Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Life She Lived--Anne Creager

I first met Anne about five years ago, I think, at a writer's conference. She was there in her capacity as a teacher, I was there as a writer, and Julie Wright and I ended up sitting with her and a bunch of other strangers. As we ate, we talked and she asked us about our books, we asked her about her teaching and family and eventually it came out that she was a writer--though she said she hadn't done much with it. This was her last year teaching though and she was so excited to be home with her two daughters and get some writing done. She'd sold an article to The Freind so far, and blew that off even though Julie and I were both wanting to get an article in a church magazine.

Some time after the conference, she contacted me about a writing group I had recently begun with some gals in my area. She didn't live to far away and began attending--often with her darling little girls in tow. My first impressins of Anne were that she was smart, sweet, didn't like to inconvenience anyone, and was excited and anxious about being able to put more time into her writing. I'm not sure when I noticed the scar on her upper arm for the first time, but I remember being curious as to the story behind it. It was mostly hidden by the sleeves of her t-shirts, but it looked as though whatever it had once been had been painful. However, even I have manners sometimes so I didn't ask.

Eventually, she told me about the scar--Melanoma she'd had removed a few years earlier. Yikes. I'd never met anyone that had actually had skin cancer. And she was so young--she'd have been in her early 20's when they'd found it. Her husband was a dentist, so it had taken place during his schooling, and not to long before her first daughter was born. She didn't make a big deal about it, and so neither did I but it put a bit more focus on her and the way she lived her life. She'd faced demons most of us won't face, and she was refined by it. No wonder she had such evenness and compassion.

As our friendship continued she had another little girl, asked how she could still write when she had so much 'mothering' to do, wondered if she should wait until her girls were older, worried she was wasting her time. Most writers have these same thoughts and one of the best parts of a writing group is the support and solutions we can give to one another.

Last February after a ski or bike trip with her husband (I'm afraid I can't remember which) she had a pain in her chest; what she thought was a pulled muscle. But it didn't go away. I won't forget the e-mail where she told us (the writing group) what happened, she said it was a blessing that her husband had become so incredibly sick that they'd had to take him to an emergency doctor's appointment. While there she casually mentioned the pulled muscle in her chest that didn't seem to be healing. I don't know what test the doctor ran but within a week or so they discovered a tumor the size of a football growing in her chest. Apparently when Melanoma comes back, it doesn't go away. But Anne was determined to get every minute out of this life that she could get.

What came next was months of traveling to Denver for treatments, surgeries, cyberknife--anything and everything she could get to help keep the cancer at bay. And yet it continued to grow. It wrapped around her heart, it snuck up on her thyroid, and as of last month it had attached to her liver. She fought it, and yet that's not all she did. She also took trips with her kids, did photo shoots for family and friends (including me) and continued to be a mother and wife to her family. She lost her hair and it came in black and curly instead of straight and auburn. She lost weight and gained weight--and lamented the toll the medication took on her skin. Every time she sent an update she thanked God for her blessings and pointed out the miracles happening in her life. And she wrote.

She'd been working on a book when she was diagnosed, and she finished it and began shopping agents. She had an article published in the New Era a few months ago. She began a project about growing up for girls, admitting that one of the reasons was that she knew she might not be there to tell them what she wanted her daughters to know. She began recording childhood memories--beautifully written childhood memories. She wasn't able to come to group very often, but when she did she'd read us these moments from her life and we would realize how much we didn't know about her. I'll never forget the Boot of Stew story or the one that had us all bawling where she talked about the experience of braiding her hair into three braids before cutting them off before chemo took her hair from her. She wanted a braid for each of her girls--so they would remember Mama's copper braids. Sometimes she worried that she shouldn't be spending so much time writing, and yet Ward (her husband) said "But it's what you love." And it was what she loved. She loved to write, and amid the horrific changes in her future she didn't want to lose any of those life memories. The picture included in this blog was taken at the 2009 LDStorymakers Conference. She'd always wanted to come, and finally did even though she had to leave early as she wasn't feeling well.

I saw Anne for the last time at writer's group about a month ago--her hair was gone again and she laughed as she said that she hated that her youngest daughter would only remember her bald, since she'd only been about two when Anne lost her hair the first time. She read us an article she'd written for the Ensign about preparing for death. We all cried through it. She said she'd finished writing all the letters to her daughters that would be given to them as they passed milestones she would not see. They'd moved to a home near her husband's parents, and she said how much fun it was, how glad she was to be able to be there with her family. Treatments had run out, she wasn't feeling well but was still looking into her options. I can't remember if I hugged her goodbye that day. I sure hope I did.

Last week she posted this to her blog:

I have no doubt that if it is Heavenly Father's will, I will be healed. But even if I'm not, I have to admit that I feel at peace. The last month has been fraught with panic and frantic anguish, but now I feel differently. I trust Him. I look forward to asking WHY all of this had to happen. I'm not going to ask it now, because I know that He can see the whole picture and I know that whatever His will is, things will be okay. My girls will be okay because they have Ward. I know that Ward will be okay because he has them. And we all have each other--FOREVER--and that's what really matters.

Today, this was posted in her behalf:

We wanted to let you know that Anne is in the hospital and has taken a turn for the worse. She is not expected to live much longer ...

I love Anne. And I will miss her. Though I was not part of her inner circle of friends and family, I was blessed to know her, to hear her words, and watch this final journey she has made. I am strengthened for the strength she has shown, and yet my heart is simply full of sorrow for the things she is leaving behind. She has a beautiful life HERE and I want her to stay in it. I don't understand why she's being called away, it's not fair. But she has accepted the path her life has taken, and I have no doubt that many loving arms will embrace her on the other side just as many arms here will ache.

Thank you, Anne, for your example, for your friendship, for your beautiful smile and your realistic view of life and love and family. I am greatly blessed to have known you and am glad that through the words you took the time to write, you will live on for generations to come.

May you and your family feel peace--you have earned it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why I can't color my hair

Thanks to everyone who gave me their feedback on the Kindle, I had no idea there were other e-readers out there so I need to look into them before I make my final decision. However, I have decided that an e-reader at some point will be mine, oh yes, it shall be mine.

Now onto other things:

So, when we got back from Snowbird last week, my van--which had not gone with us--had a flat tire. Really flat. Dear hubby pumped it up and life went on.

Yesterday, I went to work and at some point looked out the window to see that the tire was flat again. Really flat. Aggravating.

I left work, pumped up the tire and drove to Brigham City and my favorite tire store, Les Schwab (they came to my rescue when I had a bulging tire and the people that sold me that tire said they couldn't do anything to help--sorry). We're close enough that I just call him Les. Worried that the tire wouldn't hold air the whole 20 miles, I adjusted my side mirror so I could watch the tire throughout the drive. I'm very detail oriented like that. Lucky for me, it looked great. Phew.

I arrived as Les Schwab, pointed out the injured tire and wrote 900 words on my WIP while I waited. Strangely enough, Les couldn't find anything wrong with the tire. I was shocked, but maybe it was one of those self-healing tire things. It happens. They didn't charge me, which was sweet since it wasn't their tire giving me trouble, I went home and forgot all about it.

Until I went to work today and looked out the window. The tire was flat. Really flat. How is that possible? Les didn't find anything wrong with the tire, and yet it was flat? What about my self-healing tire theory? I liked that theory.

My co-worker came in a little later and said "Whoa, your tire is flat--really flat." I said I knew that and explained the whole story.

"They should have put it in water, if they had they'd have found the hole--tires don't get THAT flat in 24 hours unless there is one heck of a leak."

I told him they DID put it in water, I knew this because the tire was all clean and shiny when I drove away from Les the day before. And as I described this to him, I looked back out the window. Wait a minute.

The tire that was flat now, isn't the tire that was flat yesturday...or at least, it's not on the same side of the car. That's when I realized that tires don't really heal themselves. Instead, the tire I pointed out to Les wasn't actually the tire that was flat. That means that the tire I watched through the side mirror all the way to Brigham City, wasn't the one that had been flat either. Huh, how about that?

Good thing I'm not a brunette, then I'd really have some explaining to do. As it is, everyone just smiles at me sympathetically when this kind of thing happens. . . and then they sell me four new tires.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Kindle Questions

I know some of my wonderful blog readers own Kindles and therefore I am going to take full advantage of you and beg for information. If you're not a Kindle owner, rest assured that your opinion still matters.

I have been stalking the idea of owning one myself for a few months. You have to understand I was against them when they first came out--they seemed like a total geek-toy that could never replace the joy of a book I can hold in my hands. However, as time has passed I'm seriously tempted. The idea that I could go on vacation with a dozen books that weigh 10 oz. is cool. The idea that if a book I'm reading sucks, I can just move onto the next one is intriguing. But will I like it? Will I miss the 'book in hand' thing and will it make me cry because it's so hard to use. I no good at hard stuff.

I have a couple specific questions for Kindle owners:

1--Wan you upload ANY ebook? My library recently started doing ebooks, can I check those out and put them on my kindle?

2--Is it cost effective? At $300 to buy it and an average price of about $10/book, does it pay for itself in a short amount of time?

3--Were there surprises you think I should be aware of?

So, what are your thoughts/experiences/friend's experiences/prejudices/fears/intrigue in regard to the kindle?

PS--thank you!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Updates and Stuff

JULY 30: The opening night for English Trifle went great--I'm bummed I didn't take more pictures of the trifle--it was impressive. This photo was only because my sweet husband thought to take a picture. I don't know why I never do. I saw some great friends, and even had a lady drive up from Salt Lake. She brought some of her other books for me to sign and was just oh so sweet. Another friend brought me a mini 'birthday cake' to celebrate my book's birthday--cute huh? We ended up with half a dozen left over mini-trifles, which I took to some neighbors, and a full trifle that we took to my husband's home teaching family. Sweet! I'd have been in trouble if I had to eat them myself.

JULY 31: When I was 13 my parents bought a time share at Snowbird, about 20 minutes from where we lived. In the winter, Snowbird is skiing extraordinaire (or so they say). In summer, it's an amazing vacation spot. About ten years ago, Lee and I bought a time share too. Each year all of us siblings try our darndest to make it to Snowbird and it's awesome. We headed up here last Friday and it's been such a great time. I get to hang out with my family, some of which I don't get to see very often, enjoy the mountains, listen to the river and just have a good time with my own kids. Those of you that know me well, know that just having fun doesn't come easy to me. Life is mostly about getting stuff done and working--but Snowbird forces me to let go and I have such a fabulous time. For those of you in Utah, if you're ever looking for a 'day trip' in the summer, come to Snowbird and get their ride pass. You can take the tram up to Hidden peak, do the alpine slide, ziprider, bungy tramp, mechanical bull, climbing wall and Peruvian lift as much as you want from 11-7. Costco sells 4 adult passes for $79 (adult price is $32--I know, steep) or you can use a Diet Pepsi can and get $10 off. It's a FUN day, really, for all ages and it's just beautiful up here.

Lee-aka, Husband Extrodinaire, has also given me writing time since I'm on a deadline and stressing out about it. Because of that, I've written 8,000 words since we got up here, which is a huge relief. I've only got 30,000 to go by September 1st. Oy.

(Do you love this photo? Just call me forehead girl)

AUGUST 5: Today, I'm taking some time off the mountain to go to LDSBA, which is a closed expo show for all things LDS--books, art, music, etc. I get to sign copies of English Trifle, which is so beyond awesome I can't even tell you. First of all, the books I sign are free to those that attend the expo (mostly retail store owners) which means I get a line--authors love lines and they don't happen at a signing. Second, those retail owners know me and most of them have read my books so they say all kinds of sweet things. AND, I get to see some of my most favoritest people. Then I get to come back to snowbird and have a couple more days of good, simple fun.

So, there you have it. That's what's going on with me. I'll take photos at LDSBA and post them tomorrow--really, I will. have a great day.