Category Archives: Writing

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!!

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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!)

 

Westward bound!

Christmas Bonfire

Christmas Bonfire

We enjoyed the holidays and are now in Virginia with Jennifer and family on the first leg of our trip to Arizona. My favorite part of Christmas? For a few weeks being able to get up every morning, drink a cup or two of coffee, and watch the news with the Christmas tree lights plugged in. And, of course, I loved getting the tree at Windy Ridge with Elise and Sheffiled (even though it was bitter cold), watching the Blue School Christmas program in Landaff, hosting our Welch family celebration with Yankee Swap and bonfire (no singed eyebrows), opening presents with Jesse and family at breakfast Christmas morning, cooking dinner on Christmas Day, and celebrating a second Christmas with Jennifer, Jeff, Laurel, and Alex and my sister, Bessie.

What didn’t I like? Packing up to leave for a winter away and preparing the house to be vacant followed by a fifteen hour trip to Virginia. Apparently the Saturday after Christmas was a popular day for people to travel home from the holidays and for those pesky snow birds to head south!

While Jennifer’s girls were on winter break we took them to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg. Sunday we toured Mount Vernon, a place I have wanted to visit for years. We chose the warmer day of the weekend to visit Washington’s home–it was in the 60’s with some drizzle and mud.  Imagine seeing the bed that George Washington died in! After our visit Jennifer researched his death and it appears that the doctors prior to his death removed the majority of his bodily fluids through bleeding, inducing vomiting, and giving him an enema. (George himself was

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

proponent of bleeding.) We wonder if their ministrations could have contributed to his death at sixty-seven. She also found out a lot about his ownership of close to 400 slaves. Unfathomable.

On our way home Jennifer surprised the girls with a trip north to the American Girl Store at Tysons Corner Center, where their dolls had their hair done. (Like a real hair salon!) I was slightly embarrassed to traipse through an upscale mall in my muddy jeans and shoes.

I hate to admit that this is the only writing that I have done since I “won” NaNoWriMo, aside from a writing exercise during my writing group and posting to an ACC Facebook page. That is one of my problems with NaNoWriMo–it depletes me of any desire to write. The holidays don’t help, either.

However, Williamsburg is the setting of a short story that I never finished and close to Tysons Corner (Alexandria) is where part of an unfinished novel is set. When I’m so close to those locations, I wonder if I should complete those projects. Or is deleting them from my computer the more humane approach?

Incredibly we start our trip to Arizona this coming Sunday. It never seems as though I get enough time at Williamsburg though this cold snap (Thursday might tie a record low at 26) does make me yearn for warmer weather…..

 

 

Two years and clear!!!

By Karen Whalen

Yesterday was my CT scan at DHMC marking my two-year anniversary from surgery for adrenal cortical cancer (ACC). It was clear–NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE! Exactly what I had hoped for and expected but, hey, you never know. The cancer can return at any time.

CT Scan Cocktail at DHMC

CT Scan Cocktail at DHMC

The visit would have been uneventful except for my allergic reaction to the contrast material injected during the CT scan. At the end of the scan, the radiology technician noticed that I was rubbing my lips and, when I admitted I was experiencing an itchy mouth and swollen lips, I was suddenly surrounded by several other medical professionals and whisked off to recovery. I immediately was given a Benadryl pill followed by an IV of prednisone. After over an hour in the recovery room, I was released to a scrumptious turkey dinner in the hospital cafeteria–the reason I like my appointments scheduled on Thursday!

Tyler at the Top of the Rock

Tyler at the Top of the Rock

Today is my oldest grandson’s birthday. Tyler turns thirteen today! We now have a teenager in the family. Joy and Paul are in for some interesting and exciting (and challenging??) times, if memory serves me correctly. (And that’s not something I can rely on these days.)

My niece, Sammie, is celebrating her birthday today as well. In my family, we have multiple overlapping birthdays.

The 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo is getting more and more elusive. I made it to 15,000 words after my 3,500 word marathon on Tuesday. With 35,000 words and only ten days left, including today, I will need to pump out another 3,500 words each day. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving falls in that time period, which we will be spending in Connecticut. I’d like to know who thought November was the right time for this awesome event? Wouldn’t January, with cold, snow, and thirty-one days have been a better choice? The good news is that no matter how many more words I am able to add during November, I have a good start on what I think may become a trilogy set in the town of Woodbury. It’s always good to have goals…..

I scanned the December issue of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine this morning. Big mistake. All of the holiday decorating, cooking, and entertaining in that one issue made me feel totally inadequate. Unless you want a reason to be depressed–don’t waste your time looking at any of the holiday magazines. Whatever you usually do for the holidays, I suggest you cut back and carve out more time for simple celebrations with your family. Less stress–more memories. And who doesn’t want that?

Catching my breath before Thanksgiving

It’s been a hectic–but fantastic–week! The agony of turning 60 was diminished by the almost weeklong celebration with my friends and family. I feel so loved!!

The day of my birthday, a group of friends/former colleagues from Wells River Savings Bank hosted a turkey luncheon for me. Thank you to Katie for opening your home to us!! Thank you to Barb, Gail, Gayle, Judy, Katie, Midge, and Winifred for their culinary expertise and for giving up part of their holiday to spend it with me (and for including my mother)! We missed you, Kim!

Relaxing at the Spa

Relaxing at the Spa

And Barb, it’s OK that you spilled the beans about my husband’s birthday surprise–a trip to the spa at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel. I highly recommend the amazing hot stone massage. And the facial took years off my face, at least temporarily. We ended the evening with a yummy dinner at Stickney’s restaurant at the hotel.

At Thursday night’s writing group we discussed starting a group blog. Can’t wait to see how we do–I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own. But that one would involve a commitment, a deadline, and I respond well to those.

Saturday morning we celebrated Steve’s mother’s 87th birthday with his family at Grafton County Nursing Home. Although Nanny has Alzheimer’s and is barely able to talk, she entertained us with her wide range of expressions. We were impressed when she fed herself a spoon of ice cream. Enough said…..

After the celebration we traveled to Farmington, CT, to stay with Joy and family. Jesse, Elise, and Sheffield arrived that evening. In honor of my birthday, they had made me a Jello poke cake (the same cake I made for Steve’s mother that morning)! It’s a Whalen family tradition–tasty and easy.

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall

Sunday morning we were all up early to board the train in Stamford for our day in New York City. First stop was ToysRUs where we rode the ferris wheel and checked out the toys, naturally. Next we walked to Radio City Music Hall for the Rockettes Christmas show. WOW!! At the Top of the Rock the adults delighted in the view of the city while the kids enjoyed the room with lights.

The Top of the Rock

The Top of the Rock

We headed home Monday morning in the pouring rain, concerned that we would hit snow or, even worse, freezing rain but we didn’t. Yankee Candle in South Deerfield, MA, was the last stop of our trip. Sheffield and Elise particularly enjoyed the Christmas section. And so did I! I was dismayed to not be able to work on my NaNoWriMo novel in the car due to a dead laptop battery. Nor did I have the notebook I always carry with me.

Steve dropped me off at my final memoir writing class. I don’t think I’ll write a memoir about my own life but I would like to write one of my mother’s. Guess I better get going on it. I highly recommend the novel “Little Island” by Katharine Britton, our instructor. At this last class she provided information about getting published. Good thing I am writing because I want to and not because I hope to get published!!

I am spending the few days until our return trip to CT for Thanksgiving trying to catch up on my NaNoWriMo (and my rest!!). I’m so far behind that it will take a major commitment on my part to hit my 50,000 words. Actually, it is going to take a miracle. I believe–do you?

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