Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dull Drums

I confess. I’ve been in the dull drums for months (yes, I intended to say dull drums, not doldrums). Feeling dull, my drums gone quiet. I’ve been pacing the house or sitting watching TV. Feeling old. Tired. Not in the mood for anything, even murder mysteries on the boob tube couldn’t hold my full attention. I was getting sick of myself. I did shower, and cook, and grocery shop, but beyond that I just wasn’t happy. Maybe “depressed” fits. Maybe it doesn’t.

My next novel, A Bird in the House, was sitting in the computer. Waiting. I thought about it often. What happens next? Who does what to whom? Couldn’t make up my mind. Too many pieces. Too complicated. Too hard.

One day I decided to clean a closet. There was a huge plastic garbage bag filled with fabric scraps that hadn’t been touched in at least fifteen years. It was a jumble of little squares, tangles of frayed thread, and odd bigger chunks of cotton cloth. I pulled the bag out and started sorting by colors. All the greens went into a zip-lock bag. All the beiges went into another. Eventually I had sorted all the scraps into their own little color coordinated homes. Bags of colors filled two wicker baskets. 

That was months ago. 

Recently, I cleaned out another closet. I discovered 18 inch squares of pieced together red and purple fabric that had been centerpieces for a dinner I organized eighteen years ago. Memories of that dinner aren’t happy, but the pieced squares were nice. I spread the nine squares out, side by side on my bed. If I added few more pieces (sixteen), it would be a whole quilt.

I moved the sewing machine into the room where I write and loaded it with red thread. For the past two weeks I’ve been buying more fabric and sewing my silly head off. No TV in the daytime. 

Three days ago I opened the laptop and read some of the novel.  I read pieces of story, events not fully sewn. I found lines that needed to be cleaner, straighter, more to the point. Dark sections needed more humor. Purple needs red. Short sentences need long ones to avoid boredom. Fabric combined in little squares and big chunks is more interesting. Words are little squares. Paragraphs are pieced together blocks. And what about transitions, how should I connect the pieces or paragraphs to create flow.

Yesterday, in the middle of quilting mayhem, the novel got 900 new words. Today I wrote another 800. Life is good. 

This afternoon, I have work to do. I have another idea for the quilt. One craft feeds the other.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Books! Hot dogs! Me!

Dear Friends, 

It's been awhile since my last blog post. Basically, I've been being a slug. It's nothing sad in my head, nothing to get excited about. Just being a slug. So I guess it's time to get up off my butt, do some jumping jacks, then sit right back down on my butt and write something. 

It's time.

I have a fun event coming up next Sunday. I've been invited, along with more than 50 other writers, to take part in Leon & Lulu's Book & Authors event. They'll have 25 copies of my book, Intentional, a novel, available. So, if you don't have a copy yet, here's your chance. Woo Hoo! If you already have one of my books, come anyway and say hi. And maybe (highly likely) you'll find a treasure by another writer.

Hope to see you.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Salad Bowl Mystery

On July 1st, I was in our backyard unstrangling bindweed from the Rose of Sharon bushes, when I discovered a very pretty shell stuck on a leaf. It was creamy white with a brown line twirling into the center. Our grandchildren, Megan and Jonathan were visiting from Georgia. John (Papa) was at the pool at the corner of our block watching the kids swim and dive. I took the interesting shell and put in on the back porch step to show the kids when they came home, and went back to weeding. But when I came back to the porch the shell had moved. IT WAS ALIVE! (Drum roll here, or imagine the music from Jaws).

It was a snail. It’s probably obvious that I have no snail experience on my resume. I gave it a new home inside a high walled glass salad bowl, with a bumpy rock set in the middle and some leaves for his lunch.

I haven’t had a pet since my old cat died in 1983, so I googled garden snails. They need dirt for calcium that helps them build shell...so I put dirt in the salad bowl. I fed him organic (from my garden) cucumber peels, basil, and strawberry leaves, and sprinkled in some water (you don’t want your snail to dehydrate).

One Google snail site was for kids. A boy suggested putting a lid on your snail jar with holes punched in it for air. But that seemed mean (the lid, not the air), besides Speedy Sam always went back inside the bowl after a little stroll. Also the nasty kid in the video poked at the tiny snail's horns to show how they retract when touched. I wonder if that kid will be out twirling cats by their tails some day? 

Jonathan named our new pet Speedy (oh, the irony!), and Megan named him Samthat’s how we knew it was a boy snail. Actually snails are Hermaphrodites, but still need another snail to reproduce (Thank you, Google).

Speedy Sam
I told my daughter-in-law about our new pet. 
Bonnie asked, “Are you going to eat him?”
“What? Eat Speedy Sam!”
“Snails are escargot,” she reminded me.
“Are you going to eat Archie?” I asked. 
Archie’s a Golden Retriever. They aren’t going to eat Archie.

Before dirt outside of the bowl
The kids went home to Georgia and I kept feeding and watering Speedy Sam, but I have to tell you—I often felt guilty watching him walk (slither) along the bowl’s rim. I’d say to John, “Maybe we should put him back in the yard. Let him be free.”

This is liberal guilt rearing its do-gooder head. I’m against the death penalty, against unjustified imprisonment. Shouldn’t this beautiful snail get to live in the garden? He didn’t do anything wrong. 

After dirt
But John liked watching him, and I admit, I did too, so he stayed in the salad bowl sitting on a high table on our screened back porch. We were family.


Five days ago Speedy Sam disappeared. When we checked his bowl in the morning, he was gone. We took out his celery stalk. Occasionally we found him clinging to it upside down—but not this day. We took out his half cucumber. We took out the rock and checked under it. We pushed the dirt around with the celery stick. No Speedy Sam. We searched the whole porch, under tables and chairs, ceiling, walls, screens. Gone!

Two days later I was weeding the vegetable garden and I found another snail. Is this Karma? 

I brought it in, put it in Speedy Sam’s cleaned bowl, and added the rock and some salad mix. This was a different snail. Darker. Smaller.

Two days later Snail #2 was gone. Speedy Sam hung out with us for about fifty days. Snail #2 was here just two days. Do snails have some telepathic means of telling each other how to get out of a screened porch?

Is Karma crap?

Snails can see, but their sense of smell is strongest, and they’re nocturnal. But how the heck did they get out of the porch? I’m open to theories.


As I wrote about a snails sense of smell, I looked around our screened porch. On the west side the screen is covered with ivy. That’s the way a smart snail would go—head for the foliage. The green outdoor carpet is a little longer than the concrete floor on that side, so it bends up about two inches. I moved chairs out of the way and lifted the rug. And there was Speedy Sam. Dead...I was sure. But then several times over the past weeks I thought he was dead. The phrase shouldn’t be, “Playing possum,” it should be “Playing snail.”

He looked wrecked. Dirty. So I put him back in the bowl with some cilantro I had just picked, and showered a half-cup of water on his filthy shell. He didn’t move.

Yesterday morning I checked the salad bowl. Speedy Sam was slithering around on the cilantro. Later John and I took him out to the garden and had a little ceremony. I put Speedy Sam back where I found him on a Rose of Sharon leaf.

I felt betterrelieved—I could quit feeling guilty...but it’s a little lonely. 

Several times during the day we checked and Speedy Sam was still clinging to the leaf. This morning he was gone, perhaps off to find a boy/girl friend.

PS. We still don’t know where Snail #2 went?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Casting a Long Shadow

7:46 a.m.

I follow my shadow West on our morning walk,
When we head South, the shadow (attached at my feet) is beside me.
When we turn again the shadow chases me.
Sometimes the shadow is obscured 
by more dominating shadows of trees and buildings,
but I know it’s always there.

Nurses ask, “On a scale of one to ten how do you feel?”

A graphic designer asks, “On a gray scale with white being exquisite bliss and black being a black funk, just how funked up are you?”
Gray Scale
  •  Sometimes 60%, sometimes 80%.

So what are your symptoms?
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Eating too much.
  • Starting projects and not finishing.
  • Staring at the wall.
  • Starting to do ordinary paperwork, like recording bills and filing and then stopping to stare at the wall some more.
  • Watching Netflix ALL DAY.
  • Being tired.
  • Forgetting things. I just thought of something I forgot, but now I can't remember what I forgot.
  • Feel redundant.
  • Not doing anything (Did I say that already?).

Sounds like some depression (I saw those symptoms on a pill commercial).
  •  Hmm, but what if it’s alzheimer’s or dementia? 

And why do you think this is happening to you?
  • Maybe it’s an “after a big project is done” slump?
  • Maybe I’m sick of trying to promote my novel?
  • Maybe I can’t figure out what happens in the next novel? 15,745 words in, and I don’t know where I’m going.
  • Maybe I’m just tired?
  • Maybe I’m eating too much sugar?
  • Maybe it’s old age? Please not alzheimer's!

So what are you doing to fix the funk?
  • Taking a two-mile morning walk with John (and our shadows) should help. But then I come home exhausted and sweaty, and need to watch Simon Baker in “The Guardian” for a couple episodes. I doubt if that’s fixing anything. Everyday, I say I’m not going to turn the TV on, but then I’m tired, so I turn it on. Tomorrow, I promise not to turn the tv on.
  • During previous summers, I discovered that walking did something good to my brain--plot issues would get resolved. So I'll keep walking everyday. Physical activity is good for your mood and your brain and maybe your plot.
  • The garden helps, like digging out weeds that have been hogging the raised flowerbed for years. But I have to focus only on the shovel and the immediate weeds. If I look at the rest of the yard, I get overwhelmed which leads to an 80% black funk.
  • Focus on one flower. Make my eyes like a camera lens and let all the background go fuzzy.
  • Read more of Super Brain and learn just how our amazing brains can be.
  • Should I try yoga? More organic food? Less sugar?
  • Talk to friends. That really helps!
  • Write a blog to myself, maybe I’ll find answers...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Urge to Purge

I’m allergic to dust—seriously. A few years ago when I went to the allergist for the first time, after some poking and scratching at my surfaces, he discovered that I’m allergic to dust, grass, trees, and cats. 

I like cats. I had one for nine years, but then its nine lives ran out and I didn’t have a cat anymore. 

I don’t like dust. I mostly leave it alone. I tend to treat it like I treat strange dogs, I walk by it quietly pretending to ignore it so it won’t bite me.

At this point you can start humming “Another one Bites the Dust” by Queen.

Last Monday, I began purging in my dining room. If you decide to purge, don’t do it in front of others. It can get ugly. Anyway, my urge to purge comes from an overwhelming need to own less. My eyes are constantly assaulted by STUFF. The fact that we have walls of open bookcases in the living room and dining room doesn’t help (although they do look nice—John built them, so of course, they’re wonderful).

My urge to purge is also inspired by Ann Amenta, my dear friend who had a stroke last September. Ann is the most generous person I know, she always gives dollars to homeless people, and months ago—even before the stroke—she gathered piles of clothes and books and treasures from her house and delivered them to a charity...not once asking for a receipt.

After seeing Ann last Monday, I decided it was time to tackle the dining room shelves. I should mention here that Ann sent me home with six white bumpy bowls and a stack of square white little plates, when John saw them he slapped himself on the forehead. Too many dishes. Too many bowls. To make room for Ann’s presents I better start elimination. Purgery was about to happen.

By the time I finished culling, the dining room table was crammed with goodies someone else would love (and dust). But all the Windex in the Costco jug couldn’t tame the dust. My nose was dripping like an outdoor faucet you accidently run into with your father’s car. (Don’t take that personally, Laura). And then the sore throat came along to keep the runny nose company.

Loaded dining room table

So for the rest of the week I sat on John’s recliner sniffin’ and drippin’. The massive (not exaggerating) allergy attack turned into a bad cold, then to avoid pneumonia the doc put me on antibiotics.

But, listen to this, all the time sitting in the chair I was itching to sort out more bookcases and closets. Purging is highly addictive (Ann warned me).

My granddaughter, Kristen, is coming this afternoon to select treasures from the dining room table. Grandson, Ryan, wants to snag a few goodies too.  The dining room cabinets look emptier and better than ever, and John gave me a dust mask from his workshop (the garage).

Purged cabinets

Next week more purging will happen! Dust be damned. Is an addiction something you do even when you know there might be suffering afterwards?


 Here's a tidbit (interesting or not). In my book, Intentional, a novel the main character is named Dust. Hmmm?

If you've read it and would like to give it a rating and/or review go here: http://www.amazon.com/Intentional-novel-Lynn-Arbor/dp/0986220604

Every review counts. I've sold or given away a total of 110 books. There are 15 reviews (Thank you, reviewers!) I'm greedy, I need more. Please...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sniff, sigh, wipe a tear from your eye

My children were four and five years old, my first husband named John was in Chicago for three months training for his new job, and my job was to find us a house. And I did.

It was a charming little house with character, a repossession that FHA had cleaned up. They’d cleared out trash (left by the previous owners), painted, reroofed, and refinished the hardwood floors. It was a bargain—but for a young family just out of the Air Force, expensive—$13,500. Whoa baby, it was scary to think we were in so much debt after we signed the mortgage papers. This was 1967.

The only pictures I have of our little brown house.
It was our first house after six years of rentals near military bases in California and Massachusetts.  There were two small bedrooms and bath on the main floor, a tiny dining room, and likewise, a tiny kitchen, a finished attic bedroom, and a garage you couldn’t park a car in because there were two big oak trees in front of it.

My kids grew up there, and I grew up there too.

I loved that house. When my first husband named John when out of town for a week to six weeks for more job training, I always had a surprise for his return. Once I took out all the upper cabinets in the kitchen and put in mirrors and open shelves. Another time I removed the plaster from the outer walls in the cold, cold bedrooms, insulated and put up new plasterboard. I built a concrete sculpture on a chicken wire armature in the back yard.

My children opened Christmas presents under the tree in that living room. They played with our dog, Teddy. They dressed up for Halloween there. Sue learned to play the clarinet, and Jim built a telescope out of a cardboard tube. They went though grade school and junior high while we lived in that house. They survived their parents’ divorce when they were 12 and 13, and still that house was their home. The summer after Sue graduated from high school, and Jim finished the eleventh grade, I sold the house.

I sometimes drive by “our” house. I don’t know why. Maybe just to check on it? In Spring I check to see if the twenty mail order 6 inch azaleas that I planted are still blooming. Last year they were huge festoons of shocking pink, at least 5 feet high, surrounding the brick front terrace that Sue and I built.

A few days ago, I drove by and a high cyclone fence that came out to the front sidewalk surrounded the house. Why, I wondered? Was it condemned or what? I didn’t see any notice in the window.

Then the day before yesterday, not even thinking about the fence, I was on my way home from Costco and just turned down North Connecticut. I was confused for a moment. Something was missing.

It was the house. Totally gone. Gone. I felt weepy. I looked at that small bare lot and thought about how big our lives were when we lived there, and what a small about of space we took up in the world. Our four lives were full and rich in less than 700 square feet.

The three big oaks still stand, will they disappear too.

That night I called my kids. They were both distressed. Sue talked about how her elementary school and her junior high school were both gone, and her high school was now a junior high...nothing of her childhood still existed. Jim said he still had dreams about that house (I do too).

Maybe I shouldn’t have told them? Maybe they never do drive-bys? But it mattered to both of them, and in my sadness I had to talk to someone who’d share that loss.

I won’t drive down our old block again. I don’t want to see the big-foot that will replace our little brown house, but then again...no promises.