Tag Archives: retirement

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!

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Starting to get serious about writing–once again

San Tan Mountains

San Tan Mountains

I feel guilty even writing that we have been enjoying temperatures in the 70’s during our stay in Arizona while the rest of the country seems to be mired in yet another round of snow storms after having survived yet another polar vortex. (Not to say that we don’t cool off over night–but it’s worth it to awaken to blue skies and sunshine, even if there is a slight chill in the air.)

I met with a new oncologist a week ago Friday. He was very nice. But oh how I miss my Norris Cotton Cancer Center at DHMC. And Dr. Ernstoff, Nancy Crosby, and gang. Finally had my three-month CT scan yesterday after three calls to the not-so-nice scheduler (“I have 127 orders on my desk…”) and, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, a not-so-nice message for the doctor. Come to find out, he was on vacation. For those of you who are not familiar with my journey with ACC, it is laden with delays due to doctors who are on vacation.

My scan was at SMIL. No “e.” They were efficient and friendly. I didn’t even mind when the tech asked me if I had nipple rings! (You don’t want to know. But the answer is no.)

Now the wait for the results begins. I’m definitely spoiled by DHMC, where the doctor has the report on his desk within an hour of the scan. Funny how much we have come to rely on the results of the CT scan every three months. It’s a report card of sorts. But one with life or death significance. If you haven’t been there, I imagine that sounds melodramatic.

Today we visited Changing Hands Bookstore (and an art store) in Tempe and earlier we made it to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale. We are starting to get serious about painting and writing–the two activities we have planned to focus on. I have managed to write about ten lines on my “Claire” novel and Steve has produced a first draft of a watercolor of the San Tan mountains. Our excuse is that we have been busy with the kids after school and with going places during the day. It’s wonderful to be retired and not just on vacation!

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.

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.

It’s okay to sweat the small stuff

Change. My life has changed immensely in less than a year, since the first doctor acknowledged there was an issue with my liver or kidney—but not my adrenal gland. So much has happened since then: surgery, being diagnosed with adrenal cancer, retiring. Dealing with the idea that I have an ultra-rare cancer that I could find out at any three-month interval has metastasized, making the focus of my life fighting the disease instead of living it to the fullest. That is change.

You can’t prepare for it nor would you want to be prepared for it. Who would want to live a dismal life like that? I have a positive attitude yet I am a realist. If those cancer cells are in my body, no matter how positive I am, they will find their way into my lungs, my liver (please not my left kidney since I only have one left). That I can’t even fathom. Are we talking about someone else? Am I the one with adrenal cancer, the one who the odds are stacked against? That is change.

Ask my husband and he will say the biggest change is I am a nicer person. 

The other day my grandson said when he pulled a handful of coins from his pocket, “look, I have change.” I truly enjoy being there for those moments. That is change.

Maybe I was never fully there for those moments, always preparing for the next moment. When people say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” I get it but on the other hand I see it differently. (I prefer “life is good.”) The small stuff is what your life is made of, so why shouldn’t you sweat it? Don’t take it for granted. Watching the kids pick apples, fixing the flat tire, making the casserole for the neighbor whose father died. It’s not the birth of your child-it’s when she takes her first step or says “I love you, mommy.” It’s not the job promotion—it’s when your boss says “thanks for the great job.”
That’s what we shouldn’t lose sight of.

Our lives are like snowballs, made up of unique snowflakes, small events, that when rolled together become something much larger than the individual snowflakes that comprise them.

That’s why it’s okay to sweat the small stuff. For a lot of us, if our lives were only comprised of the big events, there wouldn’t be much to them, would there?

Perfection Paralysis

I woke up this morning dreaming about Anne. Just like most dreams, two hours later I have no idea what it was about. But I see it as a good sign—I am immersing myself in Anne’s life, which can only help me with my novel.

In reality, I don’t need more plot ideas or character background. I have all of that. What I am lacking is the motivation to sit down and write. “Seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Steve threatened this morning to make me stay at Joy’s cabin until I finish the novel. He will come and visit me but I won’t be allowed to leave!

As though in 39 years of marriage he has ever been able to “make” me do something. He asked how close to completion is the novel? 90%? I must have really fooled him about the progress I have been making on the book. I only wish I were at 90%…or even 50%.

My excuse when I was working was that I didn’t have time to write. So what’s my excuse now that I am retired? It’s the same one that has always been the source of my procrastination—perfection paralysis.

When I was working on my Alex novel, I wrote a diary that was not going to be part of the book. Its purpose was to provide backstory, to help me understand how Alex got to where she is. The patient members of my writing group were the only intended audience so (no offense) I wasn’t plagued by the need for perfection. The ideas flowed. I looked forward to writing at the end of my work day.

Now I don’t work. And yet I don’t write any more than I did when I had a job—maybe less. Time to fix that. For, unlike Mick Jagger who just turned 70, I don’t have a career spanning 50 years to look forward to. How fair is it that someone who has lived his lifestyle is now 70 and healthy, (even the epitome of “70 is the new 50”) when I, with my (almost) squeaky clean life, am diagnosed with adrenal cancer at 57?

There is good news along the way. According to an ultrasound last week, I have a “good-looking” thyroid. And the cyst on it is just a cyst. Nothing to worry about—50% of people have them. I’ve also dropped my mitotane consumption (once again) from 5 to 4 pills a day in an effort to lessen the side effects.

With the good comes the bad. Next week I visit the dermatologist because of a suspicious mole or two. Wouldn’t be much of a concern if not for the two melanomas I had removed back in 2002. The appointment with the dermatology surgeon for the following week is already scheduled. Hoping that it needs to be cancelled…..

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