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.

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!