Skeleton Man, by Tony Hillerman

Skeleton Man takes place in comtemporary time, mostly in the Grand Canyon, a very cool location to say the least, but the legendary Joe Leaphorn has only a small role here and Jim Chee, who functions as the lead investigator, takes almost a secondary role to the competing parties looking for a batch of diamonds lost in a plane crash in the Fifties.

I’m probably not remembering this right, but it seemed to me that past Hillerman books told the story through the eyes of one, maybe two people. This story has a more godlike approach and we spend lots of time observing the behavior and conversation of not very interesting bad guys or a revengeful woman.

I had a hard time caring much about anybody except for Bernie, young policewoman who got herself in a jam here, but we knew Hillerman wasn’t going to let anything bad happen to her because she was about to marry our hero, Jim Chee, so what’s to worry about?

I just couldn’t get interested in this book. Sorry, Tony Hillerman. But thanks for the many other good reads you’ve provided me over the years.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

A reviewer on National Public Radio seemed to agree with our assessment, that the latest and last (thank god) in the Star Wars Trilogy was loud,  relentlessly violent,  poorly acted and horribly scripted. I really loved the first Star Wars movie. I think that’s when I fell in love with Harrison Ford. The only actor in this movie who was remotely interesting or credible wasn’t played by an actor at all: Yoda stole the show, had all the good lines, and is welcome at my house any time.

George Lucas is credited with a script I’d never admit to having had anything to do with. I was reminded of a late night cable television sex film: the “plot” and acting (such as it isn’t) and dialogue are there only to support the real reason for being: sex. In this film, the reason is special effects, which are so fabulous as to be overwhelming. I could have done with about one quarter the special effects and three quarters more attention paid to giving the movie some heart.

For me, Revenge of the Sith resembles nothing so much as one of the thousands of robots that “people” the “cast”: Impressive but who cares?

Adam and Eve?

Making art is sometimes like dreaming–the metaphors are not always obvious and a literal translation may not apply. Sometimes I start with a concept and end up with something very different. This Adam and Eve project has been nagging at me for months. I had to do it–I love Ellen’s ideas for shows and they are always well-received by the Ann Arbor art crowd as well as others–but I couldn’t think of any way to do a little man and a little woman and a snake and an apple and a tree within the required 9-by-12-inch vertical 2-dimensional format requirements.

I know the story: I’m a missionaries’ kid, after all. But I’m into fish right now, so I found a way to work fish into the whole thing and I ended up, in spite of myself and my occasional cynacism, feeling strangely moved. It feels to me (forgive me if I exaggerate) almost as tragic as the actual story. Even the paint I used for the serpent is called “Interference Green.”

This piece was done on 300-lb watercolor paper with acrylic paint and protected with three coats of varnish.

If you’d like to participate in the Adam and Eve show, email me for the pdf flyer.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Is There Sex After Breast Cancer?

I’ve resisted writing about sex because I’d like to keep my private life private, but after the Wall Street Journal article on patient blogs announced to the world that I still have a sex life, I think it’s time to talk about it. It turns out that it’d be a good thing if SOMEBODY would talk about sex after estrogen, and that somebody seems to be, for one, anyway, me.

One of my first panics, upon being diagnosed with breast cancer and having to quit the next day Hormone Replacement Therapy cold turkey, and apart from dying before what I considered my time or becoming a bag lady after the bills, was not just that I’d never want sex again, or that I’d be unable to do it, or, as a single woman, that’d I’d never know intimacy again, but that, bottom line, I’d grow old alone.

The health professionals answer to my fear, when I dared voice it in some extravantly simple form, was, universally and without exception, “lubricants”. No one seemed to understand that a lubricant might not be enough to save me from growing old alone or drying up into invisibility. (A good lubricant is a start, however, and it’s good to talk with someone who knows about those things and can talk professionally and without embarrassment about them. I called Good Vibes, and had an actual intelligent conversation when I explained the problem of estrogen withdrawal dryness. These days, thank God, lubricant choices abound and I have now about a dozen samples.)

My fears went from panic to freak-out when I had a bad experience with an insensitive partner (a lapse in judgement on my part because I would have done almost anything to be held, even for an hour, although after that experience I changed my mind about that) about a month after my first surgery, my first encounter after two months off estrogen. Sex was unpleasant and painful and I got a bladder infection and I thought my love life was over. It didn’t help that I was scheduled for six months of cancer treatment, including a relumpectomy, a sentinel node dissection, and thirty-three radiation treatments. Would sex, which until that day had gotten better by the decade (and I’m well over fifty), hereafter and forever make me sick?

It turns out, however, five months later, that I’m just fine. A compatible sweetie (not the bad experience person) who tells me I’m hotter than ever and enjoys patiently making this pronouncement come true has convinced me that Premarin wasn’t my Prozac after all.

So that’s my experience to date: I’m seven months off HRT and four months into Arimidex, that shuts off ALL the estrogen my body makes, an alternative to Tomoxafin, which shuts off only the estrogen receivers in the breast. I’m operating on zero and still, to my huge surprise, doing better than ever. Really. I decided I’d be true to my feelings, love who I loved and not waste time holding out to protect my heart. And I dyed my hair red, which all my friends say suits me. I always wanted to be a redhead. It’s time to do those little things, so easy, that, well, what would people think?

This is meant as an encouragement to women who are worried about drying up and instantly aging. I don’t think it has to be so. Good diet, exercise, enjoying every moment possible go a long way to recovered energy, and hardly anything is sexier than energy. Perhaps the advice I’ve heard many times applies here too: “Once a fox, always a fox.” If you always loved sex, you always will. If you never did, it’s a tough place to start. But hey! We cancer survivors ARE tough. Maybe it’s exactly the right place to start.

I’ve received emails from women who’d like to start a private chat group about sex and breast cancer. If you’d like to be in on it, or if you have your own reassuring story, please email me. I’ll pass along nothing without your permission.

A Fabulous Read!

Paula Wall has written a book I wish I’d written–the highest compliment I can think of. Her book recounting the passionate adventures of several generations of irresistably eccentric women joins the ranks of other page-turners like The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

Ms. Wall has a very funny way with metaphor. I found three or four I thought were overdone, but that’s not much considering the hundreds that succeed, not to mention the delightfully colorful language. I kept wondering how on earth she came up with all this stuff, sentence after sentence, page after page, with never a falter, never a boring moment.

So if you could use a kick in the hutzpa department, several hundred laughs, or inspiration to be yourself and let the hips fall where they may, go read, borrow, or beg THE ROCK WALL right now. It’s probably an easy reserve at your public library, where I found mine, pulling it off the shelf as a maybe I’d never heard of. But don’t wait too long–Paula Wall is going to be a very, very popular author. I can’t wait for the next installment about the next generation of Belles, which I am heartily hoping is in the works.

A Day on the Bay

This is the largest of the seven tiny paintings I did at different times of day from a perfectly placed window overlooking the bay (I applied the white when I got home). I was trying to see if I could begin a third poster–a summer poster–to go with the first two Lake Effects posters that have been so successful the past few years. Those posters cover only eight months: fall, winter, and spring. I couldn’t afford the window I painted those from during the popular warm season.

Welcome to my Website

I welcome emails with questions or responses to my breast cancer experience and to the writing and art it has and is still inspiring. I’m so pleased to be able to share it in a larger way.

I would, however, like to reclaim some dignity for my most personal affairs. I thought I’d made it clear to Ms. Landro that I wasn’t ready to go public with my love life. I’m still not. Thank you for respecting that.

Meanwhle, if you’ve done artwork inspired by your struggle with breast cancer, I’d love to see a jpeg of it. Please keep files under 1M. And, with permission, of course, I may run comments helpful to us all in future blog entries.

And now, it’s time to go help hang a show at A & J Galleries in Bay City Michigan. Some of that art I did this winter, survival in acyrlic and pastel. Our Art Walk is tomorrow: Thursday, May 5, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Sweet Release

Think about it: For most of the history of the world, people have managed to live interesting lives without 24-hour access to over a hundred channels. While I was in treatment for breast cancer, I watched more tv than usual, and I became especially disturbed by the increasing meanness of commercials and children’s programming. When my cable company threatened to up my internet/tv connection bill by fifty bucks a month, I rebelled, quit, changed my internet service, bought rabbit ears, and went into two weeks of withdrawal.

It hurt at first. I missed my favorite programs–the daily Law and Order reruns on TNT and the most creative program on television bar none, Alton Brown’s Good Eats on FoodTV–but somehow paying $99/month for those seemed over the top.

Now I get six channels for free. FREE! I’m saving $1,500 a year! Hey, I can go to Paris for that. Best of all, however, are the books I’m reading. From my desk I can reserve anything online at my public library, and sooner or later, my turn to read it comes up. I can order almost anything, in or out of print, on line. I am blessed with delicious prose, absorbing stories–portable, private, unending, ad-free pleasure. And if I miss the visuals, I just rent a DVD. Heck, I bet pretty soon I can even rent entire seasons of Good Eats.

There is a problem: Books are so seductive that I’m spending more time reading than I ever spent watching TV. Right now I’m halfway through Wendell Berry’s latest novel, Hannah Coulter. It’s deep, soothing, philosophical, and easy to lose myself in. Wendell Berry articulates loss and grief so well that he pulls me into life again along with his characters.

Quitting TV finally feels as freeing as quitting smoking, effective as a healing antacid, and oh, what a relief it is.