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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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”)

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.

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