Thursday, March 29, 2012


Well not exactly, but I can pretend a little, right?

These shots are part of a series of portraits of NPR This I Believe essayists called THIS I BELIEVE REVEALED by photographer Scott Indermaur, on display at the Newport Art Museum beginning this Friday night until May 20th. The pictures are accompanied by both the audio and printed essays they are meant to illustrate. (You can listen to my essay here.) Want to check out the show? I do too! More details here.

PS. I vlogged my photo shoot. It isn't online yet, but stay tuned!


The black and white TV fiction that occupied great swaths of my childhood Saturday mornings remains in my memory in repetitive snippets: Tarzan's distinctive yodel; his bare, hairless chest and skimpy animal skins (I liked imagining the steamy heat that made such a uniform practical); the housewifely Jane's good-natured fussing in the tree house (which I found both comforting and disturbing); and the thrilling race through the jungle that took place in every episode, Tarzan valiantly swinging from vine to vine above the jungle floor on his way to rescue Boy from a crocodile, or a lion and cubs from money-hungry poachers.

It is hard to remember what was so compelling about these stories. But they kept me pinned in place, gripping my bowl of Cheerios, wearing my footie pajamas, slack-jawed and anxious to see what would happen next.

Recently I've been comparing myself to Tarzan. Not that I've been valiant or yodeling or even bare-chested. It's just that lately I've been swinging from distraction to distraction, unable to bear the company of my own mind. Every now and then I let go and fall into despair. It feels ancient, primordial, like warm oozing mud threatening to swallow me whole.

Looking back over my blog posts, I see this state of mind has prevailed for months now. I would not be surprised if Tamoxifen has some role in it. I would so like to throw those pills in the trash and walk away. While I'm at it, I'd also like to quit this every-three-month once-over by my oncologist, divorcing myself from my history of cancer entirely. But I'm not that brave/stupid, and in spite of these muddy feelings, I still prefer to live.

Last week I began training for a half-ironman triathlon - a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13 mile run, all in a row. I think I could do it. But do I really want to? It feels like I've been pushing myself into it without ever truly answering that question.

When I'm really honest with myself, I realize that this project feels like just another set of ropes over the abyss. I'm afraid to let go. Yet when I've allowed myself to feel the feelings, the urgent need to avoid the muck below has abated.

On the other hand, I'm also afraid of the challenge the half-iron presents.

So now I'm Tarzan inside a fear sandwich.

I guess I'll just hang out here, without footie pajamas or Cheerios this time, and see what happens next.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Everyday Blessings

Two new videos! New Years Eve, puppy slippers, parties, lymphedema, underwater fun, jury duty, and plenty of cute puppytude.

More of my videos here.

More of my videos here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Healthy Food Inspiration: Soup, Salads, and Dessert

My version of saying grace when I sit down to something that's both delicious and beautiful, is to snap a shot for you. It is so good to pause for a moment to appreciate good food, and the easy access so many of us have to it. Hope you find some inspiration in these...

Spring greens and tofu salad (firm tofu, diced onion, celery, carrot, red bell pepper, corn, parsley, dill, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and a dash of agave)

Thank you food processor - between the banana are slices of a treat I blended and baked, made from leftover rice, prunes stewed with orange peel and unrefined dried sugar cane juice, vanilla, and peanuts – although walnuts would be good too. Cinnamon on top for added fanciness.

Soup of the day: black-eyed peas and their broth, kale, onion, parsnip, dulse flakes, and chickpea miso.

Rainbow salad: green apple, pickled cabbage and carrot slaw (lightly vinegared and generously salted, left in the fridge overnight), red pepper, kidney beans, spinach, leftover steamed broccoli rabe, kidney beans, homemade hummus, balsamic vinegar)

Monday, March 12, 2012


Not a real tattoo. But real cleavage! Those were the days...

After I found the lump in my breast but before I admitted to myself or anyone else that I might have cancer, I felt as if I stood in a golden twilight, as if all my life thus far was deeply precious and suspended in honey. Time slowed. My attention turned to friends, to adoring the unique and earnest battle they each waged with everyday challenges - in the world, with their families, and in front of the mirror. True adversity, the specter of death seemed mythical, or perhaps real but much too remote to consider with more than the most fleeting acknowledgment. Our collective innocence glowed warm and sweet.

During this time I attended a party to celebrate my friend L's upcoming wedding. It was a simple bachelorette affair, just us girls applying temporary tattoos, drinking toasts to the bride-to-be and sharing Chinese take-out, throwing our heads back with the brand of raucous laughter reserved for such occasions. Emulating an old-timey sailor, I applied several skull and roses tattoos to my bicep, and, as a secret nod to the darkness I knew I must soon face, a single butterfly to my chest, smack on top of the lump.

At my request, L recently sent me pictures from that night. I was stunned and smarting at the sight of them, of myself with my body whole and my innocence intact, or almost so.

These days, I'm in the light again, a crisp and brilliant light full of color and spark. But there are shadows here, inky black, and I stumble into them often. For instance, I've had three dear friends die in the past month, one of breast cancer, one of a rarer cancer, and one quite suddenly after a lifetime of illness and a morning of housecleaning, noting, "Oh, I don't feel so good," before collapsing dead on the floor. These losses catapult me into despair in a way that leaves me stranded at my desk unable to reach out for support, focus on work, or devise a pleasurable alternative. It's a combination of realizations that gets me - both that these dear ones are truly gone from the world, never to crack a new joke or laugh again at an old one, never to share a hug or smile for the camera, never to speak another word; along with the knowledge that one day it will be me too that has to go and miss out on the fun.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to stay in the light. When I stumble into shadow and do what I did tonight, what I often do in that circumstance when I can't finagle a good cry – eat too much chocolate – I'll stay up late writing to you, dear readers, wishing you long lives rich with love and good times. And I'll remind you (and myself too) that no matter what we're struggling with – in the world, with our families, or in front of the mirror – we're doing just fine.

Looking at this, I am struck by my hair - I almost forgot that hair. After chemo, it came in white and curly, turning gray and gradually darker, and now is very dark but for a few silvery streaks in the front. The curl has loosened, but not gone away entirely...

Sunday, March 04, 2012


More of my videos here.

It feels lately like the ground keeps slipping out from under me. I'll be going along, minding my own business, and find myself suddenly or subtly sliding into sadness, or confusion, even a mild form of panic. Along with this comes insomnia, an inability to focus on work, and the same recursive thinking leading me to the same dead-end in the corn maze of my mind: whatever I'm doing is utterly wrong. If I'm making art, I should be writing, if I'm writing, I should be cleaning, if I'm cleaning, I should be having fun, if I'm having fun, I should be working. There is no right. My entire life is wrong and I can't bear it another minute.

In my better moments, I reach for the phone, a shoulder to cry on. Otherwise, I reach for something to soothe and distract - food, a movie, or a chore, preferably something I can do while simultaneously eating and watching a movie. And then it passes and I feel absolutely fine and don't see what exactly was so upsetting in the first place.

I'd like to believe this is all good. That this is a temporary crisis that will lead me to higher ground, a greater sense of ease and confidence in the world. I'd like to believe I've simply peeled away a layer of armor and now I'm confronting the stuff I didn't let myself feel in the past, working my way through it.

But sometimes I wonder if it's just the Tamoxifen messing with my hormones, and the aftermath of a year of cancer treatment and feeling like my life was on the line, a feeling that hasn't exactly gone away.

Either way, I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'll keep cooking good meals, making art, writing, working, doing chores, having fun, and wrestling the demons in the corn maze. And I'll keep picking up the phone, reminding myself that I'm not alone.

What else am I going to do?