Tag Archives: Family

Spark up

Every few months, I go through a phase where I can’t stop talking about something I’ve seen, read or watched. My friends will likely remember my Butler phase, when I managed to end every conversation with: “But have you seen The Butler?” (But seriously, have you? You should.)

My current obsession is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Organizing and Decluttering. 

If you haven’t heard about it, the gist is this: declutter your house by touching every single item you own. If it “sparks joy,” keep it. If not, toss it. By keeping only what you absolutely love (or absolutely need), you turn your home into a haven of clean, positive energy.

Now, as an unapologetic Kombucha, Gluten Free and Essential Oils Bandwagon Board Member, I was of course intrigued by this crunchy new trend. Particularly the part about picturing your endgame – your new joy-sparked self. This is a critical part of the process, Kondo says. If you’re to truly transform yourself and your space, you must first “visualize your destination.”

After reading this, I did indeed have a vision. Nothing fully formed, just passing glimpses of what could be. I saw silk everywhere – silk robes, silk loungewear, silk sheets for my night sweats. I saw wine. Red wine, of course. Giant goblets of it. I saw warm, dim light. And a record player, slowly spinning a very important and very cool jazz record (don’t ask me which – you couldn’t possibly know it).

And then I knew.

My joy-sparked self was a softcore porn star.

“Life-changing magic,” indeed.

Obviously this did not prove true. Transformative as tidying may be, being a hypochondriac germophobe with an irrational fear of conception, I am in fact the least likely person to dabble in porn. That, and of course the issue with my face. Put me in front of a camera for five minutes, and rest assured, the only thing that’s comin’ is the Dark Lord.

I'm still not sure how this happend.

The Dark Lord. He has been summoned.

Delicate feet in marine environments.

But enough about me and my porn.

The first place I tidied was my closet. In doing so, I found a few relics that had managed to evade my previous purges. A denim body condom (presumably my 20th birthday dress), a slew of spray-tanning mitts, The “Up in Smoke Tour” DVD, a gold sequin miniskirt and an aromatherapeutic raccoon on a leash.

Per the KonMari Method, before tossing an item into the discard pile, I held it and thanked it for its service.

“Thank you for the memories,” I whispered into my gold, impossibly mini miniskirt. I gave the remaining sequins one last stroke, smiling as I remembered all the good times and rashes they’d given me. As I imagine most sequin garments do, that sliver of skirt had seen a lot. Too much, one might argue. But it seemed a fitting cap to my discard pile. A glittering tribute to a past self I’d outgrown – in every sense of the word.

Several days and Goodwill runs later, I’d successfully KonMari’d the shit out of my entire apartment. Was it hard? Absolutely. Transformative? Who knows. But worth it? Without a doubt. My apartment feels cleaner, brighter. I can finally brag about being a minimalist and if nothing else, I found my social security card.

My mom, my sister and me. Jessie's in the overalls, I'm in the womb.

A photo I found of my mom, my sister and me. Jessie’s in the overalls, I’m in the womb.


Grandma Joanne

Earlier this winter, my Grandma Joanne passed away. I’m so very thankful that I was able to visit her while she was still herself. But it didn’t make saying goodbye any easier. It was a terrible feeling, saying goodbye for good. When you leave someone, it’s usually more of a “see you later” than a “goodbye.” But this was a hard and cold goodbye. The last time I’d spend with my last-living grandmother. And I was juggling our final moments with a Southwest flight? That just doesn’t seem right.

I won’t say much more on the matter as, like a true Clark, grand displays of emotions are not my strong suit. I actually get quite uncomfortable with them, a trait I likely inherited from my dad – the man who exclaimed, “Into zee vault!” at my Grandma Mary’s interment.

So rather than remember my Grandma Joanne with sadness, I’ll share a little bit about her.

My Grandma Joanne was a wild woman – the best kind of wild. She wore bold, bright eccentric ensembles, many of which incorporated at least one species of animal print. She loved art, music and culture, and she introduced me to French and the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack. Her trademark phrase was “fucking asshole,” a term of endearment or of condemnation, depending on the day. She was a world traveler, a fierce card player and a volunteer docent at an art museum, among many, many other things.

One summer, my sister and I stayed with her while my mom recovered from back surgery. (A smart move on my mom’s part, considering the last time she left us in my dad’s charge, my sister fed me a bottle of Benadryl.)

While we were there, my Grandma Joanne made us memorize a song and dance routine to “When the Saints Come Marching In.” It was quite an elaborate number, with parasols and everything. We performed it at a local senior center.

She told me champagne would cure my sea-sickness (it didn’t), and that Clark women are blessed with huge knockers (verdict’s still out). One of the last things she said to me was, “if any man does you wrong, I’ll come back and castrate him.”

**Cue the line of eligible bachelors**

I can’t quite put my finger on what it was about her, but she very much inspired me. Her personality was larger than life. She was hilarious – wickedly so, but a riot all the same. She was feisty, blunt and bold. She was the kind of person you’d bend over backwards to impress. Making her laugh, genuinely laugh, always felt like a huge accomplishment.

I’ll miss her very much.

Jessie, my Grandpa John, Grandma Joanne and me. Let it be known that BOTH of my grandmother's walked their cats on leashes.

Jessie, my Grandpa John, Grandma Joanne and me. Let it be known that BOTH of my grandmothers walked their cats on leashes.

My sister Jessie, my Grandma Joanne and me on a fishing trip.

My sister Jessie, my Grandma Joanne and me on a fishing trip. This is when I really began to blossom, as indicated by the khaki slacks.

Accidental squirrel hunting

 (Disclaimer: There’s a pretty gross picture in this blog post — which may or may not surprise you based on the title. Nevertheless, please proceed with caution, especially my fellow vegetarians.)

2012 has been a wild ride in terms of my interactions with animals. I’ve spit up a spider, assaulted a snake, walked a cat on a leash (finally!Taking Milo on a walkand been subject to Buster’s midnight howl-and-hump routine more times than I care to admit. Thus, it is only fitting that a few weeks ago, I truly topped off the year when I accidentally ran over a squirrel with the lawnmower.

It was late November…

I dread Sundays. If there were ever a day for me to inject myself with buckwheat, it would be Sunday, “The Lawn’s Day.” These are the days when my dad has “big plans” for me. The last time he had “big plans” for me, I ended up insulating the garage. Three months later he told me the materials we’d used were carcinogenic. I’d hardly call that quality bonding time.

Sure enough, when I pulled in the driveway that fateful Sunday morning, the garage door began to rise as if I’d triggered some sort of “Dependent Daughter” tracking device, one that monitors my whereabouts and notifies the local authorities when I’m carrying my mom’s debit card within 100 yards of a gas station. My dad then emerged from the garage, all but vibrating with chipperness in his signature head-to-toe denim outfit.

“You ready to mow today, Jo?”

“Meh,” I grunted, shielding my eyes from the blaze of his acid wash jeans.

“Well let’s go! I’ve got you all set up here!” Clearly. He was literally bouncing around the garage on his heels. I hadn’t seen him this excited since the last power outage. His frantic behavior and spastic movements reminded of a manic Carrie Mathison and I was tempted to see how he’d react to the words “green pen.”

Being the dutiful tenant that I am, I agreed to cut the grass in exchange for another day’s cable and shelter. Homeland was on that night, so I was in no position to risk eviction. Ten minutes into mowing, I approached a tree and heard a loud “POP!” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fly out from underneath the machine. I shrugged it off as another dulled blade (one less reason for my dad to ask me to mow again), but that’s when I saw it: a squirrel thigh directly in front of the mower. A piece of tail to my right.

I screamed and shut off the ignition. Maybe it was a stick — a furry stick with paw-like growths. Maybe it was a cat toy, one that Buster had scoffed at and spitefully attempted to bury in the lawn (he doesn’t react well to inedible gifts). Feeling confident that it was all a misunderstanding, I peered over the front of the lawnmower and saw the following image:Thighs in the grass

Well, there was no denying it — I had definitely mowed over a squirrel. Its lone paw flapped in the breeze, a small reminder of the squirrel that was. I frantically searched my body for bits of squirrel debris that might have landed on exposed skin. I had a developing spray tan in the works, and I wasn’t interested in adding a fur coat to such a premature faux-glow. The thought of a botched, unintentionally tufted spray tan was just too much to handle and so I began to cry — for my tan, for the squirrel and for my soul. Sobbing, I wondered how Buster did this everyday… and then it hit me: I had just committed my first official cat act — the irreversible act that would propel me into a life of eternal Cat Ladydom. I felt like a spry young PNM again on the cusp of sorority initiation: I had no idea what I was in for, but by God, I knew it would be creepy.

There was an unfamiliar closeness to Buster brewing in my heart, as if the sacrificial squirrel had unlocked a new level of our relationship and forged a brethren of hunters. Gone were my afternoons of Real Housewives marathons and cheese quesadillas. My weekends would now consist of prowling around the backyard with Buster, stalking the slowest of squirrels and settling down for a nap within 3 feet of them (Buster’s signature hunting technique — we’re still not sure how he catches anything). We’d hunt for hours until we caught something, or until Buster’s balding forehead could take no more sun.

This is how Buster hunts. Believe it or not, he catches quite a few critters. We call it the Opossum Effect.

This is how Buster hunts. Believe it or not, he catches quite a few critters. We call it the Opossum Effect.

My dad, alarmed at the sound of my non-laboring, jerked me back to reality by yelling out the window, “What’s wrong?”

“I ran over a squirrel leg!” I yelled.

“Squirrels don’t have eggs!”

“No. I ran over a squirrel and its leg.”

“Oh,” he said.

Silence. After confessing aloud to what I’d done, the sadness and panic began to return. I had just killed a squirrel. Regardless of whatever carnivorous kinship I had suddenly formed with Buster, this had to be against my vegetarian beliefs. I began to panic and tried to focus on long, deep breaths before things got asthmatic. After a few steady breathing exercises, I realized that I was inhaling whatever molecules of squirrel still lingered in the atmosphere. Surely such fumes were toxic. If my soul wasn’t blackening by the minute, I felt positive that my lungs were.

I ran inside to escape the tainted air and to call for help. My mom would most likely call a funeral home, and I could still hear my dad cackling upstairs, so I decided the best, most reasonable option would be to call my sister.

“Hey what’s up?”

“I ran over a squirrel with the lawnmower.”

She screamed. Not the consoling reaction I was hoping for. After a minute, she said:

“There’s no way it was still alive, Jo. Remember when we used to try to catch squirrels with our lunch bags? They were so fast! There’s no way you could have hit one.”

“You’re right, I guess…”

I hung up, unsatisfied with her reasoning. No, we hadn’t ever been successful in our squirrel wrangling, but what if this one had been deaf? What if he had been sleeping? Dreaming of telephone wires and bird seed, only to wake up 5 yards from his lower limbs? I searched high and low for a tailless 3-legged squirrel, fully prepared to take him and his thigh to the nearest animal hospital.

In the end, I found nothing but bits of tail and fur, barely enough to knit Buster a modest tunic. The fact that I could find no trace of the remaining squirrel made me feel a little bit better — perhaps he had already been dead, after all. Perhaps Buster had simply forgotten to clean up after his mid-morning snack. This soothed me.

Present day…

It’s been a few weeks and I’m almost back to normal. My conscience feels lighter and I’ve yet to show any signs of toxic squirrel inhalation. I’ve also been excused from all lawn-mowing, which has been nice. I was nearly to a place of peace until my dad discovered what had actually killed the squirrel. This happened a few days ago:

“Jo! I figured it out!”

“Figured what out?”

“What killed the squirrel. It was lead poisoning! Those damn squirrels have been chewing through the roof!”

I know that he meant well by this — he was trying to reassure me that I did not in fact kill the squirrel. But somehow the thought of inhaling a toxic, lead-laden squirrel did not do much to quell my concerns.

Spider Attack Follow Up Report

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who expressed their genuine concern for me when they heard the tale of my gruesome attack. Physically, I’m doing ok. My symptoms subsided shortly after the incident, and I’m confident that I am no longer on the verge of death. Mentally, I’m still a bit shaken up. I’ve yet to take a sip from a cup that I’ve neglected for more than three seconds, and I’m still only able to eat dry, solid foods, as these items seem less likely to house living creatures.

While it pains me to say so, my family has been less than compassionate in consoling me. After the attack, my mother helped me to convince myself that I’d been bitten by a rabid species of spider, and my father tricked me into believing I’d been attacked by a baby Brown Recluse. Below is an account of what happened when I called my mom to explain my misfortune:

“Oh my god, Jo. Oh my god. I’m going to need a minute.”


“You should take it to pest control. Seriously.”

“Pest control?? Why, do you think it’s a Brown Recluse or something?”

“I don’t know, Jo. I just don’t know.”

“It was acting strange. Don’t animals exhibit strange behavior when they’re rabid? Oh my god, do I have rabies??”

I’ve always had a slightly skewed understanding of rabies. When I was in elementary school, my mother was dropping me off one morning when a raccoon stumbled out of a nearby bush. My mom was immediately nervous, as she knew how hard it was for me to resist interacting with wild critters. (Every morning before school, I’d run around the neighborhood with brown paper bags in hopes of capturing slow-moving squirrels.) She saw the manic gleam in my eyes as I reached for the car door and yelled, “Don’t touch it, Joanna! Stay away from the raccoon, it has rabies!” She proceeded to explain to me that any animal wandering around in the daytime and/or exhibiting “strange” behavior is rabid, and thus, deadly. While I’m sure she had good intentions, my understanding of rabies was forever tainted. For years I was convinced that Buster, a daytime creature exhibiting incredibly strange (if not violent) behavior, was rabid. But I’ve since come to realize his crotchety behavior is the result of low blood sugar, easily rectified by a steady stream of delicious treats and snacks.

Buster with low blood sugar.

Buster after a snack.

“Only mammals can carry rabies, Joanna. Not spiders. But tell your father to call an exterminator before I come home.”

We bickered for a few minutes, but by the end of our conversation I was fully convinced that I’d been infected with a rare strand of insect rabies.

My father, sensing an opportunity, told me to go online and Google pictures of Brown Recluses. As he’d anticipated, the first few pictures that popped up were of flesh-eating wounds. When I broke out into a cold-sweated hysteria, my dad sensed that his joke had perhaps gone a little too far.

My sister dragged me away from the computer and immediately began scolding my father for his tactless approach.

“It’s not a Brown Recluse, Jo,” my dad said. “If it was, it says here that you’d already be having ‘nausea, itching, vomiting, severe pain…’ Oh. Hmm. Maybe keep it in a jar for a while, you know?”

“Why? So we can see if it grows into a Brown Recluse?”

“No, no. Just to….see…..”

My mother’s distress and my father’s cryptic advice were not doing much to quell my concerns. I did not want to keep this deranged spider as a pet, especially since it was so obviously keen on my own blood. What was I supposed to feed it? Espresso beans and bits of my own flesh?

My new life.

Still coming down from a recent ABC Family “Harry Potter Weekend”, my mind immediately went to Aragog, Hagrid’s enormous, carnivorous pet spider. My god, I could all but see my fate unfolding before me: If I continued on this path of spider husbandry, I’d soon turn into a bewhiskered gamekeeper living in the tool shed of my parents’ backyard. My father would command me to hunt the squirrels attacking our bird feeder, and subsequently, I’d clothe myself in a cloak of squirrel pelts and scraps from the compost pile. Buster would become my only companion, though I sensed his loyalty would stray once my mom called him in for lunch.

For these reasons alone, keeping the spider was simply out of the question. So, being the decent, animal-loving vegetarian that I am, I decided to set him free.

As I carried him to the front door, I felt good about my decision. My forgiving, altruistic behavior would be rewarded. What goes around, comes around, etc. But before I could give myself a solid pat on the back for a job well done, the bastard escaped.

In the days since, I’ve tried not to think about it. But I know he’s still out there. Recruiting his friends, waiting for the next opportunity to leap into one of my dishes. Perhaps I will ask my father to call the exterminator after all.

Dad’s Homemade “Gatorade”

Recently, my cooking skills have come under fire. It could quite possibly be because I’ve recently set a few things on fire — but this is just my cooking style. I like things cooked well-done. Charred, if you will. Sometimes things can get out of hand though, like this particular pot of rice:

This behavior is the result of my meat-eating days — a troubling time when I had to supervise all grilling activities to ensure that my dad didn’t accidentally poison us all with his salmonellistic ways. People often ask me why I’m now a vegetarian, and the truth is that debatable cooking temperature is right up there with animal rights.

Anyways, I’ll admit that I’m no Martha Stewart in the kitchen. It’s why I haven’t yet fed Mr. Darcy to Buster, as I hear parakeets (or canaries, or whatever form of pet he claims to be) are the among the first to detect noxious fumes. But regardless of my inadequacies in the kitchen, it should be noted that my dad has a few questionable concoctions of his own, most notably his homemade “Gatorade”:

Dad’s Homemade “Gatorade”

I stumbled upon a pack of Crayons, hence the hand-drawn image. But in case you can’t read it, allow me to break it down for you:

  • Fill a large Mason jar about 2/3 full with ice and water
  • Add as much beer as possible without completely filling the jar to the brim. Summery beers like Shock Top and Blue Moon work best.
  • Add a little more than a splash of orange juice “for electrolytes”
  • Add a splash of milk or almond milk “for protein”
  • Add a few drops of vanilla extract “for flavor”

This drink is best enjoyed after a few hours of yard-work, power-washing the house or for an extra treat when your thermostat is “turned down to 78 degrees”. Yes, a brisk 78 degrees. How indulgent.

Lawn-mowing Developments and Tennis Team Stardom

I realize that I’ve been noticeably absent from blogging. However, with another promising dog-sitting season on the horizon, I’ve decided to get back into the swing of things.

Allow me to recap the last few weeks of my life:

For starters, my dad claims to have submitted a personal ad for me, the contents of which list my dowry and immediate availability. His goal is to get me out of the house by February, and due to my lack of job offers, he considers marrying me off as the only option. My sister moved out a few weeks ago, leaving me the sole subject of my father’s antics. I’ve migrated my things into her old room, and while it’s a nice change from my former home-office setup, Buster is very resistant to the move.

Buster putting his foot down.

Buster putting his foot down.

My dad has already me locked into a May – July landscaping contract with him. My first task is to remove all rocks from the backyard. He also recently purchased a new lawn mower in anticipation of my continuing unemployment this summer. One night last week, he flung open the garage door and began yelling for me.

“Jo! Come here! Quick!” I pretended not to hear, as “Jo, come here quick” usually indicates in an incredibly non-time-sensitive emergency, such as a dish-washing demonstration. But he continued on. “Jo! Come here, I got something cool for you!”

It turned out that his “something cool” for me was the new lawnmower. I’ll admit — it is a pretty powerful piece of equipment. My dad “allowed me” to take it on its “maiden voyage” last week and I nearly dislocated both of my shoulders. The new mower is so fast that I spent the entire time jogging behind it. I finished the lawn in record time but with a few casualties — because I was  flung around the yard like an anemic child on an inner tube, the lawn is scattered with un-mowed tufts of grass that I was unable to tame.

I’ve also taken up tennis. Somehow, my sister talked me into joining her tennis league last November. It’s been both educational and embarrassing. I’ve been described as an “awkwardly lanky” tennis player with “crazy feet” and “flailing” limbs. I try not to take offense to the fact that I seem to have been described as a growing boy in the midst of puberty. While our season consists of 15-or-so matches, I’ve only been asked to participate in 3 of them.

Since I am clearly not the most athletic asset to my tennis team, I have resolved to become the most stylish member of the team. For Christmas, I asked my father for a tennis bag. I told him that I wanted something Serena would carry. Preferably something wild and glittery. The result is a black and gold tennis bag large enough to double as Buster’s traveling quarters. It’s huge. People have asked me to climb inside of it on more than one occasion. My goal for next season is to find things to put in it. Since I only have one racket, I’ll have to designate a few of the compartments for other important accessories, such as snacks or reading materials for when I am warming the bench.

In other news, Buster has developed a new habit of walking around the house with socks in his mouth. My hypothesis is that he’s pretending to starve on the brink of insanity so that we’ll give him more snacks.

And that’s about all for now.

Updates on Dad

My dad told me that his co-workers are beginning to read my blog. He said they want to “see what he’s like at home,” and get a better feel for his personal life. So, being the doting daughter and altruistic human-being that I am, I will continue to foster this bond between my father and his co-workers until I am certain that they all share a deeper, more heartfelt understanding of each other.

Thus, an update on Dad:

Last Tuesday, a strong storm struck our area. On my lunch break, I turned on the news to find them reporting from the entrance of my neighborhood in a story about an alleged tornado touchdown.

My first thought was “I hope Jessie didn’t let Buster out this morning.” (Quickly followed by, “I hope Jessie’s okay.”)

On my way home from work, my dad called me to tell me that our power would be out for several days. For the record, my dad loves it when our power goes out for extensive periods of time. Not only does it mean a lower electricity bill, but it also sets the stage for what my dad believes to be some sort of dramatic, Oregon Trailistic adventure. While I panic over a potentially fan-less night and milk-less breakfast, my dad pulls out the bourbon and contemplates life as Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I could clearly hear the giddy excitement in his voice as he relayed the power-outage situation to me over the phone. He all but giggled when he told me that I should “probably move out for a few days”.

“It’s going to be bad, Jo. Real cold. You’ll hate it. Don’t you have a boyfriend you can go stay with, or something?”


“God, Jo. Well, I’m just telling you, I don’t know how long it’ll be out for — hours, days, a week… who knows!”

By the time I got home from work, the power was already back on. My dad was slightly miffed by this, but he quickly recovered when he realized that this meant he could watch the series premiere of Alcatraz he’d DVRd the night before.

My dad then began to question Jessie about the safety measures she took during storm. He was highly impressed with the fact that she took shelter with Tommy and Darcy — the lizard and the bird. Then he turned to me.

“Joanna, would you have saved Tommy?”

“No. Would Tommy have saved me?”

“Would Buster have saved you?”

“Probably, yes.” Buster’s been waking me up every morning by standing directly on my throat/chest and demanding his breakfast. Since he’s senile, he often pulls this stunt in the middle of the night, as well. Thus, I’m fairly certain that if a tornado struck whilst he was hungry (anytime of the day or night), he’d wake me up anyways for want of treats and snacks.

“No, Buster wouldn’t save you,” my dad responded. “If Buster were going to die of exposure, he’d kill you in your sleep and use your blood to keep warm.”

Direct quote — I kid you not. It’s horrible, I know. While my dad was obviously joking, it wasn’t long before I became haunted by visions of Buster starring in a chilling and twisted Bunnicula spinoff.

Buster: "Give me snacks or give me death."

And that is my update on Dad. Hopefully he’ll allow me to continue these debriefings, but if not — stay tuned for his counter-blog, which is sure to hit the blogosphere sometime soon.

Ps. I apologize for the disturbing language — I just couldn’t resist sharing such a gem of a quote.