Here’s a photo Ellen took of me a few days ago with our cat Snaps.  I’m down twenty-six pounds from my last photo and I wanted a record of that; I suspect that at least some of it will come back as I finish healing.  The big thing is that the antibiotic I’m taking makes me a little sick and it has messed up my sense of smell so that almost everything tastes wrong, different, or even sickening.  Note Father Hugh of Paddington who stayed with me at the nursing home.  The white fluffy thing on my knees is a prayer shawl given to me by my church, a great comfort.

My muse continues her return, I am working on the subplot in which Betsy’s first husband pays a visit.  He is a retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate Aaron Ryan (called Rooster), loud and rude and very amusing, and he makes Betsy’s current beau Connor uncomfortable.  How could Betsy have been taken in by someone like him?  (Because she was very young and naive and he was sweet and protective of her.)   He calls her Betsy-Boo, she calls him Ron-a-Roo.  This is going to be fun.

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Galloping Horses

Had a lovely holiday at the house of friends. We had a delicious dinner at noon, then went to a local golf course and messed around the putting green for nearly an hour. My healing has progressed to where I can stand and walk short distances without even a cane, longer distances on hard floors with a cane, but still use my walker for streets and sidewalks and carpeted surfaces. So I tottered around the green striking my three yellow golf balls and now and again hitting the little poles that they have instead of holes (which is good, as stooping to retrieve a ball from a hole probably would have left me unable to get back on my feet). Then back to the house to eat ice cream and watch a marathon of “How It’s Made,” and stitching.

I’m working on a belt in needlepoint. I bought it years ago in Savannah while on a book tour selling my first needlework mystery, Crewel World. (Just about every stitcher I know has a collection of projects, some started, all begging for attention. Now and again it’s a good thing to go into that stash and renew an acquaintance with it.) The belt features a row of galloping horses, all black. The horses are done, now I’m working on the background, which is layers of stripes. If you look closely, you’ll notice that each horse’s feet are in a different position – and that they describe the correct progression of a horse at the gallop. If I ever get it made into a belt I can spin around so it looks as if the horses are running around my waist. What’s more, I lost quite a bit of weight during my illness, so there won’t be a large gap between the strap and the buckle.


Have you ever seen a small bird attacking a bigger bird in the air? The bigger bird is probably a crow and the smaller bird is a bereaved parent exacting revenge for the loss of an infant from the nest. I really like crows but they are omnivores, and time the hatching of their young to the birth of rabbits, which is the main source of food for their hatchlings. But they steal other birds’ babies, too. And they will feast on road kill. I don’t mind that last, but it’s sad to watch a parent robin or thrush striking futilely at a crow in the air. You can almost hear the crow laughing.

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Tower of Flowers

I got the “tower of flowers” done this past weekend, but at a cost. I fell – twice. Hurt my tailbone the first time and scraped one hand and my left knee (it would be the good one) the second. So I’m using the walker more and my cane less until my confidence comes back and my balance improves. And yes, I’ve been walking with just a cane for short distances. Progress, progress!

On the other hand, the tower came out beautifully.  It consists of a metal stem about four feet long attacked to a three-edged flange you plant in a big pot.  Then you put pots up, tilting them side to side.  Here’s what it looks like. The lower flowers are vining geraniums, so they’ll drape over the pots and look wonderful, the upper two are petunias, and they’ll drape also. The greenery on the bottom is a perennial (but I’ll use it as an annual) flowering thyme that gets pink blossoms in a thick blanket all over it. I’ll take more pictures as summer progresses.  The round knobby things are glass bowls with stems I fill with water and stick in the dirt so there is a constant little trickle of water to the plants.  Garden catalogs carry them.


Today a friend is coming over to help me dig out my office. The paper is stacked a foot and more high all over the place and it’s finally gotten to where even I can’t stand it. I don’t know why I can’t do this on my own but when she is there to help we get it done quickly and efficiently.

And more slowly than I’d like, my muse is coming back to life. I’ve started on a new scene where Rafael consults with Betsy over his suspicions that the wedding planner is not playing fair. (If only he knew.)

Meanwhile the weather has turned nice and life is looking much better than when all this started.

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Lack of Focus

I’m home!  Came home this past Friday.  Comforting to sleep in my own bed, interesting to find my way around the apartment – I’m using a wheeled walker and while it’s a small version, it’s awkward in the bathroom – and I’m spending a fair amount of time in a recliner covered with a light blanket.  Because this isn’t over yet.  I’m on oral antibiotics and they make me sick and tired.

Another side effect is that I can’t stay focused.  I get an idea for the novel, start in, and in a few paragraphs the idea has faded and I shut the thing down.  It’s making me crazy, because it’s a good story, but I just can’t write it.  I’m hoping that this will improve – has anyone out there had this experience?  Does it get better?

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A Healing Bear

Whups, Tuesday again, and here I am, not much to say.  I am back at work on Tying the knot, which is good news.  But it’s like pulling stalled cars, not eager to get moving.

My surgeon is very pleased with the healing knee, though this morning it’s hot and swollen.  I think that’s because I spent a few hours in the car yesterday looking for a Krispy Kreme bakery.  I want to give two dozen doughnuts to the crew who work on my wing of the nursing home.  Always cheerful, helpful, friendly any hour of the day or night, they deserve a thank you of more than mere words.  But Krispy Kreme is a disappearing franchise here in the Cities and we drove for hours to locations our GPS said held a store.  Only it didn’t.  I finally went to a small local bakery and they’ll deliver an assortment of pastry here Thursday morning.  Not the same, not the same.  And shame on GPS and/or Krispy Kreme for not correcting their maps.

FrHughIf you noodle around on my web sites you’ll find a picture of a small stuffed bear in a monk’s robe.  He’s Father Hugh of Paddington, created over thirty years ago by me in my SCA persona as Abbess Margaret of Deer Abbey.  Nuns are not supposed to go out of their nunnery alone, and no one else I knew wanted to be a serious nun,  so I invented Father Hugh, Mass Priest of the abbey.  I bought him at the St. Thomas College (where I was employed) bookstore – he was dressed as Paddington Bear.  I gave him a tonsure (a fringe of hair around a bald spot) and made him a white embroidered alb and black wool monk’s robe. (Eventually he had all the proper vestments, and even a small suit of armor. Definitely Church Militant.)  And he was a huge hit, I’d go to an SCA event and he’d be snatched from my hands and not turn up again until evening.I wrote four chapbooks about life in the fifteenth century abby and four mystery short stories, he appearing in each, and he developed a kind, common, intelligent, religious, moral personality many found attractive.

Interestingly, one thing he did in “real life” was visit seriously ill people in hospitals.  He is of a size to give a substantial hug, so he doesn’t get lost in the blankets, but he’s not so big he crowds the patient.  And he’s here with me.  I woke up a few mornings ago to find myself holding him in a tight grip.  I feel as if he’s helping me heal.  I asked a deacon from my church if this was okay, to treat him as a religious blessing.  I mean, a stuffed toy!  He’s an assembly of fuzzy fabric, an invention, a figment of my imagination – right?  So why is he such a comfort to me?  Am I wrong to ascribe to him the ability to comfort me, to strengthen my healing?  She thinks that whatever help me is good.  So God bless Father Hugh.

BTW, he’s named for St. Hugh of Lincoln, one of my favorite saints – look him up.

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The Road to Recovery

Well, here we are, Tuesday morning and a blog entry waiting to be written. And not much to say.

I am getting better, I think now. Much less pain, anyway. I’m still shedding skin, a sign my kidneys are not all the way back on line, but I’m not being treated for renal failure anymore. I’m frequently cold, but that was not uncommon before all this. I’m sleeping well, and my dreams aren’t so weird. I went outside to sit in the warm sun yesterday, the first time I’ve done that since this started. Warm sun feels healing.

What’s more interesting is, I’ve started to take an interest in the people around me. When you’re really sick, all you want is relief. When you start to heal, you begin to take an interest in your fellow sufferers and our caretakers. And we’re a bunch of really interesting people. People with PTSD, people dying, people who swear loudly at one another, people who take a kindly interest in their neighbors. There’s a man-mountain with enough hair to give a grizzly a second winter coat, there’s a thin woman who must have a glass of chopped ice in one hand all the time. There’s a man who, he confesses sadly, could have been a really good novelist if only he could spell and understand basic English grammar. The staff, by and large underpaid and foreign, are amazingly kind and patient. One in particular, a tall, very thin African named Ishmael, brings me little treats every afternoon. I don’t know if it’s part of his training and required of him, but he does it with such a sweet smile, I can’t help but look forward to his appearance in my room. The physical therapy staff are pushy and insistent and that’s to the good – otherwise, I’d lie curled up in bed sleeping the day away. The knee is slowly, slowly stretching out and the rule is, push until it’s uncomfortable, not until it hurts. My favorite is named Vicki and she calls me “Sunshine” in a very sarcastic tone. So stretch, stretch . . . stretch. I’m starting to stitch again, and have opened the file in which lurks the opening scenes of Tying the Knot. Maybe someday, this will be behind me.

Meanwhile, here comes the “golden ball,” a base-ball-size plastic container of a powerful antibiotic on a thin cord to be fed into the “picc” that lives in a vein in my right upper arm. Sometimes it makes me sick, so I’ll go lie down for awhile to see how it fares today. Later I’m going out to buy flowers to plant on the balcony of my apartment in anticipation of my going home later this month. Which I hope to do.

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Well, it’s been a long while since I wrote something for my blog, mea culpa entirely. Things have been spiraling out of control for awhile but I’m now trying to take the reins back into my hands. Hard to believe this has been going on since the end of March!! And I’m still bedridden, still sick, still suffering complications.

I thought things were straightening out last week when I kept an appointment with my infectious disease doctor who totally blindsided me by putting me back into the hospital because I was in renal failure. Funny, I didn’t feel sick. But I sure was, spent a very interesting hallucinatory night dreaming of fountains. I was released two days later, advised to drink lots and lots of fluids. So I brought a twelve-pack of bottled water with me back to the nursing home, along with a twelve-pack of Atkins chocolate shakes (eat protein!) and I’ve been drinking and drinking until I get the all-clear on my kidneys.

One mistake was thinking I was getting better more quickly than I really was and found myself on the floor of the bathroom late Friday night unable to rise – “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” is a joke until it’s you on the cold tile floor, having neglected to follow instructions to press the red call button and wait for help. They give you a sedative and bring in a complex rattling canvas contraption that they can push and lift and press and tilt under you, and you find you have more arms and legs on you than you thought – it’s like you’ve grown a knee out your nose and where did that elbow come from? – until suddenly you are lifted gently into the air like a circus act. Amusing and embarrassing. But I promise now to wait now for assistance.

I have finished the notated ms of Knit Your Own Murder, and it should go in the mail today. Look for it in August.

Meanwhile, I’ll be at the Hopkins Public Library tomorrow, April 26, to give a talk on being a sick mystery author. Ellen thinks I should cancel, but I’m going to try to make it. I’ll be groggy but with a good enough hat I should be able to carry it off.

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