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.

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.

Snowball

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.)

race

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.

happy

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.

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.

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:

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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

Villa? Maybe in Tuscany. Not here.

Villa-Detail

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.

Stairs

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.”

Vista

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.

Vertiginous

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

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.

ick

Don’t do it.