Saturday, July 2, 2011
After 48 hours I started calling the office, and without any patience in my pocket, I became That Person. After my fourth call, and another sleepless night he called. He used the words cyst, nodule and lump...endocrinologist, "90% of these are benign", but let's get you in there swiftly. Five days later I met the specialist. He sensed my overactive Internet Research, my inescapable anxiety and the fact that I was already way past "I'm sure it's nothing." 30 minutes later I was having a fine needle aspiration. Happily. It was a step toward knowledge. And "nothing". Wait Number Two.
Exactly one week and one day later the nurse from his office called. A very positive voice mail with the words "I'll be happy to speak with you about your results" threw me off. It had to be good. She wouldn't use the word happy. Wrong. She used words in our short conversation like suspicious and inconclusive: not determined to be benign nor malignant. "Suspicious" immediately became my least-favorite word in the English language. My "sample" would be sent for molecular testing--a lengthier, more involved study of the cells. Wait Number Three.
Five minutes after our family arrived poolside at Lost Pines for a graduate school reunion the call came in. I missed it. Short message from the endocrinologist: "I need to speak to you about your test results". Transparently not good. And that was ok. I called back standing next to my four best girl friends from UNT, my husband and all of our kids in 100*. Without a pen. "Suspicious Cells. 50% or more likelihood of cancer. Not an emergency, but I'm going to refer you to a surgeon. The thyroid needs to come out. Call me if you have any questions." He was warm and empathised with my chaos. I scrambled for a pen--intuitively provided by Beth. I think I forgot to give it back to her. Frozen. Wait Number Four.
Fortunately a weekend of five women, a husband and eight kids distracted me from thinking...too much. 3 am brought some horrid moments several nights in a row but I started breathing and worked my way out of those caves back to a semi-restless sleep. One week later I met the surgeon. Answers. Questions. And the road came to a fork: option A) take half of the thyroid (the one with the lump) and test it for cancer--if positive a return to surgery to take the other half; if negative the remaining thyroid would likely do the work of both (amazing body); option B) take the whole thyroid and be done with it; if positive some radiation and a body scan; if negative (and in both cases) take a synthetic thyroid for the rest of my life. We didn't stand at this impasse long. Getting to the "rest of my life" sounded really good, so we went with B. And No Wait. She was open tomorrow, which was Tuesday of this week. Just the way I like it. No Wait.
As a veteran of 21 operations for cleft lip and palate a thyroidectomy wasn't so bad. I had a formidable band of loved ones around me--in person, and texts and flowers, and calls. I believe in the power of prayers, and so in a bold move I posted a short report on FaceBook (much to my brother's dismay). I think I was a tad delirious when I typed it, but the response was overwhelming. I sent out a few emails--an effort to maintain some level of information management. As a patient, for the first time in a long time, I am humbled by and empathize with the need for a) peace in patience as one waits for information and b) privacy. If you know anyone going though this, know that procedures and tests, even surgery are the better moments in this process, because they are steps toward something or optimally, nothing. Frozen moments of waiting are the worst.
However, now that I can finally write about the last few weeks I find it cathartic (borrowing the word of a dear friend). I am now in Wait Number Five.
Tuesday I should get a call with the pathology results. Another fork, but this one has no option. There is a fifty-percent chance I will have what is known in the field as "The Good Cancer". The kind of cancer--if you are going to have cancer--you want to have. "The Good Cancer" immediately became my least-favorite oxymoron in the English language. I will need to treat surrounding cells for cancer and look for more..and survive a few more "Waits". Or...on the other side of the coin:
A fifty-percent chance I get to leave "frozen" and turn down the other road...to the rest of my life. Exhaling...and praying.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
In 1961 Ruth Carter Stevenson opened the museum after her father gave the collection with a wish it would be housed in a museum free to the public. She has been an active force and leader on the board for the last fifty years--president since 1982. Unfamiliar with all things museum (but emboldened with a keen eye for art) she enlisted the help of the de Menils of Houston and legendary architect Philip Johnson. He designed the original building on museum hill in Fort Worth, 2 additions and the 2001 expansion. Ruth and her gaggle of children and grandchildren stood proudly on the stage as we happily toasted five decades. Former and long-time director Ron Tyler (one of my professors at UT) was in the room as well as the new director, Andrew J. Walker (newly arrived former curator of American Art at the St. Louis Museum of Art). Rick Brettell and his wife Carol also made the trip from Dallas.
The table cards (#10) and the place cards were written by hand in the most beautiful script. Our table of eight was appropriately seated with spouses separated and careful thought given to who would meet whom. Wine service and the courses were elegantly timed and delicious. And hot. "Anniversary Cake" a beautiful mini-cake in white fondant with gold beads (in icing) matched the gold beads on the glass plates. The speeches were both spirited and poignant--Scott and I were so pleased to be included. As we stood up and walked back out onto the plaza we were showered with a sky full of fireworks--one of Ruth's favorite things. I've written before about Texans and their audacity--something I believe forged the great art collections of our state. The night sky--over the cranes building the new addition to the Kimbell Art Museum--was expoding with color--a splendor in red, white and blue: a perfect metaphor to a family creating a visual legacy with a collection and a museum that is nothing less than world-class.
We were happy all the way home. And today--we joined my parents at the twenty-fifth anniversary of Trinity Episcopal Church in Dallas. It was a warm and welcoming luncheon--sitting among friends I've known from high school, my seven years at the Church of the Incarnation and more recently the Crow. The boys behaved (key to future invitations from my father possibly taking us to lunch) and the food was delicious. One of the choirmasters returned, the architect, former families and new ones. It was a gathering of people from moments in time since the church was formed in 1986.
So...two anniversaries, twenty-five years apart made up the celebrations of our weekend--preceeded by my father's seventieth birthday last Wednesday. It was also a sweet and nostalgic affair--with Scott, the boys and my parents enjoying A & J Bakery's Red Velvet Cake. He wanted little pomp and circumstance (we saved that for the Royal Wedding on Friday)--and so we obliged the patriarch of our family with understated joy. I let the boys plan the party (he wouldn't dare argue with them!) And a very happy 70th birthday party was had by all.
Something tells me this week might be boring in comparison...
Sunday, March 27, 2011
- Being human
- Making Mistakes
Successful collectors do not know about:
- Saying no
- Taking advice from others
The curator and I met a few friends in the crowd and leaped into a cab toward an opening at the James Cohan Gallery--Qin Feng, an artist Dallas will very quickly come to know. He just exhibited in the Fresh Ink exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. We were late to the fete and I bumbled at least three introductions (being human) but loved meeting Qin and "running into" a fellow Texas Ex from the halls of the art building 1990-1994. We didn't meet then, but meeting at a gallery in NYC 16 years later was even better.
Saturday we soaked up a lecture by the curator of "Bye-bye, Kitty" a moving exhibition exclaiming a very serious side of Japanese contemporary art. Following the tragic events of the earthquake and tsunami this projects holds even more meaning. In fact, there is a luminous projection work of a wave with light passing through a reticulated film. It was hard not to feel the powerful motion in very fresh contexts and not shudder. We spent the next few hours at Christies studying the works in the auction--and especially a tremendous ("best ever") Namban Screen that 4 days later would fetch over four million dollars. Art has many faces and facets. I quickly recharged my phone and my person for a glorious evening of theater (Arcadia with Billy Crudup) and dining (John Dory Oyster Bar). Bliss.
Sunday Dear Curator knows how to play time in NYC, and it is certainly an entirely new art form to me. I will never order a full coffee before stepping into a cab again. Jetting up to her lecture on Black Current was...memorable. We made it with several seconds to spare--and just enough adrenaline to expend trying to get the laptop to speak to the projector. The talk was superb--a concise journey across sea and see. The Japanese Art Society of America was most enchanted with her new research and "publish" was the verb I heard repeated throughout the weekend. We shall try!
We soaked up the Met in the afternoon--particularly the Forbidden City exhibition--stunning in objects and didactics, but designed in a very odd configuration. I tested my memory of shortcuts and corridors--the paths you only know if you work there. My summer internship in 1998 provided thin veils of recognition, but it was Miguel Arisa (who works there) who expertly led us through those majestic halls.
On the way home I was encouraged to visit an Indian boutique on Fifth Avenue--and experience that provided entertaining contrasts: Tony address: Lock and Buzzer on the Door; Luscious silks and embroidery: Dressing Room in the sketchy restroom with no hooks; Gregarious, chatty owner with big rings and flashy smile: Timid, speechless wife on a stool in the corner; High prices: Deep discounts; Tiny showroom: Endless inventory. I managed to pull two beautiful purchases from my mound of options spilling over the counter top, promised to return on EVERY trip to see my new Indian friend and proudly left justifying the expense as "work clothes". Thank goodness I work in an Asian art museum.
Part Two of my Asia Week Adventure will continue in my next post...I have to keep you guessing, Dear Readers. And I have to catch-up on lost sleep!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I was thinking about Brush Ranch Camps--a perfect place nestled in the canyon along the Pecos River near Tererro, New Mexico. I spent my summers there from 1992-1994 and then a few blissful weeks of Family Camp in the years following. To me, Brush Ranch is a sacred space. A place where I learned so much about myself. A place where --over hikes and conversations I encountered many rites among the pinon and blue skies.
Merriam Webster helps me with the true definition of rite: (1) a prescribed form or manner governing the words or actions for a ceremony or (2) a ceremonial act or action. I thought about the actions of camp and what it would be like to go back: to take the 7 am walk from South Baxter across the Bridge and up the steep road to the Barn; or the hike to Brush Ranch Rock. Favorite of all was the evening hike to Hogsback. Like Madeleine, 60 girls all in a row would hike up for about an hour to the Top of the World. I have the picture in my office. We would coordinate a screaming message to our friends down at Boys' Camp. When that didn't satisfy us we called down to camp on the radio exclaiming our victory. After the peak, we quietly found our way down with bobbling flashlights. It was a beautiful sight...dancing lights along switchbacks and the quiet murmur of friends talking. I was only allowed to lead this hike once or twice...as I had the habit of wanting to stay at the top just a little too long. This put us walking back though Boys' Camp a few minutes after lights out. The counselors loved us.
My memories of this place are crisp. I believe the places where we encounter and experience rites never leave us. We remember moments of stress, too--and crossing over into a new existence or way of thinking can certainly have its stressful moments. Those who worked at a camp for children know its bliss and know its challenges. 16-hour days. Encounters with homesick campers, rebellious campers, highly-enthusiastic campers. Encounters with homesick counselors...you see the patterns. But I loved it all. When a group of people come together and truly commit to a common purpose the results can be nothing less than magical. We were chosen from stacks of applications to be there--and we knew we were lucky. I drew sunflowers all over my cover letter (looking back I think, really?) and it made the difference. (Young readers: there's a lesson there). It was hard work, but work I would go back to in a heartbeat. I left Brush Ranch with new confidence. Mountains do that to you. And good friends. Rites. The ceremonies that sculpt us.
And now in my favorite season, we get to experience the Rites of Spring. Pear trees in bloom, new song from the birds, wind and sprout. Picnics, The Arboretum. Nature in a new suit. Find your rites and celebrate them...before you know it they will be the places we go in our memories.
Friday, February 25, 2011
- Thai Coconut Soup from Wolfgang Puck (*yum!)
- Bubble Tea from Chill Bubble Tea
- Tomato Artichoke Chowder from The Place at Perry's (great marketing trick here...bring your spoon in within ten days and get a free
- Chicken Dumplings from McAlister's Deli
- Turkey Chili from hmmm....can't remember
- and Peach Cobbler from Celebration (*also YUM!)
We decided we were deliciously stuffed. I narrowly escaped the Silent Auction (lost a stunner of a work by Randy Broadnax) and we followed the happy crowd down to the lower level of the Meyerson to pick out our own bowl. Pick our our own bowl! This is perhaps the most genious moment of the event. Ticket-holders get to choose from a sea of bowls in every color of the rainbow. The mystery is in the making--some artists are high school students, some are professional potters with values far beyond the price of a ticket. But it's not about status as an artist, or investment value. It's about choosing what you like. Looking. Holding onto one bowl while you wait for another to speak to you. Strangers become friends at this Table of Aesthetic Choice.
After coinsidering a sweet rich blue tea bowl I chose Pink. A robust stoneware bowl in the warmest shade of pale pink with a layer of translucent celadon beneath the rim. The interior is a spotted milky-white glaze. As I turned the bowl upside down to inspect the potter's ability to finish the pot, I discovered with joy a whimsical scalloped edge on the rim. I'm a sucker for a good surprise. The signature on the base reads "Banes". Thank you dear Banes. Your art has brightened my day.
On the way to checking out with Pink I could donate any amount for a vessel made by a younger artist. Guests chatted merrily at those tables looking for Little Piccasos. Finally, one last opportunity to raise money for the foodbank was found at the "Bump Table" where, for a small sum you could "trade up" and turn in your find for a better, bigger one by an established artist. I stayed loyal to Pink. I think she'll be happy in our home.
Pretty brilliant right? An event with grand fundraising potential connecting artists, food lovers, chefs, philanthropists, people from health and human services, and corporate partners all eating and talking about art in the Dallas Arts District. And you get to take a little art home with you. And it's for a great cause! It was a happy place filled with happy people--not easy to find these days.
As a dear friend says, "What's not to love?"
Monday, February 21, 2011
This weekend was about getting out of the comfort zone and setting foot in the adrenaline world of something new. When was the last time you did it? Remarkable moments I recall place me in the Drama Building of Brush Ranch Camps, introducing myself as the new art teacher to the 100+ campers and staff for the first time or to the stage at the University of Texas' Performing Arts Center where I announced the winners of the College of Fine Arts Teaching award at graduation. Heartbeats accelerated, cheeks flushed, blood rushing in my ears and wondering if there is just enough time to escape through a back door, unnoticed. There never is. From Rick Hawkins' lecture on his book The Buddha's Brain we learned that the brain remembers stress more than a mind at peace. Isn't that so true? That's how we all know where we were on the morning of 9/11, or where we were when we lost someone we love.
I will never forget this weekend. Ironically it was all about how to use this energy of anticiaption and nervousness in a positive, healthy way--and so much more. My friend and colleague Elizabeth Reese highly recommened attending Manorama's workshop held at the Dallas Yoga Center: Introduction to Sanskrit and Luminous Shabda/ Path of the Heart. Manorama is a woman I've been hearing about from Beth for several years now. She is about my age and travels the world studying and teaching Sanskrit and yoga philosophy. She is complex and fascinating. She is smart. She is demanding of her class, and her expectations are high. She said she looks for the highest her students can be. She is a guru, a teacher, and has many devotees.
After hearing about her gifts and insights, I wanted her to like me. I wanted to be wise in her eyes and able to learn quickly. The takeaway: I am not ready. Every question I answered out loud (imagine long adrenaline rush until I was actually able to have the courage to answer) was totally wrong. Not even close. I had forgotten that feeling. How seldom we put ourselves "out there" for examination and evaluation. When Manorama wants to connect with you she asks you her name. Getting close to her is on her terms. I waited for her to want to know me. I'm still waiting.
As she lectured and shared parables of her life and experience--all lessons for us to "sit with" I took copious notes--thinking fast and applying these principles to what I know and believe as a cradle-Episcopalian, but quickly sitting with the stun of how much I don't know. Here are a few of my favorite moments in the class (Manorama calls them Pearls):
- Sanskrit is the meeting place of many things
- Don't stick the landing (still thinking about this one)
- If you want to understand subtle things you have to get subtle
- You cannot catch the thief by means of the thief
- How do you know you're a beginner? You focus on the end.
- Awareness is like a muscle.
- Half of practice is figuring out how to play your mind.
- We are all God in baby form, we just don't know it.
- Silence is the absence of thinking.
- All you have to do is show up. Who is you?
- We are constantly playing in the universe of the unknown. We just don't know it.
- Just because we don't understand It doesn't mean that It isn't.
- People that love you study you. Love is in the details.
- Whenever we surrender it comes now, not in five minutes. That's the value of surrender.
- You can pave all of the streets you walk on in gold, or you can get really nice shoes that will take you on any road.
- Prayer is when we talk to God; Meditation is when God talks to us.
- Yoga asks you to look where you're not looking.
- Sanskrit teaches us to look for patterns.
- Control is the ability to stay fluid on a point with consciousness.
- Enlightment is totally available. Either you work for it or you get out.
- What we are doing in yoga is studying what we already know.
- Confusion is the partner of clarity.
Many of these pearls are the teachings of Manorama and her guru: Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (Guruji). One of the toughest exercises in the class was a test of our learning where she asked us individually to chant the vowels of Sanskrit. There I was back in the Drama Building of BRC looking for the shortest, most invisible path to the door. I'm sure Manorama knew this because I was the second to the last person she called on to sing. Can you imagine? It was choppy and awkward, but I "passed"...and she went on to the last student. With the relief that it was over came a new awareness of how much energy I was dealing with--and the good thinking that follows an experience like that of "where am I going to place that energy next time?".
At the end of the second day I walked up to Manorama and expressed my gratitude for her wisdom. As she thanked me, she quickly looked past me and did not ask my name. Maybe the next time we will meet. The shoes of awkwardness while clumsy can teach us so many things. (Amy's Pearl)
Svaha (offering/surrender) and Amen.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Can you imagine? Unsuspecting tourist approaches and might be the Millionth: captured on cameras, embraced by dozens of Nasher staff and Arts District Friends. I was nervous walking up to the door. Fortunatley I was not the Millionth. We chatted and watched. And chatted and watched. Stonewall Jackson Elementary gathered outside with three tour groups. Sweet young minds filed in with their teachers--likely in awe of our presence, the cameras and the general electricity in the air.
Lucky # 1,000,000 was Cheri Flynn, an art educator at SJE in the Dallas Independent School District. Cheri's an old friend to the Arts District. She's a gifted teacher who understands the invaluable moments that happen when young artists engage with original works of art. She spoke eloquently (on camera!) about how arts significantly impact our quality of life, the importance of museums, and the vital and essential need for the arts in education. These are the messages we need to see on the local/state news more than ever.
Her summer camps in the Lakewood area are full before she advertises them--she is sculpting young minds who can think, and talk and write about art. I know--because in a second moment of serendipity--I sat with Emma Vernon from the Dallas Museum of Art at the Downtown Dallas Annual Luncheon. Emma ran into "Mrs. Flynn" on Flora Street in the Dallas Arts District before she walked into work today. Mrs. Flynn was her art teacher. At Stonewall Jackson. Emma is now working at the Dallas Museum of Art and mentioned many of Cheri's students were enjoying successful careers in the arts.
I wonder how many of the 999,999 visitors who experienced the Nasher Sculpture Center since it opened in 2003 did so because of an Art Teacher? You can count me a few times--because that is exactly how I got here.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Now, in a setting sun graced by long shadows, it stands as a sundial--the place my heart rests throughout the day amid the challenges of a busy museum. At night, as the bells toll on each hour, one can see the silhouette of their large bronze shapes swinging back and forth in concert and rhythm with each sound they make. Over a hundred years ago Nicholas J. Clayton visioned this experience. However, due to lack of funding the church never completed the bell tower. Thanks to the generosity of a group of parishioners and Arts District friends and beyond, the bell tower was completed a few years ago: finally fulfilling the architect's original plan. I'm sure architects are used to the disappointment of not completing a project to their complete design, but I hope somewhere he knows his work at the Cathedral was, in fact, finished.
After officing in 5 different locations at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, this window onto the Arts District is my favorite. I hope there's a bell (that you like) in your neighborhood.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Today I sported my 25-year collection of hearts and love-jewelry. In 1983 my Mom gave me a bracelet I still cherish. I was into my third week as a newly transplanted sixth-grader and it was to put it mildly a rough start. She was--at the time--my only and best friend (now she's just a best!). It's a treasure. I enjoyed the energy of the floral department at Tom Thumb, the guys at the bank, the pharmacist and the pediatrician. The heart-laden scrubs on the nurses at Richardson Pediatrics cheered us all up. Everyone, at least most people, love Valentines Day. Remember the Box? The box you decorated in elementary school and your friends slipped their sweet nothings into it on pretty papers? Baker missed school today but Mimi brought his Box home. For the last two hours he's been sifting through the Valentine's--memorizing the design and the signature. He'll walk up every few minutes and confirm the sender's name. Sweet. I don't think he knew, until today, how much his friends at school love him.
My grandmother used to tell us, I love you more today than yesterday and less than tomorrow.
I hope you know--today--and tomorrow, and the day after that--how much you are loved. That is my Valentine's Wish.