Category Archives: Writing

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…..

But it’s a dry heat…..

Time to get in the pool!

Time to get in the pool!

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the weather forecast in Arizona (not to rub it in to our friends and family back East), we hit 95 today, the first ninety degree temperatures of 2014. And it will last through Friday. It may even flirt with 100 degrees. But, as they like to say here, it’s a dry heat.

We just happen to be heading north to Las Vegas on Wednesday where it is forecasted to be much cooler–the low nineties. As I recall from my one and only visit to Las Vegas (granted, it was August), that is one hot city. And it just feels more like the desert than Chandler, Arizona does.

We are flying up for the night to see Elton John perform at Caesars Palace. A short one hour five-minute flight. Granted, we’ll miss the Hoover Dam experience by not driving up but the flight is free. (Thanks to my Southwest VISA card!)

I am so excited to show Steve Las Vegas. Not that we are gamblers or drinkers. OK–I could get addicted to the slots but I can depend on Steve to drag me away.

To prepare him for the trip, we watched “Last Vegas” via our Apple TV. Definitely worthy of an Academy award. NOT! But it was entertaining. It probably helps to be our age to appreciate the movie. The other day we actually “argued” about what day of the week it was–forgetting to check either our watches or our iPhones! I imagine our children are wondering if it is time to check out nursing homes but I can assure them it is way too early for that! (They all have guest rooms, don’t they?)

Have to admit we are enjoying retirement. I especially like playing Candy Crush (93 million people a day play it) and Words with Friends and reading as late as I want (Steve doesn’t even complain), which means sleeping as late as I want (again, no complaints), drinking a leisurely cup or two of coffee, going to lunch (Sunday it was San Tan Brewing Company–jalapeno bratwurst hash for brunch–almost as hot as the weather) and then heading out to wherever we want (after brunch it was WestWorld in Scottsdale celebrating Arizona Bike Week). Steve is painting and enjoying the weather.

We leave for Virginia next week, stopping in Albuquerque, Nashville, and Ashville along the way. Looking forward to spending time with Jennifer and family in Williamsburg, meeting up with the ladies from my writing group at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD, and visiting Joy and family in CT. And then HOME (after almost five months away) just in time for my CT scan at DHMC. Eighteen months to the day from my surgery for adrenal cancer. Fingers crossed!

“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.

Addicted to….Candy Crush!!

Banzai Pipeline Oahu

Banzai Pipeline Oahu

I’m not certain how much longer I can keep up this blog now that my granddaughter, Haley, has introduced me to CANDY CRUSH! How I have remained in the dark about this game for this long is beyond me. It’s a good time to provide an update on everything I’ve done since my last post as who knows how long it will be before I can tear myself away……

This past Sunday I attended a workshop at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, “Writing About Illness,” presented by Thomas Larson. He’s written The Sanctuary of Illness and The Memoir and Memorist. I went there with no intention of writing a memoir about my adrenal cancer but now I may be inspired to write about my journey. As Eleanor has reminded me, you can always learn something from any writing workshop.

Prior to that we spent ten days on the islands of Maui and Oahu. The vacation of a lifetime….until the next one! Highlights of Maui include a whale watch, the Old Lahaina Luau, Maui Theatre’s Ulalena, Haleakala National Park (volcano), La Perouse Bay (Maui’s last lava flow and wild goats), THE Road to Hana, and a bright blue Ford Mustang convertible! Our splurge was our anniversary dinner at Mama’s Fish House in Paia.

On Oahu, organized tours, taxis, and our feet took us to the Dole Pineapple Plantation (pineapples do not grow on trees!), USS Arizona Memorial/Pearl Harbor, the Banzai Pipeline (the Pacific was wild so no surfing), the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (the Punch Bowl), Duke’s, a hike up Diamond Head (I tried to make it to the top), and the typical tourist attractions (the school President Obama attended, etc.)  We even attempted to search for my childhood home from when I was 2 to 4 years old.

I read James Michener’s Hawaii before, during, and after our trip (it’s a long book!), which helped immensely with understanding the history of the islands, as did our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. We were surprised at the number of Asian tourists in Oahu. (Much of the signage in Waikiki Beach is written in both English and Japanese.) Actually, we were surprised at the swell of tourists in Oahu compared to Maui.

Jen, Jeff, Laurel, and Alex were able to visit us in Arizona to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and our 40th wedding anniversary. We enjoyed dinner at our favorite East Valley restaurant, San Tan Flat, on our actual anniversary. It was crazy busy due to President’s Day holiday but that just gave us more time to drink Margaritas and dance.

Other than that we’ve enjoyed reading the Facebook posts of our friends back in NH and VT complaining about the terrible winter they have been experiencing–as we bask in the sunshine and 70-80 degree temperatures. We’ve read a variety of books–I am juggling four currently. Put jigsaw puzzles together. Walked around the Nature Park. However, one thing I haven’t done much of is write. Too many distractions. And now….Candy Crush!

A brothel in its former life (seen from the bathroom window)

Jerome, AZ

Jerome, AZ

Today I was going to get serious about my book–didn’t I say that yesterday?? What was I thinking? Instead we traveled to Sedona to see Dan, a friend of ours from back in NH who is a snow bird, just like we are now. It’s further up there than we thought–over two hours, and that’s in the HOV lane–and we got a late start (someone had to take a shower and do her hair).

It’s about 15 degrees cooler up there so I was happy I remembered my fleece jacket. We actually ran into some rain on the way up. Rain!

We ventured to Jerome for lunch, with Steve receiving just a warning–no ticket–for speeding and failing to stop at a stop sign. Jerome is an old mining and “ghost” town, about the elevation of Mount Washington, that appears to have most of its original buildings still standing, without any renovations, or if there are any, they are done “tastefully.”

Looking out the window of the bathroom at the restaurant where we had lunch I could see what was obviously a brothel in its former life. And hanging on the walls for decorations were vintage corsets and garters and things I couldn’t identify. Dan will be 90 this July–maybe I should have asked him if he knew what they were?? Without doing any research, I can say unequivocally that Jerome must have been a happening place back in the day!!

Kathy, my Pilates instructor in Vermont, is reading a book that takes place in Jerome. I’ll add it to my list of “must reads.” I can always rely on her recommendations.

In our absence (she must have been afraid I would buy another t-shirt), Joy visited Goodwill and brought home two “new” jigsaw puzzles. While she and Steve were busy carting Tyler to football practice and Haley to gymnastics, I was occupied with setting up one of the puzzles. Although we had vowed not to do another puzzle after the last one, Joy, Haley, and I didn’t hesitate to gather around the dining room table for an hour and work on the new one. We refrained from getting out the head lamps this time but we certainly could have used them. I imagine my writing group members will identify this as creative procrastination. I suppose I could have been out shoveling snow as I know some of them were!!

No word from my doctor on the results of the CT scan or the blood work. Tomorrow I will call as they don’t seem to be the ones to initiate the calls. Did I mention how much I miss DHMC?

2014 is MY year

Words for the New Year

Words for the New Year

My wild and fearless daughter, Joy, has challenged her blog (Chakras in the Suburbs) followers to choose a word for 2014 in lieu of setting any New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been pondering my options for a few days now, especially in light of the fact that I already have failed to keep at least one of my New Year’s resolutions—to post on my blog on a regular basis.

A lot has happened since I last posted. I’m in Virginia, for starters. The polar vortex has come and gone–thank goodness. I’ll soon start the final leg of my journey to Arizona. To warmer temperatures-thank goodness. Though I hate to leave my granddaughters after two short weeks, I am excited about visiting Charleston, the Andersonville prison, New Orleans, San Antonio, and El Paso.

Joy chose two words. I’m not certain I can limit myself this year to just two—so many come to mind.

Gratitude: because I am over a year cancer-free and alive and able to enjoy my family, friends, and life. (Even with the problems the mitotane creates.)

Creativity: because I will write this year. Lots and lots of words.

Focus: because I will live in the here and now of whatever I am doing. Drinking that first cup of coffee in the morning. Listening to my granddaughter read her book at bedtime. Riding eight hours a day in the car until we stop for the night on our trip to Arizona…..what’s eight hours anyway when it took us 15 to get to Virginia?

Embrace: because I will open my arms and welcome whatever comes my way—new situations, new people, new feelings.

Fun: because I deserve it. Because I’ve never been very good at it—even with my best friend Judy’s prodding.

Love: because I will work at doing a better job of opening my heart to those who are close to me. For where would I be without them?

Charity: because, even with my ACC, I have so much more in my life than so many others. Compassion, tolerance, kindness, empathy, all fall within this category. Wow! This is definitely going to be the hardest word for me to work on.

Maybe making resolutions is the easy way out after all……

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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