Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The video in my last post just received an Award of Merit from the City of Hope ACE Project. I'm thrilled! It's up on YouTube so everyone can access it.

I wish Denise Echelard was still here so that I could see her face as she watched the final edit. I do think that somewhere, somehow she knows what is happening and is getting a big kick out of it.

Denise died a year ago this month. But here is what you should know: she quit her cancer treatment in January of 2009 and her doc told her she would be dead by March 2009. She received palliative care (no treatment) and had a pretty damn good life until around late September 2009.

That is the power of palliative care--and Denise. She was a force to be reckoned with: strong and funny and open and intense.

Denise, where ever you are: thank you so much.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blast From the Past

It seemed only right that I received this completely unanticipated email message in September which is the beginning of the school year.

It was a message from my 6th grade teacher Bob Edmiston! Being in his class was life-changing for me. How great was he?

I dedicated my first book to him.

What was so great about him?

He thought out-of-the-box and so taught us 12 year olds to think that way too. He pretty much tossed out the science textbooks because really, how excited can you get about science by reading? Science is about doing!

So he took a storage room and transformed it into a dark room. He taught us about F-stops and shutter speed and exposure. We developed our own film. We printed our own photos. I came to love the smell of developer. Sure there was the time we were jumping off the counters to see how far we could go in the dark. But no one got hurt. It just got noisy.

We learned about microscopy and climatology and botany. We learned how to shoot a Super 8 movie. I learned so much and was so proud of my work that I still have my Botany, Microscopy and Photography final projects. (I swear I am not a hoarder.)

He also taught us about culture. He took us to a Japanese restaurant and we ate raw fish! (Please keep in mind that this was in the sixties.) We worked with clay but we didn't make just little coil pots. We made raku pottery.

The most valuable gift he gave to me was encouraging me to write. In fact the subject line of his email was "The girl who liked to write really long stories." And we had all kinds of assignments: mystery stories, historical stories, stories based on TV shows. Writing was important to me because I felt that there was little else that I could do really well.

A couple other kids and I were working on a parody of "Get Smart" and our main character was called "Soxsmell Dumb." Get it? Very sixth grade, I know.

I so appreciate teachers because they can, whether they know it or not, determine the course our lives, for the better or for the worse. If you are teacher, please take your job seriously. I don't mean be serious, because God knows Mr. E was one of the funniest people I've ever known. Just know that who you are and the way you teach matters.

Mr. Edmiston wrote me a recommendation to get into UC Berkeley and then he sent me what he said was a copy, but was (I think) a joke. It's hilarious. I still have it somewhere and I'll post it as soon as I find it.

And I'll ask him if I can share about his life which was amazing to me since I thought all the excitement pretty much left his universe when I went on to Junior High.

Maybe I need a Permission Slip.