Mind the Step!

I am reminded, yet again, of my bad blogging habits. I can’t tell you who by, because my mother made me promise not to say in my blog again that she was nagging me.

Yes, I am a terrible, horrible, irresponsible, bad and wrong blogger.

I think that, sometimes, there’s an inverse relationship to input and output for me. The more input I have, the less I write. Once the input is over, I can process, assimilate and write. Kind of like a plant: I’m all about dark photosynthesis. But take heart. During the bright daylight, I’m storing up all kinds of brilliant bits, ready to convert them into radiant blogs.

Just you wait.

So, I have to tell you my trials of leaving RWA. Which, by the way, was covered on NPR. Listen here if you’re interested. (HOW could you not be?)

There I was having lunch/drinks with Keena Kincaid, author of Anam Cara, who I met for the first time at real life and feel like I’ve known forever. We ended up skipping vital convention stuff, just to yak. Doesn’t get better than that.

So, I’m late leaving for the airport, but not terribly.

I walk back to the Omni, the overflow hotel that was FAB, retrieve my suitcase from the luggage room and head to the Metro. The bell captain asks if I want a cab and I say, no, I’ll take the Metro back. I then pause, ask how much a cab is and he says $17. Cheap! So, I hesitate, but he says, ah, the Metro is easy. And I agree. It’s $2. The station is right there and it’s green. I do try.

I drag my stuff to the metro: my laptop bag, my suitcase, my purse on one shoulder. A passing smart ass notes I need only one more item to have a full suite. But it’s okay. I take the hugely long escalator down to the platforms. You’ve seen them: the escalators to the DC Metro are stories tall and super steep. But I have this technique. I spin my wheelie laptop bag around, push it onto one step, I step onto the next and pull my suitcase onto the level behind me. Standing considerately to the right, I am a streamlined linear travel group.

I ride down. I see the signs that say “major delays.” I see the teeming, hot crowds for the trains that aren’t coming.

I decide to take a cab.

So, I go back up the hugely steep escalators, using my streamlined technique. I’m nearly to the top when I turn slightly, brushing my suitcase behind me… and it falls.

I’m not kidding.

It was like a bobsled. The curved, glossy hard surface turned it into a sled worthy of a luge competition. It rocketed down the escalator at lightning speed. All it lacked was purple midget riders.

I confess, I’m punchy enough that I doubled over laughing at the sight.

Fortunately no one was on it behind me, because no trains were arriving, were they?

This lovely woman at the bottom, who fortunately arrived late enough not to be flattened, picked it up and brought it up with her. God bless friendly strangers.

Oh, and we got three offers on our house yesterday, so now you can ask how the house sale is going!

Heading home and loving it.

Bouncey bouncey, fun, fun, fun, fun

Okay, I confess I’m starting to lose track.

It’s 11:18 pm here in D.C.. Which is 9:18 pm in Laramie and 5:18 pm in Waikiki. And no, I have no idea which time zone my body is on, much less my brain.

I mentioned this before, the new research on jet lag. See, the way sleep works is, a person spends the first part of the night in Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), which is the deep, healing sleep. Dreaming or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep occurs only in brief periods between the sometimes two-hours-long stretches of SWS. As the night progresses, the proportions shift, with more time spent in REM sleep and less in SWS. This is why you usually wake from a dream in the mornings, and you dream more if you sleep in. It’s also why the afternoon nap can feel so deadly — that deep sleep can be hard to shake off.

So, for those who don’t care to link to the article, the upshot is, even though you may adjust to a new time zone and sleep during the ambient night, the parts of the brain that regulate the sleep cycle may be continuing on their regular schedule. So when I flew to Hawaii, that meant my usual dreaming time of, say, 2am to 6am, was shifted to 10pm to 2 am, skipping SWS altogether if I didn’t go to sleep before 10. Which, erm, I didn’t. Now, if I adjusted to Hawaii time, which, after nine days, I likely did, now my dream time is occurring from 8am to noon.

The interesting thing is, the studies showed that if you don’t get enough REM sleep for a while, you start to get REM intrusion — which means your brain clicks into REM state even when you’re awake.

Yeah.

You know that surreal, dreamlike feeling? There you are.

So it’s hard to say which state I’m in. We’ll choose “deprived” as an umbrella term. Soon I’ll be overstimulated. Which is worse?

You be the judge.

Hawaii: The Recap

Okay, okay — as several of you have noted, I dropped the ball.

It’s been a week since I posted. I am truly remorseful. I promise.

(Maybe not so much — it was a hell of a week on several levels.)

So, here’s the recap, montage-style. Here, you can play the fast-paced Hawaii-5-0 theme song for background, if you like.

4th of July was spent in the Tropics beach bar. Many sail boats. More Tiki torches. Have to admit: I have a real thing for Tiki torches now.

Fireworks over Ala Moana park were fab, especially from our table. And there was drunken fun. Followed by amateur beach fireworks. Hard to capture with the camera, but oh-so-fun to try!

Sunday we spent on the North Shore: Waimea Bay was gorgeous beyond belief. What happened was, parking was awful, so we parked around the bend at the Catholic Church. And no, this wasn’t Bad & Wrong because the youth group CHARGED for parking as a fund raiser. Screw the car wash thing — charge the tourists $5 to park. We loved it. And besides, we then didn’t worry about leaving our valuables in the trunk. Upshot is? Camera and purse were in the trunk, so if you want to see beautiful Waimea bay, you have to go yourself. Or look up one of the undoubtedly millions of other pics out there. But here’s one of the beach bar at Turtle Bay.

Yes, there is a theme.

Then I went to work. And David played. With the local herons, koi and seahorses. I know. Don’t ask.

And then, Tuesday after work, I went swimming and it was the straw on the camel’s back of two days of non-stop snorkeling and beach-walking.

It rebelled and I was sad.

The “now I can’t walk much at all” kind of sad.

But we managed to make it to some great restaurants: The Ocean, House Without a Key, Go Mate, Cheeseburgers, Seafood Paradiso, Roy’s. And our breakfast spot on the lagoon. Included just because Marin agrees that “lagoon” is a great word.

Overall, it was wonderful. We worked hard. (Not David. Or Joe. In fact, the valets got quite a kick out of them loading Val, Laurie and I into the car for the workday and waving goodbye.)

But when you have a view of Diamondhead, somehow it’s not quite so bad.

Dream to Have

I managed to lose my sunglasses yesterday.

At any rate, I had them at Hanauma Bay yesterday and didn’t have them this morning when we got ready to go to the North Shore. The Hilton Hawaiian Village is part beach resort, part shopping mall, so it was easy to stop into one of the shops, so I could pick up some new sunglasses.

I quickly realized my mistake when David pointed to a pair in a glass cabinet saying they’d look pretty on me and I spotted the discreet Gucci sign next to them. The Japanese saleswoman, though, coached me through a purchase. She quickly determined only two brands would do for me, since I like polarized lenses. It wasn’t an easy sell – I don’t like dark lenses and David doesn’t give the thumbs up to anything too big. We finally found a pair of Oakleys that we both thought I looked good in. They were more than I wanted to spend. She knocked the price down and assured me, “Oakley sunglasses – many dream to have.”

I bought them as much to give her the sale for working so hard as to shield my eyes from the Hawaiian sun.

Not because they were something I dreamed to have.

It’s inescapable, the presence of the Japanese tourists here. The princesses in their designer clothes and stilettos, mincing with determined entitlement, escorted by consciously cool young men. The family groups – several generations traveling in their own pack. Their close-packed competitive culture leads them to push to the front, to block the way, to dive into the elevator before people have managed to come out. They follow a list of their own: some tourist destinations are packed with Japanese, others conspicuously void of them.

Hanauma Bay, for instance, is on their list of must-do’s. We spent the afternoon at the beach park, recommended as one of the 25 best snorkeling spots in the world. I snorkeled three times during the day. Still not as good as the Caribbean, to my mind. David swam in the sparkling waters. Otherwise we laid like slugs, watching the palm fronds wave overhead.

And watching the young Japanese couples arrive, pose on the beach for photos, trading the camera back and forth. The girl wears a floppy sunhat, glances over her shoulder and frames her face with elegant fingers. The boy waves a surfing hand gesture. They leave again, having checked off another point on their dream to have list.

Others do it, too. A Russian family – or some sort of Soviets, judging by the language – arrived, donned their snorkel gear, swam for fifteen minutes and left again.

As we left, I overheard a ranger telling a guest about a woman who saw a sea turtle while snorkeling. “She said it was the most beautiful experience of her life,” he assured the visitor.

At Waimea Bay today, it was all about the long term visitors. The water is crystal and aquamarine, gently lapping over soft white sand. People spent the afternoon, playing. Hanging.

I saw a group of teens playing a game while I snorkeled by. They would dive down to the white sand bottom – ten/twelve feet deep – pick up a bowling-ball sized rock and walk along the bottom with it as long as they could. I don’t know what the contest was based on. Strength, certainly. Holding their breath, too. And all below the water, where only they could see.

The dream to have isn’t about having, I don’t think. It’s about the image in the camera. About the image you want to present. If I have this, if I look like that, if I can say I’ve been to this place and done that thing, then I’ve accomplished something. Maybe become someone special.

Someone who has had the most beautiful experience of her life.

Dream to have.

Aloha Honolulu

Honolulu at night from our balcony.

A friend once told us there was no point in coming to Honolulu because it’s just like any big city. Any gorgeous big city dancing along a beautiful beach on a tropical island that is.

It’s funny to spend 4th of July with palm trees and fruity drinks. Instead of beer, brownies, bing cherries and fried chicken, today will be about chocolate-covered macadamias, mahi-mahis and pina coladas. Maybe a key lime martini, if I get lucky.

My new addiction: the key lime martini. Of course, I had my first one in Laramie, Wyoming, but that’s neither here nor there.

Hilton delivers as always. And no, they don’t pay me to say it. (Though I’m not too proud to let them, were they so inclined…) Hilton Hawaiian village is right in the city and right on the beach. With gorgeous tropical pools, flaming torches and a non-stop party.

This is not your quiet, pristine Caribbean get away, it’s true. It’s more the Las Vegas strip goes to the beach. Which has its own charm.
And nothing beats waking to this sight.

Never Rains in Southern California

I haven’t been to LAX in a really long time.

I’m thinking 20 years or so. I flew out to Los Angeles for Spring Break my junior year, with two sorority sisters and five SAE’s, to stay at the Pacific Palisades house of one of the guy’s parents. Then I drove out with Darren a year after college and flew home from LAX. He was doing set design for Debbie Gibson videos which, if I hadn’t ‘fessed it up already, would tell you exactly how old I am. Think Electric Blue. Right.

At any rate, LA hasn’t really been a work destination and is almost never a transfer hub. San Francisco, yes; LAX, no. I don’t know why. Except on our trip to Hawaii now.

So, the iconic LAX control tower arches are heavily scaffolded, as you can see. Maybe everyone knew this but me. Turns out they’re unstable. I just Googled it to find out. And I swear I called them “iconic” before I found this article. To prove it, I exercised integrity and did not go back and edit out “control tower” and change it to “restaurant.” Note that article is pretty old — I feel quite sure the restaurant was closed longer than six months. I can see why it struggled since 9/11 – you have to exit security to get to it. Which is really too bad, because there are no decent sit-down restaurants in our three-terminal area.

Another reason why this isn’t much of a hub, I suppose. Or because it isn’t much of a hub, there’s not much reason to entice travelers with attractive facilities. That and lunch came with a nearly 10% sales tax. I don’t know if that’s special for the airport or if everyone pays that.

Even now I sit in a hallway. On the floor, my back to the window you see in the photo. There are electrical outlets here. Several of us are interspersed along the long walkway, sucking up the juice, charging up for the long flights ahead. If “they” were smart, they’d set up benches or chairs here. Except, as David points out, they probably don’t want to encourage this kind of behavior.

Outside, the sky is unpromising grey. I wonder if it’s true that it never rains here. LA sprawls before you when you fly in. A vast and thirsty city.

I’m ready to move on.

Gallantly Streaming

Normally I’m not what you’d call patriotic.

You know what I mean — I’m just not into the patriotic thing. I hang a flag on 4th of July, but not really any other time. I know all the words to the Star Spangled Banner and even the other verses of America the Beautiful, but that’s more being a lyrics nerd. I’ve never felt like I should buy an American car nor do I check if products are American made. I don’t have much patience for people who reduce discussions of the US to “love it or leave it” terms.

When we planned to move to Canada, it had nothing to do with my approval or disapproval of the American government. That’s not why we were going and my feeling towards the country of my birth and citizenship had nothing to do with anything. And we didn’t change our minds for those reasons.

So it surprises me to find that I’m feeling something about keeping our money in the country.

Never mind that we really felt like the Canadians tried to take us for all we’re worth. Never mind that they acted like our money was no good and that we deserved additional credit penalties on our mortgage, just for being Americans. There’s something else.

Something that has to do with the US Customs agents saying “Welcome Home,” when we come back into the country.

Certainly setting up a US mortgage feels like beyond easy at this point.

I participated in a webinar for work today on a new project. It’s for state efforts funded by the stimulus act, which requires a certain amount of the materials used to be American. We’d be evaluating the requests for waivers from the requirements, say if the widget needed can only be obtained from Japan. The examples of what we might look for naturally lead to the ways that an applicant might slant the research to show there’s no equivalent American product, whether from laziness or a vested interest in something else.

It made me think. Who would be the person who would deliberately not buy American? Probably no one. It’s more about the change in thinking, to deliberately seek out the American equivalent, if it exists. To go to some extra pain and expense to do so.

For a while my mom was resolved to buy nothing from China. After a while, she was forced to give up. In great frustration. It simply couldn’t be done, unless she went without. I suppose she could have done so, but that wasn’t really the point. She still makes the effort.

I suppose that’s what the Big Switch comes to. We wouldn’t have made the choice deliberately to keep our money in country, but now that we are, I feel good about it. So many budget cuts around us. It feels good to spend our money into something that will, in turn, give back to us.

Welcome Home.

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.