Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Bras, Glutes, & Duck Heads: Age-Defining Moments

It’s been a rough few weeks for my ego. Please note the title says age-defining, not age-defying

Party of One Final Cover

Watch for it in May!

It began when I was out with a friend at a small local restaurant. Since my book Party of One is due out within weeks, I’ve been scouting venues to have book signings. I asked to speak with the owner of the place. I was surprised when a cute guy in his twenties approached the table.

He’s the owner?

Anyway, I told him what I had in mind. He was agreeable to the book signing idea, and I was excited.

“We could schedule you any night, maybe seven to closing,” he said. “We’ll set you up at one of our larger tables, and advertise it on Facebook. Just let me know what night would work best.”

The baby-faced owner was so darn cute and optimistic I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

First, nights won’t “work best.” My readers are women, middle-aged and older. Some of them don’t drive after dark—or shouldn’t. The rest of them have taken their bras off by seven. Once that happens, there’s no turning back.

After expressing my appreciation, I promised to get back to him soon. Better yet, maybe I could speak to his mother. She may be more sympathetic and better able to explain this rite of passage to her son.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)

A second age-defining moment actually stems from my new membership at the gym … but not in the way you might think.

When I joined earlier this year, I had no fantasies about competing with lunks and beauty queens who were half my age. My goal was simple—to be more comfortable in my clothes, preferably the smaller sizes.

Anyway, after being assessed by a professional trainer, I got started.

I’d been working out for a few months, when I noticed an unwelcome change on my way into the kitchen one morning. My PJ bottoms hugged my glutes a little too tight. My brain ran back to the gym. (Okay, maybe “ran” is an exaggeration.) I pictured the machines in my head, then grumbled, “Why would a pro tell me to do exercises that would make my butt bigger?”

This may look exactly like me, but it’s not.

I was writing a formal letter of complaint in my head as I tugged at my PJ bottoms. That’s when I saw the tag—in the front. In my rush, I’d put my pants on backwards.

Knowing my husband was on his way, I wanted to right that wrong before he noticed.  A speedy off and on, then I began my breakfast duties with all the innocence and sophistication I could muster.

Then I heard him chuckling behind me.

With a hand on my hip, I said, “What’s so funny?”

“If you’re wondering why your sweatshirt has no spots on it, it’s because you’ve got in on backwards.”

Without much thought, my big mouth snapped back, “Then it matched my pants! So there!”

He’s still laughing.

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. ~ Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)

This past holiday weekend, I got to spend time with my six grandchildren. The four older grandkids—Jessica, Colin, Michael, and Darin—are polite and tactful, but basically ignore me. Nice way of saying there’s a good chance I bore them. C’est la vie.

However, I can still amuse the youngest two: nine-year-old Max and seven-year-old Margaux—even when I’m not trying.

Dressed in my new outfit with my make-up and hair looking as good as ever, I sat on the sofa in their rental house, admiring the view of a lovely pond.

Margaux joined me. She leaned over the back of the sofa, her precious little face studying my features, like seven-year-olds do—up close and personal. Pointing to my chin and/or neck area, she exclaimed, “Hey! Memere! It looks like you have a duck’s head under there.”

Max jumped on the sofa, abandoning his Legos. “Let me see!” He twisted his whole body for a better view.

I began to laugh.

Margaux turned my head toward her. “Wait! When you laugh it looks like a tiny person!”

Max got even closer. “It does! If we draw eyes on it, it would look like a chubby face.”

I can’t wait until they grow up and ignore me.*

Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children. ~ Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

(*That’s so not true.)

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Chances Are I Didn’t Do It

My Christmas Letter: I’m amazed at all the things I DIDN’T do last year.
Winter:

snowvids1I DIDN’T shovel an ounce of the 105 inches of snow we got in the Northeast. It’s hard to shovel snow when you’re in Cancun. Not that I was in Cancun, mind you. But I do live in a condo community with stand-alone homes and low HOA fees–snow removal included. Close enough for me, by golly.

I DIDN’T finish the portrait of my husband I never started. “Why not?” you ask. The answer is simple. We don’t have a fireplace, so where would I hang it? And then there’s this: I can’t draw, not even a short straw.

I DIDN’T dance the cha-cha-cha. Unless you count the mornings I had too much coffee.

Spring:

I DIDN’T quite finish my Fall cleaning.

Not by bicycle.

This is not my bicycle.

I DIDN’T let the strong crosswinds affect me on a 30-mile cycle trip on the Kancamagus Highway. I DIDN’T have one sore muscle. That’s a lie. I did have a few sore muscles, but that was from sleeping on our old mattress. Never been on the Kancamagus myself. Don’t even own a bicycle, and slow speed is too fast for me.

I DIDN’T spit out the car window–not one time. Mainly, because both times the window was closed. [Note to my friend Kellie Parham. You know I’d never do this, so relax.]

Summer:

I DIDN’T go camping. At all. What a shame. (Again, lying here. No shame at all.)

I DIDN’T have the problem of critters spoiling my organic garden. I chose to pay the whole price at Whole Foods and save myself a whole lot of grief.

Prize HogI DIDN’T win a blue ribbon at the fair for my prize hog, Ham. I DIDN’T even go to the fair. Ham and I lounged by the pool that day.

Fall:

I DIDN’T do a scrapbooking page for each of the things I DIDN’T do.

I DIDN’T smack a single person upside the head. (Of course, the year’s not over yet.)

I DIDN’T win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. I felt kinda bad about that for a while. The feeling passed when I realized people might expect me to do exciting stuff with all my money. Like sit and sweat in Cancun. Ride or, worse, hike the Kancamagus. Go camping. Or show off my hog, Ham, at the county fair.

More things I’m thankful I DIDN’T do: 

I DIDN’T give up on getting my first book published–and it happened.

I DIDN’T get sick.

I DIDN’T stop being thankful for my family.

I DIDN’T stop loving and appreciating my husband.

I DIDN’T lose a loved one.

I DIDN’T stop praying.

I DIDN’T stop believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the world.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” ~ Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

CJ 02056


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Like Only a Grandmother Could Fantasize

Max 9-2105 first dayFor weeks, I’d been looking forward to a sweet time of bonding with my two youngest grandchildren: Max, 7, and Margaux, 5. Wonderful ages, such bright and lively children. I planned to collect as many precious memories as I could squeeze into three days.  I coveted the time I would spend alone with them when their parents weren’t around to bother–I mean distract us.

Fantasy: First, I would interview them for my blog, making sure to record every cute and amusing answer they gave me.

Reality: After I asked one or two questions, Max informed me, “I don’t do interviews.” Margaux was a little more diplomatic. “Do we have to do this right now?”

Fantasy: I’d snuggle up with them on the couch or on their beds and entertain them with stories.

Reality: They don’t snuggle; they squirm and fidget and jump. They also don’t want me to talk while they’re watching loud Nickelodeon TV shows filled with stupid slapstick humor and canned laughter. [I can too say stupid if I want!]

Fantasy: We’d tell each other silly jokes and laugh until our stomachs hurt.

Reality: They told me one silly joke. Over and over. At one point, when I was pretend-laughing, Margaux pointed out that my teeth were a little yellow.

Fantasy: We’d prepare fun meals, which we’d then share together at the dining room table.Margaux 9-15 First day

Reality: Margaux does not eat. Period. During the three days I was there, I think she had three cheese sticks, one apple Crusher, and two yogurt smoothies. I’m still not sure she swallowed. Max’s diet consists of nothing I could actually make, or if I could, I wouldn’t get it right. And he eats at the table with half his bottom on the chair, the other half on its way to a place way more interesting than the table with me. Then it takes a half hour to wipe up after him.

Fantasy: We’d enjoy the local children’s museum, and I’d purchase each of them an educational toy from the gift shop.

Reality: They did enjoy the museum. Yay! I had a hard time keeping up as they ran from one interactive display to another.  At one point, I strongly suspected they were trying to ditch me.

Big surprise, there was nothing in the gift shop they wanted. So we went to Marshalls, where we found an ice cream play set for Margaux. Max couldn’t find anything he liked there, so we went to Walgreens for Pokemon cards. A part of me thought, Should I be encouraging a 7-year-old in a card game where fictional characters are captured by humans and trained to fight each other to the death? A bigger part of me just gave in.

We also bought jelly beans and gummy bears to serve as toppings for their make believe ice cream concoctions. On our way home, Margaux spilled the jelly beans on the floor of my car. [I discovered a half dozen in my pocketbook today.] When we arrived home, Max dumped the sticky gummy bears on the carpet (a.k.a. “ice cream counter”). However, we did play make believe with the ice cream set. Over and over and over and over. Up until I told them I was lactose intolerant.

Fantasy: It is possible to be a fun and responsible grandmother at the same time.

Reality: Maybe not. I said nothing when they ate the dirty jelly beans and fuzzy gummy bears and even when they shared them with their father. [As the youngest of my three kids, I figured he wouldn’t know the difference.]

Fantasy: Planning makes for more fun.

Reality: Going with the flow works best.

Fantasy: I’m as young as I feel.

Reality: After three days, I feel every bit of old. 

Fantasy: Next time it will be different.

Reality: No it won’t. And I wouldn’t change them for the world!

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. ~ Psalms 94:11 (NIV)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. ~ Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)