My Ex-Husband Has to Pay ME $15 to Read His Emails

My Ex-Husband Has to Pay ME $15 to Read His Emails

Someone emailed me Thursday:

What happened with the whole Rodney thing? I mean, not *in* the memoir, but with him reading it. Is he still harassing you?

I replied, but later it occurred to me a formal update on the blog might be appropriate. So here’s where things stand at the moment:

I haven’t seen anything from Rodney since this happened in December. You’ll have to decide whether that’s because he gave up or because I’ve mastered the art of blocking the asshat.

Not only have I blocked every known account of his that I can think to block and blocked him from commenting here, I’ve also set up a filter for his emails. The filter intercepts his messages and auto-replies with this message:

551 4.7.2 Unauthorized email is not accepted due to domain’s FOH policy. c96ock49325875156wad.56 – gtfoh

Messages from you have been flagged by the recipient as low-priority and may not be received. For priority consideration, the administrator at requires a minimum $15 payment.

Proceed Cancel

I have no problem establishing boundaries. In fact, I enjoy thinking up new, creative ways of telling people who drain the joy from my life to fuck off. So a while back I decided to spoof those mailer-daemon thingies you get when your email can’t be sent for some reason. The “FOH policy” and “gtfoh” in that seemingly random string of characters at the beginning of the message are made up, but they are not arbitrary.

Now, I can’t tell you for certain whether Rodney has attempted to contact me and received this message. But I can tell you that he has not paid the $15 fee I charge to let him waste my time.

So, what happens with this system I’ve set up is that Gmail filters email from him, auto-replies, and then places it in the spam folder, which automatically deletes emails after 30 days. And because I only check spam if I’m expecting an email and don’t receive it, it’s possible an email from him got flagged more than 30 days ago and I just never knew about it.

After taking a quick glance at the current state of my spam folder for the purposes of writing this update, what I can confidently tell you is that he hasn’t emailed me in the past 30 days.

So, if you had been wondering why I hadn’t written any more on the subject, now you know. It’s because there wasn’t anything to write.

“But what if he pays the $15?” you might be wondering. If PayPal notifies me of a payment from his account, I might check my spam folder.

With all of that cleared up, a programming note: Chapter 12 of Who You Gonna Believe will be available to patrons on February 29.

A Million Cancers

A Million Cancers

A while ago I posted about having a hard lump in my armpit. It’s not just there anymore. Now it hurts too.

I was going to ask my primary doctor about it last month, but then I didn’t. I rationalized the decision thusly: We were already way over time, I had an appointment with my oncologist scheduled for a couple days later, and I have a routine mammogram on March 9 to boot. (I turn forty next month.)

But it turned out that my oncologist had to reschedule my January appointment to March, and I haven’t seen her yet. So, when you read what follows, try to read it from the perspective of a cancer patient waiting an entire month to find out if she has more cancer.

I googled “what does a breast cancer lump in your armpit feel like?” Then I imagined some doctor somewhere ridiculing me for seeking information online. And then I imagined him wetting his pants right before being swallowed whole by my pet dragon.

Now, my old oncologist explained to me once that primary brain cancer rarely leaves the brain. (I had asked him why my maintenance plan didn’t involve PET scans at regular intervals like my dad’s did.)

And then Dr. Google explained to me that armpit lumps that feel regular and round like a pea or regular and long like a Mike & Ike are most often benign cysts, while irregularly shaped lumps are more likely to be malignant.

Mine’s a Mike & Ike, which seems like good news, especially when paired with Dr. A’s explanation about brain cancer being a homebody. Given those two things, I would probably advise someone else in a similar situation to put the scarier thoughts away for the month. There’s no point in worrying.

Problem is I took a shower, and I don’t know how to avoid dwelling on deeply existential shit when I take a shower anymore.

That article said ‘usually.’ But the odds haven’t been in my favor since like 1998.

My grandmother had breast cancer.

My dad had cancer.

My aunt had cancer.

My uncle had cancer.

A few of my cousins had cancer.

A second cancer will cost me my house for sure.

I don’t think I can handle more chemo and radiation. What if I get so depressed I give up?

I am going to die in pain, but not before I burden everyone who cares about me.

Could I see that maybe I was jumping the gun a little bit? Sure, but the tears started rolling anyway. I made plans for more cancer as I put on my pajamas. Then I went into the living room and told Dan he had to turn his video game off and come talk to me. I prefaced the whole conversation by saying, “I’m not saying I’m sure I have more cancer right now and I am not catastrophizing this lump, but I’m not presently capable of dismissing the idea. You know how denial terrifies me. I don’t want to pretend myself to death.”

Related: I think a lot about that scene in Man in the Moon where Kaufman realizes the psychic surgery stuff is a hoax. That movie is not a biopic, it’s a damned horror film.

I told him if I get new cancer or bigger brain cancer, I want to move so he’s not doing everything on his own. It wasn’t that long after we moved here that I got sick. We never had an opportunity to find our people, establish roots. We’re isolated, and only one of us can drive. “You’ll burn out.”

“I think you might be pee-tee-ess-deeing, right now,” Dan said. “But, yes, if we have to sell all our stuff and move closer to your parents, that’s what we’ll do.”

“I don’t want you to be mad at me.”

“I’m going where you go, Swiss.” He intentionally mispronounces my name when he’s trying to cheer me up. “Even if you get a million cancers.”

Zentangle Pattern Bronx Cherry: Day 42

Zentangle Pattern Bronx Cherry: Day 42

It may (or may not) go without saying, but when you have brain cancer, sometimes finishing something small is a great big deal. And so I’m writing this post–the final lesson in the One Zentangle a Day series–with a great big smile on face. Day 42 begins with learning the Zentangle pattern Bronx Cherry and concludes with a notebook flip-through of all the tangles I created for the video series.

It was supposed to be a 42-day course in learning how to Zentangle. It ended up being a 380-day long struggle to finish a thing in the face of serious illness, financial setback, and the inevitable associated depressions that come along for the ride.

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About Zentangle Pattern Bronx Cherry

The author said the Zentangle pattern Bronx Cherry is a good one for covering mistakes, and because of that she saved it for last, as she didn’t want everyone using the book One Zentangle a Day to overuse the pattern. If I’m just being completely honest, I don’t like the pattern as it’s taught. While it might cover up a mistake, it just looks like scribbles to me in its most basic form.

That’s why I kept fiddling around with the pattern until I found something I could live with. The result is pulling way back on the weight of the lines and suggesting roundness within the overall shape rather than forcing in down the viewer’s throat. What I used in the practice piece has a slightly cartoonish look to it. But I like it, and that’s what matters.

This is not the end of my Zentangle videos, it’s just the end of this particular course. I now have a very solid foundation for continuing my Zentangle art and am eager to improve my tangles AND my videos in the future. Thanks for following along with me!

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Zentangle Folk Art: Day 41

Zentangle Folk Art: Day 41

About Zentangle Folk Art

The penultimate lesson for One Zentangle a Day is now complete! The lesson for Day 41 was to create Zentangle folk art using folk patterns. You can see those patterns in the art I created for the video. It includes wolf’s tooth, primrose, and pussy willow patterns plus a couple of others. All of them have symbolic meaning in traditional folk art.

I finally got my hands on a Helix circle and angle maker this week. My intent was to use them on Zendala art, but I was so excited to see how it worked that I just had to use it on this video. I can tell it is going to be my go-to tool for making Zendala (Zentangle mandala) tangles, and it only cost $5.

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But back to this Zentangle.

I also tried using my artist’s pencils for shading instead of the stubby little pencil that came with my original Zentangle kit. In the interest of time, I didn’t go all-out trying to make gradients for the Zentangle folk art piece, but I did enjoy working with a full-sized pencil. The brain tumor has impaired my fine motor skills enough that I really do benefit from have something substantial to hold on to. My hand cramps less and doesn’t fatigue as quickly — both good things for video making!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this tangle. Let me know what you’re creating these days.

Check out other posts in this series.

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My Brain Is Broken Like That

My Brain Is Broken Like That

Today I called Carle’s psychiatry department to schedule an appointment. I was talking with a friend about her new podcast, and our conversation reminded me that scheduling my first counseling session was something I needed to do. I wasn’t avoiding making the call; I had simply forgotten about it because my brain is broken like that.

(If the neuro-typical adult human has two front burners and two back burners for managing tasks, I have a shorted-out hotplate that smells like burning plastic when you plug it in.)

Anyway, the first available appointment they have for me as a new patient is at the end of May. I don’t know if this is common across the country or just in my neck of the woods, but damn. Four months to be counseled for anxiety and depression and you don’t even know if the therapist is going to be a good fit? That feels…less than ideal.

I mean, I am not in crisis and don’t feel like crisis is likely. But four months seems a long time to languish with mental illness even if you have supportive friends or family. But if you don’t? It’s not like we patients can pop into the minute clinic to tide us over until our regular doctor is available for a full work-up.

I know I’m not the first to say so, but before I get back to my specific situation I’d like to say: we seriously need to do more to prioritize access to mental health care in this country.


So, yeah. This is a thing I’m going to start doing now—blogging about my mental health. Because my brain is also broken like that.

Though I know this isn’t the case for many, many people, talking about my depression and anxiety publicly is not a hard thing for me to do.

I mean, my list of “out” sensitive medical experiences is pretty dang long. A couple years ago I blogged about shitting my pants in the car two blocks from my house. I started my period the morning of my brain surgery and the hospital transported my bloody underwear from the OR to ICU to my recovery room in a transparent plastic bag. A physical therapist toted around my post-surgery pee bag (that was still connected to my urethra) while I walked the ICU floor. I guess I’m kind of over myself at this point.

What I’m saying is, if I don’t write about a sensitive medical thing, there’s a greater chance I’ve forgotten it than that I’m too embarrassed to talk about it.

Also, the fact that I have an inoperable, malignant brain tumor means that people are more likely to give me permission to be depressed and anxious. Sure, cancer patients are still pressured by others to keep positive. And, yes, we still put pressure on ourselves not to be a burden. But I think it’s safe to say that cancer patients with mild depression are treated with more sympathy and empathy than patients with “only” severe, life-threatening depression and…


There is no hierarchy of life-threatening conditions. And even if there were, your Great Aunt Louise whose favorite show is Fox & Friends wouldn’t be qualified to rank them.

Sorry for not warning you up front. This post is a bit of a rambler.


I have known since before the cancer bomb was dropped on me in 2017 that I would benefit from counseling. However, in the fraught two and a half years of misdiagnosis leading up to the right one, I was opposed to doctors calling me depressed or adding an associated ICD-9 code to my chart. Stigma had something to do with it.

At that time, I was already being dismissed as an overweight, 30-something, complainer with two X-chromosomes. Instinctively, I knew that if my lazy-ass rheumatologist put depression on my chart (spoiler alert: he did) next to his fibromyalgia declaration, it would only delay finding the real problem.

And it did. (If you’re new here and don’t already know that story, you might be interested in browsing the topics fibromyalgia and brain tumor.)

Following diagnosis, however, stigma wasn’t the thing that kept me from seeking out therapy for my depression and, now, anxiety. The biggest obstacle from 2017 to now has been finding time to fit it in. Cancer treatment is a bitch and recovering from it (not even talking about the cancer now, just the treatment) is a years-long process that extends well beyond the date of your last dose of chemo.

I still have not—and probably will never—get back all that chemo has taken from me. Even today, I know that I can’t add therapy to my list of activities without giving up something else. Cancer fatigue means not having enough energy to fully participate in your own well-being. My brain is also broken like that.


But this winter was a hard one for me. And for three days last month I couldn’t get out of bed except to go to the bathroom and search for Pop-Tarts when my stomach finally growled. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced a more acute episode, but it was the first one I experienced during a time when adding another doctor’s appointment to my cancered life didn’t seem like an absolute impossibility. When my depression began to lift, I promised myself I’d bring it up at the first visit with my new primary doctor.

I told her that, knowing not much about it really, I’d classify myself as a mild case. I had no thoughts of suicide, but I didn’t see how someone living with an inoperable brain tumor, chronic pain, medical debt, and fighting an insurance company for 9 months straight with a triggering narcissist in the White House wouldn’t be a little depressed.

“I refer patients to counseling for chronic pain alone,” she said.

So, I have an appointment in May with a doctor who’s name I’ve already forgotten on a date I can’t remember because my short-term memory is permanently retired. They’ll give me a call if something opens up sooner.

Day 40: Letters as Zentangle Strings

Day 40: Letters as Zentangle Strings

Sometimes when you have a chronic illness seemingly small things mean a LOT. That’s why I’m so proud of myself for publishing another Zentangle video. Today is One Zentangle a Day – Day 40. Freaking wow.

Day 40 of One Zentangle a Day focuses on using letters as strings to create Zentangle inspired art. For this exercise, I’ve chosen to tangle the letter A.

About Zentangle Strings

Last week I met with my new primary doctor. (It turns out she is wonderful, and I am so relieved. I will write more about the visit in a future post.) One of the things she asked me: was I willing to try was taking nortriptyline for chronic pain?

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I said yes, but I’ll be honest. It didn’t go well. And I remembered why I stopped taking it back in 2016 before my brain tumor diagnosis: it takes my illness-related chronic fatigue from a from a 4 to about a 28 on a scale of 1 to 10. And that’s on a good day!

So I worked on this Zentangle trying to push really hard through a drug-induced haze. And, honestly, I think it shows in the final product. It was still a valuable exercise to create this tangle, but it was more of a “learn what you don’t want to repeat next time” kind of experience for me. I think the lesson here is that cancer or no cancer, we’re all going to have off days. Part of learning how to Zentangle is learning how to be okay with imperfection.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this video for what it is, and I hope you see in it something you like or would like to change and you just run with. If you Instagram your art, leave me a comment with your username so I can be sure to follow you there.

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