Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

Short Story: Damage

The Seattle sky sparkled that day in its rarest, loveliest hue, a bottomless sapphire blue, a blue that, rather than serving as an unnoticed backdrop for earthly goings-on, grabbed center stage with its intensity. Having a bad day under such a sky seemed like a violation of some immutable law of physics, but a bad day I’d had, nonetheless, one setback after another marching through my life as a single working mom.

And thus, it had come to this. The bookcase-in-a-box, which I had purchased for my ten-year-old daughter Tasha’s bedroom not an hour before, lay in a sad little pile of pressboard rubble at my feet. The murder weapon, a huge rubber mallet, dangled thuggishly from my fingers as I stood straddling my victim, concentrating on slowing my breathing and the shaking of my hands.

Still dressed in my business suit after a difficult day at the office, I’d hurriedly taken the shelf kit out into the front yard to assemble the unfinished boards into proper formation, knowing that I would still need to find time to paint the shelf after assembly. Chips began to flake and fly off corners as I hastily tried to tap piece A into section B, tab C into part D. After the fourth or fifth chip, a large crack opened in one of the boards. Frustration overheated into full-blown rage, seething like lava down through my arms and into my hands. Once commenced, I couldn’t stop the destruction till nothing but chips remained.

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Martin Luther: Lynchpin of Christian History

My World Religions and Spirituality class has swept me up in fascination and curiosity.  We have looked at oral religions and Judaism, and are now concluding our section on Christianity.  Following is my essay on the Protestant Reformation, in which I chose to focus on the Augustinian monk Martin Luther.  The minimum word requirement for the essay was 500 words; in my excitement, I rather blew that out of the water with this piece.  Enjoy.


The image of Martin Luther nailing a list of criticisms to a church door in 1517 is indelibly burned into the Western Christian mind.  The scene has been exhaustively described in books and film, including aMartin Luther (Wikipedia image) 2003 German production starring Joseph Fiennes as Luther (IMDB).  The film’s details are disputed, including an extensive list of “Historical Inaccuracies” on the film’s Wikipedia page, but the fact that this centuries-old story warranted a modern, big-budget film peopled with well-known actors speaks to our enduring interest in this pivotal historical character and the seismic changes he wrought in the history of Christianity and the world.

Although he was not alone in his views, or even the first to hold many of them (Tillich 228), Luther was the first person who was able to survive actively opposing the all-powerful Catholic Church.  He viewed certain church practices as at best a distraction from faithful adherence to Christian principles and at worst a clear corruption of those principles (Molloy 384-5).  Previous questioners of church practices, such as the author of the first English translation of the Bible, John Wycliff, had aired concerns similar to Luther, but their views were not widely disseminated (Tillich 203-4).  The Catholic Church was unable to suppress the spread of Luther’s ideas and writings, however, thanks in no small part to the invention of the printing press (Shlain 324), and Luther was able to plant some of the first enduring seeds of what we know today as the Protestant movement.

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Spirit of ‘Ohana: Native Hawaiian Views of Interconnectedness

School is going wonderfully well.  I’m loving the intellectual challenge of the research and writing, and the pleasure of exploring times and ideas that I’ve long been curious about.  Following is an essay on an oral tradition from my History of World Religions and Spirituality class.


The present-day life of my family in Hawaii, which includes dozens of part-native as well as non-native people I’m related to through my Honolulu-born father, is anchored in the bedrock of an ancient Hawaiian principle: ‘ohana.  In English, ‘ohana is usually translated as roughly equivalent to the word, “family.”  Our typical American usage of the word “family” might bring up images of the traditional family structure, including a mother, a father, children, perhaps some grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins.  Blood ties generally define the relationship; members might live far away from one another or rarely even meet.  In Hawaii, however, the word ‘ohana is rooted in the ancient tradition that bonded individuals who were related to each other “by blood, marriage, sentiment, or adoption” (Kalei), and who lived in the same area of land, or “’aina.”  The members of the ‘ohana were deeply interconnected with each other, with their ‘aina, their ancestors, and their deities, sharing food and resources freely in the manner that we know today as “aloha spirit.”

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Jitterbug Perfume: Lusty Adventures in Time and Metaphor

Following is a discussion board posting assignment from my English 1B class.  We were asked to write about a work of fiction and its effect on us.  I didn’t have to think very hard about which work of fiction I’d write about: Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume has been my favorite novel pretty much forever.  However, I had fun thinking about *why* it’s my favorite and connecting with the impact the book has had on me over the years:

My favorite author, Tom Robbins, was my favorite author even before he wrote my favorite novel of all time.  My copies of Robbins’ first three books, Another Roadside Attraction, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and Still Life with Woodpecker (especially the latter) were tattered and dog-eared with repeated readings long before I got my hands on Jitterbug Perfume.  It was 1985, and I was a twenty-one year old single mom, coping with a new baby and a new job and muddling my way through life.  Jitterbug Perfume was my ticket to a fantastical rocket-ride of metaphorical madness, spiritual surmising, and time-skipping adventure, and I loved it utterly.  My rebellious side adored Robbins’ habit of taking liberties with the English language that would undoubtedly be frowned upon in polite society.  While stretching the art of the metaphor to ridiculous lengths at every turn, Robbins coins new words to suit his language-twisting purposes and pursues (seeming) tangents and (apparently) unnecessary asides till the reader is all a-tangle in his fanciful, sermonistic, even cartoonish prose, only to tie up every crazily flapping loose end in a manner that somehow includes both the delicious itch of tantalization and the sweet release of complete satisfaction (this is the most Robbins-esque sentence in this paragraph, by the way).  Upon reaching the end of Jitterbug Perfume, I burst into tears and immediately flipped back to the beginning and started over.  Since those first back-to-back readings, I have read the book over and over, including once aloud, cover to cover, to my sweetheart.  I never tire of the story, which is densely plotted across time (from the days when the earth was flat to nine o’clock tonight, Paris time) and space (from ancient Bohemia and the Far East to present-day Seattle, New Orleans, and the aforementioned Paris).  Lyrical, silly, romantic, epic, lusty, and illuminating, Jitterbug Perfume never fails to delight and inspire me.  The book blew my burdened, restless young mind open to the extreme possibilities of writing, transforming the art of writing and the English language itself into something decidedly un-boring and sexy in my eyes.  I often wonder if another book will ever come along to tickle and twist and educate my mind as much as Jitterbug Perfume.  Perhaps one day the right book will come along at the right time and once again blow my skull delightfully apart, dethroning Mr. Robbins as my favorite author and deepest influence of all time.  I sort of hope so… and sort of not.

A Sketch

Recently I attended a drawing workshop at The Mercantile in Angels Camp.  I’ve been drawing my whole life, but no so much recently.  I miss it, and jumped at the chance to get back into that juicy creative flow.  The workshop, hosted by local artist Paul Herek, was great fun and I hope the experience inspires me to do more.

Here is the sketch I did in the one-hour session.  This is Niki Robison, who manages The Merc, and may I say is a lovely human being, inside and out.

Niki sat with perfect stillness and patience while we all stared at her and sketched, even though she got roped into the deal kind of last minute.  Paul hadn’t planned on having a model, but Niki graciously allowed us to use her on a spur of the moment request.  I’m pleased with the likeness, and Niki told me she liked it, too.

The workshop was Paul’s first at The Merc.  He asked those of us in attendance if we’d like him to do more events, suggesting painting, additional drawing in various media, stained glass, and sculpture.  I said, “Yes, yes, yes, YES!”  I’m pretty much thrilled at the prospect of doing some new creative work.  Plus, I think Paul is pretty much the bees knees, so I’m thinkin’ I’ll be doing more of his classes here soon.

Not the Only Holly Croydon

Until recently, I was the only Holly Croydon on the planet.  Or so I thought.  Having a completely unique name gave me something I’m not sure I can describe or even understand myself, but I liked it.

Whatever it was, I’d better get over it because I’m *not* the only Holly Croydon.  The other Holly Croydon is a lovely young blond woman just a couple of years older than my daughter, who lives in the U.K., is a cyclist, and–if Facebook photo albums are any indicator–loves to go out partying with her many friends.

Perhaps as long as a year ago, I started noticing my name showing up online in results for competitive cycling in England.  After four decades of life as the only Holly Croydon on Earth, it came as a quite a shock to discover I was no longer the sole possessor of the name.  Eventually, I found the U.K. Holly’s Facebook profile and sent her a friend invitation with a note that I hoped made it clear I wasn’t a weird stalker, just the only other Holly Croydon (or at least one of a very rare few) on the planet and thought that was cool.  She accepted.

Now my Facebook news feed includes items that say things like, “Holly Croydon commented on Jane Doe’s photo,” or “Holly Croydon is now friends with…”  Which is really weird when it ISN’T ME.

If you are someone who shares a name with lots of folks, you might not realize how big and strange a shift it is for me.  But I’m beginning to like it.  Perhaps that’s because I take it as yet another reminder that our separateness is illusion, that uniqueness is just an ego-story.  I think I’m ready to let that story go.

Holly, if you’re out there, I wish you many blessings and much happiness and grand fun with our name!

Stalked by Stephen Fry

This morning my Gmail in box contained a message with the following notice:

Hi, Holly Croydon.

Stephen Fry (stephenfry) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out Stephen Fry’s profile here:


Okay, so Stephen Fry follows everyone who follows him, but it made me smile anyway.

Twitter, as you will know unless you have been living on a desert island recently, is an online site where jillions of people share whatever is going in on their lives and/or heads with short entries called “tweets.”  And I do mean short.  Each tweet can be up to only 140 characters.  My favorite descriptive term for what goes on at Twitter is “microblogging.”

I’ve had a lot of fun Twittering and reading tweets, although I tweet a lot less than some folks.  In addition to Mr. Fry, my list of follow-ees includes Will Wheaton (Isn’t that a familiar name? Think now, where have you heard that?), Xeni Jardin, Penn Jillette, Al Gore, and Barack Obama.  Also, hilariously, Jed Bartlet.

I’m enjoying Stephen Fry’s tweets more than those presidential types, though, because it’s obviously really him, tweeting away, not a staff member or something.

Why Seattle is Awesome

Sparkling sapphire water + emerald hills + clear fall sunlight + Mt. Rainier + seaplanes + sailboats + family + friends + the smell of fresh and salt water on the breeze + other real mountains + fast wifi everywhere + my sweetie Conal with me = Awesome.

The view from lunch:

Antwerp Apartment Photos & Update

Okay, okay, I have been a terribly lax blogger these last weeks, it’s true.  Living in Antwerp has me on total input overload, which has somehow disrupted the output circuits.

All is well, never fear, we are having a marvelous time, Conal is enjoying his work and exploring the city with me, and we are even making some friends in the neighborhood.  I’m over my cold, which I obtained internationally when I traveled to Zurich to record with Michael Stillwater.  Jet-set germs, apparently.  With the help of the powerful antihistamines available over-the-counter here, as well as some cough syrup with codeine to help me rest at night, I’ve pretty much kicked the beggers out.  I think this is the fastest I’ve gotten rid of a serious bout of bronchitis for years.  Usually, the thing will drag on for a month.  I am ever so delighted to be clear headed again.

Within the compact central portion of Antwerp, there are a gazillion restaurants, shops, malls, cafes, cathedrals, museums, lovely squares, statues, fountains, and endless historical architectural masterpieces.  We are living quite a contrast to our San Andreas lifestyle, let me tell ya.  People here, who can hop a train and be in freaking Paris in two hours, are impressed with the idea of having to drive a half an hour just to visit a sizable grocery store, or an hour to reach a city of any size.  When I tell them that a drive from my hometown of Seattle to my new home in California takes about 18 hours, they knit their brows and think about that, then I remind them that San Andreas is only halfway through California on the way to Mexico, and they give up.  Belgians can drive from one end of their country to another in a couple of hours.  I sympathize with the shock, as I have it in reverse.

However, Antwerp is so ridiculously charming I don’t know why anyone would ever want to leave.  Oh, all right, I know why.  There is ridiculously charming stuff everywhere in Europe.  If you live in one ridiculously charming place, then of course you’d like to visit other ridiculously charming places, just for a break.

At the moment, it is after midnight and I’m a little bleary.  I’ll call this one good for now, and direct you to some photos of our wonderfully weird apartment.  Enjoy.  More pics to come, here’s a taste:

Sunset Spire, Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp

The spire of the Cathedral of Our Lady, lit up in the sunset.

Ester and a house with a moat

The lovely Ester with a house with a moat in Schoten, a town just outside of Antwerp.  More on that story later.

Arriving in Antwerp

The first week of our European Romance has tumbled by in a blur of new experiences, sometimes exhilarating or awe-inspiring or humbling, sometimes simply overwhelming.  I have been alternately fascinated, charmed, and exhausted by the endless little differences I discover, one after another, as I move through the course of any given day.  Although upon arriving in Amsterdam I was struck by the similarities to the US as much as the differences, many small everyday things require some getting used to.  Aside from the obvious adjustments to an unfamiliar city and the language issue, there are a million tasks to learn how to do all over again: operating the laundry machines, using the gas stove, finding cash machines and using the currency, adapting to different electrical standards, learning how to buy groceries, etc.  Even the light switches operate differently.  I have entered an alternate universe where things look familiar, but everything is just a little different.

We began our trip with an unexpected delay, as we discovered that our seats on the plane had been reserved but tickets never actually purchased.  I admit to staring at the agent in disbelief as we stood at the check in counter with our pile of suitcases after the four hour drive to the San Francisco airport.

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