Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two hearts, two families - now one

Two hearts, two lives, two families - now one.
Everything about Kristina and Gary Buckingham's wedding yesterday was beautiful. From the moment their children took the first steps down the aisle to the final dance - I could not stop smiling. This family is beautiful and blessed. I love them so much and it was an honor to be at their wedding.

It was held at Everygreen Island - a lusciously green wedding venue with pond, waterfalls, fountains, thick grass and hundreds of trees and plants -- and flying Monarch butterflies through the entire ceremony. Beautiful!

First down the aisle were the parents - the father of the groom, a recent widow, accompanied by a friend.
My sister Lily, - the mother of the bride - walked down the aisle on the arm of her handsome son, Daniel. Too precious!

 Then came the children of the groom and bride. I loved seeing them walk down the aisle before the wedding party walked down. "Marry You" played as five of their seven children walked in. First, gorgeous Sabrina, the eldest, on the arm of her boyfriend, Jordan. Followed by Rebekkah, Gary, Alyssa and baby Jacob. Aaron and Anthony walked in later.

"It's a beautiful day.....hey, baby......I think I want to marry you."

The bridal party entered next, couples and the little flower girl, Bella - cousin of the bride.

Just before the bride, Aaron walked down the aisle alone. He was holding a wooden plaque with "Here Comes the Bride" written across it.
If you looked to the front, Gary was down on one knee, with two arms outstretched, beckoning him forward. Precious! But it was what I saw next that almost literally took my breath away. I always love watching the groom as the bride walks in..... and seeing Gary - with so much love, I can not even describe it. It is something I will never forget. I turned to see what he was looking at and there she was - the most beautiful bride ever. My tears rolled down - happy tears, as Marisa calls them - as I watched Kristina walk towards the front; "A Thousand Years" playing as she walked towards the altar - towards Gary.


"Time stands still, beauty in all she is. I will be brave. I will not let anything take away what's standing in front of me. Every breath, every hour has come to this....."

Their own wedding vows, the kiss, and the fun fast-beat number as the bride and groom, and wedding party, walked and danced down the aisle after the ceremony -all different and cute.

The sweet bar, hors devours - stuffed mushrooms and stuffed jalapeno-bacon wraps, along with chips and salsa - and the dinner: smoked triptip, chicken, zucchini, scalloped potatoes, garlic bread and that amazing spinach and walnut and feta cheese salad in vinaigrette dressing was to die for! (But glad we didn't.)

The dance was so much fun! And Kristina asked the DJ to play one of my favorite dance numbers - that's right - "Play that Funky Music, White Boy!" -- I had to hit dance floor and James even got up and danced with me. Fun fun fun.

I loved being there yesterday. The ceremony, the bride and groom's children, my family, the butterflies, the flowers, the cake, the dinner, the dance - I loved it all.

I had so much fun and felt so much love. I love this family. (ok, I'm crying again)

Mr. and Mrs. Gary Buckingham - I adore and love you, your lives, your family! Thank you for letting me be a part of your special day.



If I can figure out how to add video clips - I'll add some, but so far, no such luck.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Must do before my 2013 birthday

Birthday "to do" list - must do before September 2013 ends
2012 Birthday dinner at The River

I am a "list" person - I love lists. It's the way I stay organized. 
If I have a list, I can cross things off as I get them done. 
I have lists for everything - groceries, chores, things to do, things to try, song lists, project lists, book lists, assignment lists.... on and on it goes. I also have an "unrealistic but dream about it" list.
I am celebrating a new year of life - and as such - it's time for some new lists - what I would like to accomplish this year - professionally, personally, for fun and for family. 
I keep journals - so a lot of it is hand written in my journals. Last year's list included taking a helicopter ride - and I did it! Yep. A very happy birthday to me. Just for fun - I'm adding my 'simple and fun' list here. This is what I will do before my 2013 birthday: 
1. Zipline - scheduled to do but it rained - so I get to pass it to next year.
2. Drive a tractor - um.....ooops, friend offered his tractor but I'm just too busy.
3. Milk a cow - check! 
4. Ride a mechanical bull - um....nope, didn't do this one.
5. Sleep under the stars - check!
6. Catch my second fish - check! 
7. Camp - still have never done this.
8. Explore a cave - nope.
9. Hike Montana de Oro - nope.
10. Spend a weekend in a cabin - nope.
11. Revisit Horse creek - check!
12. Stand under a waterfall - check!
13. Ride a horse for the first time - not yet.
14. Take another cruise - check, check! Took two more. haha.
15. Go rollerskating - went ice skating, close enough, so check! 
16. Arizona - Grand Canyon, Sonora, Winslow, Bisbee, Douglas - research for my novel! - went, did research - check!

Not totally unrealistic. Can't wait to get started on my list. I am so ready to start marking these off.....

Update: 9/28/13 - I managed to check off 8 of these - that's half of them - not bad. I'll just add these to my new list when I make it.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Don't shoot the messenger


A few weeks ago I was the victim of ugly. The strange thing is, I had no idea what was really going on.

It was National Suicide Prevention Week and I was writing about it. A casual friend called me and said someone she knew had died by suicide and - if it could help someone - his daughter was willing to share how it had affected her.

In journalism, we don't cover suicides -- unless it is done in a public place (hanging at the park) or by a local figurehead.

But because it was NSPW and because technically they called me, I decided to use the opportunity to kick off my story.

After speaking with the teen daughter and teen son, and their mother, I had a little info to add to the story. It wasn't much as the children didn't say a whole lot but the wife, or ex-wife in this case, said a few nice things. I mean, I've written quite a few "Life Stories" -- stories of people who have died -- and never would I ever write something derogatory about the person who died. Had anything bad been sad, I would not write it. Not under these circumstances.

Overall, I thought it went pretty smooth.

Was I ever wrong! Apparently the children and ex wife were not liked by the man's friends.

The story ran on the day of the man's funeral. My phone started ringing and people started yelling at me.
Over the next couple of days I received ugly texts, phone call messages at work and on my cell, and at my work email. I was also defriended by a few people. One person went as far as telling me she can only wish one of my own children would die so that I would know what it was like to be betrayed - or something to that affect. Ugly - ugly - ugly. I felt like I was being bullied and stabbed in so many ways.

As a journalist, it comes with the territory. I've had people upset over things written. That's fine. No big deal. Actually, most of the time - people love me and love what I've written. But this was definitely not just not liking what I wrote but hatred towards me - to the point of wishing me bad.

I can see being hurt because you care for a deceased friend so much. I can only hope to have friends who care that much. BUT - that does not give a person a right to bully or threaten another.

One friend of mine was deeply, deeply hurt and she cried and told me she loved me but hated what I wrote - it hurt me to know I had unwillingly hurt her.

But I did nothing wrong. If anything, I thought the story was good for the children involved - one last gift for them. 

But there was so much ugly, I won't even go into the details of it.

I did reach out to a colleague - a former editor I love, admire and respect - and she suggested I write about it. Not for the newspaper, but for myself. So I did just that. I wrote about it in my journal. She also suggested, if possible, take a day off.

And I did. I surrounded myself with love - my children - and took that next Wednesday as a day off and went to the coast.

Things looked better Thursday.

Honestly, before that story - I never knew the family. And like I said, I was approached - that is why I included the personal aspect in the story. And honestly, during this time - I prayed for his two kids. Because if I, as the writer, was being treated so bad - I can only imagine what they were being treated like.

I'm sure if one of his friends reads this - I will be hated all over again. So I will say it again - don't shoot the messenger - nor the writer, the person who just so happens to be able to see both sides of the story.



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who is Trevor Jarrett?


Trevor Jarrett after performing the National
Anthem, Aug. 25 at Visalia Rawhide.
Photo by Esther Avila
Last night while at a Visalia Rawhide baseball game, a former Porterville kid (who is no longer a kid) sang the National Anthem.

Sweet, little Trevor Jarrett, who I always remember as a little kid dressing up in cute red-white-and-blue outfits and singing and dancing to everything from Yankee Doodle to God Bless America. He was one of those kids I simply just loved. Back then he performed with his brother, Tyler. (Their mom, Linda, is pretty special too - love that lady.)

I remember writing about Trevor when he performed at our annual 'City of Hope Spectacular,' when he auditioned, and made it, to Star Search in Hollywood. I also wrote about his performances at the Porterville Fair, the Tulare County Fair and I was in the audience when he won an Hosscar Award for best male juvenile in 'The Music Man' at The Porterville Barn Theatre. The Hosscars are Porterville's version of the Oscars.

But as I went through some of my newspaper story archives - I found so much more - Trevor performing at the Fourth of July Firework festivities and other local street/community festivals. It was no surprise that he won first place, child division, during Porterville's version of Star Search. Unfortunately, a server crash at work in 2004 lost most of our archives - stories written prior to 2004.

One story still touches me. I wrote about his fundraising for Katrina Hurricane victims. I had the privilege of following him, and his brother, Tyler, to present buckets of money they had collected to two families displaced by the hurricane who had relocated to Porterville. I still remember watching the families cry as they accepted it and hugging the young boys. It was a very touching journalism moment for me and one I will never forget.

Trevor Jarrett performing at the 2005 Tulare County Fair
Porterville Recorder File Photo
That year - 2005 - Trevor was all set for an 'Elvis' act at the Tulare County Fair. He had the white jumpsuit and the black wig. But after the Katrina Hurricane, his heart told him he needed to do something else.

"When I heard about the hurricane, I knew I wanted to do something different. I wanted to [sing] songs that meant something to the people affected by the hurricane," Trevor had said during my interview with him in 2005. "We set a goal of raising $1,000 and I don't know if we'll get it but we're just going to keep going and collect as much as we can."

Trevor dressed in his blue-sequined vest, white shirt and black tuxedo slacks and opened with an amazing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" - the dollar bills started flowing into collection buckets.

Just remembering all this makes me love that kid more. He was and remains to be, pretty amazing.

It wasn't his first benefit either - following the 2001 terrorist attacks, Trevor's Frank Sinatra 'New York New York' performance raised $5,000 which he presented to then New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

I could go on and on about Trevor Jarrett - he's just one of those kids you meet and don't forget and one I will always have a hug for - no matter how old he gets.

For fun - here are some links to just a handful of stories I've written about, or mention, him.

http://www.recorderonline.com/news/hope-10878-city-shaffer.html

http://www.recorderonline.com/news/audience-18853-city-hope.html

http://www.recorderonline.com/news/trevor-26847-hurricane-wanted.html

http://www.recorderonline.com/news/fire-20389-porterville-firefighters.html

http://www.recorderonline.com/news/best-28691-music-male.html

http://www.recorderonline.com/news/festival-12822-street-porterville.html




Wednesday, August 01, 2012

First time for everything - reporter gets close look at marijuana raid

First time for everything - Reporter gets close look at marijuana raid

Reporter gets close look at marijuana raid

eavila@portervillerecorder.com
Though I have been a news reporter for more than 10 years, there is one thing I had never personally reported on — a marijuana eradication.
When I learned from my editor that I would finally have the opportunity to do just that, my mind raced. I knew sleep would be difficult the night before. I was too excited.
Not because of the plant itself, but because it meant spending the day in the mountains at Sequoia National Forest.
First, I must say, I am not your typical person. I was raised quite sheltered and was always considered different or odd by people I talked to in reference to what they considered ‘normal’ adolescent experiences. People still find it hard to believe that to this day I have never drank a beer or smoked a cigarette in my entire life.
With that said, I can honestly say that Tuesday, July 31, 2012 was a unique day for me — it was the first time I saw, touched and smelled a mature marijuana plant with blooming buds.
And, as odd as this sounds, I can say that getting there was fun. Getting back was not.
It also made me realize just how much work the Tulare County Sheriff’s Tactical Enforcement Personnel (STEP) unit — the primary team for pursuing illegal marijuana traffickers in Tulare County — are up against. Marijuana gardens in the forest are not usually simple to get to. On Tuesday, I just got lucky. Or did I?
After meeting Sgt. Chris Douglass, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, in Springville, photographer Reneh Agha and I became a part of the caravan led up the road, past the Springville White Barn and up Bear Creek Drive to the garden.
Parking at a 2,900 elevation, the group — seven to 10 Sheriff personnel and five civilians, a television-news reporter, Chief of Staff from Congressman Devin Nunes’ office and the field representative for Senator Jean Fuller, Reneh and myself — prepared for the steep descent to the bottom of the mountain. We were advised to watch for snakes, be aware of ticks, avoid touching poison oak and to stay close, as “bad guys” were seen in the area earlier in the day.
Within minutes, my shoes were filled with pebbles and dirt. The trail, which started simple, was covered in brush and blocked by numerous branches, many of them dried, but it was not too bad. There were several areas with slippery terrain — dirt, that when stepped on, rolled away and down the hill, causing several of us to occasionally lose our footing on the way down. Fortunately, TCSO was there with several helping hands along the way to steady us through the rough patches.
As we approached the garden area — a good 300 feet or more drop in elevation — irrigation lines leading from the waterfall via streams were pointed out. But what surprised me the most was the scent that suddenly appeared, and lingered strongly, prior to reaching what was described as the first processing center — a place where four-to five-feet tall plants had already been removed. We could smell it before we could see anything. I was also very surprised by how sticky the plant was. 
As we continued on our trek, we came across a littered makeshift camp. My first thought was ‘How can they live like this?’ and I mentally started rearranging the place to a kitchen, living, and sleeping quarters. Just as fast, my mind returned to the camp and I saw that they had a form of system already in place — including a “laundry room” where clothes hung on barb-wire and a “recreation area” where numerous porn magazines still lay. A long PVC pipe device was near the “kitchen” and I listened to a STEP officer describe how “honey butter” or “honey oil” was made by extracting THC from marijuana leaves. It was all a bit foreign, but interesting, to me.
Moving along, we came to an area of tall plants — seven to eight feet in height. I honestly had no idea these plants grew so tall or could thrive so well.
As our tour came to an end, and following a long break, we prepared for the return to our vehicles. The return, it turned out, was what seemed to be 20 times harder than the descent into the garden. Everything was suddenly a steep uphill climb, and with my shoes slip-sliding on soft, loose dirt, I found myself needing a few rest sessions along the way. My face and hair damp from sweat and with water that I used to frequently drench myself. There were areas that required one to almost crawl up the dirt, holding on to anything that wouldn’t move. It was not easy but I made it — thanks to perseverance and a few helping hands that helped me pull myself up from rocks and sandy inclines along the way.
All in all, I would say it is an experience I will not forget and one that I can add to my list of unique-story coverage.
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Summer Dreams

Now that my hectic May is over I can start dreaming about my own summer projects and trips.


I know I've been talking about cleaning out, painting and setting up my cottage guesthouse (currently used as a storage/junk room) for a long time. I had even given up on the dream. But, like my wild jumanji plant that grows wild all over my home, the dream is back and stronger than ever. I want that place so bad! It's been a dream for years. And I want to cover the cottage with my Morning Glory vine.

I want to do a bit of research for my novel - which means some (possibly) dangerous travel. A cousin of mine has a cabin in the nearby mountains and said I can borrow it. That is very tempting - especially since there are archaeological finds in the area - another "summer must" I would love to enjoy.
I also want to zip line this summer in the mountains! I am really looking forward to that. And I want to catch my first fish (though not sure I can eat it.) When it comes to fish, I only like Tilapia and Mahi Mahi.
But perhaps I can accomplish both of these things with my research trip.

Gotta love summer days!

Burton School District Graduations 2012

Class of 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

PUSD Graduations 2012 - Porterville,California

Porterville Unified School District's Class of 2012
Scholarships, Graduations and Perseverance stories by Esther Avila

California State Seal of Biliteracy
* Honor Roll Schools
* Monache, Granite Hills, Porterville - make list of top USA high schools

Photo by Esther Avila



Monache High School
Scholarship Night
Graduation
Perseverance story: Andrew Velasquez

Granite Hills High School
Scholarship Night
Perseverance story: Ernestina Quintero




Recorder photo by Cheiko Hara


Porterville High School
* Scholarship Night
* Graduation
* Gates Millennium - Lucero Martinez
* Perfect attendance - Raziel Castro Garcia






Photo by Esther Avila



Butterfield Charter High School
* Graduation
* Perseverance story: Mary Bushnell

Harmony Magnet Academy
* Scholarship Night
* Perseverance story: Diana Ramos




Recorder photo by Reneh Agha




Citrus High School
* Graduation

Strathmore High School
* Scholarship Night



Recorder photo by Cheiko Hara


Porterville Adult School
* Graduation

The following 2012 graduations were covered by other reporters:
GraniteHills, HarmonyMagnet, Strathmore,
Recorder Photo by Cheiko Hara - Strathmore High School Commencement - May 25, 2012