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Birth Stories, Christmas Trees & Middle Names

From One of my earliest holiday memories

One of my earliest holiday memories is of sitting in the dark living room with my Mom admiring the lights on the Christmas tree. We sat really close on the couch, just her and I. She told me the story of my adoption.

After six years of being on an adoption waiting list it didn't seem likely that their wish would be fulfilled. But one night, my Mom told me that in a dream her father who had passed years before said "you are finally going to get your little girl."  A phone call was received on a Friday and on Monday I was with my family. I share a birthday with my mother's father, John Milton Hudson.

This year my Mom passed away January 11, 2010 and this year my daughter Kate was born on December 11. Her full name is Katherine Hudson McClure. Tomorrow she will be two weeks old, the age I was when adopted.

Tomorrow is Christmas.

From Katherine Hudson McClure HELLO WORLD!

Clam Chowder or should I say Chow-dah

In a strange way my life is bookended by chowder, Hyannis and San Clemente.

This weekend in San Clemente is the Seafest. There is the annual Chowder contest and it makes me muse about the strange symmetry the places hold for each other. Hyannis, sitting on the Atlantic ocean, home of the Kennedy compound, clam chowder, all misty foggy and damp.

And over on the west coast a more Mediterranean version on the mild Pacific side, with President Nixon instead of Kennedy spending summers in what was dubbed the "Western Whitehouse," our clam chowder, mist, fog and not so damp.

42 and Vomiting (Happily)

I would say the last 5 birthdays have given me grief. Not the idea of aging but the idea of my window to have a child shutting with every year. In the late 30’s there was concern, after turning the landmark 40 there was panic, after entering the 40s there was despair and some resignation.

This year is different. This year I am celebrating my 42nd birthday 28 weeks pregnant. Pregnant and puking.

So as I kneel in gratitude on my bathroom floor repeating “this too shall pass” I do smile because this year I am not afraid that my time has past. Quite to the contrary, my time is just beginning.

Although I might have rethought that tattoo placement.

Shark Week Comes to San O

Me my Shark and I from Chuck Patterson on Vimeo.

Remarkable footage taken right in front of the San Onofre Nuclear Power plant.

I have been told that the waters around the nuclear power plant are a Great White Shark breeding ground. From a sharks point of view it's a great spot, complete with a buffet we know as Seal Rock.

And people were wondering why the seals were staying on the inside at Lowers. :)

The Facts of Life

"Do you know where babies come from?" my Mom asked.

What an absolutely embarrassing thing to ask me? What prompted this question? Probably all the questions I had be posing, seemingly out of the blue.

I had been reading the classic Judy Bloom book, "Are You There God It's Me Margaret." My mother was thrilled I wanted to read that book. We usually disagreed on reading material, but the word God in the title sold her hands down.

I stood there feeling a bit caught. I confessed I knew where babies came from.

"French kissing, like on the soap operas."

"Well, that's part of it .... come here." I followed my Mom into my room, she went straight to my Junior Encyclopedias and at the end of the bookshelf were the "Life Cycle" books. She skipped straight to volume 3, handed the book over and instructed me to read chapters 7 and 8 and then return her for questions.

Chapter 7 covered the very intricate road map of my genders anatomy. Chapter 8 was a more uncomforable read, but a much simpler road map with names that sounded like German army generals.

I read my chapters as instructed and returned hoping that I could end this particular discussion as soon as possible. Our discussion had now moved to the livingroom. My father was oblivious, shielded from the rest of us by a fully furled newpaper. My brother Tom was laying on the floor in front of the TV. Mom and I were sitting on the couch together looking over volume three of the "Life Cycle" collection.

She explained what went where. I just prayed that my brother wouldn't turn around.

Honestly I didn't believe her. No one is going to want to do that. Don't worry I will not be taking part in that particular activity. Adults are really sick, more than I could have even imagined. Other vague questions came to mind, how close must you be in proximity for this to even happen, why would anyone do such a weird thing and wow if that is where babies come from and everyone is a result of this activity then obviously it's being done a lot.

I looked at my Mom in absolute disbelief. Her eyes shined in a peculiar way that frankly made me a bit nervous. She assured me that some day I am going to want to take part in this activity and that it's a beautiful thing. Then she added "between two people who love each other very much and are married." She really stressed that married part." Ewww I hope this doesn't mean that .. ewww ewww ewww.

You see, there is a comfort to being adopted that no one discusses. That comfort is having no absolute proof that your parents have ever had sex.

With this particular episode put to rest I return to the backyard to play with our yellow lab, Drake and practice my cartwheels.

Bruce!

"Show me a good pool player and I will show you a wasted youth." That is what my friend Stephanie used to say.

And she was a great pool player. Me, not so much.

I spent my teenage years sitting in Mary's bedroom reproducing album covers ad nauseam.

I mean we would draw for hours. That happy state of affairs when you get so engrossed in the moment and time just flies.

Bruce! We love ya still. Here's one from 1976.

Under Pressure ... but in a good way

Lorna Sass is my culinary hero and Goddess of the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker being the most underused and magnificent cooking implement ever!

Everyone thinks the pressure cooker is an antiquated appliance from the 50s that will blow up at a moments notice and you will be scraping pea soup off the ceiling ... but it simply isn't so. I used to think that, but Lorna taught me otherwise.

The really great thing about pressure cookers is that they are really fast and they keep all those nutrients locked in. I used to wait 40 minutes to have a steamed artichokes ... minutes with a pressure cooker. Mashed potatoes, lentil soup, and steamed puddings in minutes. This should be what we call fast food.

I just googled her and found she has her own site, check it out at LornaSass.com and get sucked into the world of healthy cooking with pressure cookers.

Say You Want Rocky Road ... It's Only Polite

Ask for Rocky Road if you want Rocky Road
Not every summer, but almost every summer we would make the long drive from Minnesota, just south of the Twin Cities to Northern Vermont. The Northeast Kingdom was a wild and spookily rural place just on the Canadian border. It was always an event and my father's family would come down from Southern Quebec to visit.

Aunt Evenlyn, my very sweet second Aunt, left the car to pick up two pints of ice cream for dessert. I remember sitting in the car squashed between grownups. Sitting in the middle of the backseat with my feet on the bump she leaned in through the car window and asked for suggestions from the carload of visiting relatives.

After she left, I sighed, "Oh I sure hope she gets Rocky Road." My Dad, very kindly and with sincere appreciation thanked me for not saying anything. I know that he was pleased because I was showing self control and discipline. I was being polite.

Aunt Evelyn came back from the store. I was in luck. She returned with Rocky Road. We giggled at my good fortune and told her that was the flavor I was hoping she would get.

But she asked! 

She asked what we wanted. Why wasn't answering her question okay?

I think about that now. When I ask someone what they want I really want to know. I am trying to find out what they really do want and I don't want politeness I want their answer.

Days of Purple Tights and Tony Lamas

I wanted to say "I too wore purple tights little chickie."
I too wore purple tights little chickie.

Yesterday I was walking the dog. It was Friday night. I saw a girl in purple tights.

My Friday nights are mellow. I love to go to bed right after Ella is all tucked in. I bring a book and I fall asleep with my glasses on and book in my lap. When I wake up bright and early on Saturday morning I slink out and try to find where Darin set my book and glasses so I can come out to the living room and have my quiet time.

But it wasn't always that way.

As I passed a gaggle of girls, starting their Friday night, each with an expectation of their evening and excitement for oncoming adventure. One stuck out. She was wearing purple tights and a skirt that was clearly too short for her comfort as she kept pulling on it, not quite believing that it was covering her "assets."

I took a second look to take in her outfit. Recognizing the 80s being remodeled I wanted to check out what she had put together. She cast me a scolding look as if maybe I disapproved.

I wanted to tell her "Hey Chickie don't be fooled ... I too wore purple tights." Not all your Friday nights are going to look like this.

You too will grow up.

And you just might be surprised at how much more fun life is at 41 in sweatpants walking the dog on a Friday night than being 21 running around looking for .... for whatever it is that we look for.

Oracles Anonymous ... So Punk Are You Feeling Lucky?

"Those with fuzzy dice or bumper stickers are not readily distinguishable from other motorists in terms of accidents or risk-taking behaviors."
Oracles Anonymous was a phrase I coined to wean myself away from horoscopes, magic eight balls and other fortune telling devices. Get on the Oracle Wagon and take charge of your own luck was my battle cry.

As the sole member of my OA group I refuse to read my horoscope, even if for only entertainment purposes, I am simply too suggestible.

I gave astrology a shot. I had my chart done, I learned about rising signs and the Moon phases, in fact I tracked them for an entire year and still found absolutely no correlation to my life.

And so I said STOP! It's madness. I felt it took away my ability, my responsibility to "make my own luck."

Plucking daisies, eenie, meeny, miny, moe, all of it has got to go.

A Lightning House Story


This January I visited my friend Mary. I arrived on her snowy doorstep heartbroken and dearly in need of comfort.

It was three days after my mother died.

I hadn't been to Mary's house in years. But it was filled with so much "Mary-ness" that I felt immediately at home.

Mary told me the story of the "Lightning House." It was a story about a couple who moved into this house, recommended by the wife's father, and after he passed away the most remarkable series of house repairs prompted by lightening strikes occurred. Each time the insurance settlement was the exact amount needed for various emergencies and repairs. The couple was actually so spooked they ended up moving.

Then Mary said ... I wonder what signs you will have from your Mom. I laughed. Honestly, I wasn't ready for any signs and I don't want anything to do with lightning. I just want to get through the day without crying.

I had arrived 30 minutes after her time of death. Flying out from San Diego I had imagined arriving at the Woodridge Nursing Home to sit by her bedside, to set my hand on her pale freckled arm, to have her oooh and ahhh over her sweaters that I had worn for her.

But it wasn't like that. Not at all. I arrived at her room in time to sit by her side, but she was no longer there.

That night I got a Facebook message from a dear childhood friend, Lisa (aka Little Lisa) she had had a dream in which she visited my Mom and I. She said she had a fabulous visit with us in her dream.

I laughed, not cried, I laughed. It was just so typical. Mary and Lisa were lifelong friends. In so many ways my Mom shared my friendship with them, just as I shared her Mom-ness with them. They both loved her and they both understood my loss so completely. It made me feel not quite so alone.

Leaving Vermont on the puddle jumper to our connecting flight out of JFK Darin and I didn't have seats next to each other. I sat next to a woman who shared pictures of her grandson and said she hated to fly. But she was visiting her daughter and nothing would stop her. That sounded like my Mom. She would always say before visiting "I just want to get my hands on you."

Exhausted I leaned against the closed airplane window shade and fell asleep. I didn't wake until we were taxiing to our gate at JFK.

I heard a click click click. I looked over to see pale freckled arms knitting away. The woman was wearing my Mom's shirt. The exact shirt. And she was knitting away.

I shoved my face in my jacket and wept.

But this time I wept because I know now that she's always with me. This time I wept because I just got a little inkling of how much I was loved.

And love doesn't go away.

The Egg of Independence

Easter has passed and there are now 90 days till the Fourth of July.

With plastic grass vacuumed up, singing bunnies tucked back onto the "holiday shelf" and just the remaining candy in homage to the passing holiday my sights are set on the Fourth of July, Independence Day.


What do I want to think about as I watch the fireworks go off over San Clemente Pier?
What do I want to have accomplish in the next 90 days?

Every year the Fourth sneaks up on me. I wait patiently for summer and then before I know it BAM it's the Fourth of July.

Maybe it's because San Clemente is out on a point and our May and Junes can be fogging and overcast. Maybe it's because I get my head stuck in work and don't look up.

Either way it's not happening this year.

Summer's Eternal Quest for the Perfect Cartwheel

I will be 42 this year and I have unfinished business.

I want to accomplish a cartwheel. A really perfect straight leg over the head cartwheel.

Nothing fancy, no Nadia Comaneci moves, just a standard cartwheel. No round off, no back walkover, just a cartwheel ...

a PERFECT cartwheel.



I don't know why this is important. I just know it is.

Thursdays are for Piano

The sanctuary of Darrolyn's is available to me every Thursday if I choose to take the mission. That mission being taking Ella to piano lessons.

Darrolyn's is a place of infinite color. Her home is a rainbow and every holiday is accounted for. It's a weird trip back in time as I think of my own piano teacher Mrs. Mord. I am reminded of her collection and obsession with all things frog. Just like Darrolyn my Mrs. Mord was a colorful character. A multitude of frogs in various positions and circumstances decorated her studio where she sat with each child.

There is still one poster I remember to this day. It was a poster of a frog (of course) stretching to reach a branch. The caption was something along the lines of "those in uncomfortable positions make the most progress."

Darrolyn sends us home each week with a quote. We take a picture to remember the moment.

No One is Irish Anymore ... Everyone is Scottish


There is a very strange thing that has happened to me in recent years. A good bulk of my Irish peeps have researched their family history only to find that they are not so Irish after all.

They are Scots!

Now I have paperwork that says I am Irish. It's not a family genealogy and I can't verify anything at this point, but it says that I have Irish and English blood coursing through my veins. That is all I know.

I am married to a Mc ... a Scotch Mc and every time the Irish-Scottish thing comes up he is always quick to remind me that the English never subjugated the Scots, only the Irish.

But before you pull all that Braveheart stuff on me I have something new to share.

My Merriam family genealogy has always pointed to England, or so I have been told. But after getting "the book" I have found that the Merriams were right on the Scottish border.

But I guess on St. Patrick's Day everybody gets to be Irish.

And I am no fan of snakes so I am all about St. Pat.

Sequoia Strawberries

Junebearing

Matures in 60-70 days

Nothing compares to the mouthwatering flavor of home-grown Strawberries.

MATURES In 60-70 days

CARE Plant in organic-rich well drained soil.

Chervil

Anthriscus cerefolium 'Vertissimo'

Features
Old-fashioned culinary herb with mild anise flavor. 'Vertissimo' resists bolting and bounces back well from summer heat.

Uses
Attractice sprigs make a colorful garnish on the dinner plate. Best used fresh or frozen for fullest flavor.

Care
Does best in rich, moist yet well-drained soil in a partly shaded location. Pinch out flower heads to prolong leaf production.

Oregano

Origanum laevigatum 'Hopley's Purple"

Height 24-36"
Space 12-18"
Sun to Shade
Blooms Midsummer

Features
Scented foliage is complemented in summer by deep pink flowers that last for weeks. Faded flowers deepen in color and remain attractice through later summer. Attracts butterflies, too.

Uses
Mix in perennial beds and cottage gardens. Flowers are perfect for cutting, and dry well.

Care
Grows in any well-drained location. Actually prefers poor soil and hot, dry conditions. Provide support for stems, or allow to flop for a relaxed mood.

Sweet Italian Basil

Ocimum basilicum
Tender annual.
Full sun.
2' tall

A big producer of large basil leaves for all of your cooking needs. Each plant can grow to 2.5 feet tall and have beautiful crinkled leaves. Italian Large Leaf Bail has a very sweet flavor and lovely aroma. Great for making pesto or used fresh in summer salads. Plant in full sun and rich well drained soil

Cinnamon Basil

Ocimum bailicum

Bushy annual emitting a spice cinnamon fragrance from its deep green foliage with purple-red veining.

It is thought useful in remedying stomach problems, dental plaque to calm the nerves and reduce fever.

CARE:
Plant in fertile well-drained soil after the danger of frost. Harvest sprigs as needed and remove flowers as they appear. Plant in pots to bring indoors for continued sue during colder seasons. Excellent windowsill plant.

Blooms Late summer
Light Full Sun
Height 18"
Space 18"

Pineapple Sage

Saslvia rutilans

Catnip

Nepeta cataria

Aromatic leaves have a bewitching effect on cats. Fresh or dried leaves make a soothing herbal tea, or use dried leaves to fill cat toys. Attractive in the garden. Protect plants until established to prevent damage. Spreads by seed.

EXPOSURE Sun or part sun

HEIGHT 18-36" tall

SPACING 18" apart

WATER Prefers well-drained soil

Common Chamomile

Matricaria recutita

Deliciously fragrant flowers and leaves have a sweet apple flavor. Dried flowers make an excellent tea which is both flavorful and relaxing an ideal bedtime beverage. A showy addition to the herb garden, and great dried for potpourri. Repels insects.

EXPOSURE SUn or part sun

HEIGHT 18-30"

SPACING 8"

WATER Prefers well-drained soil

Sweet Marjoram

Origanum majorana

Sweetly spicy leaves add flavor to a wide range of foods. Fresh leaves add zest to vegetable dishes, soups sauces and Italian cuisines. Rub on fresh meats or add to sausage or meat loaf for extra flavor. Freeze for winter use, or grow in a pot indoors.

EXPOSURE Full Sun

HEIGHT 12-24" tall

SPACING 6-8" apart

WATER water weekly during dry spells

Semi-Dwarf Improved Meyer Lemon

Citrus limon 'Improved Meyer'

Symmetry ... It's the Way Things Have To Be

Ella doesn't like this photo because she thinks I look sad. What I haven't shared with her is that I was not sad .... I was pouting. I like this photo because it is one of the few pictures where my hair looks red. By the time I was eight the red had faded to a hint of auburn and to brown, not its final destination, but the one I am presently maintaining.

I was pouting because that morning I had lost a fight with my mother. The fight was over symmetry or lack there of.

It was the morning of school picture day and I was the product of her careful planning. Her vision was of two barretts placed together on one side. I actually remember her placing me in front of the full length mirror to view her work. I protested violently, YOU CAN'T HAVE TWO ON ONE SIDE.  And so history goes on to prove that to the victor goes the spoiled.

Symmetry was important to me. I would stomp my feet until both shoes had the same exact tension. If anything was uneven I just found it unbearable. I am sure I was.

In my early 20s, working as a waitress at a sushi bar, the only sushi bar in the state of Vermont at the time, I was joking with a guest that a waitress's job is never done. He told me I needed to listen to some Jane Siberry. He was certain I would enjoy the song "Waitress." I thought it was a great song. It really spoke to me and we laughed at the lyric
"I'm a drag at parties because it upsets me to see so many empties ... and I have to pick them up or I have to go home."
But the song off that "No Borders Here" album that really spoke to me was "Symmetry It's the Way Things Have To Be."

That entire album haunts me to this day.

Thank You for Being With Me

I was knelt by the side of Ella's bed, tucking her in, she was four.
"Thank you for being with me," she said.
I still remember that moment.

I always feel close to my Mom when I am with Ella. After she died I kept hearing "you were so much closer to your Mom than I am to mine." I thought  those were strange words to hear. The last 12 years of my Mom's life she could not speak and I lived in California.

Up to her stroke we had talked almost everyday. Apparently we racked up some serious phone bills and I am glad we did.

Thank you for being with me.

3. It's the Magic Number

okay children what does it all mean?
Oh, yes it is! Somewhere in this hip hop soul community was born 3.
Bob, Tom & Me.

And that's the magic number. My posse consists of three and that's the magic number.

This here piece of the pie. Is not dessert but the course that we dine.
But odd as it may be
Without my one and my two where would be my three.

My 3
No more no less.

Has anyone in the audience ever been hit by a car?
How high is the water Mama?
Three feet high and rising.