Tag Archives: writer

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…..

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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?

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.

Betsy Ross Reincarnated??

One year ago today was a momentous day for me–I was operated on for adrenal cortical cancer. My CT scan this October was stable. I met with my oncologist yesterday and my endocrinologist on Monday and everything appears to be fine. I guess that means I am one year with no evidence of disease (NED)!

The only issue is that damn mitotane that I am taking to try and keep any possible microscopic cancer cells from growing. It’s nasty stuff! And the long-term side effects are of major concern. But I’ve reconciled myself to the mitotane being the lesser of two evils.

Unfortunately, I don’t really know if the mitotane is working. It is effective in only 20-30% of those who subject themselves to it. Would I still be NED at this point without taking the mitotane? If only there were more than 350-500 new ACC patients a year, if only ACC were not an ultra-rare cancer…yet given all that, there is ongoing research for new treatments, for which I am extremely grateful.

And with Thanksgiving a week from today, it’s a good time to think about everything I am thankful for. (Why wait for a holiday to do that?) More on that to come….

Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross

To celebrate my one-year anniversary, I have spent the morning doing something just for me. I submitted my initial contact to the Daughters of the American Revolution. My fourth great-grandfather, Edmund Welch, served in the Revolutionary War. He was in the battle of Lexington/Concord on April 19, 1775, the battle that started the war, and served for various periods of time after that. I know this not from ancestry.com but from a genealogy book that has been in the family for years. This is a fact I seem to have missed all of these years yet I have always felt an affinity for the Revolutionary War (even thinking at one point that I was Betsy Ross reincarnated—really!). I know the process for being accepted into the DAR requires a lot of work so it may take me some time to complete it. I am hopeful that the fact that the genealogy book is on file in the library of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C. will expedite the process.

Update on NaNoWriMo: I don’t think I will hit 50,000 words by the end of the month as I am currently at just under 10,000. I have no explanation or excuses unless laziness qualifies….

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.

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.

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