Like Marie Kondo, only meaner.

I thought from time to time I could republish some work lingering in my portfolio. Here’s a piece from that collection. I hope you enjoy.

There’s a very small and beautiful Japanese lady called Marie Kondo who goes into people’s homes, helps them assess what’s needed in their life and what isn’t, and then has them say a deep and heartfelt goodbye to all of the personal items that once had a place in their existence but have long since wreaked havoc on the state of their affairs.

She’s basically me if she came with a set of matches and an affinity for the phrase, “Do you really need that sweater seeing that we’re all gonna die one day anyways?”

Matt and Ava have learned how to hide their things. It really is a glorious art to find that pair of sweatpants with the knee in the hole and the waistband that’s too tight, scrunching itself into a neat little ball in the closet as if I’m some well-mannered Japanese TV host with a penchant for sparing people’s feelings and who doesn’t enjoy the smell of burning fleece.

I just feel that stuff is stuff. To tag a sentimental value to something seems almost foreign to me, save for the few trinkets from close friends and family that actually mean something. But gathering stuff for the sake of stuff gathering is akin to the man storing surplus grain in the larger barn he builds so that he can take a load off, pop open a cold one, and enjoy the feats of his labor (Luke 12:16-21).

Oh but then spoiler alert: he dies.

I have to ask myself daily where my treasure is. I have to light my own match and hold it close to the things I think I own. I own nothing. I am a steward of God’s good graces. I am merely borrowing my home and my car and my dog and my daughter and my husband and all the other things that surround me that reflect an erroneous semblance of safety.

There is nothing safe about this world. Remember that. I’m not saying there is no joy, no hope. Oh gosh no. WE are that joy and that hope to a barren world that thinks it knows better. Which is why it’s so important to burn the mental ties to anything that keeps us from being salt and light.

The more tethered we are to “our” treasure, the less valuable we are to others.

But the more we light the fire to the ties that hold us to worldly thinking, well, we lift up and away, feet dangling, eyes toward heaven.

© 2023 by Ericka Clay


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The dust of ourselves.

I thought from time to time I could republish some work lingering in my portfolio. Here’s a piece from that collection. I hope you enjoy.

I’ve been playing at this for so long, I sometimes don’t know the sound of my own voice.

I’ve become the thing I think that I used to hate. The woman sandwiched so perfectly into life that you’d never think to pop her out of it, put her in brand new territory.

Have I gotten stale? Am I nothing more than a useless bag in the wind?

Nah, I’m just thirty-seven.

I had a conversation with a friend about leaving your phone’s flashlight on. I’ve done this several times, but the worst part is scrambling to find how to turn it off. And it’s like my brain just can’t remember that step, so there I am, illuminating my whole world. Or rather, blinding everyone in the eyes.

My daughter giggles at me, gives me an “Oh, Mom.” And I look around like, is she talking to me? When did this happen? When did I become a mother of twelve-going-on-thirteen-year-old? When did this phone become the Rosetta Stone that I’ve still not managed to crack?

The world would make me think it’s all over. I found the first gray hair a few days ago in the Pet Supplies Plus parking lot. It was wiry and at half mast, and I ripped it out of my head. “Don’t do that!” Matt said, and I would have been more suspicious of myself if I hadn’t. Who goes around with a broken TV attena jutting out of their crown and clawing at the sky?

All of these things remind me of the thing I knew I’d never become. Old. No longer easy on the eyes (Ericka had her day, friends). I’m a walking, talking hormonal mess who keeps dialating people’s pupils at the random, and I no longer have any balance. I turned my head the wrong way the other day in our shed and almost ended up sprawled over my daughter’s bike.

I’m the female version of Mr. Magoo, slightly less myopic and with enough sense to worry about these things. But then again, I don’t worry much.

The whole world will pass away. Did you know that? You’re sitting here but one day you won’t. I’m typing these things, but one day I won’t.

I see the beautiful injustice in it all, but if it were purely just, God wouldn’t let us breathe anymore in the first place.

Sinful hearts and all that.

So what do we do with this thing, you and me? What do we do with aching backs and cracking hips and the dust of ourselves wrinkling and wearing like an old coat that just doesn’t fit right anymore?

Well, the world would give a whole lesson on how not to be and look like you. But Jesus, well, He wants every dying second of it.

Because we die, we walk a little closer to Him. And as we live, we’re proof that He exists.

Because who else would want a bumbling thirty-seven-year-old who once was going to marry Prince William and now practically loses a finger each time she slices an orange?

He does. And I’ll never stop being grateful.

© 2023 by Ericka Clay


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Making changes, finding routine.

I’m making a major life change that is making me feel better, body, mind, and soul.

I also talk about routines. Why they’re important and how they’ve helped equip me mentally as a mom, wife, and writer.

Click play to hear my heart.

© 2023 by Ericka Clay

Listen to all my diary entries here.

Mentioned in this episode…


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Finding faith through parenting.

I’ve been letting go in all areas of my life. The hardest? Raising my daughter to know Christ.

But I have faith that God has already marked out her journey and is guiding her by the hand. It’s up to me to love her fiercely and to squash any fear I have that she’ll stray.

Click play to hear my heart.

© 2023 by Ericka Clay

Listen to all my diary entries here.

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Watered-down wine.


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This crazy thing called life.

One year, we moved.

We seemed to do this for several years, somewhat sporadically. We weren’t nomads or degenerates on the run. My dad just kept getting promoted or changing jobs, and we’d find ourselves in Texas, and then Massachusetts, and then Texas, and then Massachusetts again.

We somehow managed to forget other states existed.

But the first time we moved to Houston was one of the best Christmases ever because nobody bought me anything.

That sounds terrible, but I suppose now that I have a kid, I can appreciate how really hilarious it is. “Merry Christmas! Open this box. Just open it!” as I have my iPhone camera waiting, and I’m trying not to giggle until I choke.

Some would say that’s pretty cruel. But that’s probably just because they haven’t met my daughter.

The first part of an IOU Christmas involves your mother finding your father’s fake office plant that’s wedged in the back of the U-Haul. You have to give it several good tugs, and then everyone shouts “Christmas shall commence!” as a couple of plastic leaves are shed and one annoyed spider hangs on for dear life.

This tree is then placed in the middle of your brand new and preferably very empty dining room. You don’t bother putting actual furniture in it because you just arrived the night before and you still have “car body” that makes you feel like walking spaghetti. I mean whose grand idea was it to put Arkansas so far away from the Lone Star State?

But no worries. You don’t need furniture. What you need is an imagination.

IOU Christmas is much like that scene from Hook when the lost boys teach Robyn Williams (okay, I guess they’re actually teaching Peter Pan) how to use his imagination as he’s “eating,” and suddenly real food will appear. Except instead of a five-course meal, it’s more like those jeans your best friend wears and you’ve always wanted and a poster of Hanson.

“Look! It’s the Game Boy I wanted!” And everyone oohs and aahs as you lift up a tattered sheet of paper your mother ripped from back of her People Magazine with the words IOU sharpied on it.

“Somebody’s going to get a lot of use out of that!” Your grandmother says as she sips from an invisible mug of coffee because nobody’s unpacked the dishware yet.

It really is hard to choose the best part of IOU Christmas, but mine really is the familial trek to the local Marriott where you eat a holiday buffet with roughly nine other people who either also have car body or accidentally lit their kitchen on fire.

Together, you consume some of the more traditional Christmas fare like crab legs on ice, or macaroni and cheese with way too much salt, or a lone pudding cup that you’re pretty sure is pudding. It’s best not to ask questions.

As you look around, you’re thankful to be there because you’re alive, and besides, Christmas is not about the gifts or home cooked meal. It’s about Jesus and being with the people He gave you to weather this crazy thing called life.

And for the fact that when you get home, you’ll get to watch that brand new IOU TV for hours because nobody can fight you for a remote that doesn’t exist.

© 2023 by Ericka Clay


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How much we don’t deserve.

He looks good for 105. Okay, he’s technically just fifteen, but for a dog, he should be dragging at least one hind leg around and losing teeth in his breakfast.

Instead, Rocco reminds me of one of those old men you see walking in a jogging suit around the mall while his wife phones it in and sits morosely with an Auntie Anne’s pretzel in front of Hot Topic.

He just won’t quit.

And this is evident by his smiley dog face and waggy tail, both of which are set off every time he tries to urinate a small puddle roughly the size of a half-dollar on my carpet. I mean either go or don’t. Why make me get out the steamer vac for dribble?

Rocco’s lost a lot in his life: his sister and two uncles. Okay, he wasn’t technically related to any of them, but I’m not sure that matters in dog world. I think it just matters that he loved them with that same stupidly open dog grin that reminds me how my heart isn’t as pure as I wish it were.

Riley was the one we worried about the most. Technically, according to my parents (mostly my father now that I think about it…maybe he is trying to kill me), Riley is the fourth born. It was me and then my sister, Fifi (she always had a knack for pulling off a tiny bow in her black curly hair. Not fair considering we all can’t be poodles) and then Ross who was overgrown as a puppy and had a permanent worried look as if he cheated on his diet and he was afraid somebody was going to rat him out. And then there was Riley.

Riley. If a dog ever needed a helmet.

Riley was afraid of the fan. Riley, in short order, was pretty much afraid of everything. He was an apricot standard poodle, and there was something almost otherworldly about him. Like he was some sort of alien-slash-deer that ended up on my parents’ couch one Christmas.

My mother had asked for another toy poodle like Fifi, and instead, my dad decided to get Riley because who doesn’t like it when a full-sized dog vomits during an anxiety attack?

Maybe he’s trying to kill both of us. Hmm.

Anyways, I’ll always remember Riley looking far off, as if his mind was somewhere his body would never catch up to. It seemed like a nice place, wherever it was.

My parents were excited to get a puppy, but when I stumbled home one college night into their room, I wasn’t met with a puppy.

I was met with a chocolate-colored butterball turkey shaking with anticipation on its doggy bed. I sat down on the hardwood floor, and the butterball let me pet it, and it calmed down a little. It was thick, soft, and about ten times the size of Fifi who was perched on my parents’ bed, giving me a look that said, “Can you believe they did this to us?” I could just foresee a future where all three of us were sitting in the lawyer’s office, the entire estate being given to Butterball Ross and Fifi fainting from the audacity of it all.

Good thing dogs have shorter life spans. And can’t own property.

Ross was solid in body. You’d often see Rocco lying on Ross’s back like one of those birds that eat insects off a hippotamus. He was good-natured, and a great snuggler, and was easily embarrassed when he passed gas, and my father would make a big to do about it.

I know, Ross. But at least he never tried to kill you.

And he, of course, was the best swimming instructor money (or the absolute lack of it) could buy. Our three-year-old daughter would hold onto his back in my parents’ pool, her legs kicking as he took her around, and she’d choke him silly with her tiny arms and massive-sized floaties.

Maybe that’s less dog smile, and more dog terror, now that I think about it.

I find myself randomly missing Ross, like when a day is really cold and the chill has wormed its way inside of your bones. Or when I see other chocolate labs, none that are as thick or soft.

But there’s something about them that catches your eye like you’re seeing a ghost. Like you’re catching a little piece of something you used to know.

Roxie. What else can I say that I haven’t said here or here?

Nothing, I guess.

But maybe, I should look at it from a different angle as if I’m holding a small diamond in my hand.

If there ever were poster children for sibling rivalry, it would be Roxie and Rocco. From head humping to charging into each other to get out the back door, these two were a constant study into how to not make friends.

And yet, they loved each other.

At three o’clock sharp every day, Rocco would clean Roxie. He’d lick her face, and inside her ears, and scrub her eyeballs hard with his tongue. And she’d sit like the queen of Sheba, sending a strong vibe of “Jealous yet?” to which I’d firmly shake my head, “Um, no.”

It always looked like a one-sided love. Rocco, the beta, sitting dumbly by as Roxie eats the last bits of his food with what she’s considered stealth and planning when in reality a rhino with a metal bucket on his head would have been quieter. But there would be moments when she thought no one was watching, when she’d put her head on his neck and those freshly scrubbed eye balls would be looking into something I couldn’t see.

Like when she was dying.

I think I’d like to always remember them together to know that kind of love can exist. You don’t have to like everything about a person to love them. It’s sometimes a choice whether their tongue is in your eye or they’ve just stolen a bite of your cookie.

You can choose to walk away or you can still meet them every day at three o’clock sharp.

The choice is always yours.

Rocco keeps trucking. Everyone else is long gone, everyone he loved. I like to think he still loves them, but I’m not sure, considering sometimes, he eats his own vomit.

I think a lot about God, how you can see Him in the intricacies of a wide-open dog eye and the warm assurance of its tongue letting you know the world isn’t always as cruel as it lets on.

Because in the beginning, there was the Word, and there was constant relationship with our beautiful Creator, and there were animals He made to keep us company.

To love us, even though we know how much we don’t deserve.

© 2023 by Ericka Clay


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The bad news fridge.

At the gym today, I realized that most people have to succumb to the merciless grips of either Fox News or CNN to receive their bad news.

Fortunately, growing up, I had my mother.

My mother was what one would call a curator of a very dismal museum. Instead of bright floral patterns or even thought-provoking pieces that edged beyond the expanses of the human imagination, my mother dealt in small, clipped-out articles of random destruction and had the foresight and adept scissor-cutting skills to make sure that destruction always remained eye-level on our refrigerator.

Headline: Local Man Decapitated While Driving His Convertible Down the Highway

Me: “Well, that seems unfortunate.”

My mother: “Unfortunate or kismet? Life’s what happens when you’re busy not wearing a helmet.”

Headline: Local Girl Drowns in Pond Behind Her Family Home

Me: “That’s just…terrible.”

My mother: “It is. And so is trying to swim right after eating.”

Headline: Local Animal Lover Takes in A Family of Newborn Kittens

Me: “Well, that one’s quite lovely.” **Scans to the headline underneath this one that is circled in red and underlined three times.** “Oh no. Why would she go jogging at ten at night??”

My mother: “Because common sense isn’t an innate life skill. It has to be beaten into your head…by your mother.”

Finally, I moved to college. I attended a small liberal arts school while my parents moved back down to Texas. And for a much-needed and peaceful reprieve (roughly six days), I didn’t even know who was getting murdered where or which manufacturer was currently supplying the best deals on pepper spray.

But then, of course, she found me.

Roommate: “My mom baked and sent me cookies! What did your mom send you?”

Me: “A ten-car pile-up on Interstate 95.”

Some people say I’m, well…different. Maybe it’s just because I truly understand this world for what it is: an absolute dumpster fire. And maybe, just maybe my mother is the smartest, most dedicated evangelist in the world. Because Lord knows it can only be Jesus Himself who will one day come to put a final end to this nonsense.

I mean, it most certainly won’t be me. I’m still waiting for my order of half-priced pepper spray.

© 2023 by Ericka Clay


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Watered-down wine.

She looks at me through the same lens I once looked through to find my mother. But maybe that’s not at all accurate.

After all, we’re now knee-deep into the twenty-first century. Who am I to her but an old relic who likes to whip out the macarena when waiting in line?

She just loves that.

But when I look at her, sitting in the car with the music blaring, us singing our lungs out to all the music I used to listen to (because originality is not something our culture values), I look at my hands on the steering wheel. How old they’ve gotten. And then I look at her in the passenger seat and think, “Who are you?”

“And where is my mother?”

My mother has dark brown hair and warm skin and freckles, and therefore, I look nothing like her. Whereas my nose has been stuck inside books, hers has sat defiantly on her face, waiting for someone to make the wrong move. She’s all heart and smile otherwise, but there’s something instinctual inside her I’ve never had. I think maybe it’s her Latina side, a brush stroke of passion God has given her that was weakened genetically like watered-down wine by the time that I was born.

I only tend to get perturbed when my library loan expires.

In the car, we’d sing to Stevie Nix and Carol King and Carly Simon, And sometimes we’d invite the boys, humming along to James Taylor and Chicago. I used to live in the seventies in a 1990’s GrandAm, wondering what it would have been like to be my mother at the exact same age.

But then I remember the story of when she first moved to Saudi Arabia and showed her ankles off to the guards stationed at the airport, an openly defiant Latina-American, and I break out in hives.

It would have been heart-stopping.

I used to love hearing about the boys my mother loved because they were like stepping stones to my father. Here’s a bit of life that’s gone broken, the pieces and ash swept up by God’s own hand, and look—there he made something new, a man that loved her enough to not even think about breaking her.

The seatbelt got tighter and my legs grew as long as hers. My legs are my mother’s legs. I remember trying to elliptical them off in our basement, striding like a gazelle while watching Shakira on MTV. “Lucky I have strong legs like my mother” I’d sing, trying to believe the luck in it.

We’d still sing sometimes in the car, but I’d usually be in my boyfriend’s, head against his passenger side window, wondering what life was like beyond small towns and front yards filled with sunflowers.

When she was supposed to die, she didn’t. Even when my faulty grasp on prayer was hinging on nonexistent, I still kept frantically yanking the net back in for a catch of God’s answers. I couldn’t be sixteen and alone with nobody to sing to.

She remained alive, body intact, and it won’t be until years later that parts of her go missing. My miracle cat with nine lives and counting.

My daughter has inherited her father’s voice and we laugh about it. We sing long and loud in my car now with my ancient hands grasping the wheel, but it’s no longer the seventies. We find ourselves on the cusp of the new century as the Back Street Boys sing about wanting it their way, and I think about how much I love my daughter.

And how much I miss my mother too.

© 2022 by Ericka Clay


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Only the lonely.

There was always a little bit of death on the pages of the books I read.

I think I wanted to nudge my toe against the thought, quickly jostling it with my foot and then bringing my foot back to safety.

What would it be like to die? What would it be like if those I loved died first?

Being an only child is not terrible.

One day, later on in life when I’m an adult and have a child of my own, a woman in one of our homeschooling groups will ask with a slight strain in her voice, “But my daughter’s an only child. Do you think she’ll be okay?”

I’ll try not to laugh. I’m not being cruel. I just think this lady is giving me far more credit than I’ve ever given myself.

Who on earth is ever okay?

We live in a fallen state of Eden—the beautiful world God created, doing an about-face to our own sense of evil.

I’ll tell her, “I was an only child and turned out relatively unscathed.” Then I’ll whisper softly about hearing the voices again and slowly back out of the room.


I think being an only child was beautifully lonely in a way that a lot of people will never have the chance to understand. I learned what being quiet meant. I learned what listening was.

I never opened my mouth to cut off someone else to get a word in edge-wise or thought what I had to say was more important.

And that’s only because I respected the integrity of allowing a moment to be free of my noise.

We don’t all always get that memo.

I sure wouldn’t have it weren’t for the reality of my circumstances: when I was alone in my room, there was no one there to hear me.

I had friends regardless of my lonely “only” status. Sometimes, friends who were only children themselves.

But more than friends, I had books.

Books were like friends but ones who sought you more than you sought them. They wanted to learn more about that quiet side of you—not to call it out as regrettable but to nurture it because here you are, a soul alone willing to know all of their pages.

I cried when Leslie Burke died and spent an entire evening looking for mixed-up files in a museum. I met an old wise man, The Giver they called him, and stared at the face of God with Margaret who kept asking if He was even there. I looked eagerly for the face on the milk carton and babysat so many kids, my kid kit contained nothing but crumbs and broken Crayons.

I grew and got older and met Sylvia the poet and her good friend, Anne, and made best friends with my own bleak existence in the company of Beckett, Kafka, and Camus.

I baked bread with the yeast of my yearning.

I eventually have an only child too. She’s so uninhibited, it feels like she’s twenty children in one.

At three, she talks to Jesus in her room, disturbing the hem of my atheism. I chalk it up to fairy tales. I blame it on her poor listening skills.

Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to honor the quiet with the weight of her silence?

But something is brought back as I watch her standing there at the edge of her doorframe.

Didn’t I always feel never alone, even at my loneliest?

Who else was there to listen to all the words I wished I could say?

The moment is long gone when the lady is fretting over her daughter, the one sentenced to a sibling-free life.

I think of what I’d say to her now, now that I know how the moments we let water our worry turn out to be nothing more than drops in the sea of time.

“Fine. She’ll be just fine,” I’d say, allowing no other option.

© 2022 by Ericka Clay


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Two souls on a skiff.

I live inside the secret world of my father’s ambition.

Maybe it isn’t so secret.

How to describe Mel? I don’t know. I suppose if being a child meant my mother being the sun, then Mel was the moon. There was something about him that lived in me too. Perhaps, our drive.

Our want to leave this world for a better one.

Mel lives inside so many different spaces in my memory. My favorite space is always the early nineties where I look my worst but feel my best. I’m long-socked and crimped-banged and fanny-packed and have developed an absurd need to find and marry Macaulay Caulkin.

I like to think I’ve grown.


And Mel’s there too. He’s the skinny guy in the trucker hat and short shorts at my grandparents’ doublewide in Pangburn. He has a mustache but doesn’t take that or himself too seriously. I remember him joking and laughing and everyone saying his name, the type of blessing you never concede as one.

And then there’s the fish, all hanging dead-eyed on the lines ready to be scaled and gutted. Mel works with an electric meat carver and the smell is metallic, the sort of smell that should turn you off unless it reminds you of someone you love.

As I get older, Mel becomes more elusive. He is the man whose plans went sideways yet he still manages a shade of greatness. He was supposed to be a lawyer and then the governor of Arkansas, but God rescinded the memo. He would have been phenomenal at those things. And I think maybe that’s why God couldn’t let them happen.

We yearn for greatness and then become it. So who’s left to trust but ourselves?

Instead, he becomes a businessman—a national sales manager—and he travels the skies in a metal bird. I think a sliver of me misses him when he’s gone but whose heart yearns for the moon when the sun is still around?

We go on trips though. We go everywhere. Disney World and California, out to the desert, and then travel the waters on big boats with all-you-can-eat buffets.

Mel comes alive in these pockets of time because who doesn’t cut ties with reality when reality wasn’t invited?

As an adult, I want to go back in time and ask things like: “Are you stressed?” “Do you need a hug?” “What are you worrying about right now?”

But perspective is never tempting to a child.

As I get older, I write and Mel reads it—Mel, who’s an incredible writer himself. I’d read all his books if he ever got to write them, but again, I think this is something God knows about.

It reminds me of a story a friend told me once. How this man knows he’s to lead people to Jesus but he only leads one man to Christ. But that man becomes one of the greatest pastors the world has ever known.

Is that what’s happening to Mel? Is he pouring out all of himself into me because it’s spilling over and all the glasses are dirty?

I know the feeling.

I have a daughter now myself.

I grow and we grow apart. How did that ever happen? Because even in the times when he wasn’t around, he was always around.

He’s there teaching me tennis and basketball. He’s with me when I do my report on Kareem Abdul Jabar and when I buy my Sean Kemp sneakers. He suddenly pops up like a lone flower in a field at my volleyball games with his infamous hand-held camcorder. And I’m brokenhearted for all the generations who don’t know what it feels like to be forever esteemed on VHS.

But we both know there’s a boy. There was always “a boy” in that flighty heart of mine, and how I wish I could go back there, down the bleachers and past the screams of sweat-stained parents to meet me on the court and rip that heart right out.

Time passes, and I get older. I hear that happens a lot. And I see the same things my father saw. We sit on that bright edge of darkness, weighing it with words. For so long we watered those seeds of ambition only to realize they grew nothing but weeds. We’ve pulled them out, the roots dangling in front of our faces, and buried them with all the hope and desire that haunt our human flesh.

They say you relate to God in how you relate to your father. So maybe that’s why I’m always in awe or talk to Him like we’re just two souls sharing a skiff. All the fish are alive and well and swimming.

But still, I can smell the scent of something we never lost but will never get back again.

© 2022 by Ericka Clay


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