Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

Handmade Christmas Sneak Peak

December 20, 2007

So, I totally had another closeup shot of a different gift I made to give away, but I accidently deleted it off my camera before I had a chance to put it on the computer. Why didn’t I just take another? Because I got overly eager and already wrapped the gift. Oh well. I’ll take another picture after the recipient opens it.

So, this is all I’ve got for you:

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I’m super excited about the gifts I’m making. It’s been a great past few days just being creative. I leave for California in six days!

My longer-than-a-week hiatus has two real excuses.

1.) I was under a blog detox. A while back I posted a lolcats picture, and for the past few weeks, my search engine terms have been crammed with people looking for FUNNY CATS! Seriously. There has been little else. In fact, my hits have been nearly 250 hits higher than average. It was really annoying me. I was disappointed that I couldn’t check my blog stats and be proud that I had 358 hits. They really didn’t care about my writing. They just cared about the FUNNY CATS! So, I deleted the lolcats picture off my blog, and it took about a week for Google Images to figure out that the post no longer exists.

2.) Work has been nuts. Every night I’ve come home exhausted. This job has really made me appreciate assembly-line workers. I can’t imagine working on an assembly line for more than a month. I’m so thankful that it worked out for me to have this job for this short time that I’m home, but today I am even more thankful that tomorrow my paycheck will be in my hands, and I can move on to bigger and better things….

LIKE CALIFORNIA! BECAUSE I’M LEAVING IN 9 DAYS!

Also, some pretty amazing things have happened in the past few days that remind me just how great God’s faithfulness is. The money came through from the insurance company for the Great Rear-Ending of 2007, and with some generosity from my father, it covered the cost of my new car, the Sable Who Has No Name. My dad also did some work on the car for me, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have a mechanic father. Let’s just say that after he told me everything he did on the car, all I could say, with wide eyes and an unsquelchable smile, was, “Merry Christmas to me!” I was planning on getting him honey roasted cashews for Christmas or a new set of keys he could use to clean out his ears. I guess I’ll have to re-think those options.

Also, a dear friend of mine took it upon himself to send me a little package in the mail today. It was quite lovely and touching. Thank you, friend. You know who you are. I will send you an email sometime tomorrow to thank you personally.

Speaking of Christmas, I didn’t have to work on Sunday, and I went Christmas shopping with my mom and grandma. I’m planning on making most of my Christmas gifts this year, and I had a great time in the craft stores picking out the materials to purchase. I can’t wait to post some photos of what I make, but that, of course, will have to wait until after Christmas and the gifts have been bestowed upon their recipients. And, of course, after I actually make said gifts.

One thing I did purchase for my nephew Ezra is a baby toy of the future, and I can’t wait to give it to him. It’s a new take on a typical baby toy, and I knew it was great when my mom saw it and was disappointed that she hadn’t gotten it for him.

Speaking of my niece and nephew… I love them. They will be the hardest to leave in 9 days because they will be so much bigger when I see them again. It has been truly wonderful to be around them for the past month and a half. I don’t regret the decision to come home for a little while at all.

I promise that I will start writing about homeschooling soon. Today was my last day of work until I find a job in California, and I’m looking forward to letting my body rest for a while. For the past few weeks, I’ve felt like I’m working out all day every day. Tomorrow I am sleeping in!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

November 23, 2007

Yesterday while on the telephone with D, he informed me that it was cold in California because it was 50 degrees, Fahrenheit. It was evening, so I in no way doubt the accuracy of his weather assertions, but I do doubt the assertion that 50 degrees is cold. It was 16 degrees here in Minnesota. Baby, it’s chilly — not quite as chilly as it will get here — but, just the same, chilly.

I admit that living in Arkansas for the past six years, before I moved home last month, has made me the weak little duckling. For the past six years, I’ve only spent about three weeks each year of the winter here in Minnesota, if even that, and it was generally at the mildest points. Plus, I was on Christmas vacation or only had a week of work off, or something, and I didn’t have to go outside if I didn’t want to. I didn’t have to experience what I like to call snot-freezin’ weather, and yes, I really do mean that sometimes it gets so cold that when you inhale sharply, your nose hairs get all stiff, and your snot freezes. It is quite the exhilarating sensation. When my brother and I were younger, we used to put booties and jackets on our dogs to let them go outside to poo. We made a doggie jacket out of an old jacket that belonged to our grandpa, and we called it the dogs’ Starter Jacket. I have a Starter Jacket of my own from seventh grade, a real one of the Phoenix Suns, and I am sometimes known to embarrassingly don that jacket to go outside here because the jacket is very warm. It is also very humiliating for a classy girl like me, but in the dead of winter around here, people don’t really care about humiliating — they only care about warm.

I have spent probably a fourth of my life wearing snow pants. One of my favorite feelings as a child was coming in from playing in the snow when all my snow clothes were soaking wet, only to peel off all those wet clothes, don my second set of warm, dry snow clothes, and run right back out again. We Clippertons were experienced and knew how to make this sensation especially enjoyable by setting out the dry clothes on the old fashioned heat radiator beforehand, so when we came in to change, the new clothes would be toasty. I remember exactly what it feels like to pull on those mittens, that sense of joyous relief, when the wet becomes dry and the cold becomes warm.

And even though it was 16 degrees yesterday, it was also a joyous day because I woke up to fat, white flakes falling from the hazy sky. We only got a dusting, a teaspoon dose that lingered in the corners of the streets and between the blades of grass, but still, it is coming. I can’t think of anything more fun right now than borrowing my mom’s snowmobiling suit from the 1970s and running out to the park in the cold and snow with my two-year-old niece, to brave the frozen snot, all for the sake of sliding down a hill on our butts over a piece of brightly colored, thin plastic.

Or, if we don’t have sleds around here anymore, we can use a snow shovel, because as an experienced Clipperton Snow Person, let me tell you, it works.

Thankful.

November 22, 2007

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The Extended Fam, Christmas 2005

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Mom and Me In New York, Summer 2006

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Dad, Christmas 2005

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Niece Lydia, November 2007 (Photo by sister-in-law Angela)

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Nephew Ezra, September 2007

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The Extended Fam Crammed Into Brother Alan’s Closet Office (Photo by Angela), October 2007

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Lydia and Her Mom, November 2007 (Photo from Angela)

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D and Me, the Floating Head, May 2007

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L and Me (June 2007)

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Friend AA and the Now Dearly Departed Kate, Faithful Dog and Loyal Friend, May 2007

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Friend AS At Her Birthday Party, April 2007

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Friends MW and MS

I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends and Family!

Moving is a Female Dog.

September 19, 2007

Survey the impeccable state of me:

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Yes, friends. I’ve begun packing. And by packing, I mean pulling everything out of my closets, rooms, and cupboards to go through it, discard that which is unnecessary, and throw the rest into cardboard boxes, some marked “Minnesota,” and some marked, “California.” I ask you, WHEN WILL THIS STAGE OF MY LIFE BE OVER????

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Even Francis can’t understand what happened around here. Today I was thinking about California, and I realized that it is very likely that when I get there, I’ll be moving around quite a bit. That was enough to make me decide not to go.

Just kidding. But I did briefly think of how nice my life was before I grew up, having the same room for more than a year. Right now my apartment is so messy that I don’t want to do anything but go to sleep. Thankfully, I have the whole weekend off… DID YOU HEAR ME??? THE WHOLE WEEKEND! That hasn’t happened since serpents had legs.

But I need to make a bridesmaid dress this weekend for my cousin’s wedding next month, so I may not get much packing done. It’s either make the dress or go naked, and I don’t think Grandma would appreciate the latter much. Then again… one of my favorite stories to tell about Grandma is the following:

Our story begins at the Clipperton and Dreke Family Christmas, where Ann, Cousin Daniel (who goes to art school) and Grandma Dee are sitting at the table. Family sit around in arm chairs, chatting about the year and the holidays and all those things that families chat about, like Uncle Irwin’s arthritis and that one dog they had that one time who died. Ann’s mom (also known as Aunt Celeste) stands nearby…

Grandma Dee: What is your favorite class at school, Daniel?
Daniel: Um, I really enjoy figure drawing.
Grandma Dee: Figure drawing? Like of people?
Daniel: Yes.
Grandma Dee: Do you have live models come in for figure drawing?
Daniel: Sometimes.
Grandma Dee: Do they take their clothes off?
Daniel: Sometimes.
Grandma Dee: Are they good-looking?
Aunt Celeste: Mom!
Grandma Dee: I just wanted to know if I could get a job.