Epilogue to Behind These Doors

Revelations and Reckonings My parents were like black and white, like oil and water, like sin and prayer. Daddy, not one to boil over, married a kettle of emotions. If he could have loosened his grip and if Mom hadn’t completely unraveled, my childhood might have been different. But it was what it … [Read more...]

Sam: A Dog Story

It was the worst day of his life, and I could hear the despair in his voice. Matt was calling from the emergency animal hospital in Sacramento. My son and his wife were on their way to the Sierras for a camping weekend. Pulling alongside on Highway 80, a woman frantically signaled them to pull over. … [Read more...]

Bless This Mess

I’m hard-wired for formal prayer. I find myself reciting the Our Father when an earthquake hits, and oftentimes at night as I go to sleep. "How weird,” I think, stopping in the middle, but then a Hail Mary (a woman about whom I hold equally wobbly beliefs), arises to take its place. I surrender, … [Read more...]

The Shape I’m In

This house was one I often drew as a child, and other than simple stick figures, my only attempt at art. An illustrator turned my drawing into the cover for Behind These Doors: a red house with a peaked roof, a door, a window, and five flowers—surrounded by a tree, some grass, and a sunny blue sky. … [Read more...]

Disturbing the Dead, Annoying the Living

What calls us to find the ancestors? It goes beyond a simple curiosity. We are taken over, compelled, as if possessed by something bigger than us, begging to be revealed. There is one of us in almost every family called to be the scribe. I am but one of many in our clan’s long line of storytellers. … [Read more...]

Book Launch @ Readers’

Passages from Behind These Doors: A Family Memoir ~ I posted on Facebook that my book launch Thursday night was a "Life Event." It absolutely was. I felt held, seen, heard, and loved. It was joyous and my heart was filled to the brim. It could very well be the high point of all this (and you … [Read more...]

Sin and Prayer

My parents were like black and white, oil and water, sin and prayer. My father, not one to boil over, married a kettle of emotions. If he could’ve loosened his grip and if my mother hadn’t completely unraveled, perhaps my childhood would’ve have been different. But it was what it was. We all have … [Read more...]

My Friend Kim Heddy

Kim joined our office as an agent in 1994. As it turned out we had a lot in common: we both loved real estate, ice cream, and dark chocolate. In 2002 she became a partner in my real estate practice: she took over showing property to my clients, which meant I no longer got lost wandering around town … [Read more...]

Behind These Doors: Prologue

Prologue Audio (click arrow to play): My brother Larry was under the illusion that our mother was a good mother, but he had a different childhood than the rest of us. My sisters were convinced otherwise: Carleen complained Mom was thoughtless and self-centered, Betty resented her for … [Read more...]


Elizabeth Ann Duchi Dec 3, 1939 - Oct 8, 2004 Sixty-four years ago my middle sister was born: Elizabeth Ann "Betty/Liz" Clemens. She was married forty-six years, had four children, and was the funniest person I knew. A year ago she developed a wracking cough. Eight months ago she was diagnosed … [Read more...]

Ten Years Have Slipped By

My Sister Liz Yesterday I found out my sister is dying. I know, thousands of people die every day—but they're not my sister. She's had this constant wracking cough for three months and we finally got her to go to a doctor. The first one said it was allergies and sent her home with nasal spray. When … [Read more...]

Unleashing the Flying Monkeys

Writing a memoir is one thing, having other read it is another; it's akin to being a nude model for the first time in front of an art class. But standing naked in front of strangers (or worse yet, in front of family, friends, and everyone in town) has nothing to do with me or what I look like, it’s … [Read more...]

Sevenau Line: Sideways and Down

With more than their share of scandal and drama, the Sevenau line was definitely not boring to research or write about. There are not many with this name, and within the last month with the passing of brothers Steve and Mike Sevenau, sadly became two less. The verse is about Lou Sevenau (their … [Read more...]

Shaken, Not Stirred

All right already, so it takes an earthquake to get me out of bed. After 10 days nursing the flu, I wake up to my house rolling one way, then rocking the other. The earth is jolting and roaring. My bedroom is upstairs where there is extra sway. The door to my upper deck has blown open and … [Read more...]

The Chatfield Story

Dec 26, 1894, Fruita, Mesa County, Colorado: In a ceremony in her parents' home, my grandmother, twenty-one year old Nellie Chamberlin, married Charles Henry Chatfield, a ranching man of twenty-four. Nellie was a no-nonsense Catholic girl and exceedingly religious, but she also had a mind of her own … [Read more...]

Cosmic Patience

I hadn’t said a word the first three days; I had nothing to add and was seeing plenty about myself simply sitting on the floor and listening—how I still need to control my environment so I’m not too hot, not too cold, not too tired—and how hard it is for me to relax and not believe my discomfort … [Read more...]

They Call it Beach Camping

Summer 1959: Salton Sea My least fond memory of that summer is water skiing at the Salton Sea, a huge inland lake in the desolate California Sonoran Desert. The place is a forsaken moonscape: saltier than the Pacific Ocean, hotter than blazing cinders, and smellier than rotting catfish. No benches, … [Read more...]

I Want What I Want When I Want It

I am self-made, self-sufficient, and self-supporting, along with being self-reliant, self-confident and self-motivated. I am also self-righteous, self-serving, self-critical, self-centered, and perhaps just a wee bit self-absorbed. I reek of responsibility and good reputation. I hold dear my … [Read more...]

None of My Business

A recent blog post of mine provoked a response that mildly caught me by surprise. I sent someone down a rabbit hole regarding my use of the word "retarded" and she nearly tossed me into the briar patch when I read her response, but hey, at least I'm being read and she took the time to comment. In … [Read more...]

Dragons and Sparkles

Satchel and Temple • July 2009, Sonoma, California Brooke and the kids are visiting in Sonoma for a month. My son and his family moved to Vancouver, Canada last year—they had the nerve to not only move there, but to take my grandchildren with them—and this is their first time back. Satchel is six … [Read more...]

19 Nods to Facebook

1. Finally! I can quit feeling guilty about not sending Christmas and birthday cards. 2. I'm partial to posts that are interesting, insightful, or just plain weird. Where else would I find a zillion uses for white vinegar, coconut oil, and WD40, or know about the Ellen DeGeneres show. 3. I can … [Read more...]

Lord Love a Duck

There once were three brothers, from England did flee Sailed on the St. John in good company. Our line comes off George, ten progeny past, Begetting the Chatfields of which I am cast. They're an interesting bunch, left their mark in the world With a wide path to follow—a history … [Read more...]

Facebook Fiasco

I've come a long way, baby... Catherine Clemens Sevenau You go to a Real Estate convention and take a Facebook class. You joined FB a year ago and seldom came back on because it was confusing, and you felt like you couldn't possibly keep in touch with more people, and then you get home and … [Read more...]

Meant to Be

At first, it was to be just the two of them at city hall. Then, it expanded to include our immediate family: the wedding couple, Matt and Brooke and their kids, my sons’ father with his girlfriend along with two of his former wives (a family tradition... I’m #1 and Rebecca is #2, but with great … [Read more...]


Though I knew not the uncles who slept in gold dust, I've been told whom they hated and whom they could trust. I read which ones fiddled, who sang and who danced; I hear they worked hard—wonder if they romanced. I've met not the aunts, the women of kind, but can guess of their hopes and where … [Read more...]