like cranberries, stuffing/dressing, and mashed potatoes. No, he doesn't eat any of those things...but he just felt like it wasn't the holiday if missing this sort of montage of dishes.

With that said, and we obviously chose cranberries, we were deciding whether to do mashed potatoes or stuffing. I brought up doing colcannon as our mashed potatoes. My hubby was thrilled with the thought! So, colcannon is what was decided upon. And it might have been my best batch yet!
(recipe included HERE)

We knew we needed rolls. I put my hubby in charge of the rolls, and he chose these bread rounds that were about the size of Lil Guy's head!

We got the feast finished up & placed onto the table as Teen Girl was getting the simple table settings ready.

The plated feast

Shortly after our bellies were satisfied, we realized we forgot something - the green beans! I forgot to steam them! Since this was the case, we decided to save them. As green bean casserole is not the biggest hit around here (I mean...I like it), I try to keep it a healthier option by sautéing mushrooms & onions to add to the steamed green beans, plus toasting some almonds, for a beautiful hericots verts (harrah-co vay) dish.

After enjoying all of this around the table, Teen Girl brought up wanting to play some Apples to Apples.

When our family plays this game, wildness generally ensues! Just when you think you've won the judge with your card, there's one that seems to beat yours...OR...everyone has a throwaway card because nothing matches, and the judge has to pick from a selection of nothing that goes with the main card. We laugh until we cry, often. Also, we found the weirdest way to end the game! As we made our way to the last round, and the last person (who just happened to be me in this case), there was a consensus to make the judge pick 3 rounds of selections for the same card just to get rid of cards! It was evilly hilarious, and we may keep this ending to the game for future play.

Then we moved onto our first night of our 4th annual holiday movie/treat run!
(some past tradition interminglings HERE)

This year, we drew our numbers right before Thanksgiving. With Teen Boy drawing the ol' #1, we decided to get things rolling with his picks on Thanksgiving night - especially since there's 5 of us picking as we lead up to Christmas.

I decided to make the fudge. When I made it 3 years ago, it didn't set. We had a fudge butter! Not a bad thing, but it was interesting eating it with a spoon. This time, it totally set up & it was near perfect! YAY!

Teen Boy became hesitant about his movie choice. He seemed gravely disappointed that he might have to change his selection when he learned we were going to watch "A Christmas Carol" performed just a couple of days prior. (reminder HERE with yet another update) However, I did inform him we could keep it as such, and there was no reason to change.

See, they are two different tellings of the story! After we watched the movie, we got to discuss the differences, what we liked & what we didn't.

We saw the movie in the theater when it came out in 2009. We were surprised by how close to the story it seemed, and how not-over-the-top it was for a Jim Carrey movie! It seemed to stay pretty close to the original telling. Some variance, but surprisingly subdued, yet beautiful.

As we got through with this viewing, especially with the one-man-show storytelling of Gerald Dickens, we discussed what was different, what was the same, what we liked & didn't.

Then it hit me! It has been SO many years since I've really read the book. I've taken it for granted & have just heavily leaned on all the different tellings on stage or screen for many years. After pointing out one glaring inconsistency in nearly every telling I've come across, it got me thinking that I really want to read it again. The Mid-Continent Libraries have done their job in bringing in Mr. Dickens to tell the story! I am really wanting to read it again! On pages, and between front & back covers. I'm yearning for the words of Charles Dickens. So I must get on that!

With all of that said & done, plus a couple of glasses of Antioxidant Fortified Jesus Water enjoyed, it was time to call it a night, know that I'm thankful for all we have, for the quiet we got to take in, the roof over my head, the family under it with me, the food we are able to provide, and traditions we can take in, no matter how weird they may seem sometimes. God is so good!

Thankfully, we had enough leftovers to enjoy for another meal. My hubby pointed out that it seemed less glamorous the next night; but even with the food being served from storage containers & on paper plates, it was still just as delightful as it was the night before.

And now we are moving forward into our full-blown Christmas season! Time to prepare an ongoing skit with the hubby for church, as well as a dance to help start the liturgical season of Advent.

In the midst of it all, so thankful. Here's to our own traditions! *CHEERS*

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

AM~Erica Enjoys the Dickens Out of the Evening

So anyway...

It's been a while since I've shared anything here. It's been just that crazy!

And there were so many things I wanted to talk about:

* I wanted to share about how our Halloween went.
Today is not that day.

* I wanted to share about our hometown Royals winning it all!
Today is not that day.

* I wanted to share about how I didn't make the parade.
Today is not that day.

* I wanted to share about our decorating for Christmas.
Today is not that day.

Instead, I want to jump ahead to something that I'm so glad we got to take in. No, it's not yet Thanksgiving, and there are only very few things tied to Christmas I'm willing to do ahead of time.

One of the things is decorating. We do get a large part of our decorating up before Thanksgiving. We have people over that day, so we like to be festive. Plus, it allows us to enjoy the sights, within our walls, a little bit longer.

Another thing is taking in the Enchanted Forest/Festival of Trees. This has been shifted around for years, now. My mom & I (and eventually Teen Girl) have taken in almost every year of it since its inception. Starting at Longview Farms, it shifted to Union Station, then quite recently to the Overland Park Convention Center to be a part of the Holiday Boutique. The weekends have shifted around in the past 20+ years, but we've attended all but two of the years. We even decorated trees on two of the years...
...then this year changed. Marillac was no longer sponsoring the trees. So we figured it wouldn't take place. To our shock, the Festival of Trees would still be part of the Holiday Boutique, just taken over by a different organization. And it took place on yet another weekend. My point is that we take in the trees BEFORE Thanksgiving. As for our experience of this most recent outing...
Today is not that day.

There's several Christmas tree lighting ceremonies that happen a week or so before Thanksgiving, too. We tried to take in one of those events a few years ago. We weren't overly impressed.

Then...something different came up. It was something we needed to take in right now if we were going to do it. I came across an opportunity to kick off the Christmas season in an interesting way. And since it was a traveling event, it was now or never!

This particular event was a one-man-show. A storytelling event by a man who was retelling a very popular Christmas tale. It's the tale where the term "Merry Christmas" is used and made it's way into the present commonplace as a greeting highly popular & cultural greeting of choice.

Sir Patrick Stewart does a one-man show of this, even after appearing as Ebenezer Scrooge in one of the many, many film adaptations of it. Our own KC Repertory Theater (aka - The Rep) puts on a stage version every year around this time.

Yes, the beloved story is of "A Christmas Carol." The story of the turning of the heart in Mr. Scrooge during an early Victorian Christmas setting, as told by a now-iconic, and world-renowned storytelling novelist, Charles Dickens. (or as referred to in Raul Dahl's 'Matilda' - "Darles Chickens")

We watch different film adaptations every year on our TV. My hubby has even preached on it for Advent! So what made me get excited about this opportunity to hear this story, yet again, trying to catch this traveling one-man-show of a story we can catch so many times throughout the season?

I was watching the morning news, like I do, on Monday morning. I had gotten the boys off to school, and it was time for me to finish enjoying my coffee before getting ready for the day. Something caught my attention for one of the segments! First, it was theatrical. Uh...Hello? Theater totally speaks to me, if you didn't already know. (This shouldn't shock anyone.) Plus, this distinguished looking gentleman was on my screen. Maybe he seemed distinguished since he looked all proper-like in his very Victorian suit costume. But as the information was pouring from the TV set, I was listening with amazement about the guy who was to do this one-man-show of "A Christmas Carol!"

His name is Gerald Dickens.

Is it a name that sounds familiar? Well it should. Especially when tied to the story he was telling. See, Gerald has some lineage to the author. The one-man-show of the beloved Christmas tale would be performed by the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens!

Our Mid-Continent Libraries were awesome enough to host this gig. He performed in a few places, but it would the be performance on the following night that would be best worked for us. If we could go...of course.

After looking at our schedules, and seeing we could afford to go (it was FREE, people!), and running it by the kiddos (2 of the 3 children were stoked to go), we got ourselves together to head to the performance.

Most of our family are into theater. There's me (of course), my hubby, Teen Girl (it's kind of her passion), and Teen Boy (who just finished a stint as Lt. Brannigan & the voice of Joey Biltmore in his high school production of "Guys and Dolls"). Lil Guy, though filled with so much talent, hasn't quite built his love for theater just yet. He enjoys some, but not his first choice to jump on if the opportunity arises. We're working on him.
With that said, my hubby definitely saw it as an interesting opportunity. My teenagers about came unglued when they found out who was doing the storytelling of THIS story! The youngest swore he didn't want to go, but we informed him he had no choice.

When we got to the venue, there were several folks already there. There was coffee & hot chocolate with cookies being served at the back. We found seats & then took turns to get some toasty refreshment before things got started.

At exactly 7:00 PM, the very beginning of Transiberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve Sarajevo" began to play (I know this song very well - I choreographed a dance to it, of course) and a man slowly made his way onto the stage; as the music is supposed to change to a strong tone, a bell toll came instead, prompting the gentleman to stop center stage to begin the telling of the tale.

There's a setting of a leather-looking wingback chair, a coatrack, and a stool. Each of these things are used throughout Gerald's flowing between each character. You always know which character he becomes in any given moment! He has his own little narratives in there, too. I love the little additions from the storyteller's point of view.

Not taken from the performance we attended, but a photo of Gerald Dickens
in the midst of his storytelling.

Again, not from the show we attended, but more in his storytelling mode.

Once in a while, I look on either side of me. I want my family to not regret me nearly forcing them into another weird idea of mine. As I look, I see my hubby (who is often critical of performance) smiling & fully enjoying it; both of my teenagers seem riveted & into it (even if Teen Girl couldn't TOTALLY stay off her phone - ugh); then I check out Lil Guy who seems completely tuned out & disinterested. Once in a while he will laugh at really fun & wonderfully silly parts, but just didn't seem to grasp the whole thing. Ah well...he'll remember back to this years down the road. I'm sure of it!

With some fun additions in the acting, and some fun audience interaction, we joined in the well-deserved standing ovation given to Mr. Dickens as he wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

As we left, there was ne'er a negative word spoken about the evening! My hubby gave glowing reviews (which is very difficult to get from him, by the way), my teenagers were enthralled with what they got to witness, and then there was Lil Guy. He's the one who wasn't so into it. Right? But then he said, "I know it didn't seem like I was really paying attention, but he was really good! And he was funny."


I thoroughly enjoyed it! And what an awesome way to begin the season! A bit of Dickens' storytelling. Take that as you will.

And, if you ever get the chance to see Gerald do his one-man-show of his great-great grandfather's storytelling - I am highly encouraging you to do so! You will NOT be disappointed!

One of these days, I'd love to be able to catch him doing "Here Comes Dickens!" I'd love to hear him bring a little of each of the author's novels to life!

Now with that said, it's onto our holiday madness. But glad we got a touching way to begin it.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica


UPDATE:  After sharing this post upon Twitter, Mr. Gerald Dickens gave his approval (YAY!) and shared with me HIS blog post of the day including the performance in which we attended. So, I'll share with you. The link to his post, HERE.

UPDATE 2.O:  As I wanted to keep up on the tales of Gerald Dickens during his stay in KC, I took a moment to read his next blog post about his reception that we didn't get to make. Imagine my shock in reading this entry! You might understand why when you read it, HERE!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

AM~Erica's Red Cup Rant

So anyway...

There's a thing going on.
This thing has me pulling out my soapbox again. So, here goes:

Starbuck's has really done it now. They went and changed things.

I know! Right?

Just when we expect the popular coffee spot(s) to rise to the occasion for the upcoming holidays with wonderfully festive cups like these:



Without these, it can't be the Christmas season!

But instead, they bring THESE monstrosities out:

The horror! They are too simple. They don't scream "CHRISTMAS" at all!

What are we going to do?

I want to put it out there that I am a strong Christian woman who doesn't care what Starbuck’s does with their cups for the upcoming holidays. The minimalistic red is fine. The regular cups are fine. I haven't seen any of my fellow Christian friends throwing a fit. However, somehow, "ALL Christians" seem to be super offended by the simple red cup.

So draw something on it. If you want snowflakes, if you want pine trees, if you want a star, if you want a scripture, if you want a cross, if you want a dollar sign, a smiley face, a cat, a saying, if you want whatever artsy thing your heart desires...or even a heart - draw it. Or use the color as the color of love. Use it to illustrate the blood that was shed from the cross for for all of us. Use it to represent there might just be some sort of hot drink in the cup.

Guess what. It's a cup. It holds coffee & tea drinks. You drink from it. If the simple cup offends you, get a cup from somewhere else.

It's. A. Cup. 
Those who are offended, please stop making the rest of us look whiney. For those who think we are offended & want to make a big deal out of it - stop it. We aren't offended.
It's a cup.
Just a cup.

There's so many things the media chooses to cover. The media has now Kardashian'd the news with the ridiculous story that so many Christians are so offended over the red cup.

*face palm*

Look, if you want to keep Christ in Christmas...

Seriously, if you are claiming to be Christian and think that the biggest problem is that Starbuck's doesn't have a festive enough cup for you to be in the Christmas spirit, you are doing it wrong. 
Very, very wrong.

Did you know you can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you...all while holding a simple red cup? It's possible. You can even give any of these people a simple red cup as a caring gesture. And you know what? It will be a more Christian-like Christmas gesture than any graphic that would be printed upon that cup.

I'm going to take it further:
When Jesus blessed the cup & told his disciples to drink from it, he told them it was his blood that would be shed for them; take it, drink it, and remember Christ. 
(Luke 22:19-20, Matthew 26:27-28)
It's kind of a big deal with communion. 
Remember the cup. 
A simple cup.
(I doubt the disciples remembered communion with a jewel-encrusted goblet while wearing fancy robes & stoles. Did you NOT watch 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?')

That simple cup spoke greater than any other cup we want to look festive to feel the spirit. Of anything. That's pretty Pharisaical to think otherwise, amm-i-rite? 

Something to think about while we are allowing ourselves to be consumed by Kardashian'd news & hypocritical views on chain cups during a holiday.

It's just a cup, folks.
It's just a cup.

So drink up, if you choose. You should worry more about whether or not you drink Starbuck's rather than the cup it's in. 

So fill mine with a PSL or a Gingerbread Latte.
Merry Christmas! Share the love.

** No, you don't have to believe what I do, but I do hope you understand where I'm coming from. Just know this is from the heart of a Christian. So I hope you realize "All Christians" do not share the same view as a tiny few.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Monday, October 12, 2015

AM~Erica Celebrates Belatedly

So anyway...

I keep trying to get the holiday going, but things keep getting in our way by way of scheduling & things.

Last year, on October 9th, I tried to celebrate Leif Erickson Day (reminder HERE), and it went OK. Needed to do much better. So I tried again this year...

It was Teen Boy's last first tournament of his high school career. So he wouldn't be with us for dinner, for sure.

Teen Girl is trying to start her job, so she had her first training/orientation - but their computers were down, so she was there for about 5 minutes...again.

Lil Guy had a school thing where it was like a writer's workshop. They were to showcase a story they had been working on, along with some goodies.

As you can see, chunks of our day were taken up already.

Originally I was picturing having crepes with lingonberry sauce...but...but...pumpkin pancakes happened! Because, well, pumpkin pancakes.
When I walked into our IHOP with my hubby, one of the servers saw us coming, was waiting for us, then said, "Hi, guys! Pumpkin pancakes? Do you even need menus?"
They know us there.
So, coffee & pumpkin pancakes it became. Because...pumpkin pancakes.
We love them.

Also, since it was a Friday, and Teen Boy was at a tournament, we usually have orange chicken. (recipe HERE) It was hard to waiver from our first orange chicken dinner in quite some time.

Plus, the Royals were playing that night, too.

The closest viking-anything I did during the day was wear a fur accessorize my Royals shirt, of course.

*le sigh*

Another holiday that didn't go nearly as planned...figures.

So, I decided to piece it together in the time coming.

Saturday, I decided to do a viking-inspired meal. Even though the kiddos were grumpy about it (minus Teen Boy, who was back at his tournament), I baked up some salmon fillets on cedar planks, then served it with cranberry sauce (YAY! It's cranberry season!! Find the recipe HERE) and some sweet potato crinkles.

I added almonds to top my salmon, walnuts topped the salmon for hubby.

Then, since it's is October, I have dressed up for the promo table for Trunk-or-Treat at church for the past few years. This year is no different.
Week 1 had Laetitia, the Roman goddess of joy, celebration & festivities cover the table.

Laetitia, Roman goddess of joy, celebration & festivities
So, when week 2 was approaching, a few things came into play for that week:
1. it needed to be used as close to Leif Erickson Day as possible
B. the Chiefs could NOT be playing the Vikings

Once both of these were confirmed, I prepared Hinga Dingadoergan, a viking warrior, to take the stage.

Hinga Dingadoergan taking the mic on the stage at Christ UMC for Trunk-or-Treat promo
** photo taken by Teen Girl **

Of course, with a ruana & fur, it would be an 80 degree day in October...
*le sigh*

So I got to show a bit of wild, viking I extended it out a little bit more...

When I got home, I decided to try some of my open-faced sandwiches, just to keep up the Leif Erickson Day(s) a little longer...

Even though I'd hoped to do a little more of my open-faced sandwich (recipe HERE), I did a super simple smoked salmon on rye bread with honey mustard, chives & dill. I added the sides of strawberries & baby carrots. And it was still delicious!

I didn't get a chance to do my takeout Danish pastries (like these, HERE) or my Scandinavian-inspired almond & cardamom cakes (recipe HERE). Bummer.

So, still working on getting the Leif Erickson Day up & running, really. Slowly, but surely. Amm-i-rite? (I am right, and don't call me "Shirley.")

However, this leads to today. It's supposed to be Columbus Day...but...ugh.
My only celebrating of this day, per the usual, is not getting mail and not going to the bank. Other than that, can we please get rid of this faux celebration? I mean, my kiddos are in school today. That should tell you that this stupid "holiday" is on it's way out.

I'm all for the push for Indigenous Peoples Day. Let's get on that! And lift up Leif Erickson Day, too! ( is an actual federal holiday, folks.)

In the meantime, Hinga Dinga Durgan from Hinga Dingadoergan! And work on better celebrating next year.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

AM~Erica Spoke for the First Time

So anyway...

Between some health issues within our family, as well as kiddo schedules AND other things I'm involved in, the past few weeks have been really crazy!!

One of the things I've been able to be a part of has been the Out of the Darkness walk in Kansas City.

If you remember, I did the walk last year (reminder HERE), and my advocacy has kind of skyrocketed in the meantime!

Within that year,  I became a field advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I kept sharing my story & struggle, I was invited to be a part of the board for the AFSP chapter of Greater Kansas (including the KC metro areas), and meaning I would be helping with this upcoming walk.

(part of my journey to being on the board, HERE)

Once again, I was raising funds for the cause, setting a lower goal, and met it - thanks to a small handful of you. THANK YOU!!

Because it all led up to this past Saturday: the Out of the Darkness walk in Kansas City.

Last year was so overwhelming for me.
I was moved to be able to raise funds & come walk for something so important, but I felt out of place.
As someone with lived experience, there was this guilty feeling that washed over me as I stood there amongst all of these people who actually lost someone to suicide. Would they be judgmental & angry with me because I survived my attempt? Would they wonder why I'm still here & their loved one is not? The feeling was almost too much to bear.
However, I was greeted with so much love & understanding; I was told by these people they were so glad I was there...that I made it! Then that was almost too much to bear.

When I first came on the AFSP KS board, I shared my guilt. I asked them why I was even there. I let them know I felt so guilty sitting in their presence since they lost someone, and here I am. This is where beautiful grace kicks in: I was told they needed me there; I was told I could give them perspective of what may have been going through the minds of their loved ones before losing them. I was there to help bring understanding. Then I almost felt like there might be more resting upon my shoulders in this position, but felt better about being there.

With that said, a couple of days before the walk, a few of us were trying to help with last minute preparations. The day before the walk, I was getting calls about more prep I could help with: I was on to pick up a a prize from the Missouri Mavericks hockey team for a raffle prize, plus I got a call that stunned me:
Barb, our wonderful & amazing leader, called to see if I could give a talk the next morning about my struggle.
*GULP* wha-WHA??
But, as it happens, out of my mouth came something to the effect of, "Sure! Whatever you need me to do. I've blogged on it, so I have go-to material. How long do you need it to be?"

What was I saying? I was in the midst of running errands with my hubby, like we do on Fridays, and here I am agreeing to give a speech less than 24 hours from that point. Holy Cannoli! And, not only should it be about my struggle, but make it uplifting to everyone there grieving. Great. Got it.

So that afternoon & evening, I was poring over my previous blog posts to see what I should cover. So, I was cutting & pasting what I thought might be helpful (thank you, God, for showing me the way to blogging), then filling in transitions while trying to edit a bit. But, after a while, I had something.

Then, the day came: the Out of the Darkness walk was upon us!!

I got up very early to get ready. So did Teen Girl. See, she was one of the official photographers for the event. We got around, I had to get coffee, and we were off to Berkeley Riverfront Park in Kansas City.

Being a part of the board, it was important we got there early to help with set up. I was, apparently, in charge of directing the staging of the event setup with the unloading of the truck.
Ummm...I have to confess: I had no clue what I was doing. People would walk up to me with bins of material needed to make the walk successful, and I just kept pointing down the main sidewalk, saying, "Take it that way!" But I did know where registration was, so anything having to do with that, I knew to send them another direction. I'm sure I did great! (I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere.)

When that was done, I was trying to help set up a table or two, then I was sent to help with registration.
I had no clue what I was going to do! But I went to the walk-up side of registration, got a crash course in how to approach it, then, again, approached it as if I knew what I was doing.

While a small handful of people came to register before the official walk-up registration opening, a familiar face was standing in front of my table while filling out a form, but using a clipboard instead of the table. Though I realized who it was, I wasn't going to let on, at first. He was our event MC for the morning. I just told him he could use the table, but I was informed he had a clipboard. OK, so I let it go. But when he informed me, with shock & fear in his eyes, that he had to take the form with him since he always makes a donation & he had to run to his car, I just simply said, "That's OK, Nick. I'll be right here when you get back, I'm Erica." This is when he nodded & commented on my tutu.

I figured out who Nick was. He looks exactly like he does on TV! Nick Vasos, a local news anchor for the 9:00 AM & NOON newscasts for Fox 4 KC, plus the early morning traffic guy (and sometimes fills in for a brief weather update).
Everyone, say hi to Nick!

Apparently Nick has been the event MC before. He was supposed to do it last year, but had to back out last year. He was back for this year, and I was so glad he was! I knew he was probably there with the loss of a beloved weatherman, Don Harmon (I brought him up in this post, HERE). Come to find out, he'd also lost his brother.
Nick was a wonderful MC! So glad he could join us on the amazing, and beautiful day.

As so many people looked like they were gathering to check in & get registered, things were coming together. The Sean McNown Band was playing while keeping things lively & moving while Nick made announcements throughout.

Then the ceremonies were about to begin, so registration closed, and I made my way over to the side of the stage area.
First up was the bead ceremony - the presenting of each color honor bead by a participant who is connected to that color, plus their story.

I was part of that ceremony last year. I represented blue. Blue is for one who supports the cause.

You know, last year I felt so guilty being there as part of that bead ceremony...among so many who lost someone...while I survived my lived experience...

I watched this year's ceremony, I was semi-listening to the stories. I was going over my talk I was about to give. and had that guilty feeling coming over me again. I was about to take the mic on the talk about my all of these survivors of those they lost. Around 900 people, as a matter of fact.

Trust me, I have no problem taking the stage. I don't mind taking the mic to talk or make announcements. I've done it before to upwards of about 500 people. But usually that was playing a part, or just a quick little announcement. I mean, I've given talks & mini speeches about myself before, but not to a crowd this big...and not about this subject.

My nerves started to pick up. My guilt was setting in. What was I doing? Was this long-winded drivel of mine going to reach anyone? Was I just going to be wasting time?

I don't know if the look of panic was coming across my face, but while Barb had taken the mic, Nick walked over to me asked if I was nervous, then let me know it will be fine & just asked what I'd be talking about about. He explained he'd be introducing me. All I could muster up was, "My experience." He confirmed, then pretty much headed right for Barb to take the mic.

There I was, standing there in my tutu, my EVENT STAFF shirt, and my papers containing a lot of words. And I was introduced, Nick looked my way, and handed me the mic...

...I was on...
*breathe in; breathe out*

I looked around at the 900 or so people & looked down at my papers, and began to speak...

That's me, in the tutu, talking to the masses - picture captured by my friend, April

So I just opened my mouth and began to read the words of who I am, how my struggle came about, how dark it can get, and hopefully offering some hope from it. Even to those grieving the ones they lost.

I was pretty emotional. I didn't know how things were going to go, I just laid my heart out there about my struggle.

Me talking next to the bead ceremony display -
interestingly, next to the 3 colors of honor beads I wear:
green, blue & teal.
Photo taken by Teen Girl.

I was ready to give up the mic. I didn't want to look at anyone, really. And I didn't care who the first person was to reach me, I was giving them the microphone...
...Nick walked over. I gave him the mic...and then he hugged me, then a little harder, and a little harder...
Wow...I think I needed that. Just the reassurance. And, not gonna lie...I had to take a couple of tissue breaks during my talk. So one of my thoughts going through my head in that moment was, "Don't snot on Nick...please don't snot on Nick."

I was then greeted by Caroline, one of our walk organizers & a force in the chapter. She hugged me so big! Then by Barb, too.

Barb Nelson, Nick Vasos & Caroline Allen
Photo by Boden Photography

At that moment, a huge weight was lifted from me...and I was almost completely emotionally drained. Just talking about it took a lot out of me.

Then it was about time to begin the walk...
...yet in the meantime, several were coming up to me asking if I was in their heads. Apparently God laid upon my heart what needed to be heard by even just one person. But I was caught by several.

My daughter b-lined toward me. I'll be honest, I'm not always the most forthright with my family about the depth of my struggle. I'm not sure my kids are fully aware that the thoughts still go through my head. So Teen Girl got a few pictures, but said she had to stop because she was sobbing. I think it was a bit of a wakeup call.

I made my way over to the walking course. I couldn't find my team anywhere, so I just began to walk with the crowds. What was wonderful about it was the fact that I actually got stopped by different people to talk about what I said, then even about their struggles, their loved ones, their grief, and why we were there walking. One lady was even on the phone as she walked & stopped me for a hug anyway...while on the phone!

Eventually, I did see my team at a distance, but I couldn't really catch up to them, so I hoped to meet up with some of them later.

Banner for Team SOLOS
photo taken by Teen Girl

On the walk, one lady said she found a flower on the walking path & had been carrying it as it was a perfectly formed flower, but it seemed hopeful since it was part of God's creation. She looked at it & decided I should have it. She was moved by what I'd said.
Many of you know I usually wear a flower in my hair, but I didn't on this day since I didn't know how the breeze would match up with it. So, I placed it behind my ear.

Some other folks I got to speak with talked about the tutus. Especially some with kiddos who love tutus.

When I came upon completion of my final lap, I was greeted by my daughter, and we made our way over to the side of the staging area. Soon, closing ceremonies would be taking place.

As we made our way over, a woman came up to me in tears! She wanted a picture with me, then began to explain she was a survivor of her own attempts. As I looked at her button that begins "I Walk For...," she wrote in the word, "MYSELF!" She did open up about how guilty she felt being there walking with all of these other people who lost someone to suicide when she survived her attempts (sound familiar?). I told her we would get our picture & then I wanted to talk to her...

It was then I began to tell her that it seemed to be a common feeling for those of us in that place. I even told her I still felt guilty being there, and then shared the explanation I got for being on the board. I reminded her she has purpose & that I know she doesn't always feel awesome or beautiful, but needed to give her that reassurance.
Then she did something quite unexpected...
She pulled a ring off of her finger & put it on one of mine. The simple silver band simply reads, "HOPE." She was adamant that I have it. i didn't know what to say, but just hoped that I really helped her in her feelings of being there & to keep going.

Then came the reading of the names: the names of those that were lost to suicide to be remembered. Their names are read allowed to be remembered - their names will continue to be spoken.
After the list is read solemnly, there is the balloon release.

The balloon release contains helium-filled balloons with messages of grief & hope of those lost to suicide. These messages are written throughout the morning & even during the walk & placed with other messages on balloons under a net. When the time comes, these brightly-colored balloons are released together as the messages float to the heavens for our loved ones.
It's beautiful, it's's bittersweet.

As things wound down, I went over to help put things away, and I was caught by some more folks. One gal said she remembered my tutu from last year, and that their grief was 4-months fresh. Then, she wanted me to talk to a beautiful young woman next to her. As I spoke to her, I found out she had homecoming that night, and...she almost didn't get to see homecoming. She was just 2-weeks freshly out of her latest attempt. WOW...that was hard! I was so glad she could see homecoming! And I told her I was glad she was there to talk about it, to see this next event in her life, and to keep looking for the next tomorrow. Her mother came into the conversation, too.

Right after that, I was approached by another young woman who had a lot to talk about. Her attempt(s) happen to be right on the forefront of her mind, as well as her ongoing struggle & how it affected her family.

By the time I was done with those conversations, my table was already cleared!, so I took down the signage, the tablecloth & the table. And then to help out where I could.

But...not before trying to get just a few pics in! I didn't get a lot. I was pretty busy this day. But glad I grabbed these couple!

Here I am with my adorable, sweet friend & fellow board member, April

Here I am with Jenn, the amazing leader & founder of SOLOS.
Love this gal, and still credit her for launching my advocacy.
God definitely put us in each other's paths years ago for a reason.

Took a moment to pause as things were winding way down to get a pic
by the river at Berkley Riverfront Park

Plus, I did finally catch up with my team:

Here's a large portion of Team SOLOS
I borrowed this pic from my friend, Jenn - not sure who took the photo

With all of this, I got a few of my take-aways from the day:

Here are my beads: Green, Blue & Teal
plus the flower & the ring I was handed by fellow walkers

T-shirt I received for raising at least $150
(front - above; back - below)

Even though I was so much more involved this year, I still felt so insignificant in this grander scheme.
There's still SO much work that has to be done, folks!! We are still losing people to suicide; we are losing people in their thoughts.

You can still donate through the end of the year! At the time of this posting, you can look at the top left of this blog page & see where you can click to donate.

As part of what we do, $10 helps distribute an educational DVD about mental health & suicide. Education leads to breaking of stigma & making strides in suicide prevention!

In some added confirmation that maybe my struggles hit home with someone, a friend of mine shared a post from one of her friends at the walk. In the post, he said he heard a speech that let him know it's OK to talk about it, so he opened up about his attempts & continued struggles, and that it was time he started talking about it. WOW! This is what we need, people!

Let's start talking. Let's break the stigma. Let's start moving toward a suicide-free world.

(you can read through my journey of struggle HERE)

In the meantime, I need rest. I'm drained. I'm worn down. And it's time for some self care. I need to begin feeling better so I can continue the fight & advocacy. Amm-i-rite?

I will continue to Be The Voice to help #StopSuicide

Also, I may publish my speech soon. A couple of people asked if I would. But I have at least one more speaking engagement coming soon, so I will flag everyone down if I get it published. Sound like a deal?

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica