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.

In Seattle a few summers ago, we took an underground tour, a decidedly dank and touristy meandering through the history of Seattle and its boom as a result of the gold rush in Alaska.

The tour guide explained how as would-be gold miners set sail from Seattle, many others profited off their dreams. Some businesses sold necessary tools and provisions. Others played on hope and gullibility; my particular favorite was the story of people selling “gold-sniffing gophers.”

Now, I’m a writer, specifically a yet-unpublished novelist. And while I believe I possess balanced amounts of optimism and skepticism, I am trying to navigate through a landscape not unlike the one faced by dreaming gold miners. Sure, there are professionals who make a living truly helping writers; there are also “agents” who charge reading fees and vanity presses that do little more than part a writer from her money.

Writers’ conferences are another staple of this landscape. I’ve been to a few. When my confidence wanes and cynicism takes over, I see so many deluded dreamers (self included) paying to hear the expertise of agents and publishers, hoping to make that one connection that will push them out of oblivion and onto bookshelves. I texted home during a break, “It’s so many gold-sniffing gophers.”

But then I informally pitched to one of the agents. As I described my book, she smiled. “I want to read that when you’re done.” Those words were enough to get me excited again, to erase the thought that my concept is stupid and nobody would want to read it. She may not end up my agent, but her encouragement was the prod I needed to keep going. My enthusiasm is renewed for this book, the one I feel I am uniquely qualified to write, the one that continues to ferment within my imagination even when I’m not actively writing it.

All hail the gophers!

"Really. He's a gopher. He got that big from all the gold fumes."

“Really. He’s a gopher. He got that big from all the gold fumes.”

I’m sorry. Really sorry.

I’m not starting a feral cat fighting ring, nor a halfway house for drug-addled Muppets.

It’s a saxophone. And you can blame my mother-in-law.*

One night at dinner, I mentioned that I’d always wanted to learn the saxophone. It was one tiny piece of conversation over a long dinner with six people, many topics, plus wine and dessert. I’d forgotten we’d even talked about it, until she sent a card that said “The saxophone is on its way.”

And then this happened:

There’s a saxophone in there — from another state and another era.

Which lead to this:


Me, pretending to know what I’m doing. I did make noise. Keyword, “noise.”

Anne sent me the saxophone both she and Derek used when learning music, which led a friend to dub it “the ancestral saxophone.” When I took it to get checked out and cleaned up, the repair guy said it had keys he’d never seen before. He looked up the serial number in his sax bible and chuckled. “I knew it was old, but I didn’t think it was 99 years old! Made in 1916.” Ancestral, indeed.

“Learn the saxophone” has been on my life list since high school, but in the “someday” column, butting up against such barriers as being unable to read music, not owning a saxophone, and living in a small apartment with shared walls.

I am officially out of excuses. I no longer share a wall, and soon we won’t have neighbors near enough to bother. But in the meantime, dear neighbors, I apologize. On the bright side, you’ll be happy to see us leave.

* Don’t really blame her. She’s great, and she’s helping to make a dream come true.

I’ve written before about how tastes change as we get older. It’s true not just for toothpaste and foods and books. It’s true for style, too, including architectural styles. I was in San Francisco today, and as I was heading back toward the Golden Gate Bridge, I decided to drive by a house I used to love. When I lived in the city, if I was anywhere in the neighborhood of this house, I’d drive by and sigh wistfully. I thought it was so cool, with its grand entryway and curved staircases. I would dream that it was my Italian villa and imagine fantastic parties I’d have there when I was rich and famous novelist like Danielle Steele (another mansion I’d drive by — that one was on the route to a friend’s house).


Villa? Maybe in Tuscany. Not here.


Guard lions. Every villa needs ’em.

Now, I think this house is a tiny bit pretentious and out of place, not to mention that in a city with breathtaking views, this house is not oriented to maximize them. In fact, it looks like it’s shrouded by trees — combustible, non-native eucalyptus at that — and is likely dark inside.

While some things change, others remain constant. I still love walking the city’s hilly streets, even if I’m not as fast as I’d like. I especially love when walks lead to stairways. Bonus points when the streets are so steep that they have stairways instead of sidewalks, like this.


Steeps. I mean steps.

The views still make me happy, especially on sunny days like today when you can actually see them. I still look at Alcatraz and think, “Someday, I want to swim from there to shore.”


View. That house to the right has a rooftop garden.

And I still like to take photographs. I tried to get an artistic shot going down the steps, but it very nearly ended up with me tumbling down the steps. I know, what goes up must go down, but she doesn’t have to go down head first.


Artistic? Nah, just weird and dizzying. Yay for handrails.

18. January 2015 · 1 comment · Categories: Books


 As I pulled books off my shelf, Derek tried to guess what I was doing. He guessed wrong. I’m not going to read a chapter of each in a round-robin. (My head would explode, more than it already is from the lingering shingles pain.) Nor am I going to read them all and throw all but one away. Well, I might do that, but that’s not my intention.

This is my in progress and pending list. I’m currently reading and loving Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, even though as I read it I think, “Wait, that’s in my unpublished book!”

The Golem and the Jinni and Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up were lent to me by the same friend who lent me The Night Circus, which was one of my favorite books of 2014. I’ll at least try anything she recommends.

Motherless Daughters was given to me by another friend who’s a fellow member of the Suckiest Club on Earth. And because she has many caring, concerned friends, she ended up with multiple copies. It may make me cry, but I hope it will also give me insight into what my goddaughter is facing and how I can help, since she joined the Suckiest Club far, far too young.

Derek lent me The Circle, though he didn’t particularly recommend it. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I’m curious.

Beyond Boundaries is an anthology from The Redwood Writers’ Group, the group I recently joined to meet fellow writers closer to home.

I gave The Irregulars to my dad several Christmases ago. It languished in his to-read collection until I borrowed it, only to let it languish in mine. It tells the true tale of Roald Dahl’s work as a British spy in Washington during World War II. Last year, I decided I needed to expand my reading from pure fiction to include some historical fiction and biographies. I read Unbroken and loved it. I hope this is as good.

So there they are, the first of my books for 2015.

PS – It’s late and dark here. I balanced a light on my head as I took that picture. Trust me, it’s better than it would have been using flash.

I’m all for safety warnings. People should be informed if they’re in an avalanche or tsunami zone. In national parks, you’ll see warning signs complete with pictograms indicating that you’ll drown and get crushed by rocks if you try to swim in the idyllic-looking watering hole near the top of the falls.

This, however? Just not necessary.


Don’t do it.

2014 is gone, and I was relieved to see it go. While I may have said “good riddance,” I managed not to shout “get the F&!* out of here,” and I’m pretty proud of that self-restraint.

I don’t want to curse the new year already, but it’s got to be better. That said, I have to be part of making it better. I’ve done resolutions in the past — with positive results, even. But this year, I want something different, more action-oriented. Progress I can track, because even though I’m a word nerd, I love being able to calculate my progress as a percentage (and maybe even a fancy spreadsheet with graphs and pie charts).

My 2015-by-the-numbers plan is as follows:

  • 52 photos
  • 52 blog posts with said photos
  • 12 stories or articles
  • One novel

Of note, the numbers above are weekly or monthly  — not for procrastinating so that I have to write and photograph like a madwoman in December. They’re also minimum goals.

I also want to knit 6 chemo caps and read 30 books. This past year, I aimed for 12 caps and reached 6 and 36 books and reached 27. Maybe I should try books on tape again, so I can multitask knitting and reading.

What are your 2015 numbers?


2014 low-light: Rhymes with Pringles, but shingles ain’t fun. Trust me. Not what I wanted for Christmas.


2014 highlight: Catalina. This is one of my favorite photos, possibly ever. Ironic that it’s kind of moody and gloomy.



In preparation for taking more photos in the new year, I’ve been organizing and culling the old photos.

In addition to a lot of animal photos, I found a series of photos in a theme. It made me wonder about myself…or more appropriately about the company I keep. Why do I hang around people who treat me thusly?

Allison shirks from hug

Derek cringes from kiss

Et tu, Cindy?

Oh, right, because they’re my people and we laugh a lot together.