10 days ago, in a rather silly mood, I gave you a peek into the world of National Novel Month 2013 and roughly what’s in store for me. Much has changed since then, including the major points of my plot. My muse is much happier now, even if it’s taking a turn into fantasy, something I never thought I’d do.

But that is actually nothing compared to my excitement over this:

My dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

Repeat: my dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

I can’t even – I’m so excited! SO EXCITED, I tell you. This is awesome because, well, dad. But also, he is an incredible writer. He is king of his industry, and is editor and co-owner of a monthly magazine which is rocking the competition like whoa. I’ve done NaNo for two years; this will be my third attempt (and hopefully second win!). His plan is to do lots of flash fiction pieces to total 50,000 words throughout November. Dad who beat up cancer last year and threw a party.

😀

Okay, also my plot. You remember that whole thing about ghost lessons? Yeah, that’s still there but majorly in the background. Here is my (evidently fantasy) plot as of now: In the 17th century, Richard was in love with Cassandra Hart, but despite everything he did for her, she never loved him back. She married Francis instead, and this made him angry. He appeared at their wedding, threatening they would rue the day etc., before taking a blade and stabbing himself through the heart. He stayed on earth as a ghost, and then underwent the requirements for becoming a Voleruh and took on the name Reshkhi. Voleruhs are evil creatures of the undead that steal ghost’s souls. Reshkhi has hunted the Hart family for centuries, with the desire to rip out the female Harts’ souls. Thanks to protection left by Cassandra, Jillian’s and Lea’s ancestor, he was unable to destroy them. Now, the youngest Hart, Jillian, has died at age 17, and her mother, Lea, has been trying to protect her from Reshkhi. Lea died one year ago, and when she did, the protection was broken. Now, Reshkhi is determined to take the soul of Lea’s daughter, Jillian.

* For the record, I’m aware of the “isn’t a ghost a soul?” issue and my comeback is: ghost = spirit; soul = soul. So hah.

It’s a work in progress. I had to create a creature – a Voleruh – which seemed to put me firmly in the fantastic. Which is SO weird. But whatever, let’s run with it, right? Don’t confuse my startled-ness with disliking fantasy; on the contrary it’s one of my favorite genres to read. But it’s also a lot of work and I admit I’m pretty nervous. Still, it’s an easier switch, as I’m not building worlds or races or languages a la Tolkien.

None of that is really important.

My dad is doing NaNoWriMo with me!

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Well, here it is. The end of one glorious year and the start of another. Since lists seem to be the “in” thing these days, I’ve compiled a fun list of events (focused on perks) of 2012 and what I’m planning resolutions-wise and event-wise in 2013.

2012

  • Steampunk-themed contra dance party with fantastic costumes, goggles c/o la boyfriend (now of nearly 2 years)
  • Vacation to Seattle to visit cousins and play tourist
  • Finding out Dad had prostate cancer, supporting him from far away, and then having an “Adios, Cancer!” party when we found out he was cancer-free (44 radiation treatments later)
  • Incredible women’s climbing weekend in West Virginia
  • Interesting, if amusing, debates followed by re-election of President Obama (phew!)
  • Friends-filled college “reunion” going-away party
  • Vacation and travel through Peru, catching 15K heights and Machu Picchu
  • Maryland Renaissance Festival and dress-up
  • Started second novel
  • Joined/helped form an independent author’s collective/publishing imprint
  • Sent over 30 letters to Sandy Hook Elementary School
  • Spent first holiday with boyfriend’s family

2013

Resolutions:

  • Eat breakfast every morning
  • Spend 1 hour before work writing and/or editing
  • Meditate twice a day
  • Still arrive at work at sane hour
  • Make more home-cooked meals (cheaper and healthier!)

Events to Look Forward To:

  • Time-travel-themed contra dance party with boyfriend (yay more dress-up)
  • Parents visiting DC
  • Seeing more old college friends
  • First time going to Las Vegas (conference)
  • Seattle visit with cousins
  • Saturday classes for project management
  • possible Hunger Games food/watching event
  • I turn 25 (woo rental cars!)
  • Attending brother’s wedding in Hawai’i as bridesmaid
  • <Possibilities!>

I came from an event last night honoring retailers who went above and beyond to support our veterans. I know, random. My star of a father co-owns and edits a retailer magazine that is jumping up the charts in the business. Everyone knows him; we could hardly get across the room without 5 people stopping him, saying to me, “Your father is a great man. He has done so much for this industry, this business, [my product], etc.” To be fair, I thought the event/award was going to be about some stores giving away free food and picking up the tab on some grocery bills, but it was so much more than that. It was sponsoring trips for WWII vets to visit the WWII Memorial in DC. It was baking thousands of cookies for troops overseas. It was the man who started an organization that gives $30,000 in education scholarships to every child of a Marine killed in the line of duty. Millions of dollars in donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Care – Afghanistan, sending soccer balls to kids in Afghanistan and Iraq, to kids who “didn’t start anything. They just want to be kids.”

It was an incredible night, far more than I thought it would be. I sat with a US Marine Corps Colonel who looked like James Bond (and who, care of my dad, introduced himself to me as “Bond. James Bond.”) who has been serving for over 25 years. I sat with a just-retired Lance Corporal who lost three limbs because of an IED (who happened to remind me of Prince Harry), and is making the most of it, working with prosthetic legs, determined to work with wildlife or land so he can still be outdoors.

I got back to my apartment, where I found out that one of the men I met and frequently spoke to during my internship with the National Park Service had died. He didn’t always get a great rep from the press but he was always laughing and joking with me, and frequently had me into his office to talk or give advice, or bought me and the other few interns lunch in the cafeteria. He was a great man. And he committed suicide. I won’t go into the particulars of why – and we’ll never know, truly – but does it matter?

We take life for granted. The incredible servicemen I met last night, the men and women I never will, Bill, they have all struggled. Some got lucky, many will not. Life is too short. Tonight gave me the highs and lows of the harsh reality. Make the most of it. Go get your dreams. I know I am going to try.

Saturday night, we had Dad’s “Adios, Cancer!” party. It was awesome. I don’t think my dad’s had as much fun in years. At the end of the night, and into the days after, he couldn’t stop talking about it, or replaying the video of us dancing over and over. It was fantastic. AND it’s official: no cancer at all in his body! Not even his brain (brief scare there).

It felt like half the town was at the party (this may or may not actually be true) to cheer him on and support him. adios cancer button with date and "(Check those PSA's!)"We rented a renovated church-turned-event-center, and had buttons like the one here at every table. A stage hosted the band, Gumbo Loco, who eased us into the evening of scrumptious pizza, cannolis and other yummy desserts, a constant supply of M&Ms, and a wine/beer selection. The pizza, cooked as we ate in a woman’s mobile stone pizza oven outside, was incredible. The crowd favorite was the cheddar, thin apple slices, and sausage one. I think it had some maple on it and might as well have been pizza-for-dessert.

After dinner, a contra dance caller and I talked about getting the crowd dancing, and we started the dancing session. My dad did a great job! He’s never really contra danced, and it can be a workout. He’s still on meds and gets tired easily but he held his own for every dance. I was next my my 3-year-old niece for many of them, and she just giggled and bounced the whole time. Precious.

I let my mom and dad have the last dance (and waltz), since they, as a couple, have faced it much more than I. Cute 🙂

All in all an amazing evening and an amazing reason to celebrate!

I know, I’ve totally been neglecting this thing. Life’s gotten in the way, mostly in good ways.

 

Guess what? Tomorrow is my dad’s LAST day of radiation! Done! That’s it!!

Happy dance 🙂

This is a radiation therapy machine. Pretty funky looking, right? I went with my dad this week to see what happens when he has radiation sessions. While he changed, one of the nurses took me into the room and explained what they were going to do. It’s kind of nifty, actually, and she took care to treat me as a daughter but not a 5-year-old. I chose this picture so you can see what I did – the whole thing rotates. It’s huge! And rotates. So actually, a lot of the machine is behind this.

Basically, my dad lies on a table (which they can also move 360 degrees, or close) and then they turn him and the table so that little tattoos are lined up with laserbeams coming from the walls and ceiling. When they created his care plan, they put tattoos on him so that the radiation would only go where it was needed. You don’t want that stuff going all over your body.

They let him bring a CD or iPod, and blast Beatles songs through his room (and the nurse’s station – which for radiation mildly resembles a cockpit). When my dad first spoke of his radiation, he mentioned it feeling as though he were in a planetarium. Now I see why. The radiation machine moves, he moves…it must be strange, disconcerting. He brings them M&Ms. He brought popcorn once, telling the nurses he’d put some kernels in his stomach to see if they popped. Always the comedian.

It’s a big room, as hospitals go. There is even a slight entryway before you turn the corner and see the layout of all the equipment and monitoring systems. As I left the room with the nurses, I thought maybe it was an extra precaution against the radiation. But what do I know. Maybe it’s just a nice privacy thing for patients. Regardless, a huge door slowly closed, and intermittently a sign above it would light up: “Radiation In Use.”

There were 2 monitors that showed my dad, and 3 others for the radiation, monitoring, and treatment itself. I didn’t watch this. I saw the setup and was content to sit in the little extra waiting area in front of the door.

After he changed back into his clothes, we went to a cafe so he could sit down and drink some water, get a snack. Incredible what just 15-20 minutes of radiation can do to the body. He’s on the last leg, though, which is good. Nearly done.

But the last is always the hardest. I was trying the somewhat chaotic work-from-home-and-bus-and-airport-and-plane, trying to figure out if I needed to be on a conference call or not…you know. Fun post-vacation agreements. My dad called me from downstairs. He had a hard time saying it: “I don’t think I can drive myself to radiation today.” He was so tired. Is so tired. And was just feeling awful. I called my mom; we knew there had been a chance of it, and it was fine, but she could not get out of her meeting. I raced around the house, throwing my things into my duffel bag and brushing my teeth so I’d be ready to catch my bus, and so I wouldn’t smell, respectively. I drove. We got there. There was no parking. He went off to his appointment and I drove around the parking lot like an idiot for awhile. There is a garage but it’s down the road and it would take too long. If his appointment was on time and as short as it had been the day before, I might be able to make it home in time.

As it was…no space opened up, Mom called, and after several back-and-forths, and voicemails on Dad’s phone, we agreed I should leave and meet her at home to grab my stuff.

Now, I know my dad doesn’t feel this way, but at the time…worst daughter ever, abandoning your dad at the hospital like that.

I reluctantly drove out of the hospital, grabbed my duffel bag and some snacks/breakfast/tea for the road, and my mom drove me to the bus. After, she picked him up. Turns out he did not have his phone on him, so even after his session had ended he would have no way of knowing. Presumably both got home with minimal freak-out, but I admit I’ve been too embarrassed to ask.

It will all be done soon. My dad would probably feel better if he watched his sugar more, but he’s in single digits for sessions left. He still ostensibly buys treats for me when I’m home, but is the only one to eat them.

My spastic work-from-wherever day was frustrating at best, and I didn’t get what I needed nearly on time, which led to backups the following day. My boyfriend picked me up from the airport and we grabbed dinner with his family. I checked work email. I was….well, just not in a good place. But my boyfriend, as ever, handled it, and we went to a late showing of Snow White and the Huntsman. Yes, lack of sleep followed. Yes, I was exhausted. But, mentally, I was good. We got everything done, on time, to the best of my ability, in the time given.

And…

Tomorrow is Friday!!!

My dad is ready, organizing people, places, things – all for the wonderful August “Farewell to Cancer Party.” If you’ve been following for awhile, you may recall that almost as soon as I started this blog, I wrote about how weird it feels to bring someone you love to a hospital cancer center:

After a swing by a coffee shop, we headed back the way we came. Outside the doors, the ones below the big white sign: Cancer Center. Someday, this year maybe, it will be the last time he has to walk through them. He will be walking. And on his way outside. No more meds. No more treatments. Cancer-free.

And we will buy him scotch and throw a party.

OK.

And now it’s happening, calendars are getting marked. I’m beyond excited. This week has been completely up and down, with more awake midnights than I wanted, but everything is turning up. I’m catching a baseball game tonight, I’m going home this weekend. It reminds me of a song off the new Carrie Underwood album “Blown Away” (oh, is it not new? It’s just that it’s been on repeat on my iPod ever since I bought it).

Thank God for hometowns
And all the love that makes you go round
Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in
When you were dying to get out
Thank God for Church pews
And all the faces that won’t forget you
Cause when you’re lost in this crazy world
You got somewhere to go and get found
Thank God for hometowns

To boot, I’m seeing some of our neighbors, speaking of “faces who won’t forget you.”

13 radiation sessions left. A party. Everyone’s going to be there. Reserving the location, planning caterers (and scotch for my dad, of course), getting ready to say farewell to cancer.

I’m so ready.