Where’s My Valentine?

Keep A Light On Valentine 2011

Keep a Light On – 1st Valentine Post Diagnosis

I like to imagine friends and family transitioning from Groundhog Day rituals (someone must have some) to Valentines Day anticipation right around now. Hopefully, many become a little more excited at the mailperson’s arrival wondering, “Is this the day Marcy’s annual card arrives?” It seems time to confess that you may have a thirteen-month wait.

Melting Heart Valentines 2013

Melting Heart Valentines 2013

For the first time in eighteen years, I produced no Valentine’s Cards. There is no woeful explanation. I am fine. I am behind. Truth be told I am still working on Christmas gifts for some.

I brought out my art supplies in early January, made a design and then, at a certain point of being overwhelmed with all the deadlines I was missing, shook my head, packed up the supplies and crossed off “make Valentines” from my to do list.WindowValentines

Making such an abrupt departure from my traditions felt quite neutral. I have a certain sense that I will make Valentines in 2015 even if that confidence does not extend to 2016 or beyond. And if I never get to make cards again, well, I will have bigger sorrows to contend with. I leave you instead with this summary of how I started the tradition of making valentines. Maybe, after 18 years, this will be the year that I just make one very special valentine for my life partner, Mike, who reminds me of the power of love every day.

And now the embarrassing story behind my annual ritual! First shared on 2/12/12  I started a tradition 16 years ago now.  Sometimes I explained it by saying, ‘well, I never got my Christmas Cards out so Valentine’s Day became my time’, which is true but not entirely.

The real truth is that 16 years ago there was a human dignity activist that I had worked with for a few years, always enjoying my every interaction with him.  He was a volunteer organizer in the small towns of Forest Grove, Banks, and West Plains where he had lived for the prior 2 decades, building his own cabin in the woods with a family to fill it.  He was passionate about on the ground organizing and had a keen, strategic mind.  He was also terribly cute and kind.  We had fun working together.

Then one day he separated from his wife. We started finding reasons to have one on one meetings to plan a series of economic workshops – we stayed on task but we also never managed to wrap up the project.  After many dinner meetings, Valentine’s Day approached.  Since neither one of us showed tremendous nerve in managing our own desires I came up with a safe way to put my heart out there. It was subtle.

I designed a Valentine’s Day card for all my friends.  I made a linoleum print, carving out the negative space then moving on to the next step of hand printing 200 postcard fronts with a huge heart.  After the days it took for the ink to dry, I then hand addressed all 200 cards.  All these weeks of work so that I could send the one to my crush without looking a fool.  I still remember mailing them with a little kiss.  Two days later, Mike and I had our first official date – a winter hike in the coast range that continued past dark.  And, as they say, the rest is history.

Carving in Process

Carving in Process

After 16 years, you would think I would have a database and process but each January I re-invent who to mail to after I complete the printing.  This year, I never managed a second run and so only 100 cards went out.  I know how many dear friends are not getting them this year and for no good reason beyond I ran out of steam.  But you are in good company, as after that first year Mike never got another card of his own.

Every year I wonder if I will manage to get the cards out.  It takes so much time.  This year the design eluded me.  It has to be simple because of the method.  My design drafts were nice, but the state of my life didn’t match the cuteness factor.  January 18th I got my ct scan results that closed with the dreaded words ‘subtle disease progression noted.’  That night I drew my design, carving it the day after.

“The heart is an organ of fire.”  (A statement I always liked from Michael Ondaatje.)  Barbed wire is all about ominous limitation.  Paper, rock, scissors is a children’s game positing which tool is the strongest in the end.

Barbed Wire Valentine 2012

Barbed Wire Valentine 2012

My love and appreciation to so many as I plod forwards on this journey.  I am still on chemo but drug shifts are around the corner because my body needs a break from ‘the big gun’ of carboplatinum.  This entire cycle has been about delay after delay as my blood counts stay too low for treatment.  It’s a roller coaster.  A time without chemo is not yet imagined – if the disease gets stable I will stay on some maintenance infusion probably of avistan.

Happy Valentine’s Day because what is the option.

with love, marcy

About marcy westerling

I am a long time community organizer with a passion for justice and founded the Rural Organizing Project in 1992. Derailed by a Stage IV Ovarian Cancer diagnosis in spring 2010, I have stayed in treatment since then. I am learning how to embrace livingly dying and hope that by starting a Phase One immunology clinical trial at UPenn in spring of 2013 I will have more time to find the sweet spots of thriving while terminally ill.

14 responses »

  1. Marcy, I have loved getting your valentines but never knew the origin story. Mike is one lucky man. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to 2015 and beyond. Love, Bill

  2. Hi Marcy,
    You always amaze me!!!! I hope you are enjoying the beautiful snow. I love watching the flakes. but I don’t like driving in it. I am quite content walking in it. Your resent post is lovely and heartwarming as I am always impressed how talented you are in expressing yourself.
    Not much new in Forest Grove but life is good.
    Thinking of you!
    Louise Rickard

  3. I still have the valentines you have sent off and on across the years. I realized the first one was hand-made and I felt so honored (and puzzled that you had thought of me) to receive one. I hope I will be on that mailing list again. Love, Adele

  4. Marcy, if I don’t get one this year, I will certainly understand (but, of course, I hope I do). I have saved all of the ones you sent and I think I’m only missing one (probably ended up in the bottom of the mail bag that year). I keep promising myself I will make a collage out of them. They are all very special to me. Early Happy Valentine’s Day to you and mike.

  5. I’ve loved your valentines and you. I didn’t get Christmas cards out this year or Valentines; some years are like this. Know you are well loved by many, for me the your best valentine is knowing you are a being on this with us. xoxoxo

  6. Marcy, what a beautiful story! You and Mike are very blessed to have each other. I absolutely love the images of your artwork…your soulwork…..and would love to see more of those images.

    Today, I received phone calls, emails from family back East because it is my birthday….64th! When I told them it is the most wonderfully beautiful birthday because it has been snowing since Thursday they laugh because they have been in a deep freeze back there and they want it to be over! I understand because I remember those unrelenting winters…..but I also vividly remember the joy and beauty of experiencing those heavy snowfalls….particularly as a child. And here in Portland, because the kind of snow that we have been having is so uncommon, it brings everyone out in celebration of the unexpected! Such is life, filled with unexpectedness!

    I wish you peace, Marcy, and would love to see more of your incredible artwork.


  7. Hi Marcy.

    A great big Happy Valentines to you and Mike too. What an amazing person you must be and I so look forward to meeting you in Philadelphia. Your blog is filled with many words, stories and lots of ways to look at life.as it unfolds before each of us.

    I thought this was a interesting Valentine’s for our Teal Sisters from Central Europe. In Slovenia, Saint Valentine or Zdravko was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims. Seems that we are all pilgrims as we move forward against the ups and owns of each cancer diagnosis.

    Fond thoughts,


  8. Marcy dear, thanks for my first valentine from you! glad I’m not the only one to not get holiday greetings on their way. thanks Mike for your inspiration!
    and to you both a cozy, joyful, loving VD!
    more anon, love, c

  9. Dear Marcy and Mike, We love your sweet Valentine story about finding true love together. It is such a gift to have such a love. Happy Valentine’s Day! Love surround you always.
    Blessings, Alana and John
    P.S. Happy Bridget too! Groundhog Day to us is the Festival of Bridget! Celtic goddess of healing, arts and crafts and poetry! May She bless you both with light.

  10. Marcy, while I adore your annual Valentine card, I’d trade every one of them if it meant having you with us longer. And here’s hoping your everyday is filled with love that overflows.

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