Revisiting the 1960s with Rebel Spirits

Posted on May 30, 2018. Filed under: Art, Family, Gay parent | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

This is a print of painting Gregory Thornton created to honor these casulaties of the 1960s.

Ever get an email from someone you don’t know, and it turns out not to be from a Nigerian prince who has an inheritance for you if you only wire $2500? A few weeks ago, I did. The email was from the Stephen Fagin, executive director of The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas. The museum chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history. Who knew? It’s located in The Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald perched himself to assassinate President Kennedy. Anyway, their special exhibit titled, “Rebel Spirits” hosts a canvas print of a painting my dad, Gregory J. Thornton, created in the 1960s. My dad’s client and president of a large printing company purchased the original painting, and Coretta King, Martin Luther King’s widow had one of the prints.

The museum’s executive director tracked me down because they are creating an awesome collection of interviews with people related to items in their museum. The director set up an interview with me to discuss the painting, the painter and the 1960s for the museum’s oral history collection. Last week, we spoke on the phone for an hour. I can’t say that I felt all that eloquent, but I seemed to have pulled off the interview. I sent the museum a copy of the thank-you letter Coretta King sent to him along with some other vintage documents I managed to locate in my files. If I find more info on the audio cassette tapes, I’ll send the museum a copy of the digitized recording for them to use with the exhibit and/or archives.

Meanwhile, I also digitized 10 more audio cassette tapes. This batch was a sorry sample. Two tapes were broken and half the others sound like a conversation in a train station during a hailstorm.  Nevertheless, I found some interesting segments.

Stay tuned. –And if I ever get to Dallas, I’m going to check out The Sixth Floor Museum!



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Push Play, Then Work

Posted on May 10, 2018. Filed under: Art, Family, Gay parent, Poems, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

May 10, 2018

Greg and Emily 1956

Dad & Me circa 1956

I’ve been busy. Not just busy, but crazy busy. You might not see it because so much of what I’ve been up to means I’m buried in my office. I’m knee-deep in a memoir about Gregory Thornton, my dad (or maybe these are short stories?). If you know me, you probably are aware that my Dad was an eccentric, gay artist. Like gay men of his time, he stayed in the closet, had a family and, after the culture shifted he torched his marriage—and not in a passionate way. Starting in 1977, he also fairly consistently recorded his life on audio tapes. When he passed away in 2000, he accumulated 10K hours of cassettes (yes, 10000 hours!!) Earlier he arranged to have the Kinsey Institute archive them. He thought they would make a fascinating book. I think so too.

When I started this book project a few years back, I traveled to Bloomington, Indiana to visit the Institute and listen to the tapes. I stayed for as many days as my hotel budget could tolerate and listened to my dad ramble mostly familiar stories. Sometimes I transcribed an interesting segment.

By last year, I gained enough credibility with my Kinsey contacts to trust me with tapes outside the Institute.  Now, I am privileged to receive a package of ten tapes via FedEx every few weeks. Meanwhile, my master-geek husband discovered Audacity, a nifty sound program that allows me to digitize the cassettes. After duplicating the batch, I send them back and return to listening until the next batch arrives.

My dad had a big personality, a voice that carried throughout the house and an ego to match. In telling this story, my biggest challenge is to not feel cast into his shadow, which is where most people ended up when they were in his presence. Don’t get me wrong. We were great friends, but I have to pay attention to my own voice to write this story. I think writing this blog will help. And, since I’m often asked how the book is going, this is an easy way to share updates.

So feel free ask me questions. If you know any books about having a gay parent—not BEING a gay parent—let me know. In preparing a book proposal, I could use some help finding competitive literature. Gotta go.  Gotta change the tape!

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What ever happened to Emily’s blog?

Posted on May 27, 2016. Filed under: Art, Just fun!, Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd, Poems, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , |

Helloooooo! With Memorial Day on the horizon, I remembered that it’s been exactly one year since I wrote a blog post, so it’s about time for another. Last May 27, I’d just finished a show at Women and Children Bookstore with Andy Karol. Afterwards, Andy and I met at the Carnivale restaurant for lunch and decided working together was too cool to do only once. That meeting led to a proposal inspired by tips from artist, Sergio Gomez and we’ve been on a roll ever since. In fact, I’ve sold more than 200 copies of my book, Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd.

CPL Exhibition 2016_n

In the last few months, we’ve performed at Loyola University and Harold Washington Library as well as independently at Niles North High School. Andy’s earned a place on the team to go to the National Poetry Slam and I’ve had art shows at the library, August House Gallery, and Ed Hinkley Studio, where I continue to be inspired in Ed’s classes. I also took a class in storytelling with Scott Whitehair to exercise my performance skills. At this time, I refuse to explore any additional art forms, so don’t suggest I try to learn the harp.

What’s Next?

Next month, I’ll have art openings at the ZhouB Art Center on 31st Street in Chicago on June 17, and Expressions Graphics in Oak Park at a date to be announced.  I  hope to post regularly from now on, but not annoyingly so. For those who’ve followed me from the early days, at four years out, my numbers are still good, and I’m so not talking about the scale!

Have a great holiday weekend!



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Grateful & Happy for a Successful Performance

Posted on May 27, 2015. Filed under: Art, Just fun!, Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd, Poems, Poetry |


Emma, Emily and Andy at Women & Children First

Life gets in the way, which is why this post is almost two weeks overdue… I’ve been meaning to thank all who came out for a wonderful reading at Women & Children First Books on May 14. You are not intimidated by rain!

Thank you to Andy Karol who gave a great performance and brought along Emma Smoler, a violinist who backed her up with incredible tunes. Thank you to Poets & Writers for backing us up with payment for our reading! Thank you, projector, for successfully displaying my art. Thank you Scott for your tech help and taking photos. Thank you to all who walked away with one of our books! Enjoy.

It was an evening that we may package for replay. If you know someone who would like to host a reading, let us know!

Next Up: Signing books at Printer’s Row Lit Fest. Stop by the CWA table and say, “Hi.” Other future events are noted at

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Me=Featured Poet at the Uptown Poetry Slam on Nov 9th

Posted on October 28, 2014. Filed under: Art, Just fun!, Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd, Poems, Poetry |

Green Mill

Nov 9, 7 pm come to 4802 N. Broadway in Chicago

That’s right. Mark your calendar for Sunday, November 9, 7 pm. I will be featuring at the Uptown Poetry Slam at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, 4802 N. Broadway in Chicago. (The $7 cover is well worth it.)  Come early to get a good seat. My new book, “Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd” will be available in print and hopefully in eBook form. If you’re one of those people who always tells me that they’d like to come sometime, THIS IS THE NIGHT. For real. Come early to get a good seat.

Introducing...Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd

Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd

I’ve already sold 51 copies and the eBook isn’t even out yet. I’m humbled by all the wonderful feedback. It’s so rewarding to hear how people connect with my work. Isn’t that what every artist wants? Publishing the book has been a journey and I’m grateful to Marc Smith and JW Basilo for the opportunity to take the stage as a feature. The Uptown Poetry Slam is the world’s original slam and spawned other slams all over the world.

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Words or Pictures—THAT is the Question

Posted on October 14, 2014. Filed under: Art, Family, Just fun!, Poems, Poetry | Tags: , , , , |

Now that I have a my first collection of poetry coming out, a lot of people have asked how long I’ve been writing. Here’s the scoop about that: My first poem fell out of me in second grade. I knew it was good because Mrs. Kepple pinned it on the bulletin board for a really long time. Even better, it was in the center among the other kids’ poems that made the cut. However, since I hadn’t found it very difficult to write, I didn’t believe it was very good. I mean, it wasn’t like subtracting or anything.

I'm not even holding a pen.

I’m not even holding a pen.

In a fourth grade parent/teacher conference, Mrs. Schweitzer told my mother that I should be a writer. No, she told Mom I WOULD be a writer. That declaration seemed strange since I’d been sitting on my dad’s drawing board since I was in diapers. I was all about following in his artist’s footsteps and I can’t even remember what I wrote for Mrs. Schweitzer that impressed her.

A Poetic Coming to Terms with Limitations

By high school I was writing little stories for the newspaper, which were never published. Maybe it was because I was a freshman and the editorial staffers were older and therefore, superior. Maybe it was because I was a mini-hippie and probably wrote inflammatory pieces about the cafeteria food. But I got straight A’s in art, which wasn’t easy at St. Scholastica. Later, I attended the Young Artists Studio Program at the Art Institute of Chicago, a Saturday morning deal for the twisted kids who needed more school. Suddenly, I wasn’t the best artist in the class. I was surrounded by the best artists in their classes. It was demoralizing, but I still ranked a collage in the semester show.

I didn’t like being mediocre, so I decided to ditch the whole quandary. After high school, I got married and had babies. I knew I’d be good at that! I still wrote poems—about motherhood, politics, bad marriages and dysfunctional families. Notebooks were cheaper than canvases–and the pile grew.  Once in awhile, I even submitted them for publishing.

Meanwhile, my brother went to college at the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop. He thought some of my poems were good enough to publish and recognized that subjective viewpoints can make or break artists. Since he was the editor of the school paper, he published me. That was cool.

So much for the early days as a poet and artist. I’ll come back with more later.

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Discovering the Inner Spaz or See the Book this Weekend?

Posted on September 29, 2014. Filed under: Advertising & Marketing, Art, Cancer, Just fun!, Poems |


2014 WW Postcard-Front

You are invited to attend the 16th Annual: Waterworks+

An exhibition featuring works in watercolor and mixed media on paper, and this year showing additional works in acrylic and oil.


OCTOBER 4 & 5, 2014   |   NOON – 5 PM

Joan Berry | Mary Pat Byrne | Emily Thornton Calvo | Jane Christino  Cecelia Comito | Bradd EastonPatrick Flood | Marie-Pier Valay Guillaud  Bridget Quinn Kadolph | Molly Kuhn | Dianne Rossell

For info, contact Ed Hinkley 773-539-6047 or

The Spaz Part

I recently received my proof copy of Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd, my first collection of poems. Holding it in my hands for the first time was amazing. It’s like a new baby. It’s amazing.

Then I realized that this is my last chance to examine the manuscript for typos and design faux pas. If I was publishing with a hotshot publisher, I would trust them to catch this stuff. But I’m not. In lieu of the process of getting a poetry book published, I’ve decided to go solo and self-publish with During this process, I have discovered my inner spaz. That’s right. Cool, laughing Emily can be as neurotic as a bride on Day 1. I came up with that analogy during one of my calls to BookBaby. Their smooth, calm customer service rep was the poster child for attentive and reassuring. That’s when it occurred to me that he would make a great wedding planner.

Anyway, I realized that it was time to get down with my detail-oriented self, which always freaks me out because I can actually feel my brain shift into an uncomfortable yoga position. I whined to my designer/anal retentive daughter (she’s whined enough to me in her life) that I needed her to come over and peruse the book for flaws. She was very accommodating.

Between the two of us, I sent BookBaby final files that I hope are perfect. I DID get that feeling you get when no matter what happens, you know did your best.Then I called BookBaby again to see if I could get a small shipment for a gallery show I will be part of this weekend. They were able to promise 25 copies would arrive on Friday. No window for error. The details are above.  I hope you can take a few minutes to stop in and check it out.

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Making the Grade

Posted on July 21, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family, Just fun!, Poems |

Oh, I’ve been busy. Highlights? I went to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to check in on my mother and visit friends in Lansing, Iowa. Scott and I exchanged offices and did a major cleaning. (If you’ve ever been here, you know this is no small task.) I’ve had a burst of activity with painting, writing and two house guests. And, I cleared two more blood tests and two cycles of ATRA.

Driving Miss Emily

My mother, who has dementia, will be 90 in December, but she still remembers me. I sent her a photo of my new hairstyle, but she didn’t remember and wondered who I was. After the first time, she recognized me though. She was her old self and took every opportunity to tell me that I need to lose weight. Urgh. Duh.

2013-07-02 11.08.47

Mom and her visitors

To make this otherwise draining trip more fun, I like to drive up with my daughter and grandkids. This time, my daughter drove in her car. I’m not sure if the last-minute change was because she wanted her amenities—like DVD player, individual climate controls and super-duper space—or she just doesn’t trust my driving anymore??? Anyway, that was fine with me and the deluxe vehicle’s mileage was about the same as mine. We stayed at the Metropolis, which I’ve nicknamed “Vegas for kids” because of the number of activities for munchkins. There’s a water park, bumper cars, video arcade, rock-climbing wall and more. It’s like an escapee from the Dells. The kids love it.


At The Thornton House with Frank and Steve

I loaded up my mother and brother, who also lives in Eau Claire, and brought them over to our North woods Shangri La after meeting with my mother’s social worker, nurses, etc. I’m her guardian. So when they knew I was coming, they asked me to bring her four skirts and two pairs of pants because she’s gained weight. We won’t go into the irony of that. They suggest hitting the thrift stores, but my usual delivery of supplies includes a mix of new and used. Chicago has some mighty awesome thrift stores.

Then, it’s on to Lansing, where two wonderful guys have preserved my dad’s family home, The Thornton House. The Victorian stands on a hill overlooking a teeny town on the Mississippi. When I visited my grandparents there as a child, it was boring. Now, I enjoy its charm. My grandchildren talked about Frank’s waffles all the way there. One of the town’s main attractions is Horsfall’s Variety Store, a retail odyssey of outstanding crap! Almost anything that’s every found its way to an overstock pile is here, so of course we paid a visit.

2013-07-03 14.02.10

My cave dwellers

On the return trip, we made time for a visit to Cave of the Mounds. I was pretty sure no one in our vehicle besides me had been there or anywhere like it. It’s a great beginner’s cave with enough unique formations to hold a kid’s interest for the hour-long tour. Well worth it. Plus, I always love the atmosphere in caves. The air feels so clean and cool.

2013-07-19 16.20.54

The new space

Trade Ya

Speaking of Horsfall’s walls o’ clutter, Scott made MAJOR progress on organizing and recycling our stuff. He started in the storage room and then asked if we should trade offices considering our impending guest list. I suggested that if we traded, I should combine my studio and regular office because his office is really large. After a lot of sweat and muscle, presto change-o. I LOVE my new space and all the magical storage. Even my old-man desk.

Just as the dust settled, Scott’s friend from South Carolina came to visit with his son for a few days. They were able to camp in separate bedrooms. I was able to paint without worrying if someone wanted to go to bed. It’s been refreshing to have things spruced up. We’re not done yet.

“A+” in Blood Testing; “C” in Most Everything Else
I’m happy to say that my blood tests have been fine and I only have three more months of ATRA cycles! Some side effects have SUBsided. I’m not experiencing any more rashes, however I get a waterfall of sweat down my face with the slightest exertion. I’ve continued our river walks and even went out for a bike ride. I think the fatigue has been more severe…or maybe it’s my summer energy level. I suck at summer.

Today, Scott and I went for a Thai lunch and then to the Ethnic Arts Fest in Evanston. After about an hour, I felt horrible. I felt dizzy and my stomach was a mess. My face was streaming and my hair was drenched with sweat. The women’s rest room had a line trailing out, but I begged a woman to let me get in front of her and she accommodated me. That was enough. Scott and I were both ready to head home and we were both tired. Not sure what that was about. That’s the trouble with cancer: you never know if some weirdo symptom is normal or because of some awful drugs messing with you.

My other frustration is keeping up with friends. I haven’t had a lot of energy and as you can see, my life is currently demanding a lot of me. I’ve forgotten to return a lot of messages and just haven’t had time to talk as much as I’d like. Plus, I’m screwing up appointments and general information that makes me look like an idiot. My daughters’ birthdays are this month and I have yet to make a plan, so you think I’m MIA or just plain rude, you’re not alone. I’m sorry.

The latest poem painting, Why I Love Old Men

“F” in Grant Writing
A few months ago I applied to the city for a grant to cover printing my book of poems. I was rejected. Oh well. Then I showed the book to my friend who said it was good enough for a big publishing house. So I went to the bookstore to see who’s making it onto the shelves. Turns out the 10 names I wrote down were either not currently accepting poetry or their reading period is closed, or they are only publishing big names. Back to plan A, which was publishing the book myself. Move over, Dorothy Parker.

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Sometimes, It’s all About Numbers

Posted on May 21, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , |

numbersNone in 100,000…and I’m not talking Lotto
Two weeks ago, I had my lovely monthly meeting with Dr. G. He spared me the six month bone marrow biopsy by trading it for a simple “give-me-100,000-blood-cells test.” This is a simple blood draw that gets sent to a hidden bunker somewhere on the east coast where they magically examined 100,000 cells for any trace of those immature leukemia cells. The numbers came in: O <- That’s a zero; not an emoticon. 🙂   <-That’s an emoticon.

Numbers, Numbers
Well, one of the side effects of Trentenoin is weight gain BECAUSE I ALWAYS FEEL HUNGRY! I needed that like a whole in the head. If I had to get cancer treatments, why couldn’t they make me nauseous and skinny. (They tell you that people with extra weight do better with chemo.) So, I’ve put on almost 20 pounds since the diagnosis and it’s not like I could afford to. So once again, I’ve decided to ride the diet wagon. It’s a ride I know well. I get to an ideal weight about once a decade, but I have to admit, I haven’t been back there since before the millennium.

I’ve written about 40 million words on healthy eating, so I don’t need tips about the lowest calorie foods or fat-free delicacies. I need willpower advice. Hence, I am examining my cue, actions and rewards as outlined in The Power of Habit. I’m also trying to throw in a little more exercise.

Part of the issue has always been my ambitions. I never cared about sports or marathons. All the action happens in my head, which spins with Olympic potential. Runners, I will write and get paid and I will give you money to feel good about myself. However, age is catching up with me and I’m feeling more achy and unbalanced, so I need to haul around less weight. I figure, I’m just going to eat less, weigh myself once a week, walk, play basketball in the park across the street, swim and keep a list of numbers that I hope will decline. Anyone want to join me?

One More Bit on My Health
About a month ago, a sinus infection took me out for a good two weeks. After a round of antibiotics and every sinus remedy available, it cleared up only to return with a vengeance last week. Stuffiness, coughing, vertigo when moving from lying down to getting up—awful . I guess it’s because I planted flowers instead of painting them! To cope, I’ve been on Allegra for the past few years. Now I’m wondering if allergies are the immune system’s overreaction to elements, if antihistamines suppress the response, is there a link to cancer. I mean, isn’t the immune system supposed to go after cancer infiltrators? If antihistamines tell my system that everything’s cool, doesn’t that give cancer cells a green light. I’m wondering if this has ever been studied. Google…here I come.

Farewell to Five, Yes, Five Paintings!
I’ve been studying with Ed Hinkley for about four years. He’s awesome. I didn’t realize how awesome until I took a class at the Palette & Chisel downtown. Here, I receive a PDF of a barn or a forest or a river or a forest with a river. You get the picture? Then, step-by step, we all do our own rendition of the teacher’s savvy strokes. Argh. I haven’t painted anything I actually like yet and today is the last class.

HOWEVER, Ed brings out our unique styles and throws in technique as needed, which I’ve learned is more often than I realized. The result is a group of artists who don’t look like they’re in the same class. Excellent. Then a few of us participate in spring group show at August House Gallery each year. The first year, I sold four paintings. The second time, I sold nothing and frankly, I remember having a lot going on and not feeling like I got my act together. This year, I asked the “universe” for a heads up on my artistic direction by selling at least how many I sold the first time. I’m happy to say I sold five! Plus, one was to a young couple I didn’t know. Cool.

Flying Through Time

Shorline SerenityOahu Beach CrowdRed Rock 14x11-9.25x3.75How we move #2 (2)

I’ve been asked if I feel sad when someone walks away with a painting. Hell no. I’m so happy, flattered, validated that someone will enjoy a tiny piece of me, I could cry. If I want to look at it, I have pictures. And, I can paint more.

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Spring and Health, It’s Been Too Long!

Posted on April 5, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun! |

If blogging has taught me anything it’s that hammering at the keyboard is affirming. When I don’t write, my soul feels constipated. This blog also makes me feel heard. So here’s another installment.

PushIMG_7077ing Forward with a Painting Career
In my effort to make painting into a “real” business, I have been exploring a lot of avenues. I was happy to speak with an art consultant about my work and how I can build it. I joined several arts organizations. I started art class again. I inventoried my paintings and am creating a catalog. Scott helped by measuring everything and taking tons of photos. I filled out a grant application and have another one cooking. I’m proud that I’ve been able to do this much, but I feel like I’m just scratching the surface. I guess that’s not too bad for someone whose energy level couldn’t light a 40-watt appliance bulb.

I also finished another “poem painting.” Meanwhile, I will be showing some work at August House Studio in May. Here’s the scoop:

15th Annual Waterworks Exhibitionwaterworks-2013-rev

This year will be the 15th Annual Waterworks exhibition – Aqua-media works on paper by students of the Ed Hinkley Classes. The exhibit will be held at the  August House Gallery, 2113 W. Roscoe from May 5 – 19.

Exhibit Dates: May 5 – May 19, 2013
An opening reception will be held Sunday May 5, from 1 to 5 pm.

Gallery hours through the exhibit will be
Thursday through Saturday May 9, 10, 11, and May 16, 17, 18, from 1 to 5 pm.

A closing reception will take place on Sunday May 19, 1-5 pm

Tell Us How You Really Feel
Just like spring, health is dragging. I’m on a week of ATRA every month until November, which seems SO FAR AWAY. It seems to have a cumulative effect, but I don’t want to know for sure, or I might feel worse. Better not to think about it. I was hoping I’d be feeling better by now because I start another round on Monday, but I’m still pretty sleepy, achy and shaky. (Sounds like names of a few of the seven dwarfs.) Another side effect is rashes. The weird thing is that they start on my back and work their way down my body throughout the month. So right now, my calves are all scaly. The roughness produces little sores. Nice, huh. Well, it’s an opportunity to go through all the lotion we have around here.

I am happy to have another doctor appointment with excellent blood levels on all fronts. Plus, my doctor said he’d spare me from having another bone marrow biopsy and just use a high-end analyzer to see where we stand next month. He’s saving the last bone marrow biopsy for the end of the year. Fine with me. Those things are painful!

Hair or Lack Thereof…
I went for a haircut a couple weeks ago and oh my…it’s now way too short. At least I won’t need another cut for awhile.

Spring, please.
It seems it is taking FOREVER to warm up, but I keep reminding myself that we had some 50-degree days last December, so it makes sense that things are dragging. Also, June always has a 90-degree week which is so not my favorite weather, so I should just shut up and live in the moment. Ommmmm.

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Giraffes, Flamingoes and Other Friends

Posted on March 17, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun!, Paranormal, Poems |


This is the most hair I’ve had since chemo started!

Oh geez…It’s been about a month since I’ve written a post! I’ve thought about it, though. I will blame our vacation. It was LONG overdue and well-deserved, I might add.  Mid-February, Scott and I flew to Florida—Tampa to be specific. Our friends live just south of Tampa and invited us to stay with them. My dad used to say, “Fish and house guests stink in three days,” so I’ve continued to use that as a guideline for visiting others. Since we wanted to get away longer than three days, we also planned a road trip to Jacksonville to rendezvous with my friend there before circling back the other side of the coast and flying home from Tampa 10 days later. The highlights?

Favorite line: “Another boomer down!”  –which Dick informed us is the local response to a siren in a retirement community, which is everywhere in south Florida.20130226_125248

Favorite museum: Salvatore Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. I think I finally “get” his work.

Best Sub-trip: Afternoon with girlfriends in Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, a town of working psychics and healers. One told me I’d gone through a lot of changes and was supposed to be more creative and artistic with my work, but I was trying too hard to make it happen quickly.

Favorite restaurant: Hmmm…tough one. Perhaps our last breakfast with our hosts in the little house-like building with the fireplaces. Or maybe the fun grease pit on the water somewhere on our way back from Jacksonville.20130227_104930

20130225_143313Dumbest Act: Tripping over a cement parking thingy, falling on my face and cracking my phone’s screen. No injuries, though.

Best deal: Hotel in Jacksonville for $59/night. It was no palace, but it had everything we needed and it was clean.

I gave this guy a branch of leaves. What a tongue!

I gave this guy a branch of leaves. What a tongue!

Most novel deed: No, not getting a psychic reading. It was feeding giraffes at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Best souvenirs: cool earrings, fudge from Fudge Bucket in St. Augustine, where the salesperson amused me with her ample enthusiasm, and a T-shirt with a guide to venomous snakes.

Oh yeah, I’m in treatment for leukemia.

To get the most out of this getaway, I had to figure out how I’d have energy to do all the fun stuff. This meant playing with my med schedule so I wouldn’t be so tired. I asked Dr. G for advice and he said I could move the week that I take medication “a week or so.” I stretched that to two weeks…oops. The only problem with that was, to get back on track, I only had two weeks between treatment weeks, so the effects were sure to pile up. They did, but not as badly as I expected. It was worth it.

Not only did I have more energy to see friends and Florida, I experienced a taste of what it will be like when I quit taking the meds in the fall because I had five weeks between meds on the front end. I wasn’t quite my old self, but I came close.

I had such a good trip that I totally forgot about my doc appointment the day after I returned. I eventually noticed it and rescheduled for Wednesday. Oops.

Signs of a Great Getaway

You’re looking forward to sleeping in your own bed.

You forgot you bought a new robe until you go looking for yours on your first day back.

You didn’t rack up debt.

Your immune system withstood airline germs.

Every day offered great memories.

You had time with friends, nature, culture and your spouse and yourself.

Back to Life

I’ve also been painting like crazy. I’m still in the process of building inventory. I also signed up for another art class and have more images in my head to paint. I’ve also entered a few juried shows. I’m moving forward, but not too quickly. I’ve also written a couple of new poems and painted a new poem painting. On the business end, I doodled out a marketing plan for my art. Wish me luck.


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The Train Roars In & Out

Posted on February 8, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I decided my energy level is like a train. Sometimes the train sits for awhile at the station sending its energy through town. Sometimes it roars into town and right out again leaving everything flapping in its wake. That’s when I sprawl on the sofa and feel like some Victorian invalid on a bad day who suffers from the “vapors” and needs to be taken to sit by the sea.

It’s Not My Problem
The Cancer Wellness Center in Northbrook has a lot of free programs for families experiencing cancer. I decided to try Reiki there and maybe pursue it more nearby if it was beneficial. What happened was interesting. About midpoint, I started feeling all quiet inside and I heard a voice say, “These are not your problems.” I realized I was worrying about everybody and I do mean everyone. In fact, I’ve been known to soak up negative energy like a duck in an oil slick. Instead I visualized wrapping them in a garbage bag–the problems, not the people–and putting them aside. My whole demeanor lightened. I wasn’t crabby. (Yes, I get crabby.) Sometimes, I think we just have to STOP and SHUT UP, so we can hear our own inner voice slap us upside the head.

Right now I am sitting at my desk. I’m warm enough. I just ate dinner. My husband is content. My bills are paid…for now. I don’t have any problems I can’t handle. Yes, I want my family and friends to be healthy and happy, and I will do what I can to help, but their problems are not my problems. It can also be considered living in the moment. It is such a simple de-stresser! Try it.

Painting in My SleepIMG_6872
I’ve never been one to sleep more than five to seven hours a night, but lately it’s been more like eight or nine. Then there are the dreams and last week, I dreamed a recent painting had little people crawling in and out of it. The dream prompted reality, so I have a new series in mind and this is item #1.

Even though “the train” was running in and out of town, the past week was pretty busy. Scott and I went to a friend’s pot luck dinner. He made homer simpson slippershis famous vegan cupcakes, for the vegan hosts and also brought along his Homer Simpson slippers, which he does when a snowy day makes one suspect we might be asked to take off our shoes. Either way, they are good conversation starters.

I also went to the Mill, but broke my reading streak by sitting that one out.

On Monday, I reconnected with my acupuncturist. I haven’t seen her since before I got the leukemia diagnosis. I was hoping for a little relief from the aches, anxiety and low energy. The body aches felt better, but the next day, I got a weird sensation in my head. Weird. I’m scoring the Reiki higher this week. Went to art class too, which is always therapeutic.

Thought for the week: Remember, it’s probably not your problem.

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Making and Keeping Connections

Posted on January 28, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun!, Poems | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Last time I wrote, I was anticipating a dentist visit. I’m happy to report that my dentist rebuilt the broken part of my tooth so no root canal will be necessary. Yay!

The Power of the Blog
A few weeks ago, I received a comment from a young woman who also had been diagnosed with APL. Within hours we exchanged emails, phone numbers and had a great conversation about our shared experiences. She lives in the area and will celebrate her two-year anniversary in a couple months. (Congratulations, Marci.) If you’ve ever suffered from ANYTHING, you know how rewarding it can be to share details with someone else who has gone through the same thing. Thank you, Marci, for sharing.


Evil Potion

Tretinoin is Back on the Menu
Three weeks without Tretinoin and my scaly, red skin cleared up. I even had a little more energy. The achiness and fatigue still hung on, but I felt better overall. Amazing. Now, after another week of the evil potion, I am back to lying in bed until 11 a.m. and lathering on oodles of lotion. Urgh.

Since the drug is also used to treat psoriasis (in lesser quantities), I have now have great skin. Not that I have a skin problem, but there’s definitely an improvement. Now if I could just make it less scaly.

On an even brighter note, I went for my second haircut! I’m keeping the short look. It’s really thick, but the salt and pepper is not exactly close to my formerly dark blond hair. I’m wondering if this is the new color or the interim color. We shall have to wait and see.

Other than those symptoms, I’ve only had a few moments of chemo brain…like when I totally zoned and got a call from a friend I’d scheduled a lunch date with. She called me from the designated restaurant at the designated time wondering if she’d mistaken the time or place. She didn’t. I left the house and luckily was there in less than ten minutes. Sorry, Susan.

To Flu Shot or Not
With the doomsday reports about the flu epidemic, I considered getting a flu shot, but decided to pass. After all, my system has been pummeled by drugs over the past year and I think I’m better off risking it. I still feel a little guilty—kind of like I decided to leave the door unlocked. None of my doctors have even suggested it. They have asked if I want one, and when I say, “not really,” they move to the next question without even telling me to wash my hands. It’s like they want to tell me not to get one, but they can’t. So far, so good. I haven’t been sick…knock on wood.
IMG_6815Another Poem in a Painting
I started art classes again and last week, I finished another poem in a painting. This one was a challenge to lay down the poem in the piece, so we made some adjustments. Here’s the text:

Who counts
the bodies?

How many missing limbs
equal one?
Which body bags,
lost tags
add to the tally?
Bodies that fall
seconds before the declaration?
or minutes
after the truce?

Who counts the body
of knowledge lost
in clouded memories?
Who counts
the piece in the parent
when the epaulets show
through the peephole?
Or the low voice on the phone
asks for his parents?
Who counts the child’s body
if it’s the enemy’s?

How many are missing in action?
Covered under smoldering ash?

Who counts the spirits
when bodies become armor?
when eyes become empty bowls?
when people become photos?

I now have about 15 paintings with one of my poems in them. I’m excited about getting my book of poetry together and will include them. I’ve got about 80 pages so far. That should be enough. One has to stop somewhere.

20130126_211001_resizedReliving the 80s
Last night Scott and I went to the Old Town School of Music for a student/teacher tribute to Madonna and Prince. It was pretty funny and brought back memories of my kids listening to Madonna songs. I’d read about it on, which often has events that you’re not likely to find in the Tribune’s art section. The show was great fun. There’s so much more soul to a low-budget show than the big-budget program. However, we bowed out a little early. I was yawning and Scott had met his 120-minute limit for sitting still in one place. That’s another good thing about small productions: You don’t feel obligated to stay longer than you want to just because of the price of your ticket.

100_2715Pink Flamingos…Here we come!

Scott and I are SO overdue for a vacation, so we booked flights for a Florida fly/drive trip. Our friends are snowbirds and invited us for a visit. They live south of Tampa from December to March-ish so we are flying in and out of Tampa with a mega road trip through the state. I also have a friend in Jacksonville, so I am looking forward to seeing her and soon basking in some sun.

FlamingBirthdayCake1Birthday #59

This week, I will be 59. Geez. Creepy. Although, I’m truly lucky to have lived to be 59. Part of me wants to have a huge party and another part of me wants to roll into a corner with a candle  and a chocolate cake. I’ve always wanted a “garden” party, but a Chicago January is not the time to host an outdoor party. Then I thought maybe I’d have a 59-1/2 year party. After all, that’s an age when one can start eying those retirement funds, but that would encroach on my daughters’ birthdays, which both land in July. Plus, my oldest will be 40, which actually makes me feel older than being 60!  😛

I think I’ll save the party for the big 6-0 and settle for the chocolate cake.

Considering it took me a few weeks to gather up this much to say, I think my days are winter-slow. Oh sure, I have stuff to do. We finally cleaned up the holiday tree and ornaments, but the frenzy is over and it’s sort of quiet. I have learned to appreciate that.

Stay warm. Have fun. Thanks for reading!

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Paint Christmas Fun. Paint 2012 ???…Oh, Let’s Just Paint Over It.

Posted on December 29, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family, Just fun! |

So much to say and so little time! For a Buddhist, I have way too much enthusiasm for Christmas. I guess it speaks to the four-year old in me and the peace-on-earth speaks to the Buddhist. My in-laws from Texas joined us at my daughter’s home for Christmas brunch. They showed determination in attending the festivities. Their flight from AuIMG_6778stin was cancelled due to bogus reports of bad weather hitting Chicago. Never happened. They had to detour to Dallas, then spend the night in St. Louis before flying on to Chicago. Their luggage decided to take another route and didn’t show up until two days later.  In spite of it all, we had a wonderful visit. And it’s even more special when there are kids around to enjoy it too.

IMG_6782This year, I had time to make some items and I am proud to say the majority of gifts were homemade, or purchased at independent retailers or from artists.One of the gifts was a painting I did for my daughter. She doesn’t have any of my art, so I thought a painting of the building where she was born would be appropriate. It’s a large court building in Rogers Park. Yes, she was born at home with a doctor and nurse in attendance. Hey, it was the 70s.

Anyway, this building presented a challenge because every unit has a sunroom jutting into the courtyard, which is a perspective nightmare. I could have worked on it for another 10 hours adding detail, but you have to stop sometime and Christmas Eve was a pretty good time.

On the Healthfront
Today, after two months and four rounds of Atra, I visited Dr. G. Since I’ve only been able to be in a vertical position three to five hours a day, I planned to lobby for two weeks off between pills instead of one. This horizontal demise may be a surprising because people see me out and about looking all pulled together, but what people don’t know is that I go home and bury myself in the sofa or lay in bed. My mile walks are a distant memory. I’ve got NO energy and I’m achy all over much of the time. Because inaction begets inaction, I thought spreading out the doses of Atra might give me more recoup time. Plus, my second opinion doctor informed me that the “normal” regimen is one week a month, not the two I had been prescribed. Happily, Dr. G. saw the need to ease up and changed the regimen to one week a month. WhooHoo. I might even have a glass of brandy during my treatment sabbaticals.

Meanwhile, I cracked a tooth! I was chewing something and noticed something hard. I took it out and just thought it was a bone or something in the food. Now it definitely feels as if something is very wrong. And the dentist can’t see me for a week. Perhaps I will lose some weight because it is not easy to eat on the left side. Is there no reprieve from more doctor visits!!!!

Stay tuned for a hair update. I must take a photo and show you. If I’m not back by New Years, have a great one.

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Inside every raging young person…

Posted on December 18, 2012. Filed under: Art, Poems |

…is a brilliant, injured misfit who is screaming for validation, love, acceptance, attention, etc. Whether the cause is chemical, emotional, parenting, trauma or something else, it is a challenge to determine whose rage will cause them to cross the line with violence or funnel their anger into an acceptable outlet that disperses it.

Many times, such as on Friday, we have seen the results of their pent-up rage. In those times, I wonder if the power of art, any artistic pursuit, might have saved him. Saved all of them. I’ve seen it happen so many times, I know it can. A kid who discovers the power of self-expression, and shares it with a community of others who usually aren’t great at sports, can transcend whatever ugliness brews inside.

I’ve lobbied before for more respect for the power of creativity to transcend. I guess it’s part of my “religion.” And, a friend, Michael Salinger recently wrote, “If I hear one more person say that people shouldn’t be pushing an agenda on the backs of this tragedy I will literally scream. THE AGENDA IS BECAUSE OF THESE TRAGEDIES.” Ditto for me.

So, while the politicians argue over gun control and mental health providers scramble to serve with limited budgets, make sure kids have paper, paints, musical instruments, journals, pens or any other artistic outlet of their choice. Encourage them to express themselves; to put words, images or sounds to the pain inside. Help make it normal to do this; not weird and freakish. Encourage them to imagine the world they want through their art, not a gun barrel.

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My Top 10 Things of Thanks

Posted on November 23, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family, Just fun! |

In no particular order because you can’t compare the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon:

A husband whose strength, love and attention made my year easier.

Daughters who put their best selves into their lives.

The family and friends who care, make me laugh, inspire me to feel valued and give me things to look forward to.

Voters who think.

Funky medicines that kill cooties and doctors who know what they are.

I still have money in the bank.

A beautiful warm fall.

The gift of strength and fortitude.

A creative community that rocks.

Precooked Thanksgiving dinners that include a turkey, 4 sides and rolls for 6 to 8 people.

May everyone have as much to be thankful for as I do. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Posted on October 27, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family, Just fun! |

Veronica, me and Christy

Outrageous Penny

Fun First
I’ve never been into dressing up for Halloween. I do enough masquerading in real life. However, my daughter and her husband always have a huge Halloween party. Costumes are mandatory. This year, I was at a loss for ideas. I took my son-in-law’s suggestion to leverage by hair situation and be a Buddhist monk. I bought a few yards of crimson fabric, rummaged for my old Buddhist paraphernalia that I actually used to use. I added a little incense.It worked. Scott has his safari guy costume he dusts off every year. Even my mother-in-law put together a great outfit accented with a T-shirt that said, “Outrageous Old Woman.”

This year, the party was bigger than last year. To my surprise, Christy let loose and was the character from Flash Dance. She recreated the famous dance with the chair and had her husband douse her with water. She wasn’t even drunk! Her neighbors danced as Milli Vanilli and the children choreographed something that could have been from Saturday Night Fever. The party is timed between the grandkids’ birthdays, so there’s also a orgy of gift opening, cake and everything birthday. Very fun.

Work and little, Rest a little, Play a little…
I have been plodding along with blood tests and IV chemo treatments that exacerbated my fatigue and chemo brain. The hardest part is feeling insecure about planning because I don’t know exactly how much energy I will have at any given point. Most of the time I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward.

Scott and I got out to see the movie Searching for Sugar Man. It’s a documentary about a Detroit musician from the 1970s who rivaled Bob Dylan with his talent and is credited with fueling the end of apartheid in South Africa. Rumors said he was dead, but two journalists set out to find out for sure. The story is truly spectacular and portrays someone who truly was able to shed desire and live pretty peacefully. Unlike a lot of women who tear up during chick flicks, I spent the last half of the movie almost sobbing. It was that inspiring—a great message about dignity, being oneself and living in contentment. See it if you can.

Painting My Way to Publishing
I finally finished two “poem-paintings.” One has been waiting for the poem for some time. The other is the sunflower    one I showed in a previous post, but now has      the poem in it. I’m going to incorporate these into my poetry book manuscript. I’d like to get my book printed by my birthday. I think I’ll just publish it myself through Amazon. Traditional publishers keep most of the money and send you off to do your own marketing. You may as well self-publish and keep the money if you have to do all the marketing anyway.

In a recent class, I expressed in interest in painting with Gauche watercolors, which are more opaque than watercolors. My instructor suggested I do a version of a Homer Winslow painting that is a good example of using Gauche. I did it and surprised myself. (above)  I recall going to see a huge exhibit of his at the Art Institute and feeling a little like the style was very do-able. It’s not really my style, but it was fun to paint and resulted in a better piece than I expected. Cool.

Just Your Run-of-the-Mill Dental Appointment
It’s no fair that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t wipe out the possibilities of getting the flu, stubbing your toes or going to the dentist. I’m usually pretty good about the

sixth-month cleaning, but with all the immune system ups-and-downs, I haven’t seen the dentist or hygienist in over a year. My teeth have been so far down on my to-do list that my friend, Jane had to remind me that I chipped a tooth when I was in the hospital. I had totally forgotten, but I reported in my blog. So, yesterday I ventured to the dentist, who is also in Evanston. It was delig

htful to have a plain old appointment that didn’t involve surgery, poison or radiation. I’d made up my mind to skip X-rays unless I had a problem. I’ve had enough radiation to last a lifetime. That turned out not to be a problem, but a teeny cavity was discovered, so I’m back there next week. Still…just a plain old ordinary thing what doesn’t even require a scarf on my head.

The Not-so-Fun
About 10 days ago, I got the Picc line removed…YAY! I feel so much more FREEEEEEEE. The event was timely because the rubber device I use to cover it in the shower is falling apart.

Notice that the needle name starts with “jam.”

Now the “Consolidation Stage” of treatment is complete and my blood counts have left the roller coaster park for the interim. To celebrate, Dr. G had me come in for another bone marrow biopsy today. I HATE those. They promised me three milligrams of morphine, but I decided to enhance it with a Xanex and two Tylenols before I left the house. However, the drugs did almost nothing. Scott accompanied me, which was helpful. If I could still walk to the bathroom without weaving through the hallway, I’d say I’m not really out-of-it enough.

I didn’t have to wait long, which is the best thing that happened. They tell you that they go into the hip, but it is more like the top of your butt. I decided to go to my happy place. I envisioned a beautiful, rich forest with a cozy cabin. It was dusk and the cabin’s windows glowed with the fireplace inside. I imagined entering the cabin and sitting on a comfy sofa with a class of wine. Meanwhile, Dr. G is telling me the medication protocol to follow. Five pills in the morning. Five pills at night for two weeks. Sixteen pills once a week all at once. Two pills….He asks me if I got all that. I tell him, “No, I am in my happy place.” I think he just needed something to distract him from my moaning. The info would all be printed out for me anyway.

I am back in my happy place and suddenly, someone is drilling for oil outside my cabin window. I hear them hit rock. I try to imagine how great it is that they are looking for oil on my land except the house is shaking and they are hitting rock and jamming their huge pointy tool into the rock that wasn’t hurting anyone. For a moment it seems they are done, but no! They have to sample more rock and the drilling starts again. I can feel the tools scraping against the rock again and, after a few moans, I try to distract myself by looking at the fireplace, but the house is shaking and I want the drilling to stop. Suddenly, it’s over. Dr. G apologizes and promises more drugs next time.

After a few minutes of regaining my composure, I am told the results should be in on Tuesday. We all expect them to be clear.

We are sent to the pharmacy where my $3700 worth of pills are being loaded into little bottles. My insurance will reimburse me, but I have to put it on a credit card first. It’s always a nail-biter to juggle this transaction. I am told I will need to start these meds on November 5 and take them for a year. Have a purchased one of those old lady pill organizer with the days of the week on them? Why yes, I have. Now I need to peruse the list of side effects. Creepy… but then it IS Halloween season.

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September 5, 2012 Extreme Family Reunion… Before Chemo Returns

Posted on September 6, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , |

OK….My brother arrived a few weeks ago from Dubai. My in-laws arrived with their spouse last week. One couple came from Austin, Texas on Friday evening and the other couple via Hawaii from Sydney, Australia on the previous Tuesday. Saturday we had breakfast at my mother-in-laws. We visited the Art Institute of Chicago for the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit. We saw the movie Hope Springs (which I’m happy to say that it didn’t portray our six-year marriage. we celebrate September 30). That night, we all descended on the poetry slam where I read my love poem to Scott.

Before the slam, we went to the Shedd Aquarium while I got a few things done at home and prepared for the Labor Day Brunch that we’d decided to throw for 15 people. Crazy, right? Take that, leukemia!

The brunch guests were all family and people who feel like family. They are aware of my diagnosis, so I took comfort in having a great excuse for embracing imperfection. One of the highlights was Veronica training Anthony and Alyssa in server skills to help take drink orders—complete with paper mustaches, bow ties and the obligatory towel draped across their arms. Our last meal together was snarfing down pizza at Giordanos. It was all awesome. With my background, it’s refreshing that siblings and in-laws are mature enough to get together without drama and dysfunction—even the kids. But I know the drama is the fun part, so I’ll go on to other topics.

Cancer Drama
Today, after my two-week hiatus, I was back in the Cancer Center at 9 a.m. for the beginning of the end. This time it’s the Daunorobicin and Atra with nausea medication. And of course, the PICC line, that 15-inch tubing that goes into my upper arm, through my veins and into my heart to dump the drugs. This is my fourth insertion, so I don’t know why my anxiety level was higher than ever? Maybe because it’s my fourth one and I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with it?

Picc a Vein, Any Vein
OK…the Picc line means you don’t have to be pricked every time they take something out or put something in your veins, but it is damn inconvenient too. I had to buy lightweight blouses for summer with longer sleeves to cover it. Then I started wearing short sleeves with a bandage. It seemed to me it’s better to look like you’ve got tennis elbow than chemo treatments. Then I started to not give a shit, at least around the house…which meant if someone rang the office bell, I felt I had to quickly install the wrap. Then there’s bathing. I have to put this rubber armband around my arm because the insertion point cannot get wet. Getting it wet is on the “Call your doctor immediately” section of the discharge instructions. This little ritual gets old fast.

Plus, the procedure is intimidating. You are clothed in a gown, and I don’t mean chiffon, and taken to a surgical room where four people stand in basically hazmat suits acquiring and sorting their collection of overpriced medical supplies. My arm is laid out perpendicular to my body for a straighter path to the heart. They wash it down with green stuff that makes me look like the Hulk’s cousin. They tell me to look away so I don’t breathe on the site and infect myself with my own germs. A physician’s assistant warns me that I’ll feel a “prick and burn, prick and burn, prick and burn” over and over as the numbing Lidocaine is injected. Meanwhile, I huge alien craft descends to three inches over my chest to reveal my inner workings on a screen the PA uses to feed the line through. I can’t help wondering if this equipment will be found to cause cancer in another five years. I want to go to my happy place. But this isn’t going to last much longer and I don’t want them thinking I’ve passed out. Bad form.

In a few more minutes, I’m down the hall for a blood draw. By the way, Scott is with me because we don’t know exactly how I’ll feel when I leave today. Besides, he’s good moral support. After my blood is declared healthy enough to pollute, I get IV anti-nausea drugs. Then comes the daunorubicin. It’s in a HUGE syringe that gets injected into the Picc line slower than our dripping bathroom faucet. It’s also red and makes you pee red after a few days. This could be alarming if you didn’t expect it. The session was followed by a weird pressure in my back on only the right side. The nurse took my vitals again and my blood pressure was a mean 183/109! At the beginning, everything was normal. So we waited a bit to see if this was a passing phenomena. It was. On to the pharmacy where I picked up one week of Atra meds for $1800. Geez. Luckily, Blue Cross is my friend, right now.

Kudos to Effleukemia
On a more positive note. One of my fellow cancer comrades/fellow bloggers, who also cycles just scored a column for Cycling Illustrated’s online mag. That’s cooler, but even cooler is that he inspired me to do something similar. I’ve got the cancer card. I write and paint. What the hell! I need to leverage my diagnosis. It has to be good for something! So I spent some time googling sources. I didn’t find much, but I didn’t get that far because I was kind of pooped from treatment. If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

My friend Karen arrived from NYC on her way to Hawaii as well and stayed with her sister in the remote burbs. Hopefully, we will get a chance to catch up. In Florida, Kathy is patiently waiting for a window to open so she can visit.

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Friday, August 3, 2012 See Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

Posted on August 8, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun!, Poems |

It was a busy week. I reached “Hump Day” in my five weeks of treatment. Scott and I needed a date night. I LOVE movies, so I did a little research and we decided to see Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, a documentary on the Chinese artist/activist, Ai Wei Wei. After the devastating earthquake in western China, the artist was appalled that the government did so little to document the loss, especially of 5000+ children. He went to the area and started collecting children’s names with dozens of other people there helping him. The government wasn’t too happy about that, but since Ai had been a leading consultant in designing the Bird’s Nest building for the Olympics, they clenched their teeth and didn’t hassle him too much. That changed when he became more outspoken.

We went to China in 2009. I loved it in spite of its oppressive government. However, I think the rulers are losing control, especially in the wake of their new-found materialism and social media/international connectedness. They simply can’t control the volume of people and growing voices. It didn’t even seem that the average person took the government very seriously.

The movie showed an installation Ai created for the Tate Museum: 100,000,000 porcelain stones hand painted to be sunflower seeds by Chinese works. The Tate included 80,000,000 in the exhibit and kept the rest to fill in space when visitors take them.

The massive room is nearly wall-to-wall with porcelain sunflower seeds.

The best part is that I really identified with the power and grace Ai puts into his work. Instead of a huge ego, his power comes from a grounded no-nonsense belief in humanity and transparency. How to “up my artistic game,” to make my work more meaningful to me by communicating my own sensibilities without throwing visual tantrums, has been itching in my brain. Best of all, the film inspired two visions of paintings for poems that do exactly that. This is a new twist I am really excited about. Stay tuned.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012: Maintaining Coolness

Posted on August 2, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , |

After treatment on Tuesday, I caffeined up for an afternoon of actual work. As usual, I was energized by evening, so Scott and I went for a walk for well over my minimum mile. I even got the urge to sprint a half block before pooping out.

Yesterday, my friend Maria picked me up and kept me company during treatment. It went so FAST! Our conversation truly made it feel as if I’d been there a fraction of the time.

Nurse A has taken care of me for several days in a row. She is very attentive and professional, but looks as if she’s just celebrated her sweet 16 birthday. In trading weekend plans, Nurse A said she was excited to have Lallapalooza tickets and asked if we knew what it was. Maria and I traded glances amused that we were perceived as “old people.” Not that we aren’t…or at least I’ll admit to it. We reassured Nurse A that we knew all about Lallapalooza and asked who was playing. We could see Nurse A run through the list of bands in her head searching for the old-school names we might recognize. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Black Sabbath came to mind. I did not mention that about 10 years ago I was on the board of an organization that invited Billy Corrigan, of Red Hot Chili Peppers, to read his poetry at the Art Institute and I was happy he’d gone back to music—although I did have the urge to establish our “coolness.”

Afterwards, Maria had a yen for breakfast ,so at Nurse A’s suggestion, we drove over to the Original Pancake House on Green Bay Road. I had the spinach crepes, which were great. After that, I was ready to crash, so I took a nap when I returned home. I needed to be recharged to get to my art class later that evening.

I was pleased to bring my finished Letter to Picasso painting and then identified one more little spot to tweak. I also started another “poem painting” based on the idea that being a parent is like being a potter. Stay tuned for the JPG. As usual, the class is as social as instructional and relaxing.

Meanwhile, Scott was a Veronica’s place installing a Magic Jack phone he found for her birthday. For dirt cheap, she can use her Internet service for unlimited local and nationwide long distance. She’s been using her iPhone, but she lives in a reception vortex, so too often Veronica sits on her stoop to make calls…not fun in the winter.

Today, I’m back in the merry-go-round room. This morning’s blood work came back good, which allowed us to order up the arsenic drip. I wonder if there’s a drug to maintain one’s cool factor?

Let’s see what else I can get done here in the next few hours.

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Monday, July 30, 2012 Birthday Cake & Arsenic

Posted on July 31, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family, Poems | Tags: , , , , , , |

I had a great weekend! First of all, the weather was fabulous. It made it easy to get my errands done. On Sunday, we hosted Christy and Veronica for their July birthdays. We’ve made it an annual event and I was determined to pace myself so I didn’t get too tired.

Saturday morning, Scott and I started by hitting the grocery store for the menu items. We decided to grill chicken. We picked up some salads, cake and other goodies. Since I didn’t have treatment, I was feeling almost normal.

I spent the afternoon wrapping presents and making cards. It was nice to be able to put a little extra effort into it. I also finished the text in my “Letter to Picasso” painting (actual poem is at )

Night at the Movies
By Saturday evening, it was time to chill, so we went to On Demand for a movie. I missed the film Being Flynn when it was out and I’ve really wanted to see it. It’s based on a book titled, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. I’ve met the author, Nick Flynn, at several AWP conferences. The last time, he claimed to remember me.

His book is a memoir about his relationship with his father who was an absent father, but showed up for a bed when Nick worked in a homeless shelter. It’s a beautifully written ugly story that portrays the complexities of life with poetic language. It brings up questions everyone faces at one time or another: How much should we give to a family member? How much should we feel responsible for the actions of others. I was curious to see how the story would avoid being majorly depressing once the text was adapted. I have my own “dad book” in the works, so I wanted to see how adaptation was handled. I was pleasantly surprised. The screenplay held the mood of the book and stuck to the story without being morose. Plus, De Niro brilliantly played the father. You should see it!

Birthday PartyParty On
On Sunday, Scott and I got the patio in shape for the party. It wasn’t horribly hot outside, so that was promising. Christy and Tony, the grandkids, Veronica, my daughter’s dad, and Scott’s mother all arrived around three. We BBQ’d chicken and did the usual birthday cake, etc. When Anthony, my 9-year old grandson, saw Scott with his flip video in hand, he insisted on being the announcer. There were to be four parts to the party: Meet and greet; dinner, presents and good-byes. He would introduce each section. Being the announcer comes easily to Anthony. When we were on the patio we discussed his ability to court the camera.

“I just like to think of funny things to say,” he told me. “My teacher says I can make anything funny…and I think she’s right.”

“You’re good at it,” I said. “I can get up in front of people, but I’m not quick on the stage. I need to think of things first and then get in front of people.”

He responds, “Well you go and read poetry and I don’t know how you do that.”

“I can do that because I know what I’m going to say.”

He paused considering the difference. “My mom was reading something about how to be funny. I think that’s silly. You can’t get humor out of a book. It has to come from your heart!” He says this as he places his hand over his chest in earnest.” I laugh.

He is pleased to make me laugh. Show me another 9-year old like this????  Of course, his sister Alyssa also has a great sense of humor. Do they get it from their mom?

Everyone had a great time. No food was injured in the making of this party and I was still standing.

IV Arsenic: Week 3
Two down, three weeks to go. Today, I was back in treatment and our friend Pam B. who offered to come to the hospital with lunch. She arrived with a three-course meal and we enjoyed talking for the duration. When I got home, I slept almost the entire afternoon. I can see that having any energy is getting more difficult. Damn.

Scott had to take his care in for repairs because it made some uncomfortable noises and vibrations. I called a cancer buddy. In the past, I offered to connect with a cancer comrade through an organization that matches patients with others who have undergone similar experiences. Lorraine is a delightful woman in New York State. We spoke for over an hour and realized we have a lot in common. No doubt we will talk again.

By dinner time, I got a second wind and heated up some leftovers from the BBQ. The laundry was also piling up. Scott noticed that we hadn’t leveled the new washer, so we unhooked the tubes, moved it from the wall and tried our best to even up the sides. With that accomplished, we loaded the machine, turned it on and realized we’d forgotten to reconnect the water tubing when water flooded out of the back and flowed across our uneven floor toward the kitchen. Our sweet little machine adjustments turned into an hour of cleanup.

I went for a walk before going to bed. After all, I have a 9 a.m. treatment tomorrow.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012 Then I Came Home and Crashed

Posted on July 24, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun! |

OK…week 2 of cycle 2. I had a nice weekend. Friday’s chemo session was uneventful. On Friday night, Scott and I went to the Printer’s Ball, a party showcasing publishers of literature sponsored by the Poetry Foundation. It’s called a ball, but with bands and face painting, it’s more like a street fair. It’s a free event and I usually run into at least a few people I know from Chicago’s poetry scene. I went to pick up books focused on art AND literature to learn who is into that format so I can submit some of my work. I was feeling pretty shaky due to the treatments so Scott went with me. We only stayed long enough to collect a small shopping bag full of free, word-filled goodies better known as books. On the way home, I ducked into Jo-Ann fabrics for some jewelry-making parts while Scott hit the computer store. That was fun. I went home and made some nifty new pieces. We needed that.

Then I came home and crashed. I was so tired!

Missed Connections

On Saturday, I was looking forward to a lunch date with a former client turned personal/professional coach/friend. We dined in Lutz’s garden which is so European elegantly casual. Half-way through our lunch Julie and I committed to seeing more of each other. So far it’s been about once every five years. I guess we’re not “habits.” Well, we vowed to change that, so we will.

Then I came home and crashed.

Slam Works

I needed to pull it together for evening. Chicago Slam Works sponsored the third show in a series called In Any Tongue. Two German teams were going to perform with great Chicago poets. Translation is taken to another level. It was wonderful! We invited Marlene who was curious about what she was getting herself into, but she truly enjoyed it. I gave up trying to explain it. You gotta see a Chicago Slam Works show. In the fall, they will be at the Raven Theater at Granville and Clark Street. I sat through the show feeling really proud that I am one of the founders of the sponsoring organization (

Then I came home and crashed.

Pass the Sea Salt

Sunday was just as interesting. We got up and headed out with Rachel to Galos Caves. She invited us to help use up her Groupon. The caves are covered in salt from the Adriatic Sea. Its properties are said to relieve asthma, blood disorders and allergies. Basically, you sit in the caves and meditate. Very relaxing. Rachel discovered that there’s an excellent coffee shop next door where they also serve a buffet brunch, so we followed up with a visit. Awesome!

Then I came home and crashed.

Sunday night, the Green Mill Poetry Slam was calling me. I ended up sitting with the German performers from the night before. They managed to be hilarious and wonderful two nights in a row. I couldn’t make it to the Mexican restaurant though. Too tired and I had to get up at 6 am to resume treatment at 7:30…

I went home and crashed.

Dollar for Dollar

I finally received the letter from my insurance company with a list of things to send out in order to be qualified for disability. The treatment time really cuts into my productive time and doesn’t leave much time for anything else, so I figured what’s cancer for if you can’t knock on your insurer’s door. My time sheets are the evidence, as well as my bank account. I worked on dredging up those documents most of the afternoon.

One Down, Four Weeks to Go

Monday comes with an EKG and blood draws that define whether I am capable of taking in more arsenic without a major health crisis. Getting these results takes FOREVER—and some get together. I suggested we shop for her sister’s birthday present. She agreed. I went there straight from the hospital because I knew if I waited my energy level would plummet. I wanted to be home by 5 because Jane was bringing us dinner.

I had this vision that we would find what we wanted at Pier 1, but we started in the stores around North and Halsted and worked our way up Clybourn. We relied on the car for this because it was close to 100 degrees out there. Even walking a couple blocks left me feeling like I’d run a 10K…not that I know what THAT feels like. Pier 1 turned out to be the place where we hit the jackpot. I can not share our purchases due to blow-the-surprise issues.

Then I went home and crashed.

Dinner on Jane & Jose

Jane arrived with a huge hunk of salmon and a salad complete with many goodies in it. She apologized for the delay. She envisioned that the “obligatory(?) bringing of the meal” should have taken place closer to when I’d been released from the hospital. I told her that was nonsense. It’s like a baby gift: Parents get a wad of newborn clothes, which fit the infant for approximately one week. Six months later the baby has nothing but a couple of onesies. So this is perfect timing. All our donations have been gratefully consumed and I was looking at drumming up another meal myself. Not my favorite thing even when I feel great. However, I told Jane that I made a special effort to lay prostrate on the sofa when she came in, so she would realize how much the dinner is appreciated. After all, arriving to see me vacuuming or carrying laundry would be weird.

In spite of the fun activity, Scott and I have both been in crabby moods lately. I get tired and don’t have the energy for banter, so I snipe back at him. He thinks I’m fed up with him and gets negative and critical. I get mad at him because he’s negative and critical. He gets frustrated because I’m not “happy.” It’s an icky vicious circle that both of us are fairly adept at changing midstream—and we did.

We spent yesterday evening catching up on Breaking Bad, the show where a chemistry teacher evolves into a drug lord/meth manufacturer after a cancer diagnosis. Hmmm…certainly would pay more than disability, but I’m lousy with guns and I really hate having to look over my shoulder all the time.

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July 19, 2012: Speed Bumps

Posted on July 19, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family |

Do I Get Overtime for This?
This week, I resumed treatment and had a pretty smooth ride until today. I’ve been more tired than usual and today my potassium counts were just a hair below acceptable. SO…They rounded up a couple IV bags of potassium, threw in a couple of potassium pills and doused me with it before hooking me up for the arsenic. Should I be eating more bananas? They said I would have to eat a truckload to make a difference. The good part is that I got moved to a room with a cozy bed and private bath. The bad news is I’m missing lunch. Luckily, I had a muffin in my purse that I grabbed this morning. Plus, they are well stocked with Lorna Doons and Oreos here. Bleh. Oh well, this gives me time to catch up on my blog and report my doings, or undoings as the case may be. I took a nap too.

Greasing the Wheel for Babysitting
Tuesday night, Scott and I babysat for the grandkids. They brought the movie Grease from the library, so we spent the evening watching it. Alyssa and I couldn’t help but get up and dance to some of the tunes. Of course, the boys refused to dance. Christy also brought most of the shredded BBQ beef dinner. What a no brainer of a babysitting session: food and entertainment supplied.

In Lieu of Being Grounded
On Wednesday, our new washing machine arrived. The old one just decided to quit being agitated one day. Scott lifted the lid to find a load of towels sitting in water. After emptying the mess, he considered fixing it, as he is so prone to do, but the machine was 20 years old and he already fixed it once a few months ago, so we let the delivery guys take it to appliance heaven. The new machine had $300 bucks off the price at Best Buy (that was not advertised anywhere on the Internet!) and is very cool with all kinds of buttons and little tunes that play according to the function. We took turns pushing buttons to catch up with the backlog of laundry. It seems to clean well too.

We also ordered a couple of patio umbrellas that arrived later in the afternoon. We decided a few weeks ago that if we’re grounded from traveling, we could at least spruce up our environment.

I’ve actually been working a little here and there. I’m wrapping up a web site and one of my clients has a new campaign coming up. Wednesday night I had a painting class, so I was eager to finish the text of a poem that’s going into one of my recent paintings. I almost got it done. During class a storm came through. Scott had gone out for a walk and since he wound up near my class, he stopped in for a ride home. Perfect timing, because it was ending.

I also took photos of a new piece. When I was uploading the photos I came across one of Scott and me having dinner in a French restaurant on April 7—four days before the leukemia diagnosis. I looked pretty good and I had hair! I stared at the photo for a long time. Who I saw was another woman who had no idea what her future held. I’d had the first of two nosebleeds that day and ordered a steak thinking that maybe I was anemic. After the second nosebleed, I made the doctor appointment. It’s mind boggling. Those are the moments when I rely on Scott to just hold me. Lucky for him, there aren’t too many of them.
I was supposed to go to the theater tonight with a friend, but I cancelled. I’m way too tired. I guess today is just one speed bump on top of one giant speed bump. There are lots of activities on my calendar and if I get to half of them, I’ll be happy.

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Monday, July 16, 2012 Birthdays and Being Heat Beat

Posted on July 17, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family |

Happy Birthday, Veronica! My daughter is now XX years old. She will kill me if I say how old she is.

I truly hate the heat. It has been close to 100 degrees today. In fact, I suspect, yesterday’s little visit to Skokie’s art walk left me with a mild case of heat exhaustion. It was nice to get out, but it didn’t take long for sweat to stream down my face. We were only out for a little over an hour, but I was thirsty when we came home and EXHAUSTED…so exhausted I skipped the poetry slam. Instead, I sat at my desk and worked on a lot of other little stuff to get ready for the week of treatment resuming when I can barely get anything else done.

I had to be at the hospital at 7:30 for those crazy medical people who mustn’t ever be up for the 10 pm news. I was literally up for the challenge. Scott accompanied me, since I seemed to be running on half of my cylinders. First, I had to get the picc line reinstalled and luckily the physician’s assistant did it last time was there. She definitely has talent. Then the EKG. Then two hours of IV arsenic. Once settled in the chair, I slept for the two hours! Scott got two walks in. When I got home, I slept for most of the afternoon. Arsenic doesn’t have that affect on me, but the heat sure does. Tomorrow, I don’t have to be at the hospital until later.  Hallelujah.

All this sleep means I don’t have much exciting to share except that I’m feeling a little better. I wish I could remember some of my weird dreams. Onward!

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Saturday, July 14, 2012 Midsummer Oasis

Posted on July 15, 2012. Filed under: Art, Just fun! |

Hello everyone. I’m back. I’ve been on hiatus from treatment for the past two weeks, so I guess I put myself on hiatus from my blog too. It wasn’t like I planned it. It’s more like putting a thank-you note on the back burner for too long and then too much time has gone by to send it. However, the eve of returning to treatment seems like a good time to return to the practice.

The Hiatus Report

I got a lot done in my two weeks off. I’m finishing a web site project I started before the whole leukemia event; went to the beach with the grandkids; made prints and dined with the grandkids at Maria’s; had dinner with a cousin I rarely see; managed a six-mile bike ride with Scott; abandon the gazebo quest and bought two new umbrellas; took some walks with Scott; bought a new washing machine with Scott because ours broke and didn’t justify repairing; resumed painting classes; finished another painting; had lunch with friends; went to the poetry slam. I even cleared half the stuff off the futon in my office.

Tonight, Scott and I went to see “Savages.” It was well done. Good writing. Good acting. It was a little long, but intense from start to finish. A combination of Pulp Fiction meets Breaking Bad. Homespun violence.

Meanwhile, my friend Karen has created a web page with some of my paintings on it ( She’s also taken out an ad for August’s Buddhadharma magazine and is showing one of my paintings. Our work is complementary, but not competitive. I’m looking forward to interest! I also need to make some adjustments to my web site, at so everything works better together.

Unplanned Adventures

On Friday, Jane and I had one of our “adventures.” Periodically, we get in the car, pick a direction and drive to a restaurant…somewhere. There’s no plan, no yelp reviews, no recommendations etc. This time, Jane drove since I’d had a meeting in Aurora most of the day, so I’d had my fill of driving for the day and was pretty tired. We chose to drive south toward Pilsen because we rarely go that way. We headed down Halsted and stumbled on a gallery district on 18th street. It was hoppin’! The area was having a 2nd Friday gallery walk, so we parked and meandered among the paintings A block of galleries all had back doors that opened to a common back garden that was beautiful. The area seemed more like Boston than Chicago. Then we walked a few blocks west to a restaurant where I had a great ginger-flavored drink with dinner. I’ve had two margaritas on my hiatus, which my kidneys and liver should be able to tolerate.  We ate outside because the crowd and the noise inside were designed for the twenty-something crowd. It was wonderful luck to encounter this event, but I have to admit, I was tired by the time I got home.

Tomorrow, we are going to an art fest in Skokie with friends. In the afternoon, I’ll work on my site and hopefully have time to go to the slam in the evening.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Posted on June 4, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

Some days you just want to stay in bed…but that’s not going to help, so I get up. I made some breakfast along with a list of things I wanted to accomplish in the next few days, which always keeps me from being scattered. First, I wanted to get back to walking a mile a day. I better do that before I do anything else, or that won’t happen. Scott mentioned that he saw trucks with portable showers in the park across the street. I suspect a run for a cause of some kind, so I decide to walk around the park, which is a little farther than a mile. I also decided to wear a pink scarf on my head just in case it was the breast cancer tribe. I was interested to see if I’d attract knowing glances or sympathy comments. I’m warped. Sure enough, the park was filled with pink tents for the AVON walk. It was also relatively quiet, so I wasn’t sure if the walkers/runners were yet to arrive or had already gone. The area was fenced off and controlled with an army of volunteers.

I never really appreciated the “run for a cause” mentality. I guess it’s great for building awareness, but isn’t it better for the cause to just get a check without having to spend money on tents and banners and porta-potty rentals? It’s like the society banquets aren’t really about fancy dresses and getting your photo in the society pages? Let’s be honest. There’s a huge social factor. There’s networking. There’s bonding.  Just write a damn check—and when you write it, add the cost of your dress and your do. But that’s just me. You get it.

I digress. My next priority was picking up my matted paintings so I got in the car and drove to the matte place, which is closed on Saturdays! Bummer. That was a waste of time.

I needed to get ready to go to a play with Penny (mother-in-law if you’re new to this blog), but I still had a little time, so I finished planting the flowers I purchased almost two weeks ago. Some of the flowers on the patio are truly stunning. Others, not so much, but let’s give them time and little TLC. I went from one pot to another scooping little holes and dropping in baby plants with uncharacteristic methodology. Fertilize. Water.  I’m done. It’s one of those perfect days, so I went about gardening with a bare head. Hope I’m not freaking out the neighbors.

Then I picked up Penny for our marathon theater event.  She purchased tickets to Angels in America several months ago and I agreed to go with her. Then I was out of commission in the hospital and she asked if I still wanted to go. I said, “Sure” and she was kind enough to get the date changed. The play is a Kushner epic lasting 5.75 hours long. Yes. For real. Part 1 started at 3 and ended at 6 for a dinner break. Part 2 began at 8 and went until 11:45.

Penny had asked me if I would be able to do endure and assured me I wouldn’t have to if I couldn’t take it. I told her the same thing. She’s 90. But how hard could it be to sit in a chair for 6 hours??? Well, I got a little restless by the end, but I was so fascinated with the script, it was worth it. There was very little small talk between characters. Everything was a philosophical pondering and there was no limit to the topics. While the story was primarily about gays at the dawning of AIDS, it didn’t stop there. There about gays at the dawning of AIDS, it didn’t stop there. Mormons, Jews, racism, politics, the ozone layer, pill-popping, dysfunctional relationships, angels (literally) etc, etc. in the 71 scenes! You name it. It was never boring. The set was great. Most of the acting was good. It didn’t put people to sleep. Good and bad.

The Drive was beautiful on the way home. Traffic was non-existent. Scott injected my picc line with heparin when I got home as trained in the hospital. I should have done it earlier, but I was busy leading a normal life. Excuse me!

Good night.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Posted on June 1, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

I sent off some headlines I’d been working on for the past few days. It almost felt like being back to work. In the afternoon, I went back for more treatment. This one was relatively straightforward day. Get in. Get hooked up. Get pumped with arsenic. But wait…there’s more! Dr. G has results from the bone marrow. He will be here to discuss them in a few minutes. But I have to pee… so do wait for him or make him wait for me? That’s easy. He came by while I was drying my hands. Perfect timing.

The scoop on my bone marrow is that the microscopic findings revealed no more leukemia cells. So they put a sample in the FISH machine (aptly named) that “fishes” among 200 cells. No leukemia. Then they put it in a newer machine that looks at 100,000 cells and whoop-dee-do…that came out positive, but it can’t tell you how many creepies are hiding behind platelets and fat cells. I asked if that’s normal. He said he didn’t know because of my unique leukemia and because the machine hasn’t been around that long. That’s why I get doused with IV arsenic.

That visit was a breeze, so I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and managed to push a cart around fairly effortlessly. Scott carried up the groceries and I drumImagemed up a snack because I was headed to painting class, where there is always a wonderful spread of pizza and some sort of salad.

There, I finished the watercolor portion of my latest painting, but I still need to add the poem. The painting is a spoof on Picasso’s blue guitarist. I’m pleased with it. This was the last class of the spring session. Ed has graciously let me make up the classes I missed in the summer session. I’m thrilled.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Posted on May 31, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

What a marathon of day! First day after Memorial Day and I am scheduled to start chemo, which I learned is not chemo at all. I was told the drugs are so different it’s technically not chemo. It’s an infusion of arsenic. It sounds like something out of a cookbook. Someone told me, at the turn of the century women used to ingest a little arsenic to make their complexion look like porcelain. We’ll see what happens in that department.

The day started out in a panic. I woke at 9 a.m. and was supposed to be at the hospital at 10! This called for a quick shower and drive-thru breakfast. I was determined to eat something because I also had to start taking the five pills again, which call for something in one’s stomach. Scott was still sleeping too, so I just headed out. No biggie. Amazingly, I arrived just in time. First I was to go have the picc line reinstalled. Freaky! Compared to the first time in my hospital room, which felt like a pick ax and a rag were used, this was a big production. The male nurse started out by sharing that we were born in the same year. I had to change clothes and then they brought me into what looked like an operating room. Here, Marty doused my arm with green liquid to sanitize the area. While I warned him about my teeny veins and how difficult the first line had been, he explained that the physician’s assistant had great hand/eye coordination, which made her also a video game champ. The trick is to envision where your hand is guiding the needle on the screen. She was awesome. It was all over in a couple minutes without hitting a nerve like last time!

Next, I meandered over to the cancer center for a blood draw with Claudette, who shared that she is a fellow Aquarian. She recommended a lunch break before the next appointment which isn’t for another hour. So I went to the café for a salad.

Now for the big event…but not before an EKG to see if my heart can take it. It could. They hooked me up to a bag of arsenic and I played with our iPad for an hour. By then it was 3 p.m. Time to go.

On the way home, I realized my whole day had been sucked away with cancer treatments, which inspired an overdue meltdown. Although my perpetually upbeat attitude felt real, I also felt the weight of all the treatment piling up and since I was always trying to remain upbeat around people, a day alone gave me the opportunity to let it out. The financial demands to keep work flowing, along with the heavy schedule of treatments don’t leave much time to take a breath and they squeeze out so much of what makes life worth living.  I pulled into the corner of a big parking lot and let it out. Later, I felt better. It was long overdue.

Tonight, Mary H. from the Mill arranged to bring dinner. After calling her with last minute directions, she arrived with a wonderful salad, chicken breasts and rice. It was great. Scott gave her the nickel tour of our weird place and then we ate.  I still needed to check email and catch up with the runaway papers on my desk, so that’s how I spent my evening.  Busy day, man.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Posted on May 31, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

What is it with ecards!?? It’s so difficult to find one that’s not sappy or stupid silly or way too out there in an almost negative way. Yes, I like, but they are a little out there and sarcastic to send to a client..I was looking for a “hope you’re feeling better” message with a little fun for a client who had sinus surgery. He was back at work, but I’ve been feeling a desire to recognize people around me with good wishes to the extent I was afforded those good wishes during my hospital stay. Granted, sinus surgery isn’t leukemia, but on any given day, the sinus patient might be more uncomfortable. It’s all relative. Anyway, after broImagewsing stupid cards, I decided to create my own. First, I googled funny noses. My favorite was a rough-around-the-edges middle aged guy who had his finger up his nose and emerging from his opposite eyeball! Perfect. My subject line said, “Dr. Feelgood says…” When you open the email you see the photo and the line, “There’s more than one way to clear your sinuses!” Fun.

Not all goofy fun, I also worked on my two projects: web site copy and concepts for a health club direct mail piece. I know that there will be no time tomorrow.  Just like the old days I spent a lot of time at my computer.

I planted more petunias on the patio. It’s turning out lovely. Scott brought tons of dirt up or a huge pot that I have marked for hydrangea.

Before bed, I did some serious googling of treatments for APL leukemia. I learned it’s more rare than I thought, and that my chosen path is the current standard. Hello, arsenic.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Posted on May 27, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

It’s always nice when you get out of bed with gusto. That’s what I did today about 9:30 a.m. While I had breakfast on the stove, I went out on the patio, planted another pot full of petunias and watered the plants. After breakfast, I pooped out. So I called my brother in Wisconsin to give him an update. This week Dave started working in a big thrift store that benefits a charity. They also offer computer classes, which Dave says he would like to take—and would greatly benefit from!

After I regenerated a bit, I took a shower and gathered up paintings to be matted. I headed for the Frame Factory, where the staff is really sharp and the prices are reasonable. These are the eight pieces that will go on Karen’s site in June. That was fun.

There was work waiting for me when I came home, that was sitting there all week, but I couldn’t really deal with it. I thought about it. Instead I got wrapped up in a women’s movie. You know the kind where an attractive, semi-helpless woman discovers that she married a totally evil male. In this case, the husband had two wives and faked his death to keep the millions he conned via illegal activities. In these movies, the seemingly helpless woman amazes everyone by rising to the occasion and making the man pay for his evil deeds. I usually detest these movies, but for some reason, the predictability was comforting. So was the mindlessness.

It wasn’t long before another friend generously came by with dinner. Yum. We had a nice visit, albeit short.

Scott returned from computer doctoring soon afterward. We headed out to the Chicago Slam Works event, Dead or Alive, ( ) which pitched live poets in a slam against dead poets. It was very well done and it was great “feeling the love” from other poets who were happy to see me out.

I suppose I could have called the doc for the results from yesterday, but why take the chance on ruining a perfectly good weekend.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Posted on May 24, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

This morning I made my usual breakfast for Scott and me. This consists of egg and melted cheese between two tortillas. I usually throw in whatever vegetables need to be consumed, but this was a minimal effort morning. We also had a small sausage and cup of fruit with it. I’d say my energy is returning.

While I was lounging around trying to figure out what order to tackle to projects of the day, Chuck Perkins, a poet/performer from New Orleans, called to take me up on my offer to visit before he left town. On Sunday, he featured at the Green Mill, and he said he was leaving town on today, so I thought he’d been too busy to come by. Chuck and I have known each other since the late 1990s when he lived in Chicago and was a Green Mill regular. I wasn’t even dressed so I told him to take his time.

It was a beautiful day and Scott and I got the patio ready for company. We even pulled a pizza from the freezer. I got dressed and had a little time to plant a few more of the flowers Rachel and I purchased yesterday. Chuck arrived a little after noon and we talked about our creative endeavors most of the time. I showed him my paintings and he showed me online photos of the fabulous club he’s developing in New Orleans. It was great to catch up.

I also had a chance to catch up with Mary, who has had her own two-time cancer battle. No one gets the implications of cancer like another cancer survivor. It feels like you’re being stalked. You hesitate to plan. You wonder whether symptoms are a recurrence or something simple. It makes you crazy, which is why you don’t have to beg for all kinds of anti-anxiety medications or sleeping pills. Suddenly giant pharma is yours for the asking!

Having cancer forces you to speculate that you will probably die of cancer, or the effects of the treatment. Maybe not soon, but at some point. And OK, I could get hit by a truck tomorrow, but cancer is the stalker that’s always hiding in the bushes waiting for the opportunity.  It’s maddening because if you knew you only had one, five or ten years left, what would you do differently? This is true for everyone, but most people can easily dismiss the thought and return to their everyday responsibilities. When you’ve had cancer, the question looms.

I also talked with Tony who is confined to “old man blu-blockers” after his eye accident last week. He’s doing better and his sight is returning to normal.

One of the tasks on my list was to verify the sizes of the paintings that Karen is going to put on her site, so I counted on the rest of the day going to art, especially since I was returning to painting class!  Big decision of the day: what to cover my bald head with for class. I opted for a black and red scarf donated by a woman from the cancer group. I just can’t seem to get into the wigs.

Class was wonderful. I’d started a painting two classes ago and aImagelmost finished it tonight. It will host a poem about Picasso’s blue guitarist. I still have a few tweaks, and need to add the poem, but it’s 99% done. Take a look.

Tomorrow I have a bone marrow biopsy to see if my blood still has cooties. The anticipation is the worst. I’ve also been getting little spasms in on my left side that I need to mention to the doc. They’re concerned about the effects of chemo on the kidneys and spleen and I hope this isn’t pointing to anything like that. Xanex, please.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This morning I made my usual breakfast for Scott and me. This consists of egg and melted cheese between two tortillas. I usually throw in whatever vegetables need to be consumed, but this was a minimal effort morning. We also had a small sausage and cup of fruit with it. I’d say my energy is returning.

While I was lounging around trying to figure out what order to tackle to projects of the day, Chuck Perkins, a poet/performer from New Orleans, called to take me up on my offer to visit before he left town. On Sunday, he featured at the Green Mill, and he said he was leaving town on today, so I thought he’d been too busy to come by. Chuck and I have known each other since the late 1990s when he lived in Chicago and was a Green Mill regular. I wasn’t even dressed so I told him to take his time.

It was a beautiful day and Scott and I got the patio ready for company. We even pulled a pizza from the freezer. I got dressed and had a little time to plant a few more of the flowers Rachel and I purchased yesterday. Chuck arrived a little after noon and we talked about our creative endeavors most of the time. I showed him my paintings and he showed me online photos of the fabulous club he’s developing in New Orleans. It was great to catch up.

I also had a chance to catch up with Mary, who has had her own two-time cancer battle. No one gets the implications of cancer like another cancer survivor. It feels like you’re being stalked. You hesitate to plan. You wonder whether symptoms are a recurrence or something simple. It makes you crazy, which is why you don’t have to beg for all kinds of anti-anxiety medications or sleeping pills. Suddenly giant pharma is yours for the asking!

Having cancer forces you to speculate that you will probably die of cancer, or the effects of the treatment. Maybe not soon, but at some point. And OK, I could get hit by a truck tomorrow, but cancer is the stalker that’s always hiding in the bushes waiting for the opportunity.  It’s maddening because if you knew you only had one, five or ten years left, what would you do differently? This is true for everyone, but most people can easily dismiss the thought and return to their everyday responsibilities. When you’ve had cancer, the question looms.

I also talked with Tony who is confined to “old man blu-blockers” after his eye accident last week. He’s doing better and his sight is returning to normal.

One of the tasks on my list was to verify the sizes of the paintings that Karen is going to put on her site, so I counted on the rest of the day going to art, especially since I was returning to painting class!  Big decision of the day: what to cover my bald head with for class. I opted for a black and red scarf donated by a woman from the cancer group. I just can’t seem to get into the wigs.

Class was wonderful. I’d started a painting two classes ago and almost finished it tonight. It will host a poem about Picasso’s blue guitarist. I still have a few tweaks, and need to add the poem, but it’s 99% done. Take a look.

Tomorrow I have a bone marrow biopsy to see if my blood still has cooties. The anticipation is the worst. I’ve also been getting little spasms in on my left side that I need to mention to the doc. They’re concerned about the effects of chemo on the kidneys and spleen and I hope this isn’t pointing to anything like that. Xanex, please.

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Monday , May 21, 2012

Posted on May 24, 2012. Filed under: Art |

I’ll get to this soon.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Posted on May 20, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. First Scott was tossing and turning. Then I my scaly skin started itching. By then it was that time of night when the birds decide to all wake and chirp at the same time—and they were loud! So I took a book of poems and went out to the sofa to read for awhile. By 5 a.m. I thought I might be able to sleep, so I went back to bed and slept until about 9:30 a.m. Man, did I feel like crap! All day, I had that hangover feeling and energy was super low.

But let’s just forget about everything and embrace my future as an artist. Today, Karen, artist from New York, came over to take photos of my paintings. She plans to create a page on her site,, to feature a selection of my work. Scott pulled out a super-fancy tripod and we used my not-so-fancy Canon camera. Karen chose a group of compatible pieces and we measured for new mattes to make the pieces work together better. Meanwhile, I’m going to take the abstract landscapes we selected off my web site ( and move my jewelry to That’s a lot of web editing, but it will be nice to have my work out there.

Late in the day, a package arrived for me. It was my new wig! I chose the style because I was most like my former hair, but this color is lighter and of course without the gray. It looked a little “Hollywood” and I regard it as in the same category as wearing high heels. I will only wear it when I need to make an impression. Otherwise, the scarves are so much more comfortable and more me. I should show you photos, but I’m too lazy…or maybe too tired. Later.

Karen had dinner plans with a friend not too far from here, so I drove her there. Traffic was crazy, but it was nice to drive around.

After dark, I laid in the hammock and looked at the stars. Scott came out on the patio and we identified the big dipper. The city lights made the sky as light as dark blue while still being able to see a few stars. Nice.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Posted on May 16, 2012. Filed under: Art |

It was a day of welcoming help—and learning how to be OK with that. My friend, Karen is in town from New York visiting family and spent today visiting us! Karen is a visual artist and we discussed putting some of my work on her web site Our styles are compatible, but different enough not to compete. Karen also helped out by changing the sheets on our bed and organizing the sheets in what we call a linen closet as well as various go-fer functions. We even had time to sit and visit a bit on the patio. She’s returning on Thursday to take photos of the paintings for the site.

In the afternoon, Marcia came by with her husband and a beautiful basket of food for dinner, or should I say three dinners! The huge bowl of pasta and chicken could last a week if I was nauseous! But I’m not. J  Everything was delicious. And the paper plates and napkins reminded me of France.

Of course, I am avoiding health-talk. Tomorrow I have appointments; one with the oncologist and another with a “stand-in” internist due to my internist’s grandmother’s 100th birthday in Korea. I am counting on my old friend, Denial, to keep my mind on other things. I’m not sure if I will have another bone marrow biopsy, picc line installation or crumby scores from a blood draw that will perpetuate my no-fresh-fruits-or-vegetable status. I didn’t even look at my pile o’ mail/bills until way later in the day—and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I also perused some changes a client faxed.

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Day 27: Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Posted on May 9, 2012. Filed under: Art |

Well, today started off well. Platelets are up to 258K, but other numbers still not too impressive although the trend seems upward. This inspired Dr. G to let me go home tomorrow!!!—exactly four weeks after being admitted. Walking around still amounts to aerobic activity, but if I’m home, I’d walk around more and get back in shape faster. It’s not for sure, but things are looking good. I’ll believe it when I’m there, but I drew this little good-bye message as an affirmation.Image

To prepare, yesterday, Scott, Christy and I researched products that would help to protect the picc line that was inserted into my arm for future blood draws and chemo treatments. It needs to stay dry in the shower, etc. Currently each patient care tech wraps it up a different way—and most of the methods usually work. The most common approach is cutting the bottom out of a quart-size plastic bag, slipping my arm in the bag and taping the top and bottom. Some rely on the tape to seal it. Others tape over the plastic and make it tight to seal it. Others cut a piece of the bag and put tape around all four sides. They all recommend Saran Wrap for home. Really? The protector thingy I purchased online is a tough, rubbery cylinder that grabs the top and bottom of the arm. Now that I put you to sleep with the techno details of taking a shower…

Today was a somewhat quiet day, so I spent a lot of time on the Internet comparing normal numbers with mine and learning how they differ. (I’m so glad I have my computer!) I also learned that I’ll have to stick with the no raw food diet and drink bottled water until some of my numbers come up. I can go out, but the doc warned me that I won’t have much energy. Later in the afternoon came social hour, when Bill, the Veronicas and Scott visited. It was a very fun time with a lot of laughter. When Scott left, he took a few more things from the room to lighten the load for my grand exit.

By nighttime, platelets were down 30K to 228K, and other numbers are still low, so I’m wondering if they will send me home tomorrow. I meditated on that and hope to bump them up. We’ll see.

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Day 22: Thursday, May 3, 2012

Posted on May 4, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer |

Maybe yesterday’s wallowing is a good thing because today I felt much better. The improvement is also due to a call from Marykay who reminded me that painting is healing and that’s what I should be doing. She’s right. So I spread out my watercolors and finished the painting I started last week. About two hours later, I was teeming with energy. In fact I walked three, yes three, laps around the floor and I still had energy left over to straighten up the room. I always thought I needed to work out more to have enough energy to paint and do everything else. Now, I think it’s the opposite. I need to paint to have the energy and mindset to work out and do everything else.

Second fun fact: The poem Christy and I wrote (posted on Monday) is now on display in the hallway for Nurses Week. A nurse asked me to email it to her asked if she could use it on a poster they were putting together. I said “sure.” Then, this morning the nurses wanted to take a photo of me with them to accompany the poem. So, the poem is officially published on the fifth floor wall of Evanston Hospital.

Third fun fact: I received a package from Kathy in DC Imageand her friend Cathy who gathered a huge assortment of wonderful stuff. There are paints, paper, Hello Kitty slippers, PJ bottoms, straw flowers, a T-shirt that says “Cancer Sucks,” flameless candles as well as the required batteries, makeup, fake moustaches and puzzles for the grandkids’ visits and more.

Fourth fun fact: Tonight, Scott, Veronica and Marlene all visited during a mega thunderstorm that started off with a half a rainbow in my window. Veronica left, but ended up coming back because the hail was huge and there was no visibility. I got unhooked from the monitors and we ventured to the hallway for another lap and a half to see the storm from other directions. Before Marlene left, she decided to perform a voodoo-like magical well-spell to help get me out of here.Image

First un-fun fact: Since my body has decided to pout, I’ve decided to ignore it, like a spoiled child, until it behaves. Numbers are still down, although up from yesterday’s blood and platelet transfusions. A watched pot never boils. At this point, nurturing my soul will be more productive. Good night.

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    A writer and cancer survivor chronicles her renewed dedication to art and words..


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