Category Archives: My Novel – Claire

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!!

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Almost Home

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate

In case you were wondering, we did make it to Virginia the day before Easter. It was a long trip but we enjoyed several of our stops, especially the Petrified Forest in Arizona, Nashville and Asheville. On Judy’s recommendation, we visited the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville. So glad we did–it’s a massive resort with beautiful indoor gardens and waterfalls.

Jesse secured us the family discount at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. A one hundred year old magnificent hotel with manned elevators–two of which are in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for being inside the chimney of the massive fireplaces. And we rode in them!

The absolute highlight of the trip was a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. (Unfortunately, we toured it with what felt like thousands of other people–it was the Friday of Easter weekend.) Downton Abbey in the US for sure. The PBS series helped me relate to what life at the Biltmore would have been like (and vice versa). As we wandered the property, I kept thinking how much I would have enjoyed being a guest there. I hope to get to another estate–Mount Vernon–before we leave Virginia.

I am still recuperating from my long weekend at Malice Domestic in Bethesda. It was great to reconnect with Eleanor, Heidi, and Linda after almost five months away from my writing group. My niece, Casey, and her boyfriend, Andrew, joined us for lunch on Sunday. As they live in DC, I did get some inspiration to resurrect my NaNoWriMo novel, “Alex.” The good news/bad news is that I am now thinking about linking my other two novels, “Anne” and “Claire.” And making “Anne” into a murder mystery. Somehow. That’s what happens when you spend three days with mystery writers, the majority of whom have written series. I’m making notes and attempting to process this concept but will rely on my writing group to help me decide if this is even worth putting any effort into.

Waiting to hear what my last mitotane level was. It’s been over two weeks since I had the labs done. This is what happens when you’re away from your regular doctor and medical facility. Must say the medical part has been what has caused me the most stress this winter.

Steve is anxious to get back to NH. I’m not. He wants to golf more than anything–but he claims he wants to do things like use his pressure washer (that he got for Father’s Day last year!). I am happy to  be responsible for just a wee bit of living space. Right now it’s a bedroom and bathroom. I don’t have to worry that the floors need to be vacuumed or the dishwasher emptied though I do try to do my share of cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Babysitting is not a chore! But I am anxious to get back to my NH family (Elise and Sheffield!!) and friends. Maybe buying the fifth-wheel was the thing to do…..

“That’s the biggest black widow spider I’ve ever seen!”

Luke AFB Air Show

With AZ grandkids at Luke AFB Air Show

Which is what you don’t want to hear your daughter say when you are standing by the door to the casita (guest house). After we all admired it, Joy killed it with a sandal. No more leaving the front door wide open!

We had just finished entertaining Joy and family with our photos from our trip to Hawaii. The kids enjoyed the whale watch photos and we adults found ourselves discussing Pearl Harbor and the similarities to 9/11. I particularly was drawn to the pictures of the ocean, which conjured fond memories of me floating on the waves…..

Saturday Steve and I and the three kids spent three hours in the car traveling to Luke Air Force Base to brave the 100,000+ crowd at the air show. It was a production getting to the flight line but we all agreed it was worth it just to see the Thunderbirds perform. I wore my NaNoWriMo 2011 Winners Circle t-shirt for writing motivation.

And it worked. Sunday, instead of going to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman with Joy and Haley or Need for Speed with the men/boys, I stationed myself at Paradise Bakery and, like a real author, wrote. Longhand in a composition notebook. Granted, if a movie would have been playing that I wanted to see, I might have found myself inside a dark theater rather than outside enjoying the sunshine under an umbrella eating black bean soup and writing. And eavesdropping on the couple next to me–something about Boston and three-inch heels and snow.

I free wrote for a few pages (most likely stuff for a blog post that I should be checking right now!) and then I started on Claire. I outlined three different scenarios for the climax, already knowing which one I will go with. And already knowing that easily could change. After the movies, Steve and I took Lucas to purchase his tenth birthday present (a skateboard). He writes fantasy and loves to read. I presented my elevator spiel. Steve said he likes it (and he’s not just saying that) and when am I going to finish it?? Lucas seemed interested in the plot and asked that I change one of the main characters’ names to Lucas.

Since our return from Hawaii and my resumption of mitotane, I find that I am nauseous frequently. Except when I am eating, naturally. I don’t want to buy a new wardrobe one size larger–I just bought one for our trip. I have blood work on Tuesday for my endocrinologist in NH and on Friday I see the oncologist where I will have my mitotane level drawn. It’s possible I am in the toxic level again. Last doctor’s appointment before I return to my “home” at DHMC in May for my quarterly CT scan. (April’s blood work will be done in Virginia.)

Hard to believe our winter is coming to an end….Joy and family leave for CT in ten days while we will stay on for a few weeks. That now may be dependent upon how many black widows have made their home outside our door.

Starting to get serious about writing–once again

San Tan Mountains

San Tan Mountains

I feel guilty even writing that we have been enjoying temperatures in the 70’s during our stay in Arizona while the rest of the country seems to be mired in yet another round of snow storms after having survived yet another polar vortex. (Not to say that we don’t cool off over night–but it’s worth it to awaken to blue skies and sunshine, even if there is a slight chill in the air.)

I met with a new oncologist a week ago Friday. He was very nice. But oh how I miss my Norris Cotton Cancer Center at DHMC. And Dr. Ernstoff, Nancy Crosby, and gang. Finally had my three-month CT scan yesterday after three calls to the not-so-nice scheduler (“I have 127 orders on my desk…”) and, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, a not-so-nice message for the doctor. Come to find out, he was on vacation. For those of you who are not familiar with my journey with ACC, it is laden with delays due to doctors who are on vacation.

My scan was at SMIL. No “e.” They were efficient and friendly. I didn’t even mind when the tech asked me if I had nipple rings! (You don’t want to know. But the answer is no.)

Now the wait for the results begins. I’m definitely spoiled by DHMC, where the doctor has the report on his desk within an hour of the scan. Funny how much we have come to rely on the results of the CT scan every three months. It’s a report card of sorts. But one with life or death significance. If you haven’t been there, I imagine that sounds melodramatic.

Today we visited Changing Hands Bookstore (and an art store) in Tempe and earlier we made it to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale. We are starting to get serious about painting and writing–the two activities we have planned to focus on. I have managed to write about ten lines on my “Claire” novel and Steve has produced a first draft of a watercolor of the San Tan mountains. Our excuse is that we have been busy with the kids after school and with going places during the day. It’s wonderful to be retired and not just on vacation!

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a real tree

28189-beautiful-christmas-tree[1] December 1. Steve’s official start of retirement. A day to celebrate. Under normal circumstances, I would be jealous, looking forward to another four or more years of work while he stayed home, completing his honey do list and puttering around the house. Nothing normal about our current situation. We’re both retired, home together, 24/7.

We have only one vehicle now. Already we are missing the company truck. Can’t just run and get a Christmas tree, throw it in the back of the truck. This year we borrowed Chris’ truck and took Elise with us to Windy Ridge Orchard to cut our tree. I’ve thought about buying a nice artificial tree (we put a cheap one in the gazebo that caused a few arguments as it was being assembled) but I can’t quite make myself do it. I like real ones. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a real tree.

Last year Steve and Sheffield bought an already cut one while I lay on the couch recovering from my surgery. It was not what you would call a pretty tree although he claimed it was the best one in the lot. I recall that Steve and the grandkids decorated it. I didn’t much care what it looked like. But I definitely cared that we had one. It meant that everything was normal. Even though it wasn’t.

This year everything is pretty close to normal. Except we are preparing for our trip to Arizona and packing up the house so that our contractor can renovate the kitchen and install new tile in the mud room. And I get to tear up the old tile! So excited! Our contractor even left me a real tool to do it with—a mini jackhammer. I can’t wait to get started. I’ll probably hate it or, more likely, not be able to do it, and Steve will have to take over. And all of those hours spent watching HGTV will be wasted.

Sort of like writing. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for so long and now that I have the time to do it I realize how much work it is. (I certainly can’t delegate it to Steve.) So it doesn’t get done. That’s why I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo (yesterday was the deadline and I never got beyond 11,000 words). But I did get a good start on a novel that I like and that I hope to complete – “Claire.” Eventually. Even with Steve hanging around the house…….

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