Saturday, May 29, 2021

Alaska, here I come!

Well, my bags are packed and I'm ready to go! And if you read/heard that line sung in John Denver's voice, you're showing your age. :)

Regular readers know where I'm headed: Storyknife in Homer, Alaska. This writer's retreat is the dream of Dana Stabenow made real and I'm thrilled to be in the first group of writers to stay in the cabins and fulfill my own dream of having time away from real life to do nothing but live in the world inside my head and write down what I see.

You know those Internet memes that picture some remote cabin and say, "Would you stay here with no Internet, no video games, no TV for one million dollars?" My answer is always a resounding "YES!" Actually, I'd do it for free. So this opportunity to spend time with five other writers, each in our own cabin, is perfect. We'll meet up each day for dinner and companionship, which I've learned over the years IS actually something I enjoy (although for a cool mil? I'd forgo it for a month), but spend our days on our respective projects.

And, unlike other writer's residencies I've looked at, there is no teaching requirement, no word output goal, no demand on our time. This is our time to spend as we each need to. A true luxury.

As for me, I'm setting myself a word-count goal of 3-5000 words per day. Yes, that's putting some pressure on myself, but the key here is: I'm putting the pressure on myself. No one else is. No one else is making me do anything (except my own laundry and I'm good with that - I do some of my best thinking while folding underwear. Really!). I just can't envision myself flying all the way across the country, from the Finger Lakes to Cook Inlet, spending an entire month away from home, and spending money on airline tickets only to come home not having written much. I feel I HAVE to produce SOMETHING.

And I can't wait. I leave tomorrow morning. My hubby is mending well (his partial knee replacement has been a huge success) and my son is here to take care of him. I didn't bother planting much of a garden this year - only garlic down at the cabin (which is another whole mess and source of stress that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say, the cabin is NOT a restful place right now. Evcn in the best of years, it still requires maintenance - which I will not have to do in Alaska. Another reason to be grateful for Dana's dream made real!).

See you in a month!

Play safe and get vaccinated,


Thursday, May 20, 2021

It's been two months...

...and as a writer, you'd think I'd have the words to express the stress I lived these past several weeks. But I am still too close and I can only explain my absence from all things social media the best way I know how: with a story.

March was fairly normal, to be honest. The country's troubles were still the country's troubles, winter was subsiding (although still very much with us here in the Northeast), and life went on much as it always had, with one notable exception: because of recent surgeries, my dad could no longer drive himself to dialysis three times a week. Heck, he couldn't drive - period. So I'd visit him on Wednesdays to be social and on Saturdays to take him to his dialysis appointment.

The fact that the treatment, week-by-week, was taking longer and longer should've clued me in.

It didn't.

By Saturday, April 3rd, he was exhausted all the time. His energy levels were low and he napped often. I took him for a dialysis treatment that took four hours to complete. His earlier treatments took a little over two, for comparison. I promised to come see him on Monday and made sure he'd eaten, then went home.

I kept my promise, but he had no more energy on Monday than he'd had on Saturday. And on Tuesday, he called to tell me he wasn't going to keep his appointment and had cancelled the transportation that was supposed to take him. I dropped what I was doing and headed up (takes me about 40 minutes to get from my door to his).

He informed me he'd made his decision - no more dialysis. It had become a zero-sum proposition: he was as tired when he came out as he was when he went in. I asked him if he understood what stopping meant and he nodded and said he was ready.

And so the long month of April began.

I spent every day with him, knowing there weren't that many left. We’d spend the afternoons reading – he on his tablet where he could make the font big and me lugging Brandon Sanderson’s new tome with me every day. He’d find videos of music he liked on YouTube and play them for me; I showed him how to use Netflix to find old war movies. He told me stories, some of which were brand new, some of which I’d heard a hundred times. But I listened to them again, knowing I was hearing them for the last time.

I'd go home every night, thankful that the clocks had changed and I could at least do some of the drive while it was still light out. Dad decided the only thing that tasted good were Wendy's Frostys - so we ate a lot of those. At one point, he realized he could have a beer any time he wanted, so he had half a can one morning before noon. The next day he had another and a third the day after that. Then he decided he'd had enough over the years and he was done with beer. And done with Frostys. And pretty much done with everything. At that point, I pretty much moved into his apartment with him and stayed 24/7 so I could give him his pain meds when he woke at night and let him know he wasn't alone.

He died on Friday, April 30th. We'd moved him to a hospice house since he couldn't swallow the pain pills any more and at Hildebrandt Hospice they could give him injections of the pain meds. He fell asleep on Wednesday and never woke up.

I was with him and watched as his breathing slowed. Then, between one breath and the one that never came, his body relaxed and he was gone. It was both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Along came May.

And with it, the funeral, the breaking up of the household, the getting rid of the car - and my husband's partial knee replacement.

Yes, you read that right. Out of one fire and into the next. While I'm doing all of the above, I'm also taking care of my True Love. And I don't mind. In fact, I enjoy it. And he's doing well. Only a few grumpy days - and those because of a by-product of the pain meds that didn't allow a certain bodily function to, well, function. And once it did - do NOT stand between him and the bathroom! J

In between the closing out of one life, the nursing of another, I’m also getting ready to travel to Homer, Alaska – clear on the other side of the continent – to enjoy a writer’s residency at Storyknife. I’d been accepted for last year but, because of COVID, the entire season was cancelled and we were all rescheduled for this year.

I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to be going. Not only because I need a break from real life here (which I do need – desperately!), but because I’m going to get to spend an entire month with other writers, talking shop, and writing. Writing! Something I haven’t been able to do for months now.

So far, I’ve made four copies of the story I’ll be working on while I’m there. One printed out and bound so I can read it (and edit) on the plane, one on my laptop, and two on flashdrives – one which will be with me and one which will go in my checked bag. I managed some time last night to go through my shoes – and toss out three pair that were beyond use (rubber soles should NOT disintegrate just from being in a closet for several years!) and donated a half a dozen pairs to Goodwill – all because I needed to figure out what ones I wanted to take with me. Nevermind that I haven’t even begun to think about what clothes to bring!

(Notice that the project I’ll be working on is packed and ready to go and what I’ll put on my back isn’t even on the list of things to do yet. Writers! Insert eyeroll.)

It is also worth noting that another reason I’m super-excited has to do with the fact that I get to see Tielle St. Clare – a fellow Sizzlin’ Scribe and a writer friend from our days with Ellora’s Cave. I’m spending a few days with her bookended on the residency and I can’t wait (“bookended” – see what I did there?)!

So I have a little over a week to finish cleaning Dad’s place (should be done by Saturday, keep your fingers crossed!), be with my hubby as he gets his staples out (ouch!), and pack (clothes – don’t forget to bring clothes!).

Stress levels? As I said to my doc yesterday, my plate is so full, it’s overflowing and things are falling off the side. And what does fall? I’m too tired to pick up. She said she’s glad I’m getting away for a while. My hubby says to consider this time as a retreat.

I agree with both of them.

You haven’t heard from me for the past two months because I was taking care of my dad and my husband. You’re not going to hear from me for the next month because I’m going to be taking care of me.

In the meantime,

Play safe, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!