Thursday, April 07, 2016

ESPN and Not Giving Up



I'm in the midst of a week of mostly crappy early spring weather. I'm making good use of it. My taxes are done. The basement is organized (something I've been meaning to do for a year). This morning I stood out in the rain and prepared a bed of mushroom spawn and woodchips, my first attempt at growing edible fungi, something I've been wanting to do for decades. And now I'm catching up on many months of loose ends on the computer.

In the process, just now I came across a link to this video broadcasted on ESPN this past winter, one of several which included clips from my video blog.

I just watched it twice, and burst into tears both times.

It occurred to me that I haven't shared it on this blog, that I've all but abandoned this blog, and my video diary too. There are reasons for this which go beyond shifting priorities and busy schedules, as much as I'd like to think otherwise. I won't try to explain it all now, but I will say that the reality of cancer is not as Hollywood as it appears in the media. It's not all drama, triumph and tragedy, not simply a battle you either win or lose. For many of us, it's more like a rocky road that leaves you battered and scarred and permanently altered in ways that are difficult to describe, or to believe aren't your own fault because you're not thinking positive, not trying hard enough.

And then you keep stumbling over more rocks.

To say the least, it can get hard to keep putting attention on it, let alone drawing attention to it, editing video and writing about it in a public way.

I would like to leave cancer behind. But it's not that simple.

Don't get me wrong, my life is good. I'm basically healthy. There's laughter, and love, deepening friendships and new friendships, challenge and excitement. But there's also the specter of death, the feeling of living a slightly diminished life, thanks to daily pills that oh-so-subtly suppress my life force, while hopefully also suppressing recurrence of disease. It's a difficult trade, but a necessary one.

On the other hand, we all have challenges.

In the famous speech that launched the foundation in his name and the ESPN video series that prompted this post, Jimmy Valvano said "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

Of course not.

My road may be rocky, but I still hope it's long.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Spring Cleaning

The last of my out-dated footage, from last summer. More of my videos here.

I love spring cleaning. There is nothing more hopeful than clearing the decks, sweeping out the clutter, knocking items off the "To Do" list. Jim and I have a weekly practice now. We made a list of all the things we've been intending to take care of——repairs around the house, financial reckonings, projects of all stripes. Every Monday evening we sit together and look at the list. We add and subtract, then pick a few of the most pressing items to tackle in the coming week, addressing the hows and whens and who-does-whats.

This weekend we'll deep-clean one room in the house together. We'll order wood for next winter. We'll wash and trim our dog's overgrown fur.

I'm becoming increasingly judicious about new projects.

For instance, I'm resisting the urge to replace the oft-used staple foods in our pantry, opting instead to make creative use of all those items I continually push to the back of the shelf.

Ultimately, the goal is to get to a point where there is no backlog, where there's room to take on new, bigger, more interesting and important challenges, without the energy-drain of worry over all the fraying loose-ends in the background.

I'm also thinking a lot about the world outside my little bubble——like climate change and how we privileged few humans are running roughshod over the earth, its creatures, and more vulnerable people, all the exploitation of land and people that support our "American way of life." I want to be done feeling bad about myself because I feel so powerless to affect change. And so, as I work, I am also educating myself, thinking about how to engage politically, something I've avoided until now.

Life is an adventure. And it's short. Will you join me in getting your chores done so that we can take on the bigger challenges together?

Here's a great talk by Naomi Klein that has gotten me going on this path. If you watch it, I'd love to know what you think.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Onward Ho

This is the second-to-most-recent video. Read below for a link to the most recent. More of my videos here.

Thanks for your encouraging comments on my last post as I undertook this new venture teaching at a new college. It is going well, though still taking up a lot of space in my mind as I plan for each day of teaching. I was offered two more classes for the spring semester and decided, rather than implode from all the work, or do the work shoddily, or abandon my studio clients and writing projects entirely, I would decline one of the two. It feels like the right choice. But then again, I think I would feel a certain amount of regret whatever I decided.

For those of you following along on Facebook, I should tell you my dear Millie is recovering nicely from the bite wounds she sustained a couple of weeks ago. It was a devastating event for all of us, but thankfully time heals all wounds, and traumas, at least if you're gentle with yourself along the way.

Here's a photo from today of Millie dressed for success - and by success here I mean utilizing a cotton barrier to prevent her from licking the stitches right out of the wounds.

Here's a link to my latest recipe for Reimagine magazine. I've been doing quite a few for them lately. (Search my name on their site to find the rest.)



And here's the promised link to my latest video. (Spoiler alert, the footage is not all that recent, but it is freshly edited - hot off of the Final Cut Pro "press" this afternoon.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Fake Boobs, Lipstick, and Stretching Myself

I'm about to work on the next video and realized I haven't shared with you this last one. Inching toward present time.... More of my videos here.
Things are happening!

Gifts for my Spark*Letter subscribers.
More on this (coming soon)
at LifeCraft (my art/design blog).
Between the books I'm writing, graphic design work for clients, the garden, the dog, and my over-the-top need to spend long hours on a bicycle (Jim and I rode 114 miles together yesterday—7.5 hours in the saddle—plus I went out for another 35 this morning) I'm busy, to say the least. I also started my Spark*Letter newsletter, the first issue of which was far more enthusiastically received than I dared imagine, which makes me eager to write the next one. Which is awesome. I'm inspired to inspire. What could be better?

Perhaps the biggest news is that I have a new job in the fall, teaching graphic design at a nearby university. I'm sure my feelings will change once I get into preparing my syllabus (I plan to start this week) but at the moment, I'll admit it—I'm scared! What if my students hate me? What if I'm dreadfully boring and can't get them to engage? What if I say something mean by mistake? It's not that I haven't taught before and done just fine. But in the past, I wasn't scared like this. Then again, I want to connect with and inspire and serve my students in a way I haven't before. It's going to be a stretch.

I'm convinced this is a good kind of scared, jumping off the high-dive kind of scared, expanding the parameters of who I am kind of scared.

I'm also planning to wear my prosthetic when I teach.

This was a difficult decision, still subject to change.

It's coming up on four years since my mastectomy. I didn't even consider reconstructive surgery (though the surgeon who did my mastectomy worried I'd regret the decision and made me promise to at least talk to the plastic surgeon—I never got around to it). In all this time, I haven't felt the slightest regret. I've worn my prosthetic breast in public for exactly one hour.

I like being my authentic self in the world. I've never been the can't-leave-the-house-without-lipstick kind of girl. In fact, I've never been able to leave the house with lipstick. I feel increasingly ridiculous in makeup, haven't worn any in years. I rarely shave. I feel so privileged to see how, to the people who know and care about me, my hairy legs and lopsided chest matter not in the least. And I'm constantly surprised and touched by strangers who are not repelled by my body. I wish all women had the opportunity to see that their true selves are just fine. We're all so tortured by the beautification industry exploiting and aggravating our insecurities to the point that we're convinced we're intolerably unattractive.

If we're ashamed of our bodies, no wonder we struggle to show our minds!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not immune to this conditioning. I notice people's reactions to my asymmetry. I'm vigilant around strangers. I hate when I'm caught off-guard, talking to someone who is unable to pay attention to my words, they're so busy frowning in confusion as they stare at my chest, trying to comprehend the enigma of my torso. (Come to think of it, this feels less bad than when I'd catch someone staring at my chest back in the day when I had two breasts. It's just that this new kind of staring happens more often.)

I don't want to deal with that while I'm standing in front of a classroom. I don't want to distract my students from the work at hand. I don't want to distract myself wondering if my body is a distraction. It's probably no big deal either way, but I'm ready to try a change of pace.

Just don't expect me to put on lipstick.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Giving it Away

Still catching up, but this is the most recent one. More of my videos here.

I did it! I've been postponing writing the first edition of the Spark*Letter newsletter for, I don't know, let's just say a very long time. And I'm so excited that I finally broke through my resistance that I've included an offer of a free token of appreciation for my first-at-bat subscribers, an actual care package to arrive on your doorsteps (or whatever doorsteps or PO boxes you direct me to) which will include a sample pack of my inspirational art postcards plus a one-of-a-kind hand-made thank you card for each person.

Me, my niece and nephew, and a tiger. We are fearless.
Why am I teasing you with this information? Because it's not too late—I haven't actually mailed the newsletter out yet! (Sign up on this page - the link is at the top right.)

Maybe some day my list will be so big I won't be able to offer such a personalized prize, but for now the offer stands.

Or maybe I'll keep it up. Maybe the next issue will include bigger gifts. Maybe someday I'll be Oprah and Santa Claus combined, handing out cars and televisions and iPhones.

Okay, to be fair, it's not my goal to buy your love and loyalty, and we don't really need more stuff, do we? I'm just a kid with a bouquet of wilting dandelions. But what could be more precious? I'm offering my heart. And the more I give away, the richer I feel, and the more inspired I am to make something new.

Wow. I just had a vision of a weekly routine that includes a couple of hours writing and making thank you notes. How awesome would that be, to have so much to be thankful for?

It doesn't seem so far-fetched, come to think of it.

There's always more dandelions.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

On Juggling

More of my videos here.

Fear not! I'm alive and healthy.

I forget that people worry about that. I forget that I'm important to people.

I visited a doctor recently, who is also a friend. She burst into tears when I explained I'd come in because I was due for a check-up rather than because the cancer was back and I needed her help gearing up for more hard-core treatment. I was surprised and humbled by her emotion, and I suppose also flattered.

So I mean it sincerely when I say I'm sorry for my lack of communication. I've been neglectful of this blog, and of my video-making practice. It isn't because I don't love you (I do) or because I've lost interest (I haven't). I just got to the point where I was juggling way too many balls and the circus act had lost its charm.

This video is terribly out of date, but I hope you enjoy it just the same. (There's one more beyond this one, and then a little raw footage I still plan to process.)

After that, a clean slate.

Well, not exactly clean.

I'm in the finishing touches stage with a book-length memoir (about the year I spent homeless, traveling the country, living in my van) and the second draft phase of yet another memoir (about infertility and abortion and everything that prompted this blog in the first place.) I'm planning a third book too, a memoir of living happily ever after cancer, and a cookbook. Stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, it's almost time to begin shopping for a book agent.

Oh, and also, I started writing for Reimagine magazine. Two articles so far (salad recipes), two more soon to come. Find those here.

Please subscribe to Spark*Letter (top right of this page) if you want more of me. I promise I won't inundate you with spam. In fact, I'll let you in on a secret—I'm yet to send a single message. But I'm gearing up for the first installment of a short, fun, inspiring, monthly email treat. Perhaps I will shower my ground-floor subscribers with gifts. No kidding. Let me know what you want.

Besides all that, I invite you to follow me on Facebook if you don't already. Because even when deadlines loom and blogging falls to the wayside, I still find time to share adorable and hilarious photos of my dog, and inspirational/aspirational pictures of my lunch, and other random snippets of life.

I hope you are well. I hope that if you're juggling too many balls, like I was, that you put some down. Apologize if you must, but do whatever is necessary to place yourself firmly in the center of your own life. Despite what you learned when you were two, you have the right to the word "No." You are allowed to change your mind. Juggling is not required.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Strange Days Indeed

More of my videos here.

I'm getting back in the saddle, making videos again, writing on the blog. I just uploaded another belated video from this summer, but I never shared its predecessor here, so I'm posting that one first.

My office this afternoon is a hospital waiting room. I'm passing the time while my husband undergoes minor surgery. His surgeon, who comes highly recommended, was the doctor who diagnosed me with breast cancer three years ago. It wasn't until after after the biopsy, after his diagnosis—which was delivered over the phone at my request—, at my second office visit, when I requested that he show me where my lymph nodes were because I kept worrying something was wrong there even though he'd said otherwise, that he found the lump there too.

I will never forget the look on his face in that moment.

I haven't spoken to him since I left his office that day.

Both Jim and I felt a little tension about how he might react when he saw me today, sitting at Jim's side pre-op. Jim actually considered asking me to stay away, so as not to add stress to his surgical experience, but I reassured him that I would follow the doctor's lead, that I would be pleasant, and he decided it would be okay.

"Nice to meet you," the doctor said, shaking my hand with a perfunctory smile, turning his attention to the man of the hour.

Apparently he didn't recognize me at all. Or else he was being discreet.

Just now he called my cell to tell me the surgery is done and that it went very well.

What a strange thing, hearing this man's voice in my ear as I'd heard it once before, delivering good news instead of bad.

As I said before, life goes on.