Wednesday Ramblings

I’m perched at a counter by the back windows in Intelligentsia in Venice right now, an hour in front of me before I head over to 826LA to teach a workshop on autobiographical writing to a group of teenagers.

The convergence of my old LA life and my new one is strange sometimes. When I lived in LA the first time around I was in my mid-twenties and I lived here in Venice. I was single and childless and seemingly much more hip than I feel these days. Sitting in this unbearably cool coffee shop right now with my hugely pregnant belly feels silly, like everyone around me knows I should be at the playground covered in mashed banana instead. I used to live here though, I want to tell them. I used to be cool and bored and have endless amounts of time to consume caffeine just like you!

It’s not that I’m not pleased with my new LA life. I really am. I love our neighborhood and our little Spanish-style house with its lemon trees and bougainvillea. I love waking up early, having my days be overly full. I even love never being alone, the constant feel of Vera’s hands on me, the tugging of life inside me. All of this so different from my previous life in Los Angeles.

It’s suddenly the end of March. My mother’s birthday is on Friday and she would have been 74, which just seems hard to believe. The last birthday I celebrated with her was when she turned 58, a couple of months before I turned 18. It was springtime in Atlanta then and I have no recollection of how we spent that day, or what I might have given to her as a gift. She was magical when it came to birthdays and holidays. She knew how to make everything feel heightened and special and how to make a person feel truly celebrated. I hope I can do the same for my children and for Greg too.

The book tour is officially over and I’m slowly reframing my headspace  to fit back into my regular life. I loved the tour, loved getting to meet so many amazing people and visit so many of my favorite cities. I also loved learning how to talk about my book and how to read from it. I feel like I learned so much about my own book, just from the questions I was asked and the responses I received. The whole thing was a truly magical experience and I’m so grateful to have been able to do such a thing in my life.

Getting back to my old life is a strange conundrum. I’m not, in fact, returning to anything. Rather I’m beginning work in earnest on my second book (about the afterlife!) and I’m counting down the last months until the new baby arrives. None of what I’m moving towards feels old hat, but instead as though I’m forging an entirely new path for myself. The work on this new book, and the format of it too, is altogether and new experience, as will be the bearing of a second child. It’s funny how sometimes our lives can feel so slow sometimes, like we’re just barely moving forward, when in fact, we’re rushing through phase after phase, year after year.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of apprehension about giving birth again. I’m not so afraid of the new baby, but more that I’m battling a lot of anxiety about the birth itself. You would think that I feel good about it, having had such a great experience the first time around, but the opposite is true. I worked so hard and prepared so much for Vera’s birth. I read twenty books. I took a 10 week birth class. I did a hypnobirthing workshop. I had a doula and a midwife and I subjected my husband to countless videos on the subject.

This time around I haven’t done one of those things. Partly because there’s been no time, but also because I don’t really need to do any of them again. I do feel like in the coming months I need to spend some time emotionally preparing for the birth though. Bearing a child was one of the most primal and visceral things I’ve ever done, and now that I know what it will be like, I’m scared! When I remember how hard it was to push Vera out of my body, I just shudder with nervous anticipation of having to do it again. This is normal though, right? Other moms out there?

Anyway, I’m headed off to 826LA shortly to teach this workshop. A definitely overlapping of my old life with my new one.

By the way, just because the book tour is over doesn’t mean that I’m not out and about. I’m going to be part of a really fun literary event to kick off the LA Times Book Festival next month. If you’re in Los Angeles you should definitely try to make it. I’m going to be reading with some excellent writers.

The Nervous Breakdown Literary Experience Thursday April 19th at 7pm, Molly Malone’s

I’m also really excited to be on a panel at the LA Times Book Festival

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Panel: Memoir: The Ties That Bind (with Samantha Dunn, Benjamin Busch, Alexandra Styron, & Mark Whitaker)
UCLA Campus Los Angeles, CA
April 21st, 10:30AM

Lastly, I have another reading & signing coming up next month in Manhattan Beach:

Reading & Signing
Pages Bookstore, Manhattan Beach California
April 26, 2012 7:00pm



  • Posted March 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink


    I remember feeling the same nervousness you describe when expecting my second child. My four year old daughter owned my heart. She was a child full of joy. She went through terrific twos, rather that terrible twos. I thought the birth of my son might interfere with my relationship with my little girl. But honestly, when my son was born, I just had more love to go around. I wouldn’t have believed more love could be possible, but it just happened.

    Now my children are grown adults, your age. They are productive people engaged in careers serving others. It’s life’s greatest blessing to raise children who make you proud.

    I know your mom and dad smile at you from the hereafter, so proud of you and your family.


  • Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    That’s such a relief to hear, Jean! Thanks for your kind words about my parents too.

  • Lynne
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I am so sad I missed you when you were in Chicago for your book reading. I love what you wrote about your mom celebrating people so well. My mom set the bar high for birthdays-and not necessarily in the over the top way, but in making me feel special for sure. I am so grateful you are still writing on the blog. I love these posts of yours, Claire.

  • Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh, thanks Lynne! I’m sorry you missed me too!

  • Liz
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh, I hope I can see you at the LA Times Festival of Books this year! How cool that you’re going to be there – what an accomplishment! 🙂 Congrats! That’s right, we’re rolling back into LA again. Our apartment in New Orleans didn’t work out due to tons of lead paint (which I’m NOT exposing my 8-month-old to), so why not LA again? My mom calls LA “the call of the wild,” wouldn’t you agree? LOL

  • Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Dad’s view of a second birth. The first hadn’t gone too well apart from the final result, a beautiful girl now 18 months old. The first a 14 hr struggle where I felt so helpless and I thought Hilary would eventually chew through my hand. She screamed and cursed, especially me for causing all this. She swore a life of celibacy. A suction cup was tried without result, until the heavy hardware was called for, and the doctor started a long battle with forceps. I can still see the sweat running down his face as he waited between contractions.
    The second birth started late at night awoken with an elbow, “I think I’m getting contractions”. A cup of tea was decided upon to see if they were Briggs and Stratton, sorry, Hicks and Braxton events. Mistake. Things advanced rapidly and I bundled her into the car. A rather rural location and I had to open and close 7 gates to reach the highway. By this time my idle chatter was getting no response except gasps and moans of varying intensity as Hilary in the back seat had a merciless headlock on the front headrest. I timed the gasp/squeal/moan cycle shortening to a few minutes as we sped through the brilliant full moon landscape. Hey! I didn’t know this car could do 160 km/hr. I screeched to a stop outside the maternity unit and breathlessly rushed inside exclaiming “My wife’s having a baby!”. A portly Matron had seen panicking fathers before and wanted to fill out forms. “No, No, she’s having a baby!” They took her inside and to their credit, greatly increased their work rate to deliver my second daughter 10 minutes later. In 15 minutes my wife was having a shower with the biggest grin on her face.
    Your female plumbing has been tested, found to be serviceable, and should work better second time around. Your lack of preparation is not a factor, as biology makes it’s own preparation. You will probably conclude that the baby boot camp you put yourself through the first time round was only for your own comfort, and did not affect the result. I like it how you wanted to be fully aware at Vera’s birth. The point where agony and ecstasy meet.

  • Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Liz!! You’re coming back?! Okay, well we have to meet up at some point. Would be great to see you at the Book Festival. Good luck with the move!

    Paul, loved this. And your confidence in my “female plumbing.” 🙂

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