Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Write What You Know....

Going on 4 months later, I did not expect to still be wondering why I have groin and hip and leg pain that often hurts too much to walk and stand in a normal natural way. Which is another way of saying I am not able to plot and plan my gardens this Spring, I’m not watching our puppy frolic on the beach, and I’m not gabbing and socializing with my family and friends as I love to do. Twice now JB and I have prepared ourselves for major surgery, 5 times I’ve had injections hoping to locate the problem and lighten up on pain, but here I am again, reasonably comfortable sitting on the couch and unreasonably unable to stand and walk normally, figuring out what to do next.

Every night I fall asleep in our newly renovated all-white master bedroom and every morning as the light shines in and Mattie the puppy wakes me with her joyful licks, I think this will be a day when whatever ails me has fixed itself. I know it’s true that sometimes things and circumstances do indeed fix themselves. That hasn’t happened yet, and my concern grows bigger that I’m not helping myself, that it’s not healthy or justified to be so sedentary. I’m thankful that 2 of the injections gave me almost total relief for a glorious one or two days, assuring me that the cause of my inactivity is pain, not passivity. 

From the couch I’ve had time to notice certain areas of my character and they are surprisingly comforting. For one thing, to borrow a scene from the bay, just a block down the street, I still see starfish and reject seaweed: I believe I will in time be on the move again. I have a lot to be thankful for and every day I review that list: JB is well again and cooking us these super meals, our puppy is a goofy joy, my Jessica and her husband are happy and healthy and so are my 4 spunky grandkids, my manuscript is done and ready to be shopped for publication, I’ve lost almost 30 pounds, I’m swimming to strengthen my back, I love my house and the nearby ocean, I'm almost retired, and I have terrific friends and interesting people around me. The point is I have a lot going for me.

Pain has a way of removing a person from day-to-day life but I’m doing what I can to ride through the worst of it and I’m lucky because the pain isn’t relentless. I also have a couple of doctors who are riding this uncertainty with me—we try one approach, evaluate, and move on to the next. 

I’ve had an unusual amount of time to sit and reflect. And for some reason that reflection has taken me back to the very day I graduated from high school.I remember that day so well. I knew everything would be different the following morning. A couple of friends went to college with me and stayed near by but mostly I moved on to a new life: I got married, moved away, built a career, raised a phenomenal daughter, fell in love again, learned to garden, traveled the world. Over the next fifty-plus years, I lost touch with my high school friends and I built a satisfying life. Then a funny thing happened. When I began to wind down my high-energy career and took more time to relax, I reconnected with some of the friends I‘d left behind so long ago. I found I am still the same person and so are they. Despite all the changes and good or bad circumstances folded into our lives over half a century, to quote the songwriter Paul Simon, “after changes upon changes we are more or less the same.”  I’ll be damned.

Which brings me to the point of this post, if there is one. Last night I learned that it’s time for my brother, 7 years older than me, to arrange for hospice care now, so he can comfortably stay at home with his wife. Because I’m a Case Manager and at his request planned to speak with his doctors he called me first. “I don’t want you to be surprised when you talk to them,” he said. “It’s grim but I’m alright. I’ll have time to take care of things.”

It seems my brother approaches challenges like I do. I’m not in the middle of the worse challenge life might eventually throw at me, but there’s evidence so far that neither I or my brother aren’t likely to fold or whimper. I look backwards again and I see my parents didn’t fold or whimper either, even when they were dying. It must be in my DNA. And it must be because I've been lucky. 

And I should add, a week after I wrote this, the 5th injection has so far worked! Pain is a zillion times less. I’m might be gardening afterall. 


Sunday, April 01, 2018

Update 😬

My surgery was cancelled. There is a possibility that I have a second problem and it not the bone slippage may be the source of my limiting pain. This would be good news. So i’ve Had an injection into the suspected site and so far the pain has significantly decreased. Too soon to tell, but hopeful.

Thursday, March 08, 2018


Whirlwind times. On April 2nd I'll undergo a 4-5 hour surgery with the hope and goal that in the months that follow I'll be able to walk and gallivant without the limits of pain and endurance. The recovery will take up to a year, but I can expect to improve each week, and I'll be mobile from the start. After almost two months of confusion to confirm a diagnosis, I've found a neurosurgeon and hospital program where I have full confidence. Backs are tricky: the literature says the success rate is about 60% and my own rehab experience confirms that. 

But I'm more optimistic than I am concerned. The surgeon tells me to shoot for  80-85% improvement and I'm psyched about that goal. Even if there's evidence to the contrary, I'm happy to accept his prognosis. This has been a wake up call for me: it's time to get myself in shape and stay that way. So I've lost 23 pounds so far and I'm heading toward the next 23 pounds. I'm swimming, I'm done with sugar and white flour, and I'm 'waiting to worry.' I hope to get off blood pressure meds sooner or later. I have a good life, a great family, loyal friends, plenty of interests. I live by the sea and I know enough to be astonished. 

I'm surprised that I've been mostly good natured over the last two months. Sometimes my pain level is through the roof. But not always, and that's an important distinction. Mine is not a relentless situation so I have moments when I'm relaxed and comfortable. My doctor prescribed a little pill so I can get a good night's sleep. I'm heading into this surgery with a positive attitude and a commitment to take care of myself better than I have before. And when I lose enough weight, I'll start dressing myself like the (now older) babe I want to be. :^)

I don't remember my parents complaining about anything, including their last weeks of preparing to die. I make jokes that I'm the black sheep of the family because I LOVE to complain. But honestly, I think I'm handling my impairment pretty well. I've decide to anticipate the best and I'm willing to put in the work toward that. Maybe 3 weeks from now I'll be shaking in my boots, but I hope not. 

For the record, I told JB I thought I've had a good attitude 70% of the time. She disagreed: "Maybe 60-40," she said. So maybe I'm not coasting as easily as I wish. But once my eyes open in post surgical recovery and I'm assured I'm still alive, I'll be spending at least 60% of my time anticipating good things ahead. And I'm shooting for 70%.

At least I hope so!


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.

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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. 


Monday, November 06, 2017


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!


Tuesday, October 31, 2017


  • 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. 
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  • kj