Friday, October 28, 2011

Scare me to death, please

Last Halloween, I went on a quest to find THE SCARIEST MOVIE EVER.  I did a little research & solicited recommendations, and when multiple people suggested The Strangers, I jumped on it, cause Liv Tyler is my very favorite actress, and I've had a longstanding crush on Scott Speedman (since his Felicity days, duh).  

But it didn't quite do the trick.  I uttered nary a shriek, and I slept just fine that night.

So here's where you come in: I need your best suggestions at bone-chilling movies that will make me terrified to peer under my bed.  I'm talkin' face-buried-in-the-pillow, panic-inducing movies that will make me feel like it's actually Halloween.

Here are some criteria based on what does & doesn't scare me:

★ No zombies, werewolves, vampires, or aliens (has to be something that could feasibly happen to me)
★ Needs to be somewhat psychological
★ The chances of terrifying me are greater if the movie isn't too old.
★ I remember being scared by Cape Fear (original one? remake? can't remember).  But that kind of thing is what will do it for me, I think.  Silence of the Lambs was pretty spooky, too.  Serial killers are the best bet.

Okay, give me your best suggestions!  Happy (almost) Halloween :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Inside this Place, Not of It

Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote about my experience interviewing some incredible women in the South.

It was for the new Voice of Witness book, Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women's Prisons, that I was lucky enough to work on.  The book tells the stories of women who suffered "egregious human rights violations" while incarcerated, and will leave you overwhelmed with the beauty & resilience of humankind.

In it, you'll read about:
  •      a woman who, 6 months pregnant when sentenced to prison, was shackled to an operating table and forced to have a C-section before she'd shown any signs of labor;
  •      a woman who was misdiagnosed with HIV in prison and given 9+ years of rigorous HIV drugs, only to discover she'd never had it in the first place;
  •      a 22 year old incarcerated woman who was unnecessarily sterilized during a routine cystectomy (and who didn't discover her sterilization until years later)
among many other compelling stories.

This book is a result of almost two years of incredibly hard work (and lots of bravery on behalf of the women telling their stories) . . . and it's finally here!

If you order it now, co-editor Ayelet Waldman will donate $10 (per book ordered!) to Scholarmatch (an organization that connects donors with students to provide funding for college).  And you'll have some amazing reading material, as well as my undying gratitude. :)

We had an incredible reading & book release last week at 826 Valencia, and there will be many more events to come, so keep your ears pricked!

Order the book here.
Check out Voice of Witness here.

If you get ahold of the book, let me know!  I'd love to talk about it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why I Teach High School

(some of you may have seen this on twitter, but it was too funny not to share):

Yesterday in 5th period . . .

     student: Ms. Kiefer, what are ovaries?
     me: Female reproductive organs.
     student: Oh.  I thought they were shorts (motioning straps).
     other student:  No--those are overalls.  

Sometimes it takes everything in me not to crack up laughing at them.

Monday, October 24, 2011


is how many points my team scored last night.

Here's a summary:

The New Orleans Saints bullied the Indianapolis Colts for three hours with no mercy. When the beatdown was complete, the scoreboard read Saints 62, Colts 7.
One more time: Saints 62, Colts 7.
There was a fleeting moment during which I felt sorry for the Colts.  Specifically, for the Colts' second string quarterback, Curtis Painter, who must have been mortified as Peyton Manning looked on, grimly, from the sidelines.

But that moment was indeed fleeting, as I quickly shook my head and reveled again in the glory of the game, as the Saints tied the record for the most points scored by a winning team since 1970:

It shaped up to be a pretty tip-top weekend (after recovering from my deathly stomach virus).  I had a lazy Saturday morning, ran some errands, drank some coffee (first coffee after being sick = oh so sweet), and drove up to Sonoma, where I continued to have a relaxing weekend with Matt that involved lots of lying around, grilled cheese & tomato soup, and my favorite pjs (my dad's Allman Brothers shirt from circa 1975, ha).  

Matt & his lookalike son, Jasper
(I finally gave in & started playing with instagram)

lil (but growing) Rex

I also discovered "my new best thing," as Deena would say: falling asleep with Matt while watching Sons of Anarchy. :)  Happy Monday!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nothin' like a pig in the shower to recharge a stomach virus . . .

Last night around 8:20 (immediately following the first earthquake in 8 years that has legitimately scared me), I came down with a gnarly stomach virus.  My friend Cari had it the evening prior, and although I was at her house (babysitting her kids), I was super careful not to get anywhere near her.  So much for that!

Basically, in both our cases, this particular stomach virus involved about 4 hours of misery, followed by another day of massive headache, unsettled tummy, achy limbs, etc.  Finally, this afternoon (after calling in sick & laying around/napping all day in my Tim Riggins jersey), I started to feel like I was really on the upswing . . . I ate a crumpet, drank some electrolytes, and bleached the hell out of my bathroom.

But then I saw some facebook posts from my family in Georgia.  First, Ignatius's status (he's home! and doing better!!):

Home at last....just in time for the Pig Roast tomorrow. Gonna be tough to be as stealth as I used to be. Maybe I'll get some sympathy pig

And then my stepmom's.  This was the fatal one:

You never know what you might find in your shower when you are married to a chef. — with Kit Kiefer.

Annnnnnd I think my stomach virus is back.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Does He Love Your Chairs?

My stepmom and I are a lot alike.  We're both bold, passionate, independent, social, and wild-by-nature (though she's tamed now that she's in her mid-40s, haha).

Claire + Amy-Stepmama

When she read my blog post last week about old & new relationships, she commented, "Does he love your chairs??"  Most of you know I'm not a movie person, so this reference was lost on me.  When I asked her what on earth she was talking about, she sent me the following message.  I think many of you will find it as insightful as I did:

Hey -- so here's my metaphorical chairs story....

The year was 1996 (I can see you rolling your eyes right now -- ha ha).

I had quit my job at the law firm and moved in for the summer with Christoph and Sheryl in Queens and was taking some classes at the International Center for Photography. I left my BF of 5 years in ATL. That relationship was sort of ending, but I was confused b/c I thought I loved him, etc.

My daily routine was to take the subway in to Manhattan, attend my classes in the AM and bum around taking photos until about 4 or 4:30 and then head home and make dinner for C & S. I had learned not to wait until 5 and try to get to Queens on the subway - MISERABLE.

So, one day I realized I had lost track of time and it was 5:00. I would seriously do anything to avoid going under the East River in a tin can packed with people. 

I happened upon a movie theater and a movie called Phenomenon was just starting -- so, I decided watch the movie and I called Sheryl and tell her I would be home after rush hour.

I don't really remember what the movie was about, but there was a scene in the movie that changed my life. A total "ah ha" moment as Oprah would call it.

John Travolta played a guy in a small town that owned a gas station. Kyra Sedwick played a local artisian type that made chairs and John Travolta sold them for her in the parking lot of this gas station. Every week he would call her and tell her that she had sold 2 or 3 chairs and she would bring him more chairs. She didn't realize that he was in love with her. So - towards the end of the movie, (for some reason) she has to go to his house unexpectedly and she sees all the chairs she thought she sold to other people on his front porch. -- like 20 or more of them. She is really mad and disappointed b/c she thought people liked the chairs -- but as it turns out no one really liked them b/c they were uncomfortable. So, JT tries to explain to her that he loves the chairs b/c they represent what she is about to him... her creativity, her passion -- everything inside her. And yes, he even loves the fact that they are uncomfortable b/c the represents her imperfection.
So, I started thinking about my BF in that moment and I realized that I had spent 5 years with a man that did not love my metaphorical CHAIRS! I vowed to never get married unless I know for certain the my husband loved my chairs. That is why I married your father.

So - the gentlemen in your blog did not love your chairs. Or if they did -- they didn't love them enough. The right man for you will love your passion for social justice, will be interested in your poetry, love your capacity for emotional depth, etc. Only you can really define your chairs... that's just my perspective.

As women, we all learn that it is easy to attract a man for the wrong reason. A man will be with you for physical reasons, because he likes how your look.... or he likes the things you do for him. But - a man who truly loves your chairs is hard to find. So, if you find a man who you REALLY REALLY believe DOES love your chairs... that is a relationship worth fighting for. Crazy and boring Amy story for the day!

This is gonna be churning around in my brain for a while.  Thanks, oh wise stepmama!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Sexiest Form of Exercise?

I've been pretty enamored with AcroYoga since I first discovered it.  Don't get me wrong: I've never tried it (I mean just look at the pictures), but is it not the sexiest thing you've ever seen (short of naked Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy)?

According to

AcroYoga blends the spiritual wisdom of yoga, the loving kindness of Thai massage, and the dynamic power of Acrobatics. These three ancient lineages form this practice that cultivates trust, connection and playfulness. There are 7 main elements that make up the practice: circle ceremony, asana, partner flow, Thai massage, therapeutic flying, inversions & spotting, and partner acrobatics. Our highest aim is to bring individuals into a state of union with themselves, with each other, and with the divine. From this place of mutual support the true self can be realized, celebrated and shared for the benefit of all. 

how is this possible??

I found a beginners' class near my house, but it's on Thursdays from 12-1 pm.  That always puzzles me; don't most people have jobs that preclude mid-day yoga?  I suppose if you work nearby, it's right at lunch time.  Looks like there's another class on Sunday afternoons . . . which may interfere with my football schedule. ;)

Hope everyone had a great weekend.  Mine was delightful, except for the Saints' loss on Sunday.  I was watching at a sports bar in Sonoma, and the waitress brought me a shot of Patron when the game was over and said, "Sorry for your loss."  ha!

Friday, October 14, 2011

On Dating

What do these men have in common?

Aside from the fact that they've all been in relationships with me?  NOTHING.  I'm in the process of learning a really hard lesson: not all men are the same.  

I'm a Leo and a firstborn and a pistol, and I have unbelievable pride (of the once bitten, twice shy variety).  Historically, I've sought after men who aren't totally available; I'm sure a therapist would tell me that it's safer that way, less to lose.  Perhaps my playing-it-safe technique can be attributed to the sum of the following:

~One of these handsome gents proposed to another woman while we were dating;
~Another of them told me over the phone, two years into the relationship and after I'd literally traveled across the world to be with him: "Claire, I'm not in love with you;"
~Two of them dropped off the face of the earth mid-relationship & out of the blue (both were long-distance).  Suddenly, no returned phone calls, emails, texts, anything.  In both cases, I feared they were dead/seriously hurt.  Turns out they were fine; it was just radio silence, post "I love you."

I've never been a walled-off type of girl, when it comes to love or relationships or friendships or anything else.  I'm pretty much willing to go with my gut/heart & plunge into whatever feels the right-est.  However, lately I've noticed that I anticipate disappointment like it's sure as sunset.  It's like I'm waiting for the ice to crack, preventing me from just purely enjoying what's in front of me and experiencing happiness.  Call it PTSD or abandonment issues or just plain ol' jaded cynicism, but it seems I don't know how to be with someone without expecting them to let me down.

A couple months ago, I started (unexpectedly) seeing someone.  We've been friends for years, so we know each other pretty well.  Still, that doesn't ease my anxiety about ultimately getting hurt.  I find myself squinting at him, skeptically, awaiting some sort of bombshell bad news, when often he's just trying to tell me something sweet.


He says my "flight" reaction is intense.  He says that I yank away from him any time he says something I find slightly off-putting.  He says I overanalyze everything to its death, and that my emotional histrionics can be . . . a bit much. ;)

But last night he said, "When you try to flee, I'm going to chase you."  And damned if that's not the most reassuring thing I've ever heard.

Don't get me wrong: this man lives in a house surrounded by approximately 862 red flags.  The road to forever-happiness with him is dimly lit at best.  But my lesson is to try to live in the right now, cheesy as that sounds.  The other day I had a conversation with my dear & wise friend Jessie, who reminded me that now is underrated.  Matt or I or any of us could die in a car crash tomorrow, so is it necessarily wise to extinguish whatever's making us happy now, for fear we'll get hurt in the un-guaranteed future?

In the meantime, I'm challenging myself to repeat these mantras:  
     *Every single person is unimaginably unique.  
     *It's unreasonable to saddle anyone with the pain that someone else caused.  
     *History does not necessarily repeat itself; we're constantly evolving.

Humans are biologically changed by what endangers us.  Over time, we develop resistance to that which threatens us harm (melanin in our skin, calluses on our feet).  I know this to be indisputable, and yet I also know that each new person we encounter deserves the same chance at newness & faith that we gave the first one.  

It'll be a balancing act, but here goes.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Hop, Skip, & a Jump

Today you can find me over at Leeann's, discussing everything I love about San Francisco. :)

Come say hi!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Fulfillment of a Dream: Adventures with Shelly, Part 2

Just cause yesterday I told you about our brush with the Hells Angels doesn't mean I didn't class it up with Shelly, too. :)  I'm all about the juxtaposition of experience, y'all.

Of course, I took her to Napa:

And we obviously visited my favorite spot in San Francisco, Baker Beach:

But most important was our dinner Monday night.  From the earliest planning stages of our trip, Shelly'd said, "The only thing I'm dead set on is having dinner at Chez Panisse."  She's a serious foodie, and Alice Waters is her hero.  So on her last night in the Bay, I canceled my San Quentin class and we trekked up to Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto for the finest dinner East of San Francisco.

Imagine her surprise when, chatting over Zinfandel & incredible appetizers, Shelly looks to her right and sees none other than . . . Alice Waters.  She was there, at her very own Chez Panisse!  On a Monday night!  Suffice to say, we got a picture:

(one for the record books)

See?  You can do it both ways.  The world's most notorious biker gang one night, and the East Bay's finest dining establishment another!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side: Adventures with Shelly, Part 1

One of the best things about living in the Bay Area is that everyone wants to come visit you.  This past weekend, it was my friend Shelly, a.k.a. my only girlfriend as obsessed with biker gangs as me.  :)

So it should come as no surprise that on Saturday night, after a lovely day in Napa, we googled a certain address and staked out here:

You'll have to excuse the grainy picture.  It was taken with my iPhone while sitting in my car across the street and attempting some level of subtlety (who am I kidding).

I desperately wanted to go knock on the door, but Shelly wasn't going for it.  But I was going to at least investigate . . . so I walked across the street and snapped a few more pics:

the little alley way alongside the clubhouse

my favorite capture of the night

the Hells Angels aren't known for the accuracy of their punctuation,
but at least they have their own Bail Bonds co. for when they catch a case!

After my little photog escapade, I got back in the car--windows down--where Shelly and I sat for another 20 minutes or so (brainstorming reasons to knock on the door).  Just when I was about to summon the courage, Shelly nudged me, wide-eyed.  I looked to my left and saw a huge, angry looking "Angel" staring at us from the clubhouse door, likely wondering WTF two girls were doing posted up outside the Hells Angels clubhouse snapping pics like paparazzi.  

I rolled up my window and sped off without a second look.

Despite our brush with Tiny, this was a big deal for me, people.  Do you realize this Oakland Hells Angels clubhouse is the original?  Like, where it all began?  Next time I just need a more detailed plan.  Any ideas? ;)

Oh, and one of the best parts:


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Let's Talk about Bling

Lane and I have been friends since we were wee young 7th graders.  Our mamas went to high school together, so we'd known each other longer, but we became attached at the hip on the school bus in middle school.

We've been through many adventures together: college, travel, deaths, relationships, weddings, heartbreaks, grad schools, illnesses, etc.

I could fill books with pictures of the two of us.  Those above are a mere fraction.

Here's where I need your help.  Lane and I both turned 30 this summer, and we decided that we'd mark the occasion (and 18 years of friendship!) with matching necklaces.  The problem is, we can't decide on one!  So I need you to hook me up with your favorite jewelry designers/sellers.  Here are some criteria:

*We're looking to spend around $100
*Needs to be something that will last a long time/not turn green/not break/etc.
*I like gold better, but will go for silver if it's the affordable option
*No cheesy hearts or stars ;)

I like these, for instance:

(but Lane already has a wishbone necklace)

an option, maybe?

So help me!!!  If you have any ideas for jewelers, websites, etc., hook me up!  Lane and I have been going back and forth for a couple months now and can't seem to find the one.  

Brainstorm: GO!