Just fun!

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 http://emilycalvo.com/books.

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The Deep End of Shallow

Posted on April 11, 2015. Filed under: APL, Cancer, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Today is my three year anniversary of when I received a call from my doctor telling me I had leukemia and gently nudging me țo drop everything and go to the hospital. I did. Twenty-eight days later, I was released with 18 more months of treatment. That’s behind me now, but I don’t get to celebrate remission for another two years. However, three years is enough time to reflect and squeeze meaning out of the event. After all, isn’t a cancer diagnosis supposed to grant you greater meaning? While I have shifted my focus to creating more art and poetry, as well as publishing my book, I see other changes.

In my case, cancer invited me to discover my shallow side. How so? Well, I am a Buddhist who believes in life after death. In fact, if you know me, you know I am a connoisseur of ghost stories. And while I fantasize a myriad of afterlife delights, such as astral travel or telepathic communication,  there maybe some things a spirit cannot do. Being disembodied could make it difficult to savor a scrumptious bite of chocolate cake or sip a margarita wearing diamonds.

20150325_114431Consequently, I want to grab the best of the shallow with gusto. I want to polish my nails, buy more pretty clothes than I need and order the expensive dessert. This is new for me. I like to think I have tried to try to make the world a better place. Maybe it’s the influence of my Catholic upbringing that focused on dutiful social values; perhaps the 1960s when we turned our backs on materialism;or maybe just my Aquarian humanitarianism. Either way, if I was paid for all the volunteer hours I’ve logged in my life, I would be quite rich. So I surprise myself when I plan a last-minute getaway, pick up a fun shirt at full price that I could do without–and only because I just like it! Once in awhile, I get a manicure.

I wonder if the awareness of death’s inevitability force us to explore the parts of us that lie dormant? It reminds me of the book, Alive, about the Chilean soccer players who crashed in the Andes and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. The two leaders of the groups were very opposite. One was a Christian and followed the rules. The other was a “bad boy” with an attitude. Together, they eventually found their way to civilization and saved the remaining group. The effect on the leaders was ironic. The rule follower became an atheist because he felt his prayers went unanswered. The “bad boy” became a Christian because he thought there was no way he would have gotten off the mountains without help from beyond.

The change in me is more measured. I believe most of what I always have–which is probably the result of prior struggles–and my social conscience is not mute. But now I make time for pleasures; things I would have dismissed as unnecessary years ago. Maybe it’s called balance.


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2nd Act Continues…

Posted on February 9, 2015. Filed under: APL, Cancer, Just fun!, Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd, leukemia, Poems, Poetry, survivorship | Tags: , , , |

group on stage1e

The Cast of 2nd Act: Survivor Stories from the Stage


Yesterday was wonderful! I took the stage at the Athenaeum Theater with 11 other women who have had their own run-ins with cancer. The cast and I, with host Roz Varon from ABC7 shared our stories of how our lives have been redirected by cancer. Hopefully, we inspired others to ride their own waves of change.

My story is about FINALLY publishing my poems and adding the paintings to the collection that became Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd. I have so much gratitude for all the dear friends and family who attended the show. Special thanks to Judy Pearson and Karen Shayne of Women Survivors Alliance for providing an inspiring platform that demonstrates such positive ways of meeting challenges. Next year, the organization will produce another show in Chicago, and I’m very proud to be chosen for the inaugural 2nd Act.

You Haven’t Heard the Last of Me! 

Today, I’m updating my website, Facebook and social media with upcoming shows because I still have about 100 books to sell. So I am booking readings, driving around with books in my trunk and carrying my “I take credit cards” phone thingy in my purse. If you know of anyone who wants me to read, just reply and we’ll nail a date.

I’ve had some wonderful, and unexpected feedback from my book. The best part comes when people tell me how reading a poem really made them feel better; how a poem made them smile, be surprised or simply a bit of the warm fuzzies. That’s what makes me happy about painting and writing. Adding a little bit of peace and beauty to the world that, too often is anything but peaceful and beautiful. Peace, folks.

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Pinch me!

Posted on January 16, 2015. Filed under: Cancer, Just fun!, Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd | Tags: |

It’s been a wild week! It all started about six weeks ago when I received an email asking women cancer survivors to audition for a part in a show. The focus is on what one does AFTER cancer, and titled, “My Second Act: Stories from the Stage.” I couldn’t resist. I hammered out my essay about embracing the artist/poet within, talked about my book, reserved a spot to audition—and was accepted into the show!


The 2015 Cast of My 2nd Act: Stories from the Stage

Last Sunday, the ten selected women attended a table reading. It was great to meet the other women and hear their inspiring stories. There were tears and laughter and everything in between. I even learned that one of the performers car pools my granddaughter to her flute class! (Small world story.) The best thing about the show is that it’s about attitude, not cancer. Anyone who’s encountered a major hurdle, health or otherwise, will hear about how to turn the ugly into beautiful.

On Monday, I got a call from Judy, the co-founder of the organization producing the show, saying that Roz Varon, ABC7 reporter and cancer survivor, wanted to interview a couple cast members at the Athenaeum Theater on Southport on Wednesday. She asked if I was available. Why, yes, I am available.

Yesterday, ABC7 ran the segment and they managed to find the 10 seconds where I sounded halfway articulate. I am very proud to be part of this! Here’s the link to the segment.

It will be an inspiring show and I look forward to being in it! You can get tickets here.

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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 www.edhinkleystudio.com.

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 BookBaby.com. 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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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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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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The First Anniversary

Posted on April 12, 2013. Filed under: Cancer, Just fun! | Tags: , , , |

I couldn’t let this day go by without acknowledging that it’s been one year since I was diagnosed with leukemia—and I’m still alive. What a trip! In some ways it seems like yesterday and in other ways it seems like forever. Either way, I’m happy to have so much wonderful support from everyone.images

So, I’m now swallowing 10+ pills a day for one week each month until November. That seems like a long time, but I have to deal with it. Since it seems the side effects are getting worse, I was wondering if the effects of the drug are cumulative. I was also wondering how long they might linger. Seems like normal questions, right. Well, until yesterday, I didn’t really want to know the answer because it might be discouraging.

That reminds me of a phenomena: When a woman bursting with pregnancy asks me when I think she’ll finally pop, which on occasion happens, I tell her that labor comes when your desire to “get it over with” outweighs your fear of “getting it over with.” The same is true in the search for answers to medial questions. I will search for answers when the anxiety of bad possibilities is greater than the worst news. And, such was my week.

So, with the fear that by November my fatigue will hit slacker heights, I figured that I was ready for some information. The logical response of course it to just ask Dr. G. But the benevolent Dr. G tends to sugarcoat truths to avoid the side effect of causing freak-outs. In fact, if Dr. G had to tell a patient they were terminal, I’m pretty sure it would sound like this: “There may be nothing we can do for you, but it’s good to know that many patients find resting in peace to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Look at it this way—no more worries about that nasty health insurance deductible.

I digress. Instead of asking Dr. G., I hopped on the Internet and sent out a few emails. I couldn’t confirm or dismiss the notion of cumulative effects, but I found a lot of side effects that would explain some of the lesser effects I’ve experienced. Sadly, nothing was really encouraging and I’m pretty sure the real answer is that “everyone is different.”

Meanwhile, I’ve had a wicked sinus infection that has migrated to my throat. How lame is that? It’s like surviving a tornado and breaking your leg in the rubble. Oh well. It’s hard to take a sinus infection seriously anymore except I can’t tell if I feel like crap from the infection or the drugs.

Here’s to me being able to bounce back with gusto.

Fun with Pharmacists

After a zillion trips to Target pharmacy, I want to think the people behind the counter can recognize me…sorta. Of course, HIPPA would argue otherwise, but come on, there’s no reason to pretend I’m a new customer.  Nevertheless, we have fun.

But that’s not my pharmacy story. My story begins with the Cadbury egg I purchased last week.  While checking out my items, along with a prescription, at the pharmacy, the tech said, “Mmmmm, a Cadbury egg. Only one?”

Pharmacy mug“Yes, only one,” I replied.

“But they’re on sale and they’re so good!” she challenged.

“That’s why I just want one.”

She laughed and said, “I couldn’t get just one.”

“I understand but I ONLY WANT ONE,” I stated with a knowing smile and emphasis.

“Easter candy is WAY better than Halloween candy,” chimed in the pharmacist behind the counter who was looking down as he took pills out of a big bottle and put them in a little bottle.

“I agree and I still only want one,” I said as I signed the box. “I don’t get you guys. There you are, surrounded by every type of drug anyone could want and you’re all drooling over my Cadbury egg.”

They laughed.

* * *

I usually try not to make a whole post about health issues. It’s like listening to that table of old people next to you in the diner. However, since is the anniversary of it all, I thought you might let me get away with it.

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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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2012 in Review

Posted on February 1, 2013. Filed under: Just fun! |

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. I want to thank everyone who clicked to keep in touch, show concern or read an update!

Thanks so much. May we all have  a great 2013.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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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 www.gapersblock.com, 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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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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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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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 (www.chicagoslamworks.com).

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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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 (http://www.shenspace.com/watercolors.html). 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 www.emilycalvo.com 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 http://chicagoartsdistrict.org/events_main.asp. 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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    A writer and cancer survivor chronicles her renewed dedication to art and words..


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