Monday, June 30, 2014

Random Conversations about our Daughter's Television Programming

Bloody Munchkin: The thing I don't get about the Jake and the Neverland Pirates besides 'Jake where are your parents!?!?!' is that the help out Captain Hook sometimes even though Captain Hook is evil kinda? And he sometimes comes up with crazy schemes to try and get treasure but then these kids are collecting gold doubloons for their treasure, which how does Captain Hook not see that these kids are picking gold out of the air first off. And second off if he's so damned treasure happy why doesn't he just follow the kids back to their secret island and steal their treasure and get on with his damn life? I don't understand.

Fighting Nun [waits a beat]: I think you are over-thinking a kid's show.

Bloody Munchkin: Says the guy who basically crafted fan-fiction regarding the crab with the wooden pincer on Tumble Leaf on this entire crab's back-story regarding how he lost the limb and then regained the mechanical one, which if memory serves involved combat and a lost love.

Fighting Nun: But that was awesome and dark and compelling!

This conversation has been brought to you by our daughter's programming and the fact that we have no life.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review: Shaken

I’ve been wracking my brain as to what to say about Susan Hatler’s Shaken: Book One in the Mind Reader Series. There’s so much I can say, want to say that it’s hard to know where to start. Let me start with the fact that it’s a perfect YA book. I’d also like to say that I love this book so much, I’m jealous I didn’t write it. It’s a fun thrill ride that I couldn’t put down and was so good that I had to run to Amazon to see what else in the series I could buy (nothing right now, as it turns out, which Boo! Dear Susan Hatler; Please write faster. If you ever show up to my Starbuck’s again to write a few chapters regarding this series, I’ll happily cheer you on and encourage you to write like the wind.).

Kylie Bates is a smart, driven 16 year-old who is great at school and horribly sarcastic and snarky with boys she likes. Her daily routine consists of journaling her dead mother, making sure her 4.0 GPA doesn’t dip and trying desperately to not be a spaz around her current crush. Until she finds out she can read minds. Things take a turn for the weird when she realizes she can see people’s thoughts by touching their hands. Things take a turn for the dangerous when her father asks her to use her new abilities to help find a missing girl. The very same people who kidnapped the girl may be the ones looking for her.

With the help of Trip, a determined 17 year-old from her school who wants to become a detective, they try to unravel the mystery of who took the girl and what they want and what the girl’s abduction has to do with her.

This book is a thrill ride that explores the tricky territory of telepathy, telekinesis and the even trickier territory of navigating high school, the crushes, the friendships, the family relationships, the classes.

Let me just say that not since, I dunno, Mr. Rochester have I had such a strong crush on a literary character. Trip is like Cliff Pantone mixed with Christian Slater’s character from Gleaming the Cube.  He’s layered and complex for a 17 year-old and determined in ways most love interests just aren’t. The sixteen year girl in me just completely fell for him. 

This is a really fun book and well worth a pick up. A+

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Book Review: Love at First Date

I’m not sure this actually counts as a book review since Love at First Date feels more novella length than anything and it was such a breezy read, but since I’m still on the hook for my May book review, here goes. 

Love at First Date follows Ellen, a customer support representative trying to find love in Sacramento but in the most regimented of ways, using a detailed dating service. It’s not until she starts finally going out on dates with the people she’s met through her profile that she meets her real match blindly through some twist of luck (or if you’d rather, a dog she’s watching and a clogged hair brush).

Henry, the man who helps save her best friend’s dog and whose eyes she can’t stop looking into is all she can think about. Although she wishes she could stop. She tries busying herself with men she’s met from her dating profile because she’s convinced they meet her compatibility markers and if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother, it’s that marriages don’t work without finding common ground.

Love at First Date is an enjoyable bit of fluff and a very quick read, but it isn’t all fluff. This book has a lot on its mind, or rather, the protagonist has a lot on hers, like how she’s supposed to make it work with a man when her mother, who was married twice before and couldn’t even make it work with Ellen’s birth father long enough to get married. Can she really find what and who she wants when she sees all of her mother’s old mistakes?

 There’s a lot of interpersonal relationships at play here too. Can she find love, be allowed to find it, when her friends have interpersonal lives falling apart? Will there meddling help or hurt? And can Ellen finally get out of her own way to see what’s in front of her?

I not only enjoyed reading how all those questions got answered, but how they were posed in the first place. Susan Hatler does a great job of really getting you right in the character’s head, showing you exactly what makes her tick and just what kind of neuroses are really at play.

 Love At First Date is an enjoyable fast-paced read and well worth your time. It’s an A.

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.)