My mom is getting ready to sell her house.

This is the one she bought in 1972, just before my sixth birthday. She married my stepfather, Leo, a year later and they lived there until he died a few years ago.

When she remarried, my new stepfather sold his house in Denver and bought a house in Tucson. They’ve been dividing their time between my mom’s house in Denver for the summer and his house in Tucson for the winter.

Only the “winter” in Tucson has grown to be eight months or longer. And she just doesn’t enjoy her time in the Denver house anymore. It’s become a kind of museum of our family and not a living home. Also, the house is getting older and being left unmaintained for eight months at a time is too hard on it, especially during Colorado winters.

So, when my mom and Dave passed through here a few weeks ago on their annual migration north, and I could see how much she was dreading facing the house, I told her that, if my vote counted, that I’m fine with her selling the house.

I don’t think my vote should count, but she knows I have issues. Or did. I used to dream that she sold the house without telling me and I would come home to an empty shell. This is probably due to my dad dying when I was young and I had other issues about trying to hold onto stuff. But I’ve gotten much better about this kind of thing, as I mentioned the other day. Elizabeth Ryann commented that it’s like building a muscle – an image I just love.

So, the other day my mom updated me on the work they’re doing to fix up the house to sell and she mentioned that the park light on the front walk is gone now. It was broken and couldn’t be fixed. And it’s a bit funky for a house sale. I think she and Leo bought it in Taos or Santa Fe when they took out the old park lights and replaced them with new.

I was a bit taken aback – so much for my brave, deleting phase, and my mom replied “I know. I’m trying not to think about it.” So, I really did try not to write about it, I did, but I just had to.

Especially because I was telling David about it and how my mom thought we’d wired up the one broken arm at some point, which I don’t remember doing. He doesn’t either. But, it turns out, he has NO idea what light I’m talking about.

“The 12-foot tall iron lamp you have to pass to walk in the front door?” I say “With the four big arms with globes and another on top? The one that’s been there for 35 years and has formed the backdrop for 27,000 family photos??”

I might have been growing a bit shrill at this point, because he ducked his way out of the conversation. I might have sulked a little bit.

I’ve reached the midpoint of Sterling and I’m working at building the romance between the hero and heroine. Actually, I’ve been building it and now I want some delivery from them. One of the classic ways to show that their love is real and true is for the man to understand things about the woman that no one else does. He would, for example, know how she felt about the freaking park light on the front walk of her childhood home.

But real love doesn’t work that way and I know it.

Come January, David and I will have been together for twenty years. He does understand things about me. And when we go up to Denver, he’ll almost certainly remember that conversation and look at where the park light was and say something like “Oh, that light! I just didn’t know what you meant by ‘park light.'”

See? I know him, too.

I think the real love is in him letting me get a little shrill and sulky and letting it go. I suspect he knows this won’t be the last of the upheaval until the house is sold. There will be much deciding in the coming weeks of what to keep and what to let go of.

I know I can trust him to be by my side through all of it.

That’s the really difficult part to capture in a novel. I’m lucky to have it in real life.

Hungry for those Good Things, Baby

Yesterday was our anniversary — 19 years now.

And yes, I’d planned this blog post for yesterday, but I had an early meeting in downtown Santa Fe that expanded ever outwards and kept me there until 4:30.

So, January 27 for us, which was Superbowl Sunday back in 1991. It’s hard for me to see how nearly twenty years have gone by, how it’s possible that the 90s aren’t recent years.

I’m very lucky to have found him and spent these years together.

The night before last, we watched Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. I love that David doesn’t complain about watching movies like that with me. Of course, anything with some comedy and lots of pretty women is generally good for him.

I recall a few years back, David went hunting with a divorced bachelor friend. They were up in the mountains for a week, doing the guy thing and came back all scruffy and pleased with themselves. We saw on the patio in the warm Autumn sunshine and they told me about the week. The friend said that he was amazed that I didn’t pitch a fit about David taking off for a week like his ex-wife would have. And how, when he’d mentioned it to David, he’d said “I do what I want to.” I expressed surprise that anyone would think I’d try to stop David from doing something he enjoyed. (Besides, a week to myself to write? Sign me up!) Then David asked me what I wanted to do that night and I said “Oh! Wimbledon is at the movie theater — Paul Bettany! I want to see that.” David said okay and the friend starting laughing, slapping his knee. “Oh yeah!” he says, “you do what you want, all right.”

And, I thought, you just don’t get it.

After Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was over, we sat and sipped some brandy and talked about love. This is another thing I love about David. We talked about the theme in the movie — and this is a Spoiler Alert, if it’s possible to spoil a plot as pat as that one — that somehow the childhood love is purer and more meant to be than any other. Which I just don’t buy. I don’t like it in romance novels, the instant mate bond/fated love kind of thing. I much prefer when strangers come together, have to learn each other, have to learn to accommodate each other and earn the love.

David told me that Osho, one of his current favorites, says that the sensation of falling in love, of the irresistible passion, the Meant for Each Other, instant mate bond kind of thing is all unconscious. That people should aspire to upward love, which is about conscious choice.

When people ask me our “secret,” our special formula for our happy relationship, this is what I want to explain to them. It’s about being happy doing what makes the other person happy. It’s about making conscious choices to be together and enjoy each other.

It’s about upward love.

White Horse Optional

My friend, Laura – and old friend from high school recently rediscovered on Facebook – asked me to help her come up with a “headline” for her profile. It’s basically dating-twitter. 140 characters to advertise who she is and what she wants.

Of course I said yes. I love to find the right words to describe people. I asked her if she was looking for true love, sex and fun or babies and the white picket fence. I expected her to quibble with me, to equivocate over what she might want now versus later. But no.

True Love, she promptly replied.

So I ran with it and we came up with this:

Waiting for the fairytale. Blonde belle seeks prince among men. White horse optional.

I wondered if it would be too much. I’m clearly interested in the fairytale ending, be that what you really wished for or not, but I know a lot of people out there (read: men) have issues with the female ideas of happily ever after. Can’t say I blame them really. What reasonable man wants to get mixed up with a gal who thinks she’s a princess and it’s his job to rescue her and take her off into the sunset? The thing is, we don’t really think that. We’re big girls now.

That’s why the white horse is optional.

By the following day, though, Laura reported 229 page views on her profile, 35 contacts and one verified hottie who says he owns a white horse. She’s talking about holding out for the full luxury package after all.

Another friend of mine was devastatingly dumped by the guy she’d invested in. He told her he loved her one day and the next that he hadn’t loved her in a long time. He was surprised she didn’t know that. It took her a while to pull herself together and a while longer to date again. But she hasn’t found IT again. Now she’s spending time with a guy she’s been, by her own description, “dating by default.” When I ask her about it, she sounds like she’s not convinced she can do better than that.

I want them both to have the happily ever after. I’m a believer in true love. I never expected to have it and here I’m nearly twenty years with a man who’s a better companion to my life than I ever thought possible. He’s added a richness and intimacy to my life that my girlish fairytale endings didn’t know to include. I like that he tells me he’s become a better critical thinker from being around me. I especially like that he’s someone interested in becoming a better critical thinker. He’s a prince among men.

Romance stories are often criticized for ending at the moment of the Happily Ever After, be it the wedding, or the exchange of vows of eternal love or what have you. The thing is, if you do it right, once you ride off into to the sunset, you get to live there.

And that makes so many other things worthwhile.