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Where Life Is


(Photograph by Judy Rolfe)

I woke up to the sound of my mother’s slight  Southern drawl whispering, “Get up, baby.” Her small, strong fingers rubbed my shoulders. It was dark and the moon beams cut through the bamboo shutters in the bedroom where we slept. A fan hummed next to the bed, breaking the summer heat.

I groaned. “No, mama. Sleep.”

She laughed. “But you’ll miss it.”

“What?” I asked.

“You’ll see.”

Bo was easier to rise. Me, her stubborn child who drew every moment of sleep out like it would be my last.

She slipped light sweaters over our toe-heads, her toned brown arms wrapping us in a three-way embrace. It was cooler outside of the house than I thought it would be. I was happy for my sweater and rubbed my sleepy eyes into its worn sleeves. Crickets chirped all around us, singing mating songs in three-quarter time. I had just learned to read music at church. Nature now taught me beyond the stained glass and cloth-draped pulpit.

Mom took our hands. We set across the drive, broken oyster shells popping under our feet. The stars were bright and the moon full. The sun began to break over the barrier islands east of our little harbor town. Wachapreague, Virginia. The Little City by the Sea. Population maybe 500.

We walked in silence towards the marina. Mom threw her head back at the moon, as if she might swallow it whole.

We stopped inside of the bait and tackle shop for juice. The cashier slipped two Cow Tails into the brown bag, winking at me and Bo. We grinned back at him.

Fisherman readied their boats for the day, their vessels rocking in morning high tide. We lived by the tidal report. The marshes where we played were off limits at high tide, when an unexpected swell could carry us out of the channel and into the Atlantic. Out legs were too small for the occasional trough of thick pluff mud left by low tide. We played in between the tides, pretending to be pirates, watching for jellyfish and water moccasins.

We settled onto a be chat the furthest end of the marina, near the pulley where men would raise the largest catch later in the afternoon. My stomach heaved with curiosity and fear whenever a bull shark was pulled from the channel, the town pointing and gaping at the prehistoric creature dangling from chains, blood spilling down its slick, cool belly.

I nestled my head in between my mother’s collar bone and breast. She smelled like salt and slights hints of the honeysuckle bush that grew near our front stoop. The sun swelled higher over the horizon line, turning the sky a bright red. Motors kicked around us and the remaining boats chugged out to sea. I sucked orange juice through the gap in my teeth. I was tired and happy.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t miss this, Woogie?” Mom asked, the sky spilling yellow onto her tanned face.

I nodded yes. Bo dozed in her lap.

“This is where life is, baby. Don’t wait. It is here, right now. Waiting for you.” We stayed on the bench for a few more moments before turning home for breakfast.

There are many memories stored in the books and volumes of our minds. Most are replaced by newer memories, or amended to cover pain, or simply forgetting with the inevitable march through age. But some stay with you always.

This is where life is, baby. Don’t wait. It is here, right now. Waiting for you.


On Becoming Your True Self

“It is my firm belief that all our lives we are preparing to be somebody or something, even if we don’t do it consciously. And the time comes one morning when you wake up and find that you have become irrevocably what you were preparing all this time to be.”


Katherine Anne Porter

Writer / Bad-ass

From “The Paris Review,” 1963

Follow this link to the full interview with this literary genius

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Evening Reading

Tonight’s “Whoa, I needed that” moment of truth, courtesy of Jeffrey Eugenides’s brilliant The Marriage Plot:

 “…he had got into the habit of walking around Calcutta in the presence of God. Furthermore, it didn’t seem to Mitchell that this had to be a difficult thing. It was something every child knew how to do, maintain a direct and full connection with the world. Somehow you forgot about it as you grew up, and had to learn it again.” 


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Popping the Costco Cherry

Ok, friends, I have something to admit. It’s shameful, really. I don’t know how I made it this far in life without experiencing this one, truly American thing:

Today I popped my Costco cherry.

My friend JP and I had to pick up the necessary fixins for a fiesta tomorrow (read: booze and pickles. You know, the essentials). I asked him if he had a Costco card. Many of my friends have spoken of this magical land where you can buy hundreds of cheesesticks for mere pennies. This must be a good place to go shopping for a party. JP, being the reliable friend he is, had a Costco card. And naturally he thought I knew what I was doing.

Boy, was he wrong.

First off, let’s talk about the parking lot at Costco. I’ve never dodged more obstacles in my life. What is it about Costco that makes people think it’s perfectly fine to saunter about while their fellow Angelenos gun their engines to find the closest spot?

After talking myself down from a parking induced panic attack, I quickly found JP. How else would I get into this exclusive club without the man with our passes? JP flashed his “Executive Card,” which I was initially impressed with, but then let down when he told me everyone is an Executive at Costco. It’s like giving a trophy to every kid on the Little League team- even the kid who picks flowers and his nose and who knows what else in center field. Lame.

But once I walked in it was walking into a dream. A dream filled with anything my little consumer’s heart could possibly desire. I found so many things I didn’t know I needed. Sure, I don’t surf, but a board was only $99?!? That sounded like a steal. WANT. But, alas, we had serious shopping to do. On to the booze we went.

Upon arrival at the wine section I was distracted by nice ladies in hairnets offering me free samples of food. Now THIS I could get into. JP then informed me that the samples were better on the weekends. I felt slightly cheated, but I still nibbled on everything I passed. Who cares if I kinda hate stuffed chicken. It was free, and free is delicious.

JP and I found everything on our list. He was careful not to let me wander, which was quite wise. I may have ended up buying an air conditioning unit, not because I need one, but because it was cheap. And oooh, look at that 12 person tent! Who cares if only a handful of my friends camp and I have nowhere to keep it. It’s CHEAP!!!

While checking out I discovered that Costco is the land of cognitive dissonance. Why? Because you have to pay with a debit card, AMEX, or cash. What?!? This is America, where I can buy a tub of mayonnaise for 50 cents. What do you mean I can’t buy now and pay later? My credit card felt shunned, like it was a college boy who got into the Playboy Mansion, only to be kicked out for wearing the wrong pajamas.

Everything worked out, though. JP came through and rescued me in line (thanks, buddy) and said he would buy me dinner. Oooh, I thought. Where would JP take me? (JP is known for picking the best restaurants). We walked outside, put our booze and pickles in the car, and walked right back to Costco.

And this is where Costco exceeded all of my expectations.

We got two hot dogs, two drinks, a weird giant hot pocket thing called a Chicken Bake (more stuffed chicken), a turkey sandwich, and a churro for the whopping total of $11.


Ok, it was awesome at the time. Now I just feel like I have a brick in my stomach.

All and all, I would say our trip to Costco was a success. And I feel better knowing now that I am more like my fellow Americans.

The Best of the Worst

First off, my apologies for being an absent blogger. I’ve been very busy with work and other life type things. But, I’m back, and with a treat for you: THE BEST WORST FIRST DATE STORIES.

We’ve explored surviving your 20s over the past few entries, with a very special focus on the messiness we like to call dating. I admittedly tend to take extended vacations from dating in the wake of break-ups or relationship mishaps. But one must always swiftly move forward, so again I find myself swimming with all of the other crazy fish in Los Angeles.

There’s only one problem with the idea of putting yourself out there: You have to go on first dates. You have to spend time with a stranger and figure out whether or not you want to make space for them in your lives. And you have to do all of this in the time-frame of a few hours in a social setting that is usually unnatural to both parties. No wonder people avoid them like the plague.

I went on one recently, and I would call it a success. We had common interests and enjoyed each other’s company and even ended the date with a walk on the Redondo Beach pier. No one said they were going to the bathroom, but bolted to their car instead. Yep, that’s a success.

But not all first dates work out that well. Sometimes fate deals you a really terrible date. And while it may suck at the time those dates turn into great stories to share on a blog.

Once again I shamelessly solicited my friends for their worst first date stories. Wow, did y’all deliver. Your experiences verify one of my life maxims: Everyone has their own flavor of crazy.

Without further adieu, I present you the best worst first date stories I collected:

Man on the Side

“So I was on a 1st date with this girl that I had met at a party for a friend. Things are going really well and we’re having a good time. About half-way through dinner she drops this line, “Yeah my husband and I blah-blah-blah.” I was like, “Wait… your husband?” And she just very nonchalantly says, “Oh yes, I’m married.” Then she clarified, not separated -but married. I asked her, “So… why are you having dinner with me.” She tells me that she and her husband have a non-monogamous agreement. He has a girlfriend on the side; she can have a boyfriend on the side. After dinner she suggestively asked me if I wanted to go someplace for a drink. I declined. “Why? Is this because I have a husband? I told you, he’s ok with it.” She couldn’t comprehend that.”

Paging Emily Post

 “…I had a guy tell me I should have taken an etiquette class growing up bc I didn’t turn my fork over on my plate when I was finished eating. I should have shoved my fork right up his…”

Church Goin’ Folks Ain’t What They Used To Be

“Met a cute guy at church one Sunday morning. He asked me to go to brunch with him the next week after church. Things are going pretty well, and we’ve each had a couple of mimosas, when the conversation turns to tattoos. I say that I’ve got a couple of them, and he asks me if one is on my lower back. When I say yes, he asks, “Do you [edit] on the first date?” I said, “umm, no?” He said, “oh, come on… never? You NEVER [edit] on the first date?” I again say no. He says, “well it’s just that every girl that I’ve ever gone out with that had a lower back tattoo has [edit] me on the first date.” I said, “Well, I’m not trying to make history or anything, but this is just brunch, and you aren’t getting laid today.” After that, I avoided his calls (and deleted his angry messages about what a bitch I was for not calling him back), and ended up having to find a new church!”

And the winner for worst first date story is….

Ayn Randy

“This is 100% true:

It was the fourth of July, we met up in central park for a picnic. He brought wine and a copy of Atlas Shrugged. Seemed like we were off to an okay start. Then he noticed a naked homeless guy sitting on a rock. He proceeded to strip down to his underwear and went over to talk to the homeless man…

And yes I let the date continue…maybe out of pure curiosity of what would happen next. he decided he wanted to go bike riding. That seems normal… but he insisted we get a tandem bike. It didn’t take long before we were flying out of central park and onto the ciy streets swerving between cabs and busses. I was in a sundress on the back of this bike with no control over where we were going or where said dress was going either.

We then went to get some food and he proceeded to try to convert me to Judaism as he was Jewish I told him I didn’t even go to church so the chances of me becoming Jewish were pretty much 0%. He also told me he thought he was Marc Antony in a previous life and that I was probably one of his lovers in this life as well.

Sadly, it didn’t work out, but the sex was great.”

Kudos to my friends for sharing, but especially for having the courage to keep dating after first date doozies like those.  It reminds me that everyone has a bad date. And if you have one anytime soon, just find solace in this: at least you’re not on a bicycle with an existential lunatic.


Ode to Sunday

I’ve been a bad blogger as of late. My apologies.

This month has been tough, for many reasons. My radio silence is intentional – sometimes, even when we want to scream out to the universe, it’s best to remember that a filter isn’t a bad thing. A filter can keep you out of trouble. So do friends. That’s what I’ve been focusing on the past month- connecting with who matters. For my friends who put up with my crap and keep me from destructing (and you know who you are), thank you. Without you I’d probably be trying to figure how to delete my ramblings off of the inter webs, and failing miserably at it.

But, I am happy to report that it appears that I am out of my slump. Time to move forward, and no better day to do it than on a rainy Sunday. This day, Sunday, is superior to all others. It’s the one day of the week that belongs to the soul. There’s no pressure on it. It can be whatever you want it to be. Every now and then you remember that Monday lurks in the periphery, and that makes the moments that much sweeter. Sunday is the day that I put my mind on pause.

Sunday is a day for the little things. A Bloody Mary (or three) with your best friend at your favorite brunch place, not because the food is good, but because they let you build your own Bloody Mary and it is a place that’s set the stage for moments in your friendship. A hike up in Griffith Park, climbing up waterfalls and tasting fresh cactus fruit off the marked trail. The Sun Also Rises, a cup of coffee, and Etta James on the speaker box. A quiet moment in church, realizing that life is bigger than just me, and that life is a series of blessings. A hand tracing the wind outside of the car window, humming along to the oldies station, and smiling at memories of my parents dancing in the kitchen.

I’ll deal with you later, Monday. In the words of my homegirl Scarlet O’Hara: I’ll think about that tomorrow.

I Was Once A Ninja

This evening I knew I had to work on my book. These things do not write themselves, after all. I refrained from an evening out with friends. I would, indeed, work on the narrative. Tonight
was the night.

While my laptop was warming up I looked around my bedroom and came to the conclusion that creative genius could not be cultivated in clutter. So, I began to clean. (Those of you who know me well understand that this is not par for the course. I was avoiding writing the book, and was desperate enough to avoid it that I cleaned instead.)

While sifting through some old papers I came across my first journal. It is written by a six year old version of me. Each entry is usually a picture accompanied by text that is barely passable for English.

I came across this entry half way through the journal:


Allow me to translate – “I love being a ninja. It’s rad. I love it.”

I can derive two things from this picture and text:

1. I was clearly a bad-ass at age six.

2. That little girl would not
be scared of writing the painful parts of the book. She had guts. She would tell me to stop being a wuss and slay the book with the stealth of a ninja.

I’m taking her advice. Chapter 3: prepare to be rocked.

Photo Essay: Joshua Tree

I love Joshua Tree. I love that a place 2 and a half hours from my house feels like a different planet, a place that time and the demands of modern life has left untouched. It’s somewhere I’ve always gone alone, to heal. I suppose you could say it’s one of my sacred places.

I knew I had to go there when at noon yesterday I couldn’t keep my mind still. My head was spinning, on data overload. I decided on a whim to point my car towards Joshua Tree and reconnect with myself, because I certainly wasn’t getting anywhere at home. I was too distracted to let myself think, to let myself just be.

Yesterday was a quiet day. A time to reflect and recharge outside the walls of Los Angeles. I wrote in my journal for quite a bit. I reflected on the loss of a great man, and prayed for his family. I realized what I could and could not change in my life, and made an active decision to let my heart move on from certain hurts. I befriended a coyote. I talked with a stranger about low exposure shots in twilight. But, mostly, I took a day to be quiet. I slowed down.

As much as I love my adopted hometown, sometimes I can’t help but need to escape its chaos and remind myself who I am. Joshua Tree is that escape for me. I hope you all have a place like that, too.

Just remember, darling: Wherever you go, there you are.
















Dear BBC: Please Make A Downton Abbey Snowglobe

Let’s talk about this, shall we?

Last night I had the pleasure of watching the Downton Abbey season 2 finale a few hours before the rest of America, courtesy of JP and his Blueray collection. It’s the little things, really.

Anyway, I will admit that I was a little put off at times by season 2. I realize that Julian Fellowes has a very large cast of characters, and that he needs to advance the plot, but some of his subplots this year left me incredulously Dowager Countess-esque. A sampling:

  • Lord Grantham and The Maid: No, I did not learn her name. Yes, I figured out her only purpose was to make our dear Robert seem fallible, as all heroes must appear at some point to be in their quest for honor and diginity and really fancy cufflinks. Seriously, though, made both me and JP scream at the TV in horror a few weeks back. HOW COULD YOU DO THAT WHILE LADY GRANTHAM IS NEAR DEATH? (also, so is that poor Lavinia Swire, but whatever, her death served a purpose so I am ok with it). Perhaps our mighty hero needed to fall in order to forgive Lady Cybil and The Chauffer and my homegirl Mary in the finale. Still, it felt forced and contrived cheap and made me, the viewer, feel gross and need to drink more wine. So that can’t be good.
  • The Redheaded Chick, The Hot Jackass (with an awesome ‘stache) and The Baby: Our favorite replacement redheaded maid (oh, DA, please bring back Gwen, I want to see what sort of adventures she’s been up to ever since receiving the post at the telephone company) got herself into all sorts of trouble when she hooked up with Clark Gable-esque officer-man. She, of course, gets knocked up, and he, of course, denies paternity. Then we go through this whole ordeal where Mrs. Hughes brings said redhead food and whatnot when she is removed from the household for being a hussy – such hypocrisy at Downton. Mary sleeps with a guy, he dies in her bed, and she gets to stay. Pshaw. Such is the class divide. Anywho, Bastard Dad dies in the war, and Redheaded Rita makes Mrs. Hughes unite her with his parents while they are visiting DA so she can thrust her loin fruit in their faces. And in the end, once they have offered her the parental equivalent of an Indecent Proposal, she decides, “Hey, whatever, I don’t need my son to have a future other than sitting in a dark room waiting for some nice old lady to bring us bread crumbs. Thanks, but no, thanks?” This storyline frustrated me, clearly. WHAT WAS THE POINT?
  • Lady Edith and The Farmer Man With A Tractor That She Drives: Enough said. Liked that Edith found herself this season, LOVED the trousers (they were Meryl Streep’s in “Out of Africa,” in case you’re curious), but was baffled a bit by that subplot.
  • Are You There, Robert? It’s Me, Patrick: Somehow I feel this storyline is not dead. I find it a little proposterous for a man to be presumed dead after the sinking of the Titanic, but then magically pops up five years later, but only after he burns half of his face off in the War and magically awakes from amnesia and remembers that he is not Canadian but an heir to a magical estate in Yorkshire. Puh-lease.

But, despite the above dalliances into the surreal, I thought last night’s episode was the cherry on top of this season. Maggie Smith stole the show per usual, but kinda loved this line from Mrs. Crawley: “It’s a nut cracker. So you can crack your nuts. We thought you’d like it.” A great line, and encapsulates why the show is so good when it’s good: succinct writing and great acting are all it really takes to make me fall in love with DA over and over again.

By the way, has Thomas not learned his lesson about being a Grade A D-Bag? You’d think he’d figure it out by now, but no, he continues to cut corners. If anything had happened to Isis I personally would have started a letter writing to Mr. Fellowes to write Thomas and his way too awesome hair off the show. I am sure all of Britain was agasp over the dog last Christmas. Dogs are one of the few things British folks can express feelings to, after all.

Back to good things, though. I’m happy that Lord and Lady Grantham are back in the groove. I love them as a couple – more than Bates & Anna and Matthew & Mary, to be honest – because of the first season. And because that relationship was healed she could FINALLY reveal Mary’s Big Fat Turkish Secret to Lord Grantham. And that reveal was the impetus for the rest of the episode. Rundown:

– Lord Grantham tells Mary to break it off with Mr. Sinister Richard, even if she will be labeled a hussy. Great father daughter moment. Probably my second favorite moment from last night.

– Mary tells Matthew her secret. Can you believe that girl was holding on to that secret for 6 years? No wonder she’s so skinny, the guilt must be eating her alive.

– Matthew punches Richard. I loved that both of their hair went all out of place. Loved it even more when Matthew apologized for breaking the vase to the Dowager.

– The Dowager’s “Do you promise?” retort to Richard’s “I am leaving in the morning, Lady Grantham. I doubt we will meet again.”

– And then, finally, after 8 years, Mary and Matthew admit their feelings to one another and, to our relief, smile. Such a simple concept, smiling is. Those are pretty people. They need to smile and laugh more often. All of that brooding is not a good look on Matthew Crawley. Still, a beautiful scene, what with the snow falling and the glory of Downton behind them. And, as many people have said, if BBC/PBS/Lord Carnarvon (the dude who actually lives at the real DA) don’t make a Downton Abbey snowglobe, then they are just plain bad capitalists.

Looking forward to next season- and a Maggie Smith/Shirley Maclaine show-down. Methinks my girl Violet is in for many days filled with fights with an American.

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The Shocking Way to Reduce Your Muffintop

Today I had a watershed moment. Must share.

This morning I put on “that pair” of jeans. Y’all know what I’m talking about. It’s the pair that you have convinced yourself that you still fit into, but know you’re a few precious ounces from qualifying for a fashion intervention by the crew of What Not To Wear.

Well, today I discovered that those jeans actually were on their way to fitting the way they should be. You can imagine my shock and overall happy dance that I did in my bedroom (which may or may not have been performed to Selena Gomez’s “I Love You Like A Love Song. If you’re looking for shame you ain’t gonna find it here). My muffintop had receded from its all-out, take no prisoners assault on my physique.

How did this happen? What secret diet had I been following? Don’t worry, I will tell you.

I have recently become aware of a crazy, fad diet. It’s called eating smaller, healthier portions, cutting back on the booze intake and working out at least an hour a day, 5 times a week.

Shocking, I know. Who had been hiding this crazy fitness tip from me for all of these years?

My friend Ryann suggested I share this groundbreaking discovery with my blog readers- so, for the 5ish people that read this thing, here’s a synopsis of our exchange. Consider Ryann my first fitness pupil.

Ryann: Catherine, can I drink a bottle of wine a night and still lose weight?

Catherine: No, but that sounds like a wonderful gateway to an evening of questionable decision making.

Ryann: Catherine, can I eat In ‘N’ Out for lunch everyday and still lose weight?

Catherine: Only if you barf it up later, but my super secret diet plan does not condone that at all. Next question?

Ryann: Catherine, I like to sit. It’s one of my favorite past times. I can do so much when I sit, watch movies, watch TV, work, watch YouTube videos, really, the possibilities are endless. See, the problem is I actually like sitting so much that I HATE getting up. Can I just sit and lose weight?

Catherine: No.

I changed Ryann’s life today. Hopefully I’ve changed yours, too. Now I will just sit back and watch the book deals, interviews and heaps upon heaps of money roll on in.

(sarcasm font off)