Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cultural Desert

On hearing how much I was enjoying San Diego, someone on Facebook joked that it was a "cultural desert." Guess this must have been someone who has never been to Balboa Park, our destination for today.

In the morning, after breakfast, Lynn set out to examine the possibilities for a day in the park, with the help of her two canine assistants.

(It's easy to see in what high esteem the furry people here are held.)

After some disagreements with "Matilda," the GPS voice in Lynn's car, we got to Balboa park and were presented with such a plethora of cultural diversities that they didn't all fit on the map I was trying to decipher. I don't know how many museums there are in the park, but everything from the tiny camera club museum to the large natural history museum, and just about everything in between, including the zoo, which I recognized from my trip here with Peggy in 2000.

There were any number of street entertainers.

The froufrou on the buildings was definitely over the top.

We were looking through the many museums for the Museum of Photographic Arts, which we eventually found sandwiched in the same building as the Museum of San Diego History, across from the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science.

It was a fabulous museum, tracing the history of photography. I was struck over and over again the power of photographs to capture an emotion that you can't capture in quite the same way with a painting. A photo captures that one split second in time when the subject may have been caught off guard and when the real essence of that person leaps off the print.

I was sorry photos weren't allowed, but certainly understand why they weren't, though there were many photos I wished I could copy just to be able to show what I meant.

A photo of Groucho Marx, for example. Totally candid and I almost didn't recognize him. Or a picture of a woman in a camp in Tanzania in the early 1900s, holding her baby. The picture on her face showed the total depression she was feeling and I found myself wondering what ever became of her. There was a picture of two very posh ladies draped in furs, wearing tiaras, alighting from a limo, with what had to have been an onlooker, the expression of disgust on his face evident.

And there was a sad quartet of photos of Marilyn Monroe, 3 taken for a Life magazine spread at the start of her career and a candid taken a short time before death, the ravages of fame so clear on her face.

I was very sorry to have to pass up a photo of a snowflake, taken very early in the history of photography, by a man who snapped individual snowflakes on black velvet...and had to take the pictures within 15 seconds before the flakes melted, to prove that no two snowflakes are alike.

I'm not sure what our own little quartet of pictures taken in a photo booth in the gift shop says about us, but we had to step into the booth and give it a try. (I suspect it says that we were having a good time!)

We finally left Balboa Park without having visited the Art Institute or the Air and Space Museum, or Museum of Man or the Timken Museum of art, or the Japanese Museum, or the Centro Cultural de la Raza, or the botanical garden or any one of a host of other museums just in Balboa Park alone. We didn't see the Youth Symphony Conservatory, Junior Theatre, Civic Youth Ballet, or Civic Dance Arts.

Definitely not a cultural wasteland!

We came home to feed and walk the dogs and then off to Old Town for dinner. Fortunately we had reservations at Cafe Coyote, one of the best Mexican restaurants in town, because the line to get in was very long.

But we were showed to our seat immediately and we contemplated our dinner choices over a nice big Cadillac Marguerita.

Dinner was fabulous, but too big, and we both brought home doggie bags.

We came home and collapsed in front of the TV. The last thing I remember was starting to watch The Medium and waking up at 9:30 to a completely dark house, with Lynn and the dogs already in bed.

It's been a full, but such a fun day. Sad to realize that I will be writing my next entry from home, as I leave in about 24 hours to fly back to Sacramento.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

San Diego

It is a little after midnight and the house is quiet. Lynn and the three little dogs (2 pomeranians and a poodle) have gone upstairs to bed. I'm sitting here surrounded by fans blowing cool air on me. The temperature here tonight was in the mid-70s. I could learn to love San Diego!

I had a late afternoon flight, since Lynn had to work. Walt took me to the airport around 3p.m. and we remarked on how strange it was for him to be dropping me off at the airport, since it's usually the other way.

It wasn't all that long a wait before the plan (which had landed early) began boarding passengers. I was able to get the window seat in the third row, which pleased me very much.

The flight seemed by. Before I knew it, the coast off San Diego was coming into view.

(please note those white things are CLOUDS, which means CLOUD COVER which means COOL TEMPERATURES!! As it is predicted to be 100 in Davis today, even the TSA woman in Sacramento told me she was jealous of my being able to fly to San Diego!)

Lynn met me as I came through the screening area and we loaded my stuff in the car and headed for Seaport Village, where we had reservations for dinner. We were early, so we wandered around the gift shops. Lynn bought some ceramic mushrooms for her yard, I took pictures of a delightful carousel, which originally dated from 1895

The animals were all beautifully restored and it made me want to be a kid again!

The Village was really fun to walk around. Most of the street vendors and performers had left, but I loved this woman interacting with a little girl. So sweet!

And this guy was there with several birds.

We ate at the Harbor House, right near the bay.

We ate upstairs and had a wonderful view of the water, while we enjoyed our crab cakes, mojito, and Australian lamb chops. All were amazing, as was the view.

We stopped at a gourmet cupcake shop to pick up a couple of cupcakes for dessert, then came home to walk the dogs, have another glass of wine, eat our cupcakes and chat.

I could get used to this!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Lemme tell you, if you want to be treated royally while you are doing an interview, you gotta go to Kathy's house. (hi, Kathy)

We have conducted more than 100 interviews for the 3 Lamplighters books and we have been offered everything from...nothing (try doing a 2+ interview without so much as the offer of a glass of water!) to lunch at a local restaurant. Well, lunch was pretty good, but for an in-home interview, specialty gourmet teas (roasted almond and pomegranate, to name two) and a choice of not one but three gourmet desserts from a local bakery and offer to host other interviews there...well, that ranks right up there!

Today was my chance to sit down and talk about the orchestra. Alison and I have done all of the interviews so far together, but she's cavorting on the east coast at the moment, so I took this one on myself.

I figure surely this is our last chance at writing part of the Lamplighters history and there are some specific omissions in the previous two books that I want to rectify in this book. They aren't so much omissions so much as recognizing groups within the company who came into prominence as cohesive groups since we wrote Book 2 and I want to make sure that they are given their due on this book.

The Lamplighters began in 1952 and for the first nearly 20 years of its existence, the actors on stage were accompanied by two pianos. In our first book, we wrote one chapter which quoted something a reviewer said once, "someone should buy the Lamplighters an orchestra." Well, in 1971, thanks to an agreement with the musicians' union, someone essentially did buy the Lamplighters an orchestra, or at least make it financially possible to include a small orchestra.

Over the years, there has been more money to pay the musicians, to hire additional musicians (I am told that the addition of a 3rd violinist made all the difference in the world) and began to turn the Lamplighters from a very good community theatre to a "technically not professional, but professional quality" theater.

The unique thing about the Lamplighters orchestra is that so many members have been with the group for more than twenty years. Their loyalty is amazing, which I suspect may be unique among theatre groups like the Lamplighters (if there are any theatre groups like the Lamplighters). Not only do they play for all the shows, but they have volunteered to play for sing-alongs and have worked fund-raising events when invited to do so. That's so NOT like a typical band!

I asked both Cathy and Diane, and later Lucy, who called in on the phone) why they have stayed around for so long and all three of them said the same thing -- it's their family. In many ways it reminds me of the Pinata group. They socialize together, go to each other's concerts, take interest in each other's children (those who have children), attend funerals of each other's families, and all the things that have made the Pinata group a family as well.

It's the same with the old tech crew, whom I will interview next month. When the company had to start playing in union houses, it meant that the tech crew which had worked together for so many years could no longer work on shows, since San Francisco is a very strong union town and if you are in a union house you can only use union technicians.

But the technicians had developed a very close relationship and strong friendships and they still get together socially at least two or three times a year. I look forward to gathering a handful of them to interview them about what kept them around so long, and what keeps them coming back year after year when there is no show to work on any more. I suspect they, too, stick around because they became "family" long ago.

I always love getting together with people from "my" era with the Lamplighters and looking back, reminiscing about the people and the events that I remember well. Diana and Cathy are two of my favorite Lamplighters people and it was just fun hanging out with them this afternoon...the bread pudding and red velvet cupcakes didn't hurt either.

I tried to leave before 4 p.m. and did...but just barely. I was too late to miss rush hour traffic.

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Ahead of me and behind me was bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic as far as the eye could see. It turned an hour and a half trip home into more than 2 hours, but that was OK because it gave me time to finish listening to my latest audio book!

Tomorrow I head for San Diego for a long-anticipated weekend with my friend Lynn. This time it's Walt's turn to stay home and keep the dogs from bugging Mr. McCoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Devil's Post Pile

The year was 1974, and we were camping. Jeri was 8, David was 2. I happened to read this story this afternoon and thought that since it's summer 'n' all, I'd share with all of you......

Here is a recap of our week in the remote mountains of Yosemite.

DPP.jpg (21257 bytes)The drive up was rather uneventful. We drove without stopping until we were well into downtown Sacramento (20 miles), where we made our first stop at McDonald's for the usual stuff, which we washed down with Kool Aid. The kids went to sleep and probably slept in shifts for most of the trip. It was after 6 when we got to the park and we had no trouble finding a campsite at Porcupine Flat. It was really a very nice place. We had a log, which made a very comfortable niche for sitting, a stump which was just the right height for cooking, a slightly warped and slanting, but nonetheless useful picnic table, and a flat, relatively unrocky space for a tent. We ended up staying there for the whole four days, in spite of the bears...but more about them later.

On Tuesday we took our first side trip to Devil's Post Pile which, if you have never been there, is something really worth seeing. Large columns of basalt looking like they were carved there and a mountain of pieces which had been broken off by a passing glacier.

The road to Devil's Post Pile is under construction, so we were stopped for a long while (during which we fixed and ate lunch), but eventually we bumped our way down the rutted dirt road until we got to the place. It's rather disheartening to follow 8 miles of twisted, rocky, dirt road and get to the bottom to find a traffic jam! We had a hard time finding a parking place in the very large parking lot.

You walk 0.4 miles to the post pile and once again there we managed to draw attention to ourselves. First of all, you can take a trail to the top of the pile, which Walt and the kids did, while I stationed myself down below with the camera so I could photograph my children perched precariously atop these columns which appear in danger of falling at any moment. Then they came down again and we were the only people there. The mountain of falling posts is such an invitation for climbing that we couldn't resist letting the kids scamper about on the rock -- even David (though Walt followed him up the slopes after Tom got caught half-way up and had to be carried down).

While the kids were engaged in the delights of climbing, investigating the passing frogs, etc., all of those people in the parking lot began to wander by -- including a pack of Boy Scouts. All of a sudden, when a sufficient crowd had gathered, Paul, who was right at the very top, began to scream and scream and scream. You could have heard him all the way back to Yosemite. We were sure he was at least ready to fall down the mountain, and the whole pack of Scouts, on orders shouted by their leader (a chubby, grey crew-cut gentleman in a Scout uniform) started climbing rapidly over the rocks to save him. Walt left David to race up and save him. People were gasping and clutching each other. I had the good grace NOT to take his picture. And for several tense minutes, the world listened to the hysterical screams of this five year old trapped on top of the mountain. Walt reached him first and the cries abruptly stopped. His problem? An ant was crawling over him!! What do you say when a 50 year old Scout leader looks at you accusingly and asks, "that your kid, lady?"

Everything after that was rather anticlimactic. We made it back to the car with no other disasters occurring and except for one stop at a Safeway, we went straight back to camp. The Safeway, by the way, was another experience. How often do you stand in a check out line and hear one checker shout to another, "Hey, Charlie, how much are the worms?"

Tuesday night was The Night of the Bears. We knew they had been around the night before, but they must have been hungrier this night. They started showing up earlier in the evening and we cooked dinner to the sounds of clattering pans and shouts of "Hey, you, get out of there!" from other campsites. The kids toasted marshmallows and Walt was pumping up air mattresses. I was reading to the kids at bedtime and they (3 of them) decided they had to go potty, which was down the road and around the bend. As Walt was leaving, he mouthed to me that the bear had been outside our tent, which needless to say, did wonders for my morale as I sat there with Tom and David!

Mr. Bear didn't show himself to me and we went to bed, only Walt discovered that I had stepped in a marshmallow and smeared it all over his sleeping bag and air mattress and he spent quite a bit of time cleaning it off so the bear wouldn't smell it and come charging into the tent. That didn't do too much to help me get to sleep either. But I finally did get to sleep and slept as well as one ever does in a cold tent and a cramped sleeping bag, until 3 a.m. (never take a watch with a luminous dial on a camping trip) when Tom woke up.

I got him back to sleep again and was trying to sleep myself when I heard the unmistakable sounds of sniffing and snuffling and grunting right about a foot from my head. My life flashed before my eyes and I spent some time trying to figure out how I could quickly get out of my bag and save my children when the bear ripped through the tent. I worked myself into quite a state and found I was lying absolutely rigid and shaking like a leaf for about an hour. However, terror can only last so long -- especially at 3 a.m. -- and I gradually began to reassure myself about how well fed bears are in national parks and how seldom you read about unprovoked attacks on campers and all of that. The snuffling had also disappeared and I could hear banging in far-away campsites again, so I assumed that he had not smelled the marshmallow and had moved on and I did finally fall asleep -- but it was not one of my more pleasant nights.

The next night was The Wet Night. Only Paul woke up dry in the morning and a smellier bunch of sleeping bags you couldn't find!

While we're on the subject, I guess I should go into the more basic parts of our trip -- that having to do with normal bodily functions. Or so they'd have you believe. Tom's introduction to the world of the outhouse was rather memorable. It's kind of dumb to have "men" and "women" signs when they are just metal smell boxes in the middle of the wilderness, but they do and, of course, boys being MCPs would only go in "Men."

On our first trip to "Men" it was occupied by a man who must have a problem -- only someone with a problem would spend that much time in an outhouse! He finally emerged, looking a little embarrassed (but definitely relieved) and Paul went in while Tom hopped around clutching everything below the belt and calling to Paul to hurry up. Paul was yelling a blow by blow account to Tom: "Just a minute now,, it'll be a little longer...OK...almost ready...I'll be right there, Tom." Through all of this, Tom was turning green around the eyes and looking like he was in great pain and the fellow behind him in line was trying very hard not to giggle. Finally, Paul emerged and opened the door for Tom, who stepped inside, took one whiff and said, "I think I don't have to go after all," which caused our friend to break up. I missed David's introduction to the outhouse, but he told me in no uncertain terms that it was "yucky" and "scary."

So for the rest of the trip, David would just "go" wherever he happened to be -- right outside the tent, in front of the stove while I was cooking dinner, at the campfire program. Just let nature take its course. Tom never even bothered to pee anywhere but in his pants or his sleeping bag.

Thursday was the one day we didn't have any long trips in mind, so, of course, it was the one morning everyone was up at 6 a.m., the hour before the sun comes up, when even the potty seats have frost on them and all the wood is too wet to build a fire. It's the hour when children's crying voices vibrate through the still wood and you hiss "shut up or I'll clout you!" Paul put on and took off his shoes about 6 times, as he couldn't decide whether he wanted to be in or out of the tent. We finally convinced them all that it really would be warmer in the tent and, as the sun shone over the trees, warming us all, they went back to bed.

Camping with kids is like beating yourself over the head. It feels so good when you stop.

Thursday Thirteen

Things about my mother

1. She has lived longer and outlived all of her relatives.
2. She loves to iron
3. She has had her hair done by the same hairdresser every week for at least the past 40 years.
4. She can make any plant, however, sad, bloom wildly.
5. She LOVES shoes
6. At age 91-1/2 she still volunteers once a week for Hospice of Marin
7. I have rarely seen her without nail polish
8. She has incredible fashion sense (unlike me)
9. She is a fierce competitor
10. She loves working jigsaw puzzles
11. She’s an avid reader
12. She sets a gorgeous table for dinner guests
13. She’s my best friend.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Letter

Swap-Bot is an interesting web site where people exchange "things." Sometimes it's postcards or photos or books or...well, just about anything someone wants to exchange. I signed up to do something that sounded interesting. As a group we wrote 8 questions that everyone would answer. But instead of doing it like a regular meme, we were to write a letter to one of the other members of the group and incorporate the questions in the body of the letter. I decided to share my letter here. See if you can figure out what the 8 questions were!

Dear Nikki –

I just returned from lunch at Steve’s Place, the pizza restaurant with the great salad bar. I always get the salad at Steve’s, one of those big salads, with cherry tomatoes and pieces of chicken, kidney beans, broccoli, avocado (if they have it), and grated cheddar cheese, all topped with Ranch Dressing and lots of those croutons that they make out of last night’s leftover garlic bread.

Sometimes I put mushrooms on the salad too. Funny thing about mushrooms–I always hated them as a kid and now I love ‘em. I love them sautéed and put over steak, but they’re good on pizza too, especially with Italian sausage.

When I got home, I decided to read for awhile. I have one of those new Kindles that everybody talks about. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about an eReader, liking the feel and smell of real books, you know, but I started with a Kindle app on my iPhone and liked that so much that I finally bit the bullet and got the full Kindle. I’m discovering that I really like it – I especially like that it has a battery life of 2 months! My iTouch only lasts a couple of hours, and even with the battery charger that Tom bought for me, that life can only be extended to about 8 hours. With the Kindle, I can go away for a couple of weeks and not have to worry about where to recharge the battery

Right now I’m reading a book called "Faith," which is a novel about the sex scandal in the Catholic Church in Boston. It’s an unusual book for me to be reading because for the last couple of years I’ve been on a "blood and guts" spree. I love books by authors such as Michael Connelly, Lee Child or John Grisham. The temptation is always there to check the last chapter to find out if it’s all going to work out all right, but I refuse to do that. I hate knowing the ending before I’ve gotten into the book!

Yesterday I finished reading my friend Joan Callaway’s book, "It’s an Ill wind..." which is the story of the death of her husband and 13 year old son in a house fire back in the 60s, leaving her a young widow with 4 children. It’s an inspiring story about how one can recover from such a catastrophic tragedy and move forward in life. Joan is really an inspiring person.

Everyone asks what your worst nightmare is and I think for any parent it would be having to face the death of a child. So I can relate to Joan’s book because I, too, have experienced the grief that comes with losing a my case two children. It won’t surprise you to know that the death of David and then of Paul were the saddest times in my life. There were parts of Joan’s book when she wrote things that I have felt or thought or experienced (like former friends who turn away so they don’t have to talk to you because they can’t handle your grief), and I admit to being brought to tears in a few places while reading her book.

Of course no book could ever make me cry the way "The Velveteen Rabbit" does. I remember reading that book to my kids when they were little and I could never get through the end of it without crying.

There is always the temptation to want to rewrite a book like that and give it a happier ending, but, you know, even the books that end sad or books that don’t turn out the way you would like somehow have to be that way. I wouldn’t try to rewrite another author’s work because this is the story the way he or she envisioned it and it just wouldn’t be the same if it were done another way (though I certainly would be tempted to change a few of Patricia Cornwell’s books, because I hate what she has done with characters I loved in earlier books!)

I wonder what my dogs think when they see me sitting in a chair reading. Do they have any clue what I’m doing. I’m sure they think I lead a pretty regimented life, which they contribute to. They tell me when to wake up, when to feed them, when the let them out and let them in. They get a bit impatient with me when I spend so much time sitting at my desk, but if the whine enough, they know that I will get up and give them their dinner. They also know that whenever I put on shoes, I’m going out and that before I go out they will get a treat, so I think they look forward to those times!

I was so lucky that I offered to volunteer for the SPCA because it gave me the chance not only to help more than 100 dogs find "forever homes," but it also helped me choose two of our dogs to join this house as our own forever dogs. Everything you do has an impact!

I often wonder what it would be like to be a dog, to spend your whole life dedicated to a single person or family. To have all those heightened senses that dogs have, and to have someone scritch you behind the ears or scratch your back whenever you itch. I always said that if I were to be reincarnated, I would want to be either my mother’s dog or my friend Peggy’s dog. Now those were pampered pooches.

Peggy is one of my favorite people to spend time with because we have so much in common. We always laugh a lot when we are together, which is difficult since she lives more than 9,000 miles away in Australia. For that reason, I guess if I were to choose a place to live for 6 months or so, it would be Australia. I fell in love with the country in 2003. I had a relaxing 6 weeks there, but how much better I could get to know the place if I really lived there. Of course I’d pick the cold, rainy part of the year. I don’t think I could handle an entire summer there (which is a reason why I wouldn’t want to spend 6 months in the South of France either!)

I would also like to visit some of my Compassion children. I read about sponsors of Compassion children going on group trips to visit their children. I would like to join them, but one thing that stops me is the whole religion thing. I consider myself a Christian, but not in the church-going, Bible-reading sense of the word. I suspect I might not fit in with a Christian group traveling to visit sponsored children in the poverty areas of the world.

I look at the pictures that these sponsors post on their trips and I marvel at the sheer joy on the faces of the children. It’s wonderful that they can be so happy when they are dealing with so many problems. I am fortunate to have had many happy memories throughout my life, mostly related to my family, the birth of the kids, tiny little moments stuck in your brain forever which may be insignificant to anybody else. It would be difficult to pick out any one as a favorite, but whenever I think of being perfectly happy I always instantly think of one tiny, tiny moment back in 1973 when we were living in Oakland. I was sitting on the grass in front of our house and the kids were all playing down the hill at the home of some friends. Suddenly I see tiny David running up the hill. He couldn’t have been more than 15 months old, but he threw his arms out wide and ran into my lap and gave me a big hug. That may not have been the happiest moment of my life, but it ranks up toward the top.

Well, Nikki, I’m going to end this letter now. I hope you have been able to find the answers to all the questions contained within it. I will end with my answer to the question, "You have to punch Jesus, your grandma, or you mom or they all die. Who do you punch?" Of course you have to punch Jesus for two reasons – he will instantly understand your dilemma and forgive you, and he can’t die anyway.

Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Exciting Mail

It was in March when I first heard about Soldiers Angels, a group of volunteers who (among other things) can ask to adopt a soldier. You get the briefest of bits of information--the soldier's name and address and if they have offered any personal information, that too. Amanda #1 did not attach a message, so all I had was her address, from where I was able to figure out where in the Middle East she was stationed, but that was that.

Soldiers Angels has a form you can print to send to your soldier to help you decide what to include in care packages, because you also agree to send a package a month, along with a letter a week.

Innocently I sent off the form and my first few letters and figured that any day now I would hear from her.

I never did seek out the forum to see what other "angels" were talking about. I just continued to write my letters and wait for my first letter from Amanda.

As I said, you pledge to send one care package a month, and Soldiers Angels have some pre-packaged things you can order to be sent, and I did that, twice. I still waited for that first letter.

Somewhere in there, I asked for another soldier and was assigned another Amanda. I had high hopes that maybe this one would write, because her paper work had even less information than Amanda #1.

Now I was sending two letters a week and two packages a month. I finally write to my Soldiers Angel mentor and essentially got back a "Hey, it's not about you--it's about the soldiers." Turns out that it's not at all uncommon to never hear from your soldier. Essentially--how silly I was to expect that someone would answer.

I decided to check out the forums and see what others were saying. I didn't find anything about whether to expect mail or not, but I did find a suggestion that you might be able to find out about your soldier's unit by doing a google search on the address. So I did. And low and behold, not only did I find out where her unit is, but I discovered they have a Facebook page! Not only that,but there are tons of photos on the page. I found out where they are from, how many in the unit and a bit about the kinds of jobs they are doing (working with natives to help rebuild schools, for one thing).

I looked at each and every picture. Most were not identified at all, but I was able to view their camp, the room where there are lots of treadmills, the latrine, and the schedule of movies for July 1. There were two pictures of women with the same last name as my soldier. One of the pictures was identified as a different first name, but the other one was simply "SPC So-and-So." Hmmm...could this be my Amanda? I left a note on one of those, asking if this was Amanda (to date no response on that question).

Then this afternoon there was a huge amount of mail for me.

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It was exciting enough to get a letter from one of my Compassion kids and letters from some of my penpals, as well as five different postcards. But that envelope that I've put the red flash on is....a letter from Amanda 1!

Quite a nice letter, too. I now know how old she is (young enough to be my granddaughter), where she's from, how many are in her family, that she has a pit bull at home, what books she likes to read, and that she works in IT and says that if I send her my e-mail address, she will send me photos.

Yes, it's not about me--it's about the soldiers, but even I am surprised at how this one letter changes everything. She's now flesh and blood to me. I have someone to care about, to worry about. I found a set of books by her favorite author and ordered it to send to her in the package I'm making right now (gotta love that flat rate mail!)

I really don't need to hear from her any more. After all, she's in a war zone and might be a little too busy to write to a stranger on the other side of the world, but I know enough about her to know what to write about and what to send to her. It changes everything for me.

Of course, I have already written a response. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Momentous Day

Gay couples have been getting married in New York for nearly 12 hours now. More than 800 people were married in NYC alone, tons more at Niagara Falls, and who knows how many more across the state.

As far as I can tell, there has been no sign of fire and/or brimstone, horses have not dropped dead in the streets, and children have not been terrified (nor has there been a rise in pre-pubescent declaration of homosexuality by virtue of the fact that marriage is now legal).

But thousands of people in that state now have moved one step closer to full equality with their married neighbors. Except, of course, that if they travel to most other states they will be legal strangers to each other, their marriages having no legal standing whatsoever, and if one of them is a citizen of another country s/he will not be permitted to stay past his/her visa period by virtue of the fact that his/her spouse is an American citizen. (Also, despite the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, married same sex couples still cannot get equal benefits in the military).

But let's not cavil on this happy day. It's a huge step forward.

New York is the 6th, and largest state to legalize same sex marriage.

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Of course not everyone loves gay marriage and the abominationists were out in force too. Members of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) were there with their signs.

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Their supporters chanted "Let the people vote! Let the people vote!" Why should people who are not involved in the issue get to decide the rules for people who are. Would you like the country to take a vote on whether or not you can marry the person you love? They are so keen on sanctity of marriage and marriage for procreation. I think we should vote on whether infertile people, older people, or people who have decided not to have children should be allowed to marry.

In interview with Christiane Amanpour, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reminded the viewers that when the country was first founded, it was legal in some areas to put homosexuals to death, black people were bought and sold like animals, and women were unable to vote, but over the years we have righted these wrongs and it's time to right this wrong.

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When dogs can speak up and ask themselves for permission to marry their owners, I'll take this sign seriously.

But for now, I will just rejoice with those people who have waited so long and who have finally climbed up one more rung of the ladder toward full equality.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Disrupted. Again.

Well, this time it isn't just us against AT&T, it's the whole DCN network. Early this afternoon, Walt came downstairs to ask if I had internet connection. I had been working on the computer, but not on the internet, so I didn't know. I checked and found that I didn't.

I called DCN and got a recorded message that there was a problem, they were trying to connect with AT&T and that they expected service to be back by 2 p.m. I scoffed.

Shortly before 2, I called again (since we still had no service) and got an updated message saying that service was now expected to be restored by 6 or 7.

Seemed like a good time to go to the movies, so we did. I sent a text message to Twitter (which rolls over to Facebook) that we were again without internet access.

When we got home from the movies (at 6), I called again and learned that there were AT&T people working to repair the >150 pairs of fibers that had been cut by an AT&T subcontractor and that they expected service, now, to resume between 9 and 10.

It is now after 9 and there is still no service, nor any updated message.

I was going to go to Mishka's to post this entry, but decided to give them overnight to get the thing going again. If it's not up by the time I wake up, well, I could always use an excuse for coffee and a croissant at Mishka's anyway!

We went to the Varsity Theater, which shows more oddball movies. I decided this is my favorite place to see movies in Davis. For one thing you only have three previews of coming attraction rather than a half an hour worth. For another, the ambience is just...nice. More like the movie theatres of my youth. And, of course, we are quite familiar with the place since first Jeri and then Paul managed it for several years.

The movie we went to see was Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which Char had raved about and which she highly recommended seeing on a large screen rather than waiting until it came out on video.

I can understand why. The sweeping vistas of Paris, even the small streets and back alleys...well, you just have to see it on the large screen.

Owen Wilson is obviously playing the role that Woody Allen would have played if he had been younger and he is a perfect substitute for Woody Allen. In fact, almost better because while he delivers the lines the way Allen would, love scenes are more believable with the better looking Wilson in them (though they lack the absurd humor of Woody Allen being irresistible to women).

The story is a time travel story. When the clock chimes midnight, a car arrives for Wilson and transports him back to Paris of the 1920s, his favorite era, to allow him to interact with his heroes Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, and some of the famous artists of the day, primarily Picasso, with whose girlfriend Wilson falls in love.

In the meantime, Wilson's girlfriend, who is obviously all wrong for him can't understand why he doesn't want to go sightseeing with her, her parents and their friends,

The story progresses in logical, if fantasy-like, manner and the conclusion is absolutely perfect, especially what happens to the detective hired to follow Wilson's character and report back about what he does on his midnight walks around Paris.

This is a highly recommended (by me!) movie, especially if you have been to Paris, want to go to Paris, or have a great love for the writers and artists of the 1920s.

* * *

Oh my goodness! 9:15 and service is back! Be still my heart!

Now that it's over, I do need to say, once again, how much I appreciate being with a local internet provider. When service went out, I just had to call DCN and there was a report of what went wrong and when they expected it to be fixed. As the day progressed, reports were updated. And service was restored in a fairly reasonable time, considering that the problem did not lie with DCN, but with AT&T. I compare that with being without a land line for two weeks, unable to reach any living person at AT&T, then three missed AT&T appointments and then when someone finally showed up, it only took 10 minutes to repair. I may grouse when things go wrong because, well, I'm used to instant gratification, but bottom line is that I suspect you won't get better service anywhere than the Davis Community Network gives its customers.

Damn AT&T...they got it repaired in timely manner. There goes my chocolate croissant!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Choo Choo

There was the sound of a train engine puffing and a train whistle blowing and I was proud. I had won the first of 3 games of Mexican Train that we played last night.

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I'm not sure how this came to be called "Mexican train," but it is a game where you make trains of dominoes and try to get rid of all of the dominoes in your hand. The first person to do so hits the center of the little green thing there and it makes the sound of a train. Char's set choo-choos for about 5 minutes (or so it seems), which is terribly annoying. Pat's set gives a couple of polite choos and then shuts up, which is perfect.

The Pinata Women's Cousins Day Group has had another overnight party. It never seems like there are enough of us, and there aren't. Jeri (the "other" Jeri) was not in California and Michele, whom we assumed would be with us for all these parties when we first started planning them, died before we could start them.

But Pat, Char, Audrey and I enjoyed ourselves.

Char picked me up around 10 a.m. and we made our way into Sacramento to Pat's house. Audrey arrived an hour or so later. We sat around having crackers and cheese and wine (yeah wine. In the morning. Wanna make something of it?) while we got caught up on the ups and downs and ins and outs of our lives since the last time we were all together.

These gatherings are wonderful for lots of blood letting, talking about things that we may not have talked about with anybody else. There is laughter and nods of agreement and, when needed, a comforting touch.

We seem to spend a lot of time wondering how we all got to be so old, especially when we talk about our children, the oldest of whom is looking "50" close in the eye (though not quite yet). How did we get old enough to have children who are going to start getting into their fifties?

Around 2:30, Pat hauled out the salads we had all contributed. There was a 3-bean salad, a tortellini with lentil salad, a caprese (tomato and mozarella) salad, and a green salad filled with cherry tomatoes from Pat's garden, along with some fruit and the crackers, moved over to the table. We ate our fill and sat around the table chatting some more. Over lunch we bemoaned political issues...fortunately we all feel pretty much the same way, politically.

We eventually set up the game of Mexican train and played that until 8 p.m. or so, always talking. I won't mention that I won two of the three games, because that would be boastful and just rude.

Around 9, Pat offered us more wine or ice cream. We were ready for ice cream and who can resist something called "death by chocolate."

Because we are old, we were nodding off at 10 and decided to go to sleep.

We all, amazingly, slept well, even Char and I, both of whom have insomnia problems.

In the morning, Pat made blueberry waffles which she served on her brand new picnic table, which was made from wood cut from a redwood tree which had been growing on her husband's family ranch, which which had died and had to be cut down. The table(s) made from the wood were gorgeous.

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You'll notice that on the table is also a bowl of fresh blueberries, for waffle topping. Char and Pat picked those berries (along with blackberries) yesterday, also from Pat's garden. They were delicious.

When it began to get warm, we came in the house and continued chatting (which we did pretty much nonstop for two days--it's what I love about these get togethers). We called Jeri (the "other" Jeri), on speaker phone so she could be a part of the gathering as well.

At 11:30, Pat pulled out the leftover salads and we all gorged ourselves for an early lunch and then packed up our cars to head home again.

I'm now going to post this because Char says she always has to check my journal to find out if she had a good time or not.

Char -- you did. (So did I!)

Friday, July 22, 2011


I put the large glass under the spigot of our water cooler and I pulled the handle. I frequently go to the cooler to get a tall, cold glass of water.

As the water poured out into my glass, one of those big water bubbles popped up inside the big bottle and settled with a loud "plop" on the top. I smiled. It's a fun sound.

I looked at the big bottle and saw that it was almost empty. I would have to go outside and get one of the new bottles that the water man had left for us earlier this week. I always know when the water man has come because the dogs go crazy. I check to see why they are barking and here is this very nice man with a bottle of water on his shoulder, another in his hand, bringing them across the street to my front door.

The 5 gallon bottles are heavy, but they are easier to lift now that they have added handles to the design.

I don't carry the bottle all the way into the kitchen. I lift it up to the floor of the hall and then push it down the hall to the kitchen. Then I lift it up onto the counter, wipe off the dust that has settled on the bottle while sitting outside waiting for me. Then I peel back the label and turn the bottle upside down and stick the bottle on the little spigot that sticks up inside the cooler.

It used to be more difficult to put the water on the cooler, since it involved the possibility of spilling water all over the floor. But they they invented this method which removes any danger of losing water if the bottle slips out of your hands.

I'm really good at changing the water bottle. It's the one physical thing I do that I am good at. I drink so much water that when I began working in offices that had water coolers, I took over keeping the cooler full so that I always had icy cold water to drink.

* * *

It's morning and I'm getting ready for the day. I go into the bathroom and get my fancy electric toothbrush. I turn on the water and put paste on the brush, then I stand there letting the toothbrush brush my teeth for me. At some point I realize how much water has been running freely down the drain and I feel guilty about wasting water, so I turn the faucet off, finish brushing my teeth, then turn the water on again, rinse the toothbrush and put it back. Upstairs, I hear Walt flushing the toilet and the sound of the shower running. I go back to the kitchen and turn on the dishwasher.

* * *

Sheila is out in the back yard licking water out of a bowl that has collected run-off from the sprinkler. The water is brackish. "Yuck," we say. "You don't want to drink that." We empty the bowl onto the grass and refill the bowl with clean water.

* * *

The paperwork for my newest Compassion child, Emanuella, arrived yesterday. I smiled when I read her information. One of her household chores involves carrying water. "They all carry water," I thought to myself.

Well, duhhh...they all do carry water...

There was a diary entry from Compssion yesterday about water. It's entitled "How Far Would you go to fetch safe drinking water?" The writer had recently visited her sponsored child in El Salvador and decided to join the youngest child in the family on her walk to the river to get water.

Little-Girl_Water-Jug.jpg (29312 bytes)The walk from Isabel’s home to the river took about 30 minutes. The view of the river was stunning, and most of the walk was down a very steep slope.

Upon reaching the river, I found a wash house where people gather to bathe. This is also where a pavilion is set up to wash clothes.

We learned that this water, like most water in the developing world, is contaminated and a cause of illness to the families who rely on it.

We filled our five-gallon water jugs from the river and, with each jug now weighing about 40 pounds, began trudging back up the hill to Isabel’s home.

Isabel placed her jug on her head and slowly but steadily walked up the steep path. The men in our sponsor group slung their jugs to their shoulders, while the women worked in pairs to lug the heavy jugs up the hill (which, with each step, seemed more like a mountain).

Finally, one of the women in our group tried carrying her water jug on her head. As I struggled up the hill, it seemed insane to place such a heavy jug on my head – especially without a pad like the local women use. But after my friend found this method easier, I decided to follow her example. Indeed, the jug was hard and heavy, but this was definitely easier than anything else I had tried.

I was able to slowly, steadily, step-by-step, make it the rest of the way to the top of the hill. When we finally reached Isabel’s house I had a real feeling of accomplishment, having contributed to the effort of bringing water to this family’s home. We all had a new understanding of walking in the footsteps of the poor, and a new appreciation of their daily task of fetching water.

So much time and energy is spent each day by Isabel and her children just doing what they must to survive. Gathering water and obtaining food is the main task of each day. There is little time or energy, let alone financial resources, to spend on school work or economic tasks such as developing a business.

If, instead of spending hours each day gathering water, these families were able to get water in only a fraction of that time, and if that water were clean rather than a cause of illness, just think of the difference it would make in their lives!

How much different would our lives be if we had to spend two to four hours each day just getting water to cook and do dishes?

How we take for granted our easy access to water and how little we think of the millions of the people who, along with their small children, are walking 30 minutes or more each day to gather contaminated water so that they can wash, cook, and clean up.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

G.R.U.B. 2011

We've had the annual Gilbert dinner and I've taken my China jacket out for a trip again. Walt rented a car for the trip, since we need a part replaced on our car and he didn't feel comfortable driving it all the way to San Francisco and back again until the repair had been made. The rental car didn't have a way to play music off my iPod, so I "had to" read all the way to the city while Walt drove.

Poor me.

We hit some heavy traffic, this being rush hour, but most of it was going the other way, so though we had a long line of bumper to bumper traffic, it was much heavier going the other way, and we had planned ahead and actually got to the restaurant half an hour early.

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This was the Delancy Street Restaurant, the same one we had been to last year. The restaurant is a big part of the Delancey Street Foundation, the country's leading residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom. Started in 1971 with 4 people in a San Francisco apartment, Delancey Street has served many thousands of residents, in 5 locations throughout the United States. Residents at Delancey Street range from teenagers to senior citizens, and include men and women and all races and ethnicities. The average resident has been a hard-core drug and alcohol abuser, has been in prison, is unskilled, functionally illiterate, and has a personal history of violence and generations of poverty.

The restaurant, staffed by residents of the project, looks upscale, the food is great, and the price is considerably lower than you would find at a comparable restaurant elsewhere in the city.

One nice thing about the place is that it is easy to find parking--that's a huge deal in San Francisco, where it sometimes takes longer to find parking than it does to eat dinner. Here there is usually available on street parking, if you can figure out the confounded new fangled way to pay for parking.

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And if you can't, valet parking is only $4, which seems incredibly cheap.

Since we were early we spent some time checking out the menu posted in front of the place,

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and then went into the bar to have a glass of wine while we waited for the others to arrive.

There were 10 of us this year and we had a table off in a corner.

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This is not a restaurant you go to for speedy service. It was probably half an hour before someone came to take our order -- and there were very few people at in the place. It also seemed to take forever for the food to come. But when it did, it was worth the wait.

I had planned to order the rack of lamb, which I had enjoyed the previous year, but the seared ahi tuna with wasabi noodles sounded intriguing and was so good I was halfway through eating it before I remembered to take a picture.

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It was all very low key, but I just love getting together with these people at this dinner every year.

It would just be nice if Gilbert had been there to enjoy it with us.

*Gala Reinternment of Uncle Buddy

Thursday Thirteen

Things I saw today (written a few weeks ago)

1. Beautifully decorated Victorian houses
2. The Golden Gate Bridge
3. A volkswagon decorated with so much stuff you could barely see the car
4. A male and female duck begging for food
5. My mother
6. The gold on the dome of the San Francisco City Hall
7. Two old men talking about old movies
8. Tourists in Sausalito
9. A postcard from Puxatawney, Pennsylvania
10. Ned’s video for Brianna’s 3rd birthday
11. Gas at $4.09/gallon
12. bunches of poppies
13. A demonstration of how to make an envelope

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Going Around in Circles

Once upon a time, a long time ago in a galaxy that now seems far, far away, social media was born and was embraced by the young people of the internet.

It was something called My Space and gradually it seemed like that was all you were hearing about.

It kind of reminded me of the really long time ago days when I would see TV advertisements for Prodigy. I don't think I even had internet access then and I never learned for the longest time what Prodigy was, but all I knew was that the man kept calling his wife over and saying "you gotta get this thing!"

When I got my first modem, it came with program disks for Prodigy and for CompuServe. In one of those serendipitous moments when I decided I should try one or the other of them, I chose CompuServe. I don't remember why, but either it sounded more interesting, or it had a free option that Prodigy didn't, or something. How lucky I was that day, when I think how many extraordinary things came out of my decision to install CompuServe on my computer!

So I encountered my first social media circle (though the term wasn't being used yet) with CompuServes Issues forum, where the friends I made then are still friends now -- some of them are people I consider among my best friends.

When CompuServe started going wonky, I never really noticed because I had stopped using it for a long time and was concentrating on this journal and on a couple of yahoo group e-mail lists.

I also joined My Space to find out what all the hoopla was about. I wasn't there for long because the population seemed to be significantly younger than I was or interested into things that didn't interest me. (I think I still have a page there.)

Then the term "social media" was coined.

I heard of something called Twitter. I decided to try it. I liked Twitter, especially because I liked the challenge of writing something witty using only 140 characters. But I never could figure out how to use it in any reasonable way in my own life.

I reconnected with Kari Peterson, a person I'd known peripherally for many years. Kari wanted to know more about Twitter, so we met for our first infamous coffees at Mishka's coffee house. I told her all I knew about Twitter and set her loose. She loosed those wings and literally flew. She became a Twitter maven and since I had lost interest in it, I rarely had much occasion to cross her path very often.

Then there was this new thing called Facebook that some people were talking about. I thought I'd join it and see what it was all about. At the time nobody I knew used Facebook, so I began looking for "old" people and discovered that most of the "old" people were in their 40s. I joined a group called 'Am I the Oldest Person on Faebook' and discovered I was the oldest person in that group.

There was a blip that happened a few years ago and suddenly I was getting friend requests from people I actually knew. My children were on Facebook. Their friends were on Facebook. People I knew well (like Char and her kids) joined and my cousins joined. I suddenly went from a few dozen friends to hundreds of friends. I accepted anybody's request. It was a heady time when all of those real time friends were getting their feet wet and learning about Facebook. There were always messages from someone I knew. It was such fun. Like being on a party line with all of your best friends, all talking at the same time.

But the novelty began to wear off. My kids stopped using it. Laurel, Tom, and Laurel's mother stopped posting the pictures of Bri that I looked forward to. My friends found better things to do. I still have lots of friends, but the ones who are the most active are people that I either know only peripherally, or whom I have never met. Which is OK, it's just not like it was a couple of years ago. I still use Facebook to play its version of Scrabble (Lexulous) with four different friends.

Then people started talking about Google-Plus, Google's own social networking site. I looked at a couple of tutorials about it and saw absolutely nothing that would make me interested in learning a whole new social network (though since it doesn't seem to have built-in games, there is that advantage--no more Farmville or any of a host of games that drive me crazy on Facebook, since I don't play them and am not interested in them).

Kari and I meet at Mishka's again yesterday and I learned that she had stopped using Twitter and had transferred most of her Twitter connections to Facebook, but she was interested in learning about Google+. She pointed out that it's in its infancy right now and if it ends up being as popular as Facebook (burying Facebook the way Facebook buried the seemingly indestructible My Space), we'd be ahead of the crowd in already knowing how to use it.

So I joined Google+ yesterday and am trying to make sense of it. On first look, it seems to be cleaner, more straightfoward, and easier to learn than Facebook. Of course I don't have a lot of connections there yet, but if a lot of my "real" friends move to G+, I will be able to do what I used to do on Facebook, and only check the information from a select group of people instead o from everyone.

Into Day #2, I like it better than I thought I would, but I realize that unless friends also join it, it won't have any more meaning for me than Twitter did.

It all seems to hinge on the "circle" concept and at the moment, I'm just floating around in circles and trying to decide (a) what I'm doing and (b) if it's all worthwhile.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Team Laura

Team Laura received the news we knew was coming eventually, but which we hoped would somehow be delayed a bit longer.

Laura Morefield lost her battle with cancer yesterday morning at 7:30 a.m.

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I "met" Laura first on CompuServe, where we were both members of the David Gerrold forum. I don't remember when I met her for the first time, face to face, but I remember visiting with her when I went with David to a screenwriting class he was teaching at Pepperdine University in Malibu.

Walt and I stayed at the home she and husband Dan had in Santa Clarita, near Magic Mountain a couple of times when we were headed down to the Los Angeles area. I remember the help she gave me when I twisted my ankle in Los Angeles and could barely get out of the car in her driveway.

She introduced me to her mother, Charlene Baldridge, a theater critic in the San Diego area. I had just agreed to be a critic and I was happy to have her thoughts on how to do it well.

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When Paul died, Laura drove the ~300 miles to be here for the memorial. I was so incredibly touched by her kindness. We remained in casual contact over the years.

In November of 2008, I received a note from her:

Hi Bev,

I know this is crappy news to get in an email but I can’t seem to face making phone calls out of the blue…so here goes:

I’ve been diagnosed with cancer (stage 4). It’s called adenocarcinoma and likely started in my colon (which is good news because it would then be more responsive to treatment). There are tumors in my liver and in my right lung. That’s all we’ve found so far. I’m in a tiny bit of pain but nothing serious.

I’ve got a lot going for me…I’m young, healthy (other than the cancer), surrounded by a loving husband, family and friends. So I’ve clearly chosen to fight this for as long and hard as possible. I’ll be starting chemo in a few weeks at most and will know in three months or so how my body’s responding to the treatment.

I wanted to let you know because you’ve been important in my life and it gives me strength to think of you rooting for me. I so appreciated our friendship over the years, starting with DG’s forum and blossoming into so much more as you stood alongside me when Bob died. I find you to be an amazing person, gifted and funny, a liver of life in bold and deeply personal terms. That’s an inspiration to me.

I hope you understand my desire to break the news this way. Every time I talk to someone about it (and there’ve been a lot of conversations that begin with “I have cancer” these past few days) it’s been very difficult and I want to shelter my emotions for a little bit. Thanks for listening, now, and so many times in the past.

Blessings to you, my friend


Knowing that attitude and support make a big difference in dealing with such a terrible diagnosis, she formed "Team Laura," a group of friend to whom she sent regular updates on her condition and asked for us to pray for specific things -- that this treatment would work, that her tests would be positive, that this or that number would be lower (or higher) on the next test, etc. We responded by praying for her and trying to keep her spirits up with cards and phone calls and jokes and all things that would keep her mind focusing on the positive.

I’m not looking forward to the steeper parts of this path, but I am so very grateful for the friends, family and incredible husband I have who have gathered around me and are already making me feel better.

She faithfully filled us in on the "gory details" of her surgeries, her procedures, her round of chemo, each message coming with hope and optimism...and concern for others.

I’d also appreciate prayers and candles and good thoughts (whatever your particular way of expressing your heart’s desire to the Creator) for my and Dan’s family. This has been a stressful time for them, as well as for us and our friends and I know we all can use a little extra tlc right now. (12/3/08)

When Laura was not able to write the updates, Dan would take on that task for her.

I was most impressed with her determination to live life to the fullest. She continued to play golf, do yoga, go on long walks, and travel with Dan.

Today was really special…I played golf for the first time since my surgery. The day before chemo is my highest energy day and I had enough today for 9 holes at the club (with my friend, Renee’) and 52 strokes (just under double bogey golf…so a good round for me considering I had 1/3 of my colon taken out less than 3 months ago!)

I feel healthy, gaining in strength and overall have a positive outlook…which is maintained by staying in the moment rather than worrying about what I can’t control. Prayers, journaling, visits by friends and family; these things all strengthen me and give more comfort than you know.

When her mood was somber she shared that with Team Laura too.

I can’t tell you how overwhelmed, loved and supported I feel after your emails back to me yesterday. Thank you for offers of phone numbers, suggestions of times to call, crazy photos, and funny one-liners! They all lifted my mood considerably!

The treatment seemed to be working midway through 2009 and she wrote:

I don’t know exactly what this means for the future…but I do know it’s excellent news today.

I got a phone call from my oncologist this afternoon, Dr. Cheng. He gave me my test results from Monday’s combined PET/CT Scan. I quote: “The scan did not find any active cancer in your body.”

I said, “Excuse me? What did you say?”

He repeated: “There is no evidence of active cancer anywhere in your body.”

First off, a big THANK YOU to the Creator for this amazing news. 7 months ago I was told there was no hope for this type of news given my situation. Yet here we are…and I am so grateful.

The good news was not to last, of course, and two months later there were new nodules on her lung (while the colon was the primary cancer, it had spread everywhere) The e-mails kept coming, titled "surgery update" or "chemo update."

In May of 2010, she held a virtual party to celebrate her surviving past the date they had told her she would not survive.

I’m having a virtual party this Friday. It’s called “Laura’s Sell-By Date Virtual Cocktail Party.” Here’s the concept: As of Friday I will have officially passed the median survival time (and the date I was told was a best case scenario back in November 2008). So I’d like to honor that (and you, Team Laura since you’ve been a big part of my will to live and desire to fight) by having everyone pause at 7:00 pm to raise a glass of whatever you want to acknowledge the date. I’d love it if you could take a photo of yourself celebrating and send it to me.

We all took pictures of ourselves toasting her and sent the photos to her. The party even made the Orange County Register.

In the middle of this, Dan's father died and a note went out to Team Laura, which responded with love and support for the famiy.

Thank you, Team Laura, for your amazing support. For enabling me to engage in a fascinating, joy-filled life because each of you brings such richness to our world.

In December last year she wrote:

We are enjoying my “extra” time off of chemo by being a big more active and have been to a few movies and even out to dinner with friends. We’re looking forward to Christmas and celebrating in a quiet way as our families are either far away or have children of their own with whom to celebrate the holiday. I am reminded powerfully of Easter every Christmas…that the joy of Christmas took Christ through a difficult path to the different, more painful joy of Easter. This year is no exception.

In March she learned that the chemo treatments had run their course and admitted that this was a scary time for her, but she and Dan took a trip to Hawaii before her next doctor's appointment.

There was some good news last month, but then came the report from Dan that she had gone into the hospital and then the sad news I received this morning.

Throughout this, Laura has acted with the grace and dignity that I always saw in her. I don't know how she was in person, but in her e-mails she remained as upbeat as possible. She defied the odds and lived more than a year longer than anyone thought she would.

She gave us wonderful lessons in how to live -- and how to die.

She will be sorely missed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crash Course

Poor Walt had to have a crash course in Oprah Winfrey tonight.

I was never a huge Oprah fan. I watched her show occasionally, when the topic sounded interesting, or the guest was someone I wanted to see. But the make-overs, the "how to look thinner," the big give-away shows and that sort of thing left me cold, so I was never swept into the Oprah world. I can't actually remember, before her "final season" the last time I watched her show.

But when she started OWN (the Operah Winfrey Network) and began broadcasting an hour-long behind the scenes show for each of the last umpty-ump shows, I watched the first one and I found that watching what went into making the show was fascinating. Maybe it's my theatre background (such as it is) that made me enjoy watching the people behind the scenes working together to make it all a success.

sheris.jpg  (23936 bytes)Her executive producer Sheri Salata became a star in her own right, conferring with Oprah on every detail of everything, handling all the problems with such a modified calmness.

I found it interesting that though there was a close working relationship among Oprah and all of her staff, there was a healthy wariness on the part of the staff too. When everything was going right it was champagne toasts and puppy dogs and hugs, but if something threatened to go wrong, you could see fear on the faces of the people who would bear the brunt of Oprah's ... displeasure? anger? whatever? The show never showed her getting angry with people, but sometimes you could sense that anger just under the surface -- most of the time not, but maybe I was raised to always be on my guard for "anger just under the surface" and developed both a nervousness when I sensed it and techniques for deflecting it before it could bubble over, which, of course, made me feel helpless watching it play out on TV.

Watching the "behind the scenes" show actually made me watch some of the last shows when they were broadcast because I wanted to see the stuff that didn't make it to the "how to" portion of the show.

Some of the "behind the scenes" shows were more interesting than others, but I recorded them faithfully on the DVR because I didn't want to miss the behind the scenes of the surprise 2-show extravaganza, the one her staff had talked her into letting them do for her, and about which she new virtually nothing.

I had, of course, watched those two shows before the "behind the scenes" show aired tonight and sobbed my way through all the emotional parts and fully intended to do so again.

The most emotional scene will always be when some 300 men of Morehouse College, all of whom had been able to graduate thanks to Oprah scholarships, marched through the arena and onto the stage, holding candles while Kristin Chenowith sang "For Good" fromWicked. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, and that included the entire Oprah staff and all those watching backstage. Rosie O'Donnell was sobbing during rehearsal. So was I.

I tried to explain to Walt, who was eating dinner and totally oblivious of even what show was on, what that emotional moment was going to be like it, and trying to explain that alone took a few tissues before I could get through it.

You may not like Oprah and, in truth, I can take her or leave her, but someone who has enough wealth to be able to change literally thousands of lives around the world is pretty special. I am all about changing lives by whatever way you personally can do it, whether it is something very small or whether it is something like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been able to do in their own special area of the world.

So Walt sat down to watch the rest of the show with me, but he was totally lost. "Who's Harpo?" he asked (Harpo, "Oprah" spelled backwards, is the name of Oprah's studio). Steadman Graham (Oprah's long-term partner) came on stage to huge applause, astonishment on Oprah's face and absolute delight on the face of her staff. "Who's that?" he asked.

But he eventually got all the players straightened out and even he was moved when the men of Morehouse began to parade out. I don't know how anyone could fail to be moved by that incredible sight.

I don't think Walt became a fan, but at least he was able to understand why I was so emotional watching that last "behind the scenes" show.