Thursday, March 18, 2010

The one year anniversary of that horrible evening when my doctor told me I had breast cancer has come and gone. When I think back on it, I am astounded at how much can happen in one year. Not just in terms of the day to day events and activities, but also in the evolution of my psychological and emotional life. If you had asked me about my life on the day before my diagnosis a year ago, I would have had quite a tale of woe for you. I felt mired in crises, not just one, but many. I tended to lump them all together under that very useful umbrella term "mid-life crisis." In truth I felt like my life was falling apart. And then it almost did for real.

It became clear to me over the course of this year that all other crises lose their urgency in the face of the ultimate one. I had witnessed this truth as Kristen faced the end of her life, but I didn't really get it until I tiptoed my own little self up to the edge of that abyss and peered over. When your life is threatened, nothing else matters. All other turmoil and trouble shrinks.

I feel like I've been whisked away from that treacherous edge by modern medicine, my friends and family, my own will, and a measure of luck. But I know now how close I live to that edge. And so while I am back to fretting over certain of life's offerings, but I won't let myself be buried under worry and stress again. Because were it not for luck and love and science, I probably wouldn't be here right now. Being here, right now, is all that I want or need. The rest will work out.

As you've probably noticed, I haven't been inspired to write much lately. I began the year thinking that I'd write once a week, sometimes about cancer, sometimes not. But I've found that the subject of cancer is bound to this medium for me, and if I don't feel like writing about the c word, then I don't feel like writing at all. And I feel like writing about it less and less.

So I think I'm going to let this blog go. I'm in the process of opening a studio and shop in Bar Harbor with my friend Michelle, and I think that maybe we'll begin a new blog on our store website. Eventually. First we have to have the website. Well, actually, first we have to have the store. Wish us luck. Once there is a store, and a website, you'll be able to find us at Spruce & Gussy (

Thanks for being out there for me over the course of this last long year. It meant the world to me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

craft hope

Craft Hope for Haiti Shop Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time

Check out Craft Hope's Etsy store to purchase nifty handmade goods and support the Haitian relief effort at the same time. You can find one of my pendants there soon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

tiny blind stitches

I've been working very steadily on that baby quilt that I posted a photo of months back. I am really close to finishing it, sewing on the binding by hand. It's only taken me nearly two years...

Of course, I had a lot happening in those two years, so I'm not going to chastise myself about it. As I've been struggling to make tidy little blind stitches all around the edges, I've been thinking about making things, the act of creating and the impetus behind it. One thing that I have discovered for myself since selling the Lompoc is that I really, really love to make things. Facing cancer made me intent on integrating that love into my livelihood. There are few times when I am happier than when I am sewing, knitting, soldering, sometimes even cooking. This, however, can lead to some complicated questions. Does the world really need more stuff, even if it is stuff that I have crafted carefully and with love? (Sarah Neuberger of The Small Object had a really great post about this here, a while back.) Why am I so in my element while I am making things? We're not talking about great art, here. We're talking about a pretty random selection of items, mostly functional to one degree or another, but none of them remarkable in any grand way. Sweaters for babies, needle felted toys, my quirky jewelry, candy; things that bring comfort and some degree of joy, but not art for the ages. If I'm not making something that is going to be Important, is it still worth making? Why am I making it? I began to wonder, while I was struggling to make neat little stitches by hand, if there is perhaps an element of the quest for immortality at play here. My kids and I have been reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and so the subjects converged for me. Thinking enviously of Mary's ability to make perfect little hem stitches even though she was blind (blind! I can't make a decent one with my good eyesight and strong electric lights), and thinking, too, of Claire's repeated questions about when Laura lived, how she died, when she died. When can we visit her house? What is there of her that we can still see?

I don't set out to make a project with the intent that it will outlast me and therefore be a continuation of my life in some way. No, I'm pretty much in it for the instant gratification. (Okay, maybe not instant, though in Amy Karol's book, I am definitely a "Speed Demon" crafter.) But while working on this project, the heirloom nature of giving a handmade quilt to a baby definitely leads me to ponder my mortality, and my drive to craft things by hand. Am I unconsciously trying to ensure that I will leave something of worth when I die, something by which I will be remembered?

I don't think this is the reason that I get so excited picking out yarn for a project, lining up fabrics for a quilt, building a new silver shadowbox for my jewelry. There is a thrill inherent in the act of creation that doesn't have much to do with the fate of the finished product. This worries me, a bit. I feel like I need to be cognizant that the things I create will eventually land somewhere, and so I need to be careful about their number and quality. I don't want to be responsible for filling up any more landfills than I already am. And it is true that I am happiest when I am working on a project that has an intended recipient from the outset. But if I want my creative endeavors to also provide me with an income, then I am going to have to make things that may or may not find their perfect home. What's a crafty girl to do? There is no doubt that humans seem to have a need to decorate themselves and their dens, so I'm choosing to believe that supplying some of those objects is a good and worthy endeavor. The question is, what to make next?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

auld aquaintance

The winner of my first giveaway is Gayle! Thanks so much to all of you for stopping by and joining in. That was fun; I think I'll do them more regularly.

And happy new year to all. As 2010 dawned last week, it occurred to me that I will spend a lot of this year comparing it to last. I suppose I do that every year, to some extent, but there are more notable dates this time around. Just about now last year I went for my first mammogram. And as we wend our way through this year I will be taking note of the first biopsy, second biopsy, the night Dr. Hendricks told Greg and me the diagnosis, my first trip to Boston and Dana Farber, and on and on. I like to believe I can make a clean break and move into life beyond cancer, but the fact is that it is so very recent and the edges are still so raw. I don't spend much time worrying about it coming back or fretting about what I'll do if it does. But every once in a while, especially if I'm doing something with long term implications, I wonder "what if"? What if it comes back?

There is nothing useful about that question, so I'm leaving it behind to focus on here and now. And though the comparisons to last year will be inevitable for me, I can use them as a reminder of how lucky I am, of how much I love being alive and of all the reasons why.

I'm not ready to leave this blog yet, though the urgency has unquestionably abated. I think it will be interesting to see how my experience throughout last year informs my life this year; how it continues to change my life over the long term. I can do that, of course, without the blog, but the act of writing has always been clarifying for me. I expect that there will be less and less talk about cancer and more about the things that I'm able to do now that I'm not in treatment. And about how the experience of having had cancer influences the decisions I make about how to spend my time now.

Thanks for being here with me. Here's to a healthy and joyful 2010!