I have a confession to make: before I have a get-together or party, I worry that it will suck. What if it’s not fun? What if the food is terrible? What if nobody talks to each other, or worse yet, what if they do and realize they really don’t like each other? While I know it’s irrational – after all, my people are fun – the worry seeps in every time.

On Saturday, we celebrated my fiftieth (50th!) birthday. Nearly twenty years ago, I came up with a theme for a party, “Come as a Song.” I never had the space to throw a costume party, and when we got married, I was informed that some of our friends wouldn’t show up for a costume party. Some time in the past few months, I decided, “What the heck?! It’s my birthday. MY party! I’m going for it.” I rationalized it was the cleverest costume party ever, because if guests weren’t into it, they could simply root through their closets, find something to wear, and google song lyrics. Still, as the party approached, stupid worries started nagging: What if people hate the theme and all come in everyday clothes, and on top of that don’t have a good time?

The worry stage, pre-party.
(The centerpieces were melted albums with candy inside. Each candy bowl had lyrics to go with them.)

All my worries got smashed to bits. It was a freaking blast! Every single person had a lyric to accompany their outfit, and more people than anticipated truly got into it. I had so much fun. It was two days ago and I’m still feeling high – and no, I never got high. I didn’t take a single picture, because I was too busy enjoying my guests, their costumes, and their friendship. So these photos are from other people, and sorry I can’t properly credit them.

Someone said, “Make a speech.” For all my public speaking experience, I was at a loss for words. I said something to the effect of, “I searched online for song lyrics about friendship, but they’re all hideously sappy. I am so thankful you all came, and your friendship means the world to me.”

“It’s my party, and I’ll cry IF I want to.”

Truth is, I cut myself short not for lack of words but for an overabundance of emotions that threatened to come pouring out as tears. Happy tears, yes, tears of gratitude, but I didn’t want to cry (even though my costume WAS “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to”). I wanted to wholeheartedly savor my party and what it represented: surviving a half-century and being surrounded by my people – the family and friends who know me and love me and are willing to dress in drag or steampunk or rain gear all to help me celebrate this milestone. When I was younger, I wondered sometimes if I’d make it to fifty, and on the darkest of days, questioned if I even wanted to. Damn, I am glad I did, and that I have an incredible band of traveling companions with me on this road!

I should have been in the middle, with one on each shoulder.

Prince for the win.

Wait, another Prince song!

Lola and Tony?

Lola and Rico.

Muskrat Love!

“A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.” ~Darwin
“A woman’s, too. And by that measure, I’m loaded.” ~Maureen

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” ~Walt Whitman
“Dressed as a song, WAY more than enough!” ~Maureen

“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” ~Hubert H. Humphrey
“Awww, yeah!” ~Maureen

The first time I taught, I was a young-looking 28 or 29. Many of my students were in their 20s. I looked like one of them. I had to convince them I was the teacher. Last Tuesday when I walked in to my classroom at the local junior college, I had to bite my tongue not to blurt out, “I am not your teacher.”

I’m a student again, though I don’t have a back-to-school photo to prove it. While I’ve taken workshops for fun and attended seminars for work, I haven’t been an official student since the 90s. My classmates weren’t even born yet.

Why am I back in school? I’ve always loved learning, but I never took an economics class. The older I get, the more that feels like a gaping hole in my education. In high school, it’s a common subject, but it wasn’t taught in mine. In college I was nearly killed by pre-calculus, so anything that involved graphs or required calculators terrified me. I’ve since figured out a lot of economics from self-study and reading newspapers but felt I’d learned all I could on my own.

Now I have Macroeconomics two days a week — complete with textbooks, a scientific calculator, quizzes, and tests. Here’s to hoping it’s enlightening. Now, I’ve got to go read about the GDP.

“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.


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.


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


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.)


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


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.


Maple on snow, a Quebecois treat.


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


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

And some holiday magical moments…


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


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.

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, Mom.mom-tiropitas-small DaughtersTribute

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.