Category Archives: Writing Group

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!!

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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…..

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!

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?

Thank goodness for NaNoWriMo

My "almost" done quilt

My “almost” done quilt

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—when I am committed to writing the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Starting November 1, less than a week from today!! I did it once, in 2011, and that was while I was working full-time.

Shouldn’t be so hard to write about 1,667 words a day now that I’m retired, right? Unfortunately, I’ve turned into one of those retired people who can’t imagine how I even managed to fit work into my busy schedule….lunch with the ladies from my writing group….Pilates once a week and yoga sometimes…..submissions for my writing group…..noontime walks with Judy….How did I do all those things and work?

Let’s see—I do more laundry than I used to….I vacuumed the other day….I take more naps….and, um, has much of anything else changed?

I am writing this blog—that’s new, something I committed to after my surgery. I took a quilting class at Seams Sew Easy Fabric Shoppe and am sort of close to having a finished product. (Thank you, Chrissy Steeves, for your patience!! I’m not done yet…) I spend more time at DHMC at doctors’ appointments and I go with my mother and Steve to their appointments. And I’ve made more of an effort to do things for friends who could use some help. (Mainly I make batches of turkey chili.)

I try really hard to write more. I was working on my umpteenth revision of “Anne,” after vowing to complete that version before the start of NaNoWriMo. Well, that never happened. Not even close. But I worked at it, every day, which was good preparation for NaNoWriMo. Then our wonderful vacation to Arizona disrupted the flow. Totally worth it, however.

The big change is in my attitude, in my approach to the daily tedium of life. I’m less hyper, more relaxed, as others have felt free to point out. Yet sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t be the opposite. With my adrenal cancer diagnosis and the remote chance that I won’t live to be 90 years old, shouldn’t I be more amped, more energized, more productive? Shouldn’t I try to cram as much living into every day, every hour, every second? Nah, I think I’ll just take it as it comes, do what I feel like when I feel like it.

Thank goodness for NaNoWriMo.

I’m a winner!!

NaNoWriMo Winner Certificate 2011

NaNoWriMo Winner Certificate 2011

It’s a great day to be alive even if it feels like summer is over and fall is on the horizon. Frost warnings tonight!

I spent the morning yesterday at the Cider House Café at Windy Ridge Orchard with three women from my writing group. I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning—except if the one member who is “not a morning person” had been there.

As I had already eaten a bagel, the scrumptious apple cinnamon pancakes and bacon counted as my lunch, along with a Cortland apple from the peck I purchased in the gift shop. A lifetime ago I worked with the husband of the woman running the register—actually I started the novel (“Anne”) I am still struggling with when we began working together in 1986. He died of cancer five years ago.

She said she is finally coming to grips with his death. I can see that when Steve looks at me. I know he is thinking, how am I going to live without you? I am fortunate, I am only Stage 2 (of an ultra-rare cancer, unfortunately). It doesn’t mean I can’t become Stage 4 overnight. Or that I remain NED (no evidence of disease) forever.

I didn’t know in October that I would have surgery for ACC in November. I was living for tomorrow. It’s a wakeup call to find out that tomorrow may not come. Now I try to live my life as though today, this very moment of today, is all that I can count on.

But the reality is that most people don’t live their lives that way. They live as though death only happens to other people.

The ability of the women in my writing group to motivate, energize, inspire, me is priceless. They make me want to sit in my seat and write until I can’t write any more. To hone my skills until I can’t write any better.

We decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month event this November, where you write a 50,000 word book in 30 days. I participated a few years ago, something I admit I am proud of. We’re going to meet in a neutral place—meaning no distractions—to write together in November. It’s a lot of work to write, and a lot more to do NaNoWriMo, but together I have no doubt that we will be successful.

Blue sky and sunshine–the pressure

Started out thinking we would go to Bar Harbor for the weekend then realized, after finding very few rooms available unless we’re willing to shell out $800 for two nights, that this would be a good time to take the Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket trip we’ve been pondering. We love Martha’s Vineyard and have taken several day trips there—and when I say day trips, I mean home to Martha’s Vineyard and back in one day. One long day…It’s so much harder for me to do that now.

Last Saturday we did Ogunquit/Rye and I was confined to the couch for a few days after that so we decided our next trip will include an overnight or two at a motel. Now we’ve decided that we’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard enough (that could never be true for me but for this excursion we’ll go with that). Nantucket would be awesome (as day trippers) since we’ve never been there and it is on my bucket list. The internet is great—I can book the ferry reservations within minutes but the room?? Too many choices on the Cape…and yet so few that are available for one night. And then I need to factor in the potential traffic nightmare. Maybe we’ll just stay home and chill….

Those two moles I had scraped from my back? Luckily they were just atypical and only one needs further “surgery.” The appointment with the surgeon did get cancelled…..so now I get to wait until the end of November for the removal of the mole. Must be a history of melanoma doesn’t create a sense of urgency. One more thing to be thankful for, I suppose. I just realized it is scheduled for one year and one day after my adrenal cancer surgery—at least Thanksgiving is the following week this year. And Steve, you are on notice that we are hosting it. Just in case next year we can’t….

Major accomplishment—it’s now two weeks in a row that I have submitted two chapters of Anne to my writing group. In order to do that, I feel as though I have spent every free minute at my laptop. Of course I haven’t. I did manage to squeeze in that trip to Maine and two days on the couch not feeling well—and two days on the couch not feeling not well! I’m aiming for another submission this coming week—at this rate I’ll have the second draft completed in 2013. That shouldn’t even be seen as an accomplishment considering I am “retired.” But what happens to my book when Steve retires and we head to Arizona—and I’m no longer (temporarily) an active participant in my writing group?? We really need to get Facetime or Skype working.

Just let the cat out and realized the sky is blue and the sun is shining. What shall I do?? Probably getting dressed would be a good start. The pressure….

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