“Companion” stems from the Latin words com + panis with and bread – that is, the person you break bread with. I love that, not only because eating together is a joyful part of friendship but also because I am a huge word nerd.

When I learned Count is from the Latin word for companion, I knew I had the perfect title for the voice in my head that tells me to eat when I shouldn’t. I’ve mentioned before that the voice is as tempting as a Latin lover. Thus, the Count. Count Who?

Count Adipose. Put less eloquently (less Latin-ly?), “The Earl of Fatty.”

I hate envy admire the people who don’t have internal, infernal struggles with food – those people who naturally stop before they’re full, who can bypass chocolate altogether or be satisfied with one small piece. I am not one of those people. When I’m feeling good and things are going well, I can pretend to be. I can act like one of those people, but it doesn’t come naturally or easily.

With continued pretending, perhaps healthy eating habits will become habitual and The Count will win only on the most special occasions. Habitual is not the same as natural, but I’ll take it.  

Growing up as an addict in California, I never got the fix I needed. A Christmas addict, that is — and more importantly, a Christmas carol addict. I’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas since I first sang the song. But in coastal California, the closest we ever get to a white Christmas is a foggy one, and trust me it’s just not postcard worthy. I’ve wanted a white Christmas forever, and this past year I finally had one thanks to a family reunion in Montreal. Family was fantastic, and the snow was as good as I’d hoped it would be.

Snow!

A real reason to wear knit hat. Snow!

Having grown up in temperate California, I was afraid I’d look like a dorky gigantic Michelin man in my down coat. I was assured that I’d look just like everyone else. I did, in fact, look like everyone else. And within a few minutes of being toasty warm despite the snow, I didn’t care how poofy I appeared.

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Snowball in his hand. Not really a fair fight, because he has much more experience than me.

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Clock tower along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River.

I managed to get a picture of this non-existent triathlon, but I missed an awesome video opportunity. There was an outdoor skating rink near the river, and people were skating in the snow. The loudspeakers were blasting the theme song from Frozen in French. I laughed out loud, because the lyrics “The snow never bothered me, anyway,” have never been more appropriate than in that very moment. (But it was way too cold at that point to take off my gloves and fumble with camera settings.)

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Strangely enough, we didn’t see many competitors. (Bad race director.)

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This racer gave up the fight.

Speaking of opportunities, we did not miss our chance for a Christmas treat — pulled maple. The snow-town moral equivalent of saltwater taffy. Yum. Tasty as it was, though, it wasn’t nearly as delicious as many of the meals we had while there. The food in Montreal is delicious, and not just the poutine. All the food.

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Maple on snow, a Quebecois treat.

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It ends up a sticky delicious maple lollipop. One a year would be plenty.

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Tire sur niege means taffy on snow. It also translates to happy husband.

And some holiday magical moments…

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Christmas Eve fireworks over the river. Snow & fireworks, both! My head nearly exploded from joy.

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Christmas Day hike up Mount Royal.

We would have had fun together no matter where we were, but special thanks to my crew for indulging me my long-time dream of a white Christmas (even though they’ve each had plenty of them and would have been just as happy with a sunny beach).

 

The old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” But in our case, it’s “One man’s trash is the next man’s really rusty trash.”

Today’s our houseversary: one year ago, we moved into our house. We’ve found a lot of stuff since then. During excavation, some neighbors said we might find Native American artifacts. Not a one, nor any gold coins.

Here’s a sampling of the “treasures” we’ve found:

  • ceramic shards
  • glass shards, multi-colored
  • beer bottles
  • the top of a wine bottle with the cork still in it (Someone was thirsty and desperate.)
  • salt shaker
  • shovel with rusty teeth
  • toy boat
  • propane tank
  • bathtubs, several (We saved a rusty old cast iron tub, unsure still what we’ll do with it. If it ever had cute claw feet, they’re long gone, or very deeply buried.)
  • tires, more than a dozen
  • bird feeder

But the most surprising? An old truck hood, half-buried.

Who knows what we’ll find next? Probably not gold. And before any of you say “tetanus,” we’re both up to date on tetanus boosters.

Stop saying you’re moving to another country. Stop googling Canadian citizenship. You aren’t going anywhere. It’s an empty threat, meaningless venting.

You know where we should all move? One step closer to the opposing view – a step closer so we can hear what people are saying.  A little closer so we can stop shouting. Nobody can hear anything across the vast dividing line that’s been drawn between US and THEM.

This election has left me exhausted and disappointed – mostly at our inability to communicate with each other. There’s a lot of talk, but it’s mostly sound bites and arguments, not questions and clarifications.

This election was divided, yes. But I refuse to believe that half the county is racist/misogynist, just as refuse to accept the other half are bleeding-heart liberal communists. Discourse has devolved to “Go Team!” and “You people suck.”

I’ve mostly shied away from political discussions, not because I don’t care or because I don’t have opinions. Rather, I shy away because I feel nobody’s really listening. They’re too busy either trying convince me I’m wrong, dumb, stupid or they’re congratulating me for being on the same side of the argument as them. My shying away stems from growing up the outlier in nearly every single family discussion. I felt dismissed and unheard.

But I’m a grown-up now, and my goal going forward is to be more forthcoming with my opinions and beliefs as well as my confusions and questions –- and to encourage thoughtful, respectful discussion and debate by asking questions of those I may disagree with and really listening to their answers.

It’s more fun to say, “Hey, I never thought of it that way before” than it is to say, “HOW on earth can you think that?” OK, maybe not fun, but surely more civil and more open-minded.

Advice for next year’s Halloween costume. If you are going to a party, wear a comfortable costume. If you’re going to a concert/costume contest, which is sure to be crowded, don’t wear costumes that protrude out beyond you, for example, bat wings. Even more important, if you should choose to ignore my advice and wear bat wings, don’t hammer so many beers that you don’t realize that your “dancing” (drunken gesticulation) is causing your wings to molest everyone around you. Just don’t do it.

With that PSA done, here are this year’s Halloween photos. First, Cavity Cove. Because it’s always fun. Today as I was taking pictures, the owner of the house was still putting up finishing touches. I asked him how many trick-or-treaters they get, and he said depends on the weather and on the day of the week, but last year they got about three thousand (yes, 3000!). He said they’ve lived there 14 years, but that the tradition of insane in a good way decorations on D Street goes back 50 years. Thanks, Mr. Cavity Cove, for carrying on the tradition, and for raising money for the local homeless shelter, COTS.

On site dentristy = take a picture with Cavity Cove's resident "Demented Dentist."

On site dentistry = take a picture with Cavity Cove’s resident “Demented Dentist.”

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The dentist couldn’t help the mermaid victim of sharknado.

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Don’t like smoke? Suck it up anyway, because “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

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I usually hate these decals, but I’ll forgive you, Mr. Cavity Cove, because you and they are awesome.

Down the street a bit, this giant snake lurks in waiting.

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He’s so colorful, he’s a party.

The collaboration-competition houses have grown from two to four houses. They have a lot of stuff. Some of it’s themed, some just creepy.

Is that the Colonel?

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I’m not hungry any more.

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“Maybe if we look cute, they won’t want to eat us? How are we doing?”

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It’s like Farm to Table cuisine, only ickier.

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They’re hungry and waiting in line for the chicken diner.

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The Zombie Drum Band

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Moonshine, a hillbilly treat

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Scary swamp people

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More scary swamp critters

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Ack! Even scarier critters

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The scariest critters of all

 

 

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.

UnThwarted

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, Mom.mom-tiropitas-small 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.”)

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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.

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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.

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    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.