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Down Darby Lane

Counting Catalogs to Christmas

I'm reporting on a week of happenings that officially launch our holiday season. To start, after being completely safe and responsible about our behavior throughout the pandemic, my husband developed a mild cough that got him tested positive for COVID. This diagnosis turns normal life on its heel – including requiring me to cancel participation at a very big arts and crafts show in Marin – a high-dollar zip code where lots of people can afford to purchase expensive works of art – like my bronze sculptures.

So now we're isolating for at least five days, wearing masks in the house, going nowhere, and depending on our dogs for warm-blooded company. I have no symptoms, and my husband has a mild case, so we are fortunate. I made the best of my first morning of quarantine. Mr. Murphy (my dog) and I walked our usual two miles in the quiet early morning. It was the first snow of the season, and the boughs of pine trees bowed to the ground like dancers reaching for their toes. Despite my week's misfortune, I could not help but join Mr. Murphy in being completely happy – me for the natural beauty and Murph for the treats he knows are in my pocket.

Later, as I was working in my office, I watched the postal carrier load our mailbox with a bundle of unwanted catalogs, and my peaceful, quarantined mood changed.

Catalog season has become a quest for me – finding out how to stop the barrage of paper and staples that become my responsibility to dispose of properly. This year, I'm sad to report that many of the merchants targeting me (though I do not buy their clothing, toys, tee shirts with clever quips, door mats, or holiday baskets with enough sugar to fuel a marathon) are now sending duplicates (one for each eye?). My research has produced a grab bag of information about unsolicited catalogs. Not only are they overwhelming and unwanted - they are also a threat to life on Earth. Read on.

According to Mother Nature's watchdogs, catalog printing and disposal has very significant environmental impacts. Healthy forests are key to mitigating climate change – among other benefits, they absorb greenhouse gases. It's estimated that paper production for catalogs removes about 46.3 million trees a year. (This, to go from my mailbox directly to the recycle bin?). According to research from Elastic Suite (a company promoting online commerce as an alternative to direct mail) the energy used to process this waste would keep 67.1 million refrigerators running for a year. So Yup, all that unwanted direct mail goes beyond annoying to unacceptable.

What can we do as consumer targets? First, it's important to know that virtually every company that sends you a catalog also has a website. Online commerce may have its own drawbacks – but destroying our water and air is not among them. So I've Googled myself silly and found some consumer-friendly resources that promise to help cancel unwanted catalogs. Some other sites have hidden charges or misleading info about their purpose.

I also stumbled across another website warning that "gone is not forgotten" when it comes to unsolicited catalogs. There are opportunistic aggregators in the online world – companies that harvest consumer information (name, home address, and such) and assemble it in handy packages that they then sell back to companies. So, some mailing lists are never dead – only napping until they're purchased and back in service.

Let me reminisce: I remember when I was a child, the delivery of a catalog was cause for excitement. It was

the bulky, seasonal Sears and Roebuck Catalog where families shopped for necessities – school clothes, tools, gifts, appliances, home goods. It wasn't glamorous – it was a practical tool. It brought the wider world of commerce into our small-town homes. The company even sold "kit homes" - lumber and instructions shipped by rail to your site. The Sears Catalog was an anticipated family ritual and part of American life for more than 100 years, not an uninvited storm of mass commerce. The last Sears catalog was published in 1993 and true to its mission to serve, "… as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today's desires, habits, customs, and mode of living."

Today, that ethos is absent. The goal is to maximize profit at any cost – including the cost of your time and the capacity of your mailbox.

So, to conclude my rant on a day that began immersed in natural beauty and segued to annual holiday catalog outrage, here are some links to Free your Mailbox:

The Spruce: Offers several credible resources.

Catalog Choice – A Nonprofit with an easy-to-use interface. – On the Federal Trade Commission's website. You have to register, but there are no charges or pitches.

NOLO – Legal resources site that gives excellent detailed information about our options.

I offer these vetted sites knowing that getting off lists is often more difficult than it ought to be - while getting on them - well, do we even have a choice?


As I write to you this week, I'm still hiding out in my mountain home - warm and hoping that COVID doesn't catch me - I make a pitiful and hopeless sick person, hate laying around, and value every moment of life I've got ahead of me. I hope you, too, are well and anticipating a beautiful, healthy, and happy holiday season!

Here's an opportunity to snuggle up and still travel to an exotic location - this week's Indie Author promotion - Free and fantastic eBooks! Get yours HERE!


Friends and Readers,

A note about most of us, for better and worse, in the Arts. I think we long to share our thoughts and creations - and without you, we are lonely. Imagine, you wrote a beautiful piece of music and no one but you (and perhaps your cat) ever got to hear it. Or painted a picture that no one else but you ever saw, or wrote a story that no one but you read. Sharing is everything for people in the arts and your support is fundamental to the continued creativity of all artists. So, Thank you! 

Hey! Check out this awesome article by popular columnist Ed Goldman - it's about moi! Also subscribe to his clever, witty and smart blog!  

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My Mountain Mystery

My book has gotten fab reviews on Amazon! I am so excited readers like the characters, the setting, the plot - minus lots of graphic violence. 

If you are fond of 'cozy' mysteries please read The Song of Jackass Creek. Check out Reviews HERE.

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Short Story Collection 

Twisted is - twisted! And Gypsy's Wedding - well, you just have to be there!  Click on the books to see more ... 

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Sample Amazon Reviews

This is an excellent writer!

Darby Patterson is truly a talented writer. She describes this little town sweetly without boring the reader with unimportant detail, and her descriptions are vivid. She also develops her characters fully through conversation and action so the reader becomes acquainted with the main players and can form pictures of them early in the book. Her characters' thoughts, interactions, and past activities combine to portray the culture of Redbud throughout the story, and the story itself is creative and holds surprises along the way. I too hope Ms Patterson continues to share her talents with us!

Sondra Jensen

Awaiting the next installment

An invitation to linger in this vanishing part of California which has so much history is writ on every page of this book. I've visited places like Redbud with a creek burbling in the background as gentle breezes sough through the pines and cedars. I've found them quaint and rich with fascinating local lore and history. Jesse, as publisher of the local weekly is very nicely sketched, the authors background as a journalist comes through clean and clear in developing him. This small California mining and logging town scrabbling to hang on, I liked very much as a setting. I wouldn't mind sitting down with Jesse and having a beer and help him solve his next mystery. The test of a good book is whether you'd be willing to read it again, later. This book passes that test and I can't wait for the next installment.

Jack Howard


Please let this be the first of a series!

Wonderful book; adult without being ‘R’ rated, complex story and well developed characters. The people of ‘Redbud’ ring true and, as a native Californian, the lumber, real estate and politics are spot on. I hope this is the beginning of a series because the author has created characters you want to know better.

D. Holmes

My other passion
Sculpting for bronze - See more HERE
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