Summer Office

One of the privileges of working from home is that I can outside in nice weather.

Hence my summer office, pictured here.

It’s not quite as picturesque as this at the moment, because I have all the gauze drapes down and zipped, while the mosquitos buzz in fury around the outside. A few make it inside, too, but they are easily dealt with. More easily than a swarm, anyway.
By dealt with, yes, I do mean killed. Without a moment’s remorse or hesitation.
When I was young, I came home from school one day crying because my friends had said I couldn’t hurt a fly. They, of course, meant I was weak and physically inept, which I surely was.
“Of course you couldn’t,” my mother blithely replied. “Because you don’t like to kill anything. You wouldn’t kill a fly.”
Which was also true. I was the kid who hearded the moths, flies and spiders out of the house, rather than kill them.
Moquitos, however, have always been different. I used to claim that I would never kill one of God’s creatures, but since mosquitos weren’t one of them, no such restrictions applied. I’m a mosquito magnet. Always have been. I’m the first and most often bit. If enough of them bite me, I’ll actually start getting a systemic histamine reaction. My grandmother said it was because I’m so sweet. (See? At least ONE other person thought so!) I’ve heard others say that my negative rH factor, or even my A- blood, makes it so.
I light my citronella candles. I give thanks for whoever invented mosquito netting.
Do they have mosquitos much in Santa Fe, I wonder?

Minding Your Manners

So, this is funny.
Not the picture. At least, I don’t mean it to be.
This is just a picture of a dinner party on the porch at El Ferol in Santa Fe. In the somewhat shadowy foreground is Laurie, friend and boss, who you might recognize from a previous post. Across the table, facing us, are Annie and Alton. And next to them is Jan’s ex-husband, Fred.
This is how it worked: my mom has long been friends with Jean Galloway, neighbor and Channel 9 supergal now off doing her own consulting thing. When Jean’s sorority sister, Jan, got divorced from Fred (yes, the one in this picture), Jan moved to Denver to be near Jean and several other Delta Gammas from their chapter. Annie, though she now lives in Houston (and summers in Santa Fe) is also their friend from way back. (I’ve never quite pinned down if Annie is a DG, too — ah, my mother confirms that she is.) So, via the transitive property of friendship, my mom and her husband, Dave, are now good friends with Annie and her husband, Alton. And they, being truly lovely people, invited me to meet for dinner while I was in Santa Fe.
Now, normally I would never do this.
But when Kim and Val flaked on going out to dinnner, I called up Annie and asked if Laurie could come, too. Actually, first I called my mother (I know — I’m 42, what’s your point?) to ask if SHE thought Annie would be offended if I asked if Laurie could come along. I thought not, as that whole social group is pretty much “the more the merrier.” My mom confirmed this and assured me that Annie & Alton would also let us split the bill by throwing a couple of credit cards on the plate.
I call Annie. Of course she’s delighted for Laurie to join us. In fact, Fred (Jan’s ex, you may recall, who I’d never before met), was passing through Santa Fe on his way back to Denver (yes, he moved there after Jan did, but no, there was no reconciliation) after visiting their daughter, Becky, who is my age and who I’ve known for something like 25 years, in Scottsdale. And Fred was also joining us for dinner. Turns out that my mom’s Dave accurately predicted that we would no longer be allowed to chip in on the tab once Fred was in the mix.
And so it went. Lovely warm evening. Delicious tapas. Really yummy margaritas with an unpronounceable kind of tequila (Maluchachas? Something like that?). Delightful company. Annie & Alton picked up the tab. No protesting allowed.
So Laurie and I decided we have to send them a gift. Laurie decides to sic HER mother on the task, because her mother, in Kentucky, has entree to a certain something we happen to know A&A really like. (Can’t reveal more here, in case Annie reads this blog post.) Laurie’s mother scores! She’s so excited with her find that she insists on wrapping, packaging and mailing the gift to Annie and Alton herself.
Worse, she won’t tell Laurie how much it was. She tells Laurie that she’s just so pleased that Laurie had remembered her manners and thought to send a gift in this circumstance, that she doesn’t want us to pay her back. Yes, Laurie is older than I am.
We figure we now owe LAURIE’S mother a present.
My mother only commented that we’ll always be their little girls and to give it up.

The Big Switch?

Those of you who regularly read this blog know I’ve been in Santa Fe for work this last week, posting pretty pictures. This one is the last dregs of sunset from our little patio on the hill at Fort Marcy.

The other thing that’s been going on the last week is the Dealing with the Canadians. We’ve been trying to get the finances in place for the Big Move to Victoria, which is mainly about paying for the house we’ve nearly bought.

Which has been a major Pain in the Ass. Yes, this is the blog post of Many Capital Letters.

The pressure to sell our current house has been so great because the Canadians have been insisting on 35% down payment. Yes, a lot of money. This doesn’t even get us an amazing interest rate or monthly payment either, because they tack on extra points for Americans. Oh, and Americans can’t have amortizations of any longer than 25 years.
After a while, we began to feel like a particularly juicy American fish on an uncomfortable hook.
Our Victorian real estate agent has been great, but everyone else? Not so much. I started shopping around other mortgage brokers. Three never bothered to call me back. One said that, oh yes, we’d never do better than 35% down as Americans buying in Canada. Only one took the mission and he’s taken fully three weeks to not give us anything yet.
So there I was in Santa Fe, thinking how beautiful it is and how much we’ve always loved it. And talking on the phone with David about the Victoria PITA and how it just feels like the stars are not aligning for it. And I said, say, is there a good school here in Santa Fe? He looked it up. There is and it’s an Ivy League shool in the acupuncture community. Plus, it was only a few blocks away from where I was working. My colleagues and I swung by there at lunchtime. The facilities are the best of any I’d seen on the tours with David. The campus president was there, alert, attentive, produced an orientation and application packet immediately and there are openings for the Fall session.

David called and talked to him and likes this school even better than the Victoria one.

Our daughter, Lauren, the mortgage broker, looked up rates in Santa Fe and found us a stellar 10% down deal with her company.

Plus, her guy, Damion, is a mortgage broker licensed in New Mexico, so he can do the deal for us. Not only can we get a much better financial deal, they can benefit from the commission. MUCH better than feeding the Canadians their extortionate interest rates.

So this is what it feels like when the stars do start to align in your favor.
Unless the Canadians come up with a really stellar deal for us in the next few days, we’re moving to Santa Fe instead.
Which will be SO MUCH EASIER.
David and I spent a great deal of time in a school of thought that had you pursue your goals regardless of the obstacles. The greater the resistance, the more you were to screw up your will to break through. We could make Victoria happen; there’s no doubt of that. But we’ve come to believe over time that going with the flow of things can be its own reward. And when something is easy and drops in your lap, that’s something to be celebrated.
We’re feeling really good about this. After all the pressure, that’s something else to celebrate.
On the drive home, I saw a fleet of dragonflies at a rest area. They must have been hunting a hatch of some small insect. Easily three dozen enormous dragonflies filled the air over my head. It was magical and surreal. It felt like a good omen.

Quite Continental

From Travelblog to Guestblog!

Welcome today to Candace Havens, member of FFP and author of the new release Dragons Prefer Blondes. Take it away, Candace!

One of the things I love most about romance novels is the happy endings. I like knowing that no matter how much hell the character goes through during the book, in the end he or she is going to get a happy ending.

I can guarantee you’ll get one of those with every book I write. It may not be the happy ending one might expect, but there will be one. (Smile). In my new book, Dragons Prefer Blondes, it doesn’t look like my heroine, Alex, has much chance for happiness. She’s in charge of keeping dragons from attacking Earth. It’s a tough job, but the wealthy club owner just looks at it like another day at the office.

She’s a woman who has most definitely given up on the concept of love and happily ever afters. She’s certain those things will never be a part of her life. Imagine her surprise when love smacks her upside the head and she realizes that she could possibly lose the one person who matters most to her.

Through the years I’ve had a chance to talk to Nicholas Sparks about his various books and films. While talking about “Nights in Rodanthe” I thought he explained his style very well. “I write Greek tragedies, and there are no happy endings in a Greek tragedy,” he said. “I give people a hopeful ending, but not necessarily a happy one.” As much as I adore him and his books, it hurts my heart every time I read them or watch the films.

So, while I can’t tell you the ending of Alex’s story, I can say that there is a resolution. And that while she may not get what she thought she wanted, she does end up happy. (Smile).

Don’t tell me the endings, but share some of your favorite books that had wonderful resolutions at the end.

Candace Havens

I’m Just Wild About Harry

Santa Fe has been getting the rain. Much like the rest of the Rocky Mountain West, I suppose.

Our company HR director, Mary, lives in El Dorado, just outside of town, and we visited with her and her husband, Richard, last night. (Of course the HR director of our Boston-based company lives in Santa Fe — why do you ask?) They wondered if the late summer monsoons had come early or if this was a different pattern altogether. Funny weather all over.

But the flowers are gorgeous. The desert is in bloom, which is like a dessicated skeleton bursting into full human form. Every flower bed in town looks like an ad for High Country Gardens, which is apt, I suppose, since this is the mother ship. All is flourishing, which does the heart good.

After cocktails on their gorgeous patio, we went to Harry’s Roadhouse, which was a first for me. And it was fabulous. Great setting, beautiful patio out back (which we only gazed at from inside because of the rain). Food was excellent and the least expensive meal we’ve had thus far. I had the blue corn turkey enchiladas as Mary recommended and they were fab. Real lime margaritas, too, with all the tartness you could ask for. They are purportedly also open seven days a week, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is really something to maintain.

Here’s the sunset breaking through the rain clouds out at Harry’s. You can almost hear the angel voices.

Team New Mexico

Travelblog day.

A rare picture of my primary work team, taken by the sous-waitress at the Pink Adobe in Santa Fe.

Usually one of us — read: Kim, because she’s the photographer (the one with her hair pulled back) — is behind the camera, so we don’t get all four of us at once.

These are the women I spend a good chunk of my life with. We spend a week at a time together, doing stressful, detailed work, once or twice a month. And we haven’t killed each other. Val, who is sitting next to me, used to live in Seattle and now lives in Ft. Collins. Laurie, our project manager, boss, and fearless leader, behind Val, lives in New Hampshire. And Kim used to live in New York City but now lives in Orlando. (Yeah, she migrated south prematurely.)

Dinner at the Pink Adobe is always nostalgic for me, but last night wasn’t thrilling. They didn’t get us on the actual patio as they’d promised when I called. Seems the hostess missed the “patio” part of the sentence. Food was VERY slow — over an hour and it wasn’t that busy. Then, Kim, who eats only chicken (and tuna from a can — don’t ask) couldn’t find any chicken on the menu (I know: odd), so she asked if they could make her some kind of grilled chicken. She also ordered a side salad. They did bring her grilled chicken — a dried out husk on a plate with nothing else, worthy of a Ruby Tuesdays and a minimal salad. The manager stopped by to ask how the food was and we said what had happened. And he so didn’t care. Alas. Pink Adobe is not the place it used to be. I suppose after nearly 40 years of eating there I can let it go. Doubt I’ll go again with so many amazing restaurants in Santa Fe.

Still pretty sad.

The Longest Day

Yesterday was a kind of harmonic convergence of events. Summer solstice, Father’s Day and our grandson’s first birthday.

Here’s Tobiah, with his paternal grandfather, Miguel.

Normally Tobiah is quite a bit more jovial than this, but my step-daughter, Lauren, reported that he’d been cranky that day. Not everyone loves a party.

I got to stop by for a few minutes, on the drive to Santa Fe, to drop off some presents from David and me. I asked Lauren if the year had gone fast for her, too. She said it had flown by. She even looked a little dizzy, thinking about it.

A year ago, David and I were in Victoria, when Lauren’s boyfriend, Damion called us in the early morning to say Tobiah had been born. We lay there watching the morning light over the Japanese gardens at Laurel Point Inn and the Inner Harbor beyond. We’d visited acupuncture schools the day before and David had clicked with the one in Victoria. Our world had shifted, in several profound ways. Now David thought about teaching Tobiah to fish in the lovely, gentle seascape of Vancouver Island.

I admire what Lauren has accomplished. She has a challenging career and a new baby. She and Damion are learning to build their lives together. Juggling all the families can’t be easy. But Lauren cheerfully makes room for everyone who wants to be part of Tobiah’s life. It takes an openness of heart for that, along with a stern resolve.

So Happy Father’s Day to the fathers: Damion, Miguel, David. Happy First Day of Summer to us all — may we have some now, for all of us who’ve had such a cold and rainy June. Hopefully the light of the longest day shone with radiance for you.

And Happy First Birthday, little Mowgli-baby!


The other day I heard an interview with Woody Allen on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air (wink to you, Laurie). She asked him if he cared what people thought about his choice to leave Mia Farrow and marry their adult adopted daughter Soon-Yi.

“I don’t want to say I don’t care,” he answered, “because that sounds bad. But I also have to say that it’s impossible to live an authentic life if you make decisions based on what other people think.”

This is, of course, not a new idea. He’s reiterating a concept that many philosophers have explored, such as Osho, David’s current favorite. We all grow up with ideas we learn first from our parents, then from our schools, churches, friends and lovers. Becoming an independent adult is partially the process of learning to separate who you are from what everyone wants you to be. It’s not easy to decide you disagree with what everyone around you thinks. It’s comforting to be one with the group, where everyone approves of what you say. It’s tempting to say only those things that will garner approval. And yet, you trade personal authenticity for that approval. If you do only those things that others will agree with and approve of, you end up living the life other people think you should have. In essence you lose your life to other people’s ideas.

It’s like Aesop’s Fable “The Man, the Boy and the Donkey,” which bears repeating here. (There’s a great site that has over 655 fables online with a searchable index. The site also notes that “Mr. Carlson at has over 3,000 books of Fables. They are all fully cataloged with much information about each and the catalog is online however he does not have any fables online.”)

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:”Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with you and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none.”

I think we’ve all been there. We all want to please everyone. We want to be approved of and loved. But the price for that is your authentic self.

Yesterday someone posted a comment on my blog post: “The I’s definitely have it in this blog followed closely by the Me’s.” Because someone didn’t like what I said, they went for an anonymous personal attack. They’re implying that my ideas are a result of egotism, elitism or self-absorption. This is a classic way to attack a person who expresses ideas one doesn’t like. Instead of arguing the ideas, the person who disagrees expresses personal disapproval. I’m meant to feel bad about myself, that I’m thinking about myself instead of agreeing with the group.

Anyone who clicks on “View My Stats” can see the anonymous poster’s IP address is in David’s hometown. There’s quite a few hits from that part of the world on this particular post, which is not surprising since I talked about the differences in the high school educations David and I received and whether that means anything.

I’m not sure that it does mean anything. There’s a big part of me that believes it shouldn’t matter in our lives, what kind of education we get or what kind of background we come out of. I believe anyone can make themselves into whoever they want to be. Of course, that comes back to authenticity.

But if a big city high school education is better than one at a rural school, doesn’t that bear examining?

Kathyrn Mostow’s song and video are based on the well-loved Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Thoughtful, because you have to think past what everyone has already agreed to. Committed, because it takes courage to speak those thoughts and suggest that maybe the staus quo isn’t quite as perfect as everyone wants to believe it is.

I have great admiration for Penelope Trunk’s courage. The other day she posted on her blog, which has over 36,000 subscribers, that she had two abortions. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, anyone with any sense of the world has to acknowledge the courage it took for her to lay the issue open with her personal experience. Many people will not approve of her. But there are things more important than seeking approval.

Talking honestly and openly about the world and what needs changing, might be a good place to start.

The Company We Keep

David tells people I went to a “big high school.”

This is a matter of perspective, of course. His high school class had just under 100 people and mine had just over 400. Multiply that by four grades and you get an idea of our schools. His school was in a small town in Wyoming and served students bused in from neighboring towns and communities; some of his classmates traveled more than an hour to school. Mine was one of three in the school district, in a metropolitan area with a slew of school districts. All of my classmates lived within a few miles of the school.

I went to college with kids who came from graduating classes of over 1,000, so I know my school was not big, in the grand scheme.

To David’s family and hometown acquaintances, though, I grew up in the big city and went to a large school, with all of the attendant vice, crime and trouble that implies to certain small town folk. Yet, when we compare stories, it was David’s classmates that got into all the trouble. Granted, I was a goody two-shoes and hit high school in the early 80s compared to David’s mid-70s. Still, I think the small town life drove them to more shenanigans than I ever heard about in my cohort.

My mom bought our house for the school district. It was supposed to be one of the best in the country and all three of my schools, elementary, middle and high, were brand new. David’s education was what the town offered. The school was hardly any kind of magnet.

We went to David’s 30th class reunion not long ago and he vows never to go to another. Many of his friends had become their parents, living the same lives, moving from one blue collar job to another. He was depressed for days afterward. I was the big-city girlfriend — only a couple of people wanted to talk to me.

I’ve been reconnecting with my classmates on Facebook. And they’re all doing such interesting things. Here’s the latest, a lovely music video by Kathryn Mostow. She’s really good.

It makes me wonder — was the school really that much better? Was it the city and all the stimulation that it has to offer? Perhaps we were in a rarified environment, so that our school drew kids from the kinds of parents able to buy houses in those neighborhoods where David’s school pulled in everyone from that section of a sparsely populated and rural state.

I’m not supposed to talk about these things, I know. I’m supposed to value the beauty of the simple life David’s cohorts have chosen. We all choose what is valuable about our own lives. And yet, one friend is paying the equivalent of college tuition to give her son and daughter a private school education, to give them every advantage. Private schools wouldn’t exist if people didn’t believe the quality of education makes a difference.

You don’t have to have it, a great education, to raise yourself up. David has done a great deal with his life and will do more. Of course, he also reads all the time. Studying to improve himself. Like my grandfather, the farm boy who got his education at the public library.

I suppose some people are handed things that others have to fight for.

June Brides

We have several weddings in the next month. Tis the season.

Not just for us, either. A friend IM’d me today to ask what I thought was an appropriate amount to spend on a wedding gift, given the particular relationship with the bride. And yes, I’m intentionally referring only to the bride, because this seems like a female system of balances to me.

Even if the groom helps with the registry, the suggested gifts tend to be household items. In some cases I’ve seen wedding registries that are clearly more male-influenced (read: lots of camping gear), or that reflect that a more mature couple has already acquired all the kitchen appliances they could ever use (read: extensive presence of techno-toys). However, even in our liberated era, I know the percentages of who is looking up the wedding registry and choosing the gift.

Yeah, this is almost always a girl thing.

Thus, for David’s nephew’s wedding this summer, it was me who called the bride to find out where she is registered. She didn’t know who I was at first. Not surprising since we’ve met only at family events and have never talked on the phone. She right away said she didn’t want us to feel obligated to send a gift. Which was absolutely the right thing to say. Then she said she hadn’t registered anywhere, but maybe should because I wasn’t the first person to ask. But she hadn’t had time to drive to the next town to do it. Obviously I’m not a close relation or friend, but I felt compelled to tell her she should get online and register. David’s sister was looking for the registry, too. I told the bride that the family wanted to give them gifts, to get them started in their new lives. I brushed away her protestations that they have everything they need, since I know perfectly well it’s not so. They’re in their mid-twenties, going to college and have a little girl. I stopped short of telling her this was part of the point of getting married. By the end of the conversation she was convinced and I felt like the militant aunt.

We’ll get them a nice gift. “We” as in David and I will split the cost and I will pick it out. We give nicer (read: more expensive) gifts to the poorer couples. For another young friend’s wedding we went a little higher than usual, because they need it. Not like women in Africa need medical care, but nonetheless.

I counseled my friend on IM to go lower in price, which turned out to meet her own sense of what she should send. It’s funny, how we talk to each other to work it out. To make sure we’re doing the appropriately supportive thing.

Now I have to go look and see if the nephew’s bride followed my advice and registered.