Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Probably Nothing

           A couple of years back I wrote a blog post chronicling my first mammogram. At first, I didn't plan on blogging about the experience because I thought it was too personal. But when I was told there was something irregular on my mammogram I decided to write about it. My original intent for this blog was to discuss the journey from the thirties into the forties. Mammograms are a part of that journey and it made sense to talk about it on the blog. Back then, my follow-up mammogram and ultrasound ended with good news, a pat on the back and another appointment in six months.
           I had my annual mammogram on April first—who schedules a mammogram on April Fool's Day? The next day I got one of those calls. It was no prank, I needed to go back for more pictures again. I made my appointment for a couple of weeks later and tried to put it out of my mind. At first that wasn't easy—I'm prone to be a worst-case-scenario sort of person. But with the craziness in Boston last week, I had other things on my mind.
           Finally the day of my follow-up appointment arrived and I went through the usual uncomfortable squishing followed by an ultrasound. I thought I'd be on my way shortly after that. Unfortunately, whatever the radiologist saw demanded yet another mammogram. Here's the thing about mammograms... the first one is uncomfortable. But it's nowhere near as bad as you think it's going to be. But with each view, compression, and magnification it hurts a little more. This last one? It hurt. A lot.
           I waited nervously for the radiologist to come and talk to me about what she saw. She introduced herself with a good firm handshake and proceeded to look for a chair.
           “I'm really tall,” she explained. “And I don't like to look down on patients.”
           “Cool,” I said. “I'm really short and my neck hurts from looking up all the time.”
           We finally found ourselves chairs of the right height so we could talk face to face. She told me there is definitely a mass in my breast and she's 90% sure it's nothing. But it has to be biopsied to be certain. I asked her again for the name of the mass and she wrote it down for me. As she handed over the paper she said, “You aren't going to Google this, are you?”
           “No,” I promised. “Web MD is the devil. Everything sounds like cancer—even the common cold.”
           “Good,” she said. “This is a very broad term that covers many different things, only a few of which are actually cancerous. I don't want you to worry.”
           I left the office after making an appointment for a biopsy and promising the tech and the doctor that I would try not to worry. So that's where I am this week—trying not to worry, keeping my promise about not Googling, not writing much (except for therapeutic journal entries), and being grateful for my family and friends.
           I turned down several offers from people who offered to accompany me to the biopsy. I don't know why. Maybe because if this turns out to be something I know I'll be calling in a lot of favors. Maybe I'm just too proud or stupid to accept help. In any case, my friend Shirley called me on Friday to find out how the follow-up mammogram had gone. Shirley is one of the strongest women I know and is the inspiration for my character Laverne in my work in progress “Lost and Found” (yes, I have absolutely no imagination when it comes to naming characters). She too made the offer.
           “Want me to go with you,” she asked.
           “Thanks, a couple of people have already offered. I think I'll be okay,” I said.
           “When's the appointment?”
           “Wednesday the eighth.”
           “What time?”
           “Nine o'clock.”
           “Okay. I'll put it on my calendar. We'll get something to eat afterwards.”
           “Um. Okay.”
           Did I mention I have great friends?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

It's Been a Long Week

                   The first thing I do almost every day (after hitting the snooze button three or four times) is write in my journal. It's there on my bedside table. I write before I get my coffee, before I feed my kids, before I get dressed. But not this week. My last journal entry was written Monday morning. I have not written one single word about the events of the Marathon bombing. Not in my little green journal. Not on my blog. I have read dozens of pieces others have written. There are some gorgeous things out there—sad and angry and beautiful at the same time*.
                   I've thought about things to write of course. In my head I've composed many odes to the heroes of the day, laments to innocents lost, essays about how Boston has shaped me, and even angry words to those who would commit such evil. But I haven't written it down on paper. Maybe I haven't wanted to rip the band-aid off. Maybe I don't want to make this be about me. Most of my non-fiction is very personal. I wasn't there that day.  Everyone I know who was running or in the crowd walked away. Thank God. But for a city, Boston is a very small town. We all know someone who was affected. We all know someone who ran. We all know someone in law enforcement. It's hard to not take it personally.
                   My Facebook and Twitter feed are strangely silent this morning after the insanity of yesterday. Even the news sites are quieter.  I think everyone in the greater Boston area is sleeping off the adrenaline of the past few days. As for me, I'm writing again on this rainy Saturday. It's a rambling blog post for certain, but I wanted to let you know I'm here. I'm well.  And of course, I'm Boston Strong.

*If you have some time, read these posts. They couldn't be more different from one another, but they are perfect in their own way. From my cousin Beth writing about the Boston of her childhood:
From Jim Dowd on Boston stereotypes and why messing with Boston is a bad idea. It's funny because it hits so close to the mark.

                   And now for a little official business. My giveaway! So my friend Cam wrote this book called Buck's Landing and we're giving away a copy. I tossed all the entries into my little Red Sox hat and pulled out Jessica's name. Congratulations Jessica! I'll get in contact with you about receiving your book.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trifecta Challenge: Charlotte's Ghosts

This piece furthers a story I wrote last week. You can read about it here.

           Charlotte moved up the staircase towards the sound of music. Her attorney thought the talk of ghosts was nonsense, but it didn't take a medium to feel the energy in the old place. She sat down on the top step, closed her eyes, and focused. The saxophone music grew clearer and was joined by a bass, piano, and drums. The smells of mildew and decay were replaced with smells of lilies, gin, and cigarette smoke. Charlotte could feel the past becoming present.
She turned at the sound of footsteps and saw a bride in white satin walking toward her. Her face was flushed with anger.
           “Clara wait!” called a man in a dinner jacket.
           “How could you? It's our wedding day. You couldn't even be faithful for the first day.”
           “It isn't what you think Sweetheart. I swear.”
           “I know what I saw Freddie. You kissed her.”
           “She's an old friend.”
          “It was more than I friendly kiss Freddie. There's lipstick on your face and it isn't my shade.”
           She turned to go and he grabbed her arm.
           “Clara I love you.”
          “Let me go Freddie. This was a mistake. I should have listened to Daddy.”
           “You don't mean that,” he said, still holding on to her arm.
           “Freddie you kissed another woman on our wedding night. Now let me go!”
           Clara pulled her arm out of his grip and lost her balance. She teetered on the edge of the top step and Freddie tried to catch her. Together they tumbled down the marble staircase. At the bottom, their necks were bent at the same unnatural angle. The angry color gone from her face.
           Charlotte sensed another presence. At the top of the stairs stood a woman Charlotte had only seen in aging photographs. The owner of the hotel, Charlotte's great, great, aunt surveyed the grisly scene, heartbreak etched on her face.

           I'm linking up with the Trifecta Challenge. Our task is to write a piece 33-333 words long inspired by the third definition of the word color.
3: complexion tint:

Wordless Wednesday: Because Words Fail Me this Week

The boys with Boston in the distance.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Charlotte's Inheritance

                   Charlotte parked her car and stared in wonder at her inheritance. The old hotel was magnificent, even its disrepair. Mother Nature had so overtaken the building that it looked as if it had grown out of the mountainside like all the other flora. The low hanging clouds surrounded it like ghosts.
                   The attorney had given her a key. She was surprised how easily the door opened. She expected to struggle because of swollen wood or rusted hinges. But the door swung freely as if some unseen caretaker had oiled the door in anticipation of her arrival.
photo from
                   The carpets were discolored and mildewed, but the crystal chandelier still glittered and the marble columns still stood strong. There was no visible decay inside, only dust and neglect. Charlotte laid a hand on the banister of the grand staircase, remembering the story the lawyer had told her.
                   “The hotel had been an escape from the city for the young and prosperous after the Great War. The best jazz musicians played and the gin and whiskey flowed, even in the years of prohibition. Your great, great, aunt was a renowned hostess. The beautiful and wild of society flocked here. One evening, a newlywed bride drunk on good wishes and bathtub gin tripped on the hem of her dress. Her young husband tried to catch her, but they fell together, tangled in each others arms. The hotel was never the same after that. There were those who said it was haunted.”
                   “Is it?” Charlotte had asked.
                   “My dear,” the lawyer said after looking at her for a moment. “I don't hold with such nonsense. But who wants to dance and drink away their weekend in a place where such promise came to such a nasty ending.”
                   But Charlotte did hold with such nonsense. Indeed, she often relied on the unseen to guide her. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. She caught the faint whiff of lilies and gin, but it lasted only a moment.
                   “The hotel is yours Charlotte. We could find no other heirs,” The attorney said. “To keep or sell. There are other resorts in the area that would be interested in buying it. But I'd take a look if I were you. It is a very interesting old place.”
                   “Why didn't my great-aunt sell? Surely there have been offers over the years.”
                   “I couldn't say, my dear. Sometimes people have difficulty letting go of their past. Maybe that was the case with your aunt. Perhaps the answer lies in the hotel.”
                   Charlotte gazed up the cursed staircase wondering if she'd find any answers. A few faint notes of tenor saxophone floated on the draft that ruffled her hair.
                   “So it's like that, is it?” She said, proceeding up the stairs looking for answers. 

 This week Cam at Write on Edge gave us two beautiful photos of beautiful abandoned places to inspire our writing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thrifty, Tasty Tuesday... on a Wednesday?

         I know, I know, it isn't Tuesday! Sadly, I couldn't get near my computer yesterday because a certain young man was finishing up a book report. Apologies for the delay! Last time on Thrifty, Tasty, Tuesday, I talked about grilling and freezing chicken to have on-hand for quick dinners. Here's a soup I pulled together using pre-cooked chicken and things I had in my pantry. It was easy to prepare because almost everything comes from a can. Now, I'm not a fan of canned vegetables as a rule. Fresh or frozen is usually the way I prefer to go. However there are some exceptions to the rule and they're all in this recipe.

Tex-Mex Chicken Soup

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 T. cider vinegar
½ cup brown rice
1-1 ½ cups of cooked chicken
1 can corn
1 can tomatoes with jalapenos
1 can Kuner's Chili beans
1 can black beans
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon chipotle powder
salt & pepper to taste

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan.

Add brown rice and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and cook for an additional 15-30 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips and shredded cheese. 

      If you're looking for more quick and thrifty meal ideas, check out my new recipes page.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So My Friend Wrote this Book... Buck's Landing

           Happy April! I hope you had a lovely Easter or Passover. Or if you celebrate neither, I hope you were able to enjoy this gorgeous spring weekend. Nearly all of the snow is melted here and the crocuses are blooming. The geese and ducks have returned to the pond on my street. Spring is FINALLY in the air.
           It's time to announce the winner of the firs “So My Friend Wrote this Book...” give-away. After gathering all of the entries and placing them scientifically into my favorite Red Sox cap, I've drawn the lucky name and she is...

Elizabeth Haney

           Congratulations Elizabeth. I look forward to sending out your swag! Don't worry. This is NOT an April Fool's prank.

           Today is the second edition of “So my Friend Wrote this Book...”. This week I'd like to introduce you to Cameron D. Garriety. Do yourself a favor and check out her blog Cam is one of the best fiction writers I've come across in the blogosphere. Her novel, Buck's Landing: A New England Seacoast Romance is a perfect beach read—or the perfect book for when you wish you could be reading on the beach.
           Sofia Buck returns to her childhood home in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire after the death of her father. She has spent her life running away from her painful past and simply wants to tie up the loose ends of her father's business and move on. Next door, small business owner, Silas Wilde is new in town. He left the big city and the corporate world behind to start over again in this small seaside town.
           As much as Sofia has always wanted to escape Hampton Beach, the town is Silas' refuge. Hampton Beach is not merely the location of this novel, it is almost one of the characters. Lush and evocative, Cam's descriptions paint the summertime tourist town for the reader perfectly. We can feel the sand between our toes and smell the ocean air. We can taste the fried dough and hear the cacophony of the vacationers along Ocean Boulevard.
           If you're one of those people who say, “I really don't read romance,” set that notion aside and give this novel a chance. Buck's Landing is a well-told story about interesting and believable characters. You'll be charmed by Sofia and Silas' early flirtations and gripped when tensions about the past and future arise.
           You can get Buck's Landing just about any electronic version as well as paperback. Of course, it would be great if you could get a copy for free, wouldn't it? Well, Cam has graciously offered to give a copy of Buck's Landing to one lucky winner. If you leave a comment below, I'll enter you once. If you can't comment because Blogger is acting up, send me an e-mail and I'll include you. If you tweet this post, I'll enter your name twice. Be sure to include @vic39first in your tweet. I'll pick a winner on April fourteenth.

           If you're an author and would like me to feature your book, drop me a line at victoriakp39(at)gmail(dot)com.