Monday, March 28, 2005


Big Bro is here to build the ramp for Mom, and Nurse Sis and she picked out her very own wheelchair today. Very exciting. Things are moving along. It's starting to drizzle, so Mom and I are secretly hoping Big Bro will have to break from constructing and hang out with us.

Mom is getting ready to write the afterward for the book. The publisher is keen on including her in the process and has big plans for her and publicity next February when the book comes out.

We couldn't be more thrilled about the book deal. Really couldn't ask for more. The editor is totally behind the project, and is connected at DC Comics. So Charlie is lining up amazing comic talent for quotes, and has great ideas about who is going to write the foreward.

They're rushing the book into production, because February is actually a very short amount of time to have a book like this ready. And they're going to make it beautiful; full color pages, a special size to accomodate the drawings the way they are, and a cloth hardcover. Amazing.

Apparently many of the secretaries at the publishing company have read it and cried.

We are very excited here. Of course, if you want more details, keep checking Big Bro's site.

It's a little odd to think about being outed. My brother even put his name on the website. Yikes! This is really out there now for the world to see, and it certainly isn't the most flattering portrait of me. Or Nurse Sis or Mom for that matter. And as a friend of mine at UCLA pointed out, it's illogical that the protagonist isn't either Mom or me considering I live/d with her.

Of course, my friend also worried that it peddled false hope to the cancer community. But the reality is that more and more people are living longer with cancer, and the medical community isn't prepared to deal with people who actually survive.

Moms Cancer has touched many people already, and will continue to be a help. And it's quite a family scrapbook...that anyone will be able to walk into any bookstore and buy it is mindboggling.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ch Ch Ch Changes

I'm not allowed to say anything yet. But I think I can safely hint, if you have anybody you want to have read Moms Cancer on the web, have them do it tomorrow morning before it disappears forever.

An anonymous commenter tonight brought to my attention that if Big Bro wins an Eisner this year, he'll be the first webcomic winner ever... Effing rad!!!! An Eisner AND a spot in Eisner trivia!!! I'm geeking out!!!!

By the way Big Bro, you know if you're drinking with Alex Ross in any windy cities, I'm stowing away in your suitcase.

Happy Anniversary

It's the two year anniversary since Mom's discovery of cancer. In a way, it feels like it's been much much longer. We definitely need a cake or something. Of course, Nurse Sis is on Atkins, so that won't work...

We had a family meeting last night about needing more help around the house. Nurse Sis and I are close to nervous breakdowns. I think some progress is going to be made.

The hardest thing about trying to maintain the household and give Mom a feeling of independence has been not earning a paycheck. It really puts your self-esteem in the toilet as an adult. And the money stress on top of everything else is just unfair. We need to get Mom well enough that she doesn't take a turn for the worse everytime Nurse Sis or I try to take a job outside the house.

Monday, March 21, 2005

More Human Than Human

Okay, feeling a little better. The antibiotics have kicked in, though I'm still not great.

Turned in my script today to me section professor...still no third act! I worked on it while I was sick. I cut 20 pages and redid the first act, so the script ended up at page 78. Last week I was at 80! Aarrrrgh.

But I think it's better. Perhaps I should reserve judgement until after the delirium subsides.

I'm disappointed I didn't get it done. Hopefully, I'll still pass the class. The worst part is not getting my professor's feedback, because she's very insightful.

The full script is due next Wednesday for the UCLA contest. Cross your fingers for me that my brain fuzzies clear in time.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Walking Pneumonia

That's the official word from the nice Persian doctor at our neighborhood clinic. So for St. Paddy's Day, I'm green.

Eisner Awards

Soooo excited right now, I'm vibrating. A friend in the comics industry (what, you didn't know I was a humongous fanboy?) emailed me information to pass on to big bro. Seems the Eisner Awards may be opening up a Web Comic category this year, if the submissions are adequate.

Can you imagine if Moms Cancer won an Eisner? I could faint right now. I mean, not only would it be a dream come true for big bro (and me by vicarious living) but it would bring so much deserved attention to the comic. And how cool to go back to Comicon as a nominee!

It's great that the comic is going to be serialized in a San Diego paper and that so many people view it online, but the fam would really love to see it published by someone big enough to get it out there. Would loooove to see a copy of it in every doctor's office.

I have half a mind to post the entrant lady's email here and ask you all to tell her why it's a worthy entry, but I'm a little worried a deluge might backfire. I'll wait until big bro tells me what to do.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Retail Therapy

I feel this strange compulsion to entertain you. Maybe because I'm punchy, and I know tomorrow is my highest traffic day.

Here's a short story memoir I wrote. Don't steal it; it's been published.

BTW, I'm just figuring out how blogging works. If you leave me a comment, I'll write you back! How's that for a lightbulb moment! Takes a fever to figure out internet civility. My apologies.


It had been three and a half weeks since my grandmother’s death, but I still hadn’t cried. I felt oddly hollow about the matter.

At her memorial I had giggled at the preposterous arrogance of my hippie father, forcefully guiding us all through his required “process.” I got through the eternal moment of silence for grandma by chugging red wine with a long-lost cousin hiding in the farthest outreaches of my grandmother’s living room. She had been the black sheep of the family and had caused many problems. I identified strongly with her and could think of no one I would rather be with. We were as far as we could be from where grandma had recently expired. She had died painfully in a hospital bed stationed in her own home, the angels of hospice fluttering around her while her son and step-daughter kept vigil. None of her six grandchildren were present.

I avoided sharing memories of her with this roomful of strangers, not out of petulance as much as a sudden inability to remember anything but the moments my grandfather had called her a stupid cow. “Jane…” his voice would whine in that chilling tone only dry drunks can achieve, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Of course my brilliant and competitive step-cousin stepped forward into the circle of strangers, delivering a powerful speech about how strange the nature of memories are, and that in moments like this we recall snippets. He shared beautiful snippets that made the room misty eyed, as I sat in confusion and jealousy. He wins again. He had always been the apple of my grandparent’s eyes.

Afterwards, I shoveled food and smiled through a full mouth at forgotten strangers who examined and pet me. “You don’t remember me, but when you were six…”
I heard stories about my grandmother that she shared with her caretakers in the last years of her life. It seemed she had a certain story for each one, and that though her memory supposedly faltered she was careful to never tell the same story to more than one person. It was as though everyone had known a different woman. I wished I had known her as the caretakers had, with her ribald gossip and stories about ex-lovers and travel. She had never had an orgasm, but had never turned away her husband from her bed. While sorting through her things, my sister found an unopened “back massager” from the 1940s. If only grandma had opened it.

After making it through the memorial, there were still estate matters to be handled. The grandchildren played a type of game devised by my aunt, where one by one we selected the leftover items we had most cherished in grandmother’s house. Her children had been instructed on the value of the hidden antiques, while my brother and sister and I consistently chose silver-plated candlesticks and poorly repaired porcelain plates broken in an explosion in the 1950s. The experience left me drained and sad. I hate it when people think I am unaware of being taken advantage of. Better a coward than a fool.

Days of sorting followed. She had Bridge cards and old photos hidden in every drawer. Having lived in the house her first husband built for 65 years, there was an enormous amount of clutter to sort through. Nothing could just be tossed, because there were clues about her personality everywhere. I hunted for old love letters, newspaper clippings, diaries…anything that would make feel a connection to her again.

We finally left my father alone in my grandmother’s house. We could help no more in his process, and were completely overwhelmed by the sisyphus task of wrapping up one woman’s life. I felt burdened with the responsibility of living up to her, and the memory of the deceased relatives she had been the keeper of. Not only had I inherited her penchant for clutter and disorganization, but also her figure, ring size, sloppy handwriting, love of romantic poets, plays, and Shakespeare. I arrived home with a small Uhaul full of memories and an overwhelming desire to disappear. Not only did I no longer know who she was, but I wasn’t so sure who I was either. Does free will exist, or are our tastes and choices determined by our genes? And why hadn’t I visited the woman more often? She was only an eight-hour car ride away. What was so damn important about my life that I couldn’t make more of an appearance in hers?

My wise older sister, who had freely cried at all the appropriate moments over the last three weeks, told me not to worry. Years of nursing working in critical care had educated her to the many facets of human grieving. “You’ll cry when you least expect it. You’ll hear a song on the radio, and think of her and it will just happen.” It made sense, but there was still a seed of doubt in my heart. I was sure I was inhuman, wrong, perhaps even borderline anti-social. My grandmother would never meet the man I marry or see her great-grandchildren. She would never know that I turned out okay or see any concrete successes in my life. Yet the knowledge of this was not enough to move me. What more does it take to shake a human loose from shock?

Shopping in a Dollar Tree store provides me with an odd amount of solace; retail therapy at its most affordable. One night after looking through old photo albums I retreated again to the fluorescent lights and 70’s music of my local branch. I pushed a cart through the densely packed aisles, knowing that even if I filled it, I couldn’t spend more than the thirty dollars of cash in my pocket. I passed a display of PEZ dispensers shaped like poodles and picked one up. “Perfect for Grandma.” I thought of the three black poodles she had owned successively, naming each Pierre as a replacement for the pet who had died. Denial of death also ran in my genes. Then I remembered that Grandma wouldn’t be there to open the present. Her home had already been sold to strangers. There wasn’t even anywhere left to send a package that couldn’t be opened.

I set the toy down as if it had burned me. Something started to bubble up inside me, but I pushed it back. I forced the shopping cart faster down the aisle, pausing at the greeting cards. Almost Easter time, I should pick up a card for...My heart skipped a beat. I realized there was nothing here that I could buy for grandma, ever again. There was no way to show her I thought about her. She was gone. Our relationship was over.

Stunned, I stared at the aisles full of gifts that could not be given. The brightness in the store began to overwhelm me. Everything was so shiny. I noticed the music playing over the speakers, too loudly to escape, “The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, the little boy blue and the man on the moon. When you coming home? Son, I don’t know when…” I knew the rest of the words to this song. It was about a father who never made time for his son until it was too late to establish a relationship. The son had built his own family, and through learned behavior had no time for his father. “But we’ll get together then, son. You know we’ll have a good time then.”

There would be no more sharing of gifts and store-bought cards. Our relationship would never deepen beyond an exchange of holiday pleasantries. I thought of all the things I would never learn from my grandma, and all the things that would never be said. And in the middle of a consumer discount chain, I began to cry.

Pissed off

I'm feeling like George Carlin right now. Short and mad and past my prime. I don't get how I can possibly still be this sick. It's not even enjoyable. I cough through all the movies I watch, I can't taste anything, and my brain is mush. I'm starting to get really punchy. And it wasn't watching all five Rocky movies last week. It's really hard to be the caregiver and then be sick and have to take care of yourself. I'd say more, but I'm sure I'd offend my flatmates.

It's my nieces' seventeenth birthday today, which is unreal. How dare they turn the age I pretend to be! I'm really not getting this aging thing at all. I don't comprehend time (don't have that part of my brain) so the idea of time passing is really hard to grasp. And I already freak people out because everyone literally thinks I'm an undergraduate. I hear it all the time. You should see the look on bouncers' faces when they card me. Shaking their heads like they can't believe it. The trick to eternal youth is, if you're really immature and then get a little brain damage and sincerely think you're twenty, people believe you are.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Mea Culpe

Okay, sorry for not posting for so long...I'm sick as a dog (no offense, Hero). I have this nasty chest cold/flu thing going on. While the symptoms change daily, I've been feeling awful since last Wednesday.

Very bad timing, as I'm supposed to be turning in a script tomorrow to a very influential professor. Guess she can just fleck the phlegm off the pages. Procrastination doesn't work? Wish someone had told me that.

Mom is with the physical therapist right now, and we have housecleaners working on the kitchen. The amount of animal hair they're finding is truly disturbing. Guess I probably shed a little, too. We've all been stressed and emotional, but there is progress happening. Just a little overwhelming how many categories we need progress in. Alarming, really.

It will happen...just breathe......okay, don't breath that deep......

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Cancer Free, Balls to Bones

Okay, so Mom's scan was all clear. Which means no new tumors; her paralysis is a result of the cyberknife surgery she had two years ago. The good news is there's a possibility the paralysis would go away if her brain swelling subsides on medication. In the meantime, Nurse Sis and I are busy getting a wheelchair and ramp ready in chez Hollywood.

Thanks for all your well-wishes. Mom is in really good spirits now. She's decided if this is going to be her new life, she's going to make the best of it. We're putting in a lot of calls to social workers and house cleaners to see if Nurse Sis and I can get some help (we were barely managing before, so you can imagine now).

Hero was thrilled to see Mom again. He is so cute. I wish I could post a video clip for you all to see our famous little teddy bear.

I got some bad news today that one of my screenplays didn't make the first cut in a competition. I'm trying not to feel down; I've had some really high praise from my UCLA instructors lately, and the head of my program has been talking me up to the faculty because of a short story I read in class on Valentine's Day (here's the anecdote I promised you three weeks ago).

Basically, Hal told us to freewrite in class for twenty minutes fixating on three body parts from the point of view of someone still in infatuation. After we'd written that, he told us to describe the same three body parts as if this person had let you down just like everybody else.

I was in the back cackling with some of my writers group friends. The three body parts I had chosen to write about were (If you're a niece of mine, stop reading now) ...


a cock and shaved balls. So of course, two guys volunteered to read in class and had written fairly tame, stereotypical stories. "At first I was in love with her eyes and she was pretty, but now I'm sick of her and she's got fat knees and should lose five pounds. Blah blah blah." As my classmate described, they looked lame and probably will never get a date in the class now. Then Hal asked to hear a woman's point of view. When no one stepped up, he looked right at me and told me to get down there.

Hal knows my work from the summer class I had with him, and has seen me cry when I read my work. He knows I'm brutally honest. I've never read any work in the Professional Program in Screenwriting and never would have. But he insisted.

So I went in front of a hundred people, fastened on my microphone, sat next to Hal Ackerman, a guy who can make or break your industry career and read:

"It was the biggest uncircumcised cock I'd ever seen..."

The story continues from there. Needless to say, half the class was cheering and the other half was horrified. Hal was thrilled. It actually is a really great short story, and it's not as salacious as it seems. The point is how great it is at first to be dating this drop dead gorgeous guy, but how by the end it makes me feel like less of a woman because he's so much prettier than me.

I've become a bit of a rock star in the class. One of my classmates said I'd made the two hour commute to class all year worth it in one night. A sixtyish man in my writers class on Tuesday night told me I terrify him. Perfect.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Waiting Game

Still waiting for test results for Mom. At this point, the best thing we're hoping for is temporary paralysis caused by swelling, which would hopefully go away over time with steroids.

I know she's scared spitless. It seems unfair, because we were aware that paralysis was a possible side effect of the radio cyberknife sugery, but we're so far past when we were told side effects could occur that we all thought Mom was in the clear.

The irony is that Mom has never been afraid of dying, but she's terrified of being dependent on people. She actually quit smoking before we knew she had lung cancer. Her first doctor misdiagnosed her brain tumor symptoms as TIA, and warned her if she continued smoking she would have a stroke and end up in a wheelchair the rest of her life. She didn't even smoke another cigarette after that appointment; she quit cold turkey. She's always thought it's unfair people assumed she quit because of lung cancer.

Guess that's just another fun fact of life: people seem to get whatever they're afraid of. My paternal Grandmother was always terrified of having a stroke because she'd seen her own mother have one; of course in her last few months she had one. And although many of you reading about my family are desperately wishing a loved one with cancer won't die, that's not what Mom wanted. She wanted to live only on her terms, with all her faculties and capabilities intact for her age.

Sometimes I think about my good friend (he was in the comic strip referring us to the brain doctor at impressive university) and marvel that we've maintained our friendship after all we've been through. His mother died thirteen months ago, and mine is still alive but often not very happy about the fact. We talk often, and though he insists it's okay, I feel guilty complaining to him about Mom's constant pain or my caregiving responsibilities eating away my life. He's the only one other than Mom and Nurse Sis who understands how hard Nurse Sis and I have worked and sacrificed to try to give Mom a happy, fruitful time after remission, and how hard it's been to fail.

She's always wanted to publish a book and go to Europe, and though I've tried to push for these things Mom hasn't been well enough, and probably never will be. She's had another year on this planet to watch Oprah and blog and move back to LA, but I don't know if these things are enough for her to be happy with her bonus time. Big Sis and I have been too exhausted to date, so it's not like Mom got to see us get married or have a baby, even though technically there was time for it and I supposed we could have grabbed up some unfortunate males and brought them into our messy lives.

I wonder sometimes if the situation had been reversed and my Mom had died, if I would be a strong enough person to still be a part of my friend's life and watch him spend time with his Mom. He's told me he would give up ten years of his life to have one more day with his best friend. And of course his Mom was a saint who did a lot of good in the community and never smoked or did anything healthwise to "deserve" cancer.

Cancer is so complicated. It tests your spirituality, your morality, your friendships, your family. Ultimately, I've come to believe that it's madness to try to impose any meaning on who lives or dies, and whether who lived deserves it or is even cognizant or healthy enough to be happy they're alive. It's all relative. I guess all that matters is I've been grateful for the time.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I'm Back

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. It's been a tough, tough week. Mom and Nurse Sis weren't thrilled about the eavesdropping exercise, which surprised me because I thought it was hysterical.

And then, you may notice the post after that was deleted completely. I was nowhere near Highland and Hollywood ever. Suffice it to say, I hurt a friend's feelings by posting an extremely innocuous and short mention of events, mostly based on my feelings, and certainly revealing nothing not already in general knowledge in the public. I even waited until Monday after the telecast thinking that would be fine. I got a hysterical phone call Wednesday accusing me of all sorts of purposeful meanness and a demand to delete the entry, which I did gladly. However, I'm still shell-shocked. I mean, this is a tiny diary blog where I talk about what happens in my life. I'm not a reporter, it's not seen by millions of fact, I am a frequent contibutor to the huge website Aint it Cool, and if I'd wanted to fuck over my friend, believe me I could have.

It was even stranger to me, because I was a member of the SAG nominating committee this past season and attended about three dozen events with Q & As and tight security, and was certainly never expected to maintain some clandestine oath.

It's just all part of the strangeness going on in our country where we're supposed to ignore everything going on around us. God forbid anybody mention that the current climate is paralleling the witch hunt of the 1950s. Don't talk about what you think, see, or do, or someone is going to turn you in.

Did you read about the poor kid who wrote a fictional zombie piece and was arrested for terrorist threats?

Anyway, I haven't been posting because there is nothing I'm allowed to say.