Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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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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It Was All Over Once We Measured Our Heads

My husband has teased me for over ten years about the canned message I used to introduce myself to him online.

Yahoo PersonnalsOn 06/23/2005 04:06 pm EDT, I sent: “I like your profile. Tell me more.”

It was the only time I had ever sent anyone a canned message. After seven years of being widowed, I didn’t feel like putting any more effort into this whole finding-a-perfect-mate thing.

On 06/24/2005 06:03 am EDT, he replied with his own canned message: “I’d like to know more about you. Maybe you could take the Personality & Love Style Test?”

A test? Who does this guy think he is? A test? Oh, I don’t think so. My plan was to play hard to get.

On 06/24/2005 05:21 pm EDT, I wrote: “I found the test and downloaded the Flash Player they said I needed to take the test. I’ve downloaded it 6 times, yet no go. Does this mean I flunked? If you have any hints as to how I can access this test, please send them along. Thanks. Clarice.”flash-player

If he wanted me to take his stupid test, I wasn’t going to make it easy on him.

On 06/24/2005 09:56 pm EDT, he wrote: “Not to ask a really dumb question, but after downloading Flash Player, did you install it?  I know, that’s a lot like asking if your TV’s not working because it’s not plugged in, but it’s all I could think of. David.”

Did I install the Flash Player? I downloaded it, wasn’t that good enough? What more did this moustached man from New Hampshire want from me? Well, I wasn’t so desperate that I needed to put up with this nonsense!

On 06/25/2005 08:57 am EDT, I wrote: “You must think my e-IQ is below average, but I’ve tried, really I have. I’ve clicked on the Personality Test and downloaded and installed the Flash 7, oh, probably 15 times by now. I have also re-booted more than once. Anyway, until I figure this out, here are a few facts about me:

  1. I’m much shorter than you.
  2. I don’t have a moustache. I’ve been told I’m attractive (even without the moustache).
    profile square

    [Ralph] David James 2005

  3. The symphony puts me to sleep, but I don’t think that’s a sin.
  4. I want to lose 10 lbs.
  5. I am honest [Correction: Make that 20 lbs.] and dependable and able to adapt to most situations in quick and positive manner. [I’d just put that on my resume and thought it sounded pretty good, so included it.]  Have I scared you away for good? Clarice

There. No harm in sending him a few bits of  information about me. Actually, there were 20 other things on the list, but does that make me a bad person? It’s not like I asked him to write a “What Marriage Means To Me Essay” or anything. (Well, maybe I did, but not until a month later.)

On 06/25/2005 11:20 pm EDT, he wrote: “Ack! I didn’t mean to act like you were e-IQ challenged! I was just admitting my own inability to come up with a solution to your problem. I’ve always thought ladies should be able to walk under my outstretched arm without mussing their hair. So 5′-2+3/8″ is a nice height. Moustaches on ladies have a very limited following, so your lack of one is no disadvantage.”

Ten more paragraphs followed. He gave as much as he got.

Our daily writing continued through July and August—without one phone call or date (despite all the hints I threw at him). We wrote about everyday stuff: faith, family, food, church, music, work. After a while, I decided there would be much less pressure if we took our time getting to know each other by writing. (Besides, he really never gave me a choice.)

In early August, our relationship took an unexpected turn toward intimacy when he told me he had a big head (literally). I’d seen his picture on his profile so I bet him that he was wrong. To settle the argument, such as it was, we both simultaneously measured our heads and reported the results.

It was all over after that. I knew this guy was for me. Who else would use a 25’ Stanley measuring tape to measure his head for a woman who didn’t know the difference between “download” and “install,” one who would try to use a 12″ ruler to measure the circumference of hers?

Big Head CapsThe first time we spoke and met in person was on September 21, 2005. Since I was looking at his head from a good 12+” below him, it seemed a normal size to me. Even so that Christmas I got him a hat from BigHeadCaps.com. It fit.

My husband needs a big head if he’s going to live with me. Where else would he store the knowledge base he uses to help get me through my days? (See this blog for more on that.)

“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.'” ~ Genesis 2:18 (KJV)


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It’s Not Always About Sex

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. ~ Ephesians 5:4 (NIV)

I was raised in a home where “obscenity, foolish talk [and] coarse joking” were NOT the norm. Private matters were kept private and private parts had cute, little nicknames—which I will refrain from sharing at this time.

The first time I sought clarification on a word I’d heard an older boy spew on the playground, I was five years old. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Soap? But Mom . . . .

I’ll wash your mouth out with soap!

“Mommy, what does #$%& mean?”

Her response was swift—if not helpful. “If I ever hear you say that word again, I’ll wash your mouth out with soap.”

Not that I wish my family life was otherwise—I know now I was blessed—but there were times I felt uninformed, insecure, and naïve. I thought “off-color” meant dull and “double entendre” meant we could have second helpings at supper.

As I got older, my peers found my ignorance amusing. I found it humiliating. Like when I was thirteen and a member of the Camp Fire Girls. One day my troop leader motioned to one of the girls and said, “Anne won’t be participating in this afternoon’s activities because she has her friend.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wo-He-L0 is short for Work, Health and Love

I spoke up, “We don’t mind if her friend joins in.”  I looked around, wondering where her friend was and why the rest of the troop was gawking at me.

The leader said, “No, dear, it’s her monthly visitor.”

I extended the invitation again. “Even if she can’t attend every week, it’s okay.”

I was sent home with a note. My mother read it, then produced an old, faded “You’re a Young Lady Now” booklet and sent me to my room with orders to read it.

I was horrified.  GYour a woman now

From that moment on, I was on my guard. I pretended to get jokes, giggling when others giggled, rolling my eyes when others rolled theirs. When I got my very own Webster’s Dictionary that Christmas, the first thing I did was look up words I thought I should know. I didn’t plan to use them, but I was tired of being caught unaware. (Of course, not knowing the words to look up didn’t help much.)

As a freshman, when I overheard an upper classman whisper to her friend, “Did you guys French?”, I wondered why she would ask such a dumb question since they were all in the same Spanish class.

Married right out of high school, I learned the details of having a baby through—you guessed it—another booklet. Mortified, for years I blushed every time I heard the word “stirrups.” Riding lessons are still out of the question for me.

The mandatory health class in high school was one big blackout. Which might explain why, as a new Christian at the age of thirty-two, I thought the pastor was speaking about male body parts when he spoke about St. Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.

I was widowed at fifty and fell for some dumb lines. It took the young adults in my church group to warn me that “Want to come in for coffee?” was tantamount to “Want to come in for a nightcap?” And it took my thirty-something co-workers to discourage me from using the expression “hooking up.” Apparently, it meant more than I thought it did.

After dating David for a year, we married. It was a mixed marriage of sorts. He was a WASP from suburban DC; I was French and a former Catholic from Cape Cod. He’d been in the Navy; I had not.

One day, in the honeymoon phase of our marriage, David went out to run errands. I heard the garage door go up upon his return. When he didn’t come in right away, I looked out the window and saw a neighbor approaching him.

I was surprised when David entered the house a minute later. “You sure didn’t talk very long to Roland.”

He leaned over and kissed me. “Why would I want to talk to Roland when I’ve got a warm sandwich for you?”

A warm sandwich? My mind scrambled. I’d heard of spooning, snuggling, and canoodling, but what on earth was a warm sandwich? Was this a common WASP expression or a term specific to DC? Or worse, had he picked it up in the Navy? I panicked.

How well did I know this man anyway?

I mustered my courage. “What do you mean by that?”

“By what?”

“A warm sandwich.”

He plopped a brown paper bag on the table. “The steak and cheese sub you wanted for lunch.”

Of course. The sub. I knew that.

When will I learn? It’s not always about sex. Sometimes it’s just a warm sandwich.steak and cheese sub

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. ~ Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

PS: This was The Law of the Camp Fire Girls when I was a member:

  • Worship God
  • Seek Beauty
  • Give Service
  • Pursue Knowledge
  • Be Trustworthy
  • Hold onto Health
  • Glorify Work
  • Be Happy

 


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If I Died Tomorrow, What Would You Do?

princess_clarice_t_shirts-rfa733ec9911542a1abb37407cce219d6_8nhmp_324“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,  she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” ~ Pr 6:6-8 ESV

For twenty-three years I was married to a happy-go-hardworking guy who preferred that I handle our personal and business finances. Early on, we both agreed it was one of the few tasks I performed better than he did.

When the bills, mortgage, and premiums came due, I wrote the checks. I handled the checking, savings and IRA accounts along with our  business payables, receivables, and payroll. When the statements arrived, I reconciled them, being sure to enter every single ATM withdrawal he made.

Charged with maintaining a filing system, I could put my hand on anything we needed in a minute or less. When April loomed, it was me who filled out the forms and filed our tax returns.

Because my husband didn’t have to handle the day-to-day deadlines and drama, he enjoyed the freedom to work and play unhampered. Never having to stare at that bottom line—sometimes in the red—he figured if he had it in his pocket, he could spend it. He didn’t have to face the consequences because I did that for the two of us.

Even though part of me liked having control, eventually playing the role of bad cop got old.

  • “I need you to collect what’s owed so we can cover payroll.”
  • “What do you mean you bought a truck?”
  • “You told them what? They could wait to pay? But the equipment loans are due.”
  • “Yes, I know how hard you work, but that doesn’t always mean we can afford what we want.”

I can still hear the question I used to ask him time and time again: “If I died tomorrow, what would you do?”

Well, the thing is, I didn’t die. But he did.

Being a widow with an income cut by two-thirds is bleak enough without being lost in a maze of unfamiliar financial and personal records. I was thankful I knew what to do. Although it didn’t lessen my grief, in some weird way, it made grief bearable without that extra burden to carry.

Now, almost seventeen years later, I am blessed to be remarried to a wonderful man.  And guess what? Since the day we got married in 2006, this Prince Charming  has handled the finances! Without day-to-day deadlines and drama, I enjoy the freedom to work and play unhampered. Never having to stare at that bottom line, I figure if I have it in my wallet, I can spend it. I don’t have to face the consequences because he does that for the two of us.

Uh-oh.

But don’t I deserve it after all these years?

15clariceI hear the Voice of Reason. “Hello Clarice.” He asks the question I used to ask time and time again: “If he died tomorrow, what would you do?”

ME: “Oh, be quiet.”

VOR: “No, really, what would you do?”

ME: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

VOR: “You have to talk about it at one point or another.”

ME: “Why? I enjoy being treated like a princess.”

VOR: “I’d have never guessed. You do know life is not a fairytale, don’t you?”

ME: “Leave me alone. If the time comes, I’ll figure it out.”

VOR: “Oh, really? What’s your attorney’s name? Where’s the deed to your house? Do you know the user name and password to get into your online bank account?”

ME: “It’s filed with our important stuff.”

VOR: “Where is that exactly?”

ME: “It’s for me to know and for you to find out.”

VOR: “Does your husband have a Health Care Proxy? Where are your insurance policies? Do you have a key to the safety deposit box? Do you even know if you have a safety deposit box?”

ME: “Do you even know what a killjoy you are?”

VOR: “You’re being a bit childish, don’t you think?

ME: “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?”

VOR: “Please, tell me what you intend to do next?”

ME: “Pfftt, pfftt, pfftt!”

After pouting for a period of time deemed appropriate for royalty, I decided to ask my husband a few questions. “Do you have a Health Care Proxy? Where’s your life insurance policy? Can I have a key to the safety deposit box?”

I think I scared him.

Once I explained how loudly the Voice of Reason had spoken, he relaxed and agreed we needed to talk. And I agreed to listen.

Here’s a helpful article by Roger Whitney of WWK Wealth Advisors called Have You Shared Your ICE Plan with Anyone? He’s also provided a free worksheet to download, Your Life ICE Worksheet, to help you organize your financial life.

We’re filling ours out now. I feel better already. How about you?


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Meet & Greet Author Susan Call

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. ~ Psalm 9:18 (NIV)

Susan CallCLARICE: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

SUSAN: Sitting in the audience at a large women’s conference, the transparency of one of the speakers really impacted me. I realized that the more genuine she was in sharing her difficult journey, the more the audience heard and felt God. Through her story, God was demonstrated so vividly. Soon, my own story started percolating – so much so that I could no longer be silent. I had to write! My sincere hope is that through my writing and sharing of my testimony, that people are encouraged and see how faithful God is!

CLARICE: How did you get involved in writing for publication?

SUSAN: I entered my first manuscript into a writing contest, hoping to win, but never really thinking I would. Imagine my shock when I learned I was the grand prize winner! The prize – my book, A Search for Purple Cows – A true story of hope, was published as a self-published title. Within two months of the release, I had a contract to release my book with a traditional publisher, Guidepost Books.

CLARICE: What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

SUSAN: I want my readers to experience refreshing hope for life’s challenges. One of the biggest lies this world has to offer is that we’re the only one struggling and that everyone else has “life” all figured out. We’re not alone in our difficulties. I would love for readers to know that no matter what life has dealt them, they are not alone. God is available, present, and loves them. Life’s lions may be close but the same God that protected Daniel in the lion’s den can give each and every one of us His strength and peace.

Call CowsCLARICE: What do you want your readers to know about you?

SUSAN: I’m an imperfect person following where God leads. My high school senior writing teacher told me I was an awful writer. She said I should “never write.” I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies the called. I guess I’m living proof! I think the second things I’d like my readers to know is that I love hearing how they’re impacted by my writing. The notes, feedback, and reviews encourage me to keep going. And, I’m always blessed to witness God touch the heart of someone through a word He’s allowed me to deliver.

CLARICE: Tell us a little bit about your book.

SUSAN: A Search for Purple Cows – A true story of hope is my memoir. A few years after marrying my husband, I realized that the idyllic life the world saw–a beautiful home, two wonderful children and everything a family could desire was a façade hiding my difficult truth. Behind closed doors, I was tormented by my husband’s alcoholism, domestic abuse, and infidelity. Through the unlikely source of a Christian radio station, God found me in the midst of my pain and brought me hope that fostered a new faith. I eventually found the strength to flee and start anew. Written with candor and grace, A Search for Purple Cows – A true story of hope will leave you laughing, crying, and believing that God is present and able, ready to bring hope and healing.

CLARICE: What inspired you to write this particular book? 

SUSAN: My story deals with alcoholism, abuse, and infidelity, all topics that are remarkably common, yet often not talked about. I want others to know that there is hope. There is a way. And, they are not alone!

CLARICE: Has the Lord used you for his purposes through the writing and distribution of your book(s)?

SUSAN: I’ve been so blessed by watching God move through the release of my story. Both through speaking engagements and through my book, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with so many others who have shared a similar journey. From a woman in Arizona finally ready to get help to be safe, to the divorced single mom in New Jersey who had lost hope, I’ve had a front row seat watching God touch and change the lives of others with His peace and strength. My writing is a tangible modern-day example of Romans 8:28. The difficulties of a broken marriage marred by abuse and infidelity, is being used for good and bringing Him glory!

CLARICE: What are some resources you recommend to readers who want to learn more about the topics you address in your book? 

Websites:

www.thehotline.org – The National Domestic Violence Hotline – A national resource available to assist with domestic violence. (1-800-799-7233)

www.divorcecare.org DivorceCare is a divorce recovery program offering valuable resources dealing with the issues faced by those confronted with divorce or separation.

Books:

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

I Should Forgive, But… by Dr. Chuck Lynch

CLARICE: What writing projects are you currently working on?

My newest project will be released mid October this year. I’ve written a short story “Secondhand Miracle” in A Cup of Christmas Cheer. Additionally as part of the book launch, I have an article in the October Guideposts magazine. In addition, I am currently working on my next book project. I’ve had the opportunity to pitch the abstract to a few publishers who are now waiting for my full proposal. Stay tuned for more information on that project. Readers can also find my blog online at www.susancall.com.

Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. ~ Psalm 62:4-6 (NIV)

 

MnGSusan Heim Call is one of seven published authors who’ll be featured at the MEET & GREET LOCAL CHRISTIAN AUTHORS event scheduled for Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 3:00 to 5:30 pm at Bonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso, 8 Franklin St., Nashua, New Hampshire. Guests will enjoy FREE admission, refreshments, book-signings, special discounts, and door prizes–including a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite! Click HERE to register!  For more information, call Clarice James at 603-578-1860 or Cindy Saab at (978) 821-6547.


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Words That Strike Fear in My Husband’s Heart

2014-10-20 -300-150When I utter this specific string of five words, I see fear in my husband’s eyes, I hear it in his voice, and, I swear, I smell it oozing from his pores. The words in themselves are innocuous; it’s what they represent that scares him.

Some husbands panic at “We have car insurance, right?” Others tremble at “Mother’s coming for a visit!” And a few quake at “Honey, I think I’m pregnant.”

Not my husband. First, he doesn’t let me drive that often. Second, my mom won’t leave home for more than three hours at a time. And, third, we’ve decided to wait to have kids.

[That’s a joke for those who are looking at my profile photo and wondering if I’m delusional.]

“What could those words possibly be?” you ask. The five little words that strike fear in my husband’s heart are . . .

“Hey, I have an idea!”

Persuasive-Essay-IdeasHe tries to hide the terror, but his subtle body language tells me otherwise: the slumping shoulders, the eye-twitching, the convulsing, the hand slapping his forehead, or his head banging against the wall. He thinks I don’t notice, but I’m observant, if nothing else.

I don’t know what his problem is. My “hey-I-have-an-idea” ideas have been good ones, if I do say so myself.

  • Begin an online publishing syndicate. [I admit working twelve hours a day and watching $13,000 go down the cyber drain was not the most fun we’ve had.]
  • Create an art piece to draw attention to our living room’s cathedral ceiling. [Can you believe he took issue with lifting and hanging my 4-foot by 8-foot masterpiece built of wood, tile, and stone?]
  • Start Party of One, A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone. [Some found it unusual that I asked my husband of four years if I could start a group for singles. Who knew?]
  • Initiate a marketing campaign for my fellow literary clients—all 154 of them. [Sheesh. All I asked him to do was take pictures of the books individually on our bookshelf; size the photos; create individual Facebook cover photo banners; Photoshop e-books into the bookshelf; and, oh, create the nonexistent book spines for these e-books.]
  • I convinced him to join the critique group which meets at our house, you know, just to help out. Now he has an anthology of short stories published called, Premium Mixed Nuts.)

Hmm . . . Hey, I have an idea!

Since my husband is so good at executing my ideas, I think I’ll make him a nice meal today before he gets any of his own ideas about that singles group.

hanging

Actual size of wall hanging: 4′ x 8′