Category Archives: Writing

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.

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A novel in 30 days!

Today is the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I just completed my first 1,667 of 50,000 words! I did not even know until yesterday what I was going to write about and that only developed by picking Steve’s brain on one of our gas-wasting late afternoon rides. I am cheating because I am using a character out of my very first novel, “Anne,” and naturally that means I’m using the same setting. It picks up where “Anne” left off with a different protagonist. And that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. I do have a title: “It Takes A Village Store.” (I hope Hillary likes it.) It was Steve’s idea to base it on the village store. I believe in giving credit where credit is due…..

This past Monday I started a four-week memoir writing class in Lebanon offered by the Women’s Resource Center at DHMC. It’s tricky juggling three writing projects (NaNoWriMo, memoir writing, and my writing group) but I can only produce with deadlines and commitments so this is a good thing! And I gain one whole hour tonight because we set the clocks back–and I’m using it to write this long overdue blog post.

I started a project late this summer of having my picture taken at every one of the 235 historic markers in New Hampshire, with the goal to do additional research about each and every one of them then post the information on my blog. Seemed like a good idea at the time. So far I’ve visited 13 and most of

Alderbrook Historic Marker

Alderbrook Historic Marker

those we hit in one day on a trip down to the Lake Sunapee region. Even with directions off the State of NH web site, we had a difficult time locating a number of them, somehow driving by them a few times before seeing them right in front of our eyes. I’m proud to say we got through the day with nary an argument (easy to say weeks after our adventure!). Doubt if we’ll get through the remaining 222 before we leave for Arizona but it’s nice to have goals, isn’t it? Alderbrook is the first one I took a photo of–I was alone on my way back from a DAR meeting in Whitefield. Interestingly, neither Hanover nor Lebanon have any historic markers….

This afternoon we saw “The Judge” at the Nugget Theater in Hanover. Steve and I both enjoyed it, which doesn’t always happen when there are tears involved. If you haven’t seen it, do, despite the 2 1/2 stars it received!

Not enough time to write!!??

Blasphemy for a writer–and embarrassing–to admit. After all, I am retired. I should have unlimited time to write. It all comes down to priorities, retired or not. But I’ve had a busy summer! (Is it really over?)

We spent an incredible three days at the Cape with Jesse and Joy and families…..only wish Jennifer and her family could have joined us. We spent one day at Breakwater Beach in Brewster and one at Mayflower in Dennis. We went mini golfing and ate seafood. At the pond at Joy’s campground the kids fished and were entertained by three prehistoric-looking huge snapping turtles.

Minute Men Monument and North Bridge, Concord, MA

Minute Men Monument and North Bridge, Concord, MA

On the way home, Steve and I revisited the North Bridge at Concord, MA, where the Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775. He convinced me to tour the Old Manse, the house that overlooks the bridge and the surrounding field, whose occupants were witness to the birth of our nation. Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, were some of the famous philosophers and writers to either live or spend time there. The Hawthornes rented the house, which did not deter Sophia from etching with her engagement ring poems into the soft glass of the windows.

We spent a week in CT babysitting Tyler and Haley (Lucas was in VA). While the kids were at day camp we took a few day trips. At East Haddam we crossed the swing bridge over the CT River just to see the old Goodspeed Opera House–and got stuck there when the bridge opened to allow a boat through. An amazing feat of engineering.

Seeking inspiration from Mark Twain

Seeking inspiration from Mark Twain

We toured the home of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens in Hartford. We loved, loved, loved the house. His writing desk is in the same room as his beloved billiards table. He ended up turning his desk away from the table to face the wall–otherwise all he wanted to do was play billiards. I can identify with that.

The Homestead-Emily Dickinson's Home

The Homestead-Emily Dickinson’s Home

Another day was spent at the homes of Emily Dickinson and her brother, Austin, in Amherst, MA. Their homes were nowhere near the pristine condition of Mark Twain’s. We wonder why, Amherst College.

In a few short weeks I touched the same bannisters that some very famous authors held onto many years ago as they walked up the same stairs that I did. Was this the inspiration to submit a complete short story to my writing group–a story that is now receiving a major revision? I’m not even certain I like it. What would Hawthorne or Twain do–persevere or trash it??

I’ve always wanted to visit Moosehead Lake in Maine and we finally went there for one night. Waiting to check into our inn, we took a three hour boat tour on the Katahdin. Or so we thought. We happened to be there on the two days a month it is four and a half hours long….we were so ready to disembark when we finally docked at five p.m. I can check that off my list!

On the medical front, I have a new oncologist–Dr. Ernstoff has moved on to the Cleveland Clinic. Because my mitotane level has dropped dramatically since May, I have upped the dosage from three pills a day to five. Unfortunately, at five pills I only feel well soon after eating. So I am eating what seems like continuously. Time for a trip to the outlets in North Conway….

Lull in the Action

Sunset at Mountain Lakes

Sunset at Mountain Lakes

The Fourth of July is behind us–still a lot of summer to look forward to, followed by autumn, which many people claim is their favorite season in New England. Hmmm….not certain I fall into that category. Or I haven’t in the past as I know it leads inevitably to winter. But now that we spend our winters in Arizona, maybe I will appreciate the foliage, apple picking, sweaters and fleece, crisp mornings and sunny days.

This week Steve surprised me with a Wednesday night date night: Jersey Boys at the Nugget Theater in Hanover with popcorn for dinner. Loved it! Frankie Valli has had an amazing career–and he’s still going strong at 80! We saw him perform on TV at “The Capitol Fourth” celebration. And what about Clint Eastwood, 84, the director of the “Jersey Boys”? This gives me hope. At almost 60 (in 4 months!!) I would like to think that I have another 20 years to look forward to of writing. (And living…..)

Maybe in those 20 years I’ll actually finish something (other than a blog post). As John pointed out in a recent writing group meeting, maybe it was a good idea that I was writing a short story as I had “issues” with completing my projects.

This year I celebrate my 60th birthday, Joy her 40th, and Jesse her 35th (in February, 2015). Time for a girls only trip. It will be hard to top our trip to Las Vegas when Jennifer turned 35. Wonder where we’ll go.

For some reason as I look at the ages of my children I am surprised that I had three daughters within a period of five and a half years. When I was younger, I always was an overachiever. Right now I’m just taking it easy, enjoying life. Feeling guilty about it……occasionally.

In two weeks we will spend a few days on the Cape with Joy and family and Jesse and family. Steve and I have probably put in as many hours coming up with a motel to stay in as we will spend on the Cape! If we didn’t read the reviews–or look at the room rates–we would have made the reservations in a matter of minutes. We’re going to be close to the Mayflower and Corporation beaches in Dennis and that’s what is important to me. As well as a clean room!!

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”)

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