Well, I can’t say that there were throngs of adoring fans lining up to buy my book, but at least I can say that I didn’t puke at Lit Crawl. I survived my first public reading of my fiction, and even had some fun doing it.

The night before the event, I finished watching the movie Finding Vivian Maier. Then Derek talked me into watching Beware of Mr. Baker, a rockumentary on Ginger Baker, the drummer for Cream. The first, full of beautiful candid photographs by a woman who worked as a nanny and never had any of her photographs shown. The second, full of a man who’s had huge commercial success but nonetheless is a financial disaster, not unrelated to the fact that he’s “quit” heroin dozens of times. In other words, I movie-binged on depressing stories of artists right before my debut. Not the most auspicious timing.

As we were getting ready for the Lit Crawl, I said, “I am in no way suggesting I am going to do this, or even thinking about it. But feeling the way I do right now, and imagining having to go on stage in front of thousands of people, I can understand how they take drugs to get through.” That said, I didn’t take any drugs other than a latte beforehand.

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Caught in the act of “air quotes”

When I got off the stage, I noticed my friend all teary-eyed in the front row. That made me giggle. But I couldn’t stop smiling when a few different strangers told me “That was really good.” The clincher, though, was when one guy personally connected to my story, and told me how the father in my story reminded him of his own dad. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, to know that what I write speaks to someone. And at Lit Crawl, it did.

Who needs drugs?

In my daydreams, I’m a wildly successful author on a book tour. As I read to scores of fans, they laugh and cry at the same time. The audience is friendly, smart, and fun, and I chat with them as I sign their books.

Then I wake up. I’m back at my desk, writing in solitude, or at the coffee shop, writing in solitude while surrounded by people.  Since I haven’t sold my book yet, a book tour is unlikely. But tomorrow, I will partake in Lit Crawl, the world’s largest roving literary event. The goal of Lit Crawl and its parent Litquake is to “whet a broad range of literary appetites, present the literary fare in a variety of traditional and unlikely venues, and make it vivid, real, and entertaining.”

Let’s see. We’ll be reading at City Art, a cooperative gallery, and we’ll feed a range of appetites including (but not limited to) non-fiction, children’s literature, mystery, and suspense. I’m reading from my second novel, The Reluctant Bartender. I’m  excited, nervous, and pukey all at the same time, which makes it vivid and real for me, and possibly entertaining for our audience. I’ve heard my fellow writers read, and can say they’re practiced and eloquent.

Leaping back into life isn’t limited to cliff-jumping into snow-fed lakes. It’s about doing scary things that push me further into the writer’s life. Today, I’ll practice some more. Tomorrow, I’ll meet people who love literature enough to fight crowds in San Francisco’s Mission District as they wander from gallery to bar to police station to wherever. C’mon, join the book-loving throngs and meet us there!

Two weekends ago, I saw my cousins for the first time in ages. They were visiting Dad in Daly City on a rare hot weekend, so drinking and conversation turned to beer. I told them Petaluma’s vying to become the epicenter of Northern California microbrewing and every little restaurant in town has several local beers on tap. Mostly, I was trying to ensure that their next trip is longer and includes a stay up here.

The day after they left, I texted this picture to Tony.

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He texted back, “You’re making me jealous!”
Success!

I’d told him Porterluma is my favorite local beer and how we’d been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Petaluma Hills Tap Room ever since we’d first tasted Porterluma in a beer-tasting class. Now that we’ve finally made it to the tap room, I can also recommend the red tag ale and the ESB (we did tastes instead of pints to maximize variety). The shiny new bar overlooks the brewing area, so we watched the beer making instead of the TV. The owner is friendly and answered my geeky questions about harvesting yeast.

I can remember when my only question about beer was “Why do you drink that?” I also remember the first time I thought beer was good. I was about 18 and on a whitewater-rafting trip with my friend’s dad, acting as his adopted daughter for the weekend. It was sweltering hot, and I was parched.  The sodas were in a cooler on another boat. I asked for a diet coke, and someone sent one flying through the air. I caught it, but it slipped through my wet hands and sunk to the bottom of the American River. Of course, that was the last soda available.

It was 100+ degrees, and the beer was cold, wet and therefore delicious. My friend’s dad floated by in the other boat and gave me a sideways glance as I drank my beer, and I shrugged and told him there was nothing else to drink. (Bottled water hadn’t been invented yet.) For a long time after that, I thought beer was only good if it’s really hot outside. What I didn’t realize is I wasn’t drinking good beer. As I got older, I discovered beers I like even when I’m not dying of thirst. I’ve enjoyed beer while traveling and found “What’s a good local beer?” a fun question to ask.

That was only the beginning of my questions. I wanted to learn more: the difference between ales and lagers; how various styles are made; etc. Basically, I wanted to go into a pub with multiple taps and be able to choose confidently. I’d wanted to take Beer 101 for years, but didn’t find an extended ed class until we moved to Petaluma. Once a week for several weeks, we sat in a community college chem lab drinking beers of different styles, learning about brewing processes, taking notes, and enjoying beer. Best chem lab experience ever! It taught me that I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I don’t have to travel far from home to continue my education.

 

In my last post, I wrote: “I know life holds no guarantees, but we’re all living longer.” No guarantees? True. All living longer? False. My dear friend passed away unexpectedly last month, just as I’d begun to feel joy again after the loss of my mom. Sadness, it seems, wants to be a permanent resident in my life.

I could try to ascribe meaning to it all – how I’ll come out stronger in the end, etc. – but the world needs more trite aphorisms like California needs more drought.

Speaking of drought, this blog’s been dry lately. I blame sadness. That bastard’s been telling me that it’s shallow to write about beer-tasting classes, that it’s stupid to write about local adventures, that nobody cares what I’ve been reading. Sadness tries to convince me that it’s wrong to feel joy in the midst of mourning. But I do, and neither Mom nor Tricia would want me moping around. They’d hug me and tell me to go for a walk or a swim. Both were excited when I said I was going to swim from Alcatraz and ecstatic when I said I was writing a novel.

So cheers to them. I’ve got blog ideas and a new novel started. This weekend I’m swimming. Shove off, sadness! I’m leaping back into life.

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Here I go. Leaping!

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Falling!

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Sploosh!

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Crater Lake: shockingly cold but beautiful and fun.

 

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.”

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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.

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Kitchen options

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

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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.”

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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.

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

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

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My shoelaces look like tasty worms.

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Pigeons can be scary.

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The shadow of my upper arm is freakishly skinny.

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My nephew is fearless.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.