Portnoy ain’t the only one complaining

Heyyy there, everything’s normal and nothing to see here!

The president has COVID-19 and continues to recklessly endanger lives, knowingly congregating with his constituents after testing positive for the virus. I think we’re up to nine infections traced from the same “super-spreader” event at the Rose Garden, at which we know for certain he was COVID-19 positive. The entire administration’s a circus, the GOP serial liars, and we cannot trust a goddamn thing they feed us.

Fantastic, thanks! And you?

I don’t really talk politics here. Vitriol spewed on social media leaves me so drained I prefer to keep Bluestalking a forum for books and salacious gossip. Not even a fraction of what I’m reading or writing or watching or thinking about makes it here as it is. Imagine if I spouted off about politics all the time. I’d write about nothing else.

The stresses of 2020 are taking a toll; my country is under seige from within and I am literally worried sick. Each day brings new shocks, and internalizing all this has left me and everyone I know shattered, complete nervous wrecks. I’ve let self care slide and didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until I turned off the news and looked within.

Despite a respectful fear of the virus, I did go to my doctor, who took blood and ran a panel. I’m aware all isn’t quite right. A couple of readings came back concerning enough she’s prescribed medication and requested re-testing in a month.

I’m not saying I have anything fatal; I am saying all the insomnia and constant flood of adrenaline and cortisol may have contributed to a disorder yet to be diagnosed. The doctor is targeting the testing, narrowing it to a couple of suspects, and I won’t be surprised if she sends me to specialists.

No doom and gloom. Chin up! I’m following doctor’s orders, overhauling the way I look at my health, and adjusting priorities bit by bit. I’ve grown cantankerous in middle age, grumpy and difficult, but I’m not completely stupid.

Shut it.

Outside of politics and health worries, my world is – SPOILER – almost entirely literary-focused. Aside from book reviewing miscellany, I’m working on bigger projects for two specific authors: Philip Roth and Camus. There’s a huge bio of Roth coming out next April I’m dying to lay hands on, plus the painting I bought from his estate auction watches me every time I walk through the foyer. A publisher sent me two essay compliations of Camus; it’s a secondary venture.

Since acquiring Roth’s Chinese reverse painting on glass I’ve intended to actually read his books – aside from Portnoy, which I read more than a decade ago and honestly disliked. Within the past couple of weeks I’ve bought multiple works of nonfiction by and about Roth, begun The Plot Against America, and started watching various documentaries and YouTube videos.

Chinese Painting on Glass, from the Philip Roth Estate

I’m falling madly for Philip Roth and I didn’t expect that. Based on a rushed read of Portnoy’s Complaint a lifetime ago, I mentally lumped him in with the School of Testosterone, my own personal and highly subjective classification for male writers I simply have not gotten along with, for various reasons. Most of them, frankly, have to do with an obsession with sex and sweaty man things. Can I be more specific: no.


For a good many years, I ostracized Hemingway. Weirdly enough, for a writer I’d formed an early dislike to – SEE: Forced march through The Old Man and the Sea book and film in high school – I made a concerted effort to see his homes in Oak Park, IL and Key West, FL. When in Rome?

Exactly when he snuck back in the parlor I can’t pinpoint but I had relegated him to the stables, where he’d been up to god knows. Visiting Shakespeare & Co. in Paris may have been his turning point, laying eyes on that iconic bookshop and imagining what they’d gotten up to endeared him to me.

If Sylvia Beach welcomed him, how bad could he be?

Shakespeare & Co., Paris, 2016

If you’ve read or know anything about The Plot Against America, it will be no surprise this is not an anxiety-lessening novel. Roth imagines an America overrun by facism, supposing what would have happened if the extreme right-wing leaning Charles Lindbergh had defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election. The best choice to be reading right now? Not so sure. A phenomenal read, yes.

Its concentration on the fictional Roth family has thus far kept me engaged without raising my already sky-high anxiety. I won’t hesitate to put it aside if it gets too intense but I don’t get the impression it will.

LOLLLZZZ – famous last words.

My health is, and will remain, first and foremost over any reading. Philip Roth wrote something on the order of 30 novels. I’m not lacking in material.

It’s Sunday evening. My brain and eyes are exhausted from spending the weekend staring at books and screens. I’m trotting off to find something entertaining to watch so I can unfocus my eyes and relax my brain. No documentaries, no heavy anything. Pity I don’t have a soaking tub or I’d end all my days in it.

Wait. That sounds off.

2019 so far: a recap

2019 marks the fourth anniversary of my divorce. I’d like to say I’ve settled into the next chaper of life, but in lots of ways I really haven’t.

The best part of post-marriage is the weight of a 25-year incompatible relationship falling off my shoulders. I chose a man who was steady and a good provider, knew his way around car and home maintenance, and could fix my computer- very practical things, if not terribly romantic.

Make that not at all romantic. See that red flag waving? So did we, but chose to ignore it.

We really didn’t like each other. He’s extraordinarily intelligent, but cold and inflexible, quick to anger, and lacking empathy. His life lacks passion; I pity that.

My dreamy, artsy, laissez-faire personality irritated the living hell out of him. I refused to take little things seriously, parented too liberally, and chose reading over house cleaning.

Opposites may attract, but without mutual respect and a core connection it’s unsustainable. Post-divorce we’re able to get along on a superficial level, civil and friendly. The kids will always connect us, but we’re so much happier apart.

Divorce has meant the freedom to make my own decisions – some wildly, epically irrational, most eccentric but basically safe. I look at him and think dear god, your life is so safe and boring. I take risks, unafraid of falling on my face. He’ll always take life far too seriously.

Fast-forward to 2019, and I’m living in my fifth home. Spending two years in my first rental, my crazy edventurous nature reared its head when I took off to live with – and potentially marry – a friend in Scotland. Back in the States a year, for the second time I sold off or stored all my stuff, moving back to the UK.

Sitting here in my third over-prized suburban Chicago apartment, I have loads of weird – though wildly magical – memories, and absolutely no regrets, but feel rootless. Restless since crawling out from under the constraints of marriage, all that flirting with life as an ex-pat cured my wanderlust.

I want to be anchored, settled in one place, and steady. I want to belong, in ways I haven’t for a long time. I own that I’m partially feral, but the part of me that’s domesticated is damned tired of being alone.

In one staggering way I’ll get to shortly, I didn’t see 2019 coming. Accustomed to serendipitous surprises, I’d have been disappointed otherwise. The process of nesting I anticipated, and I love my little place. Already over-crowded with stuff, it’s not Ikea perfect like my Pinterest board, but I accept it’s a work in progress.

Professionally, I’m in flux. My current day job is stable, but unsatisfying. A creative idea generator with a penchant for – brace yourselves – writing, there’s little call for my skill set in this environment. On the other hand, fast-paced, intricately complex work in finance has honed all new skill sets I never dreamed I’d have. After four years I’m crazy good at multi-tasking, agile and comfortable navigating two screens full of databases while listening to and empathizing with clients. As experience goes, it’s valuable.

If creativity remains an avocation, I’ll try to come to terms. But I’m not giving up.

Romantically, 2019’s taken my breath away. Back in the States less than two months, I decided what the hell, life’s had some stray slow moments. Let’s dip a toe in the water and stir things up. I’ve dated pretty extensively in four years, between two marriage close calls. I’ve both made some good friends and experienced staggering weirdness, and was ready to close up shop again one date before fate stepped in.

Maybe that’s just the way it happens. When you’re just about the close the door, life says hold my beer and dig this.

The One. Him. The synchronicity of two fated souls meeting.

I’m not overstating; I do nothing by halves.

I suspected it from our first date, knew it not long after. In a few days we’ll hit five months, but I’m not going into a lot of detail now. Plenty of time for that. No update of 2019 could go without mention of it, no other change in my life as profound.

All the rest of it – the reading, the writing, the vagaries of existence, etc., etc. – will come out in time. Dynamic and shifting in so many ways, in this I’m beginning to take root. I don’t believe in a god or divine plan, but when I threw it out there that I’m ready, life said okay, how about I surpass all expectations?

I can’t explain how it happened, but I don’t expect life to provide answers. It’s real and it’s thriving and I’m no fool.

I’m going to run with it.

It’s passed the middle of 2019. I’ve learned around the corner surprises lie, and this year has proved no exception. I have hopes for the future, very specific ones. Patience isn’t my strong suit, but I’m not without diversions to work on in the meantime.

It’s headed in the right direction. And I’ll take it.

May be a bit of a lag.


Goodbye, Edinburgh. And goodbye, UK.


I have a post in draft form about my visit to London to meet up with online bookgroup friends of nearly 15 years, however, I’ve had to up stakes and change plans entirely. I’m not long for the UK, friends.

The Landlaird’s broken this camel’s back via a grievous breach of privacy and wearisome jealousy, both professional and personal. The rest of the world has friends; sorry you’re incapable of sustaining relationships, but I have a lot of them. Try dropping the unprovoked hysteria and paranoia, and keep to your wee niche. And, fuck’s sake, find and use spell check.

Barely worth the energy of an eye roll.

I may or may not post properly before I leave for the States. I’ll try very hard to at least push the London post through, but it will be tough.

It’s also not escaped me that it’s the end of the year already, time to wrap up 2018 reading. Well, I’ll do my level best.

Meantime, happy advent. Hope your holiday season’s bright. Here’s to a 2018 packed with lessons and a 2019 with possibilities.

Daily Scotland: Excursions to Haddington, East Lothian and Dean Village, Edinburgh


Haddington, East Lothian


Life’s been challenging for Chris and me this past week. Outside forces have been exerting a lot of negative energy, leaving us two anxiety-ridden insomniacs walking around like yawning zombies. The onset of autumn hasn’t helped. Shortening days coupled with cold winds and driving rain don’t improve the mood.

But then it’s Scotland, not Fiji. Get. Real.

I’ve been struggling with the excruciating SCOTUS hearings and subsequent confirmation of the Dishonourable Brett Kavanaugh – revealing so much misogyny and perversion entrenched in our justice system it staggers. I’ve insisted “this is not my country” whenever there’s been a racist or misogynistic event. Two years on, I may have to rethink that.

The mid-term elections on 6 November will be pivotal. If the country comes out against the Trump administration, hope lives. If not, the fight continues. It will swing back. The problem is rectifying the damage done will take a very long time, healing the rift between left and right the biggest hurdle.

We are a nation divided, indignation fueled by fury.

We took full advantage when the weather cooperated with brilliant sunshine last Tuesday. Yes! Sunshine in Scotland! Chris suggested a side-trip to the village of Haddington, East Lothian. Just twenty minutes-ish outside Edinburgh, it’s a pretty little place to spend an afternoon – longer if you search out all the historical sites.

For Chris, who’s powered by music, it has a used record shop. For both of us, used books and other fun things from a myriad of charity shops then a quick bite at a quaint little café called Diggory’s. If you happen by make sure you mention my name. They’ll have no idea why, but my ears will burn and I’ll know you care.

Try the paninis!


Clock tower, Haddington


Jane Bailie Welsh Carlyle

I didn’t read about the history of Haddington until I got home that evening. Turns out it has a lot. Walking in the main shopping area, I saw a plaque commemorating native daughter Jane Welsh Carlyle, woman of letters and wife of writer Thomas Carlyle, but didn’t follow through tracking down her birthplace. We both had plans later in Edinburgh so didn’t have the whole day, but her house was right there on the high street.



I’ve not read Jane Carlyle’s famous  letters, but was force-marched through an excerpt of Thomas’s excrutiating famous Sartor Resartus as an English literature undergrad. Virginia Woolf was a big fan of hers, and I’m a big fan of Woolf. She admired Carlyle because the woman pulled no punches:

I do think there is much truth in the Young German idea that marriage is a shockingly immoral institution, as well as what we have long known it for – an extremely disagreeable one.

Jane Welsh Carlyle, not particularly fond of Thomas

Haddington’s also where John Knox – minister and leader of Scotland’s reformation – and misogynist extraordinaire – was from. A ruined castle and churches, medieval bridge and connection to Mary, Queen of Scots are a few other things we missed. But then it was a let’s get the hell out of here and forget our worries for a while outing.

Chris’s cappuccino – much prettier than my Diet Coke

It was off to Edinburgh after lunch, for me pretty Dean Village. It took some doing finding an access point, since a lot of it’s pedestrian only. Poor Chris found a good spot to dump me through a lot of trial and error. Walking there is a lot different than driving, and he’d never driven. He’s a good egg.

Until the 19th century a separate village within Edinburgh, for 800 years a mill town, it’s now a staggeringly expensive, trendy place to live. Easy to see why:


Dean Village on the Leith


Still a few roses in bloom.



Have I made you sick with jealous loathing yet? If not, here you go!:

Dean Village is filled with wanderers, locals and bloody tourists. Chris dropped me  around 4 or so when it was largely deserted, so I had a relaxing meander until it got too dark for decent photography. My one regret is I didn’t make it to the cemetery before it closed. I won’t talk about the why until I’ve been there. It has to do with artsy, literature-related stuff and this post isn’t about that.

Pretty much a perfect day, overall. Stress? What stress. For a few hours it was possible to forget all about it.


Daily Scotland: Accent(uate) the positive.


Where’s the damn escalator.


Assimilation into Scottish life and culture has been hampered by the obviousness of my American accent. It’s not obnoxiously regional (sorry, fellow countrymen), more News Anchor American.



I hope it’s my imagination all noise around me stops when I open my mouth, like a space alien has just spoken, causing jaws to drop in disbelief and eyes to search for the nearest exit. I have the Celtic red hair going on, and attempt to keep my style of dress out of Hawaiian shirt and white sneakers territory, so possibly it’s just unexpected. I’m not pushy, don’t feel a sense of entitlement, say “sorry” even when it’s inappropriately ingratiating. My natural personality inclines toward British.

It’s that damned, glaring accent. I’ll never shed it.

The reaction’s been pleasant, though a bit surprised, when I speak to strangers. Nothing rude or prejudicial, though God who could blame them, especially these days.


My irritating habit of deferral toward Chris was a big part of last year’s dismal relationship failure.  Planning what to do, where and what to eat, how to spend time, etc., the vast majority was left to him. I took his lead, trailing behind like a puppy.

You never get to know a wishy-washy person who doesn’t speak up. Relationships kind of thrive on things like sharing and expressing interest. He genuinely wanted to get to know me better, to learn my likes and dislikes, share interests.

Who knew?

This year, I’m making a point of modifying that. His busyness with classes and my new-found book group buddies alleviate some of it, broadening our horizons and giving me more confidence. I’ve graduated from puppy to female dog, letting myself have actual preferences. For tonight, I’ve scheduled us for a pub trivia contest at a pretty little place in Edinburgh. Both of us tapping away in the office last evening, I asked if he was interested. Trying not to appear too surprised lest he scare me off, his answer was happily casual. Yes, he said, inside thinking OH MY GOD, THANK YOU, SHE DOES HAVE A PERSONALITY.

What keeps us coming back to each other if we have had such difficulties. I hear you asking that. What we have in common are the big things, mostly sharing political and tolerance philosophy; foul mouths; a passion for literature and lifetime learning. I think he’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve known, and he thinks I am.

What keeps any relationship together?

No, really. I NEED TO KNOW.



Meanwhile, when I’m not watching weirdly fascinating British game shows (future post in the pipeline), I’m setting about the process of setting up a freelance editing business. It’s going to take forever. It wants to take forever, but I can’t let it.

M-O-N-E-Y, friends. It helps you buy stuff. I like stuff. Especially food, clothing and shelter. In that order.

I’ve been watching videos about how to set up websites, how to go rogue wild freelance. Driving myself crazy over-thinking. I need to set achievable goals, realize things will change and evolve, that my first website will be complete shit.

Life’s a learning process. You go forward, you screw up, blah blah blah, motivational quote so sweet it gives you cavities. Complicating it all, I’m an American living in the UK.

Have you heard my accent?



Still having trouble posting decent photos, sorry. Taking Chris up on his offer of borrowing his DSLR will improve things. Then I can upload higher-quality stuff: NOW WITH REAL PIXELS! As of now, all pics come from my camera. They have that distinct not great quality that’s pretty not ideal. I’m a better photographer than that.

I swear.




Och, aye.

From January through March or April-ish, Bluestalking exploded with activity like it hadn’t for ages. Then a Big Life Decision came knocking, consuming all my attention. The issue? Should I, or should I not, return to Scotland.

The answer, after weeks of torturous back and forth: Yes.

Pulling up stakes once again, selling or storing possessions not crucial to day-to-day existence, I’m again living with Scottish friend and fellow writer/blogger Chris. I can only describe last year’s attempt to build a relationship as a complete crash and burn. Not without good times, the volatility ultimately lead to a swear-laden shouting match, ending with me stomping out, slamming the door behind me. I flew home three months early. The friendship, I thought, was smashed to bits, beyond repair.

But angry passion is still passion. A few months’ fuming outrage releasing the fury, I didn’t believe the story was over.

It’s a somewhat wonky relationship built not on romance, but a friendship evolving over five years’ worth of on-again, off-again communication about reading, writing, and the banality of life. After the demise of my marriage I approached him first about the idea of my moving to Scotland, but the timing was off. Biding my time two more years, something clicked. He asked me to come live with him. Working out the details of moving abroad was exhausting, but I managed. Living in the same house was awkward, sometimes contentious. It morphed into something explosive and unhealthy.

Yet, I knew it wasn’t the last chapter. Somewhere deep inside I knew there was something there.

Five or six months later, tentative communication started. I don’t remember who approached whom first, but I kept writing and the Scot continued replying – terse and snarling, but he answered. He hadn’t forgiven me for walking out. A month-ish later I came out with it: should we try again? It was crazy. Insane.

It was inevitable.

Last year I was relatively flush; this time around the money’s tighter. Distant travel will have to give way to local trips, of which there are still a plethora. Living a short distance outside Edinburgh, you bet your arse I’ll explore the capital city extensively. Though staying in the Lowlands, the Highlands are accessible. Scotland is a small country.

Edinburgh’s been christened The City of Literature, birthplace of writers major and minor, home to a plethora of literary festivals, bookshops and book events. There’s a literary salon I plan to join. I’m considering options for other endeavors, including blogging about Scottish literature.

At home, life so far is smooth. Can I predict the outcome this time around? Not a chance. There’s sniping, but much more sedate. Sedate is good.

I don’t know where I’m headed, professionally speaking. I need to decide soon and get on with it. Reviewing won’t stop. It’s more a matter of specializing or staying more general. My life situation would translate well to articles, not to mention the knowledge and creativity accumulated throughout my life. I have options. I need to pick one or three and get cracking.

Once I do, I’ll post. Wish me luck.


Yup, still breathing.


April brought violets.


Thanks to all who’ve sent notes asking if I’m still alive. Sorry I wasn’t able to reply to all, but I’m popping in to reassure you I haven’t yet left this earthly plane. For some of you, hopefully that’s what you’d hoped to hear. For the rest of you, I know lots of Scottish swear words and insulting phrases. But I’ll let you slide this time.

Time really gets away from you. This year’s halfway over already, can you believe it? I’d been blogging religiously through most of it, then life reared its head. I had things to attend to, and everything plummeted into the roiling pit of despair.

I pretty much read nothing the entire month of April. I slowly returned to reading this month, but just couldn’t summon the energy to write about it. Welcome the tail end of May, when finally I rear my curly red head.

Once I’ve gathered the few books I’ve not shared about, I’ll do my best to form sentences summarizing thoughts. Then I’ll get myself back on track, as I’d done so well the early months of 2018.

Lots of personal things going on right now, like the continuing search for a librarian position. As I’m willing to go nearly anywhere in the U.S., it’s both easier and tougher. Try hunting for a job in a country of over 300 million people occupying gawd knows how many thousands of square miles.  Narrowing it down is tough, even eliminating areas I’d never want to live. Sift the remainder, and that’s still an awful bit pile.

Uprooting again will be an undertaking, once I do find that mythical job, though not nearly as tough as last year’s wee jaunt to Scotland. I never filled up my new home, anticipating the wanderlust itch was still great with me. I’m not sure the furniture I’m left with wouldn’t be best sold off, new things bought at my destination, considering the cost of moving. But that’s jumping ahead.

Meanwhile, time to get back to life’s plans – both big and small. I aim to post about books over the coming weekend. I may not blow you away with what I’ve read, but I sure as hell will with books I’ve bought and received for review. Still buying back some I sold before I moved away last year, and, as always, adding some everyone would agree are necessary.

Until then.


Daily: What forgiveness means

Two posts from me in one day. Ah, but they’re very different.


Edinburgh Castle


Some of you know about my Scotland 2017 story, the uber exciting chance to move there and live with a man I considered a close friend, to marry and work side by side. It didn’t come off as planned, and I’ve been thoroughly open and honest about why.

A lot of it was my own damn fault. For all sorts of reasons, I didn’t give it my all. It shocked me as much as it did a lot of people looking on, who never imagined the story wouldn’t turn out as wonderful as it sounded. Interest was drummed up, and I had a blog devoted to My Highland Fling. The support I received was phenomenal. But then, once I came back home, the bulk of that fell flat. People deserted, bored. I guess it was inevitable. I was only interesting so long as I provided a dream.

But, the thing is, I’ve abjectly apologized to Chris for my bad behavior. This is not to say I’m the sole reason the dream died, but I do bear a large burden of guilt, for which I have suffered. I wrote the Scot a very long email, distressingly long, no doubt, in which I owned up to all the flaws that proved to be stumbling blocks in our relationship. It could have turned out much differently. He said that, and he’s right. I acknowledged and let him know how absolutely devastated the whole experience left me, that I knew I’d hurt him.


Waking over England, descending into Heathrow.


To me, forgiveness comes easily. Not always, okay, but usually. When a friend’s done something dire, I may steam and fume, but ultimately I come back around to forgiveness. It’s my nature. I understand people screw up. We’re fallible by nature. And when I forgive, I throw bad feelings out the window, wiping the slate clean.

Because that’s what forgiveness is. You’re within your rights demanding an apology, even sometimes atonement, but once a person you care about has apologized with absolute honesty and sincerity, you let it go. To do otherwise makes you a small person, indeed.

I would like to remain friends with the Scot, despite bad or misguided behavior on both our parts. As the bad stuff fades, I smile remembering the good. What’s done is done, and I choose to throw out the bad and keep only what made and makes me happy about my time in the UK.



Chris said, when I was there, I was to write honestly about the relationship, that he wouldn’t be bothered by anything I shared. If such holds true now, I don’t know. I don’t think he’ll read this, that he’s as curious as I’d be if he were spilling his guts. I’m not sure if that’s a not giving a shit thing or a man thing. It’s said relationships are life for women, and part of life for men. Maybe.

The thing is, I can’t keep beating myself up about my part in the failure of our relationship. I’ve done all I can, and will not prostrate myself on the altar of guilt. The decision to forgive or not is his. I cannot control what he does.

I long for closure. In an ideal world, apologies would be accepted and the bad things dropped. You don’t keep beating someone over the head, you just don’t. That’s not how friendships work. You say you’re sorry, mean it from the heart, and that’s that.

I would give anything to have his friendship back. I’d give anything to move forward, start fresh, and see where life takes us. But I can’t do this anymore, can’t keep answering spiteful communications with good grace. Maybe some of us just can’t forgive and move on. Not everyone’s like me. It’s with a heavy heart I must admit this is true. But life is so, so short. You meet people like yourself, who share your interests and values, so infrequently. It would be beyond a shame if we could not mend fences.


Isle of Arran from the ferry


While there’s life, there’s hope. I’m done flagellating; now there’s only the wait.

I’ll keep thinking good thoughts. Meantime, I’m living my life. If Chris drifts back in, he drifts back in. If not, I’m so, so sorry and my life will be the poorer for it.

It’s all up to fate.

All good wishes sent my way are most appreciated. All positive energy, whether it proves fruitful or not. I can’t dismiss the value of positivity.

In any event, thank you for indulging me in all this. Thank you for listening.


Daily: Self care in the mail.


Literary Shadow Puppet


I was literally hundreds of words deep into a blog post on, of all things, patience when I lost it all: every, blessed word. I’d saved it, and was going to read it through one last time in preview mode – my last step before publishing – when it went *poof!*

How does that even happen? I SAVED THE DAMN THING!

Don’t even ask am I sure. I’ve been blogging since 2006. I am sure. Yes, I’ve tried going to the All Posts drafts. It’s gone, baby. This is why they say don’t fall in love with your own words, and, if you do, cut them out and start over again.

Thanks for the lesson, Karma.


Remember how I told you I’m such a cheapskate? I succumbed to a clothing subscription service . I hate shopping like Trump does ethnic minorities; I dress like the bag lady all the other bag ladies make fun of. Since I scrimp and save most other places, I thought maybe I could throw a little money into improving my wardrobe.

How it works is you give them your sizes and a few preferences, like colors and trends you like or don’t, and how formally or informally you dress (or intend to, in my case), and they pick out some pieces and ship them to you at the frequency you specify. I’m going with every two months, to try it out.

You keep what you like, if anything, ship back what you don’t, for no additional charge. One key thing is not forgetting to ship back what I don’t want. That’s how places like this “get you,” as they say. People are lazy or busy and forget, and the last thing you want is to get stuck with stuff you’re not going to wear. I can’t see how I can lose. If I don’t like the stuff, or it’s too expensive, I just stop the subscription – done. If I do like it, no more shopping stress.

I can’t mess up my wardrobe more than it is, that’s for dang sure.



Lately I’ve let myself slide a couple steps above homeless. You can get away with that “just rolled out of bed” look at twenty or even thirty, but once you pass 40 (and, ahem, beyond) it’s just sad. Not putting in effort is like owning high quality stuff you don’t use, saving it for a special occasion. What if that special occasion never comes?

In this case, I’m the high quality stuff.


It’s like I woke up and suddenly wanted to dress like a human. Can you believe other women take this kind of stuff for granted? They get manis and pedis, wear makeup and take showers.

Does this mean I’m one of them?


The most delightful loofa…


Singles Swag  started my whole subscription mania. It’s a monthly service for people who never indulge themselves. Aimed specifically at dried up old spinsters who sit home Saturday nights, I get all sorts of lotions and loofas, jewelry and hair stuff, even coloring books with pencils. It’s fun, all the items useful in their own way, and it’s been a blast.

I loved it so much, for my daughter’s birthday I bought her a knitting subscription. Once a month she gets yarn and knitting gadgets, patterns, and I honestly don’t know what, because I’m still waiting for her to send me a picture of it.



I think subscriptions are pretty brilliant. It’s fun getting things in the mail, especially if it’s chosen for you by someone with good taste. It’s a present you know is coming, but it’s still a surprise: a very cool business model. I’d sign up for one of those pre-planned, healthy food delivery services, but that’s an expense I can’t justify – not for just one person. Remember, I’ve set my grocery threshold at $ 30 – $ 40 a week – the latter only if I need something pricey like cleaning supplies or dog food.

What’s a little surprising is I don’t belong to any mail order book clubs. Through my life, I’ve belonged to several. I started with the Literary Guild when I was a teenager, back when new memberships got you five free books. Soon, I learned you can join for the free books, buy their minimum required number, then quit and start all over again.

My lack of shame goes back a long, long way.


From there I moved on to Book of the Month Club, which I’m surprised to say still exists. Then Quality Paperback Book Club, which has been absorbed by the Literary Guild. The now-defunct Waterstone’s Signed First Editions from the UK came later, then the Square Books Signed First Edition Club. The Oxford, Mississippi bookstore is a magnet for the finest writers in the U.S., especially southerners. It’s one reason Oxford’s still on my short-list of places I may move one day.

Does it surprise you I’d move to be in proximity to an awesome bookstore?


The iconic Square Books, Oxford, MS


In non-mail subscriptions, I joined a gym back in December (a cheap one!). What with my cracked rib immediately followed by a broken toe, I haven’t been able to make use of it once this year. The lengths I’ll go to avoid exercising, I swear.

Finally, my toe’s healed enough to allow me to wear shoes that aren’t big, clompy snow boots – another attractive look. I’m going back over the weekend, after I pick up a bigger pair of gym shoes. I don’t want to push it just yet.


Now you know what I do when I’m not reading: I join mail order clubs. It may sound indulgent; really, it’s about priorities. Mine have shifted from a warm house and expensive groceries to me-centered things.

Much more slowly, I’m trying to tuck away a little money for traveling. I will get back to the UK, mark my words. Now that you’ve seen what I’m capable of, something tells me you believe it.


So, the post on patience didn’t happen. Ah, well. Maybe next time I go off on a personal tangent you’ll find out what I had to say. The Fates had another topic in mind.

Patience can wait.


Okay, you have my full inattention.

I can hardly read. My focus just isn’t there.

True, I’ve been busy putting up with a series of minor health issues, but it isn’t just that. Most of it’s innocuous stuff; only one detail looms larger. It takes a lot of energy pretending that’s not so.

I’m not sleeping well. All day I’m yawning, chugging the coffee, pulling my own hair to keep myself awake. Yip, you read that right: Pulling my own hair.

The only way to break the cycle is to stay up, to force myself not to fall asleep before my head hits the pillow. That’s a lot tougher than it sounds. My sofa’s like a seductive siren. I hear it calling on the drive home…


Shut up, upholstered whore.

I unwind with the Olympics, rather than reading, because it takes no concentration watching pretty people twirling on ice. I’m on the last few pages of Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye. I barely remember what I’ve already read. I’ll push to finish the last ten or fifteen  pages, but I’m going to have to turn right back around and at least skim back through the book. I don’t remember who all the characters are anymore.

This evening was the Great Books discussion of Jack London’s Martin Eden, the book I abandoned last week. As so often happens, after the discussion I second-guessed my original negative opinion. Turns out I missed the point. Who knew?

Part of the blame lies in reading it on my phone’s Kindle app. It’s okay in a pinch, but I really hate reading on such a small screen. I hate reading on a screen, period, but the book’s not that readily available, and I was in a hurry.

Funny, but the uber-romantic first third of Martin Eden, the part that put me off, wasn’t a problem for the men in the group. I was the only female that showed tonight, the only member who didn’t like it, and the one complaining loudest about the sappy plot.

Do I regret not finishing Martin Eden? Kind of. But then, I’m working very hard on finishing nothing lately. Give me points for consistency.



The next read for that group is A Clockwork Orange. The Kubrick adaptation put me off reading the book; I didn’t make it past the rape scene. I picked it up at Barnes & Noble, read the first few pages, and the book seems a lot different than the film, thank the gods.


In matters not-books, I have to give my daughter credit for a brilliant idea regarding journaling. She knows I’m having all kinds of problems keeping a personal journal. So, she suggested this:


1 – Buy a Page-a-Day calendar
2 – Jot down a few notes every day
3 – If you want to write more, have time and energy, expand in a proper journal
4 – Otherwise, what you have is better than nothing


Reader, it works! Vast, open spaces are intimidating right now, but page-a-day calendars are manageable.

See, I am managing something. My next goal: finding my attention span.

I can do this.

Wait… Do what?

Screw it. I’m heading for the sofa.