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…..

 

 

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I did it!!

It isn’t even midnight and I have submitted my novel, “It Takes A Village Store” to NaNoWriMo. All 50,060 words and a surprise ending–even to me!! And they have declared that I am a winner!!

NaNoWriMo Winner 2014

NaNoWriMo Winner 2014

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?

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.

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….

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