It’s been a while….

Cruising Alaska

Cruising Alaska

You may have thought that I never made it home from Alaska but I’m back!! Since late June, that is. When summer in NH was just making its appearance, we returned from the trip of a lifetime. Or not. It seems as though we say that about every trip that we take–Hawaii, Alaska, and, next summer, a 17-day river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest!!

Glaciers, whales, panning for gold (our $17 worth is locked away in our safe), a train trip to the Yukon, Denali Mountain (we were sad to be among the 70% who don’t see it), the Red Onion Saloon (unable to elaborate as this is a G-rated

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

blog), wildlife (a dead porcupine strapped to the top of a car), forest fires (smoke was overwhelming in Fairbanks), an earthquake–we experienced it all on our cruise/land tour of Alaska! Despite all of this–or maybe because of it–we loved our time in Alaska. We have 1,000+ pictures to prove it.

We met interesting people from around the world, mainly by asking if we could take the two empty chairs at their lunch table. Our dinner mates were two brothers and their spouses from Michigan. Last week we returned from an Adrenal Cancer Symposium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, spent a night with one of the couples, and went out to dinner with all four of them. It was as though we had just left Fairbanks a few days ago.

The Adrenal Cancer Symposium was amazing. Over 200 doctors, researchers, and patients came together to learn about the latest developments in diagnosing and treating this rare, orphan disease. We became acquainted with many of the patients and advocates attending, all of us with unique stories about the disease we share. Dr. Gary Hammer, the amazing head of the University of Michigan’s Hammer Laboratory, managed to be everywhere during the symposium. I hope he is on vacation this week, somewhere with sunshine, waves, and an “all inclusive” band around his wrist!

We did enjoy the hot summer here with trips to Cape Cod, Ogunquit, and Rye Beach. Only managed to get our kayaks on Long Pond once. Didn’t make it to Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park, Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island, or Martha’s Vineyard, but you have to stay home once in a while. Don’t you? Steve has given up on his motorcycle (anyone interested in buying a great Harley Davidson??) and is now obsessed with his 2004 soft-top Jeep Wrangler. And so am I.

Sad to report that I took the screens off the windows today. We’ve had a few killing frosts (19 degrees one morning) and the foliage has either turned a dull brown or has been blown to the ground. What I consider to be the best season in NH–summer–is over. My husband claims the best is fall. Neither one of us is a fan of winter (anymore? were we ever?) so we have decided to head out early this year and spend our first Christmas in Williamsburg (Colonial Williamsburg should be beautiful) then it’s off to Arizona for sunshine, blue skies, and dry heat.

If you’ve been following my writing group’s blog, Thursday Night Writes, you’ll know that I’ve kept up my writing but still struggle to complete any of my projects. NaNoWriMo starts up again November 1 (I was unsuccessful in reaching my goal in Camp NaNoWriMo in July) and I plan to participate. The gray days of November and a TV diet just might help me achieve my 50,000 words.

Guess you’re caught up….funny how you can condense an entire summer into fewer than 600 words!

Alaska here we come!!

Enjoying the LPGA at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg

Enjoying the LPGA tournament at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg

We arrived home safe and sound on May 20 after spending a few short, busy and FUN weeks with Jennifer and family in Williamsburg (and my sister from Virginia Beach and niece from DC). The weather was great–except for when it had to rain. We joke that if they need rain down there, just invite us to visit–the rain won’t be far behind! My Fitbit got a good workout with walking the three dogs and keeping up with Laurel and Alex.

I had thought I would work on my story, “The Intruder,” which is sort of set in Jennifer’s house and the surrounding area. I never got further than thinking about either the story or having Steve tie me up to the newel post in the garage to test out the lawn edger string. (See my Thursday Night Writes blog post Just Write It“!)

Love being back home. Oh, if you don’t count the weather. Hot one day, rainy and cold for the next three. Definitely have missed all of our friends and family. Sheffield and Elise have grown up so much since December!!

We are now embarking onto another countdown–preparing for our cruise and land tour in Alaska! (Is there a person who has done this who wouldn’t do it again? If so, I haven’t run into them.) We leave the end of next week and I am nowhere near ready. It’s all about the clothes–how do you pack for a region where the temperatures have been fluctuating between the 90’s (record highs) and the 30’s and snow?? (I’ve decided that fleece gloves and headband are a necessity and they won’t take up too much precious space in my suitcases.) “Layers” is the advice I get from those who have done this before.

I have submitted my story “Jamie” to my writing group several times since our return from Arizona. I chuckled when I read the comments after our session last night. On some areas there is a consensus on what works and what doesn’t–yet on others, one member might like something and another might not. It’s as though I had six editors reviewing my work. Oh, it’s not just me. Everyone in our writing group runs into the same thing. One of my biggest downfalls is that I know inside my head what is happening inside my characters’ heads but I am not adept at getting that onto paper. Yet.

Since our return we have been busy with doctors’ and dentist (no cavities!) appointments. I met with my endocrinologist yesterday at DHMC. Nothing new except my left adrenal gland is finally starting to shut down. After slightly over two years on mitotane! She was pleased with that–and so am I. I’d hate to think that all of the nausea and fatigue was for naught. As it was Thursday, we had turkey in the cafeteria. The allure is finally wearing off and I didn’t even finish my meal. Shocking.

My oncologist visit is the day after our return from Alaska–who thought that was a good idea? I see my primary care physician in July, when we will discuss scheduling the dreaded colonoscopy. (I’m on the five-year plan.) Haven’t I been through enough?

Can’t wait to tell you all about Alaska…but that will mean the trip of a lifetime is over…except we already are planning on a river cruise to Europe next year!!

The countdown has begun…

Eleven short days until we leave Arizona on our return trip home. We’re heading north this trip, spending time in some of the national parks in Utah, visiting with a friend in Charlotte, NC, and driving up the Outer Banks (I miss the ocean!). And I can’t forget Kansas….We’ll spend three weeks in Williamsburg, VA, then we’ll be back home in New Hampshire–assuming the snow is gone by then.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West

This doesn’t leave us much time to visit the places that we didn’t get to over the “winter.” Friday we toured Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright.

I previously read two novels about the women in Wright’s life, “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan and “The Women: A Novel” by T. C. Boyle. These two books provide a slightly different perspective of Wright’s life than the tour guide was willing (trained??) to offer.

There’s no denying that he was an architectural genius. My favorite room: the breezeway!! He situated it so that you look out the back and your view is of the McDowell Mountains and out the front you look down into the entire valley of Phoenix. Also, it is designed to catch the breeze coming up from the valley, creating, I presume, a most comfortable place to write or read when the temperatures soar–assuming you can tear your eyes away from the view.

Not that we haven’t been busy since I last posted. Jen, Jeff, Laurel, and Alex were here in February. We

Friendly Butterfly at Desert Botanical Garden

Friendly Butterfly at Desert Botanical Garden

had a great time with them: the Desert Botanical Garden and their Spring Butterfly Exhibit, miniature golf, a boat ride on Saguaro Lake, a hike in Usery Park (not me….sick), the pool and the hot tub (not me….brrr), horseback riding (not me….sick). We even enjoyed a mini-family reunion with our niece, Wanda, and her two children from Maryland who happened to be here at the same time visiting a friend.

Steve and I got free passes from the local library for the Phoenix Art Museum as well as Arcosanti, “an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability.” Paolo Soleri founded the community in 1970, which appears to rely mainly on the sale of windbells they create and tours. Soleri studied under Wright and developed the theory of Arcology (architecture and ecology), which he has applied at Arcosanti. The concept is intriguing but the execution needs work.

March was good news on the adrenal cancer front. I am now two years and four months cancer-free based on my most recent CT scan. Yippee!! Unfortunately, my mitotane level is just barely at the therapeutic range on four pills a day. As I’ve been quite nauseous and tired at that level, I’ve reduced to three pills a day. Wonder what my level will be in May?

As for our remaining days in Arizona, maybe I’ll just spend the rest of the time enjoying the rest of the time!!

 

Desire isn’t enough

My post from today on “Thursday Night Writes.” Check us out at http://thursdaynightwrites.com!

Thursday Night Writes

Arizona hummingbird--my muse? Arizona hummingbird-my muse?

I’ve moved from the bed of the dim, cozy casita to the patio adorned with blue sky and sunshine. Little birds chatter in the palo verde trees. The water fountain bubbling in the background competes with the wind chimes in the tree. Helicopters and Canada geese fly overhead while the thrum of a hummingbird draws my attention to the feeder. A ruby glitter signals this is a male. My muse, perhaps?

I have decided to read outside rather than write inside—the comfort of the bed was about to lure me to sleep at eleven in the morning. Or was it the pressure to write that caused my eyes to glaze over, my lids to droop? Yet here I am, outside, surprised to find pen and paper, rather than my Kindle, in hand. How is it that the distractions of a glorious winter morning in Arizona are allowing…

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Fun and games in sunny Arizona

We had a blast with our friends from NH. The weather was spectacular and we justified revisiting some tourist attractions (we can’t get enough of Arizona!): Old Scottsdale, Tortilla Flat, the Apache Trail, San Tan Flat, and Usery Mountain Regional Park, to name a few.

Since their visit our main adventures have been to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, an amazing

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

collection of ancient rock etchings, and to Lake Bartlett. We’ve also been busy finalizing our plans for our cruise/land tour to Alaska in June!!

Friday night we were entertained by Jerry Seinfeld at Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix. I’d been sick in bed for three days so it was a struggle to get there but well worth it. Laughter is healing after all.

It’s not all fun and games here in sunny (how many times do I need to say that??) AZ. I have attempted to find time to work on my writing though I won’t go so far as to say that I have done so successfully.

Christina Baker Kline’s two novels, “Orphan Train” and “The Way Life Should Be,” while both good reads, didn’t give me any ideas on tying the setting together for my three in progress novels. Anne Tyler’s “A Spool of Blue Thread,” has moved me in a different direction however. Instead of three separate novels it might make more sense to combine them into one novel. Tyler’s novel is multigenerational centered not only around the same community but also the same house. Houses play an important role in my novels as well. Lots to ponder…

Meanwhile I’ve been whittling away at my short story, “Jamie.” Going line by line. Arduous work. I’m envious of the way some members of my writing group unflinchingly absorb the critiquing of the group and manage to submit revision after revision. I can barely tolerate my own critiquing—it’s enough to justify the procrastination I am so adept at. After a little (lot??) more work, the challenge is to figure out how to submit the story to the group and receive real-time feedback while I’m in AZ.

Although it’s no replacement for my weekly writing group back in NH, I’m participating in a three week online writing group “Creative Monsters Club.” Our coach Marcy MacKay, of Mudpie Writing, is supportive and intuitive. Last week the two other participants on Skype were in Ireland and Saudi Arabia. I am curious to see where the two other participants this week will be from.

My NH writing group has created a blog for the group: Thursday Night Writes. (I’ve reposted the initial post by Eleanor Ingbretson in my previous post. It’s great!) I feel guilty that I am not there to help more. We have such diverse writing styles that I am anxious to see how it all comes together. I imagine that will be its charm. I’m not certain everyone realizes how much it takes away from your other writing time (at least that is my experience). Yet we need to do this to move forward as professional writers.

Super Bowl Sunday in Arizona!!

Steve at NFL Experience

Steve at NFL Experience

Yes, it’s finally here–Super Bowl Sunday! And all the hype you are seeing on TV (as well as the football game itself) is taking place right in the area of Arizona where we are spending the winter.

Steve, Joy, Paul, and the three kids have all gone to the NFL Experience in downtown Phoenix. It’s after eleven a.m. Arizona time–one p.m. Eastern time–and I’m still in my PJ’s. Life is good.

Paul tried for weeks to get tickets to the game but wasn’t able to. Turns out it’s a good thing as many people have flown here from Seattle and Boston only to find out that their tickets don’t really exist. Complex process of how the brokers sold tickets they didn’t possess–sort of like how short sales on the stock market happen is how I understand it. And the unfortunate thing is the weather has not even made up for their misfortune. We’ve had rain and cool temps–I don’t recall ever wearing my raincoat here in Chandler. Until this week, that is.

Once they return later this afternoon we’ll have our own Super Bowl party: shrimp cocktail, bean dip, dates stuffed with garlic cloves then wrapped in bacon and broiled (thank you, sister Andrea, for the recipe!), pigs in a blanket (just for you, son-in-law Chris!) and fresh-squeezed lemonade for the kids, Lemon Drops for the adults. I’ve set my picks for the NFL Challenge–of course I’m rooting for the New England Patriots!

On the recommendation of my niece, Debra, I read “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. Good book as it kept me up until 1 a.m. the first night I started reading it! It wasn’t the first novel that I’ve read about the orphan trains but part of this book took place in a fictional town on Mount Desert Island in Maine, which made it especially meaningful as it’s an area I love. (And I grew up in Bangor, which was also referenced in the novel.)

On my Kindle I always read right to the Copyright page and in this case I am especially glad that I did. I discovered that Kline has written another novel, “The Way Life Should Be,” that takes place in this same fictional town. I am anxious to read it to find out how she connects the two novels as my three “almost” novels also take place in the same fictional town and I’m trying to figure out how to make that work.

The sun is finally shining, the fog has lifted, and blue sky is peaking through the clouds. The real Arizona is starting to reappear. It is expected to be in the low 80’s and 100% sunshine starting the end of next week and lasting for the entire time our best friends, Gary and Maggie, are here from cold and snowy NH. Glad we could pull that one off!!

Finally writing!!

Made it to warmer weather and Arizona—it’s been in the 70’s during the day with yesterday and today the exceptions at a high of 67. This weekend is going to make up for the “cold snap” by flirting with 80. Yes, friends and family back in NH, I said 80. And it has been sunny every day, naturally. Two nights ago we did have sprinkles with a smile of a rainbow in apology.

Last night I finally garnered enough strength to start thinking about writing again. I realize

Finally writing!

Finally writing!

that writing is not a physical activity, not like football (go Patriots!!), but for me it still takes both mental and physical stamina to even attempt it. If only the act of opening the laptop weren’t so daunting, I might have completed a novel or possibly a short story by now. Completed means revised….not shitty first draft. I’m overloaded with those!

My writing group back home is starting a blog. I’m trying to participate via email but I’m not certain if I, someone who claims to be a writer, am conveying my ideas coherently. Being in contact, albeit through email, reminds me how much I miss my writing group. Without them I would be a reader not a writer.

Next Friday I have my first appointment with the same oncologist I saw here last winter. Amazing what a difference a year makes. Last year I was intimidated to see a new doctor. Possibly afraid. This past year I have spent hours on various ACC Facebook pages, learning while wondering if what I am doing is the right treatment. Should I continue with the Mitotane after two years without a recurrence even though it is negatively affecting my quality of life? That is where the fear enters. If I stop, will it come back? If I continue, am I damaging my body unnecessarily? A fellow ACC warrior back home died recently. I had spoken with her on the phone and via Facebook. She was diagnosed after I was, had surgery then opted for a natural treatment regimen instead of toxic chemotherapy. This is why I am torn between the two courses of action. I have started my list of questions for Friday, hopeful that I leave with answers and not more questions.

Busy time here in Phoenix—the 2015 Pro Bowl is this weekend, the Patriots arrive Monday (hopefully!), the Waste Management Phoenix Open Golf Tournament starts Thursday, and the Super Bowl is next Sunday!! And just think, I’ll be busy writing……relaxing in the sunshine…..drinking Lemon Drops made from freshly picked and squeezed lemons…..while the sports fans in the family are out doing their thing. (That is what you call “rubbing it in” just in case you didn’t recognize it!)

 

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