Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Makin' Mountains out of Mole Hills

I sorta feel like the kid in the neighborhood that was the first to get a microwave/cell phone/Atari, something, well nothing that cool but none-the-less, the first in my hood. With that comes a bunch of things, like fuckin' some shit up and wishin' I would have known more going in. I am the one workin' out the kinks so that I can pass the wisdom I have gathered along the way onto you dear reader. It's like my public service announcement, if/when any of you women/men are put into a similar situation you will have more information than I did. First thing ta do, call me, then refer back to my written words here, I am not leaving much out.

Ya know how it's okay for you to call your brother an asshole but if someone else were to mutter those words you would beat the shit out've em? I can down-play things to make it easier for myself and others to digest. I can make certain unpleasant things seem tolerable since I have a guilt complex that I got off "easy" in comparison to a shit ton of others. BUT, when others do that for me, I get bucky.

I am going to take one final time to talk about my cancer. I got breast cancer and I took preventative measures to make sure that it does not come back. In two major areas, (after testing positive for the BRCA gene) I underwent pretty brutal surgeries that involved removing seemingly (a.) healthy breasts and (b.) ovaries and fallopian tubes. That was a huge and terrifying decision to be faced with but given the statistics I went with my gut and have no regrets. I did however want to go through the reconstruction process, I wanted to feel like a "normal" (loose use of the word normal) woman again so I had the brilliant doctors and nurses LITERALLY make fuckin MOUNTAINS OUT OF MOLE HILLS. (I have been waiting to use that line, thanks Marie).

During the 8 month reconstruction of my breasts, that were completely removed, I had expanders put inside my chest, think Reebok Pump shoes. That was basically the theory behind it, the doctors put these balloons inside my chest under my pec muscles where my boobs used to be and I would go see my wonderful plastic surgeon every few weeks and he would fill 'em up. I did have the misfortune of one of my expanders getting infected, which was taken out the day before my big benefit party. I was thrown, I had been marching forward all along and now suddenly was set back about 4 months and I had to be ol "one tit mcgee" for over 3 months. I wish that I would've paid more attention to the exception to the rule, i.e. "if things do not go according to plan". Then maybe that would not have been such a major blow.  I played it well and I am proud of myself that I really did it right out in front of everyone and I don't think many people even knew. When you are small chested, no one is looking so no one really noticed. As weeks went by we were still fillin' up the expanders, and they grew to be like giant softballs inside my chest, which was a total pain in the ass, they made sleep impossible and bras pointless so I finally decided I wanted to be done. I wish I would have figured out exactly what size breasts I wanted and told them that straight out as opposed to trying to figure it out as I went.

It was time to start the process of finishing up. Let us not forget that this journey of double mastectomy followed by expander reconstruction started in July, it is now February.  Now we are back at the plastic surgeons office and the nurses are prepping me for my 6th surgery (holy shitballs) which was to remove the expanders that had been working at getting my skin and muscle stretched enough to fit a silicone implant in. Not my first rodeo, they asked me my name and birth date a million times, which I answer with all the patience I can muster and then ask: "so Mary, what size implants do you want today?"   I made it abundantly clear that I do not want globes, I want a certain amount of hang-age and bounce, I mean I have seen my share of fakes and they always seem so hard and set in their ways.  But alas, I knew I was in good hands so I relaxed into my anesthesia and went to sleep. 

The one thing I never stopped squawking about from day one of this whole "rebuilding project" was the subject of nipples. I mean, don't construct me a beautiful new foot if you are going to leave off the toes. That shit is just plain weird yo. I was sorta told that nipples don't really work, and they don't really last, but I didn't care. This was my non-negotiable. I'll tell ya, my guy origami-ed me some nipples. It is truly amazing. They are a bit obscene right now but he tells me they will shrink, thank god, cause these fuckers could direct traffic.

Unfortunately cancer is a growing trend, it is prevalent and seems to be gaining momentum. I went through a scary thing, I played it down and took it like a man (well, like a woman, but that is not how the saying goes) and now I have big boobs. That is most certainly not the point, it's over and for that I am grateful but it's a weird way to end the journey. I am happy because I am healthy and I can go bra shopping and bikini shopping now and I no longer have gross drains or expanders, or concave scars, I have a body back.  When ya think about saying how "lucky" I am that I got big boobs now ya might wanna just go ahead and think about what lucky means to you.  My best pal Ann (who went through major cancer complete with chemo and radiation) only further reinforced this when after her double mastectomy, her breasts were reconstructed from fat deposits from her belly, and people would say to her: "at least you got a tummy tuck out it." I understand that people want to point out the "silver lining" I think the silver lining is that we are healthy and alive, nuff said.

Suddenly it has dawned on me, I am a flat chested girl with big breasts now. Holy crap, this is going to take some getting used to. I won't be pissed if ya look. It really is fine work. 

(post op selfie)
             Okay, this is the last you will hear about me and my cancer story. Let's move on already.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sunny with no chance of children

as the second part of my ongoing aggressive proactive attack on the cancer that attacked me, I got my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. First of all, it has been like my fourth surgery and it really does not bother me other than it takes a lot of time and I have to repeat my birthday and name like 487 times which is a giant test of strength. It went well, I got full color photos of all of my inner organs which were all pretty in pink, and I returned home that day with nothing more than 3 bandages on 3 spots on my abdomen. Holy shit, technology is really something. I mean if I would've went through this like even 5 years ago I think I would have been opened up all "Game of Thrones" style from belly to bottom. I had some cramping and bloating and I went home with a new prescription of Percocet.

It was kind of weird though, I never really seriously considered having kids of my own. I mean I did but I didn't. I thought I would make a superb mother but I have yet to find that sperm donor that I could jive with. I spend a lot of time with kids and I have a thing with them. I cannot explain it but if you saw it in action you would be impressed. It does not happen immediatley with all kids and some, it takes a while but then it happens and they are under my spell.

After having this surgery, besides the fact that I am 41 and have no possible prospects of love even on the far reaches of the horizon, I was sad. It is so definite. I don't like absolutes, I like wiggle room and grey areas. This was harder than I thought it was going to be. I am the crazy aunt, the funny friend, and the awesome teacher.  Was I honestly ever considering pushing an actual baby out of my vagina? I don't know and I guess I will never know.  At this point it is just the afterthought of not  having a choice and wondering about it.
It is interesting though as now that I am tits deep in menopause (I don't feel any different), I am acutely aware of my friends with kids, their interactions, relationships, and what they have with their kids. I think of the relationship I had with my dad, and the one I have with my mom. I talk to my girlfriends on the phone about their kids. It is amazing how insightful I can be about kids, motherhood, and all this shit that really, things I dare not have an opionion on. Afterall, I only have a dog. I consider her my kid, but I would never say that to my parent friends.

The standards that "we" or "society" puts on moms is almost as fucked up as the standards we put on women in general. Gotta look perfect, gotta act perfect, gotta talk perfect. Moms? I think they might actually have it worse right now. Everyone is telling them what their child is supposed to act like, at what level they are supposed to function at and that it is all something that is wonderful all the time and will come naturally to any "real" mother. We are shown extreme cases of "bad moms" like that chubby little girl on the reality series, what is her name again? The mom that serves her kids cheese puffs and soda pop for breakfast? Oh yeah, Honey Boo Boo. Jesus, help us all, that woman is a mother and her kids will inevitably be mothers too, probably as teenagers.

I think when moms in reality see shit like that they over compensate and think that anything even close to junk food will ruin their kids. They get bombarded by what is absoulty WRONG and HORRIBLE to do to your kids, they hear that any sort of discipline is mean and will wreck their kids. I mean it goes on and on. I talk to these lovely, smart, sensible, kind, generous, nurturing, and wonderful women telling me how hard it is. How thankless and exhausting, and how after all of it, they still wonder if they are doing a good job.

Jesus effinfg christ. I wonder if any of them have watched that documentary about babies where the mom in Mongolia would leave the baby teathered in the house while she went out and got the chores done. The baby lived, and thrived, I think they left the dog in charge. I understand that in our world people would go to jail for that sort of thing but the bottom line is is that kids are hard to ruin, they really just need a good daily dose of love and all the rest is survival. Is everything they eat organic? How about some of it. Is everthing they put in their mouth sanitized, c'mon! Is every emotion shown in their presence in control and laid out according to Dr. Sprock?

Ladies, breathe. Then cut yourselves some fucking slack. Take it from a gal that missed that boat, you are doing an amazing job, you are strong and resilliant and impressive and amzing to watch. Give them cheese balls every once in a while, get a babysitter and go get drunk and danceyer face off. Your standards are too damn high, your kids are going to be fine and if anything they should eat more dirt, fall down more and talk to a few strangers, chill out. If your kid is fed and sorta dressed and decently clean the rest is extra expectations of being a "perfect mom" and it will kill you. You know that if you did suck at it I would be the first to tell you, I got opionions for days.

Everything happens for a reason and I am a happy person, I do not regret any of my decisions, well a few but mostly involving too many shots after midnight. I am going to be that cool adult that yer kids love and that is going to be enough.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holy Shit! What happened to 2014?

I just looked back to see when the last time I blogged was and I will be damned, it was July of 2013. That is over a year ago and I got the sweetest email request from an unknown party that requested that I get off my ass and get back into blogging, apparently, someone was enjoying it.

The overwhelming feeling of "where the fuck do I begin?" has been a bit of a road block for me but today I decided to get it out of the way so that I can get past it.  Jesus, in the last year and a half quite a shit load of things have transpired.

I am going to lead back into BP blogging with a "year in pictures" sorta thing so that I can get caught up without making it a freakin novel.

I sold my Saab. Oh the horror, that car had balls for days.

September 2013
I started working at the Middy on the weekends for extra cash and an attempt at some socializing. Started making these super extreme hilarious signs that are now my trademark at the bar.

I taught a residency at the
Hillside school and worked on my first wicked huge print which was the featured piece in my
at the Paramount Gallery on
St. Germaine.  (March 2014)

Paramount Gallery St. Germain March 2014 (photo by steve diamond elements)
I ran a half marathon
with my good buddy
Lori Bukowski on
St. Pattys day, then
we drank a bunch of
Irish whiskey. (March 2014)

I also painted a bigass mural
at Granite City Crossfit, where
I try to work my ass off,
Got to print posters for my pal Shaun at Fan HQ and Tommy Dehler, the King of Vinyl. It was super cool to meet Bud Grant and Kent Hrbek!
(March 2014)
I was there when my
beloved Electric Fetus
St. Cloud closed down.
That was a sad day and
the end of an era.
Electric Fetus was the
first local store to carry
Bruno Press cards!
Me, Hazzy, and Andy Valenty at the Fetus. 
(May 2014)

Me, Pauly, and Sam went back to New York for the 2014 Stationery Show and really rocked it. Got myself two great new reps in Chicago that have been killin it with BP ever since. (May 2014)

Found out about the
big bad cancer. Had
a lumpectomy, then
found the gene then
had a double
masectomy and still
I have more shit to
chop off and remove.
What a fuckin pain
in my ass.
HOWEVER, that benefit was one of the greatest days of my life.

And jis so ya know, I also take time out to totally fuck off. My brother, and coolest most hilarious guy on the planet, likes to get out all his super rad guns and team up with some Tannerite and blow shit up. We get some cold beers, bug spray, and offerings to the Great and powerful Steve Stock, then we just set up things to blow up with high powered weapons. Sometimes it's just good to be a gangsta.

Got to volunteer a whole weekend with the
Granite Games over at SCSU which was really an awesome opportunity to see and interact with world class athletes and people. Cool photo op with John Swanson, owner of Crossfit Fast Factory, who is the reason Granite Games comes to town. (September 2014) (photo by steve diamond elements)

Was asked to be the cancer spokesperson for the remainder of 2014. Did a ton of speaking which typically cripples me with fear and flop sweat, but the more I did it the better I got! I even have a few speaking engagements set up for next year! Did the Strides Walk with team "Bruno's Hooters"!

Even got to speak and be a part of the Breast Cancer/Fire Fighters Calendar project, hubba hubba!

Was a featured speaker at an Advertising Federation Conference in Brainerd, MN. Even brought a press and printed posters for er'body!

Started working with Jeff and Jesse Johnson on broadsides for visiting Poet's to the Central Lakes College; Verse Like Water series. I get to print and design homes for world renowned poets poems. So much fun working with Jesse, then I get to meet the poets and have dinner with them!
Billy Connins (April 2014)

Robert Hass (Oct 2014)

 Had some fun with make up on Halloween (left) and then with some ink (right) for an ad campaign for Visual Art Minnesota. Really makes me wanna start a nice big sleeve tattoo. 
That brings us to the present, right now I am trying to get some custom work done for the Boys & Girls Club, Fan HQ, steve diamond elements, and Modern Gypsy Photography. Not to mention that my big end of the year Holiday Art Sale is happening in less than two weeks. This is the debut of
the "Cool MN Hometowns" Calendars!Hope you all come out to St. Joe to pick one up for yourself!
"Cool MN Hometowns" 2015 Calendars

Until next time, which I have promised myself to keep up with now! Lot's of shit coming up so stay tuned! Bye BYE!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

European Tour (Part 2)

Before I can tell you the story of my time in France I have to include one short visit to Stockholm, Sweden. Gota wanted to introduce me to a few more printers that were making wonderful things. One was Thomas Hallon Hallbert, who currently resides in the South of France but was going to be in Stockholm. We got to chat a bit about what he was working on and we also swapped work.

The other was Richard Arlin, who has been printing books, amazing melt your face off books, for decades. We got to his printshop and I'll be damned if printers mostly all have the same freakin basic thing going on in their shops. It is set up for the printer, there are things everywhere and though it seems like complete chaos, there is an overwhelming sense of order going on. It is unsetteling and validating at the same freakin time. Anyways, in a nutshell, this very sweet, smart, and interesting fellow starts his projects with linen sheets and makes paper for his books. He then researches and develops his typeface and proceeds to make, yeah I said make the type. As in melt some shit down and pour it into a matrix. Man, I thought I was old school.



We chatted and looked and examined and shared and finally went to a pub and drank many wonderful swedish beers. 
Amazing people. Thank you for putting into perspective the fact that I could probably put more into what I do, like a lot more. 

Head to the Arlanda Airport to catch a flight to Paris, France. 

So, here I am, in far distant lands, leaving one wonderful destination about to embark on another printers dream. I packed my bag,  my really, really, really, large bag that I borrowed from my mom. I took that really, really, really large bag because I brought a ton of stuff that I wanted to give, sell, leave behind, share, and explain.  I left about half of it in Sweden and I had some left to bring to my new friends in France. 

I got off the flight from Stockholm to Paris and I was standing in this ginormous airport, alone, with the biggest bag known to mankind and not speaking the native tongue. I also really had to go to the bathroom. I started to look around and by god if there was not pictograms left there for me, Jonny Q American, to use to figure things out like, "where the hell is the bathroom, where do I catch the train outta town, can I get WIFI anywhere around here, and where can I charge my iPhone?" These became essential questions for me wherever I was. The point is, I got to the bathroom, charged my phone and sent some texts, and got me and my giant bag on the right train- destination Nimes, France. I was proud of myself. 

I was off to spend a week at the home of Robert Lobet, a printer that lived in Nimes and had a friend in common with me. Sort of like how the story of how I came to print with Gota, was the story of how I came to print with Robert. A year ago, a friend of mine, Philippe Costaglioli, a professor of film at St. Cloud State University, had come to visit me at my printshop one sunny afternoon. Philippe went way back, back to being a close friend of my dad's. In fact the two of them had collaborated on an amazing book right before my father passed away. It was Philippe's poetry with my dads silk screen, letterpress, and book making skills. Anyways, that day he came by, he brought with him a lovely young french woman who spoke wonderful English and thought I was the Cat's Pajama's! She took one look at the work I was doing and she was drooling and giggling! It was awesome. Needless to say we became friends which turned into penpals. Turns out she was interning for this really great, awesome, printer (who Philippe said reminded him SO MUCH of my dad) named Robert. So Robert and I began emailing, as much as we could understand one another, and eventually sending our work to each other. 

When I made the decision to go and print in Sweden I could not possibly pass up the opportunity to go and meet these people too. Then it was set. 

I got off the high speed train in Nimes and realized I did not really know who I was looking for, but then I saw them walking towards me and I knew it was them, Robert and Helene, my friends.

The first thing was they showed me to my accommodations. Just like at Tryckkamaren, I was instantly welcomed into the family space and treated like they had been waiting for me to arrive for a long while. It was a small, perfect little apartment that had everything a person would need to stay here and print or write for as long as it would take. The only thing that took some getting used to was the bathroom. Without giving a ton of detail, there are not really pipes and all the new fan-dangled plumbing that young countries like ours are born with, so I had a sweet little bucket partnered with another bucket of sawdust. Huh. I can do this. I grew up camping in the Boundary Waters fer chrissakes!

As I walked up to the shop, which was off of the house in his garage, I smelled that smell that I smell everytime I walk into my printshop. The same smell, I was home again. How freakin weird. 

I met Cookie, the family dog and started carving linoleum right out of the gate. They wanted to see what could do and I felt like I needed to earn my keep er something. So I got busy. Just like at Tryckkammaren, we were up and working everyday after our coffee. It was how it went, and it was good, so was the coffee. We worked hard and talked about what they were doing and what I was doing and what was the same and what was different. We always stopped for lunch and more coffee, everyone needs coffee.

As we were talking and laughing and getting to know each other, they shared with me that they enjoyed reading my blog and they would laugh until they would cry at the style in which I talk. You know that style, the style that makes me me but also cannot be changed. It is both an endearing quality as well as a repellant to some people. I have come to mostly accept that I am what I am and the folks that cannot stand my style of communication have no business communicating with me anyways.
The point is, they really liked the slang that I employ, and they wanted to hear MORE.

We came up with the idea to produce a book of popular english slang along side the most closely related version in french. It was god damned brilliant and I was guessing I was going to be pretty good at this. We began by writting down a bunch of options, this was always followed by gales and I mean streaming tears of laughter. I don't care who you are this shit is funny.


I carved with fury and I carved with hilarity, Robert printed like a rockstar and together we pulled this book together, like it was something we were born to do. Setting type, carving, printing, laughing and crying and drinking coffee and making wonderful, quality things that would impact our lives forever. 

I think I got as much of a charge out of Robert as he did of me, he would write down the things I would say, he was mystified at how I could shove swear words inside words. He would write them down and walk around saying them and laughing hysterically. Oh, but to be appreciated I tell ya. 

Thank you my friends, (for some reason when I would talk to these french people I would use some sort of mexican/australian accent), thank you for being proud printers that want to share and learn. Thank you for your patience with me when you did not understand me, thank you for the gifts, the time, the laughter, the acceptance and generosity. 

Thank you, from the bottom of my inky heart.