Words or Pictures—THAT is the Question

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

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

I'm not even holding a pen.

I’m not even holding a pen.

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

A Poetic Coming to Terms with Limitations

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

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

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

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

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The Cover Story

Posted on August 25, 2014. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Introducing...Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd

Introducing…Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd

After writing several posts recognizing illness as a smack upside the head to make fundamental changes in areas of life that hold one back, I looked at my bucket list and am I tackling #2. Number 1 was getting a website. The second item is getting my poems and “wall poems” published. This is a long-overdue project and I’m not very patient these days.

I took a chance and filled out a grant application for an Individual Artist Grant from the City of Chicago last spring and guess what! I got it, which means I can’t procrastinate anymore! Introducing Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd.  With the help of some design cohorts, the book’s cover looks great and uses a painting I created with the book in mind.

I didn’t want to send my manuscript to a zillion editors, wait for one to accept it and get sent to market my book for them, so self-publishing seemed a logical choice. BookBaby.com has talked nicely to me and can accommodate the grant budget, so I’ve given the project to them. Hopefully, all will go smoothly. I am planning on a fall release date.

I’ll keep you posted.

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

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