Monday, November 30, 2009

Where The Wild Dreams Are

I've had a plan. That plan's been tweaked. It now involves January with a sprinkling of preparation in December. But I still have a plan of how and where and when to get my writing moving from idea to product. Well, and I already have product. So it's in moving that product where I've had to come up with plans. And where the plans have not fully borne fruit. Baby steps....

And even with it all mapped out as best as I can do at this moment in time - so I should be feeling solid and clear - I still had the dream.

It was Tuesday night. I'd just gotten to El Paso to visit my mom and family for the Thanksgiving holiday. My computer was at the repair shop - symbolic, I thought, of me really just taking the whole week off. I mean, how in the world can I work on much of anything without my computer? I thought I was doing well. It was a healthy thing, to let go of everything for a week.

But then, that night, I had this dream. In the dream, a person that I know - well meaning, but on the negative side - had lent me her truck, as I needed transportation. But there was no gas - fuel, get it? you know, like energy - in the truck, so I went to a gas station to buy gas, a simple process, until I realized the gas tank was somehow broken and shut off, so there was no easy way to get gas into the truck. Some people came by to help me - very nice, enthusiastic people. They took the nozzle from me, aimed it at the truck's gas tank, and just gushed out fuel towards the truck. In their defense, a little bit of fuel did get into the truck, but most of it just sloshed on the ground, and I watched the cost just go up - $20, $30, towards $40 - and I said, wait, wait, wait. This is not working. I'm going to need another vehicle. I'll rent one if I must, but this is just not working.

When I woke up, I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to change my attitude. For as much as I have had a plan, I have fretted and worried about it every day. I have good reasons to worry - and it's always good to adjust if new information arrives - but my subconscious was telling me in this dream what I was trying to deny during the day: that my worrying was keeping my energy down, and I needed to choose a new way of getting from here to January, and beyond.

That night, we went to a pre-Thanksgiving church service at Cristo Rey, the downtown Lutheran church here in El Paso. It was a bilingual service, which was so much fun - I do speak Spanish, though no longer fluently - and there was great, fun music, and there was Holy Water, which I also love (you can tell you are in Catholic country when there's holy water at the Lutheran church). The sermon was on leaving your worries behind, and having faith in the process from here to there. Hmmm. A little bit of a dovetail there.... The church itself was having a heck of a harder time than me - 17 of the congregants have been seized by immigration, breaking up families, and the church is struggling to raise the finances to keep going - as do all churches when serving poorer communities, but 2009 is worse than other years - so that things like their after-school program - helping kids keep safe, and out of trouble - are at risk. And yet here was this sermon, about keeping the faith. Giving thanks for both the good times and the bad. Because what does worry get you, anyway? (I know, I know - it gets you a vehicle that shuts you off from the very fuel that you need to keep going.)

After the service, we had a Thanksgiving dinner, which the church had made as a way to greet all its visitors from all over town (from the "other" Lutheran churches), and it was great and wonderful and such a heartwarming experience. We did donate some money. I know it will be used well. Pastor Rosemary, the leader of Cristo Rey - what a great lady. And passionate about what she does, and believes.

And between the dream and the service, I decided to change my attitude. But if I wasn't going to fret, where was I going to put my energy? I figured my dreams could fill me in. And oh my gosh - these past few days! I've dreamt about making movies, and writing movies, and everything in between. I'm almost exhausted, I've been so busy at night! In one dream, we were filming a part of the baseball story - the bus crash part - and I saw some close up angles, and heard a narrator's voice... It was so, so real. I could see it. It really is time for all of this to move.

So I guess I should put my energy towards what I want, and not what worries me. That's a vehicle that will take me places.
photo credit: Nam-ho Park, found here

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On to El Paso

I'm on my way to El Paso for a week, for Thanksgiving. Will blog as able. Have a great holiday!

NW Film Festival

Song Bird Theater, one of the local KNIFVES members, held a film festival this weekend as a fundraiser for our local women's shelter. I ended up going for the whole day on Saturday. It was really good, and interesting. Most of the films were short, and a lot of them were by other KNIFVES members. It was the first time that I had spent a whole day watching KNIFVES-related films.

The winning film was a documentary called "Rivers in the Desert," by Jody Lee, on the physical moving of an historic Jewish temple in Boise from one location to another. Jody also gave a talk on film making. She's got some great stuff - commercials, annual reviews, etc. - but the documentary was the shining star. While the starting point was the moving of the temple, the documentary itself was about the Jewish religion in Idaho, the swastikas that periodically get painted on temple doors, and the groundswell of support that the rest of the community offers when those horrible acts occur. Powerful.

In addition to the films, there was a young man named Travis Thompson, with a display for his nonprofit organization TACTIC. Great website - Travis is from Sandpoint, Idaho, and has a passion for helping people in need. His passion has led him to found TACTIC, which stands for Targeting Advocacy to Conserve Traditional Indigenous Cultures. His organization's goal is to help, not convert. The group has two main programs right now. One is to find housing for Tibetan nuns who have no homes because the Chinese have barred them from the convents for being "unchaste" because they have been raped. Travis and his group are trying to provide housing for them while they wait for a permanent location to be built. The other TACTIC project is to set up a Big Brothers-like program for young refugee Tibetans through a soccer program at a refugee camp in India. The idea, as I understood it, is to give young adults a sense of direction and responsibility to a youngster, or a group of them, which helps the young adults shake off that sense of despair and lack of purpose that they feel in their temporary-permanent lives at the refugee camp. Ultimately, Travis expects TACTIC to expand into Africa, with its primary work there.

Travis was pretty impressive - and humble, so it took me a day of talking with him off and on to figure out just how impressive. But I asked a lot of questions, and learned that a starting point for him was when he got into a battle with Idaho's governor Bruce Otter over divestment in companies doing business in Sudan, as a protest against the genocide in Darfur. The battle went public, and a local Idaho paper asked its readers what they thought. Over 80 percent wanted divestiture. Otter still refused. Here's a short article outlining the exchange. And while Travis continued to work nationally for a while, at some point he wanted to get more hands-on. So he formed his own nonprofit. TACTIC.

The thing that floored me - Travis spoke about the young Tibetans he was sponsoring so that they could get their lives on track and act as mentors in his big brother program. He used the word "sponsor" a couple of times. I looked at him. He couldn't be more than 25 (he's 22). How are you sponsoring them? I asked. With what funds? "With my own money," he said. Still not making sense - how does this guy have any money? So I asked where his money came from. (A trust fund, was all I could imagine.) "I sold everything I own," he said. Guitars, amps, his car....

Wow. He really means to do what he's doing. So I gave a donation. And when he was telling the festival attendees about his project, I thought, they need to know that piece of information. So when he was done (not before! - no Kanye West deal here), I went up and took the microphone and told that story, about how he's sold everything to fund this project. And people came up to him after, so that he was the most popular guy at the end of the night. Maybe something will spark, and his nonprofit will get more funds. He definitely needs to branch out beyond his own pocket to have impact. But like I said to the crowd, here's someone who's worth the investment. He's proven his grit. Let's give him our support.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Health Care Phone Calls

I just received an email asking me to call my U.S. senators and ask them to support health care reform. Well, of course both of my senators already do support it. But it's an important weekend in the Senate - the threat of a filibuster hangs over the heads of these men and women - so I thought a phone call from me and hundreds (thousands?) of others could be helpful.

This is what I said to both Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell's offices: stand firm. Fight for the public option. And if Repubs and conservative Dems want to filibuster that - let them filibuster. The polls - even just this week - show that the public supports the public option. If the naysayers want to fight upstream on that issue, let them. Let's see if they will join in that filibuster already. Let it all unfold. Let the chips fall where they may. I'd rather see a fight for the public option than have my senators not fight for it at all.

(BTW - a filibuster is when senators fight against agreeing to consider a bill. This bill only needs 50 votes to pass on the floor, but it needs 60 votes for cloture. If the senators want to delay that consideration, then they have to have something to say in the meantime - hence, the "filibuster." This is when they might start reading from the phone book, just to keep the bill from floor debate. This happens only in the Senate, not the House. In modern times, apparently just saying the word "filibuster" was enough to keep the thing from consideration. But the Senate leader has the option of requiring a traditional filibuster too. Okay, so now I just called Harry Reid's office - Senate leader - and asked that he require a traditional filibuster, if it comes to that.)

Last Day of Boot Camp

Today was the last day of boot camp. It's hard to know whether to celebrate or feel sad. It's a month of torture when I take it - not the least of which is arriving by 6 a.m. to the camp. But it has such impact. Literally and figuratively. Very much figuratively (ha ha). And I can feel how much it improves my health. And it's great camaraderie - the same small group of us has showed up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. If one is missing, we wonder if we've lost her - and are glad when we haven't.

Most everyone else is starting back up for a three-week session the week after Thanksgiving. I am doing so much traveling, however - I leave Tuesday to spend a week in El Paso with my mom - that I would miss most of December sessions, so I won't be joining them. Carry on, brave ones! I salute you.

I am taking it again in January, though. So I may have a respite now, but I start back up at the new year. There I will be, with all the rest of them, grunting and sweating and feeling the evolution. I can't wait 'til February 1.

photo credit: Noel Fields, found here

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Acting Bug

I've haven't caught the flu, but I think I could be susceptible to the acting bug.

We had a great time last night, at the final of three acting classes. We did improvisation of our characters. Very powerful, interesting. I was playing Doris, from "Same Time, Next Year" (which is the play about the two who meet once a year for 25 years on teh same weekend every year to have an affair.) It was odd - everyone else's scenes were full of anger. My scene, I'm playing sweet, easygoing Doris. Which was fun, and fine. Though I would have enjoyed a little yelling too.

For our improvisation, we improvised the first meeting between Doris and George (played by Alan Alda in the movie). We know from the script - which begins the morning after their first encounter - that they first meet when George sees Doris at the hotel restaurant and wants to send her a drink, but has to send her a steak instead because it's an alcohol-free restaurant. Last night, as we made up what we thought that scene would have looked like, and George made this grand gesture of sending me a steak to get my attention, I decided to go over to thank him, and ended up joining him. "No one's ever done anything like that for me before," I said, as I introduced myself. And George said, well, I've never done anything like that before myself.

And suddenly, that's what I knew about Doris - that no one in her life makes grand gestures. She lives a good life, and she is glad to be in it. But there is nothing like this man George in it.

Then George said that his daughter's name was Wendy, after the Wendy in "Peter Pan," and I said that it was a good name since her father could have been named Peter Pan, so spontaneous he was, and he said, well, that would have been an odd name, unless I could fly - then it would fit, and then I said again, no one's ever done anything like this for me before.

And as we kept on, it made more sense to me, why she would have continued the relationship over 25 years. It really helped me with the scene we were reading - the last scene of the play - to imagine what went on the night before the play even begins. That is the one sticking point in the play - why are these people staying in their marriages when they have such a connection? Or, in the alternative, what causes them to keep meeting every year if both their marriages are so worthwhile? That improv really helped me see the story from a new perspective.

We ended up running out of time to have people do cold reads of my movie script, but everyone wanted to stay and read anyway, so we spilled over about a half hour or so and I go tthe chance to listen to the actors read scenes from my movie script. So exciting! Very interesting. Quite different, the cold reads are from a read-through of the entire script, which is my only other experience.

All in all, a productive and interesting three days. Definitely worth it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reading Tonight

Well, I had the night wrong. My acting class will be doing cold readings of my suspense drama script tonight, not last night. No matter. Still very exciting.

The acting class itself - so interesting. We went over our scenes again last night, this time by really acting them out (though I haven't yet memorized the lines). After the acting, we looked at physical expressions of emotions, we threw down the scripts and did the scenes improv... It was really interesting. I was nervous when it came time for my scene, but it went all right. Actually, I was nervous and then decided not to be nervous. I think that made a difference.

The only time I acted before was 18 years ago. I was in three different plays - one where I had 16 lines consisting of "pfennig, sir?" and variations thereof; one - a musical - where I had a solo and dance moves; and one - a short play - where I had the lead. Over the years, I've thought about going back to the theater, just because it was a lot of fun. I even thought about just helping out with set design, that sort of thing. But now here I am. Only 18 years later...

Tonight we're at it again. We'll start with cold readings of my screenplay (exciting!) and then get into our individual scenes. I'm going to try to memorize my lines today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

That Whole Acting Thing

So I had my first of three intensive acting classes last night. I was nervous, but it was good. It was interesting. Fun. People were nice - way ahead of me, but nice about it. We did some movement exercises, some voice exercises, we read from scripts, and we did some improv.

And then there was an exciting turn of events. Karen Kalensky, our instructor (up from L.A.), asked if I would like the actors to read some scenes from my movie script tonight. What an offer! I'm very excited. And then I'm realizing - I sure do have a lot of male parts in this movie. Which is weird, because the lead character is female. So I'm thinking through which scenes to use, and which men could be turned into women... Just for the reading tonight, of course - but we have an equal number of men and women in the class, and I'll need to figure out how to give everyone a chance to read. I had not expected Karen to make this offer, but I'm so happy for the opportunity.

In the meantime, I need to read my scene today - and the whole play too - I'm Doris in "Same Time, Next Year" - and do a little research on my playwright, etc., etc.

photo credit: Anderson Silva, found here

Sunday, November 15, 2009


There are plenty of KNIFVES and KNIFVES-related events abound this week - KNIFVES being my regional movie networking group. (It stands for Northwest Independent Film, Video and Entertainment Society - the "K" is silent).

Today, tomorrow and Tuesday I am taking an acting class through Interplayers Theater downtown that was advertised through KNIFVES, for a total of about 10 hours. They say a screenwriter needs to know about all aspects of the movie biz, including the acting, so voila. That's where I'll be this afternoon, and the next two evenings. Acting. Can't be much different from lawyering, can it?

Then Thursday there's a fundraiser at 7 p.m. at the Hayden Cinema in Hayden, Idaho, where we will watch "Teenage Dirtbag," a film by Regina Crosby, a young filmmaker from Idaho who now lives in L.A. Many KNIFVES members helped out in the filming, including our group's president. Information for the fundraiser is here.

And then on Friday and Saturday, there is the Northwest Film Festival, a fundraiser for local women's groups at the Songbird Theater. More information can be found here.

Larry Timm and Movie Music

Yesterday my KNIFVES movie networking group had Larry Timm come give an all-day seminar on music in movies. Dr. Timm is a professor at Cal State Fullerton in California and teaches this subject, as well as writes about it. His book "The Soul of Cinema" is the standard music appreciation textbook around the country, including at USC's film school. He also plays the oboe, and has done so for various television, movie and music video scores - something that would impress one of my nieces, who also plays the oboe.

It was a whole day chock full of information interwoven with interesting stories of the world of music within the world of cinema. Larry gave us a day's worth of highights from his semester-long course. I knew sound was complex in movies. Larry gave us details on what "complex" means. He also showed some great clips of conductors taking music written for movies and then getting their orchestras to play the scores in time with the movies themselves, and explained to us the details of how that works. One tape was from the early 1980s, of Ray Bradbury and a young James Horner (who has composed all kinds of movie music, including the award-winning "Titanic" score) as they listened to the playback of the orchestra's work that day on the music for "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Very cool, to see that.

Larry's talk got my mind in a whirlwind. With the suspense drama script that I've written, I have certain music in mind - one song in particular that would be "source" music in two places (a new term for me, that means music being played as part of the movie itself, on the radio for example). But how does that music then get intertwined into the movie throughout? I pondered that as we watched "Titanic" clips and Larry explained how the love theme and the lead female character's theme got intertwined at various points.

The talk also got me remembering my one foray into soundtracks, way back in the early 1980s, in London. I was spending my junior year on a study-abroad program, at Westfield College - a part of the University of London, up near Hampstead Heath - and a group of us got chosen to spend a week at University College London (sort of like the main campus) to make a short film. All the other students were British, but for some reason they had let the American tag along. My friends were all actors, so they all wanted to play in the film - a short drama of no particular import, but a useful exercise for the weeklong class. I didn't want to be on camera, so I offered to do the background sounds, and took off to record restaurant noises and a bus driving away. I had so much fun, even in the midst of a workers' strike that had halted the London underground - the Tube - making travel around London nearly impossible. (Buses still ran but were so crowded that they wouldn't stop for new passengers. I had to borrow a bike for the week.)

And then, after all my work, our instructor forgot to put in the bus exhaust sound, and it ended up coming in after the designated line (so that it just sounded weird) and even though I knew no one else really noticed, it was like nails on a chalkboard for me. I can still see my instructor's face, looking slightly chagrined as I gestured at him and he realized his error and then tried, belatedly, to correct it.

But back to yesterday's seminar... At one break, several of us got into a discussion of what we hear in our heads, and how some of the writer types hear both music and words when they write while the rest of us - me included - hear only the voices of our characters. Though I do listen to music when I write. I always try to find something instrumental that I can have in the background while I' m creating. With the exorcist play, I used a lot of Hildegard de Bingen music. With the baseball novel, I tried out some 1940s music, but there were too many lyrics, so I went with emotional instrumental (a movie score by James Horner, actually) as well as some Robbie Robertson (to help evoke the Native American component of the novel and besides, I love his music) and some Billy McLaughlin (who is truly gifted). So, a mixture.

We ended the day with Larry taking out his oboe and playing a few notes. So beautiful. I love the oboe. I thought, my niece who plays the oboe should be here for this part.

And then some of us ended up going to dinner at The White House, a Greek restaurant in Post Falls, Idaho, which is a little weird because I just wrote two days ago about growing up in the White House (my home in Poway, not the one in DC). This particular White House in Post Falls is a great restaurant, authentic food, perfect hummus, and garlic on everything. Here it is, the next day, and somehow I can still smell the garlic. Delicious.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Memory Lane

When I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago, and was going to travel to see a relative for the day, the Mapquest program decided to take me through Poway, where I grew up. It probably wasn't the most efficient route from here to there, but I decided it was destiny that I re-visit old stomping grounds and so decided not to re-route the path.

As I drove into the town from the highway, nothing looked familiar. All had grown up too much for me to recognize anything. When I had lived here, this little town was unincorporated. But it's California and it's near San Diego, and so there was no option but growth, I guess. So I figured it was fine to drive through town, but not much of an event.

Then boom - it was like 40 years had melted away. Suddenly I was driving by the old school district buildings - and my old middle school - surrounded by growth, but with no doubt of where I was, where this road was taking me.... Then I drove up Espola Road (wow, just the same, just the same) and then, at Poway Road, I turned left rather than right (so I wouldn't end up driving by the old church after all...).

A few hours later, when I was driving back to my father's house, I couldn't resist. Rather than turn left on to Twin Peaks from Espola Road, I kept driving, headed for our old house. Suddenly all seemed so much the same from when I grew up. I remembered that there was a covenant in the area, where people had agreed not to break up their property into separate lots until at least the year 2000 (I think that was the agreement). That covenant had left the property established into single family homes with huge yards, all chaparral. (Remember chaparral from science class? A type of habitat? There's tundra, and forest, and desert, and chaparral....)

So then I got to our old house, where I lived from the ages of 6 to 12. It looked the same, except it was painted a different color. When I lived there, it was white. I called it the White House. I didn't know at the time that there was another White House 3,000 miles away. (When I found out I thought, oh, the president lives in a white house too?)

And as I peered into the house's back yard - not trespassing, mind you - I saw the rocks still on the hill in back, and thought of all the pretend games we played there - robbers, and Indians, and everything under the sun. Once we were playing a sort of capture-the-flag kind of game, and my sister was hiding out in one of the caves back there, and she said, um, I think I should get out of the cave, and her leader (or was it her captor?) said to stay put, and she said, well, I would, except for the snake in here... And as I remember it now, the snake cooperatively rattled its tail and everyone skedaddled to safety. Of course, that's how I remember it now. It could have been just a regular snake and not a rattler at all. But where is the story in that? Besides, we saw plenty of rattlers back then, in all that chapparal. And fires. Fires, too. Once on Halloween, the fire was coming so furiously that the orange in the sky almost matched the orange-paper pumpkins taped on the windows at school. We didn't always evacuate when there was a fire, but that time we did. You don't stick around when the sky is that orange.

So I saw the rocks and thought of those stories, and took a photo of the memory. Who knows if the rocks will still be there tomorrow, much less 40 years from now? Our old house (no longer white) is to the left, and the rocks are hardly visible - though there are some, right in the middle, and if you knew the site, you'd be able to picture the rest of the terrain. (If you click on the photo, you can see it better.)

And then I kept driving down the street, just looking at the old neighborhood, seeing that the covenant had done its job and people had kept their houses intact as I had known them (with changes, of course, but basically the same).

And then I came upon the corner that had been my old bus stop, for my bus for elementary school. There it was - exactly as it had looked 40 years ago. How is that possible? In California of all places, how is that even possible? But it is. Because there it was, with the rock and the tree and all of it, just as it had been back then.

So then I figured, what the hey, and I went by an old friend's house, and a young woman was in the driveway on a cell phone, and I asked if the family from before still lived there, and she paused long enough to shake her head and laugh and say no and then went back to her phone call, and I felt a little foolish but hey - it didn't hurt to ask. Just in case.

BC Update

With regard to boot camp, and two steps at a time, which I discussed a day or so ago - it was three flights of stairs, not four.

But while we're on the topic of BC... Today we did "laps," which means that we did five sets of exercises, two exercises per set, and then a countdown of those exercises from ten down to one. So, for instance, if push ups and squats are the two grouped together, then we did ten push ups, then ten squats, then nine push ups and nine squats, etc., down to one push up and one squat. And then on to the next set of two exercises grouped together. For an hour. Do you think that doesn't sound like much - or much different than just doing exercises in general? Hmmm. Try it out and see what you think then.

Abortion Statistics

So I'm watching "Morning Joe" in the a.m. again (but only when I wake up at 4, or when I'm getting ready for 6 a.m. boot camp). This morning, Lawrence O'Donnell was on, looking about as sleepy as I felt. They started talking about coverage for abortions in insurance. I guess the RNC found out that it had insurance coverage for abortions in its insurance policy, and has now eliminated that coverage (after Politico reported on it). So Joe Scarborough asked O'Donnell what he thought about that. O'Donnell began by saying that the majority of Americans support abortion rights. Scarborough interrupted him, said it isn't 1972 anymore, and that the statistics show that Americans don't support abortion rights anymore. O'Donnell said to go ahead and show his poll, but O'Donnell remained correct. O'Donnell then cited an interview with John McCain from some time ago. Apparently McCain was asked if he would be against abortion if his daughter was pregnant. McCain said that he'd have to think about that. (I can't find the quote.) O'Donnell rephrased it: so it's fine for everyone else to ban abortion, but maybe not for my daughter, but I'm still against abortion because I'm a Republican. O'Donnell then used that quote to say that politicians treat abortion as a political issue, regardless of personal belief, and it keeps them out of touch with the reality of the country's leanings, to be so black and white about it.

The discussion got me thinking: are Americans against abortion now? So I looked it up and found a great compilation of surveys taken over the years, including recent surveys taken in 2009. Taken as a whole, and not cherry-picking favorite results, I think the polls are pretty solidly consistent: a majority of Americans believe in a right to choose, with some concern about the circumstances (which I attribute, at least in part, to misinformation out there about third trimester abortions) and only a handful believe that abortions should be outlawed in all cases. Another interesting stat: most see it as one of many issues, not the key issue for which they must vote yea or nay on a candidate. Some of those same people who believe in choice also see themselves as pro life, which is perhaps where some of the confusion lies. Bottom line, however, O'Donnell was right, Scarborough was wrong, and Congress is doing what it often does - it is listening to the loudest, most boisterous voices, not the much-quieter majority.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

OMG Boot Camp

So yesterday, at boot camp, we were supposed to run up three flights of stairs, two steps at a time, twice. (We jogged back down.) Then we'd go back to the workout room, do some short set (10 bench curls or something), and then go back to do two sets of three (or was it four?) flights of stairs, two steps at a time. OMG.

I couldn't run it. Just couldn't. But I did keep going two steps at a time. I didn't know I could be so nostalgic for longer reps for the in-between exercise.

Just as I thought I couldn't do another set of steps, our instructor switched up the last ten minutes with another event. I think I ended up doing seven or eight sets of the steps. Not that I had the energy to keep count.

Then last night, I went to Zumba (my dance class). Love that Zumba. (Caveat: the instructor really matters.) Every squat killed my legs. Go figure. And no exercise today. I think I've earned it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fort Hood Speech

Absolutely worth watching - about 15 minutes total. The president at the Fort Hood memorial today:


I joined boot camp again - something I did this past summer. With summer gone, the boot camp is now indoors. Still early. So yes, I'm paying money so that I can go to a workout room three days a week at 6 a.m. in the morning for an hour and - well, work out. Like a madwoman.

There were supposed to be 12 of us total in this month-long session. Usually about six or seven show up. It's separating the girls from the women, that's for sure.

What I like about it is that we each go at our own pace. So if it takes me twice as long as everyone else to do - say - 12 push ups, then that's what it takes. What I also like is the variety. I never know what the morning will bring. Well, I have an idea. A lot of exercise. But where will the focus be?

What I don't like about it is (a) it's really early, (b) it's a killer for the whole hour, and (c) it makes me sore all day - week - long.

But then anther thing I like about it. It really works. The old body gets in shape. Quickly.

Speaking of old bodies... One of the women in the class - young, it appears - is waaay ahead of me in skill and speed. The other day, she mentioned something about boot camp being new. "You've never taken boot camp before?" I said, pointing out how much further ahead of me she was, even without the background. Then I laughed and shrugged and started to say our instructor's motto: everyone goes at their own pace. But the young woman interrupted. "Well, I'm a lot younger!" she said. Just as I was trying to decide whether to be offended by her comment, she added, "I just hope I'm still doing this sort of thing when I'm your age."

Huh. How old exactly do you think I am? I wanted to ask. But then I thought, well, she's right. I am old. At least I'm older than her (I thought as I dragged myself out of the gym to get started with the day).

Later that same day, I was at a legal education seminar. I ended up meeting some lawyers who have been practicing in this region since the 1960s. They asked me how long I'd practiced law, one thing led to another, and suddenly I had announced my age. They were shocked - shocked! - that I possibly could be that old, and were skeptical that I had recited the correct age.

So there, young-woman-from-boot-camp. We don't always look as old as you think we do.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Great Movies

I went to the Sandpoint, Idaho film festival Friday night, called the Lakedance film festival. What fun! Interesting, fascinating, and funny shorts. Some winners were from my KNIFVES movie networking group, so I for sure had to attend that night in particular. (Hey, I'm on the board.)

The funniest film was "The SPAM Job." It was about a guy named Paddy who lost his mojo when someone stole the can of spam from his briefcase, and the notoriety that came to that can once the story emerged. It was a whodunnit mystery, really. Very funny.

Then there was a great short about frequent flyer miles and the crazy people who make a science out of getting as many frequent flyer miles that they possibly can, and included how they will just fly to some city and back in one day just to accumulate the 1,000 or so miles that they need to qualify (that year) for elite flyer status (which gets them double points). It was called, aptly enough, "Frequent Flyer." It went on slightly too long, but it was mostly entertaining and the creator of it was there in Sandpoint to take questions. (He flew in, of course.) I especially liked the part about the guy who got interviewed by the Drug Enforcement Agency after he hired homeless to fly a particular corridor overseas to build up miles. Apparently it's a drug corridor. Who could have known?

There was also a sweet film on foster care, and another deeply touching, longer film about music written by Holocaust victims, how that music is being performed in Seattle now, and the woman who has spearheaded the effort.

The short by KNIFVES people - showed in the second block of the night - was called "Started by a Mouse." Very sweet (though I don't really understand the title). The star of it is a young girl, so there were a lot of kids in the audience for its winning premiere. (It had been part of a contest earlier in the week.) They had to empty the theater of kids after it showed, however, as the remainder of that block of films was not particularly suited for children. I left with them, for the long drive back to Spokane.

I forgot to watch any of the films for transitions - my newest game - how the film takes you from one view to the next - but I'm going to get serious about my studies in that regard.

I was sorry to miss one of last night's films, called "My Movie Girl," especially since I had a chance to meet Adam Bronstein, the writer/director/actor of it. Interesting guy. He had flown up from California, though I easily pegged him as not-a-California-guy. I lived too long on the East Coast not to know he was from there, somewhere. Which is a compliment, actually.

I was also really disappointed not to make it to Wednesday night, as there was a showing of a documentary on minor league baseball called "Time in the Minors." (I was at the Interplayers theater that night in Spokane, watching "Doubt" - which is a totally different story.) Such is life.

Overall, a great night Friday.

Health Care Moves

What an amazing night for health care. I watched only a little, and then some highlights this morning. I'm sorry to have missed seeing the vote live.

It is just the one step. But I feel glad. And vindicated. And I think - I think - that the paper tiger of the Repubs is starting to look frayed. When John Boehner (R-Ohio) went on and on about how terrible it was that the bill had a provision that would make people pay a penalty if they don't get insurance (which comes with subsidies for people who can't afford the premiums, and is basically the way we already do auto insurance) - well, he just looked dumb. Especially since we all know that those who aren't insured will still get medical care in cases of emergency, which means we pay for their lack of foresight in failing to get insurance in the first place. Isn't that a Republican principle? No free rides? And he's against that provision? Hmmm. Something smells in the state of Ohio.

They also look silly in light of the fact that both the AARP and the AMA have come out and endorsed the bill now. I happened to see an AMA doctor talking in support of it. He was even-handed, but clearly advocated for the bill's passage. I figured he had to be some random doctor, so supportive he was of the bill. Then they flashed his title - head of the AMA. Wow. Really?

It is one of those great times, when people step up and stand for something. It started with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who hit the gavel to being the proceedings. It was his father who introduced health care legislation for years, and it was his son who took over that legacy for the past 54 years (and who started the proceedings for the Medicare bill back in 1964). Every year, he introduced a health care reform bill. Every year.

And then during the press conference after the vote, Nancy Pelosi made a point of calling up to the podium Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), the late Teddy Kennedy's son - another champion of this cause, up through his death. "My dad was a senator," Patrick Kennedy said. "But tonight his spirit was in the House."

I'm unhappy with the restrictions of funding for abortions. But it seems like a hollow victory for those who want it. At least, I hope it will be, in the end. As in, there's no guarantee it stays in the bill. And even if it does, it doesn't end abortion (though it does affect the poorest of women out there.) We'll have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime, the bill has passed, 220 to 215.

And my brother made a great point last night. Why do they need 1,000 pages? The Medicare bill back in the 1960s apparently was 28 pages. I haven't read the current bill, though am very familiar with its concepts, but the number of pages does seem daunting. I suppose it's the evolution of the times, and the law. When we lawyers write "briefs," they hardly ever are anymore.

Politics. It's the making of sausage, isn't it?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Scare

On Monday, I returned home from San Diego to three phone messages and a letter from Inland Imaging - the people who had done my mammogram the week before my trip to San Diego - asking me to make another appointment. "The results of your exam indicate the need for additional evaluation," the letter said. "This does not mean there is a serious problem in your breast(s); however, you should not delay followup."

Okay, I thought. It's fine. I'm sure it's fine. How can I have breast cancer? I don't feel like I have breast cancer. And - um - well, I'm just not naturally endowed enough for a lump to stay hidden. Right? (Right?)

It was too late to call the office directly. Instead, I called and made an appointment with their main number. The soonest I could get in was this coming Tuesday. Eight days later. A long time to wait.

I figured I would call the main office in the morning, and just wait everything out until then. Then the phone rang. It was my sister. She was calling about something else. But her timing was perfect. Having just decided to share my news with no one until the next day at the earliest, I told her my news. I read the letter out loud. We processed. Just talked. I processed, she listened. We remembered that they had brought me in for a second mammogram a few years ago, and everything had turned out fine then. By the end of our conversation, I was as calm as I was going to get. And I was going to be able to sleep that night. At least, sleep a little. Everyone should have a sister who calls at just the right time like that.

At 8:05 the next morning, I called the office directly. The woman, Jo, was really nice - she had a very soft, gentle voice - the perfect temperament for phone calls from people like me - but I was not lulled. I asked questions, prodding for information; she hesitated, was general...

"Look," I said. "I'm upset. I'm worried. The way I handle stress is to get information. As much information as possible. I know I won't get answers for weeks" - Not true, she said. The doctor would speak to me at the appointment itself. And it's all vague as to reasons for changes from past mammograms, she said. That's information, I told her, laughing. As my sister said later, information is different than answers. (Which has been my question with the movie front, too - can't I get more information about where things might be headed with my stories? But that's a different issue, I suppose.)

Then Jo said a beautiful thing. I know this is short notice, she said, and it's at a different office, but would you be able to make an appointment at 9:45 a.m. this morning? "I'm there," I said, and got directions to where I'd be going. "Jo, I love ya, and it will be what it's going to be - but at least I will know," I said as I told her goodbye.

As I drove to the north side of town, I thought about getting a negative diagnosis. I was all prepared. A biopsy would come next, if there was really something to worry about. So there would not be a cancer diagnosis today. I planned out my chemo and everything. I wondered if the doctor would agree with what I'd decided (not a full mascetomy, chemo and radiation...) And then I would lose my hair, I thought. (My hair! I thought, and realized how vain I really am. For as much as I don't care about things like that....)

So there I was, almost void of emotion (except way deep down inside, where I was like a volcano), walking into the office and taking all the exams... which are not fun exams, but I was too worried about health to worry about comfort.... Both technicians were reassuring. They couldn't diagnose - that was for the doctor - but they said such reassuring things that I thought, well, nothing looks too bad... It can't, if they feel so positive about it all.

I could see the screen on the sonogram (or whatever it's called). "Well, that does look like something," I said to the technician when she reached the one area that showed up as a dark spot. Yes, but it doesn't mean cancer, she said. (Then the thing on the screen got humongous, which scared me until I realized she had probably magnified it.)

She was done with the test, and went to find the doctor. She came back. It would be a little while - he was talking to another doctor. She laughed and said she gets so possessive - he's her doctor and he isn't supposed to be occupied when she wants to talk to him. I vehemently agreed with her.

So then she found him, and he walked in, and I liked the fact that he wasn't really young (so he would know what he's doing) but he wasn't really old either (so he still had his eyesight, which is more than I can say for my own tired old eyes), and then he said, everything's fine. Everything's great. See you in a year.

So I high-fived him, and I said are you sure? And he said, yes I'm sure, it's just a collection of cysts, and I quizzed him a little more (for informational purposes only) and he said again that he was sure. And I was so glad, so glad. I thought, thank you God, that it wasn't me, this time it wasn't me...

And then I felt bad. Because think of all the women around the country - the world - who, in that same moment, were having that same kind of conversation with their own doctors, and who were getting a wholly different kind of answer. No amount of information can erase the stinging, ringing words that they were getting, in that exact same moment. Or hour. Or day.

And I know it isn't wrong for me to get a good answer even when they aren't. All the same, I felt their angst and pain in the midst of my relief. Right in the very middle.

I have friends who have had cancer. They have been brave and extraordinary. One of my friends, Gay Edwards, took the illness and turned it into good for others in that she put together a series of healing meditative CDs that can be found at her website, What a gift she is to the rest of us. If I ever got cancer, I'd look to my friends like Gay, who have gone through it, for guidance on how to get to the other side of it.

So that's my saga. It's part of the reason I haven't blogged this week. Between traveling and this (and a busy week overall), I've been completely wiped out. But happy. How can I not be happy? What great news. A new lease on life, as the expression goes.

And next year I won't wait the six months that I waited this year to get my mammogram. And from now on, I'll actually do those monthly exams that they tell you to do. And in the meantime, maybe there's something I can do for the women who had different news on Tuesday about the results of their exams. I don't know yet what that is. But I've been thinking a lot about them.

UPDATE: I emailed my friend Gay to let her know I'd made the preceding post. She emailed me today. Here's what she said.

Hi Kiddo,

I just read your Cancer Post. What an amazing story. This is a story every one, yes, man and woman should read. This crappy disease effects all of us in one way or another. So many people will face this first hand, as I did almost 4 years ago. Beth, I'm not glad I had cancer, and sometimes the possibility of a 'return' of this disease scares the beegeebers out of me. And, yet, my experience with this particular life challenge has left me a much better person than I ever could have become without the catapulting effect of the Big C. For You, My Sister, I am just so profoundly pleased that you will not face this. Stay healthy, and happy, my friend.

It was nice to read about MY STORY through your words. Thanks for the plug and your sincere words about my experience. You are a lovely, huge-hearted person.

I recommend these books for your reading on this topic:

Anticancer...David Servan-Schreiber
The China Study...T. Colin Campbell
Cancer Free...Bill Henderson

They are all excellent, and each author will give you his 'take' on how to remain cancer/heart disease free for life. Amazing studies! In-Joy...most you can get on Amazon.

Love you, Thank you,