Sunday, September 26, 2010

Women of Achievement

Yeah, the title kinda cracks me up, but they really did give me such an award. Not just me, there were six of us. And there we are in the first photo (L to R: Barbara Purvis, Colette Lee, Debra Murphy, Colleen Walker, Yours Truly, and Betty "Bets" Folsom). The luncheon was very nice and my friends and family turned out in all their glory (two full tables of 'em!).

So rather than bore you with what I said and what was said about me (the others were fascinating of course...surely they have their own blogs?), I'll just show you some of the great photos my personal paparazzi (Mike Easley of Vital Excess) captured.

Here's me with my dad and step-mom (and she won the beautiful nautilus shell necklace in the raffle!).

 And here's me with my mom and Chris. We were almost ready for that photo. (Yes, right, my height comes from my dad. And a killer pair of Cole Haan Nike Air heels!)

And now that's me with Chris and Chris's mom Trudi (No idea where Chris's height comes from; I'm just glad he has it.)

Michelle Pierce (my awesome assistant) and Laureen Pittman (my unparalleled paralegal). (Oh, and they're not that tall; I bent down!)

Me on "the big screen" during the luncheon. Thankfully, from my vantage point on the stage, I really couldn't see this. Because I don't think seeing oneself on a screen that large could be a good thing. Unless you're Julia Roberts. Which I am decidedly not.

Here's me making faces. Oh, and giving my "acceptance" speech. There were laughs (intended) and tears (not at all intended!).

On stage with Collette and Debra (the banner is the YWCA logo--and part of what we were honored for).

And last, but certainly not least, here are the wonderful Women of Table 17 who nominated me. I'm proud to have such an esteemed group appreciate my work for Alternatives to Domestic Violence, The Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center, and, of course, The Inland Agency's "The Pink Ribbon Place."

So there you have it. A great day. And this also gives the much anticipated update on what my post-chemo hair looks like now. Yeah, I lightened it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Dog's Life

I've been busy writing...just not the blog (a week? Seriously? And I thought I'd be doing so much better). I am completely absorbed with writing The Dog Lived (and So Will I) memoir and it's pretty much all I'm thinking about. I believe I finally have the book proposal done. For those of you not familiar with the world of non-fiction book wanna-be publishing, let me explain.

When one writes fiction, as I had been doing (spectacularly unsuccessfully, but joyfully...usually) the book needs to be finished, polished, finished again, rewritten, polished more, finished and then rewritten again (or is that just me?) before one even thinks about bothering the first 50 or 60 agents of the eventual 200+ agents one will need to bother before maybe, possibly, one agent responds and says "okay, I'm taking pity on you. Thanks for the letter, go ahead and send me 10 more pages." Then, assuming the agent likes that and eventually likes the other 250+ pages and agrees to represent you, that whole process is followed again while the agent tries to find a publisher for the book. These numbers aren't really even exaggerated.

With non-fiction, I have now learned (having paid not much attention to it previously) the process is different. So while I've been diligently working away on the actual writing of the actual memoir itself,  I have also been spending enormous amounts of time researching and writing the book proposal. Basically that's a 50 page document that a) describes the memoir and the story being told, b) describes why I'm not only the perfect person to write it but quite possibly the only person, c) reviews competitive/ complementary books already out there and why this one would be better...or at least different, and d) provides a chapter by chapter summary. Oh, and then attachs a sample chapter. Boat. Loads. O' work.  And I'm thoroughly enjoying it. To the point of distraction. (Day job? What? Clients need their documents? Really? Now? Huh, what did you say honey? I missed that...I was writing.)

My writers groups (yeah, I have two of them) have declared the proposal ready to go. I believe the proposal is ready to go. I believe the intro and first chapter (as well as a few other chapters) are ready to go. Something in the back of my brain is telling me that the second chapter is not right. It's a great chapter...but it may belong in another book. Ugh. So I'm going to have to deal with that.

I've also been researching agents who might possibly be interested in such a book. In essence I research for an agent looking for memoir, pets, cancer/ health, and humor...and there are a lot of them. Then I broadened it by eliminating "pets" (even though this is as much a dog memoir as a breast cancer memoir). I'm about 3/4 of the way through researching a list of....411 agents. Wow. Who knew? And won't it be embarrassing if all 411 aren't interested? And you know I'll share that embarrassment right here with all of you.  My biggest obstacle, but one I think I've overcome, is that I don't want anyone for one moment to groan "oh jeez, another downer  cancer book." Because it's so not that.

I've also been reading stacks of books. I read a lot of breast cancer memoirs when I was going through treatment (favorites were "Cancer Vixen"  and "Five Lessons I Didn't Learn from Breast Cancer (and One  Big One I Did)" . So now I've moved on to Dog Memoirs. Okay, I admit...I love dogs but I never used to read dog books. Because the dogs usually die!! I can't handle that. But in the interest of "my art" I'm reading them. And yes, I read (and sobbed over) Marley & Me. I'm moving on to Fixing Freddie (about a badly behaved beagle!). Oh, and I also finished, and really enjoyed, An Eagle Named Freedom (man saves eagle; eagle helps man through his cancer journey!)

I'm enjoying the process and learning a lot. And much to my surprise writing the memoir is helping me realize a few things and process even more of the cancer odyssey Seamus and I both went on. Oh, and it's also making me realize just how lucky that dog is. (And me too. ;-)  )

I'll keep you posted on the progress. And when I get a few pics, I'll tell you about the Women of Achievement Luncheon too. It's been a busy week!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Busy weekends are obviously hard on Seamus. Way back when he had cancer and they told me he only had a year to live I did what any animal-loving recently-divorced probably over-compensating pet owner would do...I spoiled him rotten. So rotten that his mild separation anxiety turned into a full blown crazy case of separation anxiety. Hey, if mom leaves there's no food, no cuddles, no fun--that's worth howling about.

Consequently, if we leave the house, our neighbors insist we not leave Seamus behind (and oddly, he's the first one to alert them if indeed we've jumped ship--he howls, rattles the fence, barks, howls, pleads, screams, and then howls some more. Until it 15 minutes in...the neighbors begin to leave messages on our answering machine). So on Thursday night Chris had plans with "the boys" and I had plans with my "BC" girls--drinks with two friends at just about the stage of breast cancer treatment I was last year, only they both had mastectomies and are in the reconstructive stages (and also, way braver than me!). Seamus went to spend a few hours with his besties Will and Nellie (half great-dane, part boxer, all love). Which he loves, but it also exhausts him. Then the next day Chris and I both had to go into the office during the day, then I went to a funeral/celebration of life and Chris represented at the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center Comedy Night in the evening. That meant Seamus had to go to Ruff House (pet resort) overnight. And since we also were going behind the orange curtain (Newport Beach)  on Saturday for my niece's 6th birthday party, Seamus had to spend Saturday there too.

My two nieces love their Uncle Chris--he carries them around, gives piggy back rides, let's them ride on his feet (one on each foot/leg) and plays games endlessly.
(That's Chris and Elisha...the birthday girl).
But at the end of the weekend...who do you think is more exhausted?

It usually takes Seamus a day or two (or, um, a meal) before he'll start speaking to us again.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Do and Don't

Here's a link to a great article on what to do and not do when talking to someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Useful info that I completely agree with.  I gave my own ideas (and examples!) back in this post, but I was perhaps a tad more bitter. Who, moi?

Happy Friday everyone.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back in Blog

Two months? Seriously? I left you for nearly two months? I had no idea it had been that long since I blogged. I would have said 3, maybe 4 weeks. It's funny to think how crucial this blog had been to me just a year or so ago as I used it first to update friends and family and then to help me process the entire breast cancer odyssey. Now it seems like the odyssey was a lifetime ago. I think most of the side effects of chemo are gone--my hair looks reasonably normal (see new photo...which I'll explain in a moment), my feet are back to almost their pre-chemo size, I can no longer blame weight gain on chemo (as much as I'd like to) and most importantly, I don't very often think about "my" breast cancer or worry about recurrence. Apparently I even forgot about the blog.

So what have I been doing? Well, many exciting things. Our work carries on at The Pink Ribbon Place and in October we'll be doing a city-wide "Tuesdays for Ta-tas" event where each Tuesday night in the month of October different restaurants will donate twenty percent of the proceeds from diners who bring the flier with them. Thanks to Mi Tortilla, El Torito, Ciao Bella, and Phood on Main (all in Riverside) for participating. We've also got another Professionals Panel discussion coming up in November and the good and great Dr. Karam will once again make the trek from LA. I was also interviewed by Inland Empire magazine for their October "breast cancer awareness" issue and a photographer came to shoot pics of me and Seamus (not the photo you're looking at). I'll let you know if I make the article (I kind of think the writer might not have liked me much. Imagine! ;-).

I've also been hard at work on The Dog Lived memoir, which I'm really, really happy about. I spent 9 days in Ocean Isle Beach, NC with fellow writer and friend Lori Lacefield, doing nothing but writing, reading and relaxing (which of course means wine; maybe the occasional rum & coke). At this point, I've got a pretty solid (I think!) draft of the proposal done and about half the actual memoir.  [Blog readers who are also writers---what's the current thinking on memoir proposals? Is the manuscript supposed to be, like a novel, completed before the proposal is shopped to agents? Or, is it, like other non-fiction where the proposal is shopped before the manuscript is completed? Everything I found seems to be contradictory. So, at this point, I'm plodding ahead writing both. It was immensely helpful to get the chapter outlines and sample chapter written.]  The trip was such a writing success we've scheduled a sequel. Lori and I, together with another writing friend Jane (we all met at the Maui Writers Conference...which just cannot be a bad thing) will be heading to Paso Robles for week in November. I'm much enjoying being "writer girl" instead of "cancer girl" or even "lawyer girl."

But I am still "former cancer girl" and "lawyer girl"--and that's what the new photo is about. I was pleased (also, shocked) to be named a 2010 "Woman of Achievement" by the Riverside County YWCA. The luncheon honoring the six women selected will be September 16th at the Riverside Convention Center. It's an honor to be selected but it also requires things like being videotaped (which they then show on a giant screen in front of hundreds of people) and press releases...with photos. So I had to get a new "head shot" since none of my other professionally done head shots look like me (long blonde straight hair is but a memory now). My friend Mike Easley of Vital Excess Designs did this photo (and then appropriately photo-shopped a few years off me! ;-)  ). Oh, and yes, I lightened the color of my hair. My hair is healthy enough I can do that now.

In other big news--I put my hair in a ponytail for the first time in a year and a half. It was a puny ponytail and hair started slipping out after only an hour or so, but it was a ponytail. It was 108 out and I was just headed in to the office yesterday (a Saturday) for a few I thought I'd see if I could do a ponytail. I was giddy with childish enthusiasm over my childlike hairdo. I've moved from toddler hair to kindergarten hair.

I'll be back with another post soon.
No, really. I will.
(Leave a comment please--then I'll know you're still out there too!)

And by the way--here's the photo Mike liked. I think it's a bit too "dreamy/ serious" but it's an option.