Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A New Way Home

Just in case you needed a little bit more incentive to donate to George Mark House, please check out this trailer to a documentary made at George Mark House following three families as they go through the process of having to lose a child.  It's a powerful, moving trailer that frankly hits a little close to home for me, but is well worth your time regardless.

There is a screening for the film being finalized for some time in September at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, CA. Keep tuned to the movie's website or to mine for a showtime as soon as it is finalized.

Ben Tuller, the filmmaker, was a volunteer at George Mark House as well as the documentarian for the film.  He took care of Ukiah once during his September stay and was saddened to hear of our loss. Check out his website and his facebook to send him some support for his project.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Piggy Banks On a Roll!!!

Wow! I mean wow. Today's my birthday and I just received the best birthday present in the shape of an awesome outpouring of support. This morning I got up and received a wonderful e-mail from Sars at Tomato Nation letting me know she'd posted my little fund-raising efforts on her website, which is wonderful news because we all know that Tomato Nation Readers have some of the biggest hearts out there, and already I've gotten some comments and e-mails, letting me know people have already contributed.

The first e-mail I received was from a woman in the UK saying she'd donated ten bucks and I cried! I literally cried. It's only 8:30 and I've already received a small kindness from  a woman halfway across the world. This is such great news I can't even begin to tell you.

On an administrative note, I've added links to my side panel so that you can keep up with Piggy Bank news easily.  I also added a Donate Now link to the side panel so you can go straight to George Mark's donation page and make a donation.

Also, I was asked what my son's name was so that a donation could be made in his honor, which is such a wonderful sentiment. His name was Ukiah James Gardner, and he was quite loved by all the staff at George Mark House.

Let me know if you guys have any other questions in the comments or e-mail me.

Thanks so much for the love you guys!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Piggy Bank Prizing and Administration Notes

There seems to be some really great momentum to this little contest of mine, I just want to outline some rules and regulations for the Contest. I’d like to officially start the contest on September 1st, lasting the whole month of September, but if you’ve already donated, don’t worry about it. Just send me the receipt of your donation to George Mark and that is your entry into the contest.

The contest will end at Midnight on September 30th. Make sure you’ve sent me your donations/receipts before that date to be entered into the contest. I’m more than willing to take donations myself and send them to George Mark but to make sure you get the tax exemption for the donation, you’re better off donating to George Mark itself. You can donate right on their website and they should provide an e-mail confirmation. Just send that to me via my e-mail address (tyliagardner at hotmail dot com). If you’re having trouble donating/getting a confirmation, let me know and I’ll see what I can’t work out.

I’ll select winners at random once the contest concludes and you’ll be notified by e-mail as to your prize. I’ll start e-mail notification on October 5th, so keep your eyes peeled to your e-mails.

If you’ve donated to George Mark but don’t want to be part of the contest itself, at least send me an e-mail and keep me informed of the donation. I’m keeping a tally of how much we raise. If we can raise $1,000 by the end of the month, I’ll reenact Chunk’s Monologue from the Goonies (You know the one I'm talking about!). $2,000 and I’ll add Chunk’s Truffle Shuffle to the list. If we go higher, I’ll add to that but it will be TBD. And if we are somehow able to earn 5,000, I’ll go for broke.

And again, if you don’t want to donate to George Mark itself, feel free to donate a prize. Any prize, or little token of your thoughtfulness that we can give out would be much appreciated. Knitted hats, quilts, the promise of baked goods, anything would be appreciated. I’ll take any kind of little prize or giveaway.

Much more important to me though is just getting the word out. Please post this on your blog, facebook page, twitter account, or any other social networking site you use. Please e-mail anyone you can think of. I want as many people as possible to know about George Mark House and the good it does for families who have children with life-limiting illnesses. A goal George Mark House has for itself is that they’d like to see several houses like it spring up in metropolitan areas around the country, but they can’t do that if they can’t open their doors and keep them open. So just tell people about George Mark House and the service it provides.

O.k., I’m off my soap box. Now, on with the important stuff.


The prizes I have going on right now are:

A rosary using my grandmother’s beads made by me
A homemade necklace made to the winner’s liking
A homemade pair or earrings made to the winner’s liking
A homemade bracelet made to the winner’s liking
A piece of broken jewelry repaired – just send it to me and I’ll try my best and fix it.

One of seven U HOPE bracelets, made by me - The Bracelets all have leather string with letter beads spelling out U HOPE, with a unique blue bead between the U and HOPE. U was my son's first initial. The blue bead represents his beautiful blue eyes. HOPE is something we should all have in our lives. See pictures attached at end of post. I've attached seven pictures but one of those bad boys is earmarked for Sars, and as soon as she tells me which one she wants, I'll take it's picture off the website. [Ed. Notes; Sars has claimed one and now its taken off the website. Thanks for everything Sars!]

A batch of my mother’s wonderful homemade sugar cookies

One pair of lovely knitted and beaded fingerless gloves in red courtesy of Resa S. The gloves will be knitted similar to the ones pictured here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goblinqueenie/3293652183/in/set-72157604047712581/ See also the tiny url: http://tinyurl.com/25fdd7v

That’s all for now, but there will be more to come. There might be a homemade baby quilt from my mother and a jar of my aunt Claire’s famous Nana Jam added to the prizing. And trust me, you’re going to want the Nana Jam. Made from the finest vine ripened wild raspberries my uncle Merle can pick and sweetened to perfection by my Aunt Clair, it is gold in a jar. I’ve seen blood feuds started over her Nana Jam. I’ve heard curses muttered under breaths and the worst stink eye administered to those lucky enough to receive a jar, so be on the lookout for that. I may also get some gift cards to sweeten the deal. Again, let me know if you want to add to the prizing or have anything to add. Keep it glued here for any contest or fundraising efforts. I hope this really gets some momentum going.

Without further ado, here's the picture of the bracelets I mentioned.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Piggy Banks for George Mark House

I have trouble going into my son’s nursery since his passing. It’s to be expected I know. There are just so many things in the room with which that I’m at a loss. I’m at a loss anyway, obviously. I could go on, but I won’t. One item in particular that had me at a loss was my son’s piggy bank. It is a stately piggy bank, in a deep midnight blue color that has given it a lot of gravitas. My mother was gung ho about filling it to the brim. My mother was gung ho regarding just about everything in my son’s life (as you do) but the piggy bank seemed to be of deep interest to my mother. She spent two summers filling it. It is quite hefty and determining what to do with it sent me reeling until I realized it had a purpose.
It needs to go to George Mark House. Anything and everything I could possibly give them needs to go to them but this in particular does. I think I’ve explained my love for George Mark House on at least an occasion or two. And if I haven’t made clear the love I’ve had for the remarkable unique soul that was my son on either of my blogs, you’re just not looking hard enough. But perhaps I haven’t made clear the connection between George Mark House and my son.
In September of 2009 my son got deathly sick. It wasn’t the first time and it wasn’t the last, but it was just as scary as any of them. We had a lengthy hospital stay to contend with. Again, not the first time, but it ended up being the last. We had some insanely difficult decisions to make that hospital stay, and one of them was whether to stay in the hospital or explore another option. That other option was George Mark House. We had some preconceived notions about George Mark House being a glorified senior center for kids, and some other completely preposterous notions. Then we took a tour of the place and realized it was exactly where he needed to be. He spent a month there and it was an absolutely perfect place for him to get better on his own terms but with a lovely and supportive staff helping him and us every step of the way.
One of the mottos George Mark House lives by is that once you’re there, you’re family, and as far as I’m concerned truer words were never spoken. They were a vast resource and a huge comfort. I could call their nurse’s station or their on-call doctor whenever I needed which was a security blanket I needed. Their nursing staff would call and check in on us to see if there was anything we needed on a routine basis. The emergency respite service they offered was a safety net that was nice to know was there. I didn’t have to tackle things alone if it got too difficult and that was so vastly helpful to me, just the thought of having something to lean on if I needed to.
And then, all the sudden it wasn’t there anymore. Two weeks before my son died, I received a call that they could no longer take patients and they had to close their doors for an undetermined amount of time. Most of the money they had to run their beautiful center was based off donations and grants wherever they could get it and the money had run out. They could no longer afford to run the center and take on any patients. Most medical programs, especially state-run medical programs, and insurers didn’t recognize the services they offered and therefore didn’t pay fora patient's care there. Our insurance did thankfully, but generally, with allot of the patients they took in that wasn't the case. George Mark House just didn’t have the financial structure in place to be able to keep its doors up.
We were heartbroken and bereft. The safety net had been pulled out from under our feet at the worst possible time. My son was battling a common cold that for him was anything but common. It would end up taking his life at that time and during his battle, we always had it in the back of our heads that we could turn to George Mark House when things took a turn for a worse. To find out we couldn’t was devastating.
Then the worst possible thing happened. We lost him. We were bereft again but now in the worst possible way. The type of heartache we suffered no parent should have to feel, and yet it happens far too often. We were suffering a great loss and million tiny losses all at once. We had a thousand decisions to make, none of which we wanted to make; what to do with his body, should we have a viewing, where to have his service, all of it. None of them were easy to make until it became a little be easier. I received a call from someone working at George Mark House. Even though their doors were closed to patients, they could still handle arrangements for funereal services if we wanted. I couldn’t think of a more fitting, beautiful place for everything to be held and a fitting way to honor his memory and who he was and we immediately said yes. We had both his viewing and celebration of life services there and they were both as beautiful and fitting tributes to our wonderful son as we could have ever asked. They bent over backwards to accommodate us and I’m eternally grateful.
Though their doors were closed, their hearts were still open. Even with their hands tied, they still opened their arms to embrace us. What they did for us was priceless. I’m just hoping to at partially return the favor, although I’m not sure that favor can ever fully be repaid.
That’s why I’m donating my son’s Piggy Bank to George Mark House. But its contents are probably just a drop in the bucket to what they really need to get going. They are planning on reopening by October 4th with a new financial structure in place to hopefully keep them afloat and their doors open. But they can probably use all the help they can get to ensure that their doors remain open once they do. That’s why I’m proposing Piggy Banks for George Mark House and here’s where I’m hoping the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think if we can start a grass roots movement over the internet and e-mails, we might really be able to make a difference.
How It Works
Most of us have a stash of lose change we’ve been keeping around that we plan on using for a rainy day or for a special occasion. You know that stash. Maybe it’s a jar you keep near the washer when you’re emptying out your pockets (that’s where ours is), maybe you have a swear jar you keep around to try and keep your dirty mouth clean, maybe your center console in your car is where pennies go to die. All I’m asking is that you keep adding to that change stach for the whole month of September and at the end, cash it out and send the proceeds to George Mark House. Don’t have a piggy bank, swear jar, center car console or some other erstwhile coin collecting receptacle? Start one and add to it little by little for the month of September. Cash it in and send it George Mark House. Too strapped to even do that? Living off the change you’re collecting your own self? Well think smaller, maybe just see what you can set aside for a week and cash that in. Any little thing you can do to ensure their doors can remain open will help. Don’t do any cash transactions anymore? Well think about doing it for a month, or a week in September, see how much change that generates and send it in. Think that’s way too much work and feel like just making a donation to their website, well do that too.
I’m thinking about doing a contest not unlike the one Sars holds every year in October for Donors Choose. Basically, send me your receipt for your donation and that’s your entry to the contest. I’ll give out prizes at the end of the month to people whose receipts I’ve selected randomly from the pile. I don’t have much to offer at the moment. Right now, off the top of my head one of those prizes are one the rosaries I’ve been making using my grandmother’s jewelry, but if you win it, that pretty much means you’re part of the family, which believe me you, is a much greater prize. I’d also be willing to throw in hand-crafting a piece of your own choosing. I’d be willing to make a necklace, earrings, bracelet, anklet, headdress (that might be stretching it) of your own choosing. You choose the colors and I’ll happily make it for you. Don’t feel like donating to George Mark but might feel like donating a prize? That works too. Email me at tyliagardner at hotmail dot com.
Don’t feel like doing any of that but are still mildly interested to try and help? Well that works too. Post a link to this on you blog, facebook page, myspace page, or twitter account and get the word out. Email family, friends, friends of friends, frenemies, friends or frenemies, old acquaintences, that strange guy at work who has the smelly cubicle and your convinced there’s a superfund site existing somewhere underneath some pile of papers that will rule the planet some day, anyone and everyone you can think of. Getting word out about this wonderful organization is just as important as giving it money because people don’t know it exists or don’t understand the importance of having a center where families with children who have life-limiting illnesses can go for support.
Need more incentive, to help? Well, if we as a collective group can raise a certain sum of money, I’ll be willing to do something silly and embarrassing and post said fruits of my labor on the internet. No, I won’t shave my head or dress like a tomato. I considering reenacting my favorite scenes from movies as reward. If we can raise$ 1,000 by the end of the month, I’ll reenact Chunk’s Monologue from the Goonies (You know the one I'm talking about!). $2,000 and I’ll add Chunk’s Truffle Shuffle to the list. If we go higher, I’ll add to that but it will be TBD. I didn’t have many readers of my regular blog and not posting for two years has scared off any fans I did have. I have one follower on my rosary blog so I’m not sure where this is all going to go, or if it will go anywhere, but I have to try and I’m hoping beyond all hope that you’ll try with me. Help me make a fool of myself on the internet. It’s for charity. It’s also for my son, for keeping his memory alive and I can’t think of anything more noble than that. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moving On

I told my therapist yesterday about my writing and how I sometimes bail or stop when it's too emotionally raw, or that I hate what I've written afterward, just despise the innards I've thrown onto the page. Perhaps its because I'm being too honest, perhaps I don't like admitting how tied to my emotions I am, I can't tell.

Unfortunately that's where I'm at right now. I'm emotionally raw and yet I'm writing. I'll probably hate this too, but I guess I just need a place for it. I've exhausted my phone-a-friend list, my husband is away on business and I don't know where else to go with all of this.

I just miss my son. I miss the weight of him, his smell, the way he breathed, the way he slept in his crib, the way he slept on me, all of his outfits, just all of it. It hurts so much right now. Emotionally, I'm there again, back at his service, at his viewing. It's like I'm forced to relive. The simplest things can bring me back to those emotions. I've been writing Thank You notes and the process of writing those notes forces me into the memories of his service, of being back at his viewing, of everyone I saw and all their concern and kind thought and it hurts all over again and I don't know where to go with all of it. I don't know how to turn it off either. I wish these emotions weren't so visible, so right at the surface, but they are despite myself. I see a pristine angel down the dairy aisle at my grocery store and it takes all my will and strength not to reach out and hug that baby and give his or her parents some sort of idea of how well they have it. And it takes every bit of my will and strength not to cry right afterward.

Sometimes I don't even have that.

And this week just feels like I'm being bombarded by tiny reminders of him. Some days I feel like I can compartmentalize, but today is not one of those days. Today I'm allowing myself to dwell and wallow. I wish I had some way to sum this all up, some big finish, but I don't. I'm just going to let this all be, emotional and raw as I had intended.