Friday, June 13, 2014

In your Eyes...

photo credit: Jesse Michener

I took the clippers out again.
No plastic colored guard attached, just the silver metal blade looking like little teeth along the edge.
I don't feel anything like I did the last time.
I feel calm, like this is easy to do.
The $100 cut and color job falls in chunks as I make wide stripes down my head, taking out what is left of my hair.
It's barely hanging on- like I used to be, so I simply set it free.
My head is perfectly shaped, as if it longed to be bald.
I set myself free.
I will no longer be taking handfuls of my hair out of the drain.
I took all the bottles of spray and jars of hair products, so many products, off the shelf.
I gave the wig products prominent space.
I feel myself filling up, not needing hair anymore.
Sure, I'll welcome it back if it decides to return, but this is me now.
When I look at myself in the mirror:
bald head
blue eyes
slight spattering of freckles,
Maybe for the first time.
Maybe this is a GIFT.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Famous Lemon Bars...

Tomorrow an essay I wrote called "Anatomy of a Lemon Bar" will be featured on Mamalode. It's a huge deal for me in terms of being "published" like for real but an even bigger deal that my mom's lemon bar recipe will be featured as well. It's like we wrote it together.
Waterbury, VT, March 2012

Please come visit me at Mamlode tomorrow and take a peek at the other wonderful writers and the words that heal us all.  It is in telling our stories that we connect to one another.  It is one of the greatest gifts of our lives.  It's so simple.  Our stores and our words connect us to complete strangers.  

It is no coincidence that I begin Week Eight of The Artist's Way tomorrow and the theme is "Recovering a Sense of Strength."  Every. Damn. Day.  Can't. stop. Won't. Stop.

Thank you for listening, reading and supporting me.
They are the highest acts of love and accept them with joyful gratitude.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Who I am...

Who I am is a head full of strawberry blonde hair.
Who I am is growing my hair out long, longer, longest for my wedding day.
Who I am is a short sassy pixie cut bleached blonde.
Who I am is a baseball cap worn over a scarf when I go running.
Who I am is a fedora worn to a party.
Who I am is a big floppy hat worn to the beach on a summer day.
Who I am is shame and fear and rage as the drain once again fills up with my hair.
Who I am is holding a mirror to see the giant bald spot on the right side of my head.
Who I am is remembering.
Who I am is crying tears shed over the same condition.  We can call it chronic now.
Who I am is home highlight kits and sun-in.
Who I am is trips to to the salon: cuts, texturizing, high and low lights.
Who I am is products that line my shower and fill my drawers: soy paste, pomade, sprays, gels, shine.
They mock me now.  Unnecessary when you wear a wig.
Who I am is googling alopecia and searching for a magic pill.
I'll swallow it, rub it on my head, smoke it, eat it, roll my body in it.
I'll drive across country for it, sell my soul again for it.

I read aloud in a room filled with like-minded souls. We call ourselves artists.
I shared my story, believing I was on the other side of it.  You can be brave when you think it's over.
I smiled and cried and felt outer body.
I told you it didn't fucking matter.
Is my story still valid?
I swallow the pills, blue and white, several times per day.  I can't help but wonder if they help or harm me.

What would this world look like if hair didn't define a person? Or clothes? Or the size of your nose or whiteness of your teeth? Or the shape of your ass or thighs?
What if when you looked at me or I looked at you, I'd SEE you...See through to your heart and hear your story?
Only bad ass bitches have the balls to shave their head.

I pick up the remains and silently glue them back onto my head.
They morph and change and move back into place where each strand will remain.
I am looking in the mirror and I look normal.
What the hell does "normal" look like?
I've fought against "normal" my whole life, but get real, that's all anyone wants to be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Holding on, Letting Go...

I was organizing my wallet and found the appointment card for a (cancelled) haircut next to the receipt from my new wig. Two world's colliding. Should I laugh or cry?  I do both. Is this a reminder that life is constantly changing? Swiftly sometimes and a snail's pace to get to the next day, that fresh start? Is this a reminder that we have very little control over life?
 Did you know a wig is called a "cranial prosthesis"?

One week I had my own hair, albeit sparse in some spots, but hell, it wasn't a wig. I spent $100 on a cut and color.  I was riding high. And just like that the shower drain is full.  I can feel the renegade hairs slide down my body in the shower.  A signal that it isn't over. A got a month respite. A month in which I laughed haughtily at the wig spray and wig "luster." (as if synthetic hair can have a "luster") I pushed them to the back of the cupboard.  I mentally planned the wig burning ceremony.

And just like that I went through the same basket of emotions I went through a year ago.  I picked them out one by one and tried them on again.  Yep, still feels the same.  Does this make me a basket case once again?

I sat on the picnic table looking at our new camper.  I ran my fingers through my hair and watched as the hairs floated away in the sunlight. If I pull hard enough I might be able to take out some significant chunks. I am supposed to be present, enjoying the camper and family time and I'm hyper focused on my damn hair. Again. That sick feeling rises up from deep down inside of myself.  It tastes like fear and smells like betrayal. My body has betrayed me again.

The hours, minutes, days I've lost to thinking about my god-forsaken hair. Are my thyroid levels off?  Do I simply have alopecia? Do I have a hidden disease?  Am I deficient in vitamin or mineral? Do I have an unknown allergy? When something is labeled "auto immune" the answers are ghost-like.

This time I just give up.  I give up in the sense that it just doesn't matter.  I let go.  I surrender.  Hair or no hair. Wig or no wig. I refuse to go down the rabbit hole again.  I'm different now.  I've been broken apart and the creation that rises declares WHO CARES.  Is it ME you see or my HAIR? Is it ME you see or a WIG? You didn't even know I wore a wig did you?

I tried on all my old wigs and hated them all.  I dared to look at my reflection in the mirror.  Am I still pretty? Are my eyes still blue? Can my mouth still form a smile? Of course. I say a silent thank you to a mother who gave me a foundation of good self esteem and confidence because without it I would be sinking.

I sent a text to my girl Ashley and planned a rendezvous to the local wig shop.  Thankfully it's one of the coolest shops in towns.  Hats, scarves, clothes and jewelry merchandised amidst a vintage stove and a vintage Chris-craft wooden boat.  The employees act like shopping for a wig is the same as asking for a different dress size.

Ashley: Always up for the next adventure in life....Seeing me through grief and hair loss and wigs. Never letting me slide too far down...
(Join the Vintage Life:  check out Ashley's shop:

We parked and got Starbucks iced coffees before walking to the store.  I decided to go into my photojournalist mode and document this whole process.  You, know, for the book.  Because if I believe there is a higher purpose to this it makes it easier to breathe and laugh. Everyone kept telling me to "OWN IT" when I got a wig the first time.  Everyone had a suggestion: get a long haired one! get a pink one! get a bunch of different styles and colors! Easier said than done when it's not you.

So here I am "OWNING IT."

Ashley pep talked me and said "Okay, now we might not walk outta here with anything so wrap your brain around that."  "Okay, Okay! You are right " I said.  I asked the Starbucks guy to take our picture. "Sure, but don't tell anyone.  I'm not supposed to touch your phone" he said.  Ashley and I went about creaming and sugaring our coffees and they proceeded to take a bunch of funny photos of themselves behind the counter. I call this WINNING AT LIFE people!  I didn't see the photos until the next day and when I scrolled though them I burst out laughing.  This was the perfect start to what could be considered a shitty trip.

                                                                                                    Barista Selfie! Boom!
 You people, you get it.  You get what life is all about!

                                                                My girl Ashley and me....

I guess I've learned it's all about the approach.  I had some of the best laughs with my mom in the midst of chemo drips and her stem cell transplant. If you show up with grace and a sense of humor I believe you can do anything.  Life is too much sometimes.  Ever since I was a child I could feel life in a way others didn't.  I noticed things people didn't notice.  Life is filled with extremes.  I am merely a part of it all.

Driveway hockey and incessant talking from my boy as I write this. Sunshine and the perfect temperature. I'm sitting in my mom's lawn chair.  The fancy one she got from the RV dealer when Mom and Dad bought our family camper. She always wanted another one and talked about splurging on one.  The morning rain has scattered the pink rose petals all over the lawn.  A scooter lies in the damp grass.  I am alive to life.  I am not sick.  I am strong.

I traveled to the Pacific Northwest and on the ferry I saw an eagle.  I met a redhead who showed me her truth.  I was wearing boots and a scarf I got in Turkey.  I spoke my truth out loud. I refuse to stop living and SEEING life because I wear a wig.

I attended a party on Saturday night and when I looked through the photos for the first time I saw ME and not me wearing a wig.  I looked good.  I felt good. I've just decided that it doesn't matter.  It can't matter. I decided to decide. It's that simple. I want to cultivate joy and smell the air and hear the birdsong. I don't want this experience to harden my heart, but simply STURDY it.  I get to say how this goes.  Everyday I get to say.

Out of scarcity I see abundance.  I SEE you seeing ME. Because I am so much more than my hair.

"God damn girl your wounds are beautiful." -Motopony

 Sometimes you have to try on the style you like in another color and then order the color you want.

Should I go dark?!

                                                          What if you just saw ME?

                                                          Am I ready for gray yet?! This was the "winner" just not the color...

 Sandy Blonde wins on the color wheel....

 Ashley said I needed one of these for summer....
 Selections abound........but it's hard to see past the "models" !
I'm gonna try this purple eye shadow thing.

                                                                   Life is for Living...
 Reminds me of Mom. xo
The girls at the store styled this left one for fun.  It was the best one in the shop! 
Trying on a long haired one for fun.  It's so not me!

I took the kids with to pick up the new wig...

                                                     Of course it's fun to try it on!
 Total rock star...

Miracle Message #3:
If I want to feel supported, I must support myself.
Gabrielle Bernstein

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

There and Here....

This is for my friend Josefine who is moving back to Sweden with her family this week after five years of living in the U.S. Her going away party was on Saturday night and when I thought about what I could give her as a gift, I realized my words are the best gift I could ever give.  So on May 17, 2014 I wrote these words to her.
Josefine is a wonderful photographer and mother and I have learned and laughed with her in the time I have known her.

Until we Meet Again...

White tulips wrapped in brown paper.
Always a smile and a hug.
Inviting me in like a new season.
Sharing words; stories of childhood, comparing feelings of a mother's decline and motherhood-
such highs and lows.

Brave face, strong heart.
Traveling by plane to a new land.
Finding you, Finding me.
You pack boxes and sell lamps.
You take down pictures that hang on a wall you called home.
You make arrangements, phone calls and cancel contracts.
You considered staying.
The heart, she's a fickle one.
Stay. Go.
Guilty if I stay, sad to see you go.

The thread unravels- hold one end while I hold the other.
Home can be found in new lands, but if you take a look around,
really see things with new eyes...You've been here all along.
You remain a little bit here, a little bit there.
Returning to familiar language, people, smells.

Sometimes you wanted to be there more than here.
But what is "there" or "here"?
Red dots on a map or the pathways to the heart?

And when I mail you my family Christmas card this year I'll put on two stamps instead of one.
It will travel by air and boat across countless cloud filled skies and when it reaches you the pathways of our hearts will connect again.

U.S.A.  ***************** Gothenburg, Sweden

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Where I am From...

I was inspired by my friend Tammi to write a poem about "Where I am From..."  She was inspired by her niece. And this is how the artist's circle begins to form.  You can find Tammi's poem and her artwork at Sonoma Coast Weekly.

I met Tammi at Write: Doe Bay in April. Her honesty and talent continue to inspire me. Her son Grady is also an artist and together they work on art journals and read art books and she helped me to see what is possible to do with my own kids.  I want to dig through my drawers and pull out my college art supplies.  I can spell the art eraser as it rubs against the paper.  Do you remember the kind? You had to heat it up in your hand and pull and stretch it until it was soft enough to use.

Thank you Tammi. xo

Where I am From...

I am from a long country road with a name few can spell or pronounce: Schacht Road (you say it like Shock)

I am from a woman who went to Chicago after high school graduation to nanny.  She dyed her hair black and upon her return her mother didn't speak to her.
She left the job early, that's what she thought her mom was mad about.

I am from a man who bought his own new shoes as a boy from the money he saved doing his paper route.

I am from a paper maker and the community surrounding him.  Shift work and beer at The Mill Stop.

I am from a grandmother receiving oranges at Christmas from neighbors and eating the white rind part too...precious treat, like gold.

I am from another grandmother whose floors you could eat off of.  She crosses the room and stops to pick up a fuzz ball from the carpet.

I am from a grandfather who liked to dress like a bum but pay in cash.

I am from another grandfather who owned a grocery store and gave his wife unlimited credit.

I am from old stock and good blood.  German and French Canadian.

I am from a town that gave me Saturday nights at the roller rink, in the winter a skating rink at the Civic Center.

I am from a town that filled me up with Midwestern values.

I am from Wisconsin farms even though I didn't grow up on one.  When I travel, people always assume.

I am from sleeping bags and soda on Friday night watching The Love Boat.  Falcon's Crest with grandma. T.V. trays to hold popcorn and treats reserved for this night.

I am from a series of books called "The Girls of Canby Hall"...begging my mom to take me to The Pine Tree Mall to buy the next book in the series at B. Dalton bookstore.

I am from The Brother's Three pizza on Main Street and I still crave it despite my "no dairy" diet.

I am from a town where the mall used to boom, the downtown too.  Today, I cringe in it's wreckage.

I am from holiday dinners that are always the same.  If we don't have this tradition what do we have? Ham and rolls on Christmas, Hillshire brand preferred.  Turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy and green bean casserole.

I am from opening a present or two on Christmas Eve and Santa arriving on Christmas morning.

I am from R.V. camping across the U.S. to see the world before I could appreciate it.

I am from cloth napkins purchased at an after Christmas sale, napkin rings too, even though we didn't have a dining room.

I am from a wool, three quarter length sleeved coat with a fur collar and a matching necklace, earring and bracelet set even though there was no place to wear them to.

I am from love and knowing if you did your best that was all that mattered.

I am from wooden church pews and Sunday school, church choir and ham and bean suppers in the church parish hall.

I am from pickup trucks with the window rolled down, country station on the radio and a nod and a raised finger movement to your neighbor.

I am from a gun cabinet in the basement and deer hunting season.

I am from brandy slush and taco dip and Christmas open houses.  Send the men to the basement for poker games.

I am from mini boxes of cereal on camping trips.

I am from gardens planted and pine trees too...Hanging baskets of flowers and geraniums in pots.

I am from trailer courts and high school proms.

I am from a purple banana seat bicycle that my babysitter taught me how to ride.

I am from pride, support, kindness and listening.

I am from everything and I am from nothing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Do you think dandelions are weeds?

When they mess up your suburban landscape
and muck up the Earth when you attempt
to dissipate them with chemical spray...

Do you think they are weeds when your son bends over to pick a bunch with his chubby hand?
He hands them to you with such grace and pride...
it's as if he delivered you to yourself.


I love my children with equal parts love and longing.
Longing to let go...Let them move amidst the Earth without being tethered to me.
Longing to pull them back into my arms and smell their necks,
gently push back hair and let my eyes fall into their deep blue pools of cool water on a humid day.

Will my heart break when you get on that school bus this Fall?
Will my heart break again, as it's done hundreds of times already?

Or will I slowly wave and smile and walk back to the house, sit down in the quiet space;
shoes scattered by the front door, peanut butter knife in the sink...

Will I slowly pick up, clean up, tidy up my heart?

Pick up the pen and begin again.
The day my daughter was born my Mother told me that life is now a series of FIRSTS.

The first time she laid eyes on me.
My eyes on her as I watched her take her last breath.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day...

I look in the mirror and see the face of a girl. When did I get here? To this place called middle age? I still see the grade schooler who loved art more than math. I see the college girl falling in with the wrong guy. All those fine lines...Maybe my face changed when Dad died.

I see a woman becoming a mother and those lines softened. My heart expanded and shifted to include you. To beat for you. I see the face in the mirror of a woman still needing her mother. More fine lines from losing you.

I see me, but I see you. Our reflections connecting, merging into one. You are me. I am you.

A prayer card handed out before you view the body. "We little knew that morning, God was going to call your name." Did you hear God's voice? Who is God?

When I look in the mirror is it God I see? I am him. He is me.

Years upon years of church, Sunday school, bible school, Junior choir, church trips and a church wedding to marry an agnostic...
All these years later what do I believe? Generations before me rise up to say "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)

Bit and pieces of memorized verses, hymns and Luther's catechism wander through my head.

My grandmother's white gloves and a pocketbook with a gold snap closure on top...inside: lipstick, tissues and gum to keep us still throughout the service.

I walk through the cemetery, looking for the tree to remind me...counting over graves to the left, or is to the right? Finding a flat grave marker with my family name on it. I see your name, your husband's name.  My son's name now. A strong name. My son named after a man I never knew. Did he hear God's voice too?

I keep walking through the cemetery. Peace and calm fill me. I am content. You see death. I see love. Lives lived and all these people loved. You see missing. I see history. You see tears. I see dedication. Grave site flowers tended to so lovingly.

I walk toward the mausoleum. You aren't there. A box of ashes and a casket. Cool marble stone and gold letters with your names and dates of birth and death. I don't enter. I keep walking.

I see my reflection in a puddle.  Who is the woman I see?
Child, daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend....
I am still me.
Complicated and changed...heart broken wide open.

A huge expanse. Can't call it a crack, but rather a chasm.

The ravens fly deep down into it and quickly fly out, hundreds of them at the same time like inky spots spattering over a white page. Their departure leaves a blankness, an open space to refill.
You gave me the foundation.

Damaged along the way I take the caulk gun and press it and press it and press it. I hear it click, click, click.
I fill it. I refill it.

You remind me everyday that you are still my mother and I am still your daughter.

Monday, May 5, 2014


This was Saturday night: good friends, planning for our June trip, sushi making. My life is broken open of late. I love that feeling.  Like anything is possible and I am the key to my own life. Just falling into the grace and beauty and joy all around me.  I have these little beings that I am raising and it sure is nicer sharing it with friends. Driveway hockey games and derby hats. Watching the Kentucky Derby after dinner and my daughter handing out Girl Scout cookies on a platter.  My son falling asleep on my lap with his clothes on, completely spent from hockey and fresh air. Life is for Living. Seeing it.  Smelling it.  Eating it up.