I never mean for so much time to pass between posts. But each one comes after a number of false attempts. I click on “new post” and look at the big white void where I’m supposed to form coherent thoughts and…..I log out and do something else. Like catch up on Words with Friends.

Lately, my computer’s been hijacked by Red who is working on her magnum opus entitled Mr. Linden’s Library. She’s really quite talented. Not just for her age (almost ten) but for any age. I’ve read worse from college students. You probably have to. I’m thinking perhaps all her tv watching is paying off. That and her love of comic books – Archie, mainly. Her dialogue, while slightly cliché-ridden (which I’ll give her a pass on because, hey, she’s nine), is snappy; her characters vivid; and her descriptions quite lovely.

Here’s the first chapter. I have left her various errors as-is but have formatted the dialogue to make it easier to read.

One morning, a teenage girl named Betty wanted to get a book on chemistry to help her study for school. So, she got dressed, brushed her hair, brushed her teeth, and went down stairs for breakfast. Her older brother, Steve, came into the kitchen.

‘’Hey, sis, you wanna go shoot some hoops later?’’ Asked Steve, while getting a bowl from the cabinet.

‘’Sorry, but, I’m going to the library this afternoon to get a book on chemistry to help me study for the big test on Monday.’’ Betty said. ‘’Maybe some other time, Steve.’’

‘’Wait, which library?’’ Asked Steve, as he was getting a cup and filling it up with water.

‘’Mr. Linden’s Library, why?’’ Said Betty.

SPA-TOOIE! Steve spit out all the water in mouth, all over the floor.

’’Steve, is something bothering you?’’ Asked Betty, jumping out of her seat. ‘’I’ll get some paper towels to clean up this mess!’’

‘’Betty, you can’t go to that library!’’ Said Steve.

‘’Why not?’’ Asked Betty, while getting three paper towels from the paper towel roll.

‘’That Mr. Linden guy is really creepy!’’ Said Steve, with now wide eyes. ‘’I heard he turned a four year old into stone, just ‘cause he accidently broke one of his pencils!’’

‘’Ooooh, I’m so scared!’’ Betty said, while cleaning up the floor mess.

‘’Betty, I’m not kidding, that guy is bonkers!’’ Steve said, filling his bowl up with cereal.

‘’Sure, sure.’’ Said Betty, while throwing the paper towels away. ‘’I know your just trying to scare me, but, its really not going to work!’’

‘’Betty, you have to believe me, that guy is insane!’’ Said Steve, while tugging on Betty’s arm.

‘’Steve, I’m going to that library!’’ Said Betty, while getting her library card. Betty slammed the door.

‘’I warned her.’’ Said Steve. Betty got in her car and drove away. When she got to the library, she observed what the place looked like. There were faded red letters above the entry doors that said: Mr. Linden’s Library. There were creepy dead trees and crows on them. There were old vines with dead flowers growing on it, along the outside of the building. But Betty wasn’t scared at all. She pushed the entry doors open, they creaked and slammed shut behind her.

She walked in the halls. She looked at the creepy writings on the walls. One said: TURN AROUND AND RUN BACK HOME! Another one said: HE WARNED YOU! She looked and she saw a picture of a girl laying in a bed, with a book in her hand, with plants growing out of the book, and her book was dripping blood on the floor!

Betty paid no attention. She opened the door to where Mr. Linden was. Once again, the door creaked , and creepily shut behind her. She walked up to his desk, and asked ‘’Excuse me, but, do you have a book on chemistry?’’ Asked Betty.

‘’Well, hello, Betty!’’ Said Mr. Linden. ‘’I’ve been expecting you!’’

Gripping, no? She’s written 10 single-spaced pages so far (spoiler: Betty’s thrown in jail for unpaid speeding tickets) and has even more written in her notebooks. She’s slowly transcribing the story from paper to the computer which has meant that any free time I might allow myself to write has been given up to a greater talent. Plus, I can’t seem to get past the blank whiteness of the screen. The story I want to write is still percolating.

In the world beyond writing, I’m simply struggling to keep my bank account propped up. I’ve been forced by circumstances to order a lawn mower with my credit card, something I hate doing but the old mower I pulled out of the shed is dead and even if someone attempts to fix it again, there’s no guarantee it’ll work more than once. The one I’ll pick up tomorrow has an electric motor with a rechargeable battery and has gotten nothing but good reviews so fingers crossed I can have a yard (and there’s a LOT of yard here on the house side of the pasture fences) we can walk across without fear of ticks and snakes hiding in wait.

So, money issue aside, there are some good things on the horizon. Of the things I can talk about, the most important is that I should close on my mortgage refi in less than two weeks. My house appraised for more than expected, the lender is trusting me to make the payments all on my own, and by the end of this month, I’ll be a home owner. Just me. By myself. This is both good and a bit scary.

Another good thing: despite the frosts of the past couple mornings, it is spring. It might not seem like it elsewhere but here in my little Virginia oasis, it’s spring, dammit, and don’t tell me otherwise. I’ve planted seeds that are just beginning to sprout. I’ve extended the garden fencing out four feet to accommodate a row of tomato bags. The transplanted blueberry bushes are blooming and looked quite happy yesterday. I’ll go outside in a bit and make sure that’s still the case. I neglected to cover anything since the plant world is used to sinking or swimming and it’d be different if the lettuce was nearly ready to pick or I’d foolishly planted my summer vegetables. I think the seedlings will be okay.

I think the seedlings of my new life will too. I keep getting hit by frost but it’s gone by mid-day. I will have to be very careful going forward. I’ve paid most of the big things – the summer camps and Dusty’s stained glass class. All the school field trips are paid for and the fund raising sales are over. My car hasn’t had a fourth four-figure repair so, fingers crossed, I can winnow that debt down over the next couple months.

Oh, and there’s a yoga class I’m going to sign up for. Monday nights for two months. Squared it away with ex who will come out and have the kids to himself while I force my body to remember all those poses it used to do with more ease. I’ve been doing exercises for my injured feet and the next logical step is to make the rest of my body less stiff. It’s been way too long. It seems a fitting way to leave winter – this dreadful, long, anxiety-ridden winter – behind.


Pieced Together

Coming back here feels like those classes in college I skipped for weeks and then slunk back to just before exam time. I know I’m going to get a C at the very best, even if my grades are As, because I missed too many classes. You’ll forgive me, won’t you? I’ll take my C and be happy for it.

We’re going to the beach in June. I plan to bring a puzzle with us that I started putting together last summer at the beach. It’s a picture of cupcakes, all iced and decorated, stacked in tiers and rows in the maddening way that 1,000 piece puzzles are. Lots of the same colors repeated in different areas making a piece’s place difficult to discern. Last year, Dusty helped me with it at first and then she grew bored and frustrated and I worked on it alone. And then Red joined in but she was only interested in putting together certain cupcakes and so many of them had the same red icing that she too grew frustrated and wandered off to watch Sponge Bob or Angry Beavers.

I worked on it alone until it was time to pack up and go home. I hadn’t finished the puzzle. I carefully broke up the chunks I had done and placed them in the box, with every intention of taking them out and finishing it when I got home.

Didn’t happen.

The last few months have been difficult and I’ve felt like a once-mostly-intact puzzle that has been taken apart, piece by piece since October. When my wallet was stolen a month before he left and I had to recreate all the new financial accounts I’d just created….that was the beginning of the end. Not the leaving. Not the shifts in responsibilities. Those things were just more pieces taken away from the whole until by March I was left with a giant jumble of random jigsawed shapes that had once been something. A thing lovely and delicious – a bakery of a life, or a facsimile of one. A bakery in a magazine for wealthy people. A tantalizing display of cakes I’d never eat much less smell. Whatever it was other people had, I’d never get it. I didn’t have it and I began to realize I never really had it in the first place. Even when, long ago, I thought I had. I hadn’t. It was false.

Recently, in an attempt to put the pieces back together, I had to learn to say NO. I had taken on too much, said YES too many times, got in over my head. I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t sleeping well, I was depressed and anxious and worried. Despair was the top layer of the sadness cake. In the middle, rather than a creamy filling, was a dark unhappy place. Tar filling. Something bad and smelly. The continual horrific winter did not help matters. School kept being cancelled or delayed, appointments were rescheduled. More than once. Events were postponed and some just vaporized…there was a collective giving up throughout the land.

But! Spring finally arrived last week and after shrugging off the coat of impossible commitment, the puzzle is being brought out of the box (metaphorically speaking; in reality it’s still up on the games shelf waiting to be packed up in June) and reassembled. I am making progress on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the mortgage refi and the equity line loan. I will soon be the sole proud owner of a LOT of debt. But it feels good. I’m moving forward with less baggage and possibly more actual cupcakes.

It didn’t happen easily and what’s a bit hurtful is discovering who my friends are and who they aren’t. Saying “I can’t” has resulted in a lot of silence. Were you only my friend (is there a level between acquaintance and friend?) because I did all these things? Because I agreed to do all this stuff alone without assistance? Was that all it was? Okay then. I get it. That’s fine. No worries. The past six months have been, in tarot card language, a breaking down of old systems. I had to tear it all down before I could build it back up. Firmer foundation. Earthquake proof. Extra fire insurance.

But I will tell you that I have no intention of undoing all the work I did on that cupcake puzzle. That baby’s coming to the beach as-is. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a little help on it from my friends. My real friends.