Friday, November 07, 2014

Book Review: Son

I don't know what I can say about Lois Lowry, about the book Son, the conclusion to her Giver series, or about all four books in general that haven't already been said by people way more articulate than I. But I'll start with this, I love them. And I love Lois Lowry with the kind of love that I usually reserve for highly revered members of my family. But like family members I love, she can sometimes do things that fluster and frustrate me.

The Giver movie adaptation was one of those things. I have not seen The Giver yet, but the trailer was enough to put me off the enterprise. I just got the feeling that the heart of the whole book was missing. My feeling has always been that in order to bring the book to the screen, the format should be much shorter/sparser like the book was, but that's neither here nor there. While I applaud the effort, I feel like there were several missteps there.

So I read Son with a lot of ambivalence still floating in my system. I wasn't sure if I could trust the journey. Well I'm happy to report that the journey I was taken on was an extremely great ride. I loved this book so much, probably because initially it revisited the world The Giver had taken place in at the very beginning. The way this book intertwined with The Giver and had been so effortlessly meshed with that first story was no easy feat but Lowry handled it with ease.

But this story, like those that came after The Giver is about showing all the fractures in the cultures that exist outside the seemingly Utopian society of The Giver. Where the book really got going is when the main character left that world. The main character, or at least the main character for the first two-thirds of the book is the mother of the baby that was introduced in the first book, Gabe, the baby with the swirling blue eyes.

The story starts with the birth of the child and the mother's grappling with the birth and her inability to keep the baby she gave birth to. At first she just tries to find ways to visit and be with the child but as the events of The Giver unfurl within her life, she finds it more and more difficult to be with the child.When the child is taken, the bottom falls out, both literally and figuratively. She seeks refuge on a boat she hopes will help her find her son but then it sinks and so does her memory of where she was before and of her son, but that was the one thing that wouldn't stay buried.  A tiny enclosed village takes her in where she starts reclaiming her memories and herself.

Where the story really gets going is when she makes the decision to seek out her son by climbing a treacherous cliff that has separated the village from the rest of the fractured societies existing in the world. Those chapters filled me with a sense of wonder and dread and anticipation for what happened next.

The part of the book that lost me was the last third where most of narration and focus is on Gabe, her lost son. A big portion of the wind let out of the sails around that point mostly because it focused on a character who didn't know what we already knew and didn't grab and keep my attention as well as the first two sections had.

Also, *spoiler alert* the ending felt like a cheat or hurried or both. It was interesting that a character introduced in the third book would be brought back and was used in interesting ways, but the pay off didn't quite work because I don't think it was quite earned.

Also, and this just may be me talking, but can she please give me a map so I have a handy lay out for all these different societies that sprouted up after the apocalypse? There was Jonas's Seemingly Utopean society that the first book made me believe stretched over a huge stretch of land. Then there was Kira's society and a third society Jonas was the leader of that the third book focused on. In this book, I felt like two more had been added to that list, a land with seafaring people with whom Jonas's society did a bit of trade and commerce with and the other being the village that was cut off by both sea and cliff. I needed a reference for just how this land was laid out and how far spread apart or close everyone may have been.

But overall it's a great capper to the series that started with The Giver. Not my favorite in the series, not by a long shot but still worthy of your time and a read. It's a solid B.


Monday, November 03, 2014

Runnin' For Rhett's Run Because You Can

"How much are you charging for a full mask?"
"Nothing for this event."
"Really?" I ask. I've been charged everything from 3 to 15 bucks for all manner of face-painting styles. She was currently giving my daughter the full-on Frozen treatment, with an array of snowflakes dotting her forehead and cheeks.
"I never charge when I do the Run Because You Can Event. The family lost their son and he's a beautiful angel and I want to honor that, so I don't charge."
"You know the reason we come here every year is because I lost my son too and their story reminds me so much of my own."
"Bless you sweetheart."

I tipped her five bucks once she finished with my daughter's face.

That was my moment from this year's event.  Usually the event is filled with so many more of them for me. Unfortunately, an injury had me side-lined this year so I didn't run it. I kept my eye out for the kid in the stroke-survivor shirt, but I didn't see him. I missed the bagpipe player because he was out on the course and not at the park. And even though I tweeted that I wanted to meet Randy Seevers and I hoped I'd get to, I didn't.

What I did get was a chance to express, however briefly, what Rhett Seevers and his story meant to me to someone there. And it really means so much. As bereaved parents, its hard for us to find a place to put our energy and emotions that had pretty much been given fully to the children we cared about. But the Seevers created this race and their foundation to have a place to put all of that, as a way to remember Rhett and all the gifts he gave them and so my family and I make the hour and a half trek every year to remember Rhett and to remember our own son and to honor the journey he took us and is still taking us on.

One of these days I will meet the Seevers and I'll shake their hands and tell them how important this all is to me.  But right now I'll work on getting injury free and getting race ready for next year so I can hear the bagpipes play and brighten up my day. To the organizers of the event, thanks for a great day and all the great days your race provides.


Friday, October 31, 2014

The Ballad of Halloween Costumes come and gone....

....or a conversation about my current halloween costume woes.

"So what are you guys doing for halloween?"
"I don't know and I'm not going to know until my daughter's made a decision."
"Well, what is she dressing as?"
"I don't know and I'm not going to know until she makes a decision."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I've been the halloween store twice, I've been to Target twice, and we still might have to go back at the eleventh hour just to appease a three year old."
"You can't be serious?"
"Let me tell you the whole story just so I can prove to you how serious I am. The whole month I've spent convincing my daughter she was going to be Merida for halloween and I almost had her convinced, to the point that I bought a bear costume because I was going to be the mother bear to her Merida. Then I got the bear costume."
"And?"
"And she saw it and decided she was going to be a bear for Halloween. No manner of me convincing her otherwise was going to change that. So I decided I'd go the Halloween store and try to find a bear costume and we'd both go as bears. But I made the mistake of taking her to Halloween store, and that's where the whole story really goes wrong."
"How?"
"Well, for it started with her reaction to the store in general. She lit up like Christmas lights and yelled like only a three-year-old in a Halloween store can yell 'Look at all the dress up clothes!' Thus began a thirty-minute crisis of indecision that apparently only a three-year-old can have. She made so many snap decisions I thought her head was going to spin off like the little girl in the exorcist. It kept rocketing back and forth from Elsa to Anna to Tangled to Merida that I couldn't keep up with flights of fancy. I finally convinced her that it should be Merida, because we already had the dress and that's what I wanted her to be all along. I even bought the slippers, the crown and the gloves to complete the look that didn't need to be completed, but if it got us out of the store I was all for it."
"So why is it still a question?"
"Well the next day happened and instead of Merida she decided she was going to be Cinderella and she would not be deterred. So then we went back to the store, found the Cinderella dress but then the whole head turning happened again and then she decided she wanted to be the girl from Tangled. So we bought that outfit."
"So a decision's been made."
"No, now we're just getting to the good part. This morning she wakes up and says she's going to be cinderella, again, even though we didn't buy the dress, and we're still in part trying to convince her to be Rapunzal from Tangled, or Merida or Elsa or one of the millions of costumes we already have for her, but SHE WILL NOT BE SWAYED AGAIN. So then my husband does a last second hell-mary pass and says he'll dress up as Cinderella for halloween if she'll just stick with going as the character from Tangled."
"He did what?"
"I know. We're not to the kicker yet. She went into my closet and started pulling out outfits for my husband's Cinderella look."
"You're kidding."
"Do I sound as if this is something I could make up? Apparently, just to get my daughter out the door this morning, my husband has promised to take her back to the store to purchase a Cinderella wig for himself just to appease her. So like I said before, I have no idea what's going to happen tonight until it happens. If we dress up as the mother bear from Brave, a man in Cinderella drag and the girl in Tangled, and you get pictures of us on your phone as such, just know it was because of a very adamant three-year-old who would not could not be swayed."

The following conversation is either a real conversation I had about how my Halloween is going so far to my mother of all people or a sketch just rife for a Robot Chicken send-up. I'll let you be the judge.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Red Band Society Pilot

I get that I'm, what, three days late with this one and you've probably read every review you were gonna read on this show anyway, but now that I've watched the thing a bunch of times (....yes, like four times now. Shut up.), I feel like I still have things to say, naggy things that won't leave me alone.

And let me just say that I like it before I get into the nit-picking. There aren't enough disabled characters that are nuanced and not just there to make the main character feel better about himself. And although I'm a little upset that actual actors with disabilities are not playing these characters, (representation matters!) I'm happy that a story about kids like this is being made at all. And the afflictions really run the gambit. It's not just a "kids with cancer" story. Which it shouldn't be. 

And there really is crack casting all the way through this sucker. Yes, Yes, blah-blah-blah-Octavia Spencer kicking but and taking names-cakes. She is as advertised and she is a perfect composite of hard-assed nurse with a heart of gold that I have ever met, and I've met several. And can I just say how happy I am that Griffin Dunne is slowly morphing into Harry Dean Stanton. Maybe every generation will have a person that slowly morphs into him so that we'll have a Harry Dean Stanton forever. Because he's a national treasure and we need him to live on for the generations (Okay, I have no idea where that came from).

But there were two pieces of casting that made my girl-of-the-90s heart sing. For starters, Thomas Ian Nicholas.The second I saw him I suddenly reverted to the version of me that saw Rookie of the Year for the first time and swooned, just a little. Although You do not know how hard I laughed when Thomas Ian Nicholas was the guy who bought them all beer. I don't know if it was meant to be some American Pie call-back but I took as such. I also can't wait to see how his role will develop.

But the absolute best casting was Wilson Cruz. I did not know how much I missed him on my TV until he came back. He is my everything and I will be returning to this show just to make sure he has a job. And yes, I could count the number of lines he had in this episode on both my hands. But with Wilson Cruz even small amounts is awesome Wilson Cruz.

But there's a lot of incongruities that just didn't track for me in the pilot. And I'm not saying a TV show is going to get every beat right when it comes to hospital life, but there's so much that it got wrong that it just bugged. There's so much that bugged that I'm not even sure where to start. I could go with Leo's eyebrows and how disconcerting it is that a kid on active chemo who lost all his hair could still have bushy eyebrows that are subscribing to some sort of 'Peter Gallagher Eyebrows of awesomess' regimen for some reason. Why couldn't they just go all the way with it? Cancer patients lose or thin out their eyebrows too. Why can't you show that?

And the sped up timeline with which everything took place bugged me too. Are you telling me that within the course, of what, a few hours Kara would just get a room? And by the end of the same day they have a diagnosis for her? Just like that? "Oh did the EKG, MRI, ultrasound and nuclear test all in the same day and we got these results. Wow, we're efficient." Yeah, like that happens. Honestly, I would've loved to seen her driven crazy by the the hurry-up and wait of the ER. She would've tried to eviscerate someone there. And the other thing about Kara is that the doctor and parents just talked about Kara's condition in the middle of the foyer so that she could overhear. Blah-blah-blah-HPAA-privacy-regulations-blah, more blah-blah-blah about Every hospital's patient's bill of rights is different but there is generally a clause that the patient has a right to know everything about their diagnosis and treatment. And I know these sort of hallway conversations do happen all the time, but it just felt like a plot point and not what would really happen.

And the less said about Jordi being admitted to the hospital and going into surgery the next day. Are you actually telling me that he didn't have to go through a bevy of scans and tests before he gets the magic surgery of life-savingness? Yeah, no can't buy it.

And, okay last bitch session, so what Leo had one class in the morning but somehow had the rest of the day to find out he was getting a new roommate, get in a lunch with a hypochondriac and take a plastic surgeon's car for a joy ride? Last I checked, classes at a hospital are still pretty regimented and longer-ish? Every high schooler now all the sudden wants to live in a hospital so that they only have to read Henry the V for an hour and can spend the rest of the day doing whatever the hell they want.

And I know I should shut up and stop bitching about it not hitting every note of real life hospital stays. So I'm gonna stop and say that I co-sign this show because the coma boy used farts as revenge and Dash fakes a wheezing episode and I laughed my ass off at that. It won me over despite it's obvious misrepresentations into parts of hospital life. I'm willing to give this show a solid shot. Grade: A solid B.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Birthday Wish



Another Day, another year older. Oh what joys! Instead of waxing philosophic on another year, I'm just going to reblog the post I did for last year's birthday.

So my birthday's coming up in a week or so (August 27th) and I really don't have a lot of expectations. Dinner out with Fighting Nun, a good day out with  the whole family, my mom sending me homemade cookies, one or two small things, nothing big.  And that's the way I like it. A fuss being made over my birthday is old hat and I'm over it.

But there's something I'd like you all to do for my birthday if you've read my blog, or my tweets at all. I think you can probably guess what that is. George Mark House looms and will always loom large in my mind.  It's like an old friend who I forget about for big chunks of time but when I get back in touch, I fall right into my same rhythms with it.

I've done fundraisers and little things for them in the past with varying results and because I haven't had much time to organize myself, this one will be small and will probably have the same results. But I'd like to try and send them as much love (and money) as possible. I still have a small bevy of bracelets I made for the last fundraiser. On a first come first serve basis, I'll give those bracelets to the first five people who donate to George Mark House between now and my birthday. As always, if you've been saving up loose change for a rainy day, cash it in and send it. And if you do, let me know and I will parade you with as much gratitude as I have.

Just donate to George Mark House using their page, send me an email receipt ( tyliagardner @ hotmail (dot) com )  and where you'd like the bracelet sent to or or DM me on twitter with the information and boom, we're in business. Don't feel like donating, especially if you're not one of the first five, but you'd still like to donate?  No problem. Just tweet, or social media a link to George Mark House and you can have my blog for a full day. Want to promote your book , your blog, want to force my blog to post silly cat videos for a whole day? I will hand you the keys to castle if you give George Mark some love between now and my birthday. Seriously, any bit of love you can provide to George Mark house is enough and will garner you my love and and respect for the end of days. It's not only appreciated by me but George Mark House as well. Not enough people know what they do and how important they are to special needs and bereaved parents like myself.

They just recently had to stop their bereaved parent meetings, much to the chagrin of myself and parents like me. Tell them that their services and their support of my family and families like me is appreciated by throwing them a bone and some love, however small.

[Ed. Note: I've decided to extend my Birthday Challenge until the end of August, you have until 12:00AM August 31st to win loot or space on my blog!]

 I'm not doing a fundraiser this year. I 'd like to save that for Ukiah's birthday, but If you do chose to donate  a little bit of money to George Mark House between now and their annual gala and tell me about it, I still have some bracelets and some jewelry lying around that I'll gladly send you or I'll make you something special! But mostly I want their message and what they do spread out to the world. If you can,  tweet about it, put a link and their banner on your own blog, put it on tumblr. I don't care, just get the message out. I won't hand over the keys to my blog this time, but I will keep the karma rolling and tweet anything you want out to the world. On my birthday all I want is for George Mark House to shine and the message of what they do to reach as many people as possible. Thank you. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

My #PitchWars Bio



What should I say about me that hasn’t been said already?  I’m a bad picture taker (you knew that). I frequently ramble about nonsensical and pop-culture things (you knew that too, just check my archives). I’m frequently sleep deprived and someone is ALWAYS interrupting my dreams (I still haven’t reached the exciting conclusion to my Logan Marshall Green Vs. a Viking dream. Come back dream, come back!)

A thing that you probably don’t know about me. I wrote a book that I’d really (really, really) like to get published, which is why I’m trying this #PitchWars thing out. A thing you should know about me is what inspired the story and what my going motivation is for getting it published and out into the world.

Well, there are two motivations really. The first is my son. He was born on April 15th, 2008. He died, in our arms, at home April 5th, 2010. He’s the inspiration behind the story. I saw him and so many kids like him in the NICU just like him fight invisible monsters on a continual basis. I saw all these incredible little differences in all these incredible babies and they changed me.

I’m not just a mom, I’m a full-fledged momma bear with the world’s sharpest claws and the fiercest love. I’m not just a momma bear to my two kids but to all the kids. And I mean all of the kids. I don’t care if you’re a grown-ass adult with your own mortgage and your own kids. If you want a mother to utter the words “I love you” just so you feel some motherly love in your life, well I’m the person for the job. Need some right now? Fine. I love you! Need a little more? Okay. I love you. Done. My son taught me that we all have an infinite bottomless well of love to give. I not tap into mine and give out freely.

I’m also a mom that loves freely and openly and most importantly, happily. I know how to laugh and enjoy things things with an open heart in ways I could have never imagined. My daughter taught me how to do that because she is not afraid to be who she is. That’s a hard lesson I’m trying to learn.

It means I have to not be afraid to be who I am and go after the things I want, and that’s to be writer and to share my son’s story and the journey he took us all on and sharing how he continues to affect my life.

So, enough about me. What about the book? The book is called The Broken and I've been known to say that it's part sci-fi (although paranormal or magical realism might be more apt), part auto-biography. It's YA because  I'm targeting kids who were in my son's same position. All of my son's victories and a lot of his defeats are in the pages of this book. It's about growing up to find out you are a lot stronger than you think you are, that you're not just a diagnosis or a disability or all of the unkind things the people around you say that you are. It's about finding a voice and finding out that its strong.

I look forward to meeting all the mentors and fellow writers and everyone whose embarking on this year’s #PitchWars journey.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

An Obligatory Pictures Post

Pictures came up in conversation the other day with some of my twitter friends (Laura Zera and Lorna Suzuki to be exact) and I mentioned I haven't tried to take a selfie yet because I take horrible enough pictures WITHOUT being my own photographer. I'd just make it worse by being the photographer. They'd be horrible. They'd be so bad they'd rend a whole in the fabric of space time.

Well Lorna doesn't believe me, so I thought I'd provide proof.

I don't take good pictures. And I mean that in every sense of the phrase. I suck at being a photographer. When I'm taking pictures of my daughter for any given length of time,  I always find I delete about half of them for blurriness or she looked down too fast or any number of reasons. It's not a skill with which I am very adept.

I also suck at getting my picture taken. Like really suck at it. Like I've had my husband almost turn to drugs and alcohol in order to get through a picture taking section. It's not good. 

Here's what happens on any particular picture taking escapade. When I'm asked to smile, I immediately start to over-compensate and I unhinge my jaw like I'm a boa constrictor about to devour an entire bird. My husband calls this phenomena Pterodactyl-ing it, and it happens, oh about every third picture I take. So then I over-compensate for THAT by barely smiling with my mouth and then trying to smize (Smiling with my eyes. Thanks Tyra Banks.) but I always take that too far and going into to what I call Manson-lamps territory. My eyes are big and they are scary. The third picture I usually get distracted by my daughter or something out of range and I'm not even looking at the camera at all. Wash, rinse, repeat.

That happens just about every time I try to take a picture. It's not a full ten on the pterodactyl scale. Probably a six, but it still ain't good. This includes bonus 'baby ain't look at the camera action' as well as 'welcome to fly-away city population pterodactyl. I mean, what was my hair doing. "Alright she's distracted. A strand of us will make a break for it. We'll call you from the outside. Godspeed." Both of those things only add to the picture-take problems. We've only on the rarest of occasions both been facing a camera with decent looks on our faces with my hair deciding to play nice. It's just not good.




And then you have the terror that is the Manson-lamps phenomena which makes my pterodactyl face look like an exercise in restraint. The very next picture that got snapped was this one. See what I mean?  I brought the teeth down but all the manic energy residing in my mouth agape smile when straight to my eyes.  I look like one of the creepy men from that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where nobody can talk and those guys come at you all eyes and smiles, very happy to perpetrate the horrors they are about to administer on your bodily person.  Even my daughter was giving the camera a 'I don't know about this person' look.

But the bunny ears were adorable.


That's not to say that taking a good picture is not a quality which I possess. Once in  blue moon I'm capable of not unhinging my jaw, not giving off manson-lamps and looking at the camera in one foul swoop. I mean, look at this picture. I look normal! Put together even. It's miraculous when it happens, let me tell you. The sun rays peak out from the clouds and the gates of heaven open. It's an awesome thing. But these pictures are few and far between. I mean this picture? Taken last year, by a professional photographer who had to coax that smile out of me slowly. It's a process to get me to take a good picture is what I'm saying, a long drawn out process requiring copious amounts of patience, or barring that, copious amounts of alcohol.

9 times out of ten I look constipated or surprised. Sometimes it's a combination of the two. (Actually, in this photo I'd say it's more of a combination of scared and constipated, or scared I'm not going to be constipated for much longer. I'll let you be the judge. )

Now I could delve deeper in the horrors that is my personal photo collection. But I think you should just take my word for it here on out, and if you ever do take my picture, brace yourself for the horrors that await you on the other side.

..... I'm sorry.