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.

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?

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

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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.

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.”

TraLaLa

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.

light painting

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.

lickers

My shoelaces look like tasty worms.

shoelace snack

Pigeons can be scary.

pidgeon

The shadow of my upper arm is freakishly skinny.

Adventure

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.