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Another year, another Big Bike Build! As has become our tradition my family participated in the annual Bike Build in San Jose. Volunteers come together to assemble more than 2500 bikes. Charities’ trucks line up to give the bikes to underprivileged kids at Christmas. It’s a wonderful day. Here are some shots of this year’s fun- and of course- you should read the original blog and learn all about Turning Wheels For Kids.

Son David building an adorable Barbie bike!

Son David building an adorable Barbie bike!

 

Friend Tony helping on the same bike.

Friend Tony helping on the same bike.

 

My Better Half in the Tricycle Races.

My Better Half in the Tricycle Races.

 

He got third!

He got third!

 

This year's bikes- ready for happy kids!

This year’s bikes- ready for happy kids!

 

 

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

No, I didn’t drop off the end of the earth. No matter what certain religious groups will tell you, the earth is not flat. I just got busy… again.

Hope your Thanksgiving, or for those friends in other countries, your weekend went well. Greetings! I have had this song in the back of my mind to write about for some time.

The female species has been cajoled, bribed, bludgeoned, flattered, and manipulated into placing the emphasis on physical beauty over internal substance. Mind you, at certain points in history, men have too, or used other yardsticks: ability to throw a spear, crush heads with a rock, spitting, pissing, making money, pick your useless standard.

We make ourselves sick trying to capture an ideal of femininity that can never be achieved. Even those models in the magazines can’t get there- and that’s with hair, make-up and wardrobe crews. It requires the almighty Photoshop to warp reality into glossy covers. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17j5QzF3kqE

An even more illuminating experiment can be seen in the following video. Four “ordinary” women were asked to participate in an experiment. Have a professional photo shoot, complete with hair, make-up and wardrobe and THEN let the Photoshop wizards go to town.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRlpIkH3b5I

The reactions of the four after seeing their “Beautiful” photos is telling. “Once someone has directed your clothes, your hair, how your body looks and then taken away your imperfections, there’s not much left of who you really are.” Another remarked, “I like my freckles. I think that they add character. The fact that they’re gone– I don’t even know who that is.”

Exactly. Our imperfections define us, make us unique, special. Take dimples, for example. Dimples occur when you have facial muscles which do not work- causing “pits” as it were in one’s facial expressions. In fact, dimples are defined as:

Dimples are a facial muscle deformity.

Yet, we have accepted those failed muscles as a positive. We have found their beauty. They add a special loveliness to one’s expression. Likewise with freckles, well-defined brows, laugh lines, widow’s peaks, hips, and square jaws. If Photoshop is allowed to smooth these all away, how will we know ourselves?

We spend money, time, and energy trying to smooth these things away ourselves. Trying to reach an ideal that doesn’t exist, never existed, and can only exist inside a computer. And that is, by definition- not human. We are human, not perfect- and that’s okay. It’s even… imperfectly perfect.

For my daughters- Katie & Anna- Cause I like you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXoZLPSw8U8

“Try”

Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim
So they like you. Do they like you? Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong
So they like you. Do you like you? You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try Oh Get your shopping on,
At the mall,
Max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose,
Buy it all
So they like you. Do they like you? Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

No
Oh

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
Cause I like you

Here I am in Maui with my family. I will never be a cover girl- even with Photoshop. I am a woman. I’ve borne three children. I live, I love, I eat. I have more curves that I used to. My nose is Roman, my jaw is square, my hair is wild, I am five feet tall (or short depending on your view point), and these things set me apart– in a good way.  Never hide your light. Spend less time obsessing over yourself and more time loving your sweeties. You don’t have to try so hard.

No Photoshop

No Photoshop

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

On July 1st I took my son, David, to see his first concert.  We saw Queen with Adam Lambert.  Sadly, it can never be the Queen of yesteryear.  Freddie Mercury left this world in 1991 and John Deacon retired from the band’s public life in 1997.  Friends say he was never the same after Freddie’s death.  So, needless to say, I did not go into this show with high expectations.  I simply hoped that my son would have a good time.

What a wonderful surprise!

Hats off to all the members of Queen and a huge ‘huzzah!’ to Adam Lambert.  I love Paul Rodgers, but I certainly sat and scratched my head when I heard he was fronting Queen. I mean, really?  On the other hand, Lambert (who first met members of Queen when he sang Bohemian Rhapsody with them during his time on American Idol) is stylistically and vocally a much better fit.  He’s hitting all those notes with power and passion, even the super high ones. Wow.

I didn’t realize when David and I went to see them that this tour was being billed as a salute to Freddie Mercury.  Apparently, Lambert is a huge fan himself.  And that was the most impressive part, while Lambert clearly adores the limelight, he was generous with the spotlight.  Twice he left the stage so that other members of the group, including Roger Taylor’s son, Rufus, could shine.  Lambert seems perfectly at ease with the place Mercury holds in the band and the fans’ hearts.  He celebrated Freddie and sang back and forth with Mercury’s recorded image on Bohemian Rhapsody to the delight of everyone present.  If you can get yourself out to see them- DO IT!

He’s not Freddie Mercury– no one is.  Yet, once again, Queen have a flamboyant, sexually ambiguous front man whose voice soars to the upper registers as he sings his ass off on stage.  Something in the universe seems right once more.

While the show held many high points for me, I think the most poignant was on Love of My Life.  This song was written by Mercury after his breakup with his long time girlfriend, Mary Austin (whom Brian May had introduced to him) and appeared on Queen’s 1975 album, A Night at The Opera.  As I said, I hadn’t realized that the band would be showcasing Freddie to the degree that they did, so the night held many surprises for me.

Love of My Life was performed in the past as a duet between Brian May and Mercury.  May had come up with a lovely acoustic arrangement and then of course Freddie took care of the vocals.  This evening, however, May sat alone and after complimenting “the new kid” asked the audience for their help filling Freddie’s shoes.  He asked us to sing to Freddie, to let him know we still loved him.

So we sang along, all of us.  It is always amazing to me how heartrendingly lovely thousands of voices raised in song are.  Lighters (or iPhones) alight and hands raised in heart shapes, it was a bittersweet moment.  And then, on the last stanza, came that rich voice, those amazing, pliant, soulful tones.  Freddie’s image was on the jumbotron and his voice filled the arena, reminding everyone anew what we had lost.  Everyone over the age of thirty-five bawled their eyes out.

So here it is, sing along, let Freddie know you still care.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USDANRZ5CKw

A Night at The Opera by Queen 1975

A Night at The Opera by Queen 1975

 

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

My kids, especially my daughters, like when I put together playlists for my phone or iPod.  Summer 2012, Winter 2013, you get the idea.  As music so often does, when we listen to the lists after a break the songs remind us of where we were and what we were doing.  It’s always fascinating what memories my children come up with.  For instance, Natasha Bedingfield’s Pocketful of Sunshine reminds me of driving home from the kids swimming lessons, all of us “dancing” in our seats.  Well, not David, he was reading one of the Rick Riordan books.  However, my daughter Katie remembers going roller skating and Anna remembers her first hotdog off the backyard grill.

I know summer begins officially on June 21st, but for me it really starts on my birthday, June 24th.  So, this past week I was struck by the realization that summer is actually HERE.  Cue exhale.  This is my favorite season.  The fair comes to town.  We swim, we eat outside a lot, we stay up late and sleep in, we spend more time together.  And then there’s the sunshine. I’m a California native and how do I love the sun.

Time for a new list and I thought I would share it with you good people.  Go make your own and use it as your personal audio scrapbook for the memories you about to make this summer.

Now, a disclaimer, I LOVE heavy metal and so does my son, David.  That said, the girls not so much and my husband not at all.  So the seasonal playlists are pop-centric.  David and I bond over music in other forums and this gives me a touchstone with my daughters.  Try not to hate me for doing this one light, fluffy thing.  It’s purely sugary, bubble gum fun.

In no particular order this year’s list thus far:

1.) Sing by Ed Sheeran- love the chorus, so great to sing along to with happy daughters.

2.) Raging Fire by Phillip Phillips (what were his parents thinking with that name???)

3.) Maps by Maroon 5- definitely their most catchy since Moves Like Jagger.

4.) Love Runs Out by OneRepublic- not quite as good as Counting Stars but pretty darn close.

5.) Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Rey- love her voice!

6.) Am I Wrong? by Nico and Vinz

7.) Hey Brother by Avici- came out in spring, but that’s okay- it hasn’t been played to death… yet.

8.) Bad Blood by Bastille- I like this one even better than Pompeii (which has been played to death).

9.) Fancy by Iggy Azalea- Am I the only one who thinks she owes Gwen Stefani a big huge fruit basket??? Derivative much?

10.) Blue-eyed Lie by Jessica Meuse- an original song this American Idol finalist wrote while she was still playing honky tonks in Alabama.

11.) Burning Gold by Christina Perri- the album’s been out for a while, but this song is just starting to make airplay.

12.) And last, not least, this week’s Musical Monday song is Angel in Blue Jeans by Train.  It’s my new pop favorite.  I think I like it so much because as the song hits its stride there’s something that reminds me of classic country, something Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard would have recorded when I was little (or before I was born).  Something we would have sung around the campfire at Camp Cazadero.  Pat Monahan’s voice isn’t deep enough, but the galloping pacing and the twang of the guitar is just right.

Also, this is the perfect sentiment for a summer hit.  Come on, admit it, somewhere in the hallway of your memories, you’ve got one.  That one glance, stolen kiss, or magical one night that you’ll never forget.  It’s the one memory that as you are in that Neverland between asleep and awake, the sometime dreaming place, this is the memory that has you following the road to “might have been” on the corner of “what if” and “I wonder.”  Everyone has an electric moment they’ll never forget, and I’ll bet, it happened in summertime.

Don’t be afraid to remember.

Here’s a recent performance by Train on the Today show.  If the crowd noise bothers you then use this audio only link.

 

Grammy winners, Train.

Grammy winners, Train.

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

Erika Gardner

Erika Gardner

This was to be another piece.

One on teachers.

Then, later, one, on the importance of immunization.

Then, a note on tolerance.

In the end, it boiled down to one simple fact.  A good man died today. And I do not mean Casey Kasem.

A world leader?  No.  A millionaire magnate? No.  Yet, he was a man who loved well and stood by his friends.  You could count on him.  Will he be on the news?  No.  Will he be remembered? Yes.

What else can any of us ask for?

Casey Morton died today.  He was good.  He was loving.  He was 46.

A friend of of mine wrote me because she was concerned for a mutual friend, Holly, who was very close to Casey.  She asked if we (myself and another high school friend, Amy) remembered Casey?  I mean, he was a year ahead of us.

Are you kidding?  How could you forget Casey?  Joyous, full of life, and full of love?  Of course, of course, I remember Casey.  I knew him in drama.  He ran lines with me.  He made me believe that I COULD in fact survive, even thrive, on stage.  And Amy?  Her first job was at the Bennett Valley Baskin Robbins (which is still there) and Casey helped train her in all her dairy glory.

And the tears flow.

Casey was an epileptic and had a seizure during which he took a bad fall.  That’s all it took to snuff the light of a vibrant, affectionate, beautiful man.

Casey Morton died today.  He was good.  He was loving.  And, I hope, he will be remembered.

My deepest, most heartfelt sympathies for his family and loved ones.  He was amazing- you are blessed.

For all those we’ve lost, here’s your Musical (Almost) Monday… We’ll Burn The Sky by the immortal Scorpions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EZRN_DkN0o

Casey, my friend, I hope there is a love waiting to join you, beyond these mortal realms, flying the sky, burning the horizon.

Those we lose are no longer with us, but that does not mean, it never, ever means, that we forget.

 

Casey Morton, Montgomery High, Class of 1986

Casey Morton, Montgomery High, Class of 1986

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

 

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