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Helping Matt

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I am writing here today because I was notified of a very sad situation and I thought some of you here might be willing or able to help...even if it is just a small donation of $5.

Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fireman, Matthew Cervini, Sr. of Waggaman, Louisiana is losing his two-year battle with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  He is only 34 years-old and will be leaving behind a wife and three young children.

A small business owner who was affected by the Hurricane Katrina, he could not afford health insurance.  Due to the insurmountable costs of his treatment, his wife has found she will be unable to afford to bury her husband.  "I have no money for burial or a place to lay him to rest," Chanda Cervini has said.

You can learn more about Matt, his family, and his battle with cancer at http://helpingmatt.com/.

Garden of Memories Funeral Home & Cemetery in Metairie, Louisiana has assisted with the casket, place of rest, and FULL funeral services at a reduced cost with an agreement that expenses would be paid within 60 days of services.

Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fire Department has set up a donation account in the name of Matthew Cervini, Sr; Account # 69750.

Cash or check donations may be brought in to Credit Union Service Center, Nationwide.  You can locate one of the over 3,800 Credit Union Service Centers online at http://cuservicecenter.com/

Donations may also be mailed to:
Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fire Department
F/B/O Matthew Cervini, Sr.
404 Azalea Drive
Waggaman, LA 70094

The only way the Credit Unions will accept checks is if they are written as the following examples on the "Payable to" line:

Live Oak Manor Volunteer Fire Department FBO Matthew Cervini, Sr.
OR
LOMVFD FBO Matthew Cervini, Sr.

You may also donate via PayPal by visiting http://helpingmatt.com/

Questions or concerns may be addressed to Assistant Fire Chief, Eric Bacon, at asstchief730@aol.com.  The office number of the fire department is (504) 431-7092, and they can be reached via fax at (504) 431-7712.

Donations For Family Assistance

With all of the horrors this family has had to face, they are also - due to the cancer - in serious financial crisis.  They have sold a car, had their home foreclosed on, and now Chanda has been laid off from work.   Even after Matt's nightmare ends, it will be a new chapter for wife, Chanda, and their three young children, Alaura, Matthew, & Gia.  Matt's illness struck this young family wholly unprepared for such a devastating medical expense.  With no health insurance, Matt's treatment for the last two years has put an enormous financial burden on Chanda, who was also laid off from her job in March 2009.  Any donations that you send may also help this young mother to begin rebuilding her life.  Please do what you can to help this family!

Thank you so much for any help you may be able to offer, even if it is only in the form of prayers for this young man and his family.

Meet Kaxma & Weird Dreams

Monday, August 10th, 2009

My dear friend, Emily, has wanted to start her own blog.  So I fired up the old blog-making gears and got her all set up.  Please go & check her out at kaxma.com and welcome her to the world of blogging!

So last night I had the strangest dream that my brother got back together with his ex-girlfriend (my niece's mother) and they had another baby.  This little girl they - for reasons unknown to man - named I-n-Tai'.  I even saw it spelled out in my dream.  It was pronounced "n-tie" and I was livid, insisting that they could not burden this poor child with such a heinous name; especially not one with all of those punctuation marks in it!

"It has two dashes and an apostrophe!" I remember ranting to Baret.

At work today, I was outside having my after-lunch smoke when a co-worker came and told me that she had dreamed about me last night.  We're friendly but haven't hung out outside of work, though I think she's totally cool, so we both found it wild that she'd dreamed about me.  In the dream, she said I had quit and had written this long poem and sent it out to everone, stating at the end my decision to leave the job.  She said everyone was all shocked because no one knew I was quitting.  Wonder what the message is in that?

That's really all I had to say for the moment.  There is lots more in the news I want to comment on, believe me.  Finding the time to sit down and write is something else altogether.  Never fear, for I will - sometime this week, I promise!  Check back and I won't disappoint.

Firefighter and Three-Time Cancer Survivor Uses His Experience to Help Others

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I add this story not only because Lorenzo Abundiz is a firefighter, but because he is a philanthropic warrior - a man who focused on helping others while facing down death throughout his own terrible struggles. Abundiz has suffered through three separate cancers and over 250 surgeries since his initial diagnosis in 1998. Instead of admitting defeat, however, he turned his own pain and strife into a roadmap for helping other firefighters and their families who found themselves on a similarly terrifying path.

From the website:

Abundiz' first cancer was a rare and highly aggressive one called "leiomyosarcoma," located on his right side chest wall, which needed immediate treatment. Unfortunately, because Abundiz' employer denied his claim that the cancer was job related, he was not covered under the workers' compensation sytem. Thus, he was forced to rely on the general medical establishment to provide timely treatment, which was anything but timely. It took a month for a much needed surgery to be approved, and by that time the tumor had grown considerably, with the possibility of satellite cancer cells spreading.

As Abundiz lay in a hospital bed at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles recovering from kidney surgery on March 12, 2006, he was inspired to do something to help other firefighters who are going through similar struggles. Out of that moment grew the Code 3 for a Cure Foundation, an organization formed specifically to help firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer and their families, as well as select nonprofits who are helping fight the war on cancer.

 Nearly all of us have been touched by cancer and have had to struggle to with medical costs that insurance refused to cover; I believe that Abundiz's altruistic efforts are something each of us can get behind. I urge you to visit his website and nonprofit organization, Code 3 for a Cure Foundation  (code3foracure.org). For more information, please watch Houston's KPRC Local 2 interview with this amazing survivor.

Firefighters Have High Cancer Risk:

Something I learned from visiting Code 3 for a Cure was that firefighters have an extremely high chance of contracting cancer sometime in their lives. They are constantly exposed to smoke and any number of harmful chemicals that may be in that smoke. Unfortunately, even though statistics prove this to be the case, firefighters often have a difficult time getting worker's compensation to help them pay for their cancer treatments. Due to this, many brave men and women have lost their lives to cancers that may have been treatable and even survivable - if only they had been able to afford proper treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society, half of all men and one-third of all women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. It is becoming more and more apparent just what an epidemic this disease truly is. That is why one of the goals of Code 3 for a Cure is to contribute a percentage of our funds toward organizations that are conducting cancer research, and/or helping those diagnosed. The main focus of our organization, however, is to provide assistance specifically to firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer and their families. Why? Statistics show that firefighters are at a higher risk of cancer than the general population due to their exposure to toxic substances throughout the course of their careers.

Further, and perhaps even more disturbing:

But in spite of numerous findings pointing to an increased cancer risk among firefighters, as well as presumptive laws that have been passed in certain states, it is still an uphill battle for many firefighters to try to prove that their cancer is job related so they can get the medical care they need. Read more...

The fledgling Code 3 for a Cure Foundation seeks to help firefighters and their families dealing with the financial hardships that cancer can, with disastrous results, bring upon a family; from being denied medical coverage to losing a job. This is not only a noble cause, but a much-needed crusade.

Local Charms Help Support Local Community

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Earlier this month, my friend Emily and I traveled down to New Orleans and stumbled upon this charming little jewelry store called Isabella's Fairy Dust (Yelp review) located at 614 Royal Street in the French Quarter.  It was not only the dazzling array of lovely, unique, and simply beautiful "jewelry, masks, stained glass, kaleidoscopes, fairies, and angels" that had us so captivated, but the fact that every piece in the store had been crafted by local artisans.

Though the media gives mostly encouraging reports coming out of New Orleans and it's slowly - but surely - recovering economy, the truth is that the Crescent City and its multitude of talented artists are still struggling.  The shopkeepers of Isabella's told us that stores around the French Quarter - even up and down the daytime "walking mall" of Royal Street with its chic boutiques and gilded antique stores - were closing up one by one.  It is a sad but all too true reality.

That is why it is so very important for locals, visitors, day-trippers, tourists, and/or vacationers to help support this most basic fabric of New Orleans's culture by supporting local artists and the shops that sale their wares.

If you dine in the city, be sure to do so at a locally-owned restaurant such as the Clover Grill (900 Bourbon), China Moon Wok (800 St. Ann), Coop's Place (1109 Decatur), Mona Lisa's (1212 Royal) or Angelli (Decatur at Governor Nicholls).  You can get McDonald's and Subway anywhere and any day.

If you need a grocery-type item, skip Walgreens and take your business to one of the Quarter's quaint, time-worn stores like the Royal Street Grocery & Deli (801 Royal), Central Grocery (923 Decatur),  Matassa's Market (1001 Dauphine) or, a personal favorite, the Verti Marte (1201 Royal).  Though the prices may be a bit higher, the atmosphere of these old and friendly groceries and the quality of local produce more than make up for it; plus you have the satisfaction of knowing your money went to help a community in need rather than a giant, nameless corporation.

If you shop, be sure to visit the artists in Jackson Square as well as the myriad of shops lining the streets of the French Quarter; be on the lookout for locally hand-crafted items.  Every such purchase that you make while visiting New Orleans helps this community to rebuild, and every penny that goes back into the hands of it's multicultural, multi-talented, and colorful citizenry helps New Orleans remain the magical, eccentric place that so many treasure. (See FrenchQuarter.com's Shopping page for where to find shops by item, great articles on the latest shopping trends & shop happenings, and lots more.)

You can also visit the New Orleans/French Quarter page at Wikitravel for listings and descriptions of more locally-owned businesses and eateries that are worth a visit.

Supporting shops like Isabella's Fairy Dust, with its simply breathtaking pieces and friendly, local ownership boasting wares from area artisans, goes to the very heart of bringing New Orleans - and its residents - back to life.  I encourage you to visit this charming little jewelry shop - I simply don't have words to describe the many beautiful baubles and precious pieces we saw there; it's something you must see for yourself - and others like it to help support this striving community and the people who make it so great.

Domains for Sale!

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

In case anyone were actually interested, I thought I should make note here of a few domain names I've picked up along the way that I would like to sell.  These are for sale at GoDaddy Auctions, and set on Buy Now or Bid status.  Get 'em while they're hot!

I also have thefringepress.com which I'm debating on putting up for sale or keeping.  I sort of like it.

Anyhow, if you're interested in any of the above domains, please visit GoDaddy Auctions or click on the domain links listed above to go directly to each domain name's individual buy/bid page.

More Like Writer’s Apathy

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Every day I wake up and want to write here in my blog, and every day I open up the WP dashboard and stare at a blank "Write Post" block.

It's not that there aren't things to write about. My life has been full and busy lately; just that I don't think anyone would care or I don't feel it worthy of a write somehow (which is odd, because some of it has been landmark stuff). I don't necessarily have "writer's block", it's more like "writer's apathy". I think about writing and then go, "Eh..."

I can't explain it. There's this burning desire inside of me to write - anything on any of my blogs. Yet when I set out to, it's "Eh...", and nothing gets written.

True, a lot of my creative output is going into two projects I'm working on (both Sims-related). I don't want to talk about them before they're done because that always seems to jinx it and then it will never be complete. I have been spending some idle time re-reading my Syls Empire stuff - thinking about doing something with it or even just expanding it. I know some of my websites, mainly skatoolaki.com and Skasimlaki, need some work & updating. I'd like to write some more on Trick Tracts, or even get back into researching and writing on The Brandon Children. I know I'm spreading myself thin in that respect, but it's like there is so much I want to do that I never actually can settle on any one thing to do.

Pretty much every spare second I've had since The Sims 2: Castaway for the Wii came in, I've been doing that - until I put the radio in my inventory and it disappeared. I've been so distraught (because all I've found online says it's a glitch and you must restart the game) that I haven't touched it since Friday.

And...eh. What else? I'm trying to be more diligent in updating my Twitter. I downloaded Google Desktop for my desktop pc and laptop last night and am (so far) pretty much loving it. I also spent some time customizing my iGoogle homepage; honestly trying to get away from Yahoo! as my homepage but I love the news updates. I love iGoogle and the way I can customize it, but I have this thing about getting all of my worldly & local news updates from Yahoo!. Yet, for whatever reason, I'm ready for a change. I've made Yahoo! my homepage on every computer I've used for the past 10+ years - just ready for something new.

[Sidenote: Cute YouTube vid about the ease of customizing iGoogle homepage]

To my sister and any other Magic 8-Ball fans - if you download Google Desktop (which I recommend), you have to get the AnswerBall gadget! It can be found here.

What else, what else? I finally cleaned out my Mozilla Thunderbird email today. I had, seriously, almost 6,000 messages. It had gotten so bad that I just stopped going to it. All of my email accounts (Yahoo!, Gmail, and any that are connected to my domain names) are all forwarded to my Thunderbird (which, btw, totally kicks MS Outlook's ass...make the switch today). Not only are all of these email accounts forwarded to Thunderbird, there is no organization to it; they just all simply end up in my Inbox. I need to sit and figure out a way to organize them - have different email accounts land in different folders or something, I just haven't sat down to do it. If any Thunderbird users have any ideas, please leave them in the comments.

Hey, this random writing thing isn't so bad...maybe I need to do this more often instead of feeling I have to have something to write about (like hot topics, what's in the news, major life events, so on & so forth).

I suppose that's enough rambling for now. There are some other important topics I want to cover - a graduation, a birth, a special birthday, but for now this will do.

Magnola Memories – An Absolute Delight

Monday, March 10th, 2008

...Cross-posted from my graving blog, A Graver's Journal...

I honestly can think of no way I would prefer to have spent the evening this past Saturday, such was the marvelous time I had at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana's production of Magnolia Memories V at Baton Rouge's Magnolia Cemetery. The events were scheduled for Friday, March 7th and Saturday, March 8th; it was the 6:45pm Saturday show that we attended.

For the past few years, the Foundation - with the help of volunteers, actors, musicians, and others - has brought the stories of some of Baton Rouge's most notable history-makers to light and in the flesh. Each year, a number of the cemetery's occupants are chosen to be represented by local actors and their stories told. These "stories" are actually fascinating scripts compiled from local folklore, historical records, descendants' generation-to-generation tales, and news archives. Each actor stands, in full costume, at the grave of the local luminary they are representing and regales the audience with his or her lifetime achievements and notable deeds, which are sprinkled with history and lore about Baton Rouge itself.

The delightful performances are only part of the entertainment, for as you follow your guide - a white-robed and feather-winged angel - throughout the cemetery, your ears will pick up the melodious sounds of a variety of musical instruments. Set up between the graves and performances are a number of musicians playing doleful diddies or soulful ballads on instruments such as the violin, guitar, bagpipe, cello, and even the harp. Still others added to certain performances with some of the most beautiful vocal stylings I have heard in years.

Though we heard from many that the previous night had been brutal due to the wind, the weather for Saturday's performance was crisp and clear. We traipsed wordlessly through the sleeping graveyard under an inky, starlit sky. The graveled paths winding through the cemetery were lit by brown paper bags containing sand and votive candles, while certain graves - usually those near an actor or musician - were illuminated by bright, floodlights.

At each grave performance, we were seated on small, black folding chairs that were set up in three or four rows just in front of the headstone and actor portraying its occupant. Tall, lantern-like heaters were set up around the folding chairs to offer some warmth from the biting cold.

What I had read, and later discussed with one of the guides, was that every year the notable deceased are chosen at random. It just so happened - it was later discovered - that there were quite a number of real-life connections that bound together nearly all of those who had been chosen this year. This happens every year, in some form; yet this year was more remarkable than the ones before for the unique yet interesting ties that bound the people whose lives were being showcased.

And what of these people and their noteworthy lives? Who were they, and what did I learn about them, and from them about our great, capital city?

The evening began with an introduction by Charles Ferdinand Rabenhorst, who - in 1866 - founded the local yet renowned Rabenhorst Funeral Homes, which is still, today, four generations and over 130 years on, operated by the Rabenhorst family. The affable Prussian, Mr. Rabenhorst, who spoke so lovingly of his beloved wife, Caroline, was played (perfect accent and all!) by Robert Wilson.

From there, followed by the mournful tones of a bagpipe, we were led to two, stout, white marble markers bearing the surname "Magruder". These were the graves of education pioneer and Mississippi native, W. H. Nathanial Magruder, and his wife, Mary. Magruder was the founder of the Magruder Collegiate Institute, once located on Government Street in Baton Rouge. Throughout his life, he was also a teacher and professor who taught, among many of Louisiana's later lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and politicians, a number of the others who were being represented in the cemetery this very evening. The aged educator lived to the ripe, old age of eighty-five, before passing away in March of 1900 - not long after losing his beloved wife, of whom he spoke so fondly. Professor Magruder was played - eloquently so - by actor David Besse. It was hard not to see Mr. Besse as the long-dead professor, he played the part so very convincingly.

Our angel guide then led us further into the cemetery, and we soon found ourselves almost on Florida Boulevard itself as we were seated before the grave of the independent and strong-willed writer and banker, Miss Vallie Mentz Seitz. After making sure the gentlemen of the group addressed their hostess properly, and that the ladies were well-situated, Miss Seitz went on to share her grievances about the decline of common courtesy, in the form of genuine Southern hospitality, that she had witnessed growing older in her time. Miss Seitz would be in for quite a shock today! As well as sharing her achievements of being the first female to hold a clerical and banking job (which were male-only positions until she took them over) and of being a published author (of a book as well as a screenplay), she admitted to being held as "eccentric" in her older years - mainly for her propensity to use her umbrella to whop the hood of vehicles for not stopping, as they should, to let a lady pass. Surrounded by friends and the kindness of the elderly patrons she spent her free time helping, the affable Miss Seitz never married and spends eternity buried alongside her mother, whom she cared for the last twenty years of the older woman's life. Played by Nancy Litton, our time with Vallie could only have been more perfect had we all been sipping a cup of tea in a parlor, as befitting a meeting with a true, Southern lady.

Vallie left us with a tidbit of gossip that involved her cousin, Josie's, hot-tempered husband and a young doctor whom he supposedly shot dead - for reasons somehow related to cousin Josie! Little did we know, this was a hint about the gentlemen we were about to meet next.

Almost directly across the cemetery from Vallie Seitz, sits the impressive family plot of the Hart family, which holds the remains of J.M. Hart - a well-known and respected man in the local community at the time - and his family. It wasn't, however, one of the Harts we were here to meet. Standing on the plot, and next to his grave, was an affable and handsome young man who introduced himself as Dr. Aldrich. Dr. Henry Robert "Harry" Aldrich had married into the affluent Hart family by wooing their daughter, Gertrude. Gertrude and Harry had a growing family, a nice home, and the practice was thriving - it was a wonderful life, until it was cut short by murder.

As the good doctor told us of his life and all that he had lost, a voice rang out from behind us - and up walked a man that was introduced to us as Judge George Kent Favrot, the man accused of ending Dr. Aldrich's life so many years ago. The men engaged a courteous-enough discourse, though there was obviously a thinly veiled distaste one for the other. We then heard the story, told between the two of them, of how Judge Favrot was told - at a drunken party - that Dr. Aldrich said something loathsome and degrading about Mrs. Favrot. What exactly was said that inflamed the Judge so has been lost to time, and whether the Doctor even said it is up for debate. Regardless, on November 7, 1906, George Favrot was waiting for the 39 year-old doctor as he left work and stepped out of the Raymond Building on 3rd Street in downtown Baton Rouge. Three shots rang out and Dr. Harry Aldrich lay dead on the street.

At least, Doctor Aldrich scoffed, you paid for your crimes! This, however, was not the case. Poor Dr. Aldrich could not keep to his feet as Judge Favrot told the time-old - and unfortunate - tale of common Louisiana politics; no jury would convict the well-known and well-liked former lawyer and present judge, and he went on to live a long, esteemed life that eventually landed him a seat in Congress. He was buried with honors in Roselawn Cemetery after a long and productive life; not on this Earthly plane, it seems, did Judge Favrot ever pay the price for ending the doctor's life and shattering his promise and dreams. The parts of the ill-fated doctor and wickedly shrewd judge were played to perfection by actors Drew Cothern, as Dr. Alrich, and Johnny Worsham as Judge George Favrot.

From there we traveled back across the cemetery, this time coming to the grave of another distinguished woman, Ellen Bryan Moore. Ellen was the most recently deceased of our entertainers this evening, having only left this life as far back as the year 2000. Surrounded by family and buried alongside her dear husband, Haywood, the indomitable Ellen told us about being the first female in the South to join the Woman's Army Corps. The rest of her life was spent in service to her local government - she worked, as she said, "in government, not politics" - though she admitted all of it would have been for naught without the love and support of her loved ones. One can only imagine the struggles - and scorn - Ellen must have faced being part of the Army during the war and running for positions in governmental roles throughout her life; the times that Ellen was born into were not exactly conducive to that of an active, independent, and publicly strong-willed woman. Yet, despite, Ellen did her own thing and continued on - never letting the naysayers hold her down or dim her bright ambitions. Ellen Moore was played charmingly and utterly believingly by actress Neena Kelfstrom.

With women's rights still on our mind, we made our way to the last stop of the evening - the grave of the esteemed and brilliant Dr. Thaddeus Walker. Dr. Walker was the son of former slaves, freed after the Civil War, who instilled in him the importance of a solid education. He took their words to heart, and the young, gifted man was entering college at the age of eleven! If you can imagine the struggles of independent ladies like Vallie and Ellen in earlier times, one can only begin to grasp at what Thaddeus Walker - a black man - went through as he worked his way up through a medical career until opening his own practice in Lakeland, Louisiana (which was later moved to Baton Rouge). The New Orleans-native suffered criticism and was shunned not only from the white community but also, and maybe more so, from his fellow blacks. Some felt, he told us, that a colored man could not hope to be so educated; their own self-esteem had taken such a beating that even they did not believe themselves worthy of an education or capable of holding such a job. Still others, he confessed, felt that living in rich, white society and holding such a prestigious position made him no better than the uppity whites he lived around; Dr. Walker, they felt, was "stepping out of his place". Despite these grumblings, the good doctor went on to build a successful practice with a large and dedicated circle of patients that included people of all colors.

It was during Dr. Walker's speech that a voice from the crowd interrupted - and a handsome black man from the seated guests stood and asked to interrupt Dr. Walker's speech in order to give his thanks. He introduced himself as Dr. Mokissa Murrill, and noted that because of Dr. Walker's triumph over race relations during such difficult times, it was possible that black people such as Dr. Murrill himself - who started a children's clinic in Baton Rouge in the early 1980's - were able to practice openly and garner respect. He had a valid point. There is no doubt that a man of Dr. Walker's obvious intelligence and skill changed the ideas that whites at the time had about their darker-skinned brethren, and that - perhaps even - he became an inspiration to his fellow blacks, reminding them that they could aspire to do anything they set their minds to - rather than thinking themselves doomed to fail or their that skin color was a deterrent. The parts of Dr. Walker - played by Ed Barnes - and Dr. Murrill - played by Eric Street - were not only entertainment, but a gentle reminder of how some of our fellow beings - including the lessons shown us by Vallie Seitz and Ellen Moore - had to struggle to do things that we, today, take for granted. Dr. Thaddeus Walker, living in the turbulent times after the Civil War, was not just a doctor but a pioneer in equality. It could not ever have been easy to walk the path he tread, but in so doing he set a mighty example for everyone that came into contact with him, as well as those of us who learn about his life many years after his death.

The two doctors finished their piece to the deep, soulful songstress who appeared, cloaked, and sang a hymn about Jesus. It was soul-stirring, and I had to tell her - before leaving - that she had the voice of an angel! Indeed, she brought tears to my eyes, so deep into my soul did her voice penetrate.

And then, almost too soon, it was over. We were led quietly out of the cemetery while the groups that had started behind us were finishing up or just coming in. I walked away from the event that night with a whole, new appreciation for that beautiful cemetery and the unique, lively, creative, and brilliant souls interred within. I also garnered a new esteem for this great city of Baton Rouge in which we live, and this amazing state - steeped in so much interesting and intriguing culture and history. There simply is no other place like it on Earth, and to all the souls that have lived (and do live) here and contributed their part to the great gumbo that is Louisiana history, I can only say thank you.

My kudos to the Foundation for putting on a stellar event. I plan to return every year from here on out; I just simply couldn't miss it knowing now how special and enjoyable the entire thing is. A lot of time and effort obviously went into the production, but more than that was the obvious heart that was such a part of it all. The people doing this genuinely cared about their work and the people whose lives they were bringing "back to life"; it made the entire event all the more magical. Thank you for a wonderful evening, and a "history lesson" I'll not soon forget!