"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Life keeps getting in the way

     I can't believe I haven't been here since the end of February. I apologize to all my regular readers. What have I been doing? The first thing that comes to my mind is I've been living my life which, by the way, has gotten somewhat hectic. No, I haven't stopped writing. I've managed to fit that in whenever I have time to sit down. 
     I'm still running my business, although the house is still up for sale and I hope to be living in Vermont by next year at this time. The bed and breakfast started getting really busy again the end of January. It stayed that way through most of May. But has begun to slow down again. We got through the Kentucky Derby with two new helpers. The employee thing has been in flux since John quit last Christmas. Hoping it'll stabilize soon.  
     I am still working on re-writing the first three chapters of my memoir, Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen. It is definitely getting better, but still is not where I want it. I've included excerpts from my first chapter below

Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen

Chapter1
The Big Move

      At sixty four, divorced and retired, with my family scattered around the United States, I made the most impulsive decision of my entire life. With no prior business experience and little start up money, I moved to a new city where I only knew one person, bought a 125-year-old historic mansion, and opened a bed and breakfast.

      It was June 1995, eight months before I opened my bed and breakfast. My furniture was in the van and I was all packed and ready to leave Chicago.The movers slammed the heavy doors together and walked around to the front of the moving van; I watched them from my third floor apartment window as they climbed up into the cab, then I started toward the front door. What if they forgot something? I decided to take another look around.
     As I walked past the front door and circled back down the wide hallway into the apartment again, the squeals of my little three year old grandson echoed in the hall near the empty bookcase where the stereo had been.Alek and I had danced there to Old MacDonald Had a Farm over and over…twirling and laughing, enchanted by the music. Despite my oldest daughter Kylie’s attempts at pulling away from me emotionally, she did allow me to bond with my first grandchild and Although I knew I had to leave Chicago, leaving Alek would be very hard. When I told Kylie I was leaving, I'll never forget the look of relief on her face; it hurt so much...like salt in an open wound.
      I walked toward the windows at the front of the apartment as sunlight from the living room began to creep into the dim hallway, falling on the glossy hard wood floors that extended straight ahead and throughout the entire apartment.
     Living in the big city had become way too expensive and I knew I had to find some place cheaper. and, although I loved Chicago and this apartment, I had nothing really tying me here except Alek, as Maggie my closest friend had already retired and moved back to her home town in Kentucky.

     ...I took a sharp turn to the right and, walking into the sun room, stopped at one of the windows to look outside again as bright sunlight fell against the panes, warming my cheeks and flooding my eyes so that I could barely see the van still parked in front. The sun room was a charming little room just big enough for a round pedestal table, four chairs and a few more plants, where last Christmas I draped the table with a red and green plaid cloth and invited all my closest friends as well as the gang from Crane High School and my daughters to a farewell get-together.16 minutes ago
      I filled a crystal punch bowl with creamy eggnog, as they began to arrive, and circled it with little crystal cups, wedging in red satin bows and sprigs of holly.“ So you’re leaving us, eh?” Mario walked into the sun room flashing that beautiful smile of his. He and I had been colleagues at Crane High School; his classroom right across the hall from mine.
    
     “Yeah, I’m gonna start my second career” I laughed a little nervously as I told him.

     “Bet you’ll be glad to get away from the little darlings?’

     “ Not really, Mario. I’ll probably miss everyone like crazy.” Mario and I never socialized outside of school, although I wouldn’t have been against gazing into his dark brown Italian eyes at dinner in some nice restaurant. But we took breaks together at school and talked about the kids a lot. I loved being a teacher and was always thinking up ways to entice them to learn.

     “What are you going to do in Louisville? You bought a house there, right?” Angie said.

     “Yeah, a beautiful, Victorian, like the ones down on Fullerton Avenue. Only those in Louisville are a lot cheaper. But just as big.”

     “ How big?”

     “Almost forty five hundred square feet. Five bedrooms and three baths.”

     “And you’re gonna live there all by yourself? Marcie’s eyes widened.Saturday at 9:11am · Like · 4
I guess they all thought I was crazy cause the whole room looked over at me in awe.

     "I’m turning it into a bed and breakfast.”

     “A bed and breakfast?” everyone said in chorus. You would have thought I’d said I was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge.

     “I never heard you talk about wanting a bed and breakfast,” Angie said.

     “Me neither.”

     “Me neither.” By now I had the attention of the whole room.
    
     “I never really thought about owning one until I saw this house,” I said.

     “You mean you’ve decided to open a bed and breakfast cause you want a Victorian house? Marcie asked.”

     “Yeah, she’s crazy, right?” Mario looked straight at me and winked.

     “I am not. This is a brilliant idea. I can live in a beautiful, historic home and make some money at the same time. The business will pay for the mortgage.
    
     “I didn’t know you knew how to run a bed and breakfast.” someone across the room said, with a smile and a modicum of sarcasm.

    “Well, actually I don’t, but how hard can it be?” I said, trying to convince myself.  I had a very romantic notion of what a bed and breakfast was and had no idea it was a business. I know, unbelievable for someone who’s supposed to be fairly intelligent. But stupid or not, I was doing it. I was such a risk taker, the thought of doing it excited the hell out of me.
      It was hard to believe I had lived in Chicago thirty years. I did a lot in those thirty years….got divorced three times, earned degrees in education and music, taught high school, worked on a Ph D and traveled in and out of the country many times.  I was thirty four when I moved there and now, at sixty four, I was about to start a new career, one I knew absolutely nothing about. I must be nuts …starting a new business at age sixty four in a town where I only know one person. I stood there for a moment staring at the empty room.  A shiver slowly made its way up the back of my spine. Yes, it would be an  adjustment, but I’d gotten through three divorces, my first husband’s suicide, and the death of my beloved grandmother and felt emotionally stronger each time the grieving was over.

* * * *

  ...I turned and walked through the French doors into what was originally the dining room. It made a wonderful airy office space. I loved the hard wood floor and the oriental rug that had covered it. At the far end of the room, I’d moved in a second desk strictly for writing and sat working on my Apple computer day after day. It was in that very room I first started writing my dissertation.
    My one year Sabbatical had begun in September almost three years before. I registered at the University to work on an advanced degree. Since the Board of Education required a complete physical every few years, I made an appointment at my clinic to do it before classes started. A couple of days after my appointment, the clinic called saying they found something suspicious on my mammogram. They suggested a biopsy. As I often do, I went into denial and put it off until October. I finally went in as an outpatient on my birthday, October ninth. The results were not good and I was told I needed a lumpectomy and probably radiation and/or chemo. I had stage one breast cancer.
    I did not quit school and go into cancer treatment hibernation.  I continued as planned. Every day, for eight weeks, I went to the Michael Reese Cancer Center for radiation in the early morning, took classes at the university in the afternoon, and worked as a teaching assistant, in the evenings. That’s how I had always handled unpleasant things. I threw myself into the solution or the business at hand, or just went into denial for a period of time and dealt with the aftermath later. I’d gotten very good at it over the years. I was great in a crisis.
     I spent most of my recuperation period alone. Although Kylie had taken me to the hospital for my biopsy and lumpectomy, she did not offer to help in any way afterward, nor did she call to see how I was doing. In many ways, I wasn’t surprised. Thank God for Kristie, who called and emailed on a regular basis and let me know frequently how concerned she was. In fact she offered to make the trip from Austin, where she lived, to Chicago to be with me a while. But, as usual, I preferred to handle the situation alone.
     The radiation was scary to me, so I helped myself through the fear and anger by drawing pictures of  "The Radiation Team from Hell.” They sat hunched over on motor cycles wearing helmets and goggles and looking fierce as they came after me dead on. I pasted them on the wall over my dissertation desk and talked to them disparagingly every day. Somehow, this diffused their power over me…a technique I learned while reading how psycho-therapists treated patients with panic attacks. As usual, I got myself though another traumatic ordeal.
     My cancer was only stage one, so fortunately they got it all with a lumpectomy and I hadn‘t needed chemo. I treated myself to the summer in Africa. It was very expensive, but I’ve never regretted it.  It took me away from the angst of  a year of studying, teaching, and cancer. And it helped with the depression that came once that year ended and my mental state plunged.
     I went on Safari, gorilla trekking, and sight seeing…from Kenya to Tanzania. to Lake Kivu, Burundi, Zaire, and Rwanda. Over that summer, my state of mind gradually stabilized. When I returned to Chicago, I was ready for another year of teaching choral music, and Chaucer to high school kids. I was glad to get back to teaching. I loved it, and it took my mind off of everything else.
    I finished checking the apartment for things the movers might have left behind and looked out the window again. This time they were gone, on their way to Louisville, Kentucky. I hated to leave this place but decided I better get on the road. It was a five to six hour drive straight down I-65 and I wanted to get there before dark....

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7 comments:

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  2. I look forward to your upcoming memoirs, and don't you love how I writing gets better as we polish it. I am still reading your blog!

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    1. Thanks so much for all of your, support, Julia. It means a lot to me. You are so right about our writing. I remember when I first met you on Hub pages, then Examiner. My how we've grown. How long has it been since Hub pages. 4-5 year??? If we keep this up, we'll be on the top of the reviews at the New York times. LOL......... Don't laugh. I could happen.

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    2. I meant to say It could happen.

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    3. Hubpages was a good stepping stone to other things, and with books underway, there is only up to go.

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