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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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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The Last Chemo Pill & a Dose of Gratitude

Posted on October 2, 2013. Filed under: Cancer, Family |

Sunday night, for the first time, I gleefully grabbed the five little brown and yellow capsules from my old-lady pill dispenser. It was my last dose! A year and a half of medicinal aggravations lay behind me. Any side effects will be greatly reduced by the knowledge that they are my last.  Yes!After treatment head shot

One of my cancer comrades, Tony in New York, ended his treatment with a blog post tribute to all the family, friends and professionals who helped him through his leukemia ordeal, which was way nastier than mine. I think that’s a good idea. So here’s my thank-you post and I know i will reread this and be horrified that I forgot some wonderful people. Chalk it up to chemo brain.

First, my husband, Scott has been a rock and always looks for ways to make my life easier and more comfortable. We celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary on September 30 and he’s proven that he can handle “for worse.”

My daughters stepped in as advocates when I was in the hospital and showed me the real women they have become. Many times, Christy drove from Elmhurst to simply sit by my side before going to work. Veronica arrived after work and always made sure the Thai food we ordered in was cooked to death so I wouldn’t get any germs in my delicate system. Then, there are their friends and families who spread the word and sent good wishes. And my grandkids who entertained me even though they were bored out of their minds. My in-laws from near and far have also held me close.

I am also blessed (in the Buddhist sense of the word) with an army of friends who each in their own way kept giving me something to look forward to with their visits, calls, emails, cards and amusements. I keep the three-inch stack of get well cards on my office shelf as a reminder. Laura, I loved the car deodorizer shaped like the Alamo and your insistence that it better smell like it. Ally, you kept me painting and inspired. Amy, thanks for showing you care even if it was convenient. Maria and Henry, you’re always there for me. Pam, Isabel, Kathy, Karen  and Colleen, you were far away, but it didn’t feel like it. Kathy, you and your team put together the biggest batch of hospital survival items EVER! Dick and Connie, thanks for letting us hibernate with you.  Jane, your wit should be researched for its cancer-killing properties. Laughter IS the best medicine. Mary, thanks for being so open about her own cancer drama and patient about getting assignments completed. Mark, thanks for waiting for me to get out of the hospital so I could be your website writer with attitude. Thanks for wanting the attitude. Marc, thanks for bringing your 1234518_10153261708380472_1385104933_ncalm, care and simpatico being to my life. Yes, you bring calm. Go figure, And what would recovery be like without the slam? My group of breast cancer sisters kept me in the fold even though they were probably creeped out by my turn of events. And there were so many more friends, Facebook and otherwise, and blog followers who strengthened me with their good wishes.

I can’t forget the attention from Dr. G, Kara and the nursing staff who still greet me by name if they see me pick up meds. I’m done with treatment, but with monthly blood checks, I haven’t seen the last of them.

I am grateful to all of you. I am leaving this episode with all that kindness, a new path for the future and a kickass collection of scarves. I will keep up the blog, but there will be fewer leukemia and cancer tags and more art and poetry tags. Journey on, friends. Journey on, friends. Peace.

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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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Sniffles and Songs

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Antihistamines and Cancer

In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to research the possibility of antihistamines being linked to cancer.  While I found studies that negated the correlation, I was pretty surprised at how many pros were asking the same question. More disturbingly, one study found a link to a type of brain tumor. And who financed the other studies???

I read enough to quit the 24-hour Allegra I have been on for four years. Originally, I was having about four annual sinus infections that required antibiotics. Allergy tests revealed a bunch of foods and environmental factors that I was mildly sensitive to, but nothing was serious. Together, they “put me under” with the changing seasons. I’d tried everything—neti pots, saline washes…Scott even came up with using a massager behind my ear, which seemed to easily release a bunch of clogging junk.

Since I was taking a natural mushroom extract to boost my immune system, along with the Allegra, an antihistamine to squelch my immune system’s allergic response, I wondered if they canceled each other out????  Plus, leukemia treatment was described to me as resetting the immune system, so I was curious to see how my new immune system would behave if I quit Allegra. And I was also in the throws of a rebounding sinus infection, I had about six weeks ago, which was treated with antibiotics. I had nothing to lose.

Did we run out of tissues already?

Did we run out of tissues already?

The first week without Allegra was hell. I felt really sick and my nose was a waterfall. I was coughing and relied on quarter dose of imitation NyQuil to sleep. Yes, it did contain an antihistamine. After seven days, my sinus infection was gone! That was five days ago and I feel way better. I still sneeze a few times a day—and I haven’t sneezed since I started Allegra, but somehow sneezing seems like a healthy response. I also pop a Halls cough drop here and there. I think the old-school menthol helps keep my head clear.

Here are some links I found if you’re interested.

Natural remedies for allergies:

It’s always nice to have a natural alternative, but sometimes natural stuff can be as fraught with downsides as anything else. As a matter of fact, after writing so much healthcare copy for years, I always wonder about the downside of some new miracle food, drug, herb or exercise. There are no golden solutions!

Surviving a Taste of My Old Mojo

My friend, L celebrated her 50th birthday a couple weeks ago. I was invited and have to admit I was a little nervous about my energy level for a night on the town.  In addition, L and her crowd is roughly a decade younger with party know-how and I don’t think any of them have chemo pills on their calendars. AND, I love L for her classy taste in debauchery and unadulterated wit.

BUT, I was two days from starting chemo drugs so I was at my best energy level of the month. And, it wasn’t like we were going rollerblading or jogging along the lake. The plan included theater and karaoke, so I could sit for most of it—not exactly strenuous.  I geared up with a rest in the afternoon and left with my thoughtful gift of vitamins for 50+ women, some handmade earrings and other carefully selected odds and ends that must not have been spectacular because I can’t recall what they were.

We started at Mary’s Attic, a small theater above Hamburger Mary’s restaurant, for a Hell in a Handbag Production that parodied a sort of Mommy Dearest theme, but used Lana Turner. Best line: The star, a man in drag, hustles to her daughter’s aid shouting, “What’s wrong, honey. I came as fast as I wanted to.” I can think of many uses for that line.  We had a great time.

World's Best Partiers & No Injuries!

World’s Best Partiers & No Injuries!

From there we went down the street to a bar where we united with a few more people before most of them got in a cab and went up Lincoln Avenue for Korean Karaoke. Because I didn’t think I’d last much longer, I drove and chauffeured a couple other people. I suspected my suburban passengers, even with alcohol in them, were a bit nervous when the only parking space was in front of a parkway tree with a man standing against it clearly in vertical passed-out mode. As a lifelong Chicagoan with a keen sense of danger, I assured them he was harmless although I prayed that if he needed to vomit, he’d turn around and avoid my car.

We hustled into Lincoln Karaoke, which was divided up into private rooms. The perimeter was lined with stain-resistant seating and a stage that doubled as a coffee table or vice versa was in the center. Flat screens were on each wall with the “word ball” bouncing along the lyrics and beautiful nature scenes, which made NO sense in the background. In walking to our room at the end of the hall, I wondered what went on in the other rooms that are rented by the hour. Then I decided not to wonder.

A pleasant Asian woman entered, distributed four microphones and demonstrated how to select a song from the binder listings, which were arranged by title. The first half of the book was in Korean. The second half was in English.

We leafed through the plastic-covered pages and ordered beer. Given my deadline with a week of Trentenoin/ATRA pills, I did not indulge. It wasn’t long before the coffee table was designated as a stage and the one male in the group had to sacrifice his running shoe. One of the partiers had filled it with beer and passed it among us. This didn’t make being on the wagon very difficult and I don’t need alcohol to make a fool of myself.

I LOVE to sing. Sometimes I can sing well. Other times I can’t. Usually if I open my lungs, I get better. The variety of songs was hilarious, and anyone who wanted to sing was welcome to join in. My highlight was bellowing Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive,” which sort of sent me to my own little place in the room unaware of everyone. I guess it ended up being a “Fuck yourself, cancer” moment.

Although it was one-thirty when I got home, I was hyped knowing I still got it in me to do things like survive getting home at one-thirty—even though I don’t really plan on doing that again. Maybe when I hit 60 in January???  May we all be able to retain our party souls into our 8Os.

L, we LOVE you. Have a great year.

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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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Holidays, Move Along Now

Posted on January 14, 2013. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun! |

The past weeks have had that hectic layer of holiday chaos and my blog is sniffling from neglect. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE CHRISTMAS…decorating trees, buying gifts, forgetting that I already bought a gift and buying another one, getting everyone together, luscious treats and grandkids make it extra special. I’ll also admit that this past year has made me appreciate “corny.” Even Scott hasn’t been ready to take down the tree. If we leave it up any longer, I think he should turn in his Bah Hum Bug pillow. I also love New Years! I’ve never fallen asleep before midnight. This year, we went to my daughter’s house for a wonderful party. Now I’m ready to get back to “real life.”

No One Answers the Phone Anymore  😦
I swore I would continue a traditional a friend and I started about a decade ago. (Could it be a decade!) Dateless, unless you count dinner with her 80-something dad, we gathered in her living room armed with alcohol and decided to call strangers in area codes where it was midnight and wish them happy new year. Since we were on the East Coast, we started with 212s in NYC. We spoke with a group who’d just come in from jogging in Central Park. We woke up some people, but most of them didn’t mind. We left messages on office voicemails. Many were delighted to wish us a Happy New Year in return. Some thought we were drunk, but we assured them that, although we were enjoying our holiday, our greeting was not alcohol-inspired. I don’t think we ever got to the West Coast, but it was a heartwarming experience and one that I think should become a tradition.

This year, I retreated from the party to make some calls to NYC at 11. NO ONE ANSWERED. Plus, it was difficult to even get working numbers. I did leave several Happy New Year voicemails, but it was not as gratifying as past years. I think I called about 15 or 20 numbers. Nothing. My grandson found me and asked what I was doing. I explained the tradition. His eyes grew bigger and he said, “I wanna do that.” I was done by then. Next year, I’ll figure out how to at least find working numbers—and I invite everyone reading this to do the same.

The New Do
OK…after months of scarves, because I never got into the wigs, I’ve decided to keep my short, dark hair at least for 20130111_201312awhile. I even got it trimmed already. It’s very thick and has a bit of a wave to it, which is very different from the straight blondish, shoulder-length hair I had before.

I’m not sure what color it will be in another year, but, from what I hear, the straight hair should eventually return.

A Post with Teeth in It
Last time I wrote, I reported a broken tooth. I finally got in to see the dentist who pulled out part of the cracked tooth. Gross. Tomorrow, I go back to the dentist can refill/rebuild the part that came out. If not, it’s root canal time. It’s a back molar, so it’s not very noticeable, but I’ve always been a bit of a dental-phobe. In short, I have less anxiety at the gynecologist than at the dental office. It’s all about the sounds.

May we all have a fabulously LUCKY 2013.

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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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Duck the Halls

Posted on December 2, 2012. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , |

There’s a nifty path on the east side of the Chicago River between Montrose and Irving Park. It’s not easy to find, but once20121201_223130 you’re there, you forget that you’re in the Chicago. A thin path of mulch lines the ridge and dips to the river’s edge in several spots. Grasses stand three feet high on both sides of the path and are dotted with a rainbow of colors in the summer. Trees lean into the water. Some of their branches touch the surface. Walking along the river, you are apt to spot a crested white duck comfortably hanging out with the mallards. Wikipedia says it is a mutant mallard.

On a whim, Saturday we invited the grandkids and my mother-in-law to come over and help us decorate our Christmas tree, but the balmy fall day was so nice we added a walk along the river with the grandkids to the day’s agenda. When we returned, we finished decorating the tree. I’m a sucker for Christmas. It was great.

crested white duckAlyssa got in trouble with me for suggesting the duck’s headdress looked like a grandma due to its bonnet. While that’s quite true, I would be lucky to have such a hairdo, and I don’t easily identify with the stereotypical grandma. Alyssa qualified her comment by referencing a cartoon grandma. Enough said. The afternoon gave their mom and dad an opportunity to do a little holiday shopping. Fun.

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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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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Posted on October 29, 2012. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun!, Poems |

Yesterday, I redefined “tired” and slept almost all afternoon. Later, we went to a great Halloween party and I still went to sleep when we got home. The party was a hoot with an

I look like I have something growing out of my head.

assortment of creative costumes from Big Boy to the 50 Shades of Jennifer Gray. Fun!  While Scott was “safari guy” last week, this week he was Indiana Jones. Same costume, different name.

Meanwhile, Veronica went to Virginia Beach earlier in the week for her friend’s wedding. Unfortunately, hurricane Sandy crashed the wedding. From Veronica’s intermittent texts, it seems she moved to a large beach house. The police came by and told them they’d let them know if they need to evacuate. Mom that I am, I have been Googling the area for weather updates and local webcams. I’m not counting on her coming home on Tuesday as planned. Halloween just became a little scarier.

Another friend is in Hawaii where they just cancelled a tsunami warning. Tomorrow, they expect 20 foot waves on Lake Michigan. Wild weather everywhere!

This afternoon, I ventured to the Rhino Poetry Forum for a workshop led by an awesome poet, Laura Dixon. There, I gained a new appreciation for the kind of poems that seem to be written in another language, except the words are in English.  I brought a poem of my own for comments and wasn’t disappointed. I’m planning on placing it in a painting and needed some objective thoughts before permanently installing the text. I had planned to come home, do a few chores and hit the Mill, but time got away from me and I ended up crossing a few things off my “to-do” list instead– including this blog update… I hope I don’t have poetry withdrawal later in the week.

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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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Saturday, September 22, 2012 Jupiter is in Crabby

Posted on September 23, 2012. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun! | Tags: , , , |

Whenever anything occurs to a several individuals over a period of time for no apparent reason, I blame the planets. This past week held lots of great events, but for some reason, I’ve been crabby. Not abusively awful, just grumbly crabby. So here a quick recap of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Sunday was fun. We had a wonderful lunch with friends and saw the play Equivocation at the Victory Gardens theater. I also met a group of poets from Paris at the Green Mill. They were wonderful and I read a couple of poems I wrote when I was in France. Very cool. Apparently not cool enough because on Monday, I still woke up crabby.

I had a blood test at 9 am, which is reason enough to be crabby, but I didn’t need a transfusion! Very good. Apparently not good enough because I was still crabby. My brother left for Dubai, so I got my studio back, which was good, but I haven’t had too much time to use it, so crabby strike two. In the evening I had a great conversation with my grandson. I told him he wouldn’t have been in school if he lived in Chicago because of a teacher’s strike. That inspired an explanation of strikes, unions and contracts. That inspired him to write a contract for his mom to sign agreeing she would not watch inappropriate TV shows when he’s around. That afternoon I got a call from the hospital saying my blood test showed my immune system was out to lunch, so I needed to pick a prescription for Cipro, a powerful antibiotic reserved for treating anthrax. Scott picked it up and I started taking it the next morning.

Fatigue has set in big time. I’ve even taken naps. I never take naps. Until now, I’ve been physically incapable of naps. Plus, I’ve been waiting on pins and needles for my hair to fall out again due to my chemo a couple weeks ago. I’ve been getting awesome compliments on my hair and I’ve been sad that I’m going to lose what little I’ve acquired. Blah.

On Tuesday, Scott and I met friends for dinner before going to the show at the Raven Theater that included the French poets from Sunday night. The performance was great…and sponsored by Chicago Slam Works, which I co-founded a few years back. It made me feel good about my involvement, but apparently not good enough because I was STILL crabby.

Wednesday I was tired, but I made it to art class. I’m working on a large field of sunflowers facing the horizon which means yellow, green, yellow, green, yellow, green, yellow, green…which is why I’m not a realist painter. BORING. I’m almost done though.

Thursday, I was back for blood work. I still didn’t need a transfusion, but I got the germ lecture about hand washing and staying out of crowds due to my faulty immune system. Funny, by Saturday I saw three plays filled with germs. And I’m still breathing. The appointment also included a new plan. I will start another three-day cycle of chemo on Wednesday, October 3. It’s always nice to have things to look forward to. (She says sarcastically.) I also managed to take a long walk by the lake with Marlene.

Friday…tada. My hair started falling out. The big chunks didn’t start till today, but it’s definitely going. Get out the scarves again. Urgh. HOWEVER, last night I saw my third performance of the week. Maybe I’m just tired of doing stuff???? That didn’t stop me for seeing another performance. A friend was in The Spew, a parody of the program The View. My friend Jane drove and we met up with Veronica. That’s when Jane confessed that she’s been crabby too. That’s why I’m blaming the planets. The show was really fun. I was even dragged to the stage to be interviewed by Barbara WaWa and managed to not make a fool of myself. Fun! Great performance!

Today, Christy and Tony invited us and Penny for brunch. It was great. They even hauled a trampoline a neighbor gave them into the backyard. Of course I had to try it. Of course I was out of breath in five minutes, but hey, I jumped on a trampoline! I try to forever be in touch with the four-year old within.

Now that I’m writing this, I’m thinking maybe I’ve kept myself busy so I could be in distracted from all the medical stuff. Maybe I just need to be miserable for a bit and let myself work through it. Maybe I need to just be nice to myself like I was last Saturday when I spent the day with myself. I shopped for a sofa, took myself out for crepes for lunch and bought some jewelry parts. Yes, I’m a great date.  Maybe i need to feel the gratitude for a week filled with good stuff.

I asked Scott if he complained about my crabbiness to his friends. He said, “No. No one would believe me.” Believe him. I can be crabby.

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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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Thursday, August 22, 2012 Coming and Going

Posted on August 24, 2012. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun! | Tags: , , , |

Pam and Tom

What a whirlwind! On Friday, my long-time friend from third gradecame into town from California with her husband. We ventured to the Persian restaurant and then kidnapped them for a tour of Chicago. Scott even drove to the Museum Campus for a first-class view of the skyline. It was a great time. Pam and her husband are in town to meet their new grandson, a hardy 10-pounder, so we were happy to have had an evening with them!

For me, it was as much a celebration of the end of my five weeks of treatment. They removed the picc line again. I’ll get it back in two weeks though.

On Saturday, Diane cancelled her soiree due to not feeling well, so Scott and I went to a little art fair in Rogers Park. The weather has been great. I was tired but the show was so small, it didn’t tax my energy at all. That night, we went to see Moonrise Kingdom. It was wonderfully quirky and fresh.

Sunday called for going to the poetry slam and I actually got up and read for a change. My brother went too and I think that was the first time he saw me read. I need new poems. I have so many unfinished pieces and three “cancer” poems, but I have to be in the right mood for those.


Then on Monday, I had another reunion. My friend Colleen was in town from the East coast. I also picked up my car and managed to get some groceries. On Tuesday, we celebrated by brother’s birthday with pizzas. Christy and the kids came over as did a couple of my brother’s friends.

They Want a Piece of Me
I started the week with no doc appointments, but yesterday I had another bone marrow biopsy. We’re looking for no leukemia cells on this one, but I won’t know the results until Friday. I had to remind Dr. G’s nurse that I wanted mega morphine. Last time, I received three milligrams but it didn’t really help. They told me I could have five this time—and that’s what I got. It helped, but I could still feel the metal carving into my pelvic bone. It sounds like metal on a cement sidewalk, but it’s as if I’m hearing it from the inside out. It’s weird. The doc actually spent a little more time rummaging around in there. He probably wants to get as much bone as possible to look at. Fine with me, but can we go for seven milligrams then? The rest of the day, I made friends with my pillow and watched stupid TV shows. I also connected with another cancer comrade.

Emily’s Head

No matter what results show up, Dr. G is moving forward as planned. This includes my two weeks off until September 5 when I return for another Picc Line insertion and then three days of the IV chemo drug, Daunorubicin which can cause: nausea; vomiting; sores in the mouth and throat; diarrhea; stomach pain; hair loss; red urine; and other cancers. Whoopee.

I had this drug in the hospital and experienced these symptoms, except mouth sores and stomach pain. They give you a nasty mouth wash to prevent mouth sores. Time will tell if it will spark another cancer episode. It’s nice that I was warned about peeing red. That would have freaked me out. I was given drugs for the nausea, so the worst I felt was a bad hangover. The sad part is that I will have to say good-bye to my hair again—and it’s been coming back so nicely, albeit gray. With the right earrings I won’t even look gay…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Meanwhile, my mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital. We expect her to be released in a few days when the diuretics kick in. She’s a sharp woman who is looking forward to her three kids being in the same city next week, so hopefully, all will be well.

On the bright side, I did some research this afternoon, for places to send my writing. I’ve got a manuscript of poems, a couple of articles and a book in the works. Now I’m tired.

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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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July 20, 2012 A Spoonful of Gratitude Makes the Medicine Go Down

Posted on July 20, 2012. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Poems |

On my desk is a stack of get-well cards that remind me of how many wonderful people I have in my life and all the care and love they have shown me over the past few months. I’ve lost count of the meals, gifts, visits, calls, etc. I haven’t done a great job of keeping up with all my friends, but I know you are patient and understanding. I know it’s especially difficult for my husband and daughters. Scott gets to see all my crumby moments of frustration. My daughters are quick to follow up on any changes and they baby me. I’m now one of those parents whose kids probably debate “what should we do for mom.” Ironically, I’m still one of those kids myself. At least I’m not ready for the home!

I am deferring to gratitude because I just finished week #1 of 5 in my second 5-week round, which has been challenging–and gratitude is a good way to change the attitude.

On a brighter note…I submitted four poems to an anthology of “boomer” writing and it looks like mine will be included. Not sure how many. I’ll let you know when it comes out.

On a curious note…the other day in the merry-go-round room, I noticed that the other three  patients were also Aquarians. I learned this because each patient is INCESSANTLY asked to recite their name and birthday to confirm identity. I know their birthdays fell under the sign of Aquarius because in my younger days, I wrote up charts for people. (Quite accurately, I might add.) There were only eight of us there, so the odds of that happening are way outside the realm of probability. Very weird.

I look forward to some special events this weekend–and NOT being at the hospital. Again, something to be grateful for!

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


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