Thursday, December 13, 2012

Matthew Morrison and the Question of Being Important

More of my videos here.

My brother who lives in Los Angeles has dozens of stories of interactions with celebrities, but I do not. Come to think of it, I only have two.

The first happened late at night in the mid 1990s as I was leaving a nearly deserted train station in New Haven, Connecticut. I don't remember why I was there, or why I had my mother's car, but I do remember driving it past the station doors on my way out. And I remember recognizing the lone young woman with the long brown curls standing outside with a backpack slung over her shoulder. It was Sara Gilbert, the actress better known as Darlene Connor on the then popular sitcom "Roseanne." I was actually a fan of hers. I related to the sarcastic misfit, athletic, strong-minded, unsexy character she played, and I was grateful to see that such a character could be celebrated on TV. My jaw dropped and my eyebrows shot up. In other words, I made the silent human face equivalent of a great big loud exclamation point. She saw me, rolled her eyes, and looked away.

Her reaction made me realize that I was seeing "celebrity" rather than "human being." It was embarrassing.

My second celebrity encounter, documented in the video above, comes many years later with a personal introduction and no eye-rolling, but I still felt it, that chasm between celebrity and human. It was a thrill to meet Matt Morrison, and that felt somehow wrong.

Why should it matter so much to us common folk to have met a celebrity? Why do these superficial interactions hold our attention?

My guess is we all need to feel important and mostly don't feel that way. These brushes with fame, or the famous, give us a glimmer of an inkling of what it might feel like if we actually believed we matter. I mean really REALLY matter.

So now I'm wondering, what would life be like if we flipped this dynamic on it's head? If we decided to act as if we KNEW we were important, as if anyone, celebrities included, would be THRILLED to be with US. If every morning we got out of bed as an important person about to have an important day.

Because the truth is, you ARE important. And this day is one of the precious unrepeatable days of YOUR important life, worthy of your full attention, worthy of savor.

I plan to savor myself, MY day.

But first, can I have your autograph?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Beyond Pink Ribbons

The latest of the video diary: Hurricane Sandy, cancer check up, and the Thiingamaboob. More of my videos here.

You can download the music in this video for free: "Presenterator" by Kevin MacLeod
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

I watched Pink Ribbons, Inc. last night on Netflix and I highly recommend it. It's disturbing, and important, and says well a bunch of things I've only attempted to say poorly.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanks Be

With no cancer check-ups on the horizon until January and no major athletic challenges until February (more on that later), I am enjoying this opportunity to take care of body, complete work projects, and overhaul my house from the ground up. Literally. Just last night I went on a rampage cleaning the basement, a chore that has been on my list for months. It felt great to finally feel inspired to get to it. So great, in fact, that I started thinking about scraping and re-finishing the upstairs bathroom ceiling. I've been watching the popcorn ceiling paint come down in flakes and chunks for years and not until now has the task seemed within my reach.

Life is good!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Treasure Map

Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I believe in emotion. Not as a guide to action — action should be guided by the logical application of information — but as a natural healing mechanism. I think of emotions as "X" marks on the treasure maps of our psyches, the important places to dig in and express in order to recover our full, vibrant, naturally intelligent, creative, and energetic selves. Toward that end, this last video with more laughter per square minute (and a few tears) than ever before. Enjoy!

PS. Music from this video comes to you from BJ Block & Dawn Pemberton and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. You can download it for free here.

Monday, November 05, 2012


My latest video diary - it's a naughty one.

You can download the music from this video
for free: "Requiem for a Fish"
by The Freak Fandango Orchestra
is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike License.
I got out of bed this morning and before I made it across the bedroom floor and into the bathroom I was already thinking that I am too fat. I bring this up not because it's an extraordinary occurrence but because it happens nearly every morning. Even at forty-two years old. Even after cancer and a mastectomy and third place in a half-ironman.

The thought did not upset or derail me any more than a mundane grumble about the weather. It's just a familiar refrain, a background track to my morning routine, like wallpaper that I gaze at daily and never really see.

But for some reason this morning I did see.

You know how they say men think about sex every six minutes? Well I think it's a good bet women worry about the attractiveness of our bodies in about equal measure. I am absolutely sure I am not alone in this. It's obvious - just look at us! The lengths that many of us go to with hair and makeup and diet and exercise, or, for some of us, the lengths we go to to avoid noticing we have bodies at all. But we're constantly measuring our bodies against the women around us, women in movies, and, worst of all, airbrushed Scandinavian teenagers on billboards and in fashion magazines.

Yet we don't admit the full extent of the obsession, not even to ourselves much of the time because either we're so used to it that it doesn't occur to us that it could be different or we're ashamed that we're at all insecure about our attractiveness, or both.

I mean, we are intelligent beings with far more important and interesting things to tackle with our brilliant minds, aren't we? It follows that we might wonder if the fact that we are occupied with hating our thighs instead of, say, ending global poverty or taking charge of the environmental crisis means we are not so smart after all.

But then again, we were brilliant children too, and we understood at a very early age that thinner bodies are more highly valued in our society, especially if those bodies are fair-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed. We got it that as we grew into adulthood the ease with which we might hold a spotlight in the biggest and even smallest arenas would be tied in the overwhelming majority of cases to whether or not we were considered desirable.

It's sexism, people, and we've internalized it.

In other words, we have been unintentionally brainwashed.

It's time to reclaim our minds and free our bodies from the scrutiny. We are beautiful, incredible beings. Let's treat ourselves accordingly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


You can download the music from this videofor free: 
No power at my house. I'm enjoying the enforced break from the computer screen. Today's big chore: rescue twenty gallons of blueberries from the freezer.

But I didn't want to leave you hanging. This video has the test results from my recent cancer scare. It also has rainbows, snakes, and toads.

Spoiler alert: all is well.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Download the music from this video for free:
is licensed under a Creative Commons license

I had a taste of fame on Wednesday of this past week when a producer from the Huffington Post contacted asking if I'd be a guest on a segment of HuffPost Live, which I did that very day. A couple of hours before the live broadcast, a famous Youtuber (Collette Butler aka Katilette) released a video in which she talked about me and this blog in the sweetest, most heartfelt way. As soon as that video went live, the messages and subscriptions to my Youtube channel surged, each generating an automated email to my inbox. Jim and I stood transfixed in front of my computer feeling overwhelmed in the best possible way as we watched the emails pile up, a new one appearing every few seconds.

And somehow, between all the autographs and paparazzi and the face licking (oh wait, that was Millie) I've managed to put together my weekly video. Now that's dedication! ;) Hope you like...

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Dear readers, I have a confession to make. I've been cheating on you with another blog. I don't mean Life Craft, my long-time art blog. I've been open about that relationship, and to be honest, I've been neglecting it. Not my video-blog on Youtube, which I have been sharing here as well. (Have you seen the Ironman 70.3 video yet, by the way? There's a suprise ending.)

From the Salad Diaries: Barbequed Tempeh Salad
The truth is I have a brand new blog. I'm not sure why I haven't mentioned it, but today I'm coming clean.

Once a week for a month now I've been sneaking over to and posting recipes and healthy tips and a big bowl of something crunchy and colorful and fresh - mostly vegan but not strictly so, and gluten-free.

It's my readers here who encouraged me to take my food passion and knowledge more seriously. So I'm sharing as I go along, working one dish at a time toward an actual in-your-hands cookbook. Let me know what you think!

Want to give someone you love a healthy, memorable treat?
This might be just the ticket! Only $3.50. Available here.
While I'm at it, I should also confess that I'm revamping my home-base website to better share my artwork and all that I'm doing online and otherwise. There's a gift shop there, and if you're really amped up about salads (like I am) you can get one of my designer gift certificates to give a friend, good for one "huge salad with your favorite dressing."

Okay. I feel better now.

Monday, October 01, 2012

To Be or Not To Be

Ironman drama! For the latest on my cancer scare drama, see the previous post. More of my videos here.


This weekend was amazing. In spite of today's sonohysterogram looming on the horizon. In spite of the possibility of endometrial cancer, of being told I need a hysterectomy. In spite of being home alone while Jim was away from Friday to Sunday visiting his son in college for parent's weekend. In spite of the disconcerting ache in my uterus, something I've been feeling, come to think of it, for months now. In spite of the questionable blood test, not to be retested for another two weeks, indicating the possibility that all is not right within.

So how is it possible that this weekend was amazing? That I felt mostly calm and good and happy to be alive? I think because I got to be around a bunch of people on Saturday who know how to listen and allow emotion. Because I got to talk to Jim on the phone and enjoy his company as I wound down my evenings. Because on Sunday, I got to celebrate this gorgeous season on a 63-mile bike ride with old and new friends.

Cancer has reenforced for me the reality that, whatever happens in the short-term, the long-term truth remains the same for all of us: our days are limited. Cruelly and tragically and severely limited. When you really grasp that reality, the quibbling over how many days we each are allotted becomes less important. Life is now. And mine is good.

So let's get on with it.

Speaking of which, today's test was uncomfortable, but only mildly so, and quick, less than 10 minutes. And best of all, there was no evidence of cancer, not even a polyp requiring surgical intervention. The thickening that was seen on the original ultrasound is actually taking place underneath the uterine lining and is considered to be "normal cystic changes due to Tamoxifen."

I've been given the green light to keep taking the drug, and I probably will, though that achy feeling is still there, and I do have some questions. So I will take a few days off to consider them.

On October 15th, I'll re-do that slightly irregular blood test, and hopefully all will be well there too.

But as far as today is concerned, the score is Amy: 1, Cancer: 0.

Friday, September 28, 2012

To the Perimeter

During those long training hours leading up to my Ironman 70.3, my mind wandered far and wide, cycling through the To Do list, my plans for the evening and weeks to come, the status of my relationships, all the way out to the perimeters of wildest dream and deepest fears. I had moments of confidence that breast cancer was firmly in the past and I will live a long healthy life. And I had moments of dark foreboding in which I worried that as soon as I had the triathlon behind me and faced the upcoming round of cancer-related checkups, I would be thrown back into fighting for my life.

Right now I don't know what I'm up against, but I do know the coast is not clear. The first red flag came in the form of slightly out of whack blood test result. I got a call from the oncology nurse following my every-three-month check-up saying "Nothing to worry about" but I should re-test in six (now four) weeks.

The second red flag came yesterday.

Because I take Tamoxifen, I see a gynecologist every six months for an ultrasound of my uterus. This drug makes a bigger difference to my survival chances after breast cancer than chemo and radiation combined. Unfortunately, it can also cause endometrial cancer. (FYI: The endometrium is the lining to the uterus.) Mine, as it turns out, is quite a bit thicker than it was six months ago. "Probably polyps," says the doctor, which will require surgery, but nothing compared to the hysterectomy I'd be facing if it turns out to be cancer.

On Monday I'll undergo a sonohysterogram, which is like a souped up ultrasound in which they squirt saline solution up into the uterus through the cervix. I've had one before, back in the miscarriage days. It's a crampy, uncomfortable affair, and like all such through-the-cervix things, reminiscent of an abortion procedure, a traumatic association for me.

But I will be glad to have more information.

At least I hope I will be glad.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes

I'm a little shy about this video because I'm sharing some very rough musical composition of my own, as well as a taste of the drama leading up to my half-ironman race. But I must say, I'm having more and more fun making these videos, and putting more and more of myself into them. I hope you're enjoying the results! More of my videos here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Joys and Perils of Love and Lobster

Had a lot of fun making this video. Check out the romantic drama. More of my videos here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Into the Sunrise

The morning of the race, we (Jim and I, my mother, and a lot of nervous and excited people in wetsuits) walked down the beach to the starting line just as the sun was rising. Couldn't have asked for a more beautiful beginning. Thanks Mom, for the photos!

In the past week I've had three major milestones: (1) a reception for my solo art show, (2) my first half-ironman 70.3-mile triathlon, and (3) a once-over by my faithful oncologist, scouting as she does every few months, hoping not to find signs of the return of my arch-nemesis, breast cancer.

Briefly, a report on each:

(1) The art show reception went by in a happy but painful blur, which is to say, I was proud of the work, glad about the turnout and the enthusiastic response, and, especially toward the end of the evening, distracted by terrible lower back pain. Finally I excused myself and headed for home, worrying all the way, as I had over the last few weeks, that my back was going to make impossible the half-ironman I'd been working toward so hard and for so long.

Before the race began there were repeated announcements encouraging racers who were uncomfortable in big waves to skip the swim. I feel so lucky that I had plenty of opportunities growing up to play in the ocean. I was not worried about the surf.

(2) Two mornings later, Jim and I were up at four in our motel room, and I was excited. My back wasn't perfect, but since my only goal was to complete the event in under seven hours and have fun doing it, I was optimistic that I'd make it through. And though I did have pain on the bike, overall, the experience was a very pleasant surprise. I was actually having fun, and I felt strong throughout. And I finished under SIX hours with a time which, I later learned, was good enough to earn me third place in my age group, and was just five minutes shy of qualifying to compete at Nationals! Though sore and still recovering five days later, I am nothing but pleased with the experience, and already thinking I may want to do this event again next year.

At the finish. My time: 5:50.08.

(3) Speaking of next year, there's nothing like a cancer check-up to put a damper on any long term planning, nothing more humbling than an every-few-month reminder that not a single day is guaranteed in this life. But luckily there were no suspicious lumps or bumps this time around. Blood test results aren't in yet, but barring any red flags prompting a call back to the cancer center, I am planning to savor every minute of the days ahead of me that I don't have to fight for, however many I am allotted. And if the time comes that I have to fight, I will do my best to savor that battle as well.

On the podium with my medal and certificate. I was very surprised to find myself there!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy Birthday Millie!

In four days: art show reception.
In six days: 70-mile triathlon.

Millie is feeling blue - in this video, I figure out why.
Also, guest musician Alex Beroza is AWESOME. I had fun making kaleidoscopic special effects to go accompany the track:
"Art Now" by Alex (feat. Snowflake)
is licensed under a Creative Commons license:

Today was Millie's third birthday. Time flies when you love your pooch.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Taper Madness

More of my videos here.

I'm assuming my current condition is common in the world of first-time long-distance racers of all stripes, especially those, like me, who suddenly have an injury and can't get on the bike at all let alone ride the shortened distances prescribed during the final "taper" phase of training. As I count down the last remaining days before my Ironman 70.3-mile race, I am struggling with an excess of pent-up energy and a newly strained back that makes it difficult for me to sit upright for more than a few minutes at a stretch. I can stand and walk comfortably, I can run, I can swim, and I can get myself to and from the chiropractor and the massage therapist, but in between these activities I am anxious and jumpy and missing the bike, and hoping most fervently that my darn back feels better in time!

Of course, as usual, I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, check out the latest installment of the vlog above, incuding Jim's vegan gluten-free birthday dinner as well as some bike racing and cute dog action.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Small Things are Big

I'm not talking about small complaints, though they tend to be the tips of icebergs and perhaps worth excavating. When I say small things are big, I'm talking about small pleasures, small blessings, small triumphs. One doesn't need an award ceremony and a plaque to commemorate the good things in life. (ps. speaking of small things, scroll below the video for my low-tech energy snack.)

My latest video diary in which it dawns on me - I will know I survived cancer when my dog licks me to death. More of my videos here.

Grapes and walnuts - my low-tech (and fresh) energy bar snack.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I spent the bulk of the day today at Silver Circle Gallery prepping my artwork for hanging. The show begins tomorrow, and though it was a long time in coming and I was reasonably prepared, it still felt like a whirlwind effort. I'm glad I have a few weeks to gather myself before the reception.

In the meantime, I seem to be putting the worst of cancer's post-traumatic aversion to long-term planning behind me, as my project list and corresponding To Do lists are growing about as wildly and recklessly as the weeds in my garden.

There's nothing to be done about it (the real weeds, that is, as well as the figurative). I have my hands full gathering tomatoes and cucumbers and putting the finishing touches on my triathlon training. Just three more weeks before the (scary!) Ironman 70.3.

In the midst of all of this, my stepson goes off to college.

And then comes cancer check-ups. House cleaning. To Do list weeding. And a new chapter of life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Platinum Day, Revisited

A few weeks ago I wrote Platinum Day, a post about my first Olympic distance triathlon (about half the distance I will do at September's Ironman 70.3 and twice what I'd done in the past.) Now you can watch all the action.

More of my videos here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Crunch Time

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately, between training for the half-ironman coming up oh so very soon on September 9th and my solo show at Silver Circle Gallery, I am swamped. BUT somehow I'm managing to keep up with the video diaries! Enjoy these latest two...

Among other things: Me having a moment, Millie having a hilarious meltdown, and my exciting new toy.

A graduation, a reunion, great goal setting advice, and a decadent dessert to remember. More of my videos here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Triathlons are Funny

If you ever wondered what it takes to do a triathlon, this video gives you the hilarious behind-the-scenes low-down. More of my videos here.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Millie Rocks

The Great Wetsuit Fail - Check out Millie's first single! More of my videos here.

Monday, June 25, 2012


The invention of a new word (flabbergaseous), cancer treatment milestones, and Millie the recording artist. More of my videos here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Platinum Day

Today I raced my first ever Olympic distance triathlon. Some good advice (thank you D) led me to approach the event with a handful of goals rather than one make-it-or-break-it definition of success. My Gold-medal goal was to finish in under 3 hours 15 minutes; Silver, to complete the whole thing feeling strong throughout, no matter what the time; and Bronze, to finish in under 3 hours 30 minutes, even if I crossed the line delirious and staggering. Book-ending these goals were two outliers: first, my secret Platinum goal - to finish in under 3 hours. And on the other end of the spectrum, the simple hope that I didn't crash my bike, get a flat tire, or cramp up on the run.

In order to finish in under three hours I believed I would need to complete the mile-long swim in under 30 minutes (it took me 32) and the hilly 26-mile bike course with an average speed close to 20 miles per hour (I didn't quite make 18.) By the end of the bike leg, I was tired and discouraged, afraid I wouldn't have enough energy for the run. I consoled myself with the fact that I'd survived without a flat, without a crash. As I shucked my helmet and bike shoes and slipped into my running shoes, I noted that Jim was right there cheering me on regardless, happy and exuberant no matter what the clock had to say about it. Which reminded me that I am enough, that when it comes right down to it, achievement isn't the point, that it is amazing that I am doing this at all, that I am one of the lucky ones with a body, at age 42, able to do this at all. Who cares what my time is?

For the first time all morning, I was racing with a smile on my face.

The six-mile run was comprised of two out-and-back repeats, descending and then climbing the same long hill. Since even when fresh I generally don't run more than 11-minute miles on my own, I figured it would take me an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the run.

But I was wrong.

Cheering on friends as we passed each other along the way, I somehow managed the run in less than an hour, finishing the race – to my shock and delight – with a time of 2:57.16.

Icing on the cake. It absolutely made my day.

On top of that, I discovered soon after, I had registered as an "Athena." Since I weigh a bit more than 160 pounds I qualify for this special class of athlete, (the male equivalent is "Clydesdale" with a weight minimum of 200). Of all the Athenas, I came in second-fastest. So in addition to my personal Platinum, I also got my name announced, a round of applause, and an actual hunk of metal to call my own!

And then, best of all, I met Karen Newman, a breast cancer survivor and world-class triathlete whom I had just learned about last week. Just a few days ago I was watching her interviewed on national television for her triathlon success during chemotherapy. She is the first woman I've ever met in the flesh who, like me, did triathlons during cancer treatment, who, like me, goes out into the wide world without a fake breast to disguise her mastectomy, who, like me, is active and athletic and also has lymphedema. We compared arms, we compared chests, we compared stories, and when I walked away from that conversation, I felt like I'd had a moment of respite from a certain loneliness and vigilance about the reactions and judgments of others.

To oversimplify the point, when you are the only one you know meeting a particular set of challenges in a certain unusual way, it's not easy.

Meeting someone else walking the same path? It helps.

And it made my day all over again.

Monday, June 11, 2012


This is it. The decision gets made here. Plus cute poodleness and overworking a painting. More of my videos here.

This weekend, between triathlon training obligations and the resulting never-ending laundry pile, I made a quick drive up to Massachusetts to attended a reunion with college friends I hadn't seen in over twenty years. It's not the first time I went to something like this and had my mind ever so slightly blown by the experience.

Part of it was walking around the rural campus that at one time had felt so new and vast. Somehow, over the years, it has contracted. The buildings now looked shabby, smaller, and closer together. I felt like I was touring an aged movie set. It was as if that time in my life was a story that the me of today did not live.

Thinking back to my short time there (I lasted two difficult years at Hampshire before walking away from college entirely for over a decade), I felt fragile, timid, alone, and insignificant, somewhat invisible, only marginally likeable. The surprise I felt this weekend when people I wasn't sure would even remember me greeted me with gusto made me notice that I still, on some level, carry that expectation that I am a marginal being.

But this is changing.

I spotted an old neighbor in the crowd, sporting the same big smile that warmed my shivering heart in the old days. Even so, I was always so timid around him, as if that warmth were not really meant for me, or if I let it show that I was lonely, it would brand me as unworthy of love. Even now, I wasn't sure he'd remember me. But a second later he spotted me and cried out, "Amy!" smiling wide and opening his arms for a hug. As I stepped into that hug it felt like a thin layer of glass shattered and fell away from my body.

When presented with the opportunity to revisit your past, I urge you to go. Especially if it wasn't an unequivocally wonderful time. It is so good to realize that the bad stuff is over and maybe, actually, wasn't exactly as bad as it seemed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

You are Unrepeatable

Small Pong, Mummy Leg, and High Tens with Millie. Now that's living! More of my videos here.
Recently I came across a recorded book at my local library called Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth. I'd never heard of her, but apparently she's quite famous for her teachings on stopping compulsive eating and quitting dieting. All I knew was that compelling title, and my desire to have something to listen to in the car.

Excellent book, entertaining and smart and laced with love. Her bottom line idea, if I may be so bold as to attempt to sum it up, is to slow down and pay attention, to love ourselves, with food and otherwise. It sounds so simple, and yet it can feel so impossible. But Roth gently peels away all the layers of confusion and distraction that get in the way of doing just that, and she does it with humor. If you need a little inspiration to take better care of yourself - whether you're female or male, whether or not you're overweight or think of yourself as someone with "issues" with food, I highly recommend this read.

"We are unrepeatable beings," she says. And, "The promise of a diet is not only that you'll have a different body, is that in having a different body, you'll have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you'll love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will become a peaceful, relaxed human being. Only kindness makes sense. Anything else is excruciating."

 Check her out:

More of my videos here.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Seventeen Simple Rules to Live By

Some meals are goodie-two-shoes delightful. (Clockwise from the top: homemade hummus, cabbage and carrots and kimchee with peanuts, stirfried kale and broccoli stems with onion and lentil sprouts, kidney beans and broccoli rabe, and in the center, kale and beet salad with tahini-lemon dressing.)
And some meals are just plain goodies, and they remind us that we make our own rules and that we are already good enough. (On my plate today: chocolate chips, gluten-free pretzels, and a homemade banana/peanut butter/hemp milk popsicle.)
I swiped this list from Buster Benson. Check him out. He's doing cool stuff.
1. You must not dilly-dally.
2. You must be your word.
3. You must have good intentions.  
4. You must admit to being the maker of meaning.
5. You must not feel sorry for yourself.  
6. You must have a vision that you are striving for.  
7. You must tie creativity and experimentation with survival.  
8. You must be the change you want to see.
9. You must rally others with your vision.  
10. You must stake your reputation on your better self.  
11. You must be comfortable with the consequences of being who you are.  
12. You must share.  
13. You must make your own advice and take it.  
14. You must manage your stress, health, and clarity.  
15. You must study your mistakes.  
16. You must retry things you don't like every once in a while.  
17. You must make time to enjoy things.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hope and Chocolate

On my desk.

I will just come out and say it, without shame: I amaze myself.

Less than a year after cancer treatment, I am feeling energetic although it is bedtime after a day that included over four hours of exercise - a 3000-yard swim, a 36-mile bike ride, and a 6-mile run. Not all in a row. But still.

Okay, maybe this is partly due to the chocolate I ate an hour ago. But — though I think we can all agree, chocolate has magical powers — those powers have their limits.

If you are in the midst of it, feeling the worst of it, or know someone who is, I hope this gives you hope.

 Of course, nothing is guaranteed. But the potential to amaze yourself exists. Go for it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Canine Love

In this video, Millie licks me nearly to death, mounting an art show, and some Ironman posturing. And puppies. More of my videos here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making Time for Living

More of my videos here.
Today I listened to a message from the cancer center - no red flags in the blood tests they did last week, save for one: they forgot to do the liver function panel. Now I'm supposed to go to one of their labs (at least 45 minute drive, plus another 45 home again) for another needle stick. Because my veins are so chewed up from chemo, they stick me in weird, sensitive places - the back of my hand, the side of my wrist. I am not eager for the drive, the chore, the pain.

My first thought was rebellious. NO. Not gonna do it. They don't get any more of my blood until September. Not my fault, not my problem.

But then again, it's my life on the line, not the lab technician's.

So I will compromise. I'm not going to do anything about it today.

Next week, I'll think about it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spoiler Alert

Today I made the hour-long trek to the cancer center in order to receive my tri-monthly once-over by Dr. R, oncologist to the stars.

Okay maybe not the stars.

Just the same, the excitement of this happening traditionally causes me a certain numb-panic that perhaps only other cancer patients understand. Everything seems fine yet underneath stress brews so subtly it is barely recognizable. That is, until it breaks through the surface in the form of an angry outburst or a sudden unquenchable craving for peanut butter and banana sandwiches with a side order of chocolate bar, or whatever happens to be your go-to substance/behavior.

This time, however, for the first time yet, I wasn't up for hours in the middle of the night panicking and inspecting my body for new and suspicious lumps. This time I only lay awake for about forty-five minutes, enough of an improvement to convince me that I wasn't thrown emotionally at all. After all, I lie awake convinced the cancer is coming back and probing myself for lumps all the time.

Jim met me at the hospital for the festivities, which were uneventful except for the needle stick, which had to be done in my hand as the usual veins are too damned scarred. After, Jim drove his car while I drove mine to Whole Foods, where we planned to have lunch together from the salad bar. I suppose it should have tipped me off to find myself crying as I drove while listening to Jane Lynch's memoir on CD. As Jane recounted her experience landing the part of Sue Sylvester on the hit show Glee, I did fleetingly occur to me that though this was a lovely anecdote, it was not exactly a tearjerker.

It wasn't until after I said goodbye to Jim, picked up some groceries, and drove home while consuming several comfort food treats along the way, tears welling, that I finally realized and accepted that I was swamped.

I have a good life. As much as I love it, or perhaps because I love it, it is particularly distracting to be reminded at regular intervals that this dear life just might be on the line.

It seems like the emotional weight of this reality is too much to bear, that if I stand still and pay attention, it will break over me in as many waves as contained in the ocean and that there will be no room whatsoever to actually live in the spaces in between.

But then again, one person can only consume so much chocolate and peanut butter.

And also, as much as I hate to break it to myself, it's going to happen eventually. In this glorious story of life, we all die in the end.

Finally home and sprawled on the couch with Millie licking my hands, and then my feet, I called a friend and cried. And then I called Jim and cried some more.

And lo and behold. I'm functioning again.

Life goes on.

For another three months at least.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Hypnotize a Dog

Wait for it...

Wild horse, geese, dogs, tax returns, snow, good food, good music, cancer update, and the color red.

Millie versus Uggs. More of my videos here.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Why Not?

I love how Millie is literally sitting on the couch in this picture!

What were we staring at? I don't remember. But we both need a haircut.

I recently watched a talk given by filmmaker Kevin Smith in which he encouraged people to follow their dreams, whether it be opening a cupcake shop or making a movie. He says that there will always be people saying, Why? Why do this? Why do you want to do that? Why do you think you can do that? But we need to surround ourselves with Why not? And go ahead and do the things that thrill us and scare us.

So okay I did it. I signed up for the FirmMan half-ironman race in Narragansett on September 9th. I said in my last post that I was holding off until sure its something I want to do. I'm still not sure. But I am convinced that attempting things that we're not entirely sure we can pull off is good, especially if the idea of pulling it off is at least a little bit thrilling.

And besides, why not?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updates and Poodle Attacks

My Dad and Millie. A deep and abiding love. More of my videos here.
Tamoxifen update: I'm getting used to it. The hot flashes are subsiding, my muscles aren't so knotted up, I sleep okay most nights, and I'm not feeling emotionally underwater anymore. I'm about 9 months in. Four year, three months to go.

Triathlon update: I signed up for an Olympic distance event, holding off on the Half-Ironman until I'm really sure it's something I want to do. In the meantime, I'm training almost as if I'm still planning on it, biking, swimming, running, each three times a week.

Stepmotherhood update: The boy I met at eleven and whom I've shared a home with for most of his life ever since is now eighteen. Come fall, he'll be off to college and planting the seeds of his own adult and independent life. I know it's the biggest cliche in the book, but how quickly they grow up. In the meantime, he's a true teenager. On the couch. Sick with mono.

Poodle update: Millie is keeping an eye on him.

Lymphedema update: Still there, still mild. I wear the compression sleeve occasionally, and think about it less.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Life Goes On

The photos in this video are on display at the Newport Art Museum until May 20th. More about the show here. More of my videos here.

It struck me the other day that it's still well under a year since I finished my treatment for cancer. It struck me not long before that that it was just a month or so after my last miscarriage that I was diagnosed with cancer in the first place. The whole cancer thing put the babies or not question to rest. I haven't menstruated since my first dose of chemotherapy, probably never will again.

Which reminds me of a time a few years back when I found myself longing for the day when I could be finally off the fence, finally done wondering if I'd ever bear children. Even if the answer turned out to be no, it seemed like it would be a relief.

And the truth is, though it wasn't easy getting here, I am very relieved to be out of that limbo. And amazed that just eight months after finishing radiation, I'm feeling fit and healthy and, though I've backed off a bit from the half-ironman plan, I haven't exactly decided against it yet either.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Pet Oppression, Among Other Injustices

For today's installment: begging poodle, determined cat, neat brother, good friend, a funeral, Tamoxifen, refrigerator drama, and a haircut. All of those words apply. More of my videos here.

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?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Compression and Relief

These are so beautiful, don't you think? Dried persimmon purchased today at an Asian grocery near my home.

J and I went to the grocery together after a visit to the laundromat next door. Sometimes a broken appliance leads to unexpected treasures.

I have come, kicking and screaming, to accept that I have Lymphedema. I'm seeing a physical therapist, and also I've begun to wear a compression sleeve for a few hours most days. Since my insurance allowed for it, I have two identical sleeves which I take turns wearing. They are thick elastic support stocking, both black though I could have chosen other colors, tight-fitting from wrist to armpit.

The sleeve is comfortable when I first put it on. Comforting too, in that initial moment, calming my panicky expectation that the swelling around my elbow will increase. Soon I forget that I have it on at all. But after an hour or so I become conscious of it again, finding it increasingly restrictive and difficult to ignore. Eventually I can bear it no longer and peel the thing off, which probably doesn't help things any. But it is an incredible relief.

I don't know if the swelling will get worse inevitably, if my efforts are akin to trying to hold back the tide, or if I might reasonably expect that this minor ache and bulge may be the extent of my suffering and disfigurement for many years to come.

The physical therapist would like me to wear the sleeve at all times during the day (with the exception of while I'm swimming or showering), and a gauntlet as well, which is an extension of support hose from wrist to knuckles, like a tight glove with a partially open thumb and a single opening for the fingers. This garment, also covered by insurance, also black, I hate most of all, as it crowds my thumb and the bones of my hand into a narrow unwieldy curve.

I can't imagine fighting against elastic to spread my fingers on the keyboard or to go about any of the other mundane or creative tasks of my day. Since so far I've had no swelling in my hand at all (except for one morning after I slept in the sleeve - which I've since learned I'm not supposed to do) I take it upon myself, for the time being anyway, to reject my therapist's advice.

I do my best to keep perspective, to recall that I am loved, that I am alive, that I have a good life. Thinking this way is useful at times, a sort of compression sleeve for the mind. But every now and then the pressure builds up and I need to free myself, to admit that this sucks and I'm scared. Though this does nothing to change the situation, just the same, it is an incredible relief.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back in the Saddle

More of my videos here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Comfort + Food

My first impulse this morning. I slice them and eat them the easy, unmannerly way, learned from my father: hold each quarter by it's points and peel the fruit away with your teeth.

Breakfast cereal is my go-to comfort food. These days, I go light on the cereal but use plenty of additions: this one has walnuts, yellow raisins, banana, shredded unsweetened coconut, and cinnamon.

This morning I woke up feeling that tell-tale rumble in my chest, tickle in my throat, pressure in my head - I'm coming down with something. I'm optimistic that it will be mild and short-lived, but this morning I wanted to listen closely to my body and give it exactly the nourishment required to fight this thing.

Which gets me thinking about the concept of "comfort food." Once upon a time, food and comfort were deeply entwined. Even if we weren't breastfed, someone had to hold us in order to help us take in nourishment. Somewhere along the line, for most of us far too soon, we no longer got that physical contact along with our meals, and it was probably a bit confusing for us little babes in the big woods. For many of us, me included, we turned to the remaining half of the comfort food equation in search of that old feeling of safety. We turned to food.

And now, as adults, we feel alternately defiant and guilty whenever we eat anything but the most austere of leafy fare.

So I'm here today to tell you: it's okay to enjoy your food, to nurture yourself as you nourish yourself. And luckily, our bodies require this pleasure on a regular basis. Several times a day, in fact.

If you find yourself overdoing it, perhaps the solution is not strictly self-discipline, a greater focus on restricted eating, but perhaps a concerted effort to get more human contact. Feast on it! More hugs. More lying in someone's arms. More cuddles that turn into naps in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. If there are no humans around, telephone contact will do in a pinch. And don't forget dogs and teddy bears and blankets on the couch. Treat yourself. You're worth it.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Catching Up on the Vlogs

Little by little...

More of my videos here.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

When All Else Fails, Borscht

There's nothing simpler than borscht and no wrong way to make it. Mine is equal parts chopped beets, carrots, and cabbage, plus an onion, a little dill, and a splash of bright vinegar or lemon juice in the broth (which can begin as any kind of stock or just plain water). After cooking, I put this one through the blender and then added kidney beans, leftover roasted parsnips and Brussels sprouts, and some chopped kale. On top: a little decadent dollop of sour cream (you can use plain yogurt, or a soy or cashew alternative, or go without, it's delicious either way) and a sprinkling of diced sweet Vidalia onion.

Here it is naked, with added veg.

I keep starting and abandoning blog posts. There's so much I'd like to write about but it's overwhelming at the moment and my words come out bla bla bla. I can't quite get to the point. When I find it, I'll let you know. In the meantime, soup. PLUS: If you're curious about my artwork, I'm sharing my latest greeting card productions over here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tamoxifen and Textiles

Updates on cancer treatment, creativity, poodle meets horse, and more. More of my videos here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Millie Likes Chicken

A lunch I packed for my husband, clockwise from the top: steamed broccoli rabe with balsamic vinegar, hard boiled egg with salt and pepper, baked sweet potato, hummus (chick peas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, onion powder, dill), pickled raw beets an red onions (made simply by salting the chopped veg along with a handful of yellow raisins and dousing with red wine vinegar), and in the middle, onions, garlic, pinto beans, and a variety of vegetable stems, chopped and sauteed in olive oil

It's a rare day that finds meat cooking in my house, but I stewed a whole chicken recently, used the broth for soup, and reserved some meat for this chicken salad, which I ate over mixed greens and Jim stuffed in a big whole wheat tortilla to take to work. In it: capers and pickled red onion (see above) for their tangy salty bite, chopped celery and red bell pepper for their indispensable crunch, fresh chopped parsley black pepper, and a curried honey-mustard dressing.

"I like chicken."

Here's that soup I was talking about: made with chicken broth flavored with ginger, rice vinegar, and salt and pepper. Added to that: onion, celeriac, garlic, tofu, carrot, and broccoli rabe. Clean-tasting and hearty at the same time.