Wisconsin Trip 2018

So last weekend I went to the Fourth Annual Wisconsin Missing Persons Awareness Event. (I also went to the first and second ones, but missed last year’s.) Here are some articles about it:

I arranged for an Airbnb and said I would be at my hosts’ house by six on Friday. But I left a bit early, and I had forgotten also that I would gain an hour by traveling west. So I was in Illinois, contemplating what to do about this extra time, when I saw a sign for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and I stopped there.

I wound up dropping $70 on books at the gift shop — and they were worth every penny. I didn’t get to see the whole museum but it seemed really nice, and I enjoyed walking on this exhibit which was set in the floor:

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So I got up into Wisconsin and in the last two hours or so of the drive I realized the car was making a funny noise. It was louder than normal. There didn’t seem to be any difference in the driving, but the engine was suddenly REALLY REALLY LOUD.

I arrived at my Airbnb and was let inside by a lovely married couple with two little kids. The wife escorted me to my room and the first question I asked was a recommendation for a mechanic. I didn’t want to risk a six-hour drive home on a faulty vehicle. The nice lady gave me a mechanic friend’s cell phone number.

The mechanic’s name was Matt. He agreed to collect my car from the Airbnb’s driveway and look at it in his shop while I was attending the next day’s event. I then messaged Marsha Loritz, the event organizer, to ask for a ride to the event, two miles from my Airbnb, the next morning. Marsha said she would ask a friend to pick me up.

The next morning the mechanic came and took my car away, and time passed and I waited patiently but Marsha’s friend never arrived to pick me up. Finally I got a ride with the nice Airbnb husband, a work-from-home dad who cheerfully put coats on his toddlers, bundled all of us into his car and trucked me over to the place. (I later gave this couple five stars and a glowing review on Airbnb.)

So I showed up slightly late and Marsha’s friend saw me and was like “OMG did I forget to pick you up?” and was upset with herself but I shrugged it off. I was there. It didn’t matter.

The first hour or so consisted of standing at my table and answering questions from passersby. I got a call from the Matt the mechanic. My car’s wheel bearing was broken. I COULD drive it home, but there was a slight chance that at highway speeds the wheel would come flying off and cause an accident that might kill someone, possibly me. Or he could fix the car right then and there.

Of course I wanted the car fixed, but there was a rub: Matt didn’t take credit cards and I didn’t have enough cash on me to pay for the repair. He recommended someone else, but that shop turned out to be closed on weekends, and I was looking at the very real prospect of getting stuck in Wisconsin with no wheels until Monday.

I was quietly wigging out about this when I was approached by SAR (search and rescue) dog handler Rachel, my friend and fellow event attendee. I told her my problem and she promptly offered to lend me all the cash I needed to pay for the repair! Rachel saved my butt!

Problem fixed. She took me to Matt’s place after the event (stopping at an ATM for cash on the way), and went inside with me to meet Matt to make sure he wouldn’t be a creep. I paid him and drove home.

Getting back to the event itself: it was quite awesome. Rachel took this photo of me there:

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There were at least seven dogs present. Four of them were therapy dogs (from left: Louise, Gracie, Ava and Bernie.)

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There were also at least three SAR dogs. Rachel brought her Dutch Shepherd Rieken, and there was also Calvin, who was delighted to meet everyone and hammed it up for ear rubs and “good boy”s:

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And there was this SAR-puppy-in-training who was trying to be professional but kept jumping on people:

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Amber Wilde‘s family was there. Bobby Joe Fritz‘s family was there. DonaMae Bourgeois Bayerl‘s family was there. Marsha Loritz and her sister lost their mother, Victoria Lynn Prokopovitz, I’m sure other families were there as well but I didn’t see everyone. It was pretty well attended, pretty crowded.

The keynote speaker was Patty Wetterling. Of course most of you know the story of her young son Jacob, who was found in 2016, nearly thirty years after he was abducted at gunpoint. I didn’t get really good photos of her, but there’s this article you can read about her speech which has pics.

Patty told the story of Jacob’s kidnapping and the subsequent 27-year investigation into what happened. I hadn’t been previously aware of the role played by Jared, who was also a victim of Danny Heinrich.

Heinrich, Jacob’s killer, specialized in what I’d refer to as “grab-and-gropes.” He would basically snatch a child — a boy of a certain age — and drag him into his car, sexually abuse him, then release him within minutes. Jared was snatched a few months before Jacob was taken.

As the years passed Jared became convinced that whoever had done this to him had also taken Jacob, and he thought the perpetrator must have committed many, many similar crimes that were not reported to the police. Because you know, it’s a young boy just getting into adolescence, they’re embarrassed and ashamed, don’t want to talk to cops or parents about what happened to them.

But they might talk to Jared, because he was also a victim. So he started reaching out saying basically “this happened to me, and if anything similar happened to you, please come to me and let’s talk because we need to identify this man.”

Patty talked about campfire gatherings of Heinrich’s victims, where they would tell their stories while staring into the fire, because something about the presence of the fire got people to open up. You weren’t looking into someone’s face and seeing all the shock and horror and whatever as you walked, you were just talking to a fire.

The cops worked very hard on the case, and the Wetterling family worked very hard, but without Jared I’m not sure this would have ever been solved.

Patty also talked about how in the immediate aftermath of the abduction, other people began to prey on the family. Specifically, she mentioned several men who came, supposedly to help support the family and support the search effort, but really to creep on the kids. Like, they’d offer to babysit all the kids while all the grownups in the town were out searching for Jacob, then they’re creep on them.

This was absolutely vile. I hadn’t even considered that someone would want to do that. Patty said she learned the hard way — and she advised other families of missing children, so they wouldn’t have to learn the hard way — to run background checks and ask for credentials for everyone who showed up offering to help.

She also made a lot of good points about education. How parents need to be educated about signs to look for, signs of predatory adults, signs that children are being abused. How children need to be educated to know when they’re being creeped on, or taken advantage of, and to know who to go to for help.

(It reminds me of an episode from my own childhood: when I was in second grade I was repeatedly touched inappropriately by an older boy on the school bus. On the ride home from school this boy — who, it must be said, was severely mentally handicapped, nonverbal, and probably didn’t have the capacity to realize what he was doing — would sit on top of me on the bus seat and touch me in a way he shouldn’t have.

This lasted for weeks and I kept coming home in tears over it. My mother asked why and all I could think of to say was “a boy is touching me and bothering me.” She did not understand what I was trying to tell her and thought it was a situation of teasing, and was like “so stand up to him and tell him to stop, then.”

This incident was referenced in the Longreads article about me. I remember the frustration I felt at the time, because I knew something was very wrong about this but I didn’t know what it was or how to explain it, and it didn’t occur to my mom to ask any questions like “Where exactly is he touching you?” And so nothing was done, and the situation continued until the boy got tired of this game and stopped of his own accord.

This could have all been avoided if even one of us had been properly educated, like Patty Wetterling was saying, on the signs to look out for and how to ask for help. Fortunately I wasn’t really traumatized by what happened, I think mainly because even at eight years old I realized this boy had something wrong with him and didn’t know what was he doing. It was just a very uncomfortable experience for me is all.)

So Patty Wetterling gave this awesome speech that had me tearing up, especially when she talked about the nice boy Jacob had been, and what the world lost when he died before he could become a man, and how people reached out to to help them in their grief and loss and show solidarity for them.

And Marsha gave a speech and read the names of missing people aloud, and their families got to come up and say “My name is so and so, and this person is my relative who disappeared from this town on this day.” It was very emotional.

Instead of a balloon release, Vincent, this year they did pinwheels instead. Each of us got a shiny foil pinwheel with the name of a missing person on it — I got Evon Young — and the suggestion that we could put it in our yard or our window or whatever in this person’s memory.

I handed out plenty of business cards. Then we all packed up and left, Rachel took me to my car, I paid the mechanic and I drove home, arriving shortly after midnight on Sunday.

I’ve been super tired since I got home but unable to sleep well. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt well-rested. The medication I take messes up my sleep and I often wake up after only about four hours, unable to go back to sleep again even though I feel like hammered dog poo.

Ima start the engines again today though.

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It’s been awhile since you’ve seen me

It’s been months since I posted any pictures of myself and I thought I’d post this one from Sunday. I put on full makeup cause I wanted to look pretty. I went on a charity walk for suicide prevention. While there I met a young woman with schizoaffective disorder (who actually inspired this week’s list) and we wound up walking together and talking the whole way. I’m not sure how long the walk was, but I parked a mile away and had to walk from there to the charity walk location and back, so I got plenty of exercise that day.

Anyway, here I am now, days before my 32nd birthday. I miss braiding my hair so I’m trying to grow out my pixie cut. Of course that’s always a pain in the butt. Normally I keep my bangs (which I’m also trying to grow out) pinned back because they annoy me, but they look a bit better flopping around so I left them un-pinned for the walk.

10-1-2017
Me on October 1, 2017

Well, that was fun

Yeah, so I’m back from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where they held an event today to honor the missing children of Ohio. Although I showed up in an unofficial capacity only, I had a blast.

I mainly came cause Gina DeJesus, one of the Cleveland kidnap survivors, was speaking. The event was at the Messiah Lutheran Church. I showed up slightly late and had to sit in the back. There were several speakers before Gina, and I spent some time trying to figure out which one of the people sitting in the audience was her. It was fairly easy because half or more of the attendees were black, and most of the rest were white. I zeroed in on two brown-skinned women in the front but couldn’t figure out which one was Gina. They turned out to be Gina and her older sister Myra.

My view from the back of the church; Gina is on the right and Myra is on the left.
My view from the back of the church during the sisters’ speeches; Gina is on the right and Myra is on the left.

Anyway, Gina read a speech off several sheets of paper about how it was important to pay attention to missing persons bulletins, and it was important to pay attention to your surroundings and the people in your neighborhood and so on because you never knew who might be hiding something. I mean, people went inside Ariel Castro’s house and had no clue about the women held captive there. I think a lot of that is because the idea that your friend, neighbor or relative might have three kidnapped women locked in his basement is just something that would not occur to most people.

Myra spoke also, and talked about what life was like having a missing family member. One of the things she mentioned was how a man known to the family told her parents, reassuringly, something like “Don’t worry, they won’t find her dead.”

That man was named Ariel Castro.

There was an intermission before a middle school choir showed up to sing a song. I went around talking to people — not Gina, I was not sure whether to approach her or not at that point — and handing out business cards. There were booths about various topics set up in the lobby and an adorable remote-controlled talking boat that went around telling people about boat safety. I told the boat about the time I nearly drowned in Lake Michigan at age five, failing to mention the fact that this near-tragedy did not involve a boat, just some poorly supervised beach time.

Me and the talking robot boat.
Me and the talking robot boat.
Gina (far right) with members of the anti human trafficking group Break Every Chain.
Gina (far right) with members of the anti human trafficking group Break Every Chain.

So after all that was over we had a balloon release in the parking lot. Fortunately the wind cooperated.

Just before the balloon release.
Just before the balloon release.
Post balloon release. Each one has a missing child's name attached.
Post balloon release. Each one has a missing child’s name attached.

Just before we all left, I decided to approach Gina after seeing some other people do so. We didn’t really talk but she consented to have her photo taken with me before we parted ways. I wish I had remembered to smile in the picture. It was one of those days where it was cloudy out (it rained later) but the light hurt your eyes anyway, and I was squinting so hard I forgot about smiling.

Gina DeJesus (right) and me.
Gina DeJesus (right) and me.

And then I went home.

Altogether it was a most profitable visit. I made some contacts and hope to return next  year.

Merry Christmas!

Hi everyone! Merry Christmas! I think my new medicine is starting to work finally, and Christmas went surprisingly well. Here’s a pic of me taken yesterday at my mom’s house. The only problem is that the puppy is not mine — it belongs to my cousins. He’s a six-week-old Jack Russell Terrier named Edison who got rejected by his mom. I kept making jokes about slipping him under my coat and stealing him because he’s so darn cute.

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I had my hair chopped off and dyed bright pink, obviously. I had it done last Sunday. It was almost a spur of the moment thing — I was thinking about getting a pixie cut, and was checking them out online Saturday night, and many of the pixie cut photos I saw had the hair dyed pink or green or whatever, and I thought: why not? So the next day I went off to a salon and here we are. I’ve never dyed my hair any non-natural color before, or had it cut this short before. But I really like it and so does everyone else.

2016 seems to have kind of sucked for everyone, including me. I hope 2017 turns out to be better (though I’m not at all confident about that) and that many missing people get found this year.

Michael took this pic of us the other day

I thought I’d share a photo Michael took of the two of us at a Japanese hibachi grill restaurant last weekend. Last weekend was quite a special occasion — a Charley Project Irregular met me face-to-face for the first time ever. He’s not in the picture though.

Through some strange quirk of the light, it looks like I’ve started coloring my hair red again. I haven’t. It’s still the natural ash blonde. And it looks shoulder-length in this photo; it’s actually really long.

12-3-2016

*waits for That One Commenter to start criticizing my appearance again*

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody

I hope everybody has had/is having a good Thanksgiving. I didn’t go see my family. I went to a restaurant with the Lianezes instead. Afterwards I was planning to go spend time with L.’s family also. (BTW, I’ve decided I’ve mentioned my friend L. often enough on here to upgrade her from Initial to Pseudonym. Henceforth, L. will be called Larissa. That isn’t her actual name; her actual name is another name that begins with L. But I want to protect her privacy.) But I’ve been so sleep-deprived lately that after we finished at the restaurant and got back to Michael’s, I went to bed instead and didn’t see Larissa after all. I did let her know I had changed my mind and asked her to pass my apologies on. I slept till 9:00 p.m.

I love the excuse to play dress-up and today I took advantage of the holiday to put on a royal blue velvet dress. For a coat I wore the very fuzzy fluffy sage-green coat/sweater Michael got me several Christmases ago. It’s real fur, but sheared, so no animals died to make it. Rabbit, I think.

Here’s two pics of me from today. One’s a selfie taken in the car on the way to the restaurant:

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And this one was taken by Michael, showing me in the restaurant before dinner started:

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No med side effects, yay — and other stuff in my boring life

I had previously said I might have to drop out of sight for a bit because I was taking a new medication and might get some bad side effects until my body grew accustomed to it. Well, I’ve been taking it since Tuesday and don’t feel any different physically or mentally: no muscle tremors, no loss of balance, no problems with concentration, no nothing. Yay! Dr. Bruno said it was a “very gentle” drug and I shouldn’t expect side effects; I’m glad he turned out to be right.

I just hope it works. Psychiatric drugs often take weeks or longer to become fully effective. I’m not sure why. I’ve been feeling anxious and miserable all autumn and I’m frankly tired of it. Of course my life has been kind of stressful these last two months. The car wreck, conflicts with Michael’s mom, etc.

Today I started physical therapy for my back (again). Ever since that horrible episode last month my lower back has not been right. I’ve had back pain before but never in this particular spot — the very, very bottom, basically right where my spine begins. Whenever I have to bend over, or twist, or sit down, it hurts. Sometimes it hurts bad enough that I will wince visibly and gasp out loud. So it’s PT again for me.

They did the evaluation today and said my range of motion is pretty good and so it my general strength; the problem is just the pain. They’ve prescribed some gentle exercises to begin with and we’ll go from there. Three times a week for up to six weeks. I go again on Monday. I told the physical therapist about how I have back pain a lot because I spend too much time at the computer working on my website, and gave him one of my business cards. Like most people, he was curious about it, and I gave him the rundown of how it works.

Let’s see…what else. Not much really. I got a new office chair. My previous chair broke after a whopping one year and four months of use. It was really cheap and I suppose you get what you pay for. I like the new one much better; it’s much more comfortable. I’m hoping it will last longer. I purchased the two-year warranty for it, which I suppose guarantees it will break on Day 731. (Speaking of the chair, I don’t understand Facebook. When I posted a photo of the chair on the Charley Project’s Facebook account, it got a “reach” of 3,560 people. Which is a much greater reach than most of the articles I post on there about missing people. Go figure.)

Here’s two selfies I took yesterday. I’m wearing makeup in the pictures; I don’t wear makeup that often but yesterday I was feeling kind of rotten so I thought I’d try to cheer myself up. It did feel nice to look nice. I think I like that shade of lipstick — it’s mauve, I guess. I seem to do better with pink shades than red ones. You can see my natural hair color here, a sort of ash blonde or light brown.

11-15-2016

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*waits for whoever-she-is to comment and tell me I look an old hag and my turtleneck is tacky*