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.

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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I sent a version of the following as an email to my family last night, explaining why I've been a bit out of touch. It's not the whole story, but it may shed some light on why I've been out of touch with you all as well. Please don't judge me too harshly.

Hello family, 

Dad called me after the holidays saying, "You're not answering your emails. What's wrong?" 

I was a bit defensive, admitting finally that I was maybe a little depressed, but it was true, I wasn't participating in the family chatter. It wasn't until after I got off the phone that I realized there was something behind that depression and that it hadn't occurred to me to tell any of you, or indeed, to admit to myself. 

And then it just seemed really sad to me that I went through the holidays burying this awareness. 

And then I realized I do this all the time, which seemed even sadder. 

So, in an attempt to break my habit and to have you all a bit closer, I want to tell you two things—first the thing that was bothering me then, and also the thing that is bothering me now.


Because of Tamoxifen, the drug I take for breast cancer, I am at increased risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining). It's a numbers game and the odds are better that it will help me, so I'll likely be on this drug for ten years. In the two years I've been on it so far, my endometrial lining has gotten very thick, and I've had three endometrial cancer scares. They've done ultrasounds and sonohysterograms (a more invasive ultrasound) and finally, this time, most invasively of all, an endometrial biopsy. 

I wasn't as worried about the risk of cancer this time around, which everyone thought was small, as I was troubled by the biopsy itself. The procedure has similarities to an abortion, which is connected to traumatic memories for me, as well as the fact that I never got to have children. Over the holidays I was anticipating that experience but trying not to think about it either, and then waiting on biopsy results, which in spite of not worrying, got me worrying. Luckily the biopsy was negative. 

Tamoxifen is hard on me in other ways as well. After ten years, there'll be another drug and its side effects to contend with too. I won't get into details now, but suffice it to say, it can be depressing. Anyone you know who has breast cancer seemingly in their past - just know that it's never really over. I know I'm not the only "survivor" who feels like I shouldn't complain, like we're supposed to feel lucky because there are life-saving treatments available to us now that didn't exist before. I do have a lot of appreciation but that doesn't take away what's hard, or the worry about what will happen, in my uterus and otherwise, in the next eight years.


The new thing bothering me is very different, but I've been crying about it all week, ashamed, and embarrassed and, I don't know, just feeling heartbroken and terrible. Here's what happened: 

I was trimming the fur around my dog Millie's mouth. I have been grooming her every couple months for four years now without major mishap, but this time, I messed up. She tried to lick the scissors, which I had recently sharpened, and before I knew what was happening, I had sliced into her tongue. There was a lot of blood for about an hour but nothing the vet could do about it. 

She's doing fine, fully healed already, not in pain or having any trouble at all, and yet, writing this out, I'm crying all over again. The split in her tongue remains and will remain forever. Every time I see it, I feel rotten. 

When I called the vet I was in tears. The woman I spoke to told me she had a similar accident with a dog she had years ago and she, too, felt terrible. 

"Did you ever stop feeling terrible?" I asked. 

"No," she admitted. "I feel kind of terrible right now." For a moment, we laughed and I cried some more and we felt terrible together.

On the bright side, life goes on.

A belated thank you for all the holiday cheer and thoughtful gifts.