Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fat Birds

What is so appealing about fat birds? And how can we translate that to me?

Outside my window right now is a fat chickadee. He is so darn cute, I want to grab him and love him right up. He’s everything I could want in a playmate. He’s cuddly. He’s elusive. And he’s well dressed, sporting his jaunty black cap.

I’ve been watching him. He and I have much in common. Seems he was much thinner just a month ago. As was I. Perhaps he, too, used the recent holiday as an excuse to throw a cheese and carb festival at his house. Perhaps, he, too, used the “company’s coming” defense in whipping up a batch of Ina Garten’s Peanut Swirl Brownies. [You know the ones—with a whole pound of butter and over two pounds of chocolate. And peanut butter. Unlawful.] Perhaps he, too, grew up in a nest full of siblings and always thinks there are twenty-five people coming over. When there are only six. I mean, why else would he I bake those too-rich-for-human-consumption brownies, PLUS chocolate chip cookies, thumbprint cookies, banana bread, and Danish wedding cookies?

He’s fattening up to survive winter. Maybe I am, too. The way it’s been snowing here, I could again be blocked from Trader Joe’s for whole days at a time.

If the game is survival of the fattest, me and the bird will win.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Holiday Letter, Sans News. Read on for Hope.

Dear Friends,

Hello and Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukah, and Happy Festivus to you all! My heart felt wishes go out to each of you across the miles and across the wireless wonder of digital communication that keeps us all in touch.

In the coming new year, I wish you all the joys that come with having loved ones around you; I wish for you close companions and a circle of friends to keep you happy and laughing. I wish you solace in times of pain, and I promise my support when your spirit needs uplifting. I wish you the peace and calm in your heart that comes with giving back and loving others. I wish you fun in your life, whether it comes from a thrilling run down a mountain, a wild ride down a river, or a meandering walk down the street. I wish you quiet and peaceful times, too, when reflecting on life’s goodness is all you need to be truly happy. And I wish for you something that’s been hard to feel for some time: hope.

I hope for an end to this war and the avoidance of new ones; for a solid, intelligent plan to lead us out of a difficult economy; for civil rights restored and extended to all–not just some; and for no more torture under the guise of protection. The restoring power of hope makes it possible to feel good about our country and our future again. It is real. And it is mighty. I hope that it touches you and lifts you up.

I look forward—with hope—to another interesting, fun, active, and surprising year. And I wonder—what will 2009 bring? Visits to dear friends? Visits from family? An unexpected discovery? New friends? New babies? Reunions with old friends and family, all of whom I appreciate more with each passing year?

I’ll see. On New Year’s Eve, I’ll raise a toast to each of you, wherever you are, and my heart will send you all the love, joy, peace and hope that your heart can hold.

Love, Claire

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Seasonal Poem

little tree
by e. e. cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,

only don’t be afraid
look the spangles that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window
for everyone to see and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dusting the Cobwebs off My Blog

Do NOT adjust your screen. There is nothing wrong with your eyesight, either. This is a genuine actual blog post by Yours Truly. So where have I been, you ask? I’ve been Lucky. And Happy. And Healthy. And Honestly, life has been real good.

I’ve been right here, thinking that my little ‘ol life just isn’t that interesting right now. There has been Nothing To Write About. Election's over. No angst about that anymore. And since I don’t go to work “out there” any longer (although I have been very busy working right here from home thanks), and I don’t interact with dozens of people every day, I just don’t see much worth talking about. The view out my office window is of our curvy, hilly, nicely covered-in-snow street. It’s pretty. And quiet. And that’s it.

I don’t drive around town much these days, so I don’t see Bouncing Girls Fresh Off the Bus that I just have to write about. Even my family is disgustingly drama-free. D. is wonderful as mostly-always; mom and dad and my siblings are great. We’re all getting older and I worry about my 83- and 81-year-old parents, but they are quite the happy little octegenarian couple and for the most part, very healthy indeed.

See? I told you—my life is not interesting right now. And that’s just fine.

But the thing is, this blog was intended to be a place I can be creative on a regular basis—by writing, which means more to me than anything. Now I write for a living—a limited, sparse living so far, but hey, it’s a start. I write every day. And perhaps that little itch is being adequately scratched.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps I’ve just been lazy. Could it be? Uh, yeah, it so could. Maybe I need to stretch myself. Force myself to be creative. Find things to write about.

Well, let's get going, then.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

Last week, I received my newsletter from our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I scanned it for whatever tidbits of information I thought would still pertain to me—the fallen member who hasn’t attended a service in almost three years. (Being a fallen Catholic has its own issues, but a fallen UU?? Perish the thought.) As usual, I noticed the title of Sunday’s sermon: “Where Do We Go From Here?” Gee, I thought, I’d like to know that.

D. did too, so we walked down the street a mile or so and entered the building for the first time since the end of 2005. It looked much the same. Our nametags where just where we’d left them. There were lots of new faces, and enough familiar ones to make it feel homey. We struggled through an unfamiliar song or two, but remembered the words to our covenant. We settled in for the readings, which were poignant, and the sermon, which was amazing as always.

The congregation clapped and cheered loudly as our ultra-cool minister started by sharing his delight in the idea of a President Obama. His talk centered around the joy and challenges that have bubbled up in many (ok, all) of us in the congregation.

“Hold onto that joy,” he said, “even when reality and cynics try to take it from you. Hold onto it for a while.” He went on to describe a feeling that I share with him completely. A stone-like creature that has been sitting in my gut (or was it in my heart?) for, oh, about eight years now. A stone whose presence was such a familiar feeling that I forgot to notice it after awhile. Until it made me angry. Or made me sad. It sometimes made me tired. But mostly the stone made me feel hopeless—and my hopelessness grew.

It didn’t go away when I moved across the country in an attempt to escape it. It didn’t go away when I tried to surround myself with more people like me and fewer people like those in the administration. It didn’t go away when I positioned myself fifty miles from the Canadian border—just in case it got so bad that I had to leave.

The little stone in my heart didn’t go away, and I felt hopeless enough to stop trying. I stayed away from the Unitarian Fellowship. I stopped decorating my house for holidays. And we didn’t celebrate Christmas last year—not really. We were happy to have friends and family in our home, and we cooked and talked and ate and drank and laughed. But there was no usual holiday frenzy of excitement. There was no shopping for the perfect gift. There were no handmade, imperfect gifts, either.

But now I have joy. I have hope. I’m happy and proud again. I feel like being around people like me again—people who can now really, truly believe that our future will be better than our past. And I’m holding tight to all of it—the pride, the joy, the happy. With all of this, I know I can work toward the change I want to see.

I couldn’t do it without hope. But I can do it without that stone of hopelessness that was weighing me down. That stone that suddenly wasn’t there anymore as of 11:00 (Eastern time, because we were in Virginia) on November 4, 2008.

Want a free Obama sticker like the one at the top of this post? It's designed by Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the iconic HOPE poster. And MoveOn's giving them away totally free--even the shipping's free.
I just got mine. Click this link to get your free Obama sticker:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Three Weeks Away

We have returned from our colossal, east coast trip-of-a-lifetime. It will take me awhile to process the changes I saw—in my parents, my siblings, our little godson, and my former city. I never thought this before, but I now know there are times when you should not go home again. This trip was a doozy.

Here's what I heard:

“It’s people like YOU who are the reason Obama won’t win.” (Because I’m one of those elistists, you know.)

“We have to talk to the stone-cold racists or he’ll never win Virginia.”

“Some people at church think he’s the anti-Christ. They hope he is, because he’ll bring on the End of Days.”

“How can anybody vote for that guy???” (Referring to McCain, with all manner of hand waving to accompany.)

But it wasn’t all politics. I also heard:

“I’m proud of you.”

“I love you.”

“You’re my best friend.”

I managed to stay with my in-laws and survive it. There was absolutely no mention of the election with the hateful email-sender. I ignored him as much as I could, and realized what a sad man he is.

We saw gobs of friends and family. We even attended an Obama rally, with 20,000 people of all races and ages. What a thrill! I screamed when I saw him like he was a rock star. But he was so much more; I didn’t scream when he was finished—I was too full of emotion and hope to do anything but smile.

We ate too much and exercised too little. We drove 2500 miles up and down the east coast, and paid as little as $1.95 per gallon for gas. We slept in six different houses and three motel rooms. We saw the autumn leaves change color in a wave from upstate New York to North Carolina; and we buried our toes in warm beach sand. We celebrated a new future for our country with some of our oldest and dearest friends, whom we miss so much.

And we are very, very happy to be home.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This morning, my husband received one of those “FW: FW: FW: FW:” emails, full of untruths. You know these emails: they are sent along whether or not the sender has actually read it through, much less verified the content. This one stated that perhaps we should be suspicious of all Muslims in our country because they cannot be “good” Muslims and “good” Americans simultaneously (although that particular big word was not used). The “reasoning” was that their religion requires allegiance to Allah, not God; to the Quran, not the Bible; to Mecca, not America. It stated that Muslims do not accept the US Constitution and that when we declare “one nation under God,” we’re referring to the Christian God, which is loving and kind, not Allah, because he is never referred to as the “heavenly father.”

I knew where the email was going next: Barack Hussein Obama. Of course. The email called on us to WAKE UP! Because Barack Obama—a Muslim—wants to be our President. It said that Barack Obama was sworn into his current office on the Quran, not the Bible—and that he has stated he will be sworn in as President on the Quran. And that he refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Or to put his hand on his heart when the national anthem is played.

I so want to reply to this email like this:

Barack Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim, you ignorant asshole.

But I can’t, because the sender was a member of D’s family. And we have to visit them in a few short weeks. We’ll be there on Election Day. Talk about bad timing.

Reader, how does one reconcile one’s belief in equality, truth, and religious freedom with the need to respect one’s in-laws?

I am at a loss.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Got Nuthin'

During this time of horrendous (and ridiculously costly) war, of genocide, disease and starvation, of economic failures each more serious than the last, with a side order of hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, and a political circus show to top it all off, I can offer no words.

Happy, lighthearted posts seem insignificant (not yours, lovely readers, just the ones at the dead end that is my brain).

I've had it up to here with political commentary (D. has become an absolute addict!) and I can't take another sarcastic, vicious, ludicrous, or even thoughtful opinion. Therefore, I will give none.

And, despite two recent back-to-back surgeries for my precious D. (nothing too serious or life-threatening), I have not one complaint or concern to share.

I think I'm just numb.

And you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Interrupt Your Fun to Bring You This Environmental Message (Please Don't Yawn)

If you’re like me, you have eschewed bottle water of late and are doing your green Girl Scout best to refill your own bottles. I used to think that as long as my plastic bottles were being recycled, there was no harm in it. Now I know better. Our to-be-recycled bottles end up on slow boats to China, where who knows what happens. Maybe they’re actually recycled, but in the end, we’re still making our waste someone else’s problem.

Besides, lots and lots and LOTS of bottles still end up in landfills:

The above photo is by Chris Jordan, a Seattle photographer. It "Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes." Perhaps you’ve seen his other pieces, each focusing on visually arresting images of ubiquitous items we often waste, like paper cups, cell phones, and paper bags, that show at a glance how quickly our junk adds up. In this collection of his work, called Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait, mundane objects are presented in ways that set my jaw to dropping—and my mind to thinking.

I think of Mr. Jordan’s work each time I walk down the water aisle at my beloved Trader Joe's. (Only 89 cents for 1-liter Spring Water, such a deal!) I had been buying them occasionally and then refilling them for weeks, but each one eventually ended up in the recycle bin. So I stopped myself and returned to refilling my Nalgene-esque water bottles. Now I hear they leach harmful chemicals into our bodies, so we’re not supposed to be using them, either. Aluminum is the latest craze for refillables, but I’m not about to fork over $18 bucks for a water bottle when I have so many already, purchased when Nalgenes were okay and I had more money a job.

So there I am, cheerfully humming and dutifully refilling my green, red, and blue cancer-delivery systems bottles with nice, filtered water from my Brita pitcher when I receive an email alert that pretty much ruins my morning. Said that my plastic Brita filter was not recyclable. Guess I knew that. In our house, D. is the one who always changes the filters (he’s a prince), so I was not really conscious about (ok, ignoring) where they went. But of course it’s not the recycle bin. In the garbage they go, where they’re gathered up and dumped in the landfill. And what about all that chlorine and lead and whatever else they’re filtering out? Leaches into the ground. Perfect.

In the UK, Brita has a take-them-back recycling program for their filters. Not so here in the US of A. So if you use Brita filters—and you’d like to recycle instead of tossing them, consider signing this online petition and see if Clorox (yes, CLOROX) will do the right thing—and help us do the same.

That’s all. Carry on.

Brita filter photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eight Things I Want to do Before I Die (the semi-achievable version)

The lovely Krissa of HalfAsstic.com visited with a meme challenge. How appropriate that she picked my birthday week. My forty-effin'-sixth birthday week. (Can you hear the screaming?) As always, this time of year brings me pause. . . sets me to thinking about. . . myself, of course. I’m a Leo. And it’s my birthday month. Sheesh. Only thing is, the questions I ask myself: they are a-changin’. Now it’s not so much the what am I going to do with my life? question, but the how much of it is left? question. And the how have I done so far? question. And the how will I look in twenty years when I'm sixty-six holy mother of god? question.

Looking ahead is difficult for a non-planner like me. I am a dyed-in-the-wool, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (and clichéd out the wazoo) kind of gal.

Looking back is even scarier. Maybe things would have been better, had I actually made a plan or two along the way. I’ll never know. It doesn’t matter anyway. But I wonder—does it not matter because I choose not to feel regret over the past? Or am I choosing not to feel regret about the past because I don’t want to admit that I could have done it better, accomplished something really significant, or caused myself less pain?

I don’t think it’s the latter. Going through my life without every one of its hardships would have made it different, certainly. But better? What if I had actually thought through the consequences before making some of my bigger (and dumber) decisions? Or, here’s a novel idea: how would this little life have turned out if I had always, always put myself first? I know that doing any of it differently would have yielded a different me. Everything, in its time, occurred because I made it happen that way. And even with all my shortcomings, and all I’ve been through, I’m pretty happy living in this skin.

Which leads us to the meme, (thank god she's stopped philosophizing, you're saying) and some of the things I’ll do from here on out. This is the “actually possible” list. Next post will be the “when monkeys fly out of my butt*” list.

Eight Things I Want To Do Before I Die
  1. Write novels—many of them, whether they are published or not.
  2. Learn to speak Spanish.
  3. Start an animal sanctuary like she did.
  4. Take art classes: drawing, painting, pottery—any or all.
  5. Get together with my parents and all ten siblings at least once more while we’re all still here. And when we do, I'll be scared that it's the last time. Until the next time.
  6. Do a bicycle tour of Ireland.
  7. Get over my fear of needles (but not through repeated exposure).
  8. Read as many of these books as I can. Only 970 to go!
Thanks for getting me to think about this, Krissa! I saw the movie but haven't thought about the things I haven't done yet. Now I have. I'm not going to formally tag any of you, my friends, but I would LOVE to hear what's on your bucket list!

*Wayne’s World, 1992. “It might happen. Cha! And monkeys might fly out of my butt!"

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Fresh Air Interview with Claire B.

Ok, so we’re just pretending here. Terry Gross doesn't know I’m alive. But if she did. . .

Cue snappy music. . . bah de dum de dum!

Terry Gross: From WHYY in Philadelphia. . . This is Fresh Air. I’m Terry Gross. My guest today is Claire B., a sometimes-blogger from the Seattle area, who has surprised —and perhaps relieved—the blogging community by dropping out of the scene for the past five weeks. Welcome to Fresh Air. Thanks for being here.

Me: You’re welcome, Terry. And may I just say that I’ve noticed none of your guests seem to reply with a simple, “you’re welcome,” when you thank them?

TG: Huh. Why no, I haven’t noticed that. (Chuckle) It’s sort of intriguing that you have.

Me: Well, Terry, I can’t help it. I was taught the proper response to “thank you” is, of course, “you’re welcome.” Yet often the reply is, “thank you for having me,” which leads the original thanker in this case, you, to be in the prickly situation of answering “you’re welcome” back to the person you were originally trying to thank—or just sort of letting the second “thank you” hang out there in the air. It’s unsettling. To me. I can’t speak for anyone else.

TG: Interesting. Well, let’s move on to the interview before we run out of time. I’d first like to ask you, why haven’t you blogged in a over a month?

Me: Well, partly because I’ve been quite busy of late. You see, my husband. . .

TG: I believe you refer to him as “D.” on your blog?

Me: That’s right. You see, D. and I used to run a business together. We did that for five years of the six we’ve lived here in Bellingham. And we worked together for four and a half years before that.

TG: So, doing the math here, you’ve worked together for almost ten years, then? And you’ve only been married, for . . . what, eleven?

Me: Yes, correct. Oh what joy we have known. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in each other’s company. Our very dissimilar communication and management styles only added that extra spice to our marriage that so many couples crave. One day we were “discussing” work and our relationship and the strain it sometimes, well to be honest, often brings to our lives—I believe D. was dodging the plates I was hurling toward his head at the time—and in between ducks he suggested that we maybe ought to think about not working together any more. We decided it would be beneficial to seek another lifestyle—one that fits our personal passions, our yearning to have more control over our time, and our desire to stay married.

TG: So rather than just get a divorce, you, what? Sold your business?

Me: Yes. In hindsight, the divorce might have been simpler. . . and of course, both processes involve lawyers and CPAs and financial planners and mediators. But in the end, we made the right decision after all. We’re very happy that we decided to sell the business.

TG: So you’re glad that’s over with. And now you can start something new. What’s on the horizon?

Me: Well, Terry, I’m going to be a freelance copywriter and also get back to work on my two novels.

TG: Ahhh, yes. The writer in you is coming out. How does that feel?

Me: It is thrilling beyond description.

TG: (Chuckle) Well, if you’re going to be a writer, you might want to work on coming up with one.

Me: Hmph, well, yes I suppose you’re right. Truth is, I used to be so envious of D. because he’s a very gifted and talented musician who has always known beyond a doubt that music is his passion. I have envied countless people who write and talk about their passions, wondering all along what the hell mine was and when it would present itself to me. Then I began writing classes and was soon writing all the time. Writing fiction, writing my blog, writing professionally for advertising. And do you know what, Terry?

TG: Um, no, what?

Me: Just thinking about being a writer full-time—just thinking about it—makes me feel funny inside like riding a roller coaster or falling in love or speaking in front of a large group. Without the nausea. That’s the thrill. And that’s my passion.

TG: Well, that’s great, then. Fabulous. One more thing: I noticed you have no photo on your blog.

Me: Yes, that’s true. You know, when I started blogging I was very naïve. I felt exposed to the whole world. I didn’t want anyone to know my innermost feelings and thoughts. I was embarrassed that I thought anyone could possibly be interested in what I had to say. This was before I decided I didn’t give a rat’s ass what anybody thought. And realized that only about four people on the planet look at my blog. And that they are among the finest human beings out there. They even say nice things about my writing. It took all that silly fear away.

TG: Yes. I see. What does that have to do with the photo? Or the lack thereof?

Me: Well the rest of it is, I was mostly afraid I would be recognized by my staff or a customer. I live in a very small town and being a very public business owner as well made me feel way too naked.

TG: So you felt naked? Can you descibe that?

Me: I was uncomfortable. I was worried someone would find my blog and see what I was saying about my personal life. Or them. Or D. No way did I want any proof that I was connected to that Claire B. person.

TG: Well you are Claire B., right? Or is that a nom de plume?

Me: I love it when you speak French, Terry.

TG: So, what is it?

Me: It’s a pen name, is what it is.

TG: You know, I didn’t think you looked like a Claire. Where did that name come from?

Me: Claire is what my parents almost named me. The B. is for Brennan, my great-grandmother’s maiden name.

TG: I’ll look for that name on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Me: Oh, you do go on! Seriously, though, you should keep your eyes peeled for that.

TG: Well I want to thank you very much for being here.

Me: You’re welcome.

TG: No “thank you for having me?”

Me: Um, no.

TG: So you think we look alike?

Me: Um, again, no.

Terry Gross and Guess Who?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm On Mrs. G's Open House Tour!

Mrs. G. of Derfwad Manor had a great idea. Let's everyone
post photos and write about the heart of our homes.
So, come on in . . . or as the little sign in my
mom's kitchen said,
"Come in, sit down, relax, converse.
Our house doesn't always look like this.
Sometimes it's even worse!"

Don't trip over the dust kittens.

The two most expensive window seats in the state of WA.
I had to have 'em.

Aforementioned window seats, the piano,
and the fireplace. Comfy chairs for reading,
plenty of room for people and animals to lay around.
We spend a lot of time here, listening to D. play the
piano. He can play ANYTHING. Dog.

One view of the kitchen. Not quite the
heart of the home. More like the elbow.

I do love my new pot rack.

OMG. The cutest fur family EVER! This is Elica's bed
and the stuffed animals are hers. The real ones are ours.

Summer evening in the Pacific Northwest. Chilly, cloudy.
Flowers trying desperately to conjure up some show.

The good thing about our weather? There's
never a bad time for a nice hot bath.

That's it, folks. A tour from the front door to the back deck. Do come again.
And next time, bring some wine!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Post # 104 Titillating Things About Me

I've noticed other blogs celebrating their number 100 post. Well, I apparently missed mine, so let's just do this now.

How about 104 things you didn't dare to ask and had no idea you could live without knowing about me?

  1. I'm a Leo.

  2. I'm number 8 of 11 children.

  3. I'm the fourth, and final daughter.

  4. I have seven brothers (obviously, do the math).

  5. I love and adore all of my siblings.

  6. My parents are 82 and 81.

  7. They've been married for almost 61 years.

  8. My mom is older than my dad.

  9. All of my sisters married younger men.

  10. My husband is 7 years younger than me.

  11. My best friend in the world grew up down the street from me.

  12. We were born 4 months apart.

  13. We've been friends ever since.

  14. Even though I once pushed her down the stairs at my house. Ouch.

  15. I have been married before.

  16. More than once.

  17. First one didn't count.

  18. I had two miscarriages.

  19. They were with husband #2.

  20. He was a BIG ASSHOLE.

  21. So I'm glad there were no children to raise alone.

  22. Not many people know about #16 or #18.

  23. The older I get the less that concerns me.

  24. I have been married to D. for eleven years.

  25. He's the ONE.

  26. I had an emergency appendectomy when I was 12.

  27. It was ruptured.

  28. I almost died.

  29. But my parents knew better than to come right out and tell me that back then.

  30. I still used my "illness" to get away with all kinds of behavior for several months.

  31. Then my parents wouldn't have it anymore.

  32. I was quite the drama queen.

  33. Stayed that way for many many years.

  34. I was a straight A student.

  35. Until my junior year of high school.

  36. In my senior year they almost kicked me out.

  37. And still, no one tried to figure out what was wrong.

  38. I was accepted everywhere I applied, but I took a year off before college.

  39. And then I decided on a program for Respiratory Therapy.

  40. And I hate hospitals.

  41. And I pass out cold whenever a needle is within 50 feet of me.

  42. I have passed out completely unconscious on an airplane.

  43. Twice.

  44. You should see the commotion they make when one passes out on a plane.

  45. I quit college in the middle of the program.

  46. So I could work at the mall.

  47. I also worked at 7-11.

  48. I smoked cigarettes there.

  49. I got fired.

  50. Not for smoking.

  51. My mother inspired me to get the hell out of Upstate NY.

  52. I moved to South Carolina.

  53. I continued my career, working for international corporations.

  54. They were Pizza Hut and Burger King.

  55. Someone there showed me how to avoid ringing up cheeseburgers and to pocket the money.

  56. We put it in our shoe instead of our pocket.

  57. It was the first time I ever stole anything and I felt too guilty so I stopped.

  58. It wasn't Catholic guilt, despite my Catholic upbringing.

  59. My previously-mentioned best friend has enough for both of us.

  60. And all of you.

  61. I used to work for a sporting goods (i.e. guns and crap to go with them) distributor.

  62. Turns out I was really good at sales.

  63. I had a special chair to signify my status.

  64. There was much jealousy.

  65. I used to smoke there, too.

  66. We would let co-workers buy cigarettes for a nickle if they were out.

  67. This was 80's perm and shoulder pad time.

  68. I got married.

  69. Didn't take.

  70. I lost 40 lbs.

  71. Soon I took up with THE ASSHOLE.

  72. I moved to Virginia.

  73. Married him for some unknown reason.

  74. Left him after five years, but stayed in Virginia by myself.

  75. With my dog.

  76. Met some of the best people in my life there.

  77. Including D.

  78. He asked me how old I was on our first date.

  79. Which was to see James Carville and Mary Matalin speak.

  80. I was so excited when he asked me to go with him

  81. He was so excited that I knew who they were.

  82. It was love at first sight.

  83. We got married 5 months to the day from that first date.

  84. Even though I freaked out a week before and begged him not to marry me.

  85. He was undaunted.

  86. We lived in a house with a pink and green bathroom.

  87. Together, we adopted our second dog, who was three.

  88. Among other similarities, our child-rearing philosophies drew us together.

  89. And we have no children.

  90. Didn't even try.

  91. People still tell me "it's not too late."

  92. I'm almost forty-six for chrissakes.

  93. It IS too late.

  94. And that is just fine.

  95. People think we don't like kids because we don't have any.

  96. I just wonder where all the money we didn't spend on kids is.

  97. When my first dog died at 15 1/2, I cried for two years.

  98. When my second dog died at 13 1/2, I cried for two months.

  99. I don't want it to get easier.

  100. Our newest dog is 3.

  101. I adore her, too.

  102. She was a rescue.

  103. I don't believe in buying from breeders.

  104. I don't believe in heaven or hell, either.

I could go on. Believe me, there's more. But really, isn't this enough? Thanks for helping me get to number one hundred four, yo!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Solstice Wake Up

The Solstice sun breaks the horizon; instantly, light streams through the crack in the curtains and dream images are interrupted by semi-rational thoughts.

Ugh. Friday. One more day to get through and then it will be Saturday.


It IS Saturday.

Is it?

It IS!

Smile. Roll over. Fifteen more days. Just fifteen.

Happy Summer Solstice everyone! Today in Bellingham the sun rose at 5:07 and it will set at 9:17, for 16 hours and 10 minutes of daylight. It will be light outside till almost 10 p.m. Now, if the sun actually pokes through the clouds, all will be right in the world.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Purpose of this Post is to have Three in May

That's it.

This is a shameless, empty post. It is devoid of humor, substance, and introspection.

In fact, it is devoid of CONTENT.

Devoid is one of my favorite words. My least favorite words are cyst, moist, and irregardless, which all of you know is not a word at all.

I once knew a woman who thought the expression is It never seeks to amaze me.

That's all I have today. Three whopping posts in May. Count 'em.

Back soon. Promise.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thoughts from a Belgian Bakery

We moved to Bellingham from the east coast five and a half years ago. We wanted the fresh, crisp air, the recreational opportunities, the laid back, liberal atmosphere, and the cultural opportunities we'd have in a college town. And a bakery. Specifically, the Mount Bakery. During our weeks of online research deciding where exactly (more targeted than “as far away from here as possible”) we wanted to move, one of us (can’t remember which) found this little jewel and said to the other, “and there’s a REAL BAKERY! A REAL BAKERY!” and that pretty much sealed the deal.

Have you clicked on the link yet? Do it! Listen to the delightful accordion music and let it transport you to a Parisian sidewalk café. Imagine that you’re lifting a flaky, buttery croissant or pain d’chocolate to your eager mouth. Visualize the crumbs all over your lips and chin. Revel in the orgasmic waves of pleasure that engulf you.

Ahem. Before this becomes a post for an erotica site, I should digress immediately.

I was sitting in the Mount Bakery a couple of weeks ago, awaiting the arrival of my breakfast date. My friend and I meet for breakfast once every month or so. We don’t meet for drinks (she’s a non-drinker) or for lunch or dinner, or for shopping. We don’t visit each other at home. We see our respective spouses at occasional community events. But other than our breakfast dates, we’re not in each other’s lives. And that works for us.

Except for when she forgets and doesn’t show up. Then I have the pleasure of sitting in the café, sipping their delightful organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee and just looking around. All alone—just me, my fellow breakfasters and my observations:

  • Deep, not-too-bright red and mustardy-goldy yellow is one of my favorite color combinations. Vivid and cheery, with just the right amount of depth. And perfect for a breakfast café (or a fast food hamburger joint, come to think of it). Hmmm . . . would that work in my home office?

  • Apparently some people in this world actually sit around and eat chocolate croissants on regular, old, average Wednesdays in April. And they don’t look the least bit guilty or worried about it. Imagine that.

  • Is there a more beautiful word than creperie? But then, there are patisserie and boulangerie. Ooh, and I also love toile. Why, oh why did I have to be born in New York instead of France?? The injustice.

  • I can’t decide whether to be a pastry chef or a brewmistress when I grow up.

Either way, I’m guaranteed to be happy. (And fat. But happy fat.) And I wonder. . . what am I waiting for? Like George Burns said, “I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate.”

Isn’t that a delicious way to think?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My Very First Meme

It's not like you can tag yourself, now, can you? So yes, this is my first meme, compliments of Professor J., and I am not about to turn her down. Because she rulz.

When I received her note that she tagged me, I felt like I'd been invited to a birthday party. And I wondered what I should wear. What will the other girls think? Eventually, I picked out a dress and polished my shoes, and I'm ready.

Here are the rules:
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about her or himself.
3. At the end of the post, tag 5-6 people and post their names, then go to their blogs and leave them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

Question 1: What was I doing ten years ago?
I was living in Virginia and working full-time at a rather conservative financial institution—women had to wear skirts or dresses and hose—except on Fridays, when we could wear pants. I kid you not. I was also in school part-time, in a Professional Writing program. D. and I had just celebrated our first anniversary with a trip to California to visit my sister and her fam. That trip infected us with the West Coast bug. And here we are today.

Question 2: What are five things on my "to do" list today?
1. Finish an article I’ve been working on; deadline is Thursday;
2. Read two Sunday papers;
3. Do a bit of laundry;
4. Take our pooch on a loooong walk;
5. Pretend I’m gardening by walking around the yard, wishing all my new beds were already in place, and then pulling up some morning glory vines—my nemesis for the next several months.

Question 3 (which really is not a question): Snacks I enjoy:
My latest weakness is not cupcakes, but chips and salsa. Trader Joe’s has awesome organic yellow corn chips (only $2.29!) and a totally addictive corn and red pepper salsa that together make the perfect sweet/spicy combo. I am also a crackers-and-cheese fanatic. And I love the Mediterranean hummus at Trader Joe’s, too. I am not much of a sweet or chocolate fiend. I used to eat a lot of pretzels. And SPICE jelly beans. But I've stopped that madness.

Question 4 (Again, not a question, I see a trend here): Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
I would volunteer for and give tons of money to animal and human rights organizations; I would buy a large piece of land and foster old and unwanted dogs; I would start a no-kill shelter (or a bunch of them); I would make sure that all the young ones in my family received all the education they need; I would take classes at the university (whatever I want!); I would work to eradicate AIDS from our planet; I would work to enable women and children in oppressed societies to choose their own life paths; I would take care of my parents forever; and I would use my riches to woo a certain Mr. Depp away from his gorgeous girlfriend in France.

Oh, and buy my own Trader Joe's store.

Prompt 5 (let's call them prompts): Places I have lived:
My Hometown, Elmira, NY; Columbia, SC (hated it); a small town in Virginia that shall remain nameless (read all about it in my book if snowballs freeze in hell and when it's published); Hampton Roads, VA, Bellingham WA.

Prompt 6: Bad Habits:
Nagging my dear sweet husband, eating WAY too fast; not eating as healthfully as I should; not exercising as consistently as I should, not modulating my tone of voice as well as I could, getting really loud sometimes when I drink too much. In other words, being Less Than Perfect.

Prompt 6: Jobs I have had (interesting because I've been writing about them):
Paper girl, grocery store clerk, cafeteria worker, housecleaner, legal secretary, executive assistant, production manager, copywriter, business owner.

Prompt 7: Peeps I want to know more about (or at least peeps I think may be interested in responding):
The rules say ask five or six, but I don't have that many bloggy friends. Perhaps if I had more time to read and comment like I used to. Alas, I'll have to break this rule.

Hay at The Secret Life of Us
Nora B at Whopping Cornbread
Mary Alice at From the Frontlines (although she’s probably way too busy)
Jen at Jen on the Edge (I don’t even know her—I’m stretching here. What if she HATES memes?)

I really do want to know you women better, because I love your blogs.

This was fun! Thanks, Professor J!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Stolen Food Story

Last month, I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic writers conference close to my home. One class, led by Deborah Madison, prolific cookbook author and promoter of the Slow Foods Movement, was about journaling life through the lens of food. We all shared how food shaped our childhoods, and how we associated food and our mothers and our fathers. Then Deborah asked us to write about the stolen food in our pasts. Stolen food? Puzzled looks crossed many faces as if to say, Moi? And then, delicious, mischievous expressions replaced the haughty ones as each writer put pen to page.

As it turned out, no one in the class had difficulty crafting an essay right away. One gentleman, about my dad’s age, wrote that he and his friends fed themselves during the Depression by stealing green apples off of trees, grapes from the vine, and watermelons from railcars. The lady who owned the grapevines always chased the boys from her field—while never picking any grapes herself. And since those long-ago days of his youth, the man won’t eat sweet apples—he longs for the tartness of the unripe fruit from his youth. They just never tasted as good as they did when were stolen.

Another writer shared her story of stealing a block of Vermont cheddar cheese from a Manhattan gourmet market—when she could well afford to buy it. She secreted the two-pound chunk within the folds of a voluminous coat and likewise kept her secret all these years, wrapped in layers of shame and need.

As for me, I had a hard time getting started—I couldn’t think of a time I had stolen food. I was the kid who NEVER stole penny candy because being raised Paranoid Roman Catholic, I knew beyond a doubt that stealing would ensure that, upon leaving the corner store with my precious stolen Boston Baked Beans or Devil Dogs, I would immediately be flattened by a passing delivery truck and go STRAIGHT TO HELL. I have never stolen any food, I thought. And then a thought bubble appeared over my head.

Ahhhh, yes. The cupcake.

This is my stolen food story.

Have you ever been inside a real Italian bakery? Have you witnessed the piles of chewy pignolis, flaky butter cookies, the gleaming tortes, the orgasmic cannoli? You know what I’m talkin’ about, eh? If not, fuggedaboudit, because readers reader, you have not lived. To taste authentic Italian pastries is to dance just outside the gates of heaven.

Unfortunately for me and my chubby thighs, I grew up right next to the Italian part of town, and my daily walk to elementary school took me past Rossi’s Bakery. (It also took me past a bowling alley, two bars, a pizza joint and a corner diner, but they were meaningless then and now.) The sweet smells wafting through the air set my mouth to watering as I peered through the plate glass window—my daily exercise in frustration and longing.

Once in a while my mom would let me accompany her while she picked up a loaf of Italian bread or some snowflake rolls. (Oooohhhhh, snowflake rolls! Your rich, buttery insides are exquisite beyond belief, outdone only by your soft, flour-dusted crusts!) On certain, perfect days when the birds were singing tra la la, the counter lady in her starched apron and white polyester uniform would grab a waxed paper square, pick out a chocolate chip cookie, and hand it over to me. “Say thank you,” my mom would say.

“But I’d rather have a cupcake,” I would think, gobbling the cookie anyway while I stared through the glass case. I had never seen cupcakes like these: each a perfect replica of the next. Each with exactly the same number of swirls in the frosting, the same pattern of multi colored sprinkles or even silver sparkles.

Oh, yes, I wanted one. And each time I asked my mom, the answer was the same: “NO.” Dammit, life was as unfair as it could possibly be.

But my luck was about to change. One day, mom called me to the kitchen. “Run to the store and get a loaf of bread, nothing else, and bring me my change. And hurry, dinner’s ready in twenty minutes.” Off to the corner market I went, bought the bread, wrapped one chubby hand around the tie wrap of the bread bag and the other around mom’s change, and walked back home.

Where the miracle occurred. Instead of putting out her own two hands—one for the bread, one for the change—mom only asked for the bread. I slyly slipped the change into my pocket—I think it was twenty-eight cents—and quickly left the room.

For days, I waited for her to ask me for the change. She never did. After a few weeks, I figured she had forgotten all about it. The coast was clear! My chance was upon me! Cupcakes filled every dream while I hatched my plan.

The morning of my heist, I walked past the bakery on my way to school, just like every other day. I peered past my reflection through the plate glass window, just like every other day. I spied my perfect cupcake waiting there for me, taunting me, just like every other day. But I knew that this day was not just like every other—this was one I had been waiting for.

At school, the hours shuffled by until at last the bell rang and I was free to claim my sweet prize. I anticipated the sugary frosting and dark chocolate cake as I flew out of the building and through the gate, down the street and around the corner. For the first time, I boldly entered the bakery knowing that finally, I would have what I wanted.

I faced the white starch lady and asked for a cupcake. She looked at me incredulously, but bent over and slid the mirrored door open on the case anyway. “That’ll be twenty-five cents,” she said. Smiling, I handed over the money that I had secreted away from my mother all those many days.

My eyes glowed with expectation as I left the bakery with my treasure. For a few blocks, I carried it in both hands, admiring its curves and swirls. Then slowly I peeled away part of the paper wrapper and took a bite. Nothing could have made me any happier. Down the street I walked, savoring my sweet, sweet cupcake in surprisingly small bites. Frosting coated my upper lip. I licked the paper, trying to make it last as long as possible, but knew I must finish it before I arrived home and raised the suspicion of my entire family.

In my sugary stupor I lowered my guard, forgetting that I was Up to Something, when suddenly I heard a shout: “Hey! Where did you get THAT??”

Jolted out of my bliss, I looked around in dismay to see who had ruined another of the relatively few good days of my early adolescence. It was my brother. My brother, who knew that I didn’t have money of my own to be spending on cupcakes. My brother, who knew that if our mother had given me money for a cupcake, he damn sure was going to get one, too. I was busted. I managed a lame “none of your beeswax” or something, and gobbled up the rest of my suddenly oversweet cake. It went down in a big lump.

I dreaded the confrontation that awaited me. Sure enough, when I reached home, brother John (taller, thinner, swifter) had already told mom what he saw. I knew this the moment I met her in the kitchen, and I knew that she knew where the money had come from. “That was my change, wasn’t it, Claire?”

“Yes,” I answered, feeling ashamed and full of regret.

I don’t remember my punishment, but I’ve never forgotten how it felt to get away with something (quite an accomplishment in a family of my size, when twelve sets of eyes were usually upon me), to have something I really wanted (of course it was food-related; many lifelong issues around that subject), and to be caught in the end, ensuring that my joy was short-lived and ultimately guilt-inducing.

While the joy was fleeting, the feelings around the incident shaped much of my young life. Who was I to have such pleasure? I didn’t deserve it. Silly me, enjoying a treat out in the open like that—it’s far better to be sneaky with food. Then, no one can harass you about needing to lose weight. The guilt and shame piled up, over and over, like so many layers on a cake, until I pushed it back down with a squeaky clean plate at the dinner table, a trip to the cookie jar, or a big piece of mom’s home baked blueberry pie. With ice cream, of course.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

craigslist Ads I'm Going to Place--and This is No Hoax!

Perhaps you've heard of the Oregon man who came home to find dozens of people rifling through his barn and front porch and driving off with his belongings. He caught people in the act. He tried to stop them, to no avail. He was told by the thieves who were hauling away his work ladders and lawn mower that they were simply answering a craigslist ad indicating the man was moving away and wanted to give all his stuff away. “No,” he said, “that’s not true. Give me back my stuff.”
“No,” they said, “it was on craigslist, so it’s true and we’re keeping it.”

The stupidity and audacity of the general public never ceases to amazes me. Does it not amaze you? Said the victim, “It boggles the mind.” It does, indeed.

Then I got to thinking. If that’s all it takes to get people to haul your junk away, I’m getting started on some craigslist ads pronto!

Free: Dog Poop. Several sizes and textures to choose from.

Free to Good Home: Top ¼” of large lawn. You cut it, you keep it.

Free Soap Scum. You Haul.

Free: Cat and Dog Hair. Many uses! Multiple colors available! Virtually limitless supply! Brush provided.

Bags, Bags, Bags! Paper, plastic, all sizes and colors. Pickup truck recommended.

I could be wrong, but I think I’m onto something here—and I’m just getting started.

So, dear readers reader, what do YOU have around the house, ready to be foisted upon an unsuspecting public?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Last Available Room on the Island (Whidbey, That Is)

Long, long ago—like at the end of February—I spent a GLORIOUS three days surrounded by authors, editors, agents, and publishers at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. I learned a great deal about the business of writing and publishing while feeling the thrill of rubbing elbows with my personal celebrities—writers—such as Erik Larson , William Dietrich, Deborah Madison, Stephanie Kallos, Elizabeth George, Stephanie Elzondo Griest (wearer of extremely cool boots) and Randy Sue Coburn. At the end of each day, following the many seminars and speeches, writing exercises and recitations, my spirit was bolstered with the camaraderie that fellow (make that actually published) writers bring—while my head was packed to overflowing with ideas and inspiration.

Luckily, I was able to retreat to my homey B&B, with a quaint, peaceful bedchamber all to myself, where I luxuriated in:

Comfortable, fine bedding!

Fluffy towel(s)!

The finest literature!

Interesting antiques!

And De-luxe bath products!

My eyes rested upon the amazing water views!

Alas, my stay was only for two nights. But then, two nights with THIS nightmare-inducing toilet paper was enough:

For that fresh, clean, patriotic feeling--all day!

There’s nothing like it. At least, I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to SHARE THE BATHROOM with the other couple who was staying at the B&B; they decided to have a weekend in Vancouver instead. Whoever you are, nice couple, I thank you. Not that I would have minded sharing the toilet with your husband. But the star-studded TP? All mine! You woulda had to fight me for it.

Next year, I’m booking my room EARLY.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What? Me Complain? About Hawaii? Maybe Just a Little

Tomorrow we leave the Big Island and fly to Maui, where we’ll be until next Monday, the 17th. Amen to that. I have high hopes for Maui. Our time here on the B.I. was fun . . . and lest I appear to have lost my mind over here for hello? being in HAWAII and complaining about ANYTHING, I must explain that wherever I sound like I'm complaining, I'm not; I’m just making observations. I simply haven’t found many reasons to perform mad handstands and cartwheels of joy at the whole idea of Hawaii, tropical paradise and hulas and luaus and lei and beaches and coconut palms and aloha brah and all that. It’s only been kind of average as far as vacays go. Were my expectations too high? Has the cloudy weather affected my mood? Or am I just a cynical, hard-to-please beyotch?

Let’s focus on the positive: the resting and relaxing parts have been the best. After our oh-so-long day of traveling, we went to bed super early and slept eleven hours. Needed it. The next day we just chilled and stayed close to home. Except for a trip to Costco, of course, for rum supplies and food. We’ve both read a ton and napped a little. And we each had hour long massages at the nimble fingers of a most excellent massage therapist named Kathryn. She was amazing. There has been actual exercise performed, too. I’ve tried hard to keep up my boot camp training so I’m not pitifully behind when I finally return to class. I’ve been walking and running and lunging (uphill, no less!) and doing pushups and situps. We’ve also been lifting—large plastic tumblers filled with coconut rum and pineapple juice. Ahhh, the tropical splendor of rum pineapple juice on a hot day. Except I do not consider 72 degrees to be hot. Not for a minute. No I do not. But that could be considered a complaint an observation, and we are attempting to focus on the positive.

Oh—this was fun—we kayaked and snorkeled yesterday. And saw this:
Snorkeling is studly, energetic, sportsy fun! The water was a little too chilly for me clear and brilliantly blue and we flopped and swam around like little fishies in a huge natural saltwater aquarium. Lots of cool-looking fish and coral, anemones, sponges and other gruesome fascinating sea life. And then we went into town and had drinks oceanside at a dive bar called Lulu’s. Just our speed—and the scenery was truly breathtaking.

BUT, tropical beauty aside, the weather has been a negative factor this week. You see, they have this volcano here and it’s actively erupting right now and all this sulphur dioxide gets pumped into the air and forms vog, a volcanic smog (I know, I know, it sounds delicious!) that covers the island. Like every day. We’ve only had two sunny days since we arrived. I mean, I live in the Pacific Northwest. Clouds and rain are a daily occurrence for us about nine months of the year, for godssake. So I do feel a bit justified in my whining observations.

After all, isn't this what every vacationing girl wants?

Here's what this vacationing girl gets. WAAAAAHHH!

Them are clouds

But enough whinging. Tomorrow, I shall write about the amazing bits that made the Big Island a fantastic place to spend Week One of our vacation. And the country music currently blasting from a stereo within my earshot will not even be mentioned. Now, please excuse me while I go take a hugenormous swig straight from that big, white jug of Malibu rum. Aloha!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vacation Time, at Last

They didn't want us to go.

They thought if we sit on their suitcases, they won't be able to leave! Ha!

Ha! We left anyway.

And here is where we are:

And the ocean looks like this:

And the sunset, like this: