TAM 2012 Workshop WITH Non-optional Barf Bag

I recently was part of a panel/workshop at The Amazing Meeting 2012. It was a great honor to be asked. I also got some free perks like being able to attend the cocktail party for speakers. The workshop on coalition building was Thursday afternoon at 4:00. I checked into the South Point Hotel and Casino on Wednesday.

Wednesday afternoon IT hit. It was lunchtime, and my tummy was rumbly, but I could only pick at my chicken sandwich. I also felt very, very tired. I went up to my room, where the rumbly turned to horrific volcanic sounds. Mount Saint Helen’s was about to blow.

A few hours later I was still on the thankfully clean floor of my hotel bathroom. (Thank you South Point for having a terrific cleaning staff). The cool tiles were a comfort as I seemed to be having a fever, and trying to figure out “did I really eat that much food in the past couple of days?” Somehow, I know I had been throwing up food I had never eaten. “What’s that, a carrot? I know I haven’t had a carrot…”

I was still in horrible pain. I kept thinking how sad for my kids to have to say “Mom died on the floor of a bathroom at a hotel casino in Vegas”. Friends at that point called the room. Sharon and Matt are the friends I only meet up with at conferences and meetings, but they are always in my heart as they are so kind and generous. There are people that are kind, like those that send me messages on my phone “boy hope you are better soon,” and there are those that are generous “I could pay for something from room service for you!” Kind and generous is a far more rare combination. Sharon and Matt wanted to ask me to come out to dinner with them. I explained, I was sick. Very sick.

The above couple are living saints (skeptic saints that is)

I then went back to die in the bathroom. However, within a short period of time Sharon and Matt had ginger ale, crackers, cookies (more calories for when I felt better), Gatoraide, a hot pot (yes they bought me an appliance), and various forms of noodle soups. I credit Sharon and Matt with the fact that I not only did not die, I was able to make it to the panel/workshop on Thursday.

Coalition Building for the Skeptical Activist Skepticism can be a uniting force among groups with differing politics, social philosophies, and mission statements. How can these groups use skepticism to overcome their differences and work together to promote a common cause? Presenters: Sharon Hill, Chris Stedman, Kitty Mervine, Dave Silverman, David Niose

I hit the big time! Wow, such an honor to be sitting with these guys (and Sharon)
Little do they know of the hidden barf bag

The workshop was run by Sharon Hill. Her site is well worth a visit, it’s the news you need to know if you are a skeptic (or not!) http://www.doubtfulnews.com/

I have to admit that before my illness I was very nervous about this panel/workshop. However, I had only half a glass of ginger ale, a few sips of Gatoraide, and 3 crackers in the 24 hours before this panel/workshop. I was celebrating the fact that I was able to walk. I kept thinking “I only have to survive an hour.” Then I saw the panel/workshop was an hour and 45 minutes. I hid a “barf bag” that said “CVS Pharmacy” on it in my lap before the talk. I figured I could do a “whoops I dropped my pencil”, if the ginger ale and 3 crackers decided to make a return visit. Worry about throwing up in public puts an end to any nerves one may have had. It was about survival.

I should have been intimidated. My other panel members were big names in the atheist community. BIG NAMES. The first two introduced themselves and I sat there, thinking “You know, I’m going to be the different one. Wait until I open up my mouth.” I was slightly giddy and lightheaded as I proudly announced “I work with alien abductees.” I may have mentioned doing haunted house investigations. Then I plugged my new children’s book. I may even have bragged I have a pig that is an atheist as the hero in one story. Rapunzel is a lesbian. (The fun part is everyone else on the panel was “Heck, I’m going to plug my books also!”) I will say the audience did perk up. So did my fellow panel members. I didn’t care. I was full of myself because I had the “RetroEbolaVolcanicVirusBug” and was defying it to follow my destiny to be on this darn panel. I was, in other words, unapologetic and proud of my work.

I had to share a microphone with the very dapper and intelligent Chris Steadman, and I would just grab that baby away from him and be “I have something to SAY!”

I even mentioned being spit on at a UFO conference. (Not by the lovely UFO believers and abductees, but by a therapist who felt I was stealing her clients by recommending licensed therapists).

At the end of the panel/workshop (and the workshop part was great fun, the audience at any skeptic event is highly intelligent and creative), I think I had earned the respect of my fellow panelists. They certainly weren’t as in awe of me as I was, and still am, of them. Still, I felt that I had contributed and shown I did belong alongside them on this panel/workshop. That or the dehydration was giving me hallucinations.

Some people had said to me before I did the panel “Oh a panel at TAM, I did one, it’s not big deal” I also got “You are going to the speakers cocktail thing, that’s pretty boring.” I would like to say that to me, it was a HUGE honor and there was no way I was going to cancel appearing. Sharon and Matt saved my life so I could attend, I wanted my children to at least be able to say “Mom was on this really terrific panel/workshop before she died in a bathroom at a hotel casino in Vegas.” The cocktail party on Saturday was also pretty darn terrific, and I was able to keep down an appetizer or two.

The cocktail party was cool as I got to hang with “cool kid” Karen from MonsterTalk!

http://www.monstertalk.com. (now go listen to it, start with the “Bat Boy”podcast)

Categories: James Randi Educational Foundatioin - JREF, Skeptic, Travel

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8 replies

  1. There was NO way to know you were sick! What a trooper you are. I also met Sharon and Matt without knowing they were the ones who helped you. They ARE fabulous people. I’m thrilled this worked out after the rocky start for you.

  2. I love the black and white picture. You all look very serious. It was a great workshop too!

  3. please note I had no clue who took the black and white photograph (bad me for not checking). But it’s too nice to leave out. If anyone knows please let me know!

  4. Good on you for soldiering on, Kitty! I wish I’d known you were sick, I would have offered to help out too. I also would have attended your workshop if I wasn’t running my own at the time!

    • Karen I SO wanted to go to your workshop! I remember going “wait, wait, I know they are going to mention chupacabras and such….”. However I did get to mention my aliens so it was fine. I was also too sick for the Monster Talk meet up! NEXT YEAR, I can not miss it.

  5. Every one who knows Kitty knows what a great trooper she is, and how hard she works on her presentations.

    I can’t wait to see an upcoming PubMed article on “RetroEbolaVolcanicVirusBug.”

  6. The work you do is very important, Kitty! Your generosity of time is helping many who would otherwise be dismissed as loonies and ignored, left not knowing how and where to get the help they need. Thanks for being there for them!

    You earned a place on that panel. I’m glad your valuable work is being recognized.

    Coalition building is the most important work skeptics can undertake, IMO. Thanks to everyone on that panel. The great work you are doing, reaching out to others in positive and productive ways, is too often ignored because it isn’t sensational. I’m glad there was a workshop acknowledging your contributions and, hopefully, inspiring attendees to follow your example.

    (BTW, cute aliens on Matt Madison’s T-shirt. It seemed like very appropriate attire after watching you help an alien abductee shortly before you took that photo. Even when you’re feeling lousy, you’re still on the job helping others in need. Way to go, Kitty! 🙂

    • Ha! I was supposed to have a vacation at TAM, but ended up helping an “abductee” (I don’t judge, could be real… though I have my doubts). It all worked out very well for him.

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