Monday, February 12, 2018

The Book!



Amanda asked about my current novel. I have finally finished it, the manuscript is being reviewed by two readers, and unless their feedback leads me to massive revisions, I'll soon be shopping for an agent or a publisher. This requires a one page query, on which a response of yes or no or maybe is based.

I have some work to do on this query, and I've deleted the paragraph that describes the story from start to finish, but here's a taste of the book. I will love your impressions and reactions.

love love
kj

In the words of the novel’s protagonist Christine Macabee, mother of four:
“My family history is told without fancy prose or superheroes, and admittedly with some drama around the themes of neglect and illness and crimes and death and alcoholism and infidelity and even a failed attempt at convent life. If you’re looking for threads I suggest you look to John Denver, Robert Frost, and Billy Collins. And I suggest you learn all you can about devotion.” 
The Answers to Everything is a work of fiction expanding seventy years and centering on the Macabees, a middle class family guided by its gutsy Mother Christine, who has a dual passion for the redemptive powers of poetry and her fantasy husband John Denver. Christine’s childhood and motherhood are comically supported by her uppity righteous older sister Louise who manages to rescue her from one crisis to another, and by the failures of first her alcoholic parents and then her alcoholic husband, Jimmy. Their four children, each with a story of his/her own, are shaped by Christine’s version of devotion and their own life circumstances: Claudia, devotedly languished in a seven year affair with a married man; Cole, a television sports reporter who is physically attacked for being gay and forced to face his own addictions; Emily, a Plain Jane who serendipitously lands a good guy who seems to stabilize the whole family; and John, the youngest, who quietly observes and easily accepts his family as everything he needs.  
Christine’s answers to everything are poetry and devotion. She painfully learns these tools aren’t perfect. 
The Author has a background and Master’s Degree in Counseling and Rehabilitation. She has a keen understanding of how people behave when faced with the commonplace and the extra- ordinary. She has self-published one book, The Light Stays On, (multiple excellent reviews on Amazon) and from time to time writes essays and poetry on her Blog, OPTIONS For A Better World. 

The Answers to Everything is approximately 100,000 words and divided into four Parts, beginning with Christine and Louise’s neglectful childhood and ending with a gathering that includes a number of new and surprising additions to the Macabee family. This is a story that aims to entertain and educate around the unique challenges of alcoholism, infidelity, differences, and the strengths and foibles that make a family. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Backing Up

I'm on a wild ride. 

About a month ago I started having significant back pain that has increasingly (and painfully) affected standing and walking. It's a slipped disc. This would be a big deal for anyone but is probably less so for me because I don't mind being sedentary. I'm happy to sit on the couch, work on my novel, read books, cruise social media, play pretend slot machines. But this is different.

For one thing, I turned 70 in August. This is probably the first time I've announced that publicly because 70 sounds pretty serious. I've noticed that sometimes kind people offer me their seats on buses and in waiting rooms. Sometimes, probably because even before my latest bout with pain, my back announces I'm creaky in my movements. So combine this new age with an impairment that is (luckily) my first big medical challenge and I'm a novice feeling my way.

I've had shots and consults and prescriptions. If I don't have relief in the next week or so, I'm headed for a surgical consult and it would be a biggie: probably a laminectomy and fusion. It's a 3-4 hour surgery and I'm told recovery is painful and extensive--3-6 months. That route will gobble two full seasons of my life.  Plus, major surgery has obvious risks. 

I am fortunate I have a partner who is able to help me in a thousand ways. She is currently cooking us three meals a day, bringing me ice packs, supervising our new puppy (yes, a puppy) who arrived a few weeks before the slipped disc, proofing my manuscript, and watching Netflix with me.

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and reminded myself that my attitude matters as much as my effort. I'm determined to stay positive, and to WAIT TO WORRY. I'm also forcing myself to a pool a few times a week (I hate it) to counter the weakness that comes from not moving. 

And: I'm actually finishing my manuscript. Finally. For real. Even preparing my query letter for an agent or publisher. This time of forced solitude and sedentary sit-downs hasn't been all bad. It's also scared me enough that I'm losing the weight I've needed to lose for years.  I'm going to do that. I'm envisioning that there will be an endpoint where I'm healthier and stronger. Wouldn't I love to dress like the cool hip woman I want to be. :^)

I have a doctor here in Provincetown who reminds me that 70 in Provincetown is 50 anywhere else. A few months ago I asked him why I've had so many medical issues in the last year or so when I've never had any before. He smiled, "I'd say you should be grateful. Most people start to decline when they hit 50 and you've had a good 20 years without problems. So you're playing a little catch up, that's all."

He is a good doctor. I'm lucky in that department also. So far: Optimism reigns. 

love
kj




Monday, November 06, 2017

Ohm.....

I am on the first day of  a five day retreat at the Kripalu Retreat Center in Western Massachusetts. JB and I arrived last night and for the first time in probably years, I was in bed by ten o'clock. We are here to settle down, relax, and follow a routine that is spiritual and restful. 

I am also here to work on my novel as much and as often as I can. I hope to finish a full edit by the end of the week and if I'm lucky, read it from start to finish and see what I have. There are solariums and cozy rooms with comfortable chairs and couches, overlooking the lake, where I can write. People here are quiet. Last night we did our first meditation and I was aware of my body, my sore back and tight throat, in a way I often don't think about. My back pain is a hindrance, but last night I let myself feel the pain instead of trying to avoid it. 

Kripalu is a quiet place, filled with daily and optional events like yoga, meditation, chanting, drumming, and workshops centered on breathing, health, and well being. The center sits on a lake with mountains in the background. Three buffet meals a day are included in the daily price and each meal is definitely healthy but also uniquely delicious. Breakfast is silent, a unique and nice change from what you'd expect in a room of a hundred or more people. Our room is spartan: a bed, two lights, one closet. The bathroom and showers are down a hall and shared. JB and I have splurged and signed up for massages and facials. We have been here a few times before, but never for five days and nights. JB has brought an art piece she's working on. Tonight we are going to a workshop on Animal Communication. Tomorrow JB thinks she'll go to the 6 am yoga class. Not me. Not yet. But I plan to be up by six.

This afternoon we went went to a workshop on the importance of routine. Since we moved to Provincetown, because JB was sick and then I was sick and because I've transitioned from paid work to way more free time, I have no routine. I'm thinking about that. I can't imagine going to bed as early as ten each night, but I'm thinking about it.

I looked around at other people in the solarium where I wrote today, and I was reminded how lucky I am to love to write. I'm excited about this novel, about this Macabee family I'm writing about. 

Actually, today I'm content. No worries. JB is good, Jess and her husband and the kids are good, we have money in the bank, and I'm here in a sacred place trying to spend sacred time. I have plenty of complaints but not today. 

And how happy I am to post again here!

love
kj




Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Finally!


  • It's been so long since I've posted here I had to create a new password. I still can't figure out how to post photos and I'm sorry about that because I have a lot to catch up on.

  • Thank you so much for the comments looking for me.  I'm well, except for a back problem I can't yet shake. It affects my walking and that's a huge loss for me. I'm still hoping it's a temporary problem.

  • These days I've almost wrapped up my paid work and am settling into Provincetown by the sea after almost a year of renovation and reconstruction of our house. It looks absolutely beautiful, but a week after we paid the final check, problems became apparent. No heating duct to the new addition master bedroom, exterior water damage to our new kitchen wood floor. A few other biggies as well. We've tried to get the problems resolved with the contractor but haven't. This means arbitration and legal action. No fun. It's a first world problem and nothing that extra money won't fix, but it's also a violation of trust. I'm trying to stay calm about it, successful about 65% of the time so far.

  • Most recently my heart has followed a six year little boy named Devin Suau who out-of-the blue got this horrible and cruel brain stem cancer called DIPG, and died two weeks ago after nine months of the doctors telling his family there is absolutely no treatment and no survivors in the last 40 years. It's been tragic and I'm proud to say my daughter Jess has helped Devin's family--her friends--in irreplaceable ways. You can read about Devin on Facebook at #whynotdevin. It will make you sad, but it will also do your heart good. 

  • I am finally knee deep in completing my second book. It's been a long haul. I'm not a great writer but I'm a great quality controller, meaning the book won't find its way into the world until I'm satisfied it's as good as I can make it. I struggle especially with the order of my chapters. I just can't seem to tell the story in the zig zag way I want to.  This is a book about a family, about devotion, and about forty years in the life of a gutsy woman I admire named Christine Macabee. 

  • I wish I could show your pictures of my four grand kids; I will once I know how to post photos again. They are a joy to me, ages 10, 8, 6, and 4. Spunky, poor listeners, always interesting. 

  • I'm writing on a new laptop, sitting on a new couch, looking at a new living room where tomorrow a new propane stove will be installed. I'm beyond excited thinking about the warmth of a stove all winter. 

  • What else? I'm overweight and wish I were motivated. I keep hoping I'll wake up one morning and be ready to take care of this. I'm thoroughly disgusted with Donald Trump and thoroughly depressed to think that almost 40% of Americans like him. He's a dangerous man. Praying for the Congress to grow some you-know-whats.

  • I'll end now with the hope my future posts are more interesting. I'm glad to be here. Finally. And I hope all is well with each of you. Barbara and Friko, I especially think of you. 
  • love
  • kj






Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring


It's been a wild month. Winter has given way to Spring and that's a wonderful thing. I'm a happy gardener and I like nothing more than seeing new growth and planning my own plots of land. 

But. I'm unsettled and I don't like it. After four months away JB and I won't be back in our own home for another 2-3 weeks. We've had to leave our rental on the bay and move to another temporary place while the construction and renovation of our house continues. It's a bit of a helpless relationship--dealing with contractors. You can prod and try to manage but they call the shots in getting things done. We have a contract that says finish by May 15th and my fingers are crossed.

I'm also aware of a very unsettled world. I'm shocked at the power Donald Trump has amassed already. I hope I'm still alive to see his influence waned and gone. I hope there is a pendulum that swings back to tolerance and inclusion. And peace. I don't know how "we've" collectively stopped caring for one another so dramatically. 

Last night I had dinner with twelve friends from high school. We will all turn 70 this year. It is amazing for me to say outloud I will soon be 70. That's not an age that can be fudged. The conversations about achy bodies and joyful grandchildren and no-bullshit living and the importance of memories left me thinking that my own experience is more common that I think.

I'm currently unsettled because I have reasons to be. I want to get back home and plant my seeds and six packs. And not just in soil. I want things to slow down bit. More time to finish my novel. Enjoy the kids. Feel the sun. Walk in low tide sand. Be kind. Be astonished. Lighten up.

Fingers crossed.....

love
kj


'

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Hello!


How happy I am to be back at my blog! For the last few months I've been unable to include photos and that's very much cramped my style of communication here. But as of this morning, it looks like that problem is fixed. So my first update is my current location.

1. JB and I are staying on the bay in Provincetown, while our house is being renovated. This 3 months away from home, two miles down the street, means that we are waking up to sunrises like this every morning, each day watching the flow of the tides and the bounce of light off the water. 

It has been restorative. It's so lovely. Thank you to the universe for offering up an affordable rental that is perfect in every way.


2. #whynotdevin: at the end of January, a 6 year old little boy who is the son of my daughter's good friend Christine was out of the blue found to have a cancer called DIPG. Its location on the brainstem means that there is no treatment, no cure, no survival. In 40 years, not one child of the 200-300 kids each year in the USA has survived more than two years. The average life span with DIPG is 9 months.

Something remarkable has happened with Devin and his family. At first his parents asked, "Why Devin?" Then, as they refused to accept the fact that there is no hope and he will die, they asked, "Someone has the be the first one. Why not Devin?"

They, my daughter Jessica, and now many many others, started a national campaign to raise awareness and research funding for DIPG and to save Devin's life. Google or Facebook whynotdevin and you'll see what is happening. The fight has gone viral. Please help with prayers, wishes, donations. The tumor is aggressive and time is critical. We are truly manifesting that Devin will survive and thrive.


3. The renovation of our house: it is a much larger project that we ever imagined. New foundation, new shingling, new electric, new kitchen, new bath, new roof, upgraded windows and insulation and of course, all kinds of fun shopping and planning and designing.  It's been scary financially but JB and I are willing to let our knees knock as long as we don't jump in blind. 


5. Grandchildren: Last June, in the panic of Jessica's cancer (mis)diagnosis, we quickly rented a studio apartment so I could help with the kids and help however else needed. The little one room apt has been a godsend because our grand kids can come and stay and play. Here we made flowers with 5 year old Logan and he taped a flower garden to the picture window. 

I am in love with these kids. I love that I am lucky enough to have children whopping up my life.


6. And finally, TADA: if vision becomes reality, this will be our new Cape Cod kitchen. To say we are excited is a vast understatement. With luck, the whole renovation will be done by mid May.

7. And one more finally: my book manuscript is done. With the help of a few trusted readers, I'm in the revision and editing stage, hoping to begin shopping for an agent or publisher in a month or two.

All in all, I'm in good shape. Excited. Curious. Grateful. I say this with recognition that the world is 50% terrible; that the USA president is dangerous; that the age of Aquarius is in hiding. 

love
kj

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Here I Am

I don't have pictures. But I can tell you that I am sitting on a couch in a rented vacation apartment watching seagulls fly over the bay, right in front of me through a sliding glass door. I will wake up to the sight of a glorious sunrise also right in front of me for another two months, until the renovation of our currently uninhabitable house is complete.

I can tell you that my partner JB has had a hell of a time with anxiety for many months and we are finally seeing some daylight. Every day she battles and her tools are finally working.

I can also tell you that my daughter Jess has a very good friend who like her also has 4 children and the youngest of her four boys, Devin, age 6, has been suddenly shockingly diagnosed with DIPG. It is a cancer at the brainstem with a zero survival rate. Zero. Not one child has survived longer than 2 years, and it could be 8 months or less. My daughter has mobilized to help Devin and his family and this is no small matter. In three weeks, a statement has been made: "Somebody has to be the first." 

And the answer has gone viral: #whynotdevin 

You can find Devin and his story there on Facebook. He's been on the news and well wishes come from everywhere and he's taken root in my heart. I'm not alone. Please pray for him, send him a card, help with GoFundMe, and pray again for the miracle he deserves. If you know the Pope, please ask him to pray too!

I have plenty more to catch up on here, but I think for now I'll leave it at #whynotdevin. 

I hope all is well in the world of each of you, barring unreal politics. I have finished my book and am editing the manuscript. It is a joyous feeling.

Love
kj