I've been on the East Coast for the past week. At one time this was a parent visit weekend at my son's boarding school. The parent visit was cancelled due to COVID. "Cancelled due to COVID" is such a common term these days. If we were still living in the 80s, I'd make the joke that it's a good name for a band. Since it was cancelled, my husband and I made the last-minute decision to book a hotel on Cape Cod, so we spent last weekend in the lovely setting of salty sea, cloudy sky, and the last bits of summer weather trying its hardest to hold on.


Upon arriving in Boston via United Airlines after Southwest cancelled my flight to Providence as I was standing in line to board, I found out that my son may need to have surgery on his leg. He broke it a few weeks back, and it has started to heal out of alignment. I extended my stay to see the doctor, and indeed, he does need surgery. He's going in Tuesday.


So I've changed locations to one of those extended stay hotels. I have a view of the parking lot which overlooks an office building. Not quite as stunning as the Cape. But I was able to stock-up the fridge with my favorite foods. I didn't know it was possible for me to say this, but I'm sick of eating at restaurants. My son took his pre-surgery COVID test yesterday, and we're now quarantined here until Tuesday. And then we'll come back here and quarantine again until he's recovered well enough to return to school.


In the meantime, I'm missing my husband and youngest son. The youngest will attend his first homecoming dance on Saturday. I'll be sad to miss it. He picked up his suit today with my husband, and he's excited about going to a dance. While I'm disappointed not to be there, he said it's not a big deal. It's not about me anyway these days.


I've decided to take whatever time I have here to enjoy the gorgeous turning of the leaves and really delve into my new screenplay. I'm working on a multi-generational, inter-racial, inter-cultural story about epigenetics and family trauma that gets passed down.


I've become crystal clear over the past few months on they type of film career I'm making for myself. A job opportunity presented itself, which forced me to contemplate exactly what I want my contributions to film to looks like. I feel quite clear about it now and am excited to see where the next few decades takes me.


I bought a lighter today at CVS. I needed it to light the candle I bought at Whole Foods. I needed the candle to bring some measure of humanity and peaceful energy to the very corporate feeling hotel room I'm in. The cashier asked for my year of birth when I bought it. I thought that was strange. I guess they do that in Connecticut? When in Rome. I said 1975 and she about fell over. She apologized and said I looked to be way younger. She thought I was a teenager. That was a compliment. I'll take it. But the point is, I have a very healthy film career ahead of me as long as I can keep myself healthy. I feel like I'm in my 20s but double the wisdom and minus the ego. I'm feeling good about what comes next.


We live in Chicago, downtown, on the river. I have spent the weekend noticing a young man, probably in his early 20s, pacing the riverwalk on the opposite bank. Sometimes it looks like he’s playing basketball. Sometimes it looks like he’s swatting something at his knees. All times he looks like he is not living the same reality the majority of us are.


It’s hot today. He must be hungry. He’s got to be thirsty. I passed him twice yesterday, on the way to the gym and back. The first time, I noticed him looking disheveled and out of sorts. The second time, he walked toward me with his hand shoved into his pants and a blue pacifier in his mouth. Neither time did my presence register to him whatsoever.


As I have observed him from the distance the past two days, he bothers no one. He keeps to himself. The way he keeps to himself can sometimes look aggressive, especially with the air swatting. But people walk past him, joggers go by, the car wash workers take their smoke breaks along side him, dogs and their owners pass without incident.


Like I said it’s hot today. He also looks to be in need of mental health treatment, a shower, a regimen of antipsychotics, a place to live, clean clothing, water. I called NAMI Chicago for advice.


NAMI is a National non-profit organization with chapters around the country dedicated toward supporting those who suffer from mental health conditions and their families. Surely, they would have protocol or advice on how to help this young man. Their advice was the same advice as it always has been in mental health care, call 911 and ask for a CIT officer. CIT stands for Crisis Intervention Team. This a group of officers specially trained to deal with a mental health crisis.


Due to his mental health status, it’s possible he becomes aggressive when an officer approaches him. It’s possible the wrestle him to the ground and handcuff him. Depending upon how that transpired, maybe they take him to jail instead of the hospital.


Chicago’s Cook County Jail is considered the largest mental health treatment center in the United States. So maybe jail and treatment are one in the same. That sounds terrible. And he’s not hurting anyone. And the risk is too high that he would resist the officers. And then he’s spending the night, and maybe more, on a metal bed in a windowless cell. Or, maybe something even worse happens. How many calls about Black men and people in a mental health crisis end with the subject dead? On the other hand, he could simply stay outside, minding his own business, and enjoy the beautiful weather we’re having this Sunday afternoon.


The truth of the matter is that this young man obviously needs mental health support, and there is a risk that he gets harmed and traumatized in the process of trying to give him the support.


I talked with my husband about it, and we agreed to get him a plate of leftover chicken, some rolls, and water. My husband would bring it to him, and on the way, speak with the businesses on that bank of the river - the kayak company and the car wash.


So I prepare the plate and walk with my husband across the bridge to the other bank. He tells me to let him go ahead, and I go home.


When I make it home, I can see my husband across the river leaving a conversation with the kayak company, donning his mask, putting on some gloves, and heading over to the young man. I am hoping for a good outcome.


From the distance, I see my husband set down the food right next to the you’re man, point to it, and then ask one of the car wash workers to come over. My husband’s back is to the young man, and I am wishing my husband didn’t fully turn his back. After a brief conversation with the car wash attendant, my husband turns to leave.


I rush out of my house to meet my husband. I peek through the landscaping on our side of the river and see the young man downing the cup of water I gave him. “Good,” I thought. I leave our neighborhood and meet my husband on the bridge.


He says the kayak people occasionally give him water as well. One day this summer when it was scorching hot, they called an ambulance due to dehydration. But the young man refused help. The car wash people said he doesn’t bother them.


This set my decision. I’m not calling the cops. He’s not a danger at the moment, let him enjoy the day and the food. My husband said when he set the food down and said, ”For you,” the young man gobbled up the rolls.


Now what to do? Should we set some food out there for him everyday? Should we give him some new clothes? Would he wipe himself down with a wet washcloth if I gave him one?


Do I leave him alone? Do I find an organization to take him in? Surely, the police can’t be his only option.


Mental health treatment in our society, our culture, our nation, this city, my neighborhood needs more work. We can do better, and I want to find out how.

Radio silence over here means I've been busy. Since the last post, I've filmed a feature film, attended a double wedding in upstate Vermont, flown to NYC the day after Hurricane Ida hit to bring my son home for a break, and attended the double memorial service for my in-laws who died in 2020. On the docket in the next 48 hours is seeing my parents tomorrow and flying my son back to NYC to his boarding school. After all these events coming at me in breakneck speed, I'm planning on taking the next 2-3 days to unplug from the world and decompress.


The feature film shoot was a journey! The movie is a comedy called Nothing's Going on with Me and Sandra. On the eve of their 15th wedding anniversary, a sentimental wife comes home early to surprise her smooth-talking husband - but his lover, hiding in the apartment, threatens to wreck everything.


A group of us got together over a week to film. We gave each other and the project our all. I am so grateful to have spent a week of my life with this particular group of generous and talented people. Here's a picture of us on the last day of the shoot:


Cast and crew for Nothing's Going on with Me and Sandra

This was a production comprised mostly of women and mostly of brown people. That is not typical in commercial filmmaking. As an independent filmmaker, I have the freedom to carve a different path. It is important to me to provide jobs and a platform of artistry for people who may traditionally be overlooked in the wider industry.


The shoot has made me completely rethink about my filmmaking path and what I want to do when I grow up. I sense the winds of change blowing hard this direction. We'll see how things evolve over the next bit of time.


The day after we wrapped on the film, my husband and I headed to the East Coast to celebrate the double wedding of my college roommate to her partner of 15+ years and the wedding of her brother to his partner of 20+ years. It was a magical night, filled with so much love and personality that was uniquely them. I just wish my husband weren't still getting over a nasty cold and we could have stayed longer.


Even still, the two of us had a well-deserved relaxing weekend together, just us two. I can't remember the last time we spent 48 hours alone together. We need to do it more often.


Us in the U.S., Canada in the background!

We came home, I paid a bunch of bills, and turned around to NYC to pick-up our son for a visit home this weekend. His boarding school is in Connecticut, but LaGuardia is easier for me to fly in-and-out the same day. So he took a car service to the airport, trekking through damage of Hurricane Ida along the way. It's been about a month and a half since I'd seen him last, and my heart felt full to be with him again.

Those are smiles under the masks!

My son is home for the Labor Day Weekend break. We came together as an extended family to remember my mother and father in-law, Ginger and John. It has been a year and a half since we lost them, and we all still feel that hole. What incredible people to have worked as a journalist and then priest and then a priest in the prison system and then with individuals struggling with addiction (John), in South Africa with traumatized children and as an child and adolescent art therapist (Ginger), who broke social norms in their choices on how to build a family, and constantly looked out for those who needed more. We love them and their incredible spirits. I'm so glad to have had them in my life.

Dr. Virginia and Rev. John Shaver (and grandson!)

Tomorrow is another day with family. And then my son goes back to boarding school. And my other son goes back to his high school here. And hopefully, I have some downtime before the next whirlwind adventure.