I don’t think anyone warned me that at a certain age, everywhere I turned, people would be getting divorced or getting cancer.
Or maybe I was warned and I just didn’t listen. Or I listened politely, but immediately dismissed the warnings. Which might speak to a certain hubris and youthful arrogance, but in my own defense, didn’t most aging-related things people said feel not-quite-true? Were we supposed to believe that after forty years of being a certain circumference, suddenly one day, counter to all laws of physics we’d ever learned, every stray cookie or handful of walnuts would affix itself to our middles and never again leave?
Were we supposed to believe people with creaky hips whose face fat had migrated to their necks when they said such things had happened overnight, with no advance warning—like in a horror movie or a Star Trek episode? Even now these claims seems implausible. They seem highly suss.
Which is probably why, even if someone had told me, I would have doubted other predictions: Like that our couple-friends— whose couches I’ve crashed on and whose kids I’ve played with, and who I’ve only ever known as each others’ lobsters— would decide to uncouple and unfriend.
Or like that in the space of less than a month, I would hear that my mother-in-law, my brother, the best-man at my wedding and and another friend as well — have all been diagnosed with cancer.
On this last point I understand that, given my history, I don’t get to complain about being on the receiving end of this kind of news, but I’m realizing there was part of me that believed the people I love (and thus, *I*) would get a pass, whether because I assumed I’d already paid enough dues, or because I was holding on to the willful hope of my younger self.
But it seems there are no free passes, so here we each are, with whatever burdens have been assigned to us, reluctantly suiting up for the next leg of the race.
I’m not a fan of the course, but I like the people I’m running alongside. And I’m happy it’s not the kind of race where we have to kill each other like in The Hunger Games. Instead we can cheer each other on all the way to the end
I have started this post a few times now — at the beginning of May, the beginning of June, the beginning of July –only to be interrupted by other obligations. Now it is the beginning of August…
The post I began in early July was adapted and updated from the draft I began in June:
With the July beginning, summer is truly under way… school is out for my friends who teach, the Writers’ Strike continues for my friends who are in the guild, my social media feeds are full of travel reports, and my office-worker friends are enjoying summer Fridays.
Conversely, I am heading into what will be a busy and intense couple months of production that will not end until September, when schools will be resuming, and hopefully the strike will be ending.
I’ve just had a break from Mattel producing through May and most of June — during which I’ve tried to do some writing, some adulting, and some projects — to differing degrees of success.
The early May post talked about the then-upcoming 10-day-Vipassana course I was about to embark on. But talked about it in such a detailed, in-the-moment way that I didn’t get to the meat of it before I stopped writing, so I’ve moved the text into notes for a long essay I may or may never write.
Where does that leave us?
In the heat-dome heat of August — with memories of mid-April -mid-June fast fading. The daily details are already dots in the rearview, but for my own continuity, I’ll try to record the bigger items here — before they too have faded completely.
In late April, I worked on my first non-Mattel events producing gig since I veered from that path to begin writing. It was four days working with a video crew at the LA Convention Center, and I was reminded of both the pleasures and pitfalls of intense, long days making something in a short period of time. Small crises come and go hour by hour — the morning’s concerns are eclipsed by those at noon, and all of it’s a blur by the end of the day. You meet strangers on day one, and imagine being fast ongoing friends with them by day three, but everyone goes their separate ways in the end.
In May I went to my first 10-day-meditation course in 29 Palms — which is a place very close to Joshua Tree in the desert. It is a “silent retreat” meaning one doesn’t talk to your fellow student from Day 1 until the last part of day 10, and one is meant to meditate roughly 9 1/2 hours per day. There’s no books or notebooks or phones or computers — one is left with the company of one’s own thoughts and the daily mental tasks put before one. It was both challenging and rewarding, and I’d recommend it to almost anyone who thinks it might be interesting for them. One comes back from the experience wanting everyone she knows to have the experience too, but I’ve tried not to proselytize too much. (I am attempting to bully Paul into going “before the end of the year”. He’s chosen November, in hopes that something else will intervene—which it very well might.)
By the time I returned home, I had five weeks before production work began again, which seemed like plenty of time to do some adulting, see a list of friends, finish and submit a short story, finish and turn in a writing assignment.
In the end, I did part of all these things — I made it to half a dozen doctors’ appointments, but haven’t accomplished a last few scans and tests that came from those. The short story took a much larger chunk of time than allocated — it is only this last weekend that I felt I had a draft ready to send out. The writing assignment has a draft but it’s still not ready to send out and it hangs over every weekend it’s hanging over me at this moment). I connected with some friends but not others.
hosted a new friend from Brazil for three days,
helped one housemate move out and another move in
did some solidarity picketing with the striking writers
did some yoga
gave away many items on “buy nothing”
created some video “content”
built a shelf for my office closet
saw some friends
saw some movies
enjoyed some beautiful weather.
At the end of June, hiatus ended before I was ready, and now I’m hip-deep in it at Mattel, and letting that be an excuse to put my life into minimum-maintenance mode. Opening only the mail that it looks dangerous not to, keeping up weekly with family but pushing most social invitations, healthy diet plans and writing goals into September.
(This year I decided to do two versions of a year-end newsletter, the first was a “professional” one that I finished and sent at the end of November, (you know, like a professional). And for family and friends, this version from me and Paul that —no surprise—is a couple days late, a little messier, with a dollop of over-sharing! 😉)
SPRING of 2022 came outta the gate bucking and kicking. First up, a bunch of medical stuff associated with my end-of-2021 colon cancer diagnosis. We got a surgery on the books on the surgeon’s only free slot—a day in early April that coincided with our wedding anniversary. Meanwhile, our house entered its 4th month of being wrapped in plastic as our landlord waited on a permit to do some repairs, one of our cars was stolen, and then three weeks later the other was hit while parked.
But… we got to drive a fancy insurance-paid rental to the Sedona Festival, where we had so much fun and Paul’s film (as a producer) Americanish won Best Comedy Feature. SFF takes great care of its filmmakers, with food, lodging and parties. We met beautiful folks that we’ll keeping in touch with as well caught up with old friends who drove from the Phoenix area to see us!
In April, surgery went well with no adjuvant treatments needed! Paul heroically withstood my resentful looks as he jabbed me with needles full of blood thinners for the first month of recovery, and my mom, Kathleen, hosted me at her apartment for two weeks feeding me from my “no fiber” list of approved foods and giving me a view from windows not covered in plastic!
(Her heroism is continuous, as soon after, we received news that her brother, my Uncle Bruce, had been injured in a car accident. She has been splitting her time between Indiana and Texas for much of the year.)
SUMMER adventures included Paul deciding to take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. Extrovert that he is, he invited three friends to attend the free trial class with him. It’s all fun and games until one of your friends has a heart attack right after class!😬 The attack was minor and the friend is fine. Paul is continuing his BJJ journey… the friend decided it wasn’t for him.
I struggled with what in my theater days we called “post show depression”— when you finish an all-consuming project and then realize you still have to deal with emails, housekeeping, bills and figuring out what to do with the rest of your life. Lacking focus for my own writing projects, I was happy when things picked up employment wise—I began gigs writing for a digital comic and producing some events at Mattel.
Paul continued to assist and consult individual writers and directors in addition to work on his own projects. It’s the nature of the entertainment business for things to alternate from extremely promising to whelp that’s over! so often that one learns to just ride the bronco, but he did he let himself get excited about a certain writing job that felt very close, and so was extra disappointed when it didn’t work out.
We had a lovely weekend break at the beach, celebrating the 80th birthday of Paul’s mom, Noi and his brother’s family.
By FALL the wild horse of 2022 seemed finally to tire. We woke one morning to the sound of workers pulling the plastic away from our bedroom windows. Paul got good news that a large studio is acquiring Americanish for distribution. (A lot of documents and “deliverables” makes this a long process, but we’re hopeful it will land at a streaming channel near you sometime soon!)
During the Halloween season it was fun to see our previous year’s episode of Creepshow highlighted in the show’s advertising, and built into the the hand of the six-foot tall animatronic “Creep” sold at party stores. (Pics below!)
WINTER brought very special and fun times traveling and visiting friends in Texas, Turkey and The Netherlands, and we were fortunate to have family nearby during the holidays, though we missed having Mom.
THROUGHOUT THE YEAR WE REALLY ENJOYED old friends visiting from Florida, Georgia, Texas, Brazil and Ireland, and sharing space with housemates who, in turn, shared their knowledge and interests, from tarot card reading to podcast producing! We loved going back to movie theaters, and taking yoga classes in a studio again.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. We’re ending 2022 in good health and good spirits, and a lot of gratitude for feeling hope and possibility as we look to the future.
ON DECK IN 2023 I’ve recently committed to posting short video content for 300 days and now I have to follow through. I have no idea what this project will morph into or how long it will last, but right now, it’s mostly “slice of life” stuff, so if you miss us and want random glimpses into our daily lives, you can check in on TikTok or Instagram).
Paul has started us on a jogging regimen called Couch to 5K, he’s also giving up between-meal snacking for the first quarter of 2023. He’ll continue to be part of two special-interest podcasts: Gamebrain, for hard-core board-gamers, and Star Trek Discovery Pod for Star Trek aficionados. He’s written a really cute horror short to direct in 2023.
OUR WARMEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR The funnest, warm-fuzziest moments of the year were the ones where we got to connect with friends old and new. We hope this year brings you everything you wish for most and a little more
With a lot of love and warm wishes,
B & Paul
P.S. TOO MANY PICS (that I can’t figure out how to resize):
Welp, I’ve let a couple months go by without posting, and now enough has happened that it’s difficult to pick any one thing to talk about, so I guess I’ll just ramble and see what comes out.
Right now, Paul and I are babysitting for our three and a half year old nephew. It’s a fun age to spend time with kids because they tend to be very loving and enthusiastic about the familiar adults in their lives. But it’s also an age where they demand lot of attention. Today’s original plan was to arrive around 6pm, and our assumption was that we’d eat and play and nephew would stay up an extra hour or so (that was a big deal when I was a kid!), and be asleep around 8:30ish. My original plan had been to work on one of my current gigs —story for a digital comic— for a couple hours in the afternoon, and then a couple more after nephew went to bed.
It turned out we actually needed to come earlier —around 3pm. When we got there, my brother-in-law informed us, that because it was special baby-sitter night, there were no rules! Our nephew had permission to watch TV or play as late as he wanted, etc… and they had let him have an extra long nap in preparation.
I’m sure you see where this is going…
At 3pm, our nephew was literally shrieking in excitement at our arrival. He couldn’t wait to show us his new plastic black widow spider.
Eight hours later, we’ve played about a hundred games that involve hiding the spider, going for walks with the spider, building a cushion cave for the spider, playing “the floor is lava” with the spider. My nephew informed me at one point that the spider has “had a very good day.” It’s going on 11pm now, and I can report that while the spider’s battery seems to be depleting, my nephew’s energy is unflagging. Right now, he and Paul and the spider are watching You-tube videos set to repetitive carnival-like music and I’m stealing some laptop time to write this and send grateful thoughts and psychic reinforcement to all parents, teachers and childcare providers in the world… (more tomorrow).
Fewer people are familiar with Lynch Syndrome, which causes a predisposition to a number of cancers — primarily in the abdominal region — and is comprised of mutations to a handful of genes that mostly start with or contain the letter “M”, like MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, as well as PMS2 and EPCAM. These genes are involved in a process called mismatch repair. According to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, they “act like spellcheckers to find and correct the “typos” made in the gene copying process.” When the typos don’t get fixed, the mistakes can replicate and accumulate more and over time this can cause cancer.
Growing up, my father was diagnosed with cancer several times, and we just assumed he was very unlucky. But then, in 2003, I was diagnosed with colon cancer at an unexpectedly early age. After a surgery removing half of my colon, the doctors sent my tumor to a genetics lab where they discovered a MSH2 mutation. Then they tested my father’s blood, and found the same mutation. That’s when we learned we both had “hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC),” also known as Lynch Syndrome. Depending on which genes are affected, people with Lynch Syndrome have a higher risk than the general population of getting certain cancers:
Lynch syndrome (MSH2)
Up to 1.7%
These are statistics for MSH2, which pertains to me. I took it from this more complete chart by the Jackson Laboratory.
After my first diagnosis, I made lifestyle changes to improve the risk factors that I could control. I stopped drinking alcohol, eliminated or cut down on meat and sugar while increasing my vegetable intake, re-committed to yoga and meditated to keep my cortisol levels down. Maintaining this lifestyle while returning to grad school wasn’t always easy, especially in Los Angeles, where socializing and networking is “part of the job.” When I graduated from Screenwriting school in 2011, I got an offer to be a writers PA on a television show where I’d been interning—a dream scenario, except the job didn’t have health insurance, and pre-ACA, there was no individual coverage for someone with my history. It was hard to pass up that job, and I’ve often wondered how different my career might be now if I had been able to take it…
But I made the practical choice, and, as it happened, having health insurance soon came in handy. In 2012 I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and my uterus was removed.
Then, after was nine fairly peaceful years, last October (2021), a scan revealed colon cancer. Again. It felt kind of like getting struck by lightening twice. What are the chances? Turns out, with Lynch Syndrome, they’re pretty high.
Estimates say that about a million people in the United States have Lynch, but that 95% of them don’t know their status. If you have questions about Lynch Syndrome, you can check out the websites of advocacy groups like Lynch Syndrome International, AliveAndKickn.org and FORCE. They are a good source of information as well as encouragement. Many people with Lynch live long and full lives!
(This is a kind of nuts-and-bolts rundown. If you’d like to read a longer essay with more personal and philosophical thoughts, you can check out something I wrote for The Colorado Review awhile back called “Luck, Statistics, Magic.”)