Tag Archives: writing

Paddle harder

No wind and we had the pond to ourselves. Serenity....only spoiled by the dead loon and its lonely mate.

No wind and we had the pond to ourselves. Serenity….only spoiled by the dead loon and its lonely mate.

Last week we had a gorgeous evening, especially by late summer standards. The air was still and warm. Blue sky. No humidity. (Why can’t we have this weather year round? Then we wouldn’t need to winter in Arizona I suppose. And some pathetic souls actually like it cold….)

Perfect for kayaking on Long Pond. As soon as Steve walked through the door from work, I was ready for him to load the kayaks while I filled the cooler.

Saw some ducks and what we believe was an immature bald eagle (we determined after we looked it up in the bird book when we returned home). In the middle of the pond we watched a lone loon dive and surface, careful to keep his distance from us. The week before we had seen his (or her) partner floating dead trapped in the tall grass along the edge. This week it was gone. We missed their haunting soulful cry.

No moose. It’s always the moose we hope to encounter and rarely do. And no sign of the heron we usually see. Could it possibly have migrated south already?

As we neared the launch on our return, I didn’t want the glorious evening to end. I just stopped paddling, drifted, prolonging my enjoyment. I could have stayed there until the sun set.

You can’t do that with life. Even if you don’t want it to end, it will. Paddle or drift, your life will end. It doesn’t take a genius to know that. When you have an illness as I do, you know it–you just don’t want to accept it.

As for my book—that I do want to end. I need to paddle harder. And faster. Give it my all. But it’s so hard. Like kayaking on Long Pond when there’s a head wind off Mount Moosilauke.

Blue sky and sunshine–the pressure

Started out thinking we would go to Bar Harbor for the weekend then realized, after finding very few rooms available unless we’re willing to shell out $800 for two nights, that this would be a good time to take the Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket trip we’ve been pondering. We love Martha’s Vineyard and have taken several day trips there—and when I say day trips, I mean home to Martha’s Vineyard and back in one day. One long day…It’s so much harder for me to do that now.

Last Saturday we did Ogunquit/Rye and I was confined to the couch for a few days after that so we decided our next trip will include an overnight or two at a motel. Now we’ve decided that we’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard enough (that could never be true for me but for this excursion we’ll go with that). Nantucket would be awesome (as day trippers) since we’ve never been there and it is on my bucket list. The internet is great—I can book the ferry reservations within minutes but the room?? Too many choices on the Cape…and yet so few that are available for one night. And then I need to factor in the potential traffic nightmare. Maybe we’ll just stay home and chill….

Those two moles I had scraped from my back? Luckily they were just atypical and only one needs further “surgery.” The appointment with the surgeon did get cancelled…..so now I get to wait until the end of November for the removal of the mole. Must be a history of melanoma doesn’t create a sense of urgency. One more thing to be thankful for, I suppose. I just realized it is scheduled for one year and one day after my adrenal cancer surgery—at least Thanksgiving is the following week this year. And Steve, you are on notice that we are hosting it. Just in case next year we can’t….

Major accomplishment—it’s now two weeks in a row that I have submitted two chapters of Anne to my writing group. In order to do that, I feel as though I have spent every free minute at my laptop. Of course I haven’t. I did manage to squeeze in that trip to Maine and two days on the couch not feeling well—and two days on the couch not feeling not well! I’m aiming for another submission this coming week—at this rate I’ll have the second draft completed in 2013. That shouldn’t even be seen as an accomplishment considering I am “retired.” But what happens to my book when Steve retires and we head to Arizona—and I’m no longer (temporarily) an active participant in my writing group?? We really need to get Facetime or Skype working.

Just let the cat out and realized the sky is blue and the sun is shining. What shall I do?? Probably getting dressed would be a good start. The pressure….

Going public

I woke up at 2 in the morning for a bathroom break. Someone was thumping my chest. It took me a few moments to realize that it was me. My arm had fallen asleep and I was attempting to wake it up by hitting it against my chest.

The things we do to ourselves without realizing it. Thinking that someone else is doing them to us. That we are not the cause of our own problems, of our situation. That events just happen of their own volition.

I can always justify not spending time writing because the bills need to be paid, the laundry needs to be done, the dishwasher emptied. Hey, I can’t shirk those responsibilities now that I am no longer working. Sometimes I just don’t feel well enough to do more than lie on the couch and watch TV. I can always blame it on my cancer. Then I can go to my writing group with a reason (an excuse?) for why I’ve been neglecting Anne.

Yet I’ve always been able to force myself to power through projects. When I’ve had to. But not when I’ve wanted to. Wanting to have something done is not enough for me. I’ve always needed a deadline, a real deadline, not one that I’ve set for myself.

Last night at my writing group I committed to submitting next week. I am going to start with the beginning of Anne and work my way to the end. The end of what will be the second draft. Two down, how many more to go after that?

John suggested that I post my novel right here on my blog. WHAT??? That means going public with my writing, posting it on the Internet for the whole world to see (OK, so I only have 53 followers). Before I feel it is ready. Or before I am ready……

Just 250 words every other day. Yet it feels like a major commitment. As frightening as it is I think it’s a great idea. I’d love to hear what you think!

Nothing to worry about

Woke up at 4:30 this morning to check my iPhone for the email from DHMC letting me know that I have test results available. It was there and suddenly I was wide awake. So was Steve.

Sure enough, the CT scan report supports what my oncologist said—nothing to worry about–but I wasn’t reassured until I saw it in writing. Does this mean I don’t have confidence in my oncologist? Or am I just a pessimist, expecting the “other shoe to drop”?

Everyone says I have such a positive attitude. I try. Really, I do.

But I’m more of a realist than an optimist. And the prognosis for ACC is “grim.” “Dismal.” If you believe the medical journal articles.

DDT use in residential areas was banned on November 20, 1969, one day and 43 years before my surgery. Yet twice a day I take mitotane, a DDT derivative. As of today I am still Stage 2. And the mitotane is supposed to keep me there. So I am committed to ingesting it for as long as I can. Regardless of the side effects.

But all chemotherapy is poison so I don’t suppose I’m any more special than the thousands of other people who take it every day.

I feel as though my life has been put on hold since my CT scan last week. I’ve heard other cancer patients say their lives are broken down into the time spans between scans.

In the last week I haven’t worked on my novel except to change Lexi Rae’s name to Poppy. And in order to firm up Poppy’s age, I had to research the hippie movement. (If you want to know the connection, you’ll just have to read the novel. Once I finish it….) And that was where I learned the date that DDT was banned.

Hard to believe that I was just months away from meeting my husband. This February we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. And celebrate it we will with a trip to Hawaii. We’re planning on flying from Arizona to Hawaii then taking a seven-day cruise around the islands. That’s the plan today….but we’re learning to go with the flow….

 

Wannabe designer

My daughter Joy has graciously allowed me to stage her cabin at Mountain Lakes. I’m hoping it will help her sell it while allowing me to leverage the thousands and thousands of hours (it only seems it, really) that I have spent watching HGTV and DIY.

I purposely went to the cabin alone. With my notebook in hand, I toured the cabin and recorded measurements of windows, chair cushions and beds, easy, inexpensive projects that mainly involve buying or sewing. I indulged myself just a little by listing the projects I would do with an unlimited budget. And more skills than can be learned from watching TV.

That’s where husband Steve (pretty talented as a handyman, simply lacking in motivation at this point in his life—he’d much rather be on the golf course) comes into the picture. He wasn’t invited because he would have found plenty of reasons why the DIY projects can’t be done.  He should know by now that the majority of them will be done. And he will help do them. Or rather, I will help him do them!

I watched a video on replacing the screening in window screens (amazing how easy it looks!) and think I’ll tackle a few windows at the cabin. That way when I get to replacing them at our house I will be an expert. This I can do on my own….I think.

It’s such a cute cabin, it would be so much fun to add my stamp to it before it is sold. Joy hopes that the next time she sees it is for the closing. That’s liberating for a wannabe designer like me as it will be too late for her to complain about my decisions!

Joy doesn’t know that I spent some time there the other morning actually working on my Anne novel. Writing! I know she would be happy that the cabin is serving a purpose even while it is unoccupied. Amazing how a change in environment can get the creative juices flowing. No TV. No telephone or cell service. Nothing to distract me from that blank piece of paper. I wrote a page about Anne doing renovations to an apartment she owns. Next thing you know, I’ll find a way to incorporate cancer into her life……..

Of course, that was before my decision to stage the cabin. Now if I go out there I’ll be compelled to do something besides write. Probably involving a paint brush.

Kindle

My 85-year old mother asked for my old Kindle. I was surprised but thought she wanted to be able to read the same books that I’ve read, a compliment to my reading taste, though I wasn’t certain how she would react to the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. This was my original Kindle and the battery empty screen had been visible for a long time so it took a lot of charging and restarting to get it to fire up.

We were sitting on the couch and I showed her the Kindle, explained that it would take a while for me to teach her how to use it. I showed her the nine pages of books that had been downloaded onto it. She wasn’t interested in those, however. Said she had plenty of her own books stacked on her nightstand.

She wanted to read my book. I laughed. And laughed.

Somehow she had gotten the impression that the novel I have been working on since 1986 was on the Kindle. I’ve been struggling with which of my many writing projects I am going to tackle. Suddenly it is clear. She wants to read my novel before she dies. I want to finish my novel before I die. So Anne it is.

I’d love for her to be able to read it on my Kindle. That would mean it was a published novel! The reality is that is years away, if ever. Even if I can complete it by the end of this year (impossible!!), I’d need to find an agent and whatever else happens after that I don’t know except I am certain it would involve a lot of time. Something I may not have. So maybe I will have to consider self-publishing IF I ever finish the novel. I’m not opposed to that. If the alternative is never to see it in print before I die I will do it.

But first I have to finish it……

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?              

Revising

I love the process of creating, of writing something for the first time, however crappy the result. Spending hours and hours creating new worlds and filling them with people I love. And those I don’t.

On the other hand, I detest revising and I doubt the sincerity of those who claim that it is their favorite part of writing. I’m envious of those in my writing group who excel at it, accepting the group’s “constructive criticism” with aplomb then returning a few weeks later with a new (and generally improved) version. (Not certain that they love doing it, however.)

So I was excited to read an article on revising in the Sunday Boston Globe Ideas section. Craig Fehrman focuses on Hannah Sullivan’s book on the history of revision. At the very end of the article I finally got to the part I was hoping for, that revising is highly overrated and even a waste of resources (in my own words—you’ll need to read the article for your own interpretation).

Writing a blog satisfies my need to write without spending much time revising. Sort of writing in a journal, flow of consciousness, where the goal is to get my thoughts down on paper before they disappear. And before I have a chance to evaluate their quality. Edit out the emotion. The real me.

I would be happy to put the effort into revising my life however. Edit out the crappy part known as adrenal cancer. Return to the life I used to occupy, one where I went to work every day, put money for retirement into my 401(k) every paycheck, squeezed in time to write, kept busy every second of the day, and rarely got sick.

I say that but now that I’ve left that world, would I seriously want to return to 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.

Turkey Dreams

Last night my first eight “testing the waters” blog entries were critiqued by my writing group. Their comments were encouraging but I can’t help wondering if it is sympathy due to my cancer… self-doubt always trumps being able to graciously accept compliments. John distributed samples of blog postings, which I read when I got home. Some were truly atrocious. I am confident I can produce something worth reading yet will my blog become my focus, taking time away from my “real” writing? I feel (hope?) that the blog will more likely prime the pump, dragging me to my laptop, away from my beloved HGTV. Yet this morning I am struggling with this post and only CNN is on with the volume down to 1.

thanksgivingdinner

I awoke this morning to a dream of a turkey dinner being prepared for me, Thanksgiving I think, and the cook was heating up the package of squash that I have kept secured in my freezer for months, not for a turkey dinner but in case I wanted to make squash soup.

 

Who am I kidding?

I have prepared so few meals since my surgery that it is more likely the squash will be heated up as is and eaten with a grinder from Village Pizza than that it will be transformed into an appetizing soup. I am certain the dream arose from our discussion last night about my post pitying my family for having to eat Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria. It’s too early in the morning to be talking turkey—I haven’t had my raisin toast yet or my yummy mitotane/hydrocortisone/ondansetron/metoprolol/pantoprazole/loratidine dessert! Remember, magic resides in those pills.

Dow has dropped 353 points over the past two days. Ouch. Now that I am retired this means a heck of a lot more than it did when I was still working.

James Gandolfini dropped dead in Italy yesterday. Apparent heart attack. I, at least, am forewarned. A young woman on the ACC Compassion site has died. She was forewarned. I hope she was able to take advantage of her remaining time to squeeze in a full life, albeit condensed. Not likely if she was undergoing treatment.

Quality of life and all that.

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