Monday, April 21, 2014

Piggy Banks for George Mark House Special Thanks

Well, April's here. April 5th came. Then April 15th and I survived them both. Truth be told, with a company meeting in the middle of those days as well as a visit from my parents and my daughter being my daughter (Read: Busy, really, really, really, busy) I didn't have much time to dwell.

Keeping my mind on George Mark House and trying to help them to the best of my ability kept me going when the quiet moments threatened to make me fall apart. If you participated by tweeting, I thank you sincerely. Special thanks go to the ever amazing Eden Baylee, Steven Luna, and Laura Zera, who are worth their weight in gold.

I'm trying to complete my nav bar with special thanks to all those that helped. It meant so much to me and I sincerely need you to know that. I'll keep the special thanks section open until the end of the month, in appreciation for spreading the word for George Mark House and the good that they do.

In other news, I made Ukiah a piggy bank. Well, I painted a ceramic bank that I'll set aside especially for Ukiah. It's not a piggy bank as his last one was. It's a ducky and it is much small than his original bank, but it has his name on it and it has blue eyes, like Ukiah did. It also has some special touches his sister put on it just for him.

It will be about three or four more days until I can pick it up and see our handiwork but I think it's a good way to keep him close. 

Until the next time I do this, please keep Ukiah and his story with you and think of the good you've done in helping George Mark House stay afloat. Thank you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: Gone with the Wolf

Okay, before I get started with this review proper, you need to know that I once met Kristin Miller and she was as generous and friendly as anyone I've ever met. She was at a coffee shop trying to type a few pages out on deadline and she still took five minutes to talk to me. I became a fan of the person before I even became a fan of the author.

The second thing you need to know is that this book fit every one of my pleasure centers from the get-go. It involved werewolves for chrissakes! That's all I needed to dive in whole-hog.

Based on all that, I'm not sure how unbiased I'm capable of being regarding this book, but I'll give it a try. The book centers on Emelia, a bar-owner and temp employee at Wilder Financial who wants some answers regarding the deed to her bar that ended up in the hands of the CEO of Wilder Financial, and Drake Wilder, the head of Wilder financial who is also a three-hundred-year-old alpha werewolf.

The two meet at the very beginning and sparks fly. Only for Drake the meeting means so much more. Emelia turns out to be Drake's luminary, the life-partner and soul mate he was destined to meet. It becomes extremely tricky, bringing her into his world. For one, she doesn't know that he is the CEO who has the fate of her bar the Knight Owl in his hands. And for another, Drake has a twin brother who wants to be Alpha hell-bent on Drake's destruction and Emelia is the chess piece he needs to win control.

Some of the plot lines feel a little worn here (I mean, I'm sorry, but an evil twin?) but the book makes it very clear that it's not really about the plot. It's about establishing the romantic chemistry between the two leads and let's be honest, it's about the sizzling sex scenes. To which I say, that's how it should be, because those pieces are top notch work. The way the two leads play off of each other, the different ways in which the fit and then bristle against each other is what really works.

It's a really quick read. I started reading it while I had a plane to catch and finished it the next day. For the record, I don't recommend reading this in a crowded place. I think I flushed red twice during my plane trip. This is definitely a read while you're at home, alone, with the doors locked kind of a book.

If you're looking  for a fun, quick romantic read, this should be right up your alley. B+. Good stuff.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 15th 2014

She made cupcakes.

There was something about that act that surprised me. Not the act necessarily. I mean my mom will bake for any given reason. And she desperately wanted some bonding time with my daughter and cupcakes seemed like the way to do that.

It's just the day she picked to make them. April 15th, his birthday.

She had a valid reason. It was his birthday after all. Just because he wasn't here to enjoy it didn't mean it wasn't worth celebrating with cupcakes.

I'd never thought of it that way. Could never have thought of it that way before. There was too much heartache there to celebrate with freshly baked sweet foodstuffs. But that simple act made that day something else.

We took most of the cupcakes to George Mark House. I dropped them off at the Nurse's station, because I felt they'd get the most out of it and are the most deserving. It's their heart and devotion to the patients of George Mark house that keep the place going. I'm hoping my favorite nurse was working the PM shift last night and that he got to have a cupcake and it made him smile.

We also took a few other things to George Mark House. My mother made a quilt for them. She makes one per year for the house. Sometimes it gets auctioned off at their annual fall gala. Other times the house actually uses it. They have two apartments that families can live in while their child stays at George Mark House and once they put one of my mother's quilts in the apartment bedroom, a thought that still makes me smile.

We also dropped off a Safeway gift card of $100. That was the money from Ukiah's Piggy Bank plus a little extra. That's a $100 dollars of overhead they don't need to think about any more. Ukiah's piggy bank did that.

It's not much. I was once told it takes $700 per day per child to run George Mark House. If you round that up due to inflation and say it's $1000, it doesn't do hardly enough, but it is something. And I consider all the incredible tweets and awareness raising my friends online helped me do this year a lot of something. And I thank you deep down from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks to you, more people know about George Mark House and the good they do. Thanks to you, more people know about my son Ukiah and the legacy he's left in his stead. And that's huge! I'll be updating my list of supporters, all those of you who tweeted and retweeted soon to show my appreciation for what you did.

April 5th and 15th weren't easy days. They never are or are going to be, but thanks to you, and the good you did, the were better. So much better.

The cupcakes helped. Cupcakes help everything.

Monday, April 07, 2014

April 5th 2014

We tried not to think about it too much.

There was too much to do anyway. With a two year old who we're constantly keeping track of, there's always too much to do. There was grocery shopping to do, a birthday party to get ready for, laundry. There's always laundry.

It wasn't until we left the birthday party  and we wound our way to George Mark House that I let myself feel it. Four years ago on April 5th, our son died in our arms. It wasn't about to let me go so easily.

We went to the rock fountain where my daughter had a snack and we watched a bird bathe itself. We went to his tile, visited his rock at the staff fountain by the chapel. We wound our way around the grounds and went to the playground so our daughter could play.

Everything was very quiet, very peaceful. We didn't stay for too long. I signed us in at the nurse's station and back out again. I only saw one face that a I recognized and I'm not sure she recognized me.

My daughter didn't want to leave. She never wants to leave. She loves it there.

As we made our way out, she cried and moaned "Bro Bro Rock" "Bro Bro Place". I cried for a bit. I'm not sure why that triggered it, but it did. I don't always know what she understands about her brother. I think she knows she has a brother and he's not around. I think she knows that there are certain toys, cloths, blankets that are his, even though he isn't here any more. She gets a little mad when she sees toys in the hallway cabinet, that are kept and not played with. Everything should be played with after all.

Her 'Bro Bro shirt' is her favorite clothing item. It's got a small outline picture of him on it. She points to it and says Bro Bro. There's certain things she knows and understands about it. How much she grasps, I'm not sure.

Ukiah is just going to play a part in all of our lives in ways big and small for the rest of our lives, hers especially I think.

After George Mark House we went to Lanesplitter, partly as an homage to our son and partly because it's been years since I've had a slice of their pizza and I needed it, like NEEDED it. I'm going to quantifiably say this; Best thin slice, neigh, best slice of pizza pretty much anywhere. Yeah I said it.

(Dear Lanesplitters, please open a restaurant in the tri-valley. It doesn't have to be in Livermore, which would be nice, but it doesn't have to be here. Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon. I just want to be able to get to it in twenty minute drive, instead of an hour. An hour is almost too long to drive for pizza. I will continue to drive to Temescal for your pizza if I have to, but I NEED it closer. Please.)

It was bittersweet, being in the restaurant where we'd go many a day to decompress after many a hospital visit. It was our little retreat, a six block walk to 15'' Carnivore and a cold pint. It was the place where we could reflect and figure out a plan of attack. It was a place where we could be ourselves after a long day at the hospital.

It is now the place where our daughter dumped about half a canister of Parmesan on the floor (sorry). Old memories and new memories.

Once we got home, I didn't think much more about the day, what it meant, the grief. After all, there was too much to do.

(Please consider making a donation to George Mark house between now and April 15th. You'll be supporting a wonderful organization and getting some of handmade jewelry in the process. See my fundraising post for more information.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ukiah's Piggy Bank and a George Mark Fundraiser

So the piggy bank broke Friday. The Piggy Bank. The little piggy that went to the market and provided George Mark house with a day of care for one lucky child. Ukiah’s Piggy Bank.

I wasn’t in the room when it happened. My husband was doing what he usually does when being in a room for longer than fifteen minutes; he was rearranging it to make it perfect. He’d moved a furniture item and the shelf on which the piggy bank was perched fell and the piggy bank broke into a million ceramic pieces.

When I got upstairs to witness the scene, my heart broke into a million pieces along with it. I was absolutely bereft, although I didn’t show it. I shed a few stray tears, but I didn’t have time for much else. My daughter was in the room with my husband when it happened and we needed to wrangle her away from the debris.

We spent a good amount of time scooping up all the loose change, change I hadn’t cashed in since the last Piggy Banks for George Mark fundraiser. We had it to put all of it somewhere. I brought out two smallish tins, thinking it would be enough, but instead we ended up using a fairly big plastic bin. Close to five years of putting in all our spare change, two years of the little munchkin having to share change with her brother coin per coin netted a nice little collection.

April 5th is almost around the corner. April 15th too. Those two days and the eight days in the middle are always the roughest for me. I had planned a bunch of distractions to keep me occupied around those dates, so I don’t feel the lingering, the weight, the pain. But they’ve mostly fallen through. I was supposed to run a 5k on April 5th, but that got cancelled. I’ve got a work trip smack in the middle of these dates, but I’m not sure it’ll be distracting enough. My parents are coming and will be here on the 15th, but I’m not sure how that will go.

But I do know that on either or on both days I’ll be going to George Mark House and cashing in the nice little chunk of change we’d saved up in Ukiah's piggy bank. Maybe I’ll use a portion of it to buy Ukiah another piggy bank, so it’s always there, a fixture in our house and in our lives. He deserves that legacy.

I'll do what I did for my birthday. I still have a few more U Hope bracelets to give away. The first four people who donates to George Mark  and sends me an receipt  of their donation via email will receive a bracelet. Anybody else who donates and sends me a receipt will receive a special jewelry or bead gift (your choice). 

If you do donate, please tell them its in memory of Ukiah Gardner. They'll know exactly who you are talking about. They always do.

And if you can't donate, don't worry about it. Spread the word. Tweet about George Mark House (Use the #Supportgmch hashtag and if you want, tag @gmch in the tweet), Facebook it (Send me a link via twitter or email), or use any form of social media you want just to let people know George Mark House exists and the incredible work they do.  Do that and forward it to me and I'll give you free space on my blog. This means a blog post or as many blog posts as you want, space on my sidebar, whatever space you'd like to have.

Ukiah's never very far from my thoughts. Doing this means means he's in yours and that makes a world of difference to me.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Spring Into Summer

Before I get into this book review, I must confess two things; one is that this book is written by someone I have a certain of level of online friendship with and level of affinity for. In other words, the author Eden Baylee is just tops in my book, but I'll still try to review her book as unbiasedly as I can. The second thing is that I don't have too much familiarity with the erotic fiction. I've read fiction that was erotic in its own right, but wasn't marketed as erotic. But I know what I like and and I know what works for me.

And Spring into Summer did just that. The novel is comprised of four separate stories, two set in the spring and two set in the summer. While seemingly disparate stories, they interconnect with ideas of love and the main characters' sexuality blooming and blossoming in ways none of them had imagined.

In A Season for Everything, the first story in the book, we meet Claire, listless 20 something trying to find footing in life who ends up with a friend in London. From there, she soons finds and falls in love with an older man who reveals he's dying. He instills in her a love of poetry and music and art and above all else a love for The Spring and the magic it can bring.

Unlocking the Mystery tells the story of an introverted real estate agent named Evelyn who hides behind her work and doesn't have much of a social life. She moves into a big secluded house and gets more than she bargained for when she finds a key in the house. When she asked a neighbor about it, she's presented with a box the key unlocks and finds herself immersed in letters from her former house owner's pen pal/lover in Ireland. When she finds a stamped envelope back to the man, she plots a journey to give him the woman's last letter to him.

Summer Solstice tells the story of Ava, a woman who was dumped at the alter a year ago and who was trying to piece herself back together. She's invited to a Summer Solstice party that turns into more, much more than she bargained for.

The Lottery tells the story Sierra, a young Canadian on a backpacking adventure though Thailand who tries to help out some lovely women she met there by convincing their employer of a gambit that can drive up business and gets way more than she bargained for in the process.

The stories from the ou
tset are obviously romantic in nature, especially the first two. Claire needs to find herself and finds it in Stephen. Evelyn thinks she knows who she is and through exploring herself and her own desires through reading this other person's letters, she finds out she can be a lot more. The sex, the erotica is there, but it's hidden underneath the build of the story. The interesting part of Unlocking the Mystery is that the erotica involved in this story is written into the letters written by the woman's pen pal/ long distance lover she's never met. It feels passive, buried this way, but it's anything but.

Where it really gets cooking is in the story Summer Solstice. Of course there's a battered heart at the center, Ava. But it's when she reveals her desires and dreams, first to herself in quite a scene, and then to others at the Summer Solstice party that things really heat up. This was my favorite of the entire collection and wouldn't let me go for a variety of reasons and it's where I can tell the author was having the most fun. And it left me wanting more in a variety of ways (*Spoiler Alert: Where did Keith go?  No really, where did he go? He didn't just leave did he? He had to still be there. Were there digits somewhere? Please say he left a number somewhere. Gah! I mean I'm fine with resolved but not resolved endings like that, but they needed to end up together. Eden, you better tell me they end up together in your mind, otherwise I'ma have to write my own fan fiction that unites them because it obviously has to happen, OMG!)

In The Lottery, Eden takes everything that was boiling over and turns it down to a nice simmer and just lets it bubble for awhile. It was enjoyable and while not as titillating as Summer Solstice, wrapped everything together nicely.

It's an honor just to be nominated

Since the inception of this blog, I've never been nominated for anything. Not that that's something I look for and honestly, I blog so seldom that I haven't really built a fan-base and a bunch of admirers. I've got a few loyalists, (hi all six of you) but mostly I tend to be screaming out into the void. Which is fine. My writing and my musings are meant to bolster my own writing skills and are sometimes meant for my own catharsis.

But just recently an internet friend who I respect and admire very much nominated me for a versatile blogger award. Eden Baylee, Thank you very much. I met Eden during the Indies Unite for Joshua campaign and have admired everything about her. She's very generous with her time and energy and just as encouraging. For her to direct even more time and effort might way (however slight) by nominating me is an incredible thing. So, again. Thanks Eden.

So, as a nominee I'm supposed to share 7 things about myself you wouldn't automatically know and then share 15 sites who I'd also like to nominate. 

1. Still, after all this time, I'm unhealthily obsessed with the movie Hackers. This is odd for probably a lot of reasons. First, I don't own the movie in any form (VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, or digital), but I do own both movie soundtracks (I. KNOW. In my defense, one of them was a gift). But if I find it on cable I'm watching it, then rewatching it (thank you DVR magic), then falling down the rabbithole known as the internet, looking at all the behind the scenes pictures and crap i don't need to be looking at. But I can't help it. I plead insanity your honor, otherwise known as infinite love for the young Jonny Lee Miller (Rowr.) Okay, better. Next.

2. I can do a spot-on impersonation of Chunk's "Ok, I'll talk" monologue on command. It comes as no surprise to people who've read this blog and especially as no surprise to the author's I've interviewed, but I love the Goonies. It might surprise a some of you that I could probably recite the entire movie by memory, but this scene especially is one that I can pull-off verbatim. I have done my version of the truffle shuffle as well, but that's embarrassing and best left to the professionals.

3. The town I grew up in was named after a cattle brand. It's still an interesting bon mot I'll parade out at cocktail parties just to get some people to scratch their heads and go 'Hm, interesting'.

4. The town I grew up in also has the only man-made lake in the shape of it's name. Guiness Book of World Records here we come, or something...

5. My mom said if I was born a boy, she would've been tempted to give me my last name as my first name. My maiden name is Kerby. So for those of you keeping track, if I was born a boy I would've been Kerby Kerby. Thanks for that story mom.

6. It's been six years, but I still haven't finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Yes it's a great book and it merits finishing, but it's just sooooooo long. I love Chabon. Love him, and his wife too, but I just haven't been able to muster up the strength to plow through.  I KNOW, I'm sorry.

7. I once mistook a rock for a whale. We were traveling down the 1, and we saw several cars stopped at a turn out. We looked out into the water and there was a whale, so we stopped at the next turn out. We were staring at two whales but only one of them kept surfacing more frequently. There was a family of four stopped beside us and the teenager (snottily, on retrospect) pointed out that we were staring at a rock and that the real whale was the other thing we had been looking at. Thanks snotty teenager from 15 years ago. Sad thing is, I have several stories like that. At the grand canyon I mistook a rock for a dear. Yosemite, the same thing. It's a common theme I guess.

Now onto the 15 other bloggers I nominate:

Laura Zera: Insightful on so many topics, ranging from travel to mental health but also entertaining to read.

Wherever Writer: Her travel musings make me yearn for adventures, especially those happening in home state of California. She's a neverending source for travel inspiration.

Planet Sandisan: Otherwise known as my pop-culture soul mate, or more to the point, my pop-culture compass. When I'm curious about books, TV shows or movies, she usually helps me find true North.

Ryan Casey: An awesome writer who blogs on all things writing and happens to be a good source of encouragement and inspiration at times.

Steven Luna:  Because the Joe Vampire series is my kind of awesome and his blogging is just as funning and insightful.

Sharkbait Writes: He writes about car racing and demons (not the same books, but maybe they should be) what's not to love?

Majk Ink: For basically all the reasons Eden described: Author, school nerd and techno genius. Enough reason for me.

Jason Jack Miller: For educating people on the magic of Appalachians,  schooling you on music and just general badassary.

Heidi Ruby Miller: For Sci-fi writing awesomeness, and also general basassary.

My New Plaid Pants: Another pop-culture compass. He keeps me up to date on all the best casting gossip/movie/TV news and hands out a healthy dose of man-candy whenever you need it. He's a saint.

And I'm going to renominate Eden, cause why not? She's on my blog roll for a reason people.

That's eleven and I need four more, but I'm currently tapped, so you'll have to make due. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For Jose (Joey) Valdez

A boy died last week.

A 15 year-old boy died needlessly and now his parents are tormented with nightmares and what-if scenarios.

A boy died because people in his life, at his school, told him mean horrible things, bullied and harassed him endlessly.

A boy died because depression lied to him, told him he wasn't good enough, that he wasn't worth it. And he listened.

A boy died because..... God knows why.

That boy was Jose Valdez (Joey). This boy was a very good friend's God son. I'd met him a handful of times, saw his smiling face at birthday parties and barbeques. While I didn't know much about him, I'm heartbroken by his loss. His family and all of those people that loved him are left wondering why. And sadly there's no real answer. For whatever reason, he felt he he should take it upon himself not to be here anymore.

Way back when, I wrote a post about Amanda Todd, a girl I never knew who took her own life because the bullying was so bad she felt like escape was the only thing. But then I didn't do anything. Back in September at the start of the school year, Robbie Cox and bevy of other bloggers and authors did a Bloggers Against Bullies blog campaign and while I wanted to participate, I decided against it. I could give you several excuses, but none of them are worth listening to. But when that campaign rolls around next year, you can bet I will be participating, for Joey. For all of the upset, depressed kids who we've lost before or are on the verge of losing.

This can be prevented, and should. It starts with talking to your child, talking to every child about the very real harm that can be done by just a few snickering jokes, planned pranks, tiny shoves. It starts with listening to the harm being done, even if that child won't talk. We have to coax it out of them so they can get the help they need.

Sadly it's too late for Joey. But it's not too late to do something real and significant to help his family and friends. His friends (especially his God-mother and dear friend Maria Lizeth Martinez) are trying to raise money for the funeral costs. Got a few dollars to spare? Please go to Joey's GofundMe page and contribute.Want a t-shirt so people see the face and remember the name and know how much more work their is to be done to save kids like Joey?  Buy a T-shirt. In Northern California? Well there's several fundraisers you can attend. Just check Maria's facebook page for details.

Can't contribute monetarily? Signal boost. Post it on your facebook walls, post it on twitter, hit all the social media websites. Get people to listen. Make them understand. Take it to our school boards and see if we can't shore up anti-bullying policies and education. Take it to our local and state government, let's go national. It has to stop. Wouldn't it be an incredible legacy if somehow we made it stop with Joey?