My saxophone lessons were going well, until I became determined to learn “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bell Rock” in time for last Christmas. Then, I over-practiced “Tequila.” I ended up with an injured thumb. For real, I have a saxophone injury. Worse even than pausing my musical progression is that my trigger thumb has stopped my knitting. This may not sound like much to a non-knitter, but imagine the one thing you do to relax and de-stress and then imagine being unable to partake in that activity. The hole left behind allows stress and worry to fester, and it’s not as if I need assistance with stress and worry.

So, I decided to train for a half marathon. I figured it would take my mind off my thumb, get me closer to Fit Before 50, and maybe feed my creativity a little.

In the course of training, a foot issue that I’ve had since I was about 20 decided that it had had enough with the relentless pounding of mile after mile. It didn’t hurt while I walked, but it throbbed afterward. The podiatrist I found was kind and snarky at the same time. He suggested that I didn’t HAVE to do this event, but understood when I told him I needed a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t want this to be the Year of Thwarted.

With the decision to continue training, I finally understood the athletes I’ve seen all these years, the ones with braced up knees and taped up whatnots, still pushing through the miles. Sometimes, you just have to finish what you start, even if it’s not a pretty or entirely joyful process. Happily, it didn’t all suck. I discovered new trails, listened to happy music, learned that training alone is fun (no worries about slowing people down when you’re walking sola).

And? I finished. I stuck to my training. I did the half marathon. Faster than I was 17 years ago when I did my first marathon! Nearly 30 minutes faster. It’s probably the end of my walking endurance events, but it’s nice to go out on a high note, instead of surrendering to the thwartedness.


The turtle necklace has done every endurance event with me. I almost quit before my first marathon. My brother in law reminded me of the tortoise and the hare. “Slow & Steady! You’ve got this!” The next day, I went out shopping for Tortuga. My dad said, “I’ll buy it for you, so I can be there with you during your marathon.”

Stay tuned for what I decide to do next (back to swimming? cycling?) and for what I decided to name my demon.

I had a dream last night set in a tasting room, and we were tasting. But we weren’t tasting wine. We were tasting gluten. Various strains of gluten, with different varietals hailing from different terroirs and whanot. We sniffed and chewed and commented on flavor profiles and characteristics.

My favorite was the purple gluten. “Mmmm, purple.”

In honor of Mother’s Day, I present one of my all-time favorite pictures of my mom, from a Christmas Party in 1970. She loved to entertain, and those are homemade tiropitas (yum!).

We had a dinner party recently, and I decided to pay homage to this photo. Mom would’ve been disappointed with my store-bought appetizers, but she would’ve loved that we’re entertaining friends and she’d have loved our new place — especially when critters walk by the windows.

Love you, DaughtersTribute

Recently, four different friends have said, “Seeing your house makes me want to go home and clear out all my clutter.” I find it ironic and hysterical that I, of all people, would inspire anyone to de-clutter. I’m such a recovering pack rat!

I am in the process of losing nearly 20 pounds. Of paper. More specifically, letters — you know, the correspondence that existed long before email was invented. I’ve always loved writing and receiving letters, and I had regular pen pals through high school and college. Inveterate letter writer plus chronic pack rat equals one very heavy box that I’ve carted around through all my moves. (Another friend recently said she’d moved three times in the past five years, and my first reaction was “wow, that’s a LOT” and my second reaction was, “oh yeah, me, too.”)


The box barely survived this move.

Why didn’t I just chuck the box in the recycle bin? I was tempted, very very tempted. But back in high school, I went on a retreat and part of that retreat was receiving surprise letters from our parents, telling us they loved us. I’d misplaced those letters years ago, and wanted to find them, especially since my mom passed away.

So, I kept this box in the hopes that I’d jammed those letters in there at some point. But I wasn’t ready to go through the old letters or even to read the one I wanted from my mom. Looking at those letters made me feel overwhelmed, both with memory and with the task at hand. Until last week, when I did this:

So many letters, so many memories.


I want to get it done, so I can get outside!

I rifled through, read very few, and found the missing letters from my mom and dad. I sat there in our entryway and cried. But then I felt light and ready for the purging task at hand. I’ve sorted by sender. I’m reading a few at a time, laughing and remembering, and chucking most of them in the recycle bin. The picture of the overturned box is unintentionally symbolic. The letters are in shadows…and a whole world of light and adventure exists beyond them.

Admitting failure or defeat is scary. But in the name of starting off the new year fearlessly, I admit that I’m an abject failure. At least in terms of the goals I set for 2015:

  • Take 52 photos and write 52 blog posts to accompany photos – according to Lightroom, I have 1,400+ photos from 2015 (the ones I’ve kept so far). But did I post a photo a week? Not even close. Instead of 52 blog posts, a measly 11.
  • 12 stories or articles – Nope.
  • One novel – Negative. I am closer to finishing novels 2 and 3, but not done with either.
  • Read 30 books – Only 25. Since I’ve been keeping track, I’ve averaged 26 books a year and maxed 29.

But I did taste some success in 2015:

  • I got published! One of my stories was chosen for this anthology.
  • I knit seven chemo caps – I actually exceeded this goal by one hat. It doesn’t help me professionally, but knitting lifts my mood and lowers my stress level.
  • We moved into our house! Finally.
  • Our Christmas card photo was the hit of the season.


    Making spirits bright. (Yes, it was hard not to laugh.)

And 2016?

  • A photo a day, just for me. Everyday, I’m photographing something I’m grateful for. I know it sounds like a whole lot of woo, but I figure there’s nothing like stopping to acknowledge the good in my life to counteract failures and frustrations.
  • The resurgence of WTF Wednesdays. Not every Wednesday, but I have a closet full of boxes that I’ve promised myself I’d weed through this year or chuck ‘em in the trash. Those papers, photos, ephemera, and flotsam are sure to contain a WTF or two.
  • Read 30 books. One year! One year, this is going to happen.



Here’s the rest of the best of last year’s Halloween. Two or three houses collaborate — or is it compete? — on themed displays. As you scroll through the photos, admire how many mannequins they assembled, how many signs and t-shirts they created, and how much time (not to mention storage) they must spend. I kind of want to interview the homeowners to ask them how this all started, but with Halloween less than two weeks away, they’re probably frantically busy.

Last year’s theme was “Satan High.” One house had the quotidian activities of high school, including the science lab and the resultant visits to the nurse’s office.


Is Biology a required course? Can I skip it?


The lunch ladies.


No, thanks. I think I’ll just get a candy bar from the vending machine.


Detention and shop do not mix well.

And, of course, football.


Don’t mess with any of them. And that goes double-time for the band.

My money’s on the Devils.

Burning hot!


I can even forgive the misspelling, because “Clip Their Wings” is genius.

The house across the street focused on end of year activities such as the prom, complete with King and Queen and live music.


Those kids are square pegs.


Nobody else stood a chance.

I love live music, but this band scares me, especially the drummer.

And graduation.


Voted least photogenic.


Go Team! No, really, go. Get the hell out.


You could say I’m woefully late with last year’s photos, or I’m early for this year’s Halloween. Doesn’t matter. I’m celebrating the crazy spirit my town has for this holiday. Go Petaluma!

Kids trick or treat in the downtown area, and several of the shops hand out candy.

I learned that a pirate fairy is a thing.

Some of the shopkeepers get into the fun and dress up.

Bunny was excited to see all the little ones.

On my way to the mansions on D Street, I saw this kid. He saw me taking his picture and posed for me. Love him.

Reminds me of when my nephew went as a cheerleader.

This is just a warm-up for the Halloween decorations. Ha ha. Should I say cool down?

I sometimes feel like a dead dog after yoga.

Camp Scare was open again last year, with some new activities.

Fishing. And look, there’s water — proof that it did rain some last year.

He doesn’t seem to enjoy the zipline.

And once again, Cavity Cove did not disappoint.

As panoramic as I could get. That tree on the left moved. Creepy.


Beware the kraken.

It was an election year. When I first drove by the Cove, I was disappointed to see politics in their display. Until I got closer. I fully endorse this measure!

I vote YES!

There’s still more. Stay tuned for another post. But beware if you have coulrophobia; there may be some clowns (and not the cute kind).

Cervesiesta – noun

1. a midday or afternoon beer
2. day-time drinking to escape the hottest part of the day, napping afterward is optional
Word origin – Cerveza + Siesta. Coined in Miami Beach, 2015. By me.
Example of usage – It’s so hot, I’m dying out here. It’s time for cervesiesta. (It’s like “It’s five o’clock somewhere” with a Spanglish twist.)  OK, I’m probably not the first to mashup those two words, but I’m still enamored of the result.

I made a list of the most memorable things we saw during our stay. At the top of the list are my brother-in-law and his girlfriend, but I didn’t manage to get a picture of them. Likewise my friend Marilou.

In no particular order:

  • We took the city bus. On the first ride, an older guy with a swastika tattoo on his neck spent the whole ride rummaging through his backpack. There was a knife or some such sharp projectile sticking out of said backpack. I didn’t try to get a closer look.
  • On the second ride, another older guy with even more tattoos and really long hair said to the woman in front of him, “Tell that kid to give you his seat. He’s supposed to give his seat to seniors. If you don’t ask him, I will tell him he has to get up.” The kid got up immediately, and then the guy turned to me and asked if I wanted his seat. I declined.
  • All over Miami Beach, there are fishbowl-sized drinks, some with beers sticking out of them. Yet, surprisingly, we saw very few drunk people. That may not the case in high season.

    I’ll just have a beer, thanks.

  • The Art Deco Walking Tour was great. The buildings are beautiful, and the guide was super knowledgeable. I just wish it had started earlier, because I was melting by the end.

One of my fave art deco hotels

  • A guy on a bicycle was riding around, and on front edge of his bike basket was his pet lemur. The guy’s friend was riding with a giant python around his neck.
  • Jellyfish in Biscayne Bay. We motored out in my brother-in-law’s boat. He swore he always sees dolphins. Not a one. I almost jumped into the water anyway, but decided against it. Not 30 seconds later, we saw giant jellyfish off the side of the boat. Phew. With my luck, I’d have been attacked. It would have been ugly.
  • Iguanas, butterflies, and an alligator at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The garden is exquisite, completely worth the drive out and the cost of admission. It’s so beautiful, I could have spent days there. If I lived nearby, I’d be a member and take photography classes.
Miami Beach-2

Don’t know his name

Miami Beach-3

Morpho butterfly

Miami Beach-1

  • Storms! Living in California, I miss rain. I dream of rain. In Florida, we got a lot of it, plus thunderstorms. All the rain made it hard to take pictures, but when it wasn’t raining I got some cool stormy sky shots.
Miami Beach-4

One of my best shots was on my cell phone.

From Miami Beach, we traveled to Boston. Highlights from that trip in an upcoming post.

Updated 09/29/2015 – my friend Barb informed me that “cerveziesta” might be pronounced “cervethiesta” by Spaniards. That just won’t do. So the spelling has been changed to “cervesiesta.”

I want to name the demon in my head – to both acknowledge it and diminish its power. I’m not talking a real demon or voices in my head, or anything as schizophrenic as that. I mean the negative thoughts that often spin around like infernal earworms and chant, “Don’t exercise. Just take a nap.” Or “That’s not enough ice cream. Eat more.”

I’m back in a familiar place, but it’s nowhere I want to be. It’s that place where all my pants feel tight, and I feel lethargic.

My weight is cyclical, and it’s creeping upwards. I had been doing really well before my mom passed away. Immediately after, I couldn’t eat at all. Then, I couldn’t stop eating, and I’ve gained back almost all of the 25 pounds I’d lost.

Well-intentioned friends say, “Maybe this is your natural weight.” No. It cannot be. Not because of fashion magazines, but because I don’t feel good here. I know my weight is not healthy, and that if I want to remain vibrant throughout life, I’ve got to be healthier and more vibrant now.

I’ve written about my struggles with my weight before – always with self-effacing humor. But it’s not particularly funny, nor particularly honest to always make a joke of it. It’s serious. Serious as a heart attack. Literally.

I’m thinking of making this quest – my plan to be Fit Before Fifty – a regular feature of this blog. I know the world needs another weight loss blog like I need another scoop of ice cream, but as a writer, I make sense of the world through words. If I can write about this honestly, maybe just maybe I’ll gain some insight and strength in the process.

Some other time I will write the Origin Story of my weight saga. That’s more than I can handle right now. Right now, I need a name. For the demon, remember? I’d suggested “Obesitor,” but Derek said it sounded too much like the cholesterol-lowering drug (my cholesterol is fine, by the way). He offered “Obesitron,” but that sounds like a dumb robot from a 80s flick. No, the voice in my head can be really seductive, like a lover you know is bad news but is so suave and good-looking you can’t resist. Maybe Italian or Spanish?

I’m open to suggestions.

Two years ago, I said it would likely be 18 months before we’d have a party in our new house. We’re still not in. But we’re close. So very close.

I’d said, “It’s a little hard to wrap my brain around the whole thing, even now that there’s no backing out.” That was back when we only had this:


My brain’s been taxed even more since then.

Imagining that this house would ever leave to make way for our house. (We recycled a house!)


That this machine would clear enough space to make way for a foundation:


That this mess would ever be a foundation:


That this foundation would ever become an actual house:


That these pods were house modules:


That the modules would survive their flight through the air:


And that this house — as housey as it looks here — is not done. That from here, it would still take another three months. There’s interior patching, drywalling, plumbing, exterior decking, septic system, etc. I’m about ready to take my air mattress out there and camp out. (I was especially ready to do that last week, when we had 100-degree heat for several days in a row. Our current house does not have air conditioning.)


All that’s left is garage siding, garage doors, a gas line, and cleanup. That’s “all.” I’d hoped we’d have our annual summer solstice party in new house. Clearly, I was overly optimistic. Now I’ll be happy if it’s before winter solstice. And I’ll be ecstatic if the packing genies actually show up this time.