Family Business Beer and More Austin Adventures with Lynn and Kim!

For Supernatural fans, Vancouver, where the show is filmed, is often referred to as ‘Mecca’. But there’s another contender for that title – Austin, Texas, where both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles make their homes. Fans have been going to the San Jac Saloon in Austin for several years, ever since Jared Padalecki became the owner. And since January of this year, fans have had another place to congregate when they make the pilgrimage to Austin – the Family Business Beer Company, owned by Jensen and Danneel Ackles, her brother Gino Graul and their parents. That makes Austin a destination city for the SPNFamily.

So when the Paws4AKF charity coordinator contacted me to see if I would like to donate a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood for a charity event at the San Jac Saloon benefitting Austin Pets Alive and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, I said sure. It seemed a small step to then say well, why not buy a ticket to the fundraiser and head out to Austin myself? After all, I’d been dying to experience Family Business Beer, so two birds, one stone, you get the picture.

At the same time, the more rational part of my brain was insisting that it’s never a good idea to buy a plane ticket with only a few days notice. I called Kim, partner in crime and fellow fangirl and talented photographer, to say this is a crazy idea, right? Kim agreed.

Kim: Yes, crazy idea. Definitely.

Lynn: So…. you wanna go? Take some pictures?

Kim: Absolutely.

That’s how we found ourselves in Austin in late June, when the temperatures are just a wee bit higher than we’re used to. We flew in on Friday, me from Philadelphia and Kim from Kentucky, and managed to rendezvous at the Austin airport. Car rental figured out, we GPS’d our way into the city and checked into our hotel – and immediately ran into familiar faces. A large group of the SPN Family had showed up in force for the fundraiser. Most of us made the trek out to Family Business Beer when we arrived on Friday – and was it ever worth the 50 minute drive out of the city!

As the city fell away and the roads became more trees and nature than highways and buildings, we kept our eyes open for some kind of sign so we’d know when we were there. And sure enough, there was a sign! A few, in fact, all hand painted. The unassuming one at the entrance just said ‘Brewery.’ I believe Danneel Ackles painted the signs herself, since she and Jensen and Gino are the definition of hands-on owners. If so, lovely job, Mrs. Ackles.

The signs directed us to the side lot where we parked, then made our way up to the main building. The Brewery itself was gorgeous in the summer sun, the interior tastefully decorated and blessedly cool and the outside dotted with picnic tables clustered under generous shade trees.

I’m so glad we had Kim and her camera to do it justice!

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Supernatural Day and Paws4AKF in Austin!

Otherwise known as… The Austin Adventures of Lynn and Kim!

Supernatural fans have long made pilgrimages to Vancouver, where the show is filmed – but there’s another city that’s also a sort of Mecca for the SPNFamily. That city is Austin, Texas, where Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles make their home. Padalecki owns the San Jac Saloon in the heart of the city and Ackles and family own the Family Business Beer Company, a brewery in nearby Dripping Springs. That gives fans two destinations in which to congregate – and this past weekend, they had a good reason to brave the Texas summer heat.

Longtime Supernatural fans Sandra and Tonia organized Paws 4 AKF (@Paws4AKF), a charity fundraiser to benefit Austin Pets Alive (which Jared and Jensen have supported) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (the other charity selected by Jared Padalecki for this fundraiser). The event was held on June 23 at the San Jac Saloon, which attracted Supernatural fans from all over the country to Austin. About 50 fans gathered in ‘Jack’s Place,’ as the upstairs room of the bar is known, to do some good in the world and to enjoy each other’s company. There was a silent auction with plenty of donated items as well as games, a photo op area with props, a Twister board, and a very popular karaoke mic. I brought along copies of Family Don’t End With Blood to donate, and my friend and fellow fangirl and photographer extraordinaire Kim Prior came with me – so now the event had a photographer too! And this article has some pretty pretty pictures.

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Changing Lives With Stroke Awareness – Rob Benedict on Writing in Family Don’t End With Blood

 

Last month was both Stroke Awareness Month and the one year anniversary of the publication of Family Don’t End With Blood, the book written by the cast and fans of Supernatural. So this is a perfect time to chat with Supernatural actor and Louden Swain frontman Rob Benedict (Chuck/God) about the powerful chapter he wrote in the book. In his chapter, Rob takes us through every tension-filled moment of the stroke he had while at a Supernatural convention in Toronto several years ago and how the SPNFamily got him through it.  I knew when Rob sent me the story to include that it was going to make readers cry (in a good way) and that it was going to inspire people – but I didn’t know that it was going to literally save lives.

That’s exactly what happened though.

At a Supernatural convention this spring, a fan approached the vendor table for Family Don’t End With Blood and said she had something to tell me. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about how the stories shared in the book have inspired someone to keep going, or given them the courage to make changes in their lives, or helped them feel okay being who they are for the first time. When the fan standing at my table got emotional, I expected to hear a similar story.

“The Supernatural fandom and this book,” she said, “saved my life.”

Not in the way I expected, however. Patty Barbera had read Family Don’t End With Blood, and Rob’s chapter, in which he shares his experience having a serious stroke at the Toronto convention, had really stood out for her. Shortly before the convention, she was getting ready for bed when her hand started to go numb. The numbness slowly moved up her arm, and then there was a pain in the back of her head and her whole right side went numb. The right side of her face began to droop. She began having trouble speaking. Because she had just read Rob’s chapter, which details what happened during his stroke, Patty immediately realized she was having a stroke. She screamed for her husband, and they drove to the hospital – where a CT Scan showed that she was indeed having a stroke – the type referred to as a “TIA” or mini stroke. Even more alarmingly, her scans showed that it was not the first one.

As she told me her story, she began to cry – but they were good tears. She was healthy enough now to attend the convention and thank Rob herself (and has since made remarkable progress and is almost fully recovered)

“If I hadn’t read this book, I probably would have ignored everything and went to bed, most likely damaging my brain. But because of this book and Rob’s story, I’m back to my old self with minimal damage,” Patty said.

I felt my own eyes well up, and we shared a few tissues together.

Patty’s powerful story was a reminder of why we all wrote Family Don’t End With Blood – we wanted to make a difference. The actors who wrote chapters and the fans who wrote chapters all wanted to share their very personal stories in the hopes that others would be inspired and impacted by what they wrote.

That was certainly the case for Patty with Rob’s chapter. Shortly after I met Patty, I sat down with Rob to ask about why he wanted to contribute to the book and what the response has been to his story. In keeping with the important messages of Rob and Patty, we’ve included a summary of the warning signs of stroke at the end of this article – you can read the entire account of Rob’s very emotional experience in his chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood.

Lynn: You wrote a really personal chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, taking readers through every moment of your experience when you had a stroke at a convention several years ago. What made you want to share your story?

Rob:  It’s almost easier for me to express myself through writing.  And I felt the need to re-visit the experience and take all of it back into my consciousness, and to try to account for what happened.  In my recovery I read an amazing memoir called Brain On Fire, in which the author Susannah Calahan tracks her own journey through a debilitating virus that attacked her brain.  I was inspired by that.  I am inspired to put all of this in a book someday, but this chapter was a place to start.  It was incredibly therapeutic.

Rob reads from his chapter at the book release party in LA

Lynn: Was it challenging to be that personal and share your own vulnerability?

Rob: Not really – I mean the fear of getting too personal is always a road block, but it’s one I like to push out of the way.  I do it a lot with my song lyrics.  At times, singing my songs is like reading my diary out loud.  It’s terrifying!  BUT I am motivated by that fear.  I dare myself to speak the truth.  I think there’s something incredibly confident, or robust, about expressing one’s own insecurities and fear.  I’ve said it before on stage when I sing songs like She Waits, but there is something about this fandom that makes me feel safe to express myself.  I feel like there’s an unspoken connection, especially by the end of a convention weekend. So I did also feel that when I wrote this – that it wouldn’t fall on judgmental ears.

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Vote For A Hero! The 2018 Change Maker Awards and the Supernatural Connection

When we decided to write Family Don’t End With Blood, one of the main reasons was to break the silence around mental health challenges. If nobody talks about their challenges, we all tend to think we’re the only ones suffering, and thus we keep silent. That means we don’t reach out for help when we need it – and that is a dangerous thing. As a psychologist, I know the tremendous value of hearing other people’s stories, so that our own can be validated. So that WE can be validated, and thus feel worthy of the help we so deserve. Many of the chapters in the book are written by people who have dealt with a significant challenge – and have come out on the other side. Some of those are Supernatural fans, and some of those are Supernatural actors.

Jared Padalecki was the first Supernatural actor who told me that he had something to say and a reason to say it in Family Don’t End With Blood. He wanted to tell his own story of coming up against significant challenges of anxiety and depression, so that others would be emboldened to tell theirs to someone who could help – so that others who were struggling would truly know “you are not alone”. Jared had partnered with two important organizations to help get that message out there, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and Attitudes in Reverse (AIR). Both organizations do amazing and important work in fighting stigma, educating people about mental health, and providing a route for people who are struggling to find the help they need.

Because everyone who wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood was passionate about making a difference, we decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to two of the charitable organizations the cast supports – Misha Collins’ Random Acts and one of Jared’s partners, Attitudes in Reverse.

AIR was started by Tricia and Kurt Baker after they lost their son Kenny to suicide. AIR volunteers, along with Trish and Kurt and their therapy dog Miki, speak at schools and universities about suicide prevention and mental health, and have put together a powerful exhibition called “In Their Shoes.” Each pair of shoes in the exhibit is from someone with an important message, written in their own words on their shoes, and helping to increase understanding and empathy for those who are struggling. You can literally “put yourself in their shoes” and understand the need for help and breaking the silence.

I’ve donated a pair of shoes, and so have many of the Supernatural cast. Gil McKinney, Samantha Smith, Mark Pellegrino, Carrie Genzel, Rob Benedict and Louden Swain, Jason Manns, Lauren Tom, Chris Schmelke and many others have written their messages on a pair of their shoes.

Samantha Smith donates a pair of shoes
Gil McKinney
Carrie Genzel

Jensen Ackles donated a worn pair of sneakers, with the message “My brother, I’ve got your back….Always.” When Jared was struggling, Jensen was there for him, and his message reflects his unwavering empathy, understanding and support.

Jared Padalecki donated a pair of boots which have travelled all over the country to help raise awareness. His message: When life breaks you down, never give up. Always Keep Fighting.

Jared and Jensen’s donated shoes and heartfelt messages
Miki feeling safe and comforted between Jared and Jensen’s shoes 🙂

In the chapter he wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood, Jared opens up about his own anxiety and depression, and how sometimes it has been difficult for him to keep going. He writes with extraordinary candor and vulnerability, taking the reader along with him on a lifetime journey of self discovery starting with his own childhood and continuing through Supernatural and the present. Jared shares his story so that others can feel like it’s okay to share theirs – and to accept help, just like he did.

I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression most of my adult life… it did win a few battles along the way (though I am proud to say, I am winning the WAR!). One of those battles was in season 3, during the filming of “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” It was a day like any other: I woke up, worked out, memorized my lines, and headed to the set. But something I couldn’t identify (or, maybe, that I was choosing to ignore) was eating at me. Beating me down. Convincing me that it was going to win, and that I didn’t have a chance to stop it. I made it through my daily hair and makeup and was taken to set for a rehearsal and blocking of our day’s first scene. I got in the car and rode to set, and then I was sent back to my trailer to finish changing into wardrobe and to wait while the crew set up the lighting. I walked into my trailer, sat down on the couch, and I couldn’t get up. I could no longer, on my own, muster the will to carry on. I heard the knocks on my door and I knew my crew was ready for me on set, but I couldn’t make it out of my trailer. After a bit of time, Jensen came into my trailer to see what was going on, and he knew I was not okay. He had the assistant director call for a doctor, and he sat with me to talk. The doctor showed up a bit later and sat with me in my trailer to ask me a few questions. After some time, the doctor told me that his professional opinion was that I was clinically depressed, and I should take some time off from filming.

That’s when it hit me.

I couldn’t stop filming.

I couldn’t put my crew out of work for a day, a week, a month.

I also couldn’t face, or admit, what was going on in my head.

I met the doctor in the middle. I went home, and we pushed that day’s scenes to another time. After a long sleep and a long jog and a long bath, I was ready to show back up for work the next day. Supernatural has continued for many years after that. And then, seven years later, we went back to film at the very same house we were using the day I sat in my trailer and couldn’t make it to set. That day was the day I also launched the first Always Keep Fighting campaign. In over 200 episodes, over 1,600 filming days, and hundreds of locations, what are the odds?

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Happy Anniversary to Jared Padalecki’s Always Keep Fighting!

 

Today is the third anniversary of Jared Padalecki’s ‘Always Keep Fighting’ campaign – three little words that inspired so many people. I think we all knew, the first time Jared said those words, just how much they meant. We knew that those words, that sentiment, were the mantra of the Winchester brothers, the iconic characters who Jared and Jensen Ackles portray on Supernatural. For those of us who love the Show, Sam and Dean’s determination to “always keep fighting” had inspired us for a decade. But when Jared brought that inspiration to “real life”, those words took on an even greater power.

The first AKF charity campaign took Represent.com by storm – the passion of the SPNFamily had never burnt so brightly or been so united.  There were more campaigns that followed, some joint campaigns with Jensen or with Misha, as the power of the messages to inspire became clear. As ‘AKF’ became something many of us lived by, it soon became clear also that for Jared, those three words had a very personal meaning – one that he decided to share, courageously, by writing a chapter in a book. We began to put together ‘Family Don’t End With Blood’ in 2015, shortly after Jared’s ‘Always Keep Fighting’ message lit up San Diego Comic Con in an unprecedented way. When I got the first draft of the chapter he wrote, I was floored by what AKF meant to Jared, and how much his own life experience had inspired his determination to help others keep fighting.

It’s three years later, and the AKF campaign and the chapter Jared wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood have done just what he hoped they would. Countless people have found the strength to keep going because of those three little words and the personal struggle that Jared had the strength to share in his chapter. I hope that the inspiration that so many of us have found in his words is reflected back to Jared a thousand fold. Working with him as he struggled to write his chapter and tell his story honestly and openly, without censoring himself – because it was so important to him to be real with everyone who would read it – was an inspiration to me. When I feel like something is too much, like it would be easier to give up, I remember that he didn’t. Not in writing the chapter, or in keeping fighting. I hope he knows how much he inspires me, and so so many others.

In celebration of the AKF anniversary, I thought I’d share a short excerpt from his almost 30-page chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood – one I’ve re-read many many times.

So, there I was, sitting in an airplane after filming for four days, en route to San Diego….I was going to a city where I had no home base, where I had no quiet corner to excuse myself to in case of a panic attack. I was going to a city that gets an influx of 200,000+ visitors during the week of Comic-Con. I was going to a place where I would be looked at by thousands of people. Would they judge me? Did they think less of me after my not-so-private struggles? Would there be people in the audience who’d worked long and hard to see me (and others) in Rome and Australia, whose money and time I’d wasted? How would I apologize? How could I even begin to apologize? Was I supposed to just get up there on stage in Hall H and smile and pretend I hadn’t let thousands of fans down? Hell, I would hate me, too. What do I do???

As I mentioned before, an airplane is a terrible place to have a panic attack.

But I got through it. I employed some of the breathing techniques I had learned and practiced, and I was able to read a few things I have that are special and private to me, and that help a lot when I start to panic or feel helpless…My Sunday experience at Comic-Con is always a whirlwind: round-table interviews and red carpets, photo shoots and meetings, Nerd HQ, and, of course, Hall H.

Now, for those of you who haven’t had the good fortune and opportunity to experience Hall H in person, lemme tell you, it is a sight to see. It is a room that seems large enough for an airplane to take off, fly around inside, and land. It’s enormous. And terrifying. I’ve been told that it holds 6,000+ people, not counting standing room. I don’t find that difficult to believe.

Suffice it to say, I was pretty nervous. My anxieties and self-doubts from my flight down were starting to surface again. Here it was: I was about to confront 6,000+ people whom I had let down. And I didn’t know how to apologize. Furthermore, I didn’t want to commandeer the mic and start talking about my personal issues. It was sort of a no-win situation.

But then it happened. As I sat onstage, a sea of lights appeared before me. Were they cell phone cameras? Lighters? It wasn’t immediately clear to me. But then someone behind me (I still don’t know if it was Richard Speight or Rob Benedict—our moderators—or someone else entirely) tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a note. A fan had made thousands of tea lights with a reminder to ‘Always Keep Fighting’ and handed them out to the people in Hall H. The giant hall was lit up in support of me and that message.

Since memory is faulty, I’m going to copy my Facebook post from that day, since that will be the best snapshot of how hard it hit me:

A thank you.

To anybody and everybody that had ANY part whatsoever in the Always Keep Fighting Hall H tea light event.

As I travel back to Vancouver from San Diego Comic-Con, with my partners in crime Jensen Ackles and Mark Sheppard, the enormity of what happened is finally starting to sink in . . .

I am beyond moved.  

I feel so blessed, and grateful, and honored to be a part of the magical Supernatural family.                              

Sitting on that stage in Hall H, I initially mistook all of the lights for cell phone cameras. It’s difficult to discern specific shapes and faces with all of those stage lights shining on you (and it’s quite intimidating up there, sitting in front of 6,500 people!!). Then, when I had a light given to me with an explanation of what it was and what it stood for, I was (and am still) gobsmacked.

Thank you.     

From the very bottom of my heart and my soul, thank you so much.           

I will never forget this day. I will never forget the love that I felt, and still feel. And, to everybody who held a light for me, please know that I hold my light for you.

Though I happened to be the one sitting on stage, I am but one small light in a sea of thousands. TOGETHER, we can and will make a difference!                     

Keep letting your light shine. I will do the same. And, keep fighting.         

Always Keep Fighting.

The light that was given to me that day still sits in my office (as does the note that was handed to me on the stage explaining what was going on). It always will. It is more valuable to me than any award or accolade ever will be. It helps put to rest one of my greatest fears: that I’ve let the fans down. Sometimes, when I still feel like I’ve failed somebody, or let somebody down, I’ll walk into my office, and see it, and remember that I have an entire family out there that wants me to know that “just” me is “just” fine.

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