Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007
Full Moon
Mars Retrograde
Sunny and cold

We’re back from the trip. It was good, but exhausting.

We left early on Wednesday morning, just after 6 AM. The cats woke me up around 3, and it was easier to just get up rather than fight with them and fall back to sleep and oversleep. Except for a bit around Hartford, there was hardly any traffic all the way up. We made our favorite stops in Kittery, through the Yorks, Ogonquit, Wells, etc. The Egg and I is closed for the winter, so we hoped to find a lunch place in Kennebunk. No luck – we just didn’t know where to look. But we found a very good fish shack still open in Arundel, so that was good.

We were so early that we figured, we’re in Maine, we need boots, why not go all the way to Freeport to the LL Bean flagship store? It’s only about 30 or 40 minutes past my grandmother’s. So we did, and we both found fantastic winter boots (hey, I hit my 50K, I get boots).

My grandmother actually felt well enough to come out and do a few errands. She really has improved enormously. And she works out! My 92 year-old grandmother started lifting weights – small ones, but in the past few months, she’s built her upper body strength very well, even with the Parkinson’s. It’s still tiring to take care of three elderly people rather than one, but I was delighted to see how much she’s improved. Her brother doesn’t seem to be doing well, however, and I’m a little worried about him.

We had a lobster dinner, did some visiting, but had an early night. It was pretty cold up there, with a dusting of snow.

Did my yoga the next morning (yes, I brought up the mat). I even got some writing done in the morning – not much, but a bit of work on the paranormal outline and the second Gwen/Justin. I think I have to outline #2 and #3 together. Although each of the books can be a complete stand alone, the character growth from book to book requires me to know the overall scope.

I really wasn’t in the mood to socialize, but too bad for me. Dinner was terrific and fun, though. 52 people for Thanksgiving dinner – wow! I helped in the kitchen before and after, we had a great meal, I got to catch up with people, so it was all good. My grandmother and her brother started to fade pretty soon after dinner, so I got them and my mom home, and we rested for awhile. None of us needed any dinner that night!

I started the work for Confidential Job #1, but it was still a pretty early night.

I love how quiet it is up there!

We left early on Friday morning, driving back down to Ogonquit to Amore Breakfast, a place I wanted to try. It was fantastic. What a great place! We wanted to stop at the When Pigs Fly bakery in Kittery, but it was closed (hey, they’re entitled), so we kept going. We stopped at Earth Spirits in Sturbridge, so I could stock up on incense, stones, etc. They were out of the oils I needed, but oh well. And we were home by mid-afternoon.

It took awhile to get the cats settled, unpack, sort through the mail, etc. And another early night, because it was unusually quiet here, and I wanted to take advantage of it.

Up early this morning, yoga, and then back to Earth Bride. I’d missed it a lot! 1908 words – not bad. It felt good to get back to it.

I’ll email the N3s later today. I have a lot to do. I want to start the decorating this weekend, but, with all the various projects, I have too much stacked up on every available surface. I have to clean it all off first, then dust and vacuum, then iron all the cloths – some were ironed as they should be when put away last year, but some weren’t. So I want to get all that sorted out first, and tomorrow I’ll start unpacking decorations and setting things up.

And getting started on the overseas cards. Thanksgiving was a week early this year, so I have a few extra days to get everything out.

I’m not feeling particularly holiday-spirited, but I hope the decorating will solve it.

Hope you had a grand time!


Earth Bride — 67,896 words out of 50,000 (Nano goal)

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
67 / 50

Earth Bride – 67,896 words out of 100,000 (completion goal)

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
67 / 100

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007
Dark of the Moon
Pluto and Venus have both gone DIRECT
Hot, humid, rainy

My grandmother is very ill.

She woke us up around 5 AM on Saturday morning, saying she couldn’t breathe. I called 911 and her primary caretaker. The Rescue and the ambulance seemed to take forever to arrive – it’s much quicker here in the NY area than up there, let me tell you. But they were really terrific and got her on oxygen and calmed down and loaded her gently into the ambulance.

We got dressed, loaded the car up and found our way to the hospital in Portland, where they took us right in to the emergency room to be with her. For awhile, they were afraid it was a heart attack and they’d have to do emergency surgery. The test results showed it was not necessary, and other options were explored. The same questions were asked over and over and over again – it’s in the computer, why not print out multiple copies? Come on, people!!!

However, I have to say that every single person we encountered at the hospital had a terrific bedside manner. She (and the family) were never made to feel like they didn’t matter or rushed or neglected.

By 11, she was settled in a room, with two nurses to take care of her, and there was nothing else we could do, so we headed back as planned. Although we cancelled the property appointments – we just weren’t up to it. Instead, we made a stop at Earth Spirits in Sturbridge to stock up on some herbs and oils.

The final diagnosis is congestive heart failure. Her heart is simply wearing out. They drained the fluid accumulating in her lungs out for now, but . . .even with the pacemaker, we’re on borrowed time.

Which is difficult to come to grips with.

She’s vastly improved under constant care and might even be home in the next day or so – but we’re on borrowed time.

The weekend up to that point had been quite fun. Crazy Downstairs Neighbor, of course, kept me up most of the night with his noise (always, always, ALWAYS on a night when I have to be up exceptionally early). But we got out of the house by 6 AM. We looked at properties in several areas of Massachusetts. Two of the areas were okay, but not really the vibe we’re looking for. One of them was in an area that’s too industrial and too in-your-face churchy. Anyone can practice their religion as they wish, as long as they don’t interfere with my practice or try to foist their beliefs on me, and this was very much “walk-in-OUR-way-of-Christ” which just makes me want to behave disrespectfully and flip them off. Not the type of place I’d choose to live.

A little further up, though, is absolutely gorgeous. It isn’t an area I’d considered before, but I’d heard of a spread and wanted to take a look. It’s too big for me to handle, but I really like the area. If I can find something a bit smaller, I’d consider it.

I also saw some places in York, Maine that I liked – but the square footage and acreage was too small with the price too high. But I like York a lot – it’s still a vital artists’ community, and that’s important to me.

We had a great lunch at the café at one of my favorite Maine spots, although there was a bit of an incident. A woman was in the store with her husband, some other female relative, a toddler, and a smaller kid in a very large stroller. She kept ramming the stroller into people saying, “Can’t you see I have a stroller?” –even though there was plenty of room to go around them. When they reached the café, she parked the stroller next to my chair and said, “You have to watch the baby” and started to walk away.

“No,” I said, “I don’t.”

“Of course you do. You owe me.”

“I’ve never seen you before in my life.”

“Haven’t you heard it takes a village to raise a child?”

“Sorry, lady, I chose to live in a different zip code.”

Several of the staff intervened at that point. Now, there were two other adults in the group perfectly capable of watching the kid. In this day and age, not only is it stupid to try to dump the kid on a stranger, it’s dangerous. I was one cell phone button from calling child services on her.

Then, when her family group got all their stuff, she walked up to the table and said, “I want this table.” There were plenty of empty tables throughout the room.

“Too bad,” I said, and began eating veeeeeerrry slowly.

The staff was smart enough to escort that little grouping away. She did not have a New England accent or Midwestern accent. I’m figuring she was from somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic states – that misplaced sense of entitlement which is so common around here. Good thing the staff up there is so savvy.

Got to my grandmother’s, ran some errands, brought in dinner, and we made it an early night.

The next morning, we all had breakfast together. I went out and bought her a new toaster (her old one caught fire), and did the grocery shopping. Then we headed up to Freeport, Maine and paid LL Bean a visit in person. I buy a lot of stuff from them – their quality and their customer service are exceptional. The store was great, too. Busy, but everyone’s friendly, it’s kept neat and clean, and the temperature is comfortable.

We had a fabulous lunch a few doors down at a place called Azure. I had calamari and some of the best steamed mussels I’ve ever had in my life. Absolutely perfect.

I didn’t shop much – not in the mood to shop. Did a lot of looking, though. And had to walk out of a bath and beauty shop I used to like because I realized they used synthetic fragrance, not essential, and it was starting to make me sick.

Went to a favorite yarn store near Sebago Lake and found another ball of yarn for my current project IN THE SAME DYE LOT!!! Yarn enthusiasts will know how unlikely that is!

Made dinner for the family when I got home, did some catching up with people, and had a pretty early night, until my grandmother woke me up because she was ill, poor thing.

So exhausted when I got home Saturday night that I didn’t get much done. Did grocery shopping and errands Sunday morning, then took most of the day to read The New York Times (usually it takes me about an hour and a half). Cathleen Schine’s new serial in the Magazine section is set at an artists’ colony in Maine and is pretty funny.

I took in the car this morning for its 5000 mile check up (although I had nearly an extra 600 miles on it, thanks to the Maine trip). It’s much happier now. It was having hissy fits very much like the cats.

Last week, at the theatre, I somehow managed to hurt my back, so the additional stress hasn’t helped it. Thank goodness I have acupuncture next week.

Since everything is in limbo for now, I’m doing a big fall cleaning, and that way, I can leave at the drop of a hat without worrying that it’s all in chaos. I have some articles to finish up and a critique to do, but I’m in decent shape.

Found out the mothers of two friends of mine are very ill, and yet another friend is in the hospital with a staph infection. Everyone’s having a rough time right now, I guess.

Onward and mopward – the kitchen floors call.


Published in: on September 10, 2007 at 11:59 am  Comments (8)  

April 29, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

It was a good trip, but not an easy trip. Nothing like your family to completely tip your equilibrium!

I received the next assignment from Confidential Job #1, along with the notification that the invoice I submitted was approved. Woo-hoo! Guess they like me! I’m still waiting both for payment from Confidential Job #2 and if they’re going to give me another assignment. Another freelance job asked for samples; I sent them; when I got back yesterday, there was the exact same email asking for samples, so I RE-SENT them, with a pointed email saying that’s what I did.

Icelandair fixed the problems, with many apologies, so it all seems good – provided they actually did what they said they did. I have all the paperwork, so we’ll see.

Wednesday night, I took my friend J. to the PEN World Voices Festival – readings at Town Hall. We went in early enough to have a cocktail at the Algonquin’s Blue Bar (one of my favorite places). I had a sidecar – they make the best sidecars ever.

The event itself was amazing! Tonight’s event was “Writing Home”. Salman Rushdie provided the introduction – and, three times, admonished people to turn off their cell phones and some idiot’s phone STILL went off halfway through! The writers reading from their work were: Steve Martin, Pia Tafdrup, Don DeLillo, Tatayana Tolstaya, Saaadi Youssef, Kiran Desai, Alain Mabanckou, Neil Gaiman, Nadine Gordimer, and Salman Rushdie. Each one was uniquely exquisite.

We left walking on air. What a wonderful way to replenish the soul!

THIS is a writers’ conference. A place where writers share ideas and responsibility and use their talents to change the world, to make it a better place. This is an international organization of writers committed to justice, peace, and making a difference in the world, inspiring everyone with whom they come into contact, and I am honored to be a part of it.

THIS is what a writers’ conference should be, rather than what most are – places where wanna-be writers try to find agents for books that will never be written and go to marketing seminars for work that they’ll never finish. Yes, it’s important for conferences to provide the business protocols on a regular basis, both because of the constant influx of starting writers and those who, no matter how many times they’re told, believe none of it pertains to THEM, but there’s really nothing out there for the working writer. Conferences bring together starting out writers and wanna-be writers with best-sellers. There is nothing for the steadily working writer who’s crafting a career – and a life – in the art form without bestseller-dom or spending 80% of the time marketing rather than writing.

PEN’s festival is about craft and content, not marketing. There was a sense of community, of writers and readers embracing each other, rather than a sense of competition and cliques which pervades so many conferences. These are people who want to talk to those who attend, who want to interact, who give a damn. They are confident in their skills and their work and in their sense of responsibility to humanity at large, but also humble.

It was an eye-opening, soul-reviving, life-changing experience.

Afterwards, J. and I went to the Campbell Apartment for another drink and to continue that feeling of well-being (because once we got on wonky, unreliable Metro North, it was hard to maintain).

I’m seriously thinking of writing a book of short stories based on Metro North nightmares. Darkly funny. Because there’s got to be a way to make positive use out of all the pain and frustration this train line causes on a daily basis!

Unfortunately, when I got home, I discovered that I’d broken the little toe on my left foot and it was black and swollen. I knew I’d tripped over something earlier in the day, but didn’t think it was a big deal.

It was. I had to adjust it (all together now – Owww!), ice it, and tape it.

Since I got home after midnight, I had a heck of a time getting up at 4:30 on Thursday morning. We were an hour late starting off for Maine – and I was up, I was packed, but I couldn’t get it together to get out of the house!

The drive up was fine, as always. The Rabbit drives like a dream and loves the highway. We stopped at my favorite Nutcracker Bakery in Newburyport, MA for coffee and a snack, then I nipped in to visit Jabberwocky Books there. If you’re ever in Newburyport, or near it, you MUST visit Jabberwocky – it’s an amazing bookstore and right next to the bakery. Tess Gerritsen turned me on to that place, and every time I go to and from Maine, I thank her for it!

We meandered through lower Maine the way we usually do – did some shopping in Kittery, stopped at the thrift shop in York, the Book Barn in Wells – which is about to close! After 25 years, they are going into semi-retirement and only working online via Alibris. The two lovely frame houses that are the store and the house have been sold to the shopping center beside them. I hope they’re not torn down! I bought my two final books there, and will miss them terribly.

We made our usual stop in Stonewall Kitchen in York. Stocked up on some more of their Wild Maine Blueberry jam, horseradish cream, shallot and champagne mustard, and they had a spicy corn relish that’s so good I bought the biggest jar they carry.

My grandmother had asked us to buy a few things on the way in, so we went to the Wells Food Mart (beside the bookstore) to get things. Then, it was a stop at the wonderful Maine Diner for a lobster lunch, and back onto the Maine Turnpike at Kennebunk. Those Bushes really ought to give the town some money to fix the roads! They can spare it, and the roads are in bad shape!

We got to my grandmother’s, unloaded the car, and filled up the freezer with all the things I’d cooked. My grandmother is too ill to cook anymore, so when I go up, I cook batches of things she and her brother like, put them in microwave containers, and stock her freezer. We also brought her a stack of Large Print mysteries – her eyesight’s failing, so she can’t see to read unless it’s Large Print. I taught her how to run the CD player I’d given her for Christmas so she could listen to the Books on Tape I’d bought (because no one else could be bothered to take the two and a half minutes to figure it out). My grandmother’s cousin and her granddaughter stopped by, whom I’d never met, so we had a nice visit.

We ordered in food from Bob’s Seafood over in Windham, and my great-uncle got a ride in the new car with me to get it, which was fun. We visited and caught up. My grandmother’s Parkinson’s is much worse, but she says it’s better since they switched her medication, so I can only imagine how bad it was in the interim.

My foot was killing me, so I put it up and iced it off and on for a few hours (in ten minute bursts – any more and it hurts the nerves).

Friday morning, I read a colleague’s manuscript (which is GREAT by the way. Not good – GREAT. Any agent or publisher who doesn’t snatch it up immediately is a complete and utter moron and the publishing industry is DOOMED). Meanwhile, I had the laundry going downstairs. We’d brought up two loads of laundry from NY, because we don’t know when we’ll have a laundry room again, and they had some laundry, and since I AM a laundry goddess, I did the whole lot of it.

My grandmother felt well enough to dress and wanted to come shopping. We made a list and went to Shaw’s. I LOVE that store! Ever so much better than many of the stores around here. And everyone’s so friendly and helpful. And it’s set up logically. The matches are with the lighter fluid and fireplace logs instead of in the middle of the dish soap (as in one store here) – and most stores in my area no longer sell kitchen matches “because everyone has a lighter”. So I stocked up on things like kitchen matches and oyster crackers to take back to NY, and got my grandmother’s grocery shopping done, and then ran into Staples to get some 3 hole punch paper (which is hard to get down here, but it’s what I use for drafts because I put them in binders).

Got Grandma back home, the groceries put away, the laundry folded, more work done on the manuscript. Then, it was back to Bob’s Seafood for lobster rolls for lunch (yum). After lunch, I had to head back out because I had to find a place to get keys copied. I have a 30 year old security lock on my door here, which does make me feel secure, but a single key makes me nervous. Down here, key cutters shrug and say they “can’t.” So I thought maybe a more rural area would have more resourceful locksmiths.

I found one, and I learned more than I ever knew about making and matching keys. You know it’s going to come in handy in a story someday. He was absolutely lovely, and I may need to base a character in something on him someday. Of course, I couldn’t test the keys until we got back to NY yesterday, but – they work! Ta-Da!

Did some other shopping (like I needed to spend the money). Came back to the house, finished the manuscript, wrote up the notes, and my grandmother’s sister-in-law stopped by, and we also had a nice visit. Then I started the next assignment for Confidential Job #1, fixed dinner, and helped my grandmother go through some things which I took back here to NY to get repaired – since I’m in wardrobe, I know the places that specialize in these kinds of repairs.

Somewhere in all of this, I ended up with a tick on me, which nearly sent me over the edge, but I got it off and stomped on it before it bit me. Two of my friends have had Lyme Disease, and it’s left them with permanent damage. I’m just glad I noticed it before it had the chance to chomp.

Up early yesterday morning, got my grandmother sorted out, packed the car. We were on the road by 7:30, and stopped in Ongonquit at The Egg & I for breakfast. I’ll be writing about this restaurant soon. The short version: The best eggs benedict I’ve ever had anywhere, and scrumptious coffee. Delightful! Not only is the food great and the atmosphere welcoming, but the other diners were all cheerful and interesting.

Back on the road, stopped in Newburyport for gas. Picked up a Boston Globe, but was halfway across the MASS pike before I saw that I missed my colleague Jon Clinch by MINUTES. He was appearing at 10 AM in Newburyport – I’d taken gas at 9:50 only a mile down the road, but didn’t find out about it until I stopped at a rest area and glanced at the paper around noon! Talk about ships that pass in the night! Jon’s book is FINN – if you haven’t read it, read it. It’s a harsh, beautiful book. I would have loved to stop by and support him.

Stopped in Sturbridge, MA, at Earth Spirits, to stock up on incense and oils. Their quality is so terrific it’s always worth the stop.

Stopped at a bookstore down the street from me on the way in, looking for Jill Shalvis’s latest to take with me on the plane on Tuesday. They didn’t have it. They didn’t have ANY of her books. I was NOT amused. I said, “The reason better be that you’ve sold through them and your re-orders haven’t yet arrived. The next time I walk in here, I expect to see an ENTIRE SHELF of her books!” I bought DANCING SHOES AND HONKY TONK BLUES by Luann McLane and SUSANNAH’S GARDEN by Debbie Macomber, both of which look good. That, along with POISON STUDY, should work for the trip.

The cats were glad to see me. I unpacked, finished the assignment for Confidential Job #1, and tried to get settled for today.

Worked on my pre-Derby article, the manuscript critique, and the report for CJ#1. Got the critique done and out; have most of the report for CJ#1 complete. The Derby piece still needs more work, but I have to finish it before I head for the city this morning.

Today, I’m at the PEN World Voices Festival again all day – I can’t wait. It’s like finding an oasis in the desert. I come out of these sessions so inspired and so honored to be in the company of people like these writers. And most of the attendees are pretty fascinating, too.

I had to move the car again when I came back – the brook’s too high, and, even on Friday, there was some concern of yet another flood.

I can’t really go into the emotional impact of the trip. It’s difficult to see my grandmother, who could always run rings around everyone, grow more and more frail. And, on the one hand, she’s appreciative that I come up and do all the things no one else thinks are important enough to take the time to do, but, on the other hand, she’s always harping on me. She’s proud of all the other relatives and what they’ve accomplished, but I’m the black sheep – and only because I’m not married and not popping out babies all the time. She’s finally accepted the fact that I’ll never get “a real job” and that I’m making a decent living in the theatre and now, switching to the freelancing. She’s stopped telling me that, “well, you’ll HAVE to do something you hate if you want to succeed in this world” and I’ve stopped countering with, “I won’t.”

I think a friend of mine is correct when he said that, because she made the choice of duty to “give up her art” (she was a talented artist) in order to devote herself to her husband, and then, after he died and her sister-in-law died, to move back to Maine to “take care” of her brother, she resents the fact that I’ve always refused to make the same decision. I’m willing to support and care for the man in my life – but not to the extent of dismissing or giving up my own writing. I won’t do it. And, according to my friend, whether she’s conscious of it or not, she has to punish me for that decision. And the fact that I can make it work.

Most of the time I get so upset and enraged and hurt that I’m beside myself by the time I leave. This time, I remembered the part of “detachment” that yoga always talks about and decided to apply it. I’m not denying that it hurt, frustrated, and annoyed me. But, this time, I decided it wasn’t going to fester, nor was I going to start an argument. There was far too much to do, too little time in which to do it, and I’ve had way too much to deal with in the past months to have to defend my choices to ANYONE. And I could move through the anger and hurt much more easily by not letting it infect me like a cut that wasn’t properly cleaned. It’s almost as though catching and destroying the tick before it bit me was symbolic of the entire trip.

Off to PEN, to waft on the wings of inspiration for the day.