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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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Say it isn’t so–60 years old???

This is one confused–and gorgeous–Christmas cactus! Apparently it thought it was more important to blossom for my 60th birthday than to wait for the holidays. I am thankful for it’s thoughtfulness! It also may be happy to finally be out of the green plastic pot it arrived in when I was recuperating from my surgery two years ago this month. I am thankful for all the love and support that has been showered on me these past two years and this cactus must know it.IMG_3184

Today the temps are supposed to be in the high 50’s–maybe we’ll hit 60 in honor of my birthday! Then the cold weather arrives (Siberian Express??)….just in time for our trip to NYC to see the Rockettes on Sunday with Joy and kids and Jesse and kids. Sad that Jen, Jeff and their girls can’t make it from Virginia but they (without Jeff) will be at Joy’s for Thanksgiving–awesome! Except Jesse and family won’t be there for the holiday….

It is getting harder and harder to get all 15 of us together at the same time. But Steve and I benefit from having our daughters spread out across the country living where we are delighted to spend time. Joy returns to Arizona right after Thanksgiving–I’m going to have a hard time keeping Steve off their plane and heading for the blue sky, sunshine, and 80+ degrees! We will be there soon enough but nothing is going to drag me away from Christmas in NH. (I’ve already put together the artificial tree for the porch.)

I’m eleven days into NaNoWriMo and participated in the NH region writing sprint last Saturday and Sunday evenings. I didn’t make it to midnight but added over five thousand words toward my 50,000 word count goal, which I’m determined to hit this year. Next week is my last memoir writing class and I’m struggling with what to write about for my final three page submission. After all, there’s a lot of material to pick from out of 60 years. (Let’s amend that to 56 years–not certain that I can conjure up anything from my first four years!)

About fifty years ago today I had a letter to the editor published in the Bangor, Maine newspaper about honoring our veterans on Veterans Day. The beginning of my writing career! At the time, my father was stationed at Dow Air Force Base (now closed) and it seemed important for me to focus on something other than my birthday. It still is. So Happy Veterans Day to all the veterans in my family–my father, Steve’s father, my sister, Bessie, Steve’s brother, Mike, and all our relatives who have served and are now gone. And thank you to all those family and friends who are currently serving our country, including Eric Reid and Ben Roy.

Hazy, hot, and humid

On the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls

On the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls with Joy and kids

(I apologize–my internet was down for five days so this post is late. Thank you, Charter!)

It’s the week of the Fourth of July in New Hampshire. Of course it’s hazy, hot, and humid. With afternoon thunderstorms. But our annual weeklong family reunion rages on, with fishing, canoeing, swimming, kayaking, hanging out at the beach. And lots of eating.

Arthur has developed into a Category 1 hurricane but he won’t bother us. We’ll have our own rainstorm the morning of the Fourth. Not certain how this will affect plans for the eleven a.m. parade, with the kids lining the street ready to fill their plastic grocery bags with candy. Worse case scenario, we throw candy from our upstairs loft….to 14 kids….Now how do we replicate the parade?

Fourth of July at home with mini fireworks

Fourth of July at home with mini fireworks

We won’t have our personal fireworks display this year, a family tradition for many years. After Steve and his brother Mike were almost blown up along with a string of fireworks, we decided that 2013 would be the last year. No one wants to relive the chaos of children being rushed into the house and adults dashing to the igniters, unsure what they would find. Actually, it’s the adults who don’t want to relive that. The kids are disappointed.

My writing has suffered these past few weeks for various reasons, starting with a fantastic trip to Niagara Falls, the New York side, where we stayed at Darien Lake Amusement Park with Joy and family. Niagara Falls was not on my bucket list but I am so glad that we had the opportunity to visit it. And we experienced all of it. My only regret is that I let Steve convince me to throw away the “specially designed” sandals they give you to wear at the Cave of the Winds where we all braved Bridal Veil Falls to experience “tropical storm-like conditions.” Awesome!!

My recent monthly visit to my oncologist was uneventful–except for learning that he is leaving DHMC and I will have a new oncologist, Dr. Sergey Devitskiy. (More) change is good, right?

Everyone leaves this weekend for Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Life should return to normal. Writing, riding the motorcycle, kayaking, painting the kitchen/living room and garage doors, going to the Cape with Joy and Jesse and families, maybe traveling to Acadia National Park–and before we know it, it will be Labor Day.

Home again

Sheffield's Pre-school graduation

Sheffield’s Pre-school graduation

I’ve been home almost a month now. And, like most New Englanders, I’ve spent most of that time focused on the weather–either complaining about it or planning my life around it. It seems as though we have fluctuated between winter and summer these past four weeks. Maybe that is what spring is in New Hampshire. Monday I was sitting out on the deck, trying to see my laptop screen in the bright sunshine. It was almost too hot to be outside and it wasn’t quite eleven a.m. The day before, for our Father’s Day celebration, it was too cold for most of the day to be outside.

The day after arriving home from Virginia, eighteen months to the day following my surgery for adrenal cancer, I visited DHMC for my three-month CT scan and doctors’ visits. Great news–still no evidence of disease!! My endocrinologist made some changes to my medication but other than that it was a routine visit. My mitotane level came back at the high end of the therapeutic range, which explains why I was feeling nauseous, so I took a mitotane holiday for the weekend and have cut back to just two pills a day for three weeks. Now I am back up to three a day in preparation for my blood tests and visit with my oncologist on Friday. It’s amazing how quickly four weeks go by.

And what have I accomplished in those four weeks? Without work as a gauge, it’s hard to quantify. I/we did get our brand new kitchen organized. I am working on a short story that was inspired by our month at Jennifer’s in Williamsburg. We have toiled in the yard to get it under control. Snails and bugs have taken over, damaging many of our plants. Steve has mowed the lawn a thousand times already. I’ve submitted my application to the Daughters of the American Revolution and attended my first meeting. We attended Sheffield’s pre-school graduation and Elise and Sheffield’s gymnastics show. Life is back to NH normal.

After spending five months with no responsibilities, it has been an adjustment to take responsibility for yard work (and we have a large yard and numerous gardens) and the cleaning, and maintenance of our house. Every time we drive by the campground near our house I point out the fifth-wheel that is for sale. Steve just shakes his head and says “will you make up your mind?” I’ve never been very good at that.

Making myself “right”

Making myself write

Making myself write

I told my daughter, Jennifer, that I was going upstairs to “make myself write.” She thought I meant I was going to “make myself right.” If only I could do that. If only any of us with adrenal cancer (or depression or heart disease) could just make ourselves better by announcing we were going to do just that.

Coincidentally, (and I am not certain that there are any coincidences), my granddaughter, Laurel, is studying homophones in second grade. Words that sound the same but are spelled differently and may have different meanings. “Right” and “write” definitely qualify.

Writing may not cure my cancer but it does help make things right in my head. I feel better about myself when I put words down on the page, even if it’s just garbage. And as we writers know, what looks like garbage today might shine like gold tomorrow.

Coincidentally, (again!), I am reading “The Right to Write” by Julia Cameron. Actually, I am rereading it. It was published in 1999 so it may have been 15 years since I first read it! I gave my original book to my sister-in-law and by chance ran into a used one at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ. At the bargain price of $6.95, I was lured into buying it. When I got home, I found out it had once belonged to (an unknown to me) M. J. Reck, who had made notes and underlined sections in the first two chapters of the book.  Then nothing. I am usually loath to mark up my books but M. J. seems to have given me permission to do just that.

I have discovered that reading the book relaxes me. I don’t remember it having that effect the first time around (I was much too earnest) but now, when I am amped up over Candy Crush or Words with Friends, I can read this book and literally feel my blood pressure drop.

What I particularly like about Cameron’s approach is that you don’t need to have a large block of time to write. Train yourself to grab your ten minutes here and your half-hour there of writing time throughout the day. It’s a luxury to have hours at a time to write.

Yet I have those hours and still don’t write. I know the problem. I’m a perfectionist, which leads to procrastination…..Maybe if I only allow myself ten minutes to write, I won’t expect perfection. Haven’t we already been down this road? (July 27, 2013 post “Perfection Paralysis”)

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…..

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