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Meeting Neil Gaiman

I discovered the otherworldly author Neil Gaiman in 2009 while watching this short introduction to the stop-motion animated film Coraline, which is based on his book by the same name.

Gaiman’s elucidation of Koumpounophobia (fear of buttons) is intentionally reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s beloved opening monologues for his brilliant series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The playfully foreboding tone Gaiman exudes in this video reminds me of the stories I used to conjure when I was a little girl to scare my friends and family. To me, the best stories are a mixture of light and dark, heroes and monsters, the living and the dead. Just a spoonful of the macabre helps any story go down.  

After reading Gaiman’s award-winning novel, American Gods, I fell completely in love with his style of writing. His books are clever, charming, peculiar, captivating, and unsettling in the most amazing ways. They are dripping with nostalgia, often alluding to mythology and literary classics – a mixture of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Homer, and Joseph Campbell. When I read his books, I feel as though Gaiman is wandering deep inside the dark cavern of my own imagination with a flashlight, illuminating my perception of reality, time, memories, and space while simultaneously casting terrifying shadows upon them. It is as if his universe exists inside of mine. I have no doubt that all of his other loyal readers feel the same way.

Thanks to an unbelievable stroke of luck, Gaiman came to the Santa Rosa Theater this July on his Farewell Book Signing Tour. The event sold out quickly, but my good friend Meghan purchased tickets just in time. It was an early birthday present and one I will never forget!

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Over 1,500 people packed the theater, clutching their treasured copies of Gaiman’s books and anxiously awaiting his appearance. I saw many copies of American Gods, Stardust, Good Omens, The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, The Ocean At The End of the Lane, and The Sandman.

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When Gaiman came to the stage we gave him a standing ovation, to which he responded with a smile and a gesture for us to sit down already.

Gaiman 6He was humble and open about his writing process and success. He explained that, like most writers, he suffers from “Impostor Syndrome” and is convinced that at any moment the Fraud Police will show up and take him away. He told us a story about how Shirley Maclaine once pulled his hair to see if it was real. He joked about his beekeeping hobby, exclaiming “everyone should have a hobby that could kill them!” Then he read from The Ocean At The End Of The Lane and his upcoming book, Fortunately, the Milk. I was laughing and smiling so much that my face hurt.

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After that, he promised to sign everyone’s book – all 1,500+ of us. We were grouped by letters and after a couple hours of waiting, our group letter was called and we were quickly herded towards the signing table.

As we edged closer to him, I watched him sign books and make quick chit-chat with fans. He was very warm and gracious. Then it was my turn. When Neil Gaiman and I locked eyes he said, “My, you’re lovely!”  I was shocked and overwhelmed. He proceeded to comment on my height and aura (I was tall enough to block the bright lights aimed directly at him on the stage).

I’d like to tell you that I said something clever in that moment, that my brain sifted through all the fragments of my observations, witticisms, and wisdom – separating coarse particles of banality from the fine powder of brilliance – and isolated a golden nugget of a reply. One of my favorite writers of all time was sitting within my reach. He was looking right at me. He had just paid *ME* a compliment. So what did I do? In a fit of joyful bewilderment, I presented him with my best Jazz Hands (with only ONE of my hands, mind you) and replied, “I am like a lovely tree.” Yes, that moment turned me into a moderately hysterical, flustered mess. I am still embarassed.

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Thankfully, my awkward and embarassing reaction made him smile. I must have done something right because instead of just signing my book, he proceeded to draw me an original tree monster ghost. He also wrote “Love, Neil Gaiman.”

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It was the most surreal and overwhelmingly awesome moment of my life!

I stood there, dazed, and watched as Meghan had a similarly amazing experience. She brought him special tea from Disneyland. He smiled and explained that he was very grateful because he was without his luggage due to unfortunate events related to air travel and, as a consequence, was without his tea. He then drew Sandman inside her copy of The Sandman and proceeded to autograph all of her books.

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Before we knew it, we were ushered away. The show must go on, or rather, the signing procession had to keep moving. Meghan and I were still in a state of enchantment as we left the theater.  It was like waking up from a beautiful dream only to discover that you are holding an object that proved the dream wasn’t a dream afterall. We felt invigorated and overwhelmed with happiness. I have no doubt that we will always cherish our signed and personalized books, and I look forward to reading more from this amazing man. Sometimes meeting an idol is better than you can imagine. It certainly was in our case!

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New Ballet?

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Last weekend I saw a Smuin Ballet performance of “Spring Bouquet.” While I can appreciate the artistry and painstaking skill that goes into every ballet performance, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing: a compelling story. To me, ballet can feel a bit stuffy and tedious after thirty minutes of watching men and women swirl and bounce around the stage, but what if a ballet could offer more? Much more? Say, take my favorite movie of all time and make it into a ballet: JAWS The Ballet.

JAWS The Ballet

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And just like that, Ballet would be AWESOME! Can’t you just hear the John Williams score now? Duuun dun duuun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun BOM BOM dun dun dun dun dun dun.

JAWS: The Ballet

It has been exactly one month since one of my favorite people in this world passed away. Though it is still very difficult for me to talk or write about, I wanted to share a little bit about my kindred spirit, my role model, my friend, my grandmother: Corinne Georgianna Treml.

Grandma was a magical type of person. If you met her and gave her even a minute of your time you were bound to have a new friend for life. She brought unbridled joy and endless enthusiasm wherever she went.

Throughout my life, we shared many moments of uncontrollable laughter, sometimes to the point where our cheeks ached and our stomach muscles cramped. If anyone came upon us during these fits of laughter – with our tear-soaked, bright red, scrunched-up faces – they would have thought we were crying hysterically. I credit the development of my abdominal muscles to all the laughter Grandma and I shared.

My siblings and I were very blessed to have Grandma and Grandpa Treml so actively involved in our lives. They never missed a performance or special event, they went with us on family vacations, and when my parents wanted to go on their own vacations, Grandma and Grandpa would stay at our house with us. I always looked forward to having them babysit because it gave me the opportunity to hear Grandma’s stories. Most of the time she told funny stories, but from time to time, she would tell scary ones. Those were always a treat. Grandma had some very frightening ghost stories and on several occasions, we would both get so drawn into her stories that we got goose bumps and watery-eyes due to fear. Moments like those solidified my love for storytelling, as well as my love for scary things.

For Grandma, storytelling was a natural thing. She had a way of taking ordinary information about people, sanding away the dull spots, polishing up the remarkable features, and displaying them for all to see. She did this for everyone she loved. If you had asked her about me, she would have told you that I look like Sharon Stone, am an up-and-coming writer working on my breakout novel while also working as a freelance artist/graphic designer and running my own dog rescue out of my house. She was our biggest cheerleader.

One of my fondest memories of her cheerleading was when I participated in my middle school’s performance of The Music Man. I played the very minor role of Woman # 3. I had three lines and was basically a background decoration throughout the play. Grandma gave me the prettiest blue dress with white lace for the performance. I still remember the dress rehearsal when the actress playing Marion The Librarian snootily told the teacher that she should be wearing my dress since she is the lead actress. Later, when I told Grandma about it she said “You may not be the leading actress, but you can still dress like one!” After the opening night performance, when the entire cast came off stage to greet the audience, Grandma excitedly approached me and exclaimed “You stole the show!” Even though I knew I hadn’t, her confidence in me always made me feel like a superstar. It still does.

Not only was Grandma the biggest cheerleader, best storyteller, and most uplifting person to be around, she was also the most glamorous grandmother I’d ever seen. She was the kind of lady who never went anywhere without perfect makeup, perfect hair, and nice clothes. She told every woman that an outfit is never complete without lipstick. That has always stuck with me and I find that I feel naked without my lipstick on.

Even well into her senior years, she had the reputation for getting all dressed up and “dancing the night away.” Without fail, she was the last person left on the dance floor at the end of the night. Her bright spirit and beauty had a way of taking up all the space in every room she entered. She was absolutely impossible not to love.

Even after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she still got dressed up in fancy clothes with perfect hair and makeup for every doctor’s visit and treatment. She wanted to show the doctors that she was full of life and not willing to give up. While many people with terminal illnesses become discouraged and withdrawn from life, Grandma never stopped making plans. Whether she was planning on attending one of her many Red Hat Society events or planning another trip to Hawaii, she refused to stop looking for ways to continue enjoying her life. The last thing she said to me was “I’m sorry I’m not feeling well, honey. Next time you visit me we will paint the town!” She was true to herself until the very end.

Her memorial service was at maximum capacity and though we were all devastated by such a major loss to our lives, we found ourselves laughing through tears as we listened to stories about Grandma’s glorious life. She really knew how to live and love. She left all of us with an amazing life model.

I want to share one more thing with you. It is a promise made by my grandfather to my grandmother at one of the most pivotal moments in their 65 years of marriage. This promise is so special that just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

Not long after Grandma was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Grandpa started having some health issues of his own. After undergoing several tests, their doctor called them into his office for the bad news: Grandpa had terminal cancer and would need immediate hospice care. The doctor told them that most likely Grandma would outlive Grandpa. They were devastated. Grandma began to cry and when Grandpa tried to comfort her, she told him, “I can’t live without you. You can’t leave me!” Grandpa, being the calm and collected man he is, held her hand and said, “I’m not going anywhere. I promise I won’t leave you.”

He kept that promise. He took care of Grandma in the house they lived in almost all of their lives together until the morning she passed away. She left her body around 8am on March 14th while sitting in her favorite chair, less than ten feet away from him.

She is now inside a beautiful urn on their mantle. Grandpa touches the urn and talks to Grandma daily. Every time I see him do this it reaffirms my belief in the power of love.

The day after Grandma passed away, my mother and I found many of her handwritten notes with quotes and poems she wanted to remember. On one of these notepads, Grandma wrote down a quote from the novel Tuesdays With Morrie, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” I find it to be very comforting and true, especially when I look at Grandpa. His strength and courage throughout this very difficult time would make her very proud. Grandpa is the kind of man all men should look up to. Their love story is inspiring. Grandma did everything right in her life and I am so proud to be her granddaughter.

The controversy on whether eggs are good or bad for human consumption has been going on for as long as I can remember. For every study that says eggs are bad, there is inevitably another stating the contrary. This teeter-tottering between egg enthusiasts and egg detractors has now lead us to a new study promoting the idea that eating egg yolks is almost as bad as smoking cigarettes.

I will admit that I was taken in by this new study’s disappointing findings because I eat multiple eggs on a daily basis. As a pescetarian, I need all the protein I can get and I always considered eggs to be the perfect protein source. After briefly considering giving up these delicious globular proteins, I came to the conclusion that there must be a special interest group behind these never-ending egg-hating studies. It would have to be a group so deeply connected and passionate about stopping egg consumption that time after time they could shamelessly defy logic and push ridiculously deceiving anti-egg propaganda. That’s when it dawned on me. Only one group stands to gain something from discouraging people from consuming healthy, delicious eggs: Chickens!

This is a 100% factual reenactment:

Walk Like A T-Rex

I recently bought beautiful bright pink platform heels for a wedding I was attending. I had never worn a pair of platform heels before and usually don’t venture beyond the basic black, brown, tan, pewter, or copper-colored heels, so I decided to try out a bright color for fun.

The saleswoman at Macy’s assured me that most women prefer platforms because they are very comfortable and easier to walk in compared to regular heels. It was hard to tell how comfortable they would be while in the store, but they matched my dress, several shoppers commented on how cute they were, and I knew could stand in them just fine, so I decided to get them.

I tried them on after I got home. I even walked around the house for a while trying to get a feel for them. They seemed ok at the time. Then the day of the wedding came. There was a gravel path between the parking lot and the wedding venue. Within the first two steps, I felt like I was ice skating on stilts. Every step I took had to be careful and steady. I looked ridiculous. By the time I got to the outdoor seating area, I realized that the shoes slipped and wobbled on every walking surface around me. The only way to not flail around trying to maintain my balance was to walk like a T-Rex.

This led me to realize my lesson: it doesn’t matter how cute your shoes, hair, and outfit are. If your shoes make you stomp around like a T-Rex then you’re going to look goofy.

Once again, my expectations did not match reality.

Most heels add a certain swagger and confidence to your walk, which is why I like to wear them from time to time regardless of my height, but platform shoes do quite the opposite for me. Then again, perhaps I just need to learn the secret walking technique these shoes require. I ‘ll go for a more sensible shoe next time. Call me crazy, but walking like a T-Rex while feeling like you’re ice skating on stilts just doesn’t appeal to me.

I wonder if other dogs think French poodles are members of a weird religious cult. - Rita Rudner

I will admit something that is highly taboo for dog rescue activists to confess: up until a month ago, I had poodle prejudice. It’s not that I found poodles particularly unattractive or thought that they were terrible dogs. I just kind of wrote them off as pretentious people’s pets due to their foo-foo show dog cuts and their portrayal in cartoons and movies as princess-y dogs owned by high maintenance snobs. Yes, I know. I’m terrible for buying into that judgmental mindset, but I did nevertheless.

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Then something happened…

A little dog named Guinness came into my life and through his sweet, happy soul, he forever changed my mind about poodles.

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On March 5th, Guinness was hit by a car, breaking his femur, fracturing the bone just below his nose, cutting up his face, and leaving fender marks on his legs where he went skidding across the road. A concerned citizen in San Jose saw the whole thing, grabbed Guinness out of the street and immediately took him to the fire station down the road. There, the firemen wrapped Guinness in a blanket, and rushed him to the emergency veterinarian at the Animal Shelter.

Sadly, after being at the shelter for a period of time, the wounded Guinness needed rescue. On March 20th, Lisa Pochop (one of our most dedicated rescue volunteers) pulled Guinness from the shelter and brought him directly to Dr.Gurevitch (the finest orthopedic surgeon you will find in Sonoma County) to repair Guinness’ femur. The surgery went well and I picked Guinness up and brought him to my house, where Drew and I could foster him during his recovery.

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To my closed-minded surprise, he was a joy to have around and so appreciative of all the attention and care. He loved to be snuggled and would nuzzle into you and fall asleep. I was surprised by his happy-go-lucky attitude and his eagerness to please.

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He even sat patiently staring up at me as I trimmed the hair out of his face. This “haircut” somehow turned into a Mohawk due to my inexperience in hair cutting. He never fussed. He just looked at me with the most trustful eyes. Here was this sweet little poodle with all the quirky, handsome charm of a Dr. Seuss character.

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In other words, he was lovely and I was helplessly devoted to the type of dog who I would have otherwise written off as a prissy pup. That led me to realize that it was me who was the snob all along, an anti-poodle snob. How shameful!

Now, granted, Guinness isn’t a full blooded poodle, but I don’t think that really matters.

His positive attitude really helped with his recovery…

…and he stole our hearts.

Now Guinness is in his forever home with the most amazing people. I feel very blessed to have played a little part in his life and am grateful that he opened my eyes to my unfounded poodle prejudice. I apologize to all the poodles and poodle owners in the world. What a snob I’ve been!

Though I can’t promise I won’t get the urge to snicker or roll my eyes when I see dogs that looks like this…

I will try to imagine that under that overly coiffed poodle exterior is an amazing dog like Guinness. You just have to look beyond the fluff.

Penny was found on the side of the road by Shafter Animal Control. She was struggling to walk, but had no visible wounds. The shelter veterinarian took x-rays and discovered that she has an old break in her femur and pelvis. His recommended treatment was crate rest, as she was already healing. He said Penny will most likely have a slight limp for the rest of her life, but will be able to do everything normal if she is allowed to rest and heal.

A Shafter shelter volunteer took this video of Penny when she first arrived.

But the shelter was crowded and special needs dogs like Penny don’t have the best chances for adoption. Shelter volunteers knew that after Penny’s stray holding period was up she would be euthanized. They contacted several rescue groups until they found ours.

Penny has been in our home for over three weeks now and is making a huge recovery.


Though she was very nervous and defensive around other dogs at first, she and our Nelson have become inseparable buddies.

She even got to see Petey and Nelson all dressed up for Halloween.

But the best part of it? She can play again! (For short periods of time)

Dogs like Penny are the reason why I foster: to help dogs recover and transition into their forever homes. It will be bittersweet when she leaves our care, but at least we know that we played a part in getting her on the path to a great life.

Fostering is the ultimate expression of love for dogs. It requires work, occasional sleep-deprived nights, and assorted cleaning products, but no one can say that it isn’t worth it.

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