Use it or lose it. That’s the lesson hammered hard over the reunion week of the Class of ’54. The most lucid of the octogenarians didn’t just live it, they preached it: “Staying active is the key to aging well.”


Take this photo for example. I could title it “Father-Daughter Fun,” and leave it at that. Or I could have the Banana Splits theme song playing in the background, intimating that it was all laughs and careening around singing “Tra La La.”

Yes, we did have fun on the golf carts, but what the picture doesn’t show is the fact that we had to take the carts because half of our party couldn’t make it up the (small) hill from the parking lot to the clubhouse.

And while I don’t play golf, I would like to be one of the octogenarians who could play twice a week and walk the course and not need a golf cart. I know life holds no guarantees, but we’re all living longer and I want to be as mobile and active as possible in my sunset years. (I renewed my active-vow as soon as I got home from the reunion.)

A post for another day: why I think the other keys to living well ’til the end are being social and learning new things.


My sister pre-ordered tickets to a Mothers’ Day Tea way back in early November, which for obvious reasons didn’t turn out as planned. My godmother Nuala came with us, and we had a great afternoon together. When she held me at my baptism and promised to be my spiritual guardian, I’m sure she didn’t expect I would cash in on that promise so many years later. Nuala’s been a wonderful presence in my life. When I was younger, she gave books as gifts. She introduced me to Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” She’s well-traveled, well-read, well-spoken, and fun to talk to. Books and movies remain favorite topics of conversation, but I particularly love the way she calmly says things like, “Oh, I don’t care for white-water rafting, I much prefer rappelling” or “Next week, I’m going heli-hiking.” (Both of those statements made when she was at least 60.)

Fairy Godmother

My sister Deidre also deserves kudos. She’s working hard to keep our family together, and she’s raising a pretty amazing son. On top of that, she’s quick to laughter, so we often end up cracking up when we’re together. (Just don’t ask about when she taught me how to ski. It’s a sore subject.)

Always Laughing

Final Mothers’ Day shout-out to my mother-in-law, Anne. She’s a badass. She has a PhD from Cornell and she worked on computers back when computers were as big as rooms and women just didn’t do that. She just wrote a differential equations textbook. And despite being way smarter than me, she welcomed me into her family with open arms. She encourages my writing and is my most consistent blog-reader. Plus, without her, I wouldn’t have my husband.Mom Noonburg

Thanks to these amazing women, and cheers to moms everywhere (including mine, too, of course).

PS – Sorry for the throwback wedding photos. I intended to take photos yesterday at the tea, but that never happened.





We’re swimming in building samples, drowning in decisions. My friend told me the term is “decision fatigue.” Remodeling a kitchen or a bathroom entails a lot of decisions; building a house, so many more.

Building Samples-1

Kitchen options

I’m not good at this kind of decision. I wonder, worry, second-guess, then start the whole process over again.

Building Samples-2

Flooring options

But now that I’ve seen many of the samples in person, I’m getting excited again. Derek reminded me, “If we moved into a house with any of these options, we’d think they were cool. We’re thinking too hard.”

Building Samples-3

Bathroom options

I offer these photos as proof of effort and progress, not as a call for input. That would only start the second-guessing all over again.

What, you may ask, are we going to do with all the samples when we’re done? Coasters, of course!

I’ve discovered a few things recently that I find surprising.

Playing with flashlights and long exposures is fun.

light painting

Dinosaurs frolic amongst the fence posts. They frolic with Santa, too, but Santa didn’t show up until after I took these photos.


Giraffes in captivity lick everything — each other, trees, fences, everything. And they drool like crazy.


My shoelaces look like tasty worms.

shoelace snack

Pigeons can be scary.


The shadow of my upper arm is freakishly skinny.


My nephew is fearless.


And the thing I find most surprising of all? That on a sunless rainy day like today…I feel happy and contented.

Setting sail for Europe.

Setting sail for Europe.

My mom passed away last month. I felt compelled to speak at her funeral, the hardest public speaking event of my life (despite knowing it was the most sympathetic audience I’ll ever have). I feel compelled to share that here, too.

My eulogy spoke of what my mom gave me — besides life & good looks — and there are three main things:

  • Love of music. While she didn’t always love what she called my “blatt-blatt noise,” she did enjoy music, and would blast Edith Piaf and make me stop to appreciate it. She would also burst into song if what you said reminded her of lyrics.
  • Love of travel. She always told stories of her intrepid solo travels through Europe, of riding her bike (sometimes getting a ride to the top of mountains from truck drivers), of seeing new places, of making new friends. From a super young age, I knew I wanted to follow her traveling example.
  • Love of friends. Mom had friends from grade school, high school, Europe, church, her neighborhood. So many people, when I called to tell them about her passing, said, “We were going to meet soon for lunch.”

The really amazing thing, though, was that Mom’s love of friends included MY friends (and my sister’s and brother’s, too). Our friends were invited to dinners, to functions, to weekends in Sonoma. In this way, Mom expanded her family.

My mom gave love. And I hope to carry that forward, to be half the friend that Colleen was.

And a piece of advice from Mom: “Put on some lipstick. It will make you feel better.”


Not sure how this guy fits into Halloween, but I like him (and his pride-mates) a lot better than the flamingos across the street.


This house has no need of decorations, because c’mon, it looks haunted without trying.


But, stop. Stop and behold Cavity Cove. Many, many people — including drivers — paused to admire the dedication and artistry. I was not the only person taking photos.


The story I heard is that the current owners of the house inherited the tradition of, and decorations for, Cavity Cove from the previous owner, a dentist. They’ve continued to expand the tradition.


And while Cavity Cove is my favorite by far, a special shout out for this unique Halloween offering. I wonder if you need to be in costume to join in the fun.


The bat’s wings wouldn’t stop flapping in the wind.
The other side says “6pm until they’re gone!”

Whether you’re trick-or-treating, handing out candy, or hiding in the back of the house with the lights out, I hope you have a very happy Halloween.

Fairly simple, but way better than spider webs:


I have come to learn that some Petalumans really celebrate and decorate for Halloween. Today, I wandered around like a creepy neighbor taking pictures of people’s homes. (I can’t be the only one.)

First, My favorite Victorian in Petaluma, with its own hanging mummy:


And a close-up:


Another house went all-out with their theme. I can’t help but wonder if it changes every year:


There’s engineering involved in them there pumpkin heads — at least the ones standing up.


The reclining ones may be a little easier.


But the most frightening part of CampScare? Look closely at the Grill Master — he’s cooking up his own kin. What kind of cannibalistic barbecue is this? And why is he so gleeful about it?


Saving the best for actual Halloween. See you tomorrow!


I’m all for Halloween decor, but this? Not so much.

Please, Not Purple

What spider spins purple?

It’s better with some Photoshopping — a little more creepy old house and a bit less purple. Even still, those spider webs are my least favorite Halloween decorations (especially without a single spider in sight).

The Local Haunted House

Better. But the best is yet to come.

21. October 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Books

On a recent overnight visit to a friend’s, I forgot toothpaste. She said, “There’s a tube in the vanity,” so I pulled it out and commenced brushing. A few seconds later, I nearly gagged on a mouth full of berry-bubblegum suds. Beggars can’t be choosers, I know, but I spit it out and asked for grown-up toothpaste.

If you ever need proof that taste change as you get older, just try kids’ Crest. Or think back to all the things you hated as a kid. I hated cheese. I couldn’t stand scrambled eggs unless they were cooked to death. I couldn’t understand why grownups drank nasty-smelling, fiery-tasting alcohol.

Even though palates evolve, we often crave pieces of our childhood, whether cookies, mac ‘n’ cheese, or a favorite book or movie. I LOVED The Chronicles of Narnia as a child. A world of talking animals and children turned royalty – I loved it all. I’ve been meaning to re-read them. But part of me is afraid: afraid the magic that transported me as a pre-teen will seem pathetic and dingy; afraid the allegory will be too heavy-handed; afraid it will be as dissatisfying as eating a bowl of multi-colored sugar bombs for breakfast.

Should I keep Narnia safely ensconced in my memory? Or should I dust off the book and get to reading?

Curiosity is going to kill this cat. Will it kill Aslan, too?

Am I too old?

Says right there: a story for children. Do I dare?


We closed escrow on Friday. We are now the proud owners of a whole bunch of weeds!

over there

Apples, over there! (After we whack down weeds.)

I’ve always loved the idea of having a little house with a backyard where I could read and soak up sun – preferably in a hammock. I never imagined building a house around open space, apple trees, and a pond. Who the hell has a pond? It’s a little hard to wrap my brain around the whole thing, even now that there’s no backing out.

Sadly, not permanent residents. (Photo by D)

Sadly, not permanent residents. (Photo by D)

But now that it’s “official,” I’m getting excited about finding an architect, designing a house, negotiating permits, planning a garden, researching animals. Even with pre-fab construction, it will likely be 18 months before we have a party there. In the meantime, I’ll try to be better about posting updates.