Saturday, March 7, 2020

Let Go

My husband bought me this painting on canvas a few years back. It actually means quite a lot to me -- I  received this in a fairly chaotic time in our lives and I was struggling to find some peace within myself. I was trying to focus on getting something down on paper this morning and I kept staring at this painting. Sometimes inspiration is almost too obvious.

I am afraid
Terrified it will be so very obvious
that I need you
than you need me

Each time I say goodnight
I get on my knees (figuratively)
and pray that you are not
your goodbye (literally).

When you turn around and
walk away
because you have somewhere to be (literally)
I fear that its because
you would rather be
anywhere else (figuratively).

It hurts in the head
in the heart
a solid one-two punch to the gut
maybe more like one million unsure (but still painful) cuts

When I breathe you in I feel
comforted and safe
You are probably waiting and waiting and waiting
to exhale with relief
that I don't need anything more from you
(other than just

It has become so completely obvious
that somewhere along the way
I was so busy holding tight
to your hand
Afraid to let go
It never occurred to me
I should fear
losing myself

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Brick by brick

I don't have a particularly interesting story to tell about this poem. This isn't based on a true story; in fact, I am pretty sure I was watching a Hallmark movie and had an idea bubble up. It's a little hazy. This was a poem I sketched out in 2014 (!). Nothing like digging up and dusting off old pieces to flex the writing muscles. Well, anyway, here it is in all its glory.


Sticks and stones can break my bones
but your words are the one thing I will never forget.
As my defenses started to crumble
The rubble fell at your feet.
Even in defeat I couldn’t help but give those broken pieces of myself to you.

Your words found a place to hide out in the curve of my ear.
Taking shelter, finding a safe space to live forever
Your voice ringing out clear and pure.
(It really was the strongest thing about you.)
There is something hypnotic about a beautiful weapon.
A silver tongue spitting brass bullets.
Perfect white teeth gnashing.
Pushing out soft words with jagged intentions.

Your words were an unforgettable cadence.
I still can’t stop hearing you say it. “There’s someone else.”
(It really was the worst thing about you.)

Each one of your words was another brick.
Baked in the heat of my fury.
Every smug platitude was mortar and filler.
Watch me build this wall.

You keep saying it over and over.
"We can still be friends, right?" 
"You understand, don't you?"
Brick. Brick. Mortar. Brick.
I crumbled and fell. But now I’m rebuilding.
Up and up and up and up.
And then finally…
I’ll be over you.

I call this photo "Love in an alley". Taken in 2017, Lincoln, NE.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The lady in the painting

I can often feel the itch to write, just nagging at the ridiculously hard to reach point between my shoulder blades. The frustrating part of this is when I can't rope one single idea out of the clear blue sky and let my pen run with it. So, that's when I fall back on the talent and creativity of people in my circles and use one of their creations as a writing prompt.

David Quinn is a talented award-winning artist based in Co. Mayo Ireland whose piece titled, "Necklace" serves as my most recent creative inspiration. He's ever so graciously permitted me to link to his work here (what a lovely guy!):

Necklace, David Quinn, 2007, Mixed media on board, 70cm diameter
View this piece (and so many beautiful others) on his website

So now that you've had the opportunity to fall in love with this painting like I did, here's the poem I wrote:

Lady Like

It hurts to remember you
Your laughter feels like tiny bursts of flames licking across my skin
Your touch feels like a million paper cuts left in the wake of your trailing fingertips
What used to give me goosebumps now stings me

But this is life; c’est la vie
One stupid mistake
Two fingers of whisky
Three fingers on a ledge
But forever hopeful

Never totally prepared to defend my heart
My battle armor is deceiving
Looks like perfect hair and makeup
Two swipes of the blackest eyeliner
Three spritzes of the most romantic perfume
It makes you feel comfortable
It makes me feel confident
Then I rip apart the silky illusion with ten manicured nails on my dainty lady hands

My hands hurt from
Clutching these pearls
Oh how I wish I was clutching the back of your shirt
Soft thin cotton bunching up
In between my fingers
My wedding ring snagged a tiny hole
I can fix that later
Can you fix this now

We were quite the dazzling pair
Now I’m a single earring with no back
Cherry lip gloss with no lid in the bottom of a bag
This promise should have been set in stone
Like a 3 carat stone set in a platinum gold band
But instead I just wrote “xoxo” in the dust on our dresser
Memories caught in the cuffs of my jeans
Spilling out around my feet as I walk through the door

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The one about September 11th...but not THAT September 11th

On September 11th, 2015, I was an emotional basket case just doing my best to hold it together. Literally. It was two days after my double-mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and I was a mess of stitches and bandages and tubes. I had these new Frankenboobs and I looked like I was in a knife fight (and lost). It was a shitty day (for so many obvious reasons) and I remember watching a documentary on 9/11 and desperately wanting the phone to ring - I was waiting for a phone call from my nurse. I was waiting for the results of my lymph node biopsy. I wanted her to call and tell me that my lymph nodes were all clear. No cancer found. Success. I was willing her to make that call and tell me some good news. If I kept putting the positive thoughts/juju/vibes/wishes out into the universe, it would come to fruition, right? The last time I received a phone call from Kelly it was good news. (She was the one who called me way back in February 2015 to let me know that my original PET scan did not show any signs of cancer anywhere else in my body.) I was desperately hoping to continue the "Kelly only calls with good news" streak.

I love Kelly Fields. She helped me get through some of the worst parts of my life with honesty, optimism, and genuine kindness. 

On Friday, September 11th, 2015, nurse Kelly called to tell me that the six lymph nodes they removed and tested all came back CLEAN. That meant the cancer cells didn't pass through those nodes and didn't spread to other parts of my body. The only other time in my life when I felt relief like that was in the moments after I delivered my daughter and I heard her cry for the first time and knew she was alive and well. Monumental amount of relief. Relief the size of oceans. Seriously, that much relief. No hyperbole intended.

So here we are, one year later. It's September 11th again and guess who I saw today? I got to meet with the one and only nurse Kelly for my one-year post-surgery check up...and it was great.
Here I am in the parking lot right before my one-year, post-surgery check up. Oh what a difference a year can make.

September 11th, for all of the still very obvious reasons, is a day I'll never forget. But despite all of the sad connotations surrounding this day - - there will always be a smile on my face and extra big hugs for anyone who wants them. I can't help it. While I will absolutely take a moment (or two, or fifteen) to reflect on the loss and heartache and confusion our country experienced in 2001, I will also remember that this is the day I knew I would get on with my life. MY LIFE. LIVING, you know, definitely not dying. With the help of an extremely talented medical team and the support of my friends and family, I kicked cancer's ass.

Yes, this day means something to a whole lot of folks. But every year, in the late afternoon of September 11th, if you see me grinning like a fool, you'll know why.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The one where I get my purple shirt

This year I participated in my first Relay for Life event as a survivor.
Let me tell you a little story...

This might sound a little cliche, and borderline trite, but stay with me. When I was going through chemo, in some of the very worst moments, I would picture myself walking the Survivor's Lap at a Relay for Life event. I would see myself wearing one of the coveted purple t-shirts, walking the survivor's lap, smiling and waving at my friends and family, knowing that it was all done and I made it. This daydream was the carrot at the end of my chemo stick. My mind was made up and I was going to get me one of those damned purple t-shirts.

There was a Relay event during the summer of 2015, but I didn't feel comfortable participating because there wasn't definitive proof the chemo had worked and I couldn't be sure the cancer was gone. I couldn't bring myself to wear the purple shirt if I didn't know for certain that I was a survivor. Surviving is one thing, but being a survivor is quite another.

On June 18th, 2016 I walked my lap wearing my purple shirt. I smiled and waved like I was frickin' Miss America. I waved to my family, my friends, my doctors and nurses. I smiled at other survivors. Hell, I even smiled at strangers.

Me and  my caregiver (AKA, my husband, Ben) kicking off the survivors lap. 

Here I am, waving and grinning like a fool! (...if you look right behind me, you can see my oncologist. Pretty cool that he was right behind me. Serendipitous and lovely.)

Me and my oncology nurse, Lisa. She coached me through my treatment and is nothing short of amazing. 

Me and two Lincoln Police officers, I may have gotten a little camera happy on my first lap!

In addition to the survivor's lap, which is emotional in its own way, there is the luminary lap. This takes place after dark, with all of luminaria lit. There is total silence except for a lone bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. Yeah. It's just as much of punch to heart as you think it is. This is the time for remembering those we lost and being immeasurably grateful for those still with us. This lap is powerful in a way that I have a tough time describing. I might have actually felt all of the emotions on the spectrum - even if only for an instant, I am pretty sure I felt each and every single emotion.
Me, the hubs, and the kid. I am so lucky and grateful.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't tout the virtues of the outstanding members of my relay for life team. These folks took time out of their lives to join me in raising funds and awareness in hopes of getting us one step closer to a world without cancer. They supported me during my treatment, and they support me's pretty amazing.


You know what the cherry on top of all of this is? This team, "The Self Checkouts", was awarded the Relay for Life Rookie Team of the Year award!! We showed up en masse, we had the best t-shirts, we walked and talked, we laughed (and cried), we participated in Jazzercise. We remembered those we lost, celebrated those who survived and each of us did our part in trying to raise awareness about doing breast self exams.

Now, there are a solid 50 more pictures I could post and at least 50,000 more words I could type here. But I'm not going to. Just know that this event was something I was looking forward to throughout the entire year of chemo, surgery, radiation, blood draws, blood transfusions, and countless doctors appointments. This was a thing I could focus on instead of worrying about whether I was going to die or live. Because that's the truth. It's a scary truth that you don't want to admit until it's all over, but there you go. I lived. I survived. I got my damned purple shirt.