Tag Archives: family

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…..

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…….

Gratitude

I can’t think of a better time than the day before Thanksgiving (I’ll be a little busy cooking on the actual day to post) to acknowledge all of the people I am grateful for, can you? It’s been quite a year—I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital last year and I don’t think I was even able to eat anything that day. Unfortunately my family was subjected to eating in the hospital cafeteria (though the food is pretty good there).

Of course, family comes first. My husband’s last day of work is today. Never would have thought I would be retired before him, though only by a few months; after all, he is four years older than I am! I’ve put him through a lot this past year but I can’t remember him complaining once. He’s my hero, my rock. My three daughters have all managed to fit time into their busy schedules to keep track of and support me and if they can’t be here, they and their families keep in touch via FaceTime. My mother’s nightly 7 p.m. phone calls have kept us connected—she keeps me posted on what she ate for lunch at the Senior Center! My extended family has all been there for me as well (sisters, in-laws).

How could I have managed without all of my friends this past year? They were here for me before my surgery and during my six weeks of recovery after the surgery–and they haven’t given up on me. My “work” friends even surprised me with a turkey dinner (a craving related to being deprived of a Thanksgiving dinner last year) to celebrate my birthday this month!

My doctors, Dr. Seigne, Dr. Ernstoff, Dr. BelBruno, Dr. Homan, and all of the many others who made my surgery and stay at DHMC a success (fingers crossed!) are priceless. I’m so appreciative of the wisdom, albeit it remotely, of Dr. Hammer at the University of Michigan, as well as the willingness of my doctors here to value it.

My writing group has helped me focus on what’s important to me. No paycheck comes from the time I invest in writing, and yet it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. It’s what I do just for myself, it’s my “dream.” Not come true by any means…especially since I will NOT succeed at NaNoWriMo this year.

Mainly I’m grateful that I am still alive, and cancer-free, after one year, and here to enjoy cooking another Thanksgiving dinner, surrounded by family and friends and food.

Are 50 t-shirts enough?

As Joy has rented out her cabin and my DIY fun there ended with decorating the porch with a tablecloth and vase on the table and new cushions on the (purported family heirloom) rockers, I am turning my focus to Jesse’s house. I feel so fortunate to have the time (and hopefully permission) to help her with this project.

My entire day is a blank slate looming in front of me (when I’m not visiting DHMC) with time to write. Spend time with family. Dream about designing. Is this what cancer patients mean when they say they feel blessed to have cancer? Or just my shallow interpretation?

Hanging out with Jesse and her kids, working on my book and blog, reading lots of books, napping every afternoon, watching HGTV/DIY—these things might sound totally unproductive to most people, something they might indulge in on vacation or over the weekend—and not that long ago I was one of them—but now I see that life isn’t necessarily about being productive in the traditional sense of the word.

I can be fulfilled without a career, a paycheck, a title. Yet I spent so many years feeling otherwise. (Yes, I am fortunate that my husband can support me—maybe not in the style to which we were accustomed when we had two incomes but we manage to pay our bills and eat out!)

Have my priorities shifted? Most certainly. I’m finding that the 50 t-shirts that I own are enough, especially since I’ve only worn 15 of them this entire summer. So no more time or money wasted on weekend trips to West Lebanon to buy even more clothes.

I hope this is just the beginning of that shift. That there are more changes to come.

Yesterday I stayed in my pajamas until 4 o’clock, working on my submission for my writing group tonight. It was a gorgeous day and yet I stayed on the couch, weighted down by my laptop, afraid that if I got dressed I would venture out of the house and end up embarrassed tonight at writing group. Which I will be anyway.

I’m still not comfortable with going public with my writing. (And that includes this blog.) It wasn’t very long ago that I would hide my writing from my husband. Yet I can’t realize my dream of being an author (meaning a published writer!) unless my work rises to the level where I am not only at ease with others reading my work but proud of what they will be reading. And it won’t do that all by itself.

Back to Normal

Back to my regular schedule with Steve at work after a two week vacation (his first ever!) and the girls and families returned safely to Arizona and Virginia. Steve’s brother and his wife are staying at the cabin a while longer but four of their daughters and families have headed home to PA and Maryland. As wonderful as it is having them all here it’s such a whirlwind that I can’t help but feel a sense of relief now that it’s over. I imagine they all feel the same way.

It’s hard for me not to wonder if this will be the last 4th of July that I share with everyone. My daughter the PA chastises me when I even dare to voice such an idea. She says I need to accept that the surgery cured me—I no longer have ACC. And why do I take mitotane with all of its side effects she asks. She sounds like my oncologist.

There isn’t proof that a regimen of mitotane for Stage 2 ACC patients is beneficial. But the experts at the University of Michigan that I have decided to rely upon recommend it for three years.

So I am heeding their advice despite the spells of vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea that I experience, one of which I had over the holiday. I thought it was self-induced as I couldn’t restrain myself from eating the typical patriotic fare: hot dogs, macaroni salad, cole slaw, chili, chips and dip (instead of my usual Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and pumpernickel with cream cheese). And don’t forget the s’mores.  But who could resist those?

Turns out what I ate may not have caused it. My latest mitotane reading put me in the toxic zone so I am now on a mitotane vacation for a week!! And then I get to reduce my dosage by two pills a day. Anxious to see the impact on how I feel.

Eleanor from my writing group emailed me, asking how my writing was going before she acknowledged that with all of my family around I probably hadn’t done any. It’s heartening to have others come up with excuses for me, saving me the effort. My own excuse is that I have projects, too numerous to list, to catch up on. Since I’m not working, I should still have a block of time that I can devote to writing.

Yet which of my in-process writings will I work on? Wouldn’t it be nice to pick one and finish it?              

Relinquishing Control

Relinquishing control is hard. With the 4th of July festivities and the welcome invasion of family (this year 31 of us, 15 kids—not all in my house thankfully!) I am more or less forbidden to take charge of the food preparation and entertaining. That honor after many years of being my domain has been passed to the next generation. It’s hard to sit back and watch my daughters and nieces prepare the salad and heat up the beans while I am forced to lounge on the couch with my sister-in-law. (Turns out they took pleasure in their view from the sink of the two mothers doing nothing but chatting with each other!)

My form of relaxation until now has been to be busy, busy, busy, making sure that people have full glasses of wine, that the meat comes off the grill at the exact moment that the sides are lined up on the counter ready to go, that everyone has a plate, napkin, and a place to sit. It doesn’t mean I’m not proud that they are more than capable of doing as good a job, if not better, than I would have done. To see them work together is gratifying. It’s just that I expected this transition to happen in the somewhat distant future.

Now I am expected to take a nap in the afternoon, to look out for myself. To control my well-being instead of my guests’. Not only am I having a hard time accepting this, I actually resent having to think of myself before I think of anyone else. But one benefit is that my sister-in-law and I, both aspiring authors, have more time to talk about our writing–or rather our lack of writing. She will be here for a while after everyone leaves and that will give us even more time to continue this conversation!

Since November I’ve had to turn over control of my life to my cancer. It’s decided how I feel. What I can eat. What I can do. And especially when I can do it. There’s been a lot that I can’t do but I’m gradually getting back into things, like Pilates and yoga. And walking with Judy on her lunch break. My lunch break? Whenever I want it to be.

%d bloggers like this: