Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

I Salute A Few of My Favorite Santa Fe Businesses

Santa Fe is a town largely comprised of local, privately owned businesses whose owners work darn hard for their money. It is a tough town. On this last day of 2015, I want to thank just a few of the local business owners who enriched my life this year, first by their heartfelt presence in this community and second by the services and products they offer.

First up, The Video Library. The Vid was opened by owner/operator/counselor/cat activist/chocolate chip cookie lover  Lisa Harris and buyer Casey St. Charnez in 1981, the very first video store in the state of New Mexico. You can find mainstream releases as well as rare, out of print and hard to find movies. And you will find Lisa, who has one of the biggest hearts on the planet, and her great staff who are all walking encyclopedias of cinema, ready to offer suggestions that fit your mood. Go. Browse. Chat. Rent.

Downtown Subscription, located a block from Canyon, has great coffee, pastries, the best selection of magazines in Santa Fe, a front patio where you can bring your dog and a back patio with a fountain and lovely flowers. And they have the nicest team of baristas. On Sundays I often buy my New York Times, order a cappuccino and sit for an unseemly length of time reading the paper and inevitably chatting with someone I never met before. Before heading home, I head to Garcia Street Books which is located on the other side of the wall from DTS. A real bookstore where you can browse, ask folks what they are reading and discover the exact book you needed that day but had never heard of five minutes before you walked into the place. Amazon is not the be all and end all, folks.

Kristin Mader, muse/proprietor/artist/creative spirit/witty woman of Wild Hare salon,  patiently and beautifully tends my mass of hair with a smile on her face, no small feat. The salon is gorgeous with its crystal chandelier and art, the staff is talented and the products smell delightful. Kristin and Wild Hare are simply the best. Anywhere.

Ranger owns the New Old Trail Garage. He has been praying over and maintaining my 1998 Ford Explorer since I road into town in, well, 1998. Where else can you drive up as I did Tuesday, ask him to please check the antifreeze level (it just occurred to me after two weeks of freezing cold) and replace the wiper blade I accidently shredded when I ripped it too vigorously from the icy windshield, and the owner stops what he is doing and does it, plus checks the tires and adds more windshield wiper fluid. And he neither shames me nor charges more than a fair fee.

When I go to the Farmers’ Market, I buy from farmers who are now my friends. They picked the flowers or lettuce or spinach and boxed the eggs or made the bread the day before. No vegetables grown in South America wrapped in plastic. Farm to table, a community.

Rand and Cindy Cook, two of the nicest people I know, own The Candyman Strings & Things, which really has become a little community center. They were named (drum roll) Dealer of the Year at the National Association of Music Merchants Top 100 Dealer Awards. Number One in the entire US! And they are right here in Santa Fe! They have everything you could want from guitars and drums and amps and keyboards to ukuleles, one of which has my name on it, and classes to learn how to play your chosen instrument. The staff will help you select the instrument for you or yours. Check out their Summer Rock Camp, too, and all of their other services on their website. They can also work with you over the phone.

I thank Harry’s Roadhouse for the occasional hit of cheese enchiladas drenched in red and green chile, aka Christmas. I leave a happy woman.

And on a personal note, I thank all of my writing students for sitting around my table and sharing their unique stories. I think it is an act of bravery as well as creativity. I thank all the clients who have trusted me to edit their manuscripts and those who have asked me to write their stories for them. It is my honor, my privilege, my delight.

STORY TELLING 101

It’s Time

A reader dropped me a note recently asking for more information about the work I do in general and, specifically,  my writing memoirs, personal histories and family histories for clients.  The reader said there was just something about fall that made him…once again…think about writing down some of his family stories as well as his own. I agree with the impulse.  More than spring, I associate autumn with beginnings. Maybe all those years of school left an imprint, a Pavlov’s dog reaction: The morning air turns crisp, and I am energized to begin anew.

After we spoke, I reviewed the About section and decided it was time to amp it up a bit. So I did. In case you, too, are giving some thought to taking pen in hand or placing fingers on the computer, or having me do that on your behalf or as a gift to another, I have reprinted part of the revised About section below. “The Universe is made of stories, not atoms,” wrote Muriel Rukeyser. Write your stories. Let me know how I may assist you. I would be honored.

We all have a story to tell. Whether you have lived your life quietly or on a more public stage, writing your memoir, life stories, family stories and family histories offers you the opportunity to observe the past with fresh eyes, reflect on your life’s purpose, clarify your future path and preserve your unique stories. Here is the bonus: When you are open to telling your individual stories in the most authentic, truth seeking way, you will touch the universal truths that have the power to transform both you and the reader.

I teach writing classes privately and for organizations such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Santa Fe retirement community El Castillo, assisting them with shaping their stories and honing their craft. I edit completed manuscripts and assist with development editing when you are not quite sure how to proceed or whether you are on the right track.

I produce memoirs, life stories, family stories and family histories from recorded interviews which I transcribe, edit and develop into a story well told. My clients are from all walks of life, people who have built businesses, raised families, fought in wars, championed a cause, taught school, designed buildings, traveled the world or chose to stay close to the fabric of their communities. While their life stories are unique, they all value their heritage and share a desire to preserve their personal stories and family stories for generations to come. Since each project is unique, I offer a free one hour consultation to discuss the story you wish to tell, outline the process and determine a fee which will fit within your budget. Drop me a note and let’s get started. It’s time.

The Stories You Have To Tell

I am a full blown, get on my soapbox, wave my hands and shout proselytizer for committing to paper your family stories, personal stories and memoirs. For one, if you do not write down the stories you have to tell, they will be lost in a generation. Period. I, for one, know very little about three out of the four of my grandparents and not that much about the fourth. That is pretty sad.

Of equal importance is the benefit of the process of compiling your stories. I promise you that examining the past will change your personal narrative.

And there is a bonus. When you are open to telling your individual stories in the most authentic, truth seeking way, you will touch the universal truths that have the power to transform both you and the reader.

So what to do if you are ready to place fingers on computer keys or take pen in hand? Where to start?  I teach classes on writing your memoir or family stories. I teach classes on editing your stories. I coach clients individually on skype, in person or on the telephone. I even ghost write memoirs for clients. And I offer developmental and line by line editing of your manuscript.

Beginning to accomplished writers are welcome.  The only requirements are a desire to tell your stories and a healthy sense of humor.

Please contact me via Contact Susan or susan@susantungate.com  if you are ready to get started. We’ll make a plan.

Ten Years, Two Pages, Three Word Sentences

Writer and teacher Abigail Thomas often gives her students the assignment to take any ten years of their life, reduce them to two pages, and each sentence should be only three words long.     Without room to circle the truth or fudge, the writer is forced to reduce each event to its core.  You end up with a haiku of sorts: He was horny. I was smitten. We got married.

In looking back over the now substantial number of years of my own life, I see there were ten year periods when life pretty much flowed in the same pattern with a few minor bumps or high points. No big forks in the road. Perhaps a move or a promotion or interesting assignment. Visited  Rose Garden. Met President Clinton. Tripped on grass. Went to Havana. Faded pink buildings. Gave housekeeper shampoo.  Opened news bureau.

Then again we can all bracket a ten year period when things fell apart or finally came together or both. Often events start with a show stopper. Time AOL merger. Now we downsize. What will happen? But sometimes in the living of an event you have no idea when the seeds were planted. One morning you wake up and there is a big damn tree in your face. In the looking back you may be able to gain clarity on when it all began. A friend might write: Mother lost keys. Found in refrigerator. We all laughed. Mother visits doctor. She has Alzheimer’s. She knows it. We know it. We make plans.

The three word sentence can become addictive. Beware the danger of narrating your life in real time: Drove to Whole Foods. Strawberries on sale. Bought two quarts! Froze one quart! On the other hand, if we live in the moment, there are times in our lives when we know, know for sure in that moment, that something is about to shift. I have a friend whose company is going through a reorganization. She will meet with the powers that be this week to learn her fate. What three word sentences will she write later on?

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Lost my job. Time to network!

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Great new job. Moving to Portland!

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Hate job offer. Take for now. Leap later on.

Regardless, the next sentence is  Onward and upward! It has to be.

Memoir Monday: Gumbo for 2,000

In 1986 I was a member of a church in McKinney, Texas. The flock was led by minister Father John White.  John would lead me every Sunday to a place I needed to go by way of his thoughtful sermons.  I followed and supported him in every way I could.

The Vestry was a group of parishioners charged with conducting the church’s business.  I gladly accepted the position as a member when asked by John.  I was on the Vestry with Bob Richards and that was great.  Bob was the Chief of Police, power weight lifter, ex-football team member of the Southern Methodist University and a good friend.  He grew up in Nederland, Texas forty miles from my childhood home.

The Vestry meetings were mostly cookie cutter affairs with little excitement or drama. After one meeting John approached Bob and me for a favor and, of course, an opportunity for service.  Two local high-school girls had an invitation to go to China to play volleyball in an international tournament.  John asked us to come up with a plan to raise money for their trip.  One of the girls could not afford to go, and the other was from a wealthy family in town.  I suggested “The Chief” and I take the father, with all the money, hold him up by the legs, and shake all the money we needed from his pockets. They suggested another plan was needed.

As I said, Bob and I were from similar areas both close to Southern Louisiana.  Gumbo was an easy call. We knew how to make a pot.  The target amount to send the girls to China was $10,000.  That’s a lot of gumbo.

We were both big boys. In calculating the amount each person would be served , we used our consumption formula of $12,000/$6.00=2,000.  Since our target profit was $10,000, we knew our cooking goal: 2000 bowls of gumbo. Neither of us ever used a recipe.  The fun was just beginning.

We made arrangements to use the McKinney High School cafeteria for food prep and service.  My only reservation was that I refused to wear one of those little hair nets.  On inspecting the kitchen, we found two fifty-gallon steam heated soup cookers.  We thought we would make seventy-five gallons. If we went over that, fine.

Bob and I met with the local Brookshire’s food market manager who agreed to supply produce, chicken, stock, and sausage for our event.  Next came a question I had not anticipated.  “How much of everything do you need?” asked the Brookshire’s manager.  Bob and I looked at each other and both said, “Plenty.”  We settled on 250 chickens,  100 sausage rounds, a fifty pound sack of onions, and thirty pounds of celery.

The ticket sales went briskly, and we did not see any wisdom in counting sales.  All I wanted to know was how much money we had received.

Bob and I were busy the week before the event.  Bob was in charge of the roux preparation.  We needed ten pounds of the brown gold. Bob did a masterful job.

The Friday before the Sunday we were to serve the gumbo, we picked up the supplies from our new best friends at Brookshire’s.  There was plenty of room in the chill box at the school for our ingredients. We were all set to cook.

Early Sunday morning Bob and I met at the school cafeteria to begin the gumbo. We filled the two soup caldrons with water and put the chickens in the cool water.   One hour later the chickens were still swimming in cool water.  No one had shown us how to start the cookers.  Soon help arrived and the steam valve was opened.  The gumbo was saved.  The chickens cooked quickly and were then removed from the stock to cool for deboning.  While the celery, garlic, green peppers, and onion were cooking, the chickens were stripped by less than enthusiastic family members.  We mistakenly thought we could handle all the cooking, but family was summoned once again to bail us out.  The job was too much for two guys.

“How much roux do we use?” one souse chef asked.  We said, “Just cut the ten pound brick in half and use each one in the two pots.”  Great! We were well on our way to becoming the star chefs of McKinney.

Service was to begin at three that afternoon. At noon the ninety-five gallons of gumbo was simmering and ready to be tasted.  Bob had the honors. “Where is a soup spoon?” he asked.  A cold shutter came over me.  We had no silverware, no napkins, no soup bowls, no plastics cups.  We did have enough tea and gumbo to drown a horse.  Family to the rescue!  Any store open on Sunday was relieved of its picnic supplies.

At 2:00 p.m. the plates and supplies arrived as did the hungry church crowd.  The line began to form and spread out the door of the cafeteria.  John thanked each diner and took the money.  Very few paid the $6.00 per head.  Most contributed $10.00 to $20.00 dollars each.

Bob and I proudly served bowls of our gumbo and surveyed the cafeteria for anyone choking on an errant chicken bone.  No calamity, only praise.  We ladled until the last one in line was served.  I called back to the pot crew, “How much gumbo is left?”   “A little over one pot,” they responded.  That was over seventy gallons!  At that we announced, “Free seconds and to go gumbo is available.

Some came up for an extra bowl or to go portion, but in the end we had over fifty gallons of gumbo.  Bob asked, “Ok, what are we going to do with all this stuff?”  I handed him a serving spoon, and said, “Let’s start eating slowly, and maybe we can put a dent in it.”  He rolled his eyes, and said, “You are going to jail!”

John said, “I’ll take it.”  I asked him how he wanted to take the fifty gallons of gumbo home.  He looked around the kitchen and saw two empty garbage cans in the corner.  “Let’s put trash bags in these cans. I’ll put them in my garage until I figure out what to do,” he said.

Kitchen cleaned, gumbo loaded, and money stashed. A day well spent.  We cleared more than enough to send the girls to China and give them some spending money.  The extra cash was a contribution to our dear John White to spend as he desired on his ministry. Oh, what became of the fifty gallons of Gumbo?  Well…

The gumbo “containers” were put in the back of the Whites’ garage.  The weather was cold, so the gumbo was safe for a day or so.  Later that night my phone rang with “gumbo news.”

“Drew, Judy came home after dark and pulled into the garage. A light was out, it was dark, and Judy ran into the cans.”

I stopped him and asked, “Did any of the gumbo spill?”

“Yep, ” he said, “all of it–down the drive way and into the street.”

“Can I come over to help with the clean-up?”

“Nope. The neighborhood dogs and cats are doing a fine job.”

©Drew Scott 2014

Drew Scott was raised in Goose Creek, Texas. He and his wife Jane Scott live in Santa Fe with their two poodles. “With each story, I allow myself to visit the people and places who helped make me the man I am today at age sixty-seven,” says Drew. “Pretty cool stuff!”

Memoir Monday: “The Power of -ish” by Lisa S. Harris

“-ish” changed my life. It sounds a bit overstated, but it’s true.

In the early days of Video Library, I tried hard to get the store open on time. But as Yoda says, “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” Unless I am up against an immovable deadline, like catching a flight or making a movie on time or else, I only can do or do not, but generally, I’m afraid, it’s do not.

Being on time is tough for me, since I have been running late since five minutes after the dawn of time. This is a fact. For I was supposed to be born at the end of June, but kept my parents-to-be waiting and didn’t manage to arrive until six laborious weeks later, on August 7th.

I haven’t been on time since.

True, it’s not always my fault to be exiting the house later than I should to get the store open on time. People who know me realize I have always lived with many animals, and I mean many. So, with feeding, cleaning, playing, and dealing with the frequent artful escape, I’m almost always running behind schedule.

I have to admit, it’s not always the animals. The other morning I was in the driveway, car running, almost gone, and when I glanced in the rearview mirror and, to my utter horror, I saw I’d forgotten to put on my mascara. That’s like going out naked! So naturally I had to run back inside, apply the precious stuff, and run get back into the car, making me four minutes tardy, when for once it actually had looked as if I were going to make it on time.

Nope.

For a long time, I tried to make up for lost time by being an observant and opportunistic driver. Not aggressive, oh no, not me. Since I have driven the same route to work for decades, I well know the one current ultimate set of directions that quickly will get me through traffic. Those driving directions include: Take Cerrillos only in the morning, never at noon; Avoid the Plaza, too many pedestrians; Evade the RailRunner wherever it crosses the road; Remember the efficient UPS drivers’ mantra of “Right turns only”; Be open to opportunity; And always have one eye scouting for a new, shorter back alley route that gets me to work quicker. On a good day, like a Sunday morning when all the lights are with me, the drive can take eleven or twelve minutes. A bad day, like one with a downtown Special Event Ahead!, or with encountering some jam-up due to road construction or a detour, it can be twenty.

Still, my husband Casey says my philosophy of motoring always reminds him of that Stephen King story “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” based on King’s wife Tabitha, about a woman eternally obsessed with finding the fastest way from one point to another, but it sure costs her. I do not necessarily count myself in that category, but that’s what Casey says.

Man, I really do remember this one particular morning, as I was characteristically running behind. There I was maneuvering through traffic as usual, when suddenly a bicyclist comes out of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, like out of another dimension, causing all the cars to slam on their brakes simultaneously. In about two seconds, we all went from doing forty to going zero. I was surrounded by, and immersed in, screeching tires, fishtailing autos, and panicked lane-changing. I rose out of my seat as far as the seatbelt allowed and literally stood on the brake pedal, shuddering to a halt after several            l-o-n-g seconds.

I recall so many details. The scared face of the driver in front of me as reflected in her rearview mirror. The terrified pedestrian who had appeared seemingly out of thin air. The huge truck behind me that was drew closer without apparent slowing. Then, at last, the adrenaline jolt that flooded me as I realized it was over and that nothing had happened. Astoundingly, no one had hit anything! No sickening crunch of steel to hear eternally, no horrifying splattered person to haunt my three a.m.’s forevermore. A total escape, accomplished only by timing and/or fate.

Traffic flow resumed haltingly. Deeply nerve-rattled, I continued to wend my way to The Vid, despite a now-nauseous gut and the familiar metallic taste of fear in my mouth.

As I pulled into the Vid’s parking lot, I saw a woman waiting for me. When I stopped, she hurried up to my driver’s side open window, thrusting her rental in my face, belligerently saying, “This didn’t work. So you owe me.” At that moment, I realized I had raced, risking my life and others’, simply to get to my store so that somebody could yell at me, first thing.

Not worth it.

Never again.

That same morning, after unlocking the door and getting ready for the day’s business, I collected all three of the signs displaying our business hours, erased the hours, and re-wrote our opening time as “9:30-ish.” Every day. The near-miss changed my driving habits and helped cure that ulcer I was working on.

So I never set a new record getting to the store any more.

Reassuringly, most of my customers have embraced “-ish.” A few have brought their out-of-town guests by just to see the signs. Sometimes in summer I see tourists walk up to the window and take photographs.  Personally, I have to say, I like the unforeseen way that “-ish” resembles my initials “lsh” in lower case, like it’s fate, like it began at birth. Like I have always been right on time.

©Lisa S. Harris 2014

In 1981 Lisa S. Harris opened the first video rental store in New Mexico. She has been behind the counter of Video Library dispensing movies, recommendations and therapy ever since. She loves Casey, cats, movies and bacon.

Memoir Monday: “Plenty of Fish” by Freddi Fullington

My friend Candice and I were having coffee when she told me she met a nice man on an Internet dating site. Candice, who was divorced and newly turned sixty, was looking for someone to hike and travel with her. She found him on the Internet site and encouraged me to check it out.

My jaw dropped. Candice was the last person I’d ever picture using an Internet dating site. She was so together. I mean, people who used those sites were losers, right? Desperate. Candice was none of these things, and I certainly wasn’t.

“No way I want to meet someone on line,” I said. “No way.”

“It is the new way of meeting people. Better than a bar, ” she said. “Just check it out. It’s free.”

I had separated from my husband of thirty years two years previously and divorced a year ago. Initially, I had sworn off men. Now I was beginning to think it might be nice to have someone to go to dinner or a movie with once in a while or those occasions like a wedding when I need a date. I certainly wanted nothing more.

I had hated the dating scene in my twenties and now it seems much worse. I had no luck just running into someone at the market (daddies with kids), the Laundromat (too young) or events I volunteered my services (I knew those guys too well.)  So, one boring evening I decided to take a look at Candice’s site. And I did just want to look. Period.

Hmm, some of these guys looked okay. I could only see the photos and could not access the full site unless I signed up and completed my profile. Alright, I will put in my profile. I had to pick from lists. Let’s see, I’m divorced, a non-smoker, a light drinker, a non-drug user, Christian, female-looking-for-a-male. The next questions asked what I was looking to get out of this match. The only choice listed that did not make me squirm was “friendship and maybe more.” Okay, I picked that. Not marriage or a one night stand for me.

Then I set my parameters: male, ages 56-60 years old, non-smoker, light drinker, non-drug user, no preference for religion, and single, divorced or widowed. He also had to live within 50 miles of Santa Fe. I clicked the button. I now had full access to the site.

“Oh, this guy looks perfect,” I muttered to myself as I read his profile and looked at his photo. I sent him a message.Then I sat back and waited, expecting nothing to come of it. I gave myself a limit: three strikes and I’d get out. I would not tell a soul. Days later Mr. Perfect sent me a message saying he was taken.

Okay. I tried another guy, Joe. He made a date to meet me for a drink at the bar of a restaurant.  ”Why did I agree to do this?” I asked myself as I tried to find something to wear. I had not been on a date in 30 years. What do people wear? I found my good black pants. Had to be careful about potential panty lines and dog hair with these pants. I took a tape roller to the pants. Four sheets later I was satisfied. I would do a last minute roll off of dog hair when I got out of the truck, which of course was covered in dog hair. I prayed the bar was dark. Next, the top. When I tried on my first choice, a slightly snug knit top, I heard my mother’s voice, saying, “Are you trying to look like Elizabeth Taylor?” Right, I wish. Took that one off and put on another blouse with buttons. I am not good at buttons with my M.S. I got frustrated and pulled it off. Too low cut anyway. After trying on six more tops i settled on a simple black and white pull-over and my leather jacket. I left for my date, which felt more like I was going to my own hanging.

I looked into the bar and looked for Joe. I asked one man if he were Joe. He was. Yikes! He had white hair. An old man! Then I remembered the color of my own hair but for the blonde hair dye. Joe was courteous. He asked me if I was hungry or wanted a drink. I was too nervous to eat. I asked for a glass of white wine and a glass of water. He was drinking a beer. Joe was apparently a regular at this bar. I calmed down as we chatted with each other and the people working the bar.

Joe had been divorced for many years. His three grown children wanted Dad to find someone so he would not be alone. His daughter had offered dating tips on what women expected on dates. He also shared the fact he had survived three heart attacks, but was now healthy. It was certainly positive that he was now healthy, but I figured he might not be out of the woods yet and I sure did not want to be his nurse. He told me he had just completed a major remodel of his house so he was skilled and creative, both pluses. I declined another glass of wine, we chatted a bit more, then it was time to leave. He walked me to my truck. We both had a nice evening, but neither of us found who we were looking for. Strike one.

The second man Tony said he belonged to a Christian rock group and sent me some of his music. It sounded weird, but I had vowed to keep an open mind. He asked me to lunch at a downtown restaurant. When we first set eyes on each other, I think we both decided to get lunch over quickly. I really don’t know what it was, but something did not click and it was obvious.

The place was busy and noisy. Tony had a strong voice that carried so I had no trouble hearing him. After we ordered he started going on and on about his loaded BMW. He complained, though, about how there was even a sensor that tells him when the tires are low.  One time when he was out in the middle of nowhere he got a flat tire he could not change because the wheel needed a key. The salesman had neglected to tell him the key was in the glove box. Tony needed to have his car towed at great expense. I am thinking, too bad he didn’t buy a Ford or Chevy like we commoners then he would not have such  problems. And why did he think I was even remotely interested in cars? Nothing in my profile suggested I wanted to be a motor head’s girlfriend. Then the food arrived. In the middle of a busy restaurant, with his booming voice, he proceeded to pray over our lunches. Strike two.

Then there was Jack. He had a sense of fun, was polite online and was into the cowboy thing. We arranged a date. I decided to drive twenty miles north and meet him for lunch near his home. Jack was waiting in the parking lot when I drove up. He had white hair, but I had worked through that issue. He also had quite a paunch, but then again he was wearing a terrific cowboy hat. After we ordered lunch, he said he needed to call his mother and check in. Huh? Jack said his 90-something year old mother lived with him. She was a widow and still quite lively. In fact, she was dating a younger 80- something year old man.

“She either had to live with me in the doublewide or go to a nursing home, and she is no where ready to do that,” he said. “You have to meet mom. She is a character.” So, after lunch we drove in tandem to Jack’s doublewide. Every square inch of the interior was covered with stuff–magazines, newspapers, large bags of water softener salt, pellet stove pellets, and empty cereal boxes. I moved aside a stack of magazines and sat down on the sofa.

Mom was a character and very sweet. She told me Jack was building his own house next door. Jack gave me a tour of his new house. It was really very nice. One unique feature was that the garage door allowed his truck to be parked inside the house.

He told me he had never married.  Hmmm,  a sixty year old man who never married and who was still living with his mother. The red flags were waving. But I kept an open mind. Jack was actually a lot of fun. On the second date, however, Jack turned into a groping octopus. Strike three.

Oh, well, I had my girlfriends to go out with and my dogs to keep me warm at night. Life could be worse. But I didn’t want to live my life as one that could be worse. I wanted a couldn’t be better life. So , I went back on the site, reset the parameters to include men a few years younger and eliminated the non-smoking requirement. I hit the button.

Oh my God. There he was, dressed as a gambler wearing a Western shirt, brocade vest and black hat in an old-time photo. He was looking over a hand of cards with a dead, poker faced stare that looked so dangerous. This man would probably not give me the time of day, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I sent him a message. He responded almost immediately. His name was Alan. He was a widower with no children, retired from the Army.  No negatives.

We agreed to meet for coffee. We had arranged to meet outside under the overhang over the door. He was there when I drove up to the place. I was early so I watched him as I calmed myself. What a unique impression he gave. He was dressed in dark blue canvas pants in a vintage style with the pant legs tucked into tall, black well polished boots. He stood tall and straight and wore an old fashioned shirt under a suede Mexican jacket and hat. I was very interested in hearing his story.

I walked up to him. “Are you Alan?” I asked. He gave me the sweetest smile as he shook my hand. When I first meet someone I take note of their eyes and their hands. Alan had very dark brown eyes with long lashes. His hands looked strong with well shaped, long fingers.

We ordered coffees. I started to pay for mine. I never wanted any man to feel I was taking advantage of his generosity by assuming he’d pay my way. Alan would not allow me to buy my own coffee. I kept it to just coffee, no scone or muffin. We talked. We talked about everything for three hours.. We both came from a strong military family background, we both studied our family genealogy, we had been raised in religious families, we liked many of the same movies, actors, recording artists and on and on.

When it was time to leave, he walked me to my truck. He called me later to be sure I made it home safely. We set another date. When I look back, he was hooked already. I soon followed.

 

©Freddi Fullington 2014

Freddi Fullington lives, writes and pet sits in Eldorado, NM. In her past life she has been a nurse, teacher, beekeeper, firefighter and EMT. Along the way, she found the love of her life on the Internet.

 

(Belated) Memoir Monday: “Blown Away” by Jan Adlmann

You could accurately say I was “blown away,” pun intended, when one day some years ago, delving distractedly into a box of yellowed “Miscellaneous Prints” at a Santa Fe antiquaire, I fell upon this more than merely curious image depicting some loopy fellow purportedly in the dubious act of “Feeding on Wind.” What?

Even I, who’ve long been considered amongst close friends a notorious nut case when it comes to all things blustery was, at that moment and still today, knocked out that some obscure artist, apparently quite long ago,was compelled to illustrate such a decidedly dotty activity.

Crouched and bracing himself, knees uncomfortably bent as he leans into it all, his features contorted in a powerful effort to devour the onrushing gale, this bizarre fellow, all streaming hair and wide-eyed rapture, instantly spoke to me, for I have forever been a huge friend of Aeolus, ancient god of the winds.

My earliest recollections of leaning into the wind, figuratively, are those many, many times as a child when I arranged myself on my bed in such a way that my head would lie by the open window where, in the fields out back, several huge trees–I remember a towering maple, and an elm–had been growing for a long time.

What I loved about this was twofold: that is, hearing the wind in the trees and watching how their branches flailed and thrashed about whenever there was a mighty gust or two, which was quite often.

Too, I remember watching with great fascination through our winter storm windows and doors, how a snow storm hurled blinding clouds and veils of fine snow around the house while making a really fine roar as it gradually sculpted enormous drifts.

Being inside the cozy house but looking out on a maelstrom of winter at its most fierce, now, that is a delight hard to describe, perhaps what the tumult in a snow globe would sound like, if we could but add some sound track.

I like all sorts of wind–whistling, howling, sighing, moaning. In fact, for many years now, I have gone to bed having turned on my “wind machine” sleep aide device. There are various tracks with this machine, all possible to ply without interruption. throughout the night. My current favorites are “Wind in Trees,” “Natural Sounds of Pure Wind, ” and low and mournful, more than a little forlorn “Arctic Wind.”

And so I can demonstrate for you an number of wind phenomena which, in their various ways, can throw me into something close to a trance.

If it is an especially blowy day, I will find myself suddenly transfixed, no matter what I am doing, by the sudden mighty rustling of a big tree. (I have been known to fall, mid-sentence into a kind of mesmerized state when first hearing such a thing.)

And then there is the sound of seaside flags snapping in a stiff, on-shore breeze, sounding almost like gun shots and then the incessant rattle of the ropes lashing against the flagpole. As I say, such meteorological mini-epiphanies are out there, for me, all the time.

Observed waiting alone in front of an elevator on some fiftieth floor or so, I once was asked if I were “feeling all right, Mister?” I had been standing there for many minutes, having discovered the groans and shrieking of the wind in the elevator shaft and, like the guy in my strange engraving, I was caught leaning into my particular rapture.

A place I have returned to over and over, not the least because of the good chance of experiencing totally overwhelming winds, is Palm Springs, California. On barren, God-forsaken desert hillsides outside the city there are enormous wind farm arrays where one can drive up, get out of the car and wander among the tall, flailing blades, cringing at their deafening roar and, best of all, literally  lean against the wind, without falling. Those lofty farms are, for me, the embodiment of “wuthering heights.”

My ultimate homage to the wind, though not intended as any such thing has occurred when I have been on a few journeys to the far flung, live volcanic Island of Stromboli, off the coast of Sicily. I once had dear friends with a summer house there; they are, alas, now gone with the wind but, in the day, I went there quite often. I loved their stark, white-washed house perched on a cliff above a gratifying raging sea–and frequently engulfed in tumultuous winds, to boot.

The homage I have paid resides in the fact that when visiting that forbidding rock cast in the sea, I was also visiting the home of Aeolus himself, according to Greek legend. It is from his seat on towering, conical Stromboli that Aeolus opens and looses his awesome bag of winds upon the world.

 

©Jan Adlmann 2014

Jan Adlmann, a long-time resident of Santa Fe “but born a ‘Maine-r’,” has  long been a director-cum-curator of art museums, “from coast to coast.” Additionally, and equally as significant in his professional and personal profiles, he has spent a good part of his life in world travel—most often solo, very often as a fine art tours lecturer. Adlmann always suggests that the “city of dreams,” Vienna, has marked him as profoundly as his Down East birthplace and the American Southwest.

 

Memoir Monday: “Being A Grandparent” by Jane Scott

My husband Drew and I leave the Las Vegas Motor Coach Resort at ten o’clock in the morning to care for our four grandchildren. Their hard working and responsible parents are taking a much needed vacation to Hawaii for eight days.

We arrive to their beautiful three level home south of Salt Lake City, Utah., after two days or wrenching, vomiting and pooping it all out in the motor home. We are not sure if it was food poisoning or an immobilizing virus, and what does it matter? Lots of things do not matter now. I am weak, vulnerable, and dizzy after not eating for a couple of days. Grandpa Drew is happy he is beginning to get a brief glimpse of feeling hungry again.

Drew’s daughter has prepared a beautiful Easter dinner of spiral cut ham with a sweet sauce, twice baked buttery potatoes and asparagus. She is especially proud of her cupcakes straight out of Martha Stewart’s magazine with little Easter symbols on top of the lime custard whipped cream, featuring bunnies, eggs, carrots and other decorations welcoming Spring.

I know it must have all been delicious. I have no recollection of eating anything at all, but I do recall the lingering smells and the feeling of delight that we were present to join our children and grandchildren for Easter dinner.

I am certain I hugged and kissed each precious little heart and soul and body of our four grandchildren. The five year old greeted me with strep throat and an invitation to pour his pink medicine. Our eleven year old granddaughter was barefoot due to a lingering foot fungus. The fourteen month old baby was cutting teeth and grieving being weaned from his mother’s breast for two weeks. And, finally, our seven year old has a bad attitude. Slowly, but surely, in the next few days, each of these “gifts” appeared in the bodies of two sixty-five year olds, and it would not be pretty.

Babalu and Lola, our seven year old poodles, are mesmerized with all the activity. Lola learns quickly to run upstairs and hide in her bed which she has moved under the bed where Drew and I are sleeping. Having pulled a buttock muscle lifting the baby out of his crib, I am restless and unable to find comfort.  I can walk up and down the three flights of stairs if I hold onto the rail. Thank God for a strong upper body. My self-made prescription is to stop lifting the baby out of his crib and carry nothing weighing over five pounds.  Drew is not happy.

Grocery shopping is Drew’s salvation. Every morning after Mr. Brown Trail/Yellow Pond, our new nickname for the baby, goes down for his nap, Drew comes into the kitchen. “Let’s make a list,” he says. We proceed to make a list long enough to give Drew his desired time away and alone. As a nice side benefit, our daughter will have enough canned goods and paper products for a year by the time we leave.

We are now two days into our grand parenting adventure. My throat is raw and scratchy. I call my doctor from afar begging for a Z pack, some decongestant, and whatever else he recommends for adults who are sleeping in the same house with four children. One day later, Drew has the same symptoms and I am more than happy to share my meds.  We are walking around in a virus infested, bacteria filled, fungus producing 4,000 square foot house, unable to open doors and windows since the rain and wind and cold have blessed us each day of the visit.

With a couple of days remaining, we begin to gather our belongings. We chat with the children each night at dinner about how each feels about our performance so far. The ratings on a scale of 1-10 range anywhere from 5-9.5. Our granddaughter offers, “It’s going ok, but you may be getting a little too old.” And, the seven year old continues, “I’m not sure you know that much about children.” Drew reminds them I have a master’s degree in child development. Not one of them is impressed.

I love these children and their parents who want us to become more involved in their lives, but I now know why God did not give me kids. I can barely take care of myself. I would have been one of those moms who did something awful to her children in a flight of desperation. I would have lied to my family and friends and neighbors about how wonderful the kids were doing and how I loved being their mother. I would have failed miserably.

For each of you who has actually birthed or adopted a child, reared that child to adulthood and continues to function in mind and spirit, you deserve a place in heaven, no matter what awful things you may think or do for the rest of your life.

Our requested grand parenting responsibilities are over for now and we are alive and well enough. May each of us have stories to tell and memories to last a lifetime.

 

©Jane Scott 2014

 

Jane Scott writes for pleasure, self-reflection and humor. The more she writes, the more she recalls stories to share with family and friends.