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Burn Movie Premiere: Personal Challenge, Day 43 (10.29.12)

Tonight was the LA Premiere of a film that is very near and dear to my heart.  The film was made by two of my friends and it is about my hometown of Detroit.  This film is called Burn: A Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit.

This is a documentary on the lives of the firefighters in Detroit.  It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will open your eyes to what is really going on in our own country in terms of budget cuts made by politicians and how those cuts affect the working class.  I cried several times throughout the film.  It also made me a little homesick–with everyone drinking Vernors and talking about going to eat at National Coney Island.

At the premiere, I had the chance to spend some time with the firefighters who are featured in the film.  They flew out to LA just to be there for the Grauman’s Egyptian Theater premiere.  We all reveled in what a small world it is.  One firefighter, “Doogie,” went to school in the same school district and graduated a year after me.  It turns out that we used to hang out at the same places and were probably there at the same time.  Another firefighter, Dave Miller, lives fairly close to my older brother.  After seeing this film, I feel like I know them, like they are family.  I received several hugs from Dave Parnell, a retired Detroit firefighter, that evening, just because I am a Detroit native and I support this film.

It opens this Friday in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Noho 7 in North Hollywood.  This film will change your lives and it may even just change the way you vote next Tuesday.  Check out the Burn website for more information, to see the movie trailer, or to find out if it is going to be playing in any theaters near you.

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Has It Really Been 34 Years?

BURN: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit

Please check out this trailer for a documentary called Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit, made by two of my very talented friends.  This film is very near and dear to my heart, not just because my friends made it but because it is about my home town.  This is an amazing film that my own sister-in-law said was life-changing.  If you live in the Los Angeles area, the film is premiering on October 29th at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.  You can check out the Burn website to see if it will be screened in your area, if it is not, please donate to the film so it can reach more theaters across the country.  And to my friends back home, Burn opens in Sterling Heights at the AMC Forum 30 on December 30th–so if you missed the Detroit Premiere, you can check it out then.

So please, help support my hometown and the heroes trying to save it.

My Nephew is a Rock-Video Star in Amy Gore’s “Fine Without You”

My nephew, Joey, and my sister-in-law are in this video.  My nephew is the boy who throws the tip on the ground.  The song is “Fine Without You” by Amy Gore & Her Valentines.

Archery and Coffee, A Perfect Saturday Combo: Personal Challenge, Day 13 (9.29.12)

Today, I decided to enlist my honorary nephew, Brandon, to help me out with my personal challenge.  On the Discover Los Angeles website under 100 Free things to do in Los Angeles, I found a link to the Pasadena Roving Archers group that offers free archery classes on Saturdays.  The only downside is that you have to get there really early because it is on a first-come, first-serve basis (and the small parking lot fills up quickly.  I recommend parking on Arroyo and just walking down the hill to the park).

Brandon is a Boy Scout and really interested in learning archery so I thought this would be a fun thing that we could do together. Unfortunately, since he is under the age of 10 (he is 9), he is required to take an evaluation and preliminary instruction course before he can participate in the other classes.  The introductory class for adults starts at the same time (8:30 am–the time hasn’t been updated yet on the website for the kids evaluation class) but it is on a different range.  So I decided I would just stay with Brandon and watch his first class.  I could always come back and take the introductory class later on or take a one-on-one instruction course for $25.

I was impressed with the way the instructors, Jim and Terri ran the youth class.  They were organized and patient with the children.  That emphasized all of the important safety issues and they would complete stop the class whenever anyone was disobeying their safety rules.  They explained everything step by step and they had additional instructors that would help the kids individually, if needed.  It didn’t take long for the kids to get used to their class structure and whistle system.  I would highly recommend this class to anyone who lives in Pasadena or the other local SoCal areas who have kids (or nieces and nephews) who are interested in learning archery.  The introductory class is free and they request a $5 donation for any subsequent classes.

Jim mentioned that since the release of the films Brave and Hunger Games, classes on the range have increased in popularity and fill up quickly.  Brandon and I realized this when we arrived and there were absolutely no parking spaces available in the parking lot so we chose to park on Arroyo Blvd and just walk down the hill to the park.

I asked Brandon what he thought of the class and he said he loved it.  He definitely wants to come back (and since the “returning” classes start at 10am, my California sister will actually be awake in time and able to join us).  He said that in Boy Scouts, when teaching archery, they just tell the kids to line-up and shoot.  They don’t explain anything.  Brandon said it was nice to have all the instructions and the helpers there to let you know if you were doing anything wrong.  He also liked that all the equipment was provided.  Each kid was fitted for an arm guard, a finger guard, a quiver with specific colored arrows, and a bow.  And it was easy to see that Brandon wasn’t the only kid who enjoyed the class.  There were plenty of parents asking about the returning classes and private lessons offered by the Pasadena Roving Archers.  Again, I was really impressed by the instructors and the class.  I would recommend this to any of my friends with kids.

Now since I had to start my Saturday much earlier than normal, I decided I would take the opportunity to have another first time experience before the day was out.  Somewhere on Facebook, I read that today was “National Coffee Day.”  As a coffee lover, this was something I could whole-heartedly support.  After having lunch and running some errands with my California sister and Brandon, I decided I was in need of a coffee break.  Many times, I have passed a local coffeehouse on N. Lake in Altadena called “The Coffee Gallery.”  I have read reviews about how it is a local artists haven and hang out, complete with a backstage area for bands, shows, comedy, and open mic nights.  So in honor of National Coffee Day, I thought I would check it out.

There is no parking lot for The Coffee Gallery so after finding street parking on Lake, I made my way over to the cozy coffeehouse.  You can definitely feel the relaxed atmosphere the minute you walk into the door.  This is nothing like the corporate designed Starbucks and don’t expect the same menu.  I had no qualms asking the barista for recommendations.  He asked me if I liked Lattes: Yes, I do.  He asked me if I liked sweet drinks: Yes, I do.  So he recommended the “Caramel Turtle” Latte or if I liked something a little more spicy, like Chai, then he recommended the “Filthy Dirty Chai” Latte.  I chose the latter (I love Chai Lattes).

Now all I have to say is Starbucks, eat your hearts out because this little coffee-house blows you right out of the water.  The Filthy Dirty Chai Latte was amazing.  I can’t wait to go back and try other items on their menu.  I definitely have a new favorite coffeehouse/hangout place/writing spot (they have free WiFi).  If you live in the Altadena area, there is no need to go to the Starbucks located in Ralphs.  Support our local businesses and go over to The Coffee Gallery instead.

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A Walk On The Westside: Personal Challenge, Day 8 (9.24.12)

Last Monday, I started my personal challenge of going somewhere or trying something new every day.  I am amazed by all the support I am getting from family, friends, students and even strangers.  Every day some one asks me, “What’s Next?”

Well, today and just for today, my brother is in town from Detroit.  He arrived this afternoon and has his meeting in the morning before he flies back to Detroit.  So I actually got to drag him around and make him try something new as well.

I decided that since he was staying down by LAX then I would find a place down there that we could explore.  I chose Manhattan Beach.  It is a quiet, little beach area just a few miles south of LAX.  You get that small town feel when you notice all of the little shops and restaurants along the streets leading up to the pier.  It’s not all flashy and touristy like Venice Beach or Santa Monica.  It is just a cool place to hang out.

We walked down to the pier and watching the surfers attempting to ride the waves on this extremely warm, officially Fall, day.  I couldn’t get over how clear the water was, compared to Santa Monica.  Out of all the beaches in Southern California, Santa Monica is the one I frequent the most but I have a feeling that is about to change now that I have discovered the serenity of Manhattan Beach.  There were no crazy crowds or street performers lurking in every corner of the pier.  And down at the end, there was an admission by donation aquarium filled with sea creatures found in Santa Monica Bay.  Many of the fish were caught by fisherman off the pier.  The people of the aquarium have nursed them back to health and will release them back into the wild.  I have to say, it was pretty cool to see the large eels, starfish, bass, sting rays, and even sharks that could be found in our coastal waters.

As we reached the end of the pier and started to turn back, we both stood in awe of the amazing houses on the coastline.  We debated as to whether or not they were massive single family homes or condos.  We both agreed that no matter what they were, they were awesome.  We decided that on our way back to the car, we would stroll down the boardwalk and get a closer look at some of these beautiful beachfront homes.

Aside from the pier, I had found a few restaurants that I thought we could try in Manhattan Beach but my brother had other plans.  He hadn’t been out to play tourist in Los Angeles since my college graduation back in 2000.  He wanted to see the street performers and cheesy souvenir shops in Venice Beach and then work our way up to the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade.

So we arrived in Venice, parked in the first lot we found (bad choice since it wasn’t worth the $10 paid in parking fees).  And when we made out way down to the Venice Beach boardwalk, we were both stunned.  I hadn’t been down here in years and boy has it changed . . . for the worse.  It looks like this is where the Occupy LA movement went to die.  There is still the famed Muscle Beach area where we say some scary looking gentleman walking around in Speedos–one carrying his boombox and the other drinking something out of a giant horn.  Then we noticed the first medical marijuana stand.  I thought it was funny so I took a picture.  We saw one of the cheesy souvenir shops  and then we were approached by people in doctor’s scrubs with a large marijuana plant symbol.  They offered to exam us and get us our medical marijuana card for the low price of $40.  As I looked further down the boardwalk, I noticed the “doctors” and medical marijuana places appeared every 10-15 feet, with bong and hookah stores in between.  This area used to be a lot like Hollywood Blvd and now it is just a scary waste of parking fees.  We both agreed it was time to move on.  I managed to get one picture of the sunset before we were back in the car and heading north toward Santa Monica.

Again, my brother hadn’t been here in years but he was impressed by the newly renovated Santa Monica Place mall area.  They had the kind of stores that he likes ranging from Sketchers to Louis Vutton.  Then we walked down the Promenade (with a stop at the Lucky Brand store) before heading down to the Pier.  This would be our final destination for the evening.

We decided we would go for the campy themed restaurant known as Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  The best part was that they had a bar where we could watch Monday night football–Packers Vs. Seahawks.  (Turned out to be a game that everyone in the bar would be talking about, especially the final play where it was debatable as to whether or not the Seahawks really scored that final touchdown to win the game of if it was interference).  We have both been to a Bubba Gump restaurant before but we agreed to try something new.  We ordered the Cajun Shrimp (which my brother ate and really liked) and the Stuffed Crab Mushrooms (AMAZING) for appetizers.  Then we both ordered the house favorite, Captain’s Fish and Chips.  So it was good food during an interesting football game after some adventurous beach exploration (and people watching).

Overall, we had a good time and we both got the chance to visit a new place and try new things.  I wish our visit could have been longer but I enjoyed the time I did get to spend with my big brother.  And next time he comes out to visit, we decided we would continue with the theme of trying something new and explore new places, possibly the Malibu Coast.

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Has It Really Been 25 Years?

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Today is the 25th anniversary of a day that changed my life forever.  I remember being at home in my bedroom, working on a birthday present for my grandfather.  His birthday was the very next day–June 20th.  Aside from my Dad, he was the most important man in my life.  He was up north at the family cabin in Prudenville, Michigan.  I was working hard on a picture that I would give to him when he returned.

At the time, I shared a bedroom with my sister who was listening to Elvis on the radio and I remember getting upset with her about something.  I went to tell my Mom when the phone rang.  It was my Aunt Sue.  My Mom listened then she sat down on her bed and started to cry.  My sister came into the room and sat down on the bed next to my Mom.  It was obvious that something was wrong.  My sister started to cry.  She thought my Aunt was calling to tell us that our Grandmother had passed away.  She had cancer and we all knew it was a matter of time before we would lose her.

I don’t remember exactly what was said but I do remember my mother being in shock and asking something like “how is Mom taking it?”  So it wasn’t Grandma, then who was it?

No one ever expected my Grandfather to go first.  He seemed way too stubborn.  I was only nine and I thought he was invincible.  So I didn’t understand it when my Mom tried to explain to us that he was gone.  He was up at the cabin, working on the roof of the porch that he was putting on the cabin when he had a heart attack.  My cousin and uncle were there.  They called an ambulance but the nearest hospital was in West Branch, a good half an hour to 45 minutes away.  Actually, my father was born in that hospital.  And now I will always remember it as the place where the most important man in my life entered this world and where the other left this world.

I still remember being at the funeral home, seeing my Grandfather in his casket.  I wore this blue and black dress that he bought me and I placed his birthday picture inside of the casket so he could take it with him.  I remember the look on my grandmother’s face as she sat in her wheelchair staring at the love of her life.  She would be joining him in exactly 11 months (to the day).  I remember my Aunt Nancy hugging me and letting me cry in her arms.  She too would be following my grandparents into the afterlife in a few short years.

Our lives and our family have changed so much over the last 25 years.  My grandfather was always in the back of my mind.  I would wonder what he thought about the choices I had made and if he was proud of me.  And when I joined the Ladies Auxiliary at his VFW Post, I felt that he was.  I actually felt him watching on the day of my induction.  And it helped that some of the ladies who knew my grandparents were by my side.  My grandfather was the post master and I spent a good chunk of my childhood playing in that VFW hall.  My sister thinks it’s funny that I still won’t go in the kitchen.  We were never allowed in there as kids and I still think he is going to yell at me if I go in there now.  I still take the back entrance through the broom closet then through the bar then into the back of the kitchen.  And I always look at his picture on the wall every time I step into the hall.  That was his home away from home.

It still breaks my heart to think of all the years we didn’t get to spend with him and how many of my younger cousins don’t remember him or never even knew him.  Like my father, I am doing my best to keep his legacy alive through my work with the military and the veterans–and through General Motors (he was an Engineer for GM and worked on the Mako Shark).  He passed on his strength, beliefs and stubborness to my father who passed it on to me.  I hope I have made him proud.

 
Grandpa,
I still love and miss you.  I will do my best to continue to honor you. 
Love, Poopers

RIP Sylvester James Brinker (Aka Bob) 1925-1987

Time To Find Your Path

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Tomorrow’s Full Moon is the Pathfinding Horse Moon.  With the moon in Sagittarius, it is a time to choose a new path or direction to take in our life’s journey.

How do we do this?  Well, you look at where you are and where you really want to be then you have to decide how to get there.  Simple, right?  I’m a Libra so I would have to say this is pure torture.  Trying to make a decision on which path I should take is an extremely difficult task for a Libra.  I will use my trusty Pros and Cons lists.  I will think of all the different possible outcomes for each decision.  I will ask my friends and family for advice.  I will go see a psychic or ask my own Goddess or Angel cards.  Then I will pray for a sign from the Universe, guiding me toward the right path.  Then I will finally make a decision.  But once I make that decision, I will constantly wonder if I made the right choice.  But once again, I am a Libra.

Ironically, I am in a weird place where I do feel like I have to make a lot of life choices about my future.  So today, I turned to someone I know and trust, Hot Dog.  I had just told him about my accident a few days ago so he was anxious to see me and get me whatever I needed.  He picked up dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and arrived at my house, ready to take care of my needs.  What I really needed was someone to talk to and he was ready to listen.  We went for a walk in my neighborhood (mainly to walk off the carnitas) and talked about what was bothering me.  Like any close, good guy friend would do, he poked fun at some of the decisions I made and actions I took.  But mostly he was in agreement with me that I needed to change things in my life.

I know where I want to be I just have no clue how to get there.  I need to let go of the past once and for all.  My past is holding me back.  So I guess whatever direction I wind up choosing, I need to make sure that it is in the opposite direction of my past with the future I want directly in front of me.

Now, if you are like me and you have a hard time making decisions, Kristen Madden from Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook suggests:

“To explore your path and any new directions you might take, you will need a pendulum (a ring on a string will do), and your life-adventure map.  Create your map by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper.  divide the circle into a pie graph, with one section representing your current path.  Into the other sections, place your potential paths, hopes and dreams.  Take your pendulum and ask what paths are most aligned to financial, academic, spiritual, or emotional success, then let the pendulum help find your direction.”

Now if the pendulums, tarot cards and psychic guidance methods freak you out, you can always ask the Magic 8 ball.  I have a fortune telling Yoda doll that I often ask for guidance (yeah, I’m a Star Wars geek) when my Magic 8 ball seems to be having issues (when it tells you “Future Unclear.  Ask Again Later.”)

Good Luck!

My Dark Sides

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It seems appropriate that this video was just released.  Right now, I am dealing with my own dark sides–Endo and Depression.

I Have Amazing Friends

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When tragedy strikes, it becomes very clear who really cares about you.  I don’t have any actual family out here in California but on Wednesday, I learned I have a very large extended family.

On Wednesday, I was driving home in the 5pm bumper to bumper traffic.  I was at a dead stop when I heard tires squeal behind me.  I looked in my rearview mirror and had enough time to say “Oh Shit” before the car behind me plowed into my back end, lifting the back of my car into the air before slamming me down.  I was in shock and I suddenly felt pains shooting through my neck.  I had enough sense to pull over to the side.  The 20 year old girl behind me had been texting and didn’t see me.

So we went through the accident protocol and I wound up at the local hospital with severe whiplash and other minor injuries.  At first, I was in a panic. I am single.  I live alone and my family is on the other side of the country.  So I called my best friend from the ER.  Then they took me back into a room where the cell reception was bad so I started to text my friends and co-workers.  To my amazement, everyone rushed to help me in any way they could.  My California sister showed up at the hospital to be with me (and to tease me about the nice new neck brace that I will be wearing for a week).  She started contacting people for me and giving updates while I endured many tests.

Since I was released from the hospital and put on bed rest, I am unable to act like my usual independent self.  So my friends and their families have stepped in, taking me to appointments, getting me groceries, taking care of my fur babies, and picking up my meds.

So it no longer feels right to simply call them my friends, they are my family.  They have been there when I really needed them.  And going through something like this, you really do see who truly cares about you and who doesn’t.

So to my “family,” Thank you for everything!!!!

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