Category Archives: Stories of my Life

Eight Years Cancer Free Today

Cancer Survivor imageThis visual says it all. The truth about being a cancer survivor. Breast cancer in my case and that of too many women. Women I love. Some are still here with us – with me. Some are not. I miss them. I weep for them. I celebrate their struggle.

We fought a giant though I prefer to call him a monster. A giant is sometimes benign. A monster is not. While I was in the maw of that monster a good friend of mine told me to personify him. My friend was a cartoonist so he’d made a strip of his monster. I’m a writer so I blogged about mine.

My friend was Rick Tuel. Rick is no longer with us – with me. I miss him. I weep for him. I celebrate his struggle. I embrace his wife Mary and rejoice she’s still here to embrace. She’s a survivor of another kind. A caretaker survivor. My husband Jonathan Orr is one of those too. They are everything to us – the diagnosed ones. I salute the caretaker survivors.

We were stronger because we had to be. Annie O’Flaherty was strong of heart because she knew how to love. She knew how to love me. She sent me a picture of an angel descending. The angel did descend and took Annie away. Annie is no longer with us – with me. I miss her. I weep for her. I celebrate her struggle. I embrace her caretaker survivor Jan Phillips and salute her too.

We were happier because we’d learned what matters. Susan Sullivan always knew what mattered and pursued those things of value with determination and vigor. I marveled at her stamina and at the lovely pieces she created for my writing workshop and read with courage there. Susan is no longer with us – with me. I miss her. I weep for her. I celebrate her struggle. Her caretaker survivor was her husband Pat Sullivan. I celebrate him too.

My brother Michael stood tall with a slight dip to one shoulder where he’d carried a heavy bag of newspapers to deliver when he was young. He stood tallest of all on many stages playing many roles and singing many songs always doing both so beautifully I could barely breathe watching him. Michael is no longer with us – with me. I miss him. I weep for him. I celebrate his struggle. He has many caretaker survivors. My son Ed Vesneske jr. is one of them. I embrace him in my heart every day.

I mark my eight-year survivor anniversary by celebrating these heroes and many more. I hope to follow their examples of battling bravely and staying strong and minding what matters and standing tall. Too often I don’t manage all of that. Occasionally I don’t manage any of it. But I manage some of it just about enough of the time to be worthy of my survival.

The problem is that they were worthy of survival too. Rick and Annie and Susan and Michael and legions of others. But they are no longer with us. We miss them. We weep for them. We celebrate their struggle. We vow to be caretakers of their memory. To emulate their example of grace and fortitude and to honor their lives by defeating the monster that took those lives too soon.

Alice Orr 

Beloved Visitors or On Sodden Toweling

I don’t think of myself as a neat freak though I do feel a visceral attraction to this Julian's Mess 2-2016Mary McGarry Morris quote. “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be wild and original in your work.”

I’d like to think of myself as wild and original but these days that sounds like it might be tiring. Is it possible to be wild and original in a sitting position – preferably with my feet up? If so I’m on it.

Meanwhile my grandchildren are visiting. My granddaughter has a plus-one girlfriend with her. They’re sharing the larger bedroom in our small urban apartment. The bedroom with the TV large enough to be viewed without super-heroine vision.

My grandson has the smaller bedroom ordinarily referred to as my office. The accompanying photo depicts his manner of clothing storage. From most recently worn on top leading downward from there toward his arrival day outfit.

In service of full disclosure I must admit to establishing the following housekeeping rule. “Please just keep the door closed.” What can I say? I’m an out-of-sight-out-of-mind type of grandma. With the following exception. Bath towels.

I maintained my original pledge to stay out of those rooms during their visits until one particularly humid summer. Point of info. Jonathan and I live in New York City where damp ratchets steadily upward toward dank from June through August.

At the end of the grandkid stay I have in mind we said goodbye with much hugging at the apartment door. After which I was feeling bereft until I ventured into what had been my granddaughter’s room. Different plus-one girlfriend share that time.

The error of my permissive housekeeping approach was obvious as I opened the door and the reek of mildew assaulted me full force. It was apparent I should have practiced towel control. I’d wondered why our supply of bath sheets had depleted over the past few days. Now I knew why.

Sodden toweling decorated the floor – and most disturbingly for me the bed as well – in odoriferous lumps located what seemed to my suddenly disordered psyche like everywhere.

“Accept. Adjust. Adapt.” Three A-words I largely credit with my personal survival in general. In this specific case. Accept that sodden toweling is a given of grandkid visits. Adjust my policy of non-intrusion. Adapt by inspecting their rooms immediately after they leave for whichever sector of Gotham I’ve counseled them to avoid.

Since Adopting – another good A as in advice word – this practice I no longer have to… #1. Fumigate the bedroom carpeting quite as often. #2. Badger Jonathan to flip the mattress quite as often. #3. Convert terminally mold stained bath sheets to cleaning rags quite as often.

We are now entering Day 4 of the current grand-progeny visit. Granddaughter plus plus-one has left for what she promises will be solely a campus visit. They’re both in college search mode. Grandson is in the shower I demanded he take before hand-off to a blessed relative while I prepare for this evening’s family gathering and feast.

Jonathan and I are experiencing increased difficulty with cranking our bodies upright after sleeping on the foldout couch in the living room. Two visit days remain at the end of which we will both be bereft. But right now I believe I may scent eau de mildew in the air.

Alice Orr –


A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page I can’t guarantee that the non-digital versions will be free of mildew.


Life is a Blizzard Where I Come From

Me in My SnowsuitWhen I was a little girl I thought everybody lived in blizzard country like I did. I thought every child wore a snowsuit for nearly half of the year. This is me in my snowsuit in a few old photographs.

That was life growing up in the North Country. Blizzards and snowsuits. Sleds and ice skates. Double-knit mittens and hats created on Grandma’s needles. The memories of those years are sharp and reside in all of my senses.

I see the snowbank so high in front of our house that there was a photo of me standing on top of it grasping a power line. We’d had a power outage of course. Wires were down somewhere nearby – snapped by heavy ice.

Outages happened often in winter but we were cozy at 439 East Avenue because we had a coal furnace fed by my father from a bin in the basement. I feel the rush of heat when he opened the cast iron door and threw coal into the fiery center.

I hear the chuck of his shovel pushing into the bin and the whoosh of release when he let the load fly into the flames. I smell it too – the not unpleasant char that scratched my throat just a little until the furnace door was closed and latched again.

The most vivid flavor of my blizzard season memories comes from outside the house – the snow I ate despite my mother’s claim I’d contract a terrible disease with a long name I’ve forgotten. I taste the strangely satisfying hint of brackishness as snow crystals melted on my tongue.

Memories urge me to give them life on the page. Tire chains clanging down a quiet street at night. Young ears pressed to morning radios for school closure bulletins after a four-foot overnight snowfall – as a white wonderland waits to be explored and enjoyed.

I offer a glimpse of North Country winter in  A Vacancy at the Inn – Book 4 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series. There’s a blizzard near the end but this is a novella and an intense personal situation. Not much page space remains for weather in detail.

Or maybe I held back. Cherishing the magic of my private memory winters in a silence as deep as the silence of a snowscape after a storm. Still I sense a Riverton Road story in my future – and I hope in yours as its reader – where life is a blizzard big time.

Alice Orr –


A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of my books are available at my Amazon Author Page