Thursday, May 30, 2013


 What does one do when the computer is down? Crochet. This is a project I started a little while ago. It's crocheted in one piece with no seams. Every 'square' is a different color and stitch. Just in case you think I quit my projects in the middle...
This is the project I work on when I watch PBS in the evening. That isn't every night, but while I'm watching Doc Martin or Midsomer Murders, it's nice to have something in hand.

What do you do while you watch TV?


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


 At the request of a couple friends, here's the loom. It's a Schacht School Loom, purchased from WEBS. For more info, click on WEBS. There's minimal assembly, excellent directions, and all the necessary stuff except for the warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) threads. I recommend a strong twine for the warp because those are taut. And a soft yarn is suitable for the long as you don't pull it too tight.
I'm using bits and pieces left over from other projects. I'll probably use the finished tapestries for gifts. Maybe...I'll even run a contest later in the summer. In the meantime, I find the weaving a soothing pasttime.

As a matter of fact, why do you suppose they call it weaving, anyway? Why not looming? Why isn't the finished piece loomed instead of woven? Can you imagine weaving something the size of a blanket or rug on such a low-tech loom?

The more I use the loom, the more I appreciate the workmanship of all the woven pieces I've seen. Perhaps that's the important thing...


Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Three day weekends don't eliminate Monday...they just delay it. Monday is all about the weekend being over. It's the beginning of that stretch of time when 'stuff' (work, school, appointments) is supposed to be scheduled.

Here in the USA our three day Memorial Day weekend is over and now...we have to face the week. So. It's a rainy, gray Tuesday in Baltimore so dark I need the indoor lights to see what I'm doing. I slept late and feel draggy. Sitting here in front of my computer, yawning and contemplating the things I must accomplish today.

Do you suppose it's better when the sun is shining?

Someone in the upstairs apartment is banging on the floor over my head. I can't decide whether they're assembling a piece of furniture or replacing carpet. No--now it sounds like they're in the apartment next door which would make more sense as that apartment is empty, I think. Hmmmm. Maybe we're going to have new neighbors.

Well, I've noodled around long enough. Time to begin the day. Breakfast, writing, errands, and the other normal stuff of a normal week. Only four days left until the weekend!


Sunday, May 26, 2013


I recently bought a Scrabble game for my computer. Why? Well, two reasons. One--to stimulate my gray cells. I firmly believe we lose what we don't use. Every morning with my coffee, I play a couple games against the computer. Some mornings I do better than others, but it's definitely a super waker-upper.

Reason two--to expand my vocabulary. The computer uses the STRANGEST words. I keep a running list of the ones I don't know and afterward, sometime during the day, I look them up in the dictionary. I'm particularly interested in the words using Q (without a U), X, and Z.

After several days of playing, I've acquired an interesting list of two letter words--some with no vowels--and words that contain the aforementioned letters. And I've discovered it's not just what words you know, but where you place them that counts. I'm sure I was aware of that point before but somewhere along the line I didn't quite grasp the importance of placing a letter where it will count for points in more than one direction.

In playing the game, it's dawned on me I'm failing to use the Scrabble principles in my writing.

1) Some actions are more important than others, though all actions should be worth some points.

2) Some actions will render consequences in more than one direction.

3) Some events may have the potential for further expansion.

4) Sometimes ignorance or failure to see future potential will allow the opponent to win.

5) Ignorance and failure to prepare can kill you.

6) If all else fails, QI or XI can save you...maybe. It's always good to have a secret weapon up your sleeve.


Saturday, May 25, 2013


I have a small table top, low-tech loom. There are other looms far more high tech than mine. And of course, there are no doubt thousands more primitive than mine. But for the textiles I want to produce, the loom I have is sufficient.

I bought it on the internet, but I could have built one with exactly the same technological aspects using sticks from the woods and a handful of small nails. For thousands of years men and women--and children--have used such looms to produce everything from primitive belts to exquisite rugs and blankets.

Weaving on a low-tech loom is a slow process that allows much time for contemplation. Some days I may add two or three rows. Other days, perhaps ten. There's no rush. As with many creative crafts, speed is not of the essence. The entire point of the exercise is the journey.

The colors the weaver chooses, the yarns (or strings or other media) employed all affect the ultimate outcome. In just such a way, weaving mimics life. Our decisions influence our future.

A tapestry is woven from bottom to top. The choices made early on cannot be changed if we reach the midpoint and decide we've made a mistake. No, at that time we must continue on, perhaps making different choices to create a harmonious whole.

The complete piece will most likely contain dark and light threads. Without the dark, our eyes can't really appreciate the light. The more colors we employ, the greater the detail. Two or three color tapestry, even though bright in color, is likely to be monotonous compared to say...a six or eight color piece.

Some days the hunk will stand in my doorway and ask, "How long will this take?"

"As long as required."

Anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do well. I suspect that's one reason so few people enjoy life. We're rushing, rushing, rushing to get to the next thing without really stopping to savor the place we're occupying now. What, you say? Are we to savor the bad, too?

Well, perhaps not savor. But certainly we should pay heed to the events around us, take note of the lessons to be learned, lest we face a second or third time around. After all, we don't really want a tapestry composed only of angry, dark, mournful colors.

When the piece is finished, we will sit back and observe how the dark threads make the light ones look so much brighter. How sadness ultimately gives way to joy. And loneliness is washed away in ripples of friendship and love.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Good Eats

A friend asked me what my plans were for the weekend... BBQ, maybe? Nah.

I think I must be missing the BBQ gene. When I was a kid (back in the 50's) outdoor eats consisted of cold fried chicken and raw veggies. Or peanut butter sandwiches. Once in a while our family would find a dry wash in the desert, build a little fire and roast hotdogs and marshmallows on straightened wire coat hangers.

Grilling or cooking over a fire was reserved for rough camping--not the backyard. Civilized people ate in the house. If you were entertaining, the whole point was to impress your guests with your cooking skills and gracious table-settings.

Actually, I'm not all that enamored with hamburgers. Or hot dogs. If I'm going to eat a steak or fish, I prefer a nice sit-down in a restaurant. And I'm allergic to chicken...

Now I understand the attraction of a backyard BBQ if you're entertaining a lot of people. I was one of seventeen grandchildren on my dad's side of the family. When we all gathered, there was usually a crowd of about thirty. Of course, it was easier to move the party outdoors. It isn't my preference, though.

During my growing-up years, I had favorite dishes. My stepmother's potato salad. Ambrosia salad. Corn on the cob. Brisket. Home-made yeast rolls. Most of that is no longer on my list of acceptable foods.

Maybe...I'll have a nice piece of salmon and some green beans. Yeah...

Have a peaceful holiday of remembrance.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cow in My Sidecar

Some days life is...odd. Nothing unfolds according to plan. Weirdness litters our paths. You know--we have a cow in our sidecar.

Such days are NOT catastrophic or disastrous. We've all had those types of days, weeks, even years. No, cow in the sidecar days require something different from us. They require humor and adaptability. They are exactly the days that we have to laugh lest we cry.

I've had many days like this. The Thanksgiving the turkey exploded all over my new kitchen. The morning my young sons decided to build a campfire in their bedroom (after carefully protecting the carpet with a layer of newspapers). The afternoon my toddler daughter decorated her crib and wall with the contents of her diaper after waking very quietly from her nap. The afternoon my granddaughter poured furniture stain on my couch. And the list is endless.

A few people have more cow-in-sidecar days than not. I do. Perhaps my attitude toward life is due to my vast experience with such days. There have been days when I crammed two or three cows in the sidecar and barreled on down the road of life. What else is there to do?

During the last few years I have observed a certain class of people who do NOT deal well with the minor difficulties in life. I suspect these folks don't recognize the terrible monster in their sidecar is really just a cow. They moan and whine and scream about the terror riding with them when in reality the terror is merely a little lagniappe tossed in their life to liven things up. I feel sad for such folks because they never build coping skills to deal with the real demons in life.

How about you? Do you have many cows in your sidecar?


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Some folks labor under the mistaken impression that series are easy to write. After all, you have the characters--more or less--already roughed out. Characters are not enough. The main difficulty as always is the necessity for a plot.

I have two or three series in the hopper. Since I refuse to tell the same story over...and over...and over...most of them are simmering somewhere on a back burner. At the moment, I'm working on two very different stories, both in the middle of their series.

Part of series work (for me) is re-reading the earlier stories so I don't forget obscure little plot points and details. No one can remember every single detail and you really cannot note everything in your series bible. Yesterday I found myself spending a LOT of time looking up stuff in the earlier books.

One of the things I noted about the other stories was the various hooks. The hook is the bit of the story that grabs the reader (hopefully). And there was the problem. I have no hook.

The thing's hard to have a hook with no plot. The plot is that one or two sentence description of the story. No plot. Hmmmm. I should probably address that, shouldn't I?

Then I might be able to devise a hook.

Back to the drawing board.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Xenia, Joplin, Granbury, Shawnee, Birmingham, Moore...the list goes on and on. Towns wiped from the map. Lives shattered. Grief and anguish and numbness. Terror and dread for those not found yet.

Can you help? Surely. If not financially or physically, then by offering a prayer, an encouraging word, a compassionate ear to those who need to speak. Hearts are heavy. Devastation is everywhere. Long after the news media have moved on to the next catastrophe, folks will still struggle with the aftermath.

Don't forget them...


Friday, May 17, 2013

Terror from the Sky

Every year, folks lose their property, their lives in storms. Tornadoes frequently strike in the middle of the night with little warning. In their wake, they leave devastation and grief.

Depending on where you live in our country, you may deal with floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, blizzards, drought, wildfires, or tornadoes. Of all of those, the average citizen has the greatest chance of dealing with a tornado.

Some parts of the country are more susceptible than others, but when it gets down to it, if you have the right ingredients in the atmosphere, a tornado could wipe out your town. Unlike a hurricane that's unlikely to strike inland, a tornado dances across the country, terrifying and destroying. Because they often whirl up during the night, you don't see them coming. Folks are sleeping.

All my blessings and prayers to the latest victims in Texas. The grief and destruction will impact their lives long after the news crews and cameras are gone. And life will never ever be the same.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

It was THIS Big

Have you ever noticed how size increases every time a person talks about...well, anything, really. Size apparently matters. We don't squash an ordinary spider. It must be huge in order to impress. Snakes have to be longer or deadlier. Mosquitoes must be the size of bombers. Why not just admit we were afraid?

I wonder why the need for exaggeration? Why must everything be bigger?

Why to we need to compete? "My daddy/mama/child is better/richer/has more stuff/smarter than your daddy..."

While I support doing your best, I think our quest for more, more, more is unhealthy and stressful. Contentment is rare. Pursuing less instead of more is considered strange.

Last night I killed a spider. It was only the size of my thumbnail but it gave me the shivers. There now. That wasn't hard at all.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Quite a Character

I recently re-read a book I hadn't read in a long while. The story was interesting and well written--except for one thing. The bad guy was comprised of every stereotype possible. I want to read a story where the bad guy is charming, good looking, friendly...and a snake.

For years, the heroines were sexy sylphs. Now they're all curvy 'big' girls. Heroes used to be handsome and incredibly rich. The current style is grubby, gritty laborers or ex-military dudes. We've exchanged one set of stereotypes for another.

Since I was thinking about such things, I paid attention as I worked my way through several more books. One book--a favorite of mine--had minimal description about the characters. The first twenty times I'd read it, I never noticed.

As an exercise in one of my college classes, we were assigned to read a three page selection from one of the 'classic' authors. When we arrived for the next class, there was a pop quiz. Describe the characters in the assigned selection.

The answers varied wildly. Readers imposed their own ideas on the characters, even when they were described in detail!

How closely do you read the story? And how do you decide what the characters are like?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dead Stories

Yesterday I went through my vast collection of WIPs in search of something, some tiny kernel of an idea that captured my imagination. I have a lot of jumpstarts. Nothing reached out and grabbed me. Most of them yawned and rolled over in boredom.

That's not because they're bad. It has nothing to do with the quality of writing or the story idea. I'm...preoccupied. I have no idea how to deal with this issue. I've cleaned, done laundry, went shopping, read books, watched TV, crocheted, went swimming, baked. And still, when I sit in front of the computer, all ideas fade away to nothing.

I took a pen and pad of paper in the other room, thinking to possibly jot down some ideas. The paper remains blank. Mild panic is setting in. What if I can never write another story? Will I be reduced to knitting a never-ending stream of socks and mittens? Maybe I should take up painting or weaving?

Anxiety breeds anxiety. As I poke at my pitiful collection of stories, they remind me of my garden experiments, rows of dying plants that slowly shrivel and die for unknown reasons. Not enough sun? Too much water? What? What to do?

My 'what if' and 'once up a time' has deserted me--for now. While I wait for them to return, I believe I'll haul out my calligraphy supplies and work on that. Perhaps, keeping the mind and fingers busy will spring an idea or two loose. Until then, there's an abundance of chores to keep me occupied.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Courage and Integrity

"Each paper has a description of love, courage, and faith...a TRUE gift today. I love my girls more than life, I am so proud of their courage, I am blessed with their love. Forever their mommy"

My daughter posted the picture and text on her Facebook on Mother's Day. They're going through some really bad stuff right now. When things are bad, some people give up or turn nasty or rebel. 

Others shine.

So proud of my daughters, daughter-in-law and granddaughters. They are women of integrity and courage. All my blessings and prayers for them this week. Life is hard.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Wrinkles or Fold

I spent the better part of the day doing laundry at the Laundromat. It was very, very hot as they didn't have the AC on, despite temps in the eighties. We bundled all the laundry in our baskets and brought it home to fold (where we very sensibly have AIR CONDITIONING!)

As I sat folding a mountain of endless clothing, I wondered--WHY do we fold clothes? Why not have a basket of clean undies and a basket of clean socks and pick them out as we need? Why fold nighties? They just get wrinkled when we twist and turn in our sleep. WHY do we waste hours of our precious time FOLDING?

I can understand folding sheets and towels because they fit better on the closet shelf. But underwear and socks? What's the point? And imagine all the drawer space that would be freed up if you just keep them in a basket...

How many chores do we do needlessly because 'that's the way we've always done it'? Wrinkles in my underwear are waaaay down on my list of priorities. There are possibly two or three people in the world who will see my wrinkly underwear (though honesty compels me to admit the wrinkles disappear when stretched over my fluffy body).

As I look around my apartment, it occurs to me that much of the standard housework is really 'make work' from long before my generation. I've never understood the logic in making the bed. If it was up to me, our bed would never be made except when the sheets are changed. However, the hunk feels uncomfortable with the unmade bed so HE makes the bed everyday. *Shrug*.

Anyway, I think I may go with the basket idea. I could save at least an hour every time I do laundry. Time is precious. Besides, at heart, I really hate laundry.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lost and Found


Four packages of tortellinis. Have no idea when they were purchased, but the dates are still good.

Small slightly damaged purple snake, given to me by a co-worker sometime in the past as a gag gift. It used to sit on top of my monitor at work. Perhaps I can repair the small hole on his nose so he doesn't lose his sandy innards...

Road maps for six eastern states (almost current, too.) As we travel, I collect maps to use as research sources when I write. Added them to my collection.

Basket of hair clips. Except for the very top of my head, my hair is too short to use them, but perhaps this is a sign that I should let my hair grow out again. Maybe?

A package of fifty cheapo plastic gloves. Where did they come from? Don't know. Why were they purchased? Don't know. Can't think of any reason to keep them.

Six spanking new metal Christmas cookie cutters. If I ever make Christmas cookies again, they'll come in handy.

One car charger for a phone I no longer own--still in the original unopened package. Have to check to see if it will work with my current cheapo cell phone.

Lost: Large bottle of Febreeze. Maybe I gave it away? Guess that says a lot about how often I used it.

That's the sum total for today. Adventures in cleaning at the Cook house...


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Love You

"I love you." Three words, the words we wait for the hero to say to the heroine in every romance. The same words we say to our children, our parents, our siblings. Perhaps that is why they feel...inadequate.

Sonnets and songs have been written about love. Paintings and graphics attempt to portray it. But the truth is, our best efforts are less, much less than the whole of what we feel. Nothing encompasses all the emotions that comprise that most elusive of feelings--love.

One of the problems is we've devalued of the word love. We 'love' our new shoes. We 'love' our new car. We 'love' movies, television shows, celebrities, our haircut, books, chocolate, a comfortable bed, and hot coffee in the morning. Small wonder then that we have nothing left to express how we feel when we hold our child, when we embrace our parents or when we touch our mate.

As writers we struggle to convey the overwhelming feelings our characters develop, frequently falling back on the physical when all else fails. Sex is not love, though it can be an aspect between lovers. How to describe our hero's love?

Often we demonstrate it by allowing the hero to rescue the heroine which may leave the reader feeling shortchanged. Riding to the rescue is not love, either.

Each time I speak to my children and grandchildren on the phone I say, "I love you." Every single time it seems insufficient and lacking. Is that because it's via electronic media? I don't know. Somehow without the human touch, it feels like less.

When I speak to my parents across the wide distance that separates us, I say, "I love you." Can they feel how I wish I was close enough to hold them?

"I love you."


Monday, May 6, 2013

Storage Wars and Hoarding

We signed a new lease this week with the plan to move next year when our lease is up as this apartment is now too expensive. With that in mind, a few weeks ago we started our clean out/toss out/give away campaign, the idea being if we cleaned a bit every day or week by next year, we'd be ready for the move.

We have a guest room that's sort of a general storage catch-all which is fine because we rarely have guests. Everyone lives too far away for an overnight visit. Then my son informed us he's coming for a week...beginning Mother's Day.

That particular room went from 'someday' to 'this week'. However, I'm determined I'm NOT going to just stuff things in the closet. So I've been delving through boxes and drawers and baskets and bags, sorting with a vengeance. The last time I did this--about three years ago--I discovered I had thirty-two pairs of scissors. My prize this time? Seventeen bottles of nail polish, all approximately the same color. Since I actually polish my nails about twice a year...well, let's just say I have plenty for my needs until I die, and I must like that color a LOT.

Today I'm going to clean out the cabinet in the corner. Years ago we purchased it as a computer cabinet, but since then it's been used for all sorts of other purposes. This time I hope to use it as a clothing chest. I have noooo idea what I'll do with the stuff in it now. I may get wild and crazy and toss it out since I haven't even looked in the cabinet in over four years. I might even find something interesting in there, but I suspect there are piles of audio/music cassettes and CDs. If I want to save the data/music on them, that will mean spending hours transferring them to flash drives or the extra hard drive we have. Why can't technology just slow down? Why does it have to change all the time?

Then there are the eleven rolls of Christmas paper I found in the corner. We don't buy Christmas presents because everyone lives too far away. We send gift cards. Out, out, out!

We have enough reusable/canvas shopping bags to shop for the next two or three months without returning them to the car for the next go-round. Maybe we should take a stab at actually using them...

The house hunk would like to discuss my shoe collection. I would prefer we don't go there. He gave me a plastic storage box so I can hide them under the bed. You may wonder why clothes and shoes aren't in the closet. Well, when you live in an apartment, there's no such thing as 'storage'--except for the closets.

When my son goes home, I'll work on my office. Maybe. Or I may find it in my best interest to go back to writing. Really. I haven't written anything except my blog for the last two weeks.

Now if I can just get past my anxiety that there will be a paperclip shortage some day. Never mind that we live in a mostly paperless culture now. Who knows? I may need the three boxes of paperclips I found. So I'll keep them...just in case. And my stash of sticky notes. And the stack of blank notebooks. Pens. Every color...


Friday, May 3, 2013

Multi-box Days

Most folks know cats love enclosed places. I think it's because they feel secure and protected...sort of like humans feel when someone is holding us.

On average days we whiz through our lives, coping with the minor annoyances and dealing with the minutiae of life in the modern world. And then a day or several comes along when disaster strikes and we have multi-box days.

These are days when the occasional hug or two isn't gonna suffice. They are endless days of waiting, anxiety, insecurity, guilt, sadness, or grief. Maybe they are all of these at one time. My loved ones and I have had more than a few of these days this year. They are made all the more difficult because my family is far-flung and wide spread across the country.

Hard to hug someone who is two thousand miles away.

Harder to sit on the other end of the phone and wait. Family catastrophes are not one dimensional. Though they're most immediate to the individuals in the center of the storm, anxiety and grief ripple outward to those far away who can do nothing but wait. Very often traveling to those in distress is impossible or impractical. There's nothing to do but wait and pray.

In the past, prior to the days of instant communication, family members might not even know of such disasters until long after it was over. Today's world is vastly different with our ability to reach out and touch one another at any time of day or night. I don't know if this makes it harder or easier to cope.

All I know today is my family needs more boxes. Please send extras...


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day

When I was a young girl, I was less conscious of flowers as a sign of spring. I lived in the desert southwest. My grandparents lived in the sun valley near Phoenix. Spring wasn't particularly special. But one day--May Day--was. In school we made little paper woven baskets that we took home. And there we filled them with early wild flowers (most likely weeds such as dandelions!) before hanging them on the neighbor's doorknobs.

The deal was hang the basket, ring the doorbell, and run like crazy to some point where you could hide and watch the neighbor's smiles when they discovered the flowers. And of course, this was before school so it was early in the morning.

What I find interesting from my more mature perspective is the acceptance of celebrating a clearly pagan holiday in a very fundamentalist protestant home. There was a certain innocence to the delight and excitement of making the baskets, filling them and distributing them.

Then we moved to the northern Midwest and such shenanigans were not only forbidden by my paternal relatives, but heavy browed disapproval made it clear May baskets were wicked and 'not our way'. By definition, therefore, I was wicked and on my way to Hell.


I find it interesting that Easter eggs and Christmas Trees were okay. Halloween was not. Singing was okay. Dancing was totally unacceptable and card playing was beyond the pale. It was a confusing time for a young girl dealing with the loss of her mother and all that was familiar and dear.

I don't fault my relatives for their beliefs and misguided efforts to teach me what they considered right from wrong. But I look back and wonder just how much of the religious intolerance we see today is based on that same wrong-headed ignorance.

Flowers baskets on doorknobs. How subversive could they be?

Happy May Day!