Bright Lights, Big Cacti

Arizona through the Eyes of a Native

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Welcome to 2016!

So….

2015 turned out to be my year of rest:

  • I didn’t blog at all.
  • I decided to take a break from writing over the summer and that gradually turned into the rest of the year.
  • And, a few days into December, I walked away from Facebook (well, as much as I could — I still found myself checking notifications once a day or so).
This is a Last Year’s Remembrance list. This is not a New Year’s Resolution list, because I know myself well enough to not make promises that I may or may not be able to keep.
Here are the moments I hope to remember from 2015:
  • Fuzzy and I started a crochet business on Etsy and even sold a few things. I will always remember the Mondays I spent with her as we untangled yarn, sorted our stashes, and created new and beautiful items to sell.
  • Dan and I celebrated our tenth year of marriage. I’m still one of the luckiest women I know.
  • We went to the U.K. for two weeks at the beginning of the year. We spent most of our time in and around London, and two glorious days in Scotland. I think Scotland might be my heart’s true home.
  • We climbed up the stairs in St. Paul’s and sat in the dome while we listened to the organist practice. Then we sat with the choir during evensong. It was magical.
  • We spent a cold, cloudy morning at Stonehenge. And then the clouds parted and the sun hit the old stones, lighting them up like performers on a stage.
  • Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Dan and I spent a few days in Palm Springs. We hiked the Tahquitz Canyon and stood in front of a waterfall. I realized that I actually really enjoy hiking.
  • My sorority chapter dissolved and became something even better: a group of women who mean the world to me.
  • I hosted a Christmas party that was both well attended and joyous.
  • I gained a couple of wonderful friends.
  • I didn’t lose anyone this year.
Basically, I lived my life in 2015. And it’s a good one. I needed to “smell the roses” for a while, and I’m glad I did. I have some new ideas and I think I might be ready to write again this year.
But we’ll see what happens next.
Stonehenge in the sun

Stonehenge in the sun on a cold winter’s morning.

 

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Dan

Ten years ago, we had never met, despite living in the same neighborhood and shopping at the same stores.

Nine years ago, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I was living with my soulmate and happier than I had ever been in my life.

Eight years ago, we married.

Seven years ago, we adopted Dewey Allen.

Six years ago, we lost Higgins. He left a hole the size of his body in our lives.

Five years ago, you let me quit work to pursue my dream of writing.

Four years ago, I found a publisher.

Three years ago, we went to Italy.

Two years ago, we were almost finished renovating the house.

Last year, we adopted Truman Jack. Our family — two humans and two dogs — was complete.

Today, you are fifty. Every year with you, the rope of love that ties us together gets thicker with memories, both good and bad. You are the best person I know and the only man for me. Happy birthday.

A Surprise Party

Does anyone else ever wonder if the blogger died when a blog goes unattended unexpectedly for a long time?

Here I am. Not dead. Just adjusting to my new schedule. As I mentioned before, my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and I have taken on a new business. We are now the proud owners of KEPCO Engraving, which actually ties in with the memory I’m going to share today. I received my first KEPCO-engraved badge about thirty years ago, when Mom and I learned to square dance.

Yes, you read that right: I was a square dancer. Petticoats, ruffled underwear, and really cool T-strap dancing shoes. Yep. I was that kid. However, before you get too judge-y, you should see a real square dance in action — it’s actually a lot more fun than that P.E. block we were all forced to take. And those years of square dancing also produced some of my most faithful friends. But I digress.

Mom met several of her best friends through square dancing, including a wonderful woman named Yvonne. Yvonne served as a role model for me: she was proof that you could be an amazing person without being a great housekeeper. I have a housecleaning motto that came directly from Yvonne’s house: it’s time to mop the floor when the cat sticks to it. I don’t actually own a cat, which probably explains why Dan mops the floor around here. Anyway, back in the early 1980s when we had only known Yvonne and her husband for a short time, Mom agreed to host a surprise party for Yvonne’s fortieth birthday party. We had a huge backyard that was enclosed by an eight-foot fence at the time. We also had a couple of acres on which we could hide the guests’ cars so that Yvonne would have no idea about the crowd of people waiting for her inside the yard. KEPCO’s original owners made little badges for everyone that read: “Lordy, lordy, Yvonne is 40.” I think I still have mine somewhere. Anyway, when Yvonne came through the gate, fifty or sixty people all shouted, “Surprise!” I think that was the first and only surprise party I’ve ever been to where the guest of honor really had no idea she was going to a party.

I was about twelve back then. I remember thinking how far in the future my fortieth birthday was. I imagined I would be president by now. That’s right: President Wells. Because I certainly wasn’t going to take some guy’s name. Now, here I am with my forty-second birthday quickly approaching and no political office in sight — thank God I let go of that dream! Who wants job that turns your hair white? I’d much rather write novels as Susan Wells Bennett and engrave badges and nameplates under the KEPCO banner.

Happy Anniversary to My Blog!

So, a year ago tomorrow I set out to write a blog about…well…as it turns out, being me: a forty-something Arizonan who writes novels. The biggest surprise to me is that I have actually met my goal of writing posts twice a week. In fact, this is the 104th entry. If you’ve been reading me since the beginning, thank you for spending a few minutes each week with me. I appreciate it. Even if you’ve never commented, you are still a valued reader — and I hope you think of me as something almost like a friend.

Unless you really are my friend, in which case you should continue to think of me as an actual, real-life friend.

I spent this ridiculously hot summer day (118 degrees, y’all — that’s sidewalk-skillet heat) in Scottsdale with my lovely friend, Nikki. We went to see Much Ado About Nothing at the Camelview 5 before doing a little shopping at the Scottsdale Fashion Square. By the way, if you have the opportunity to see this little Joss Whedon-directed gem, do so. I have to admit that the modern-day setting did create a bit of dissonance for me, but the talent of the actors and the quality of the film itself more than made up for that. Also, having seen the Branagh film many times as well as a stage performance or two meant that I spent part of the time mentally comparing the Whedon version to the versions that came before. Nikki, who was unfamiliar with the Shakespearean comedy, enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

I’m also pleased to note that my family has recently taken on a new business endeavor. I’ll tell you more about that later. Tonight, take a moment and watch the trailer for the Branagh version. It’s still the best version I’ve ever seen — sorry, Joss.

Buffalo

When I was fifteen, I took a driving trip across the country with my mom and her mother. I realize now that Grandma Millie was, in fact, making a final pilgrimage of sorts: she would be gone in less than a year. Grandma Millie was a devoted letter-writer, a habit I sincerely wish I had picked up. In addition to writing a letter a week to her mother, she also corresponded with several other relatives and friends. She hadn’t seen some of those friends in thirty years, but still she wrote. The ultimate goal of this trip was to see a woman I knew as Aunt Rose — my grandmother’s best friend — who lived in International Falls, Minnesota.

A few days into the trip — I can’t tell you exactly where we were because I honestly don’t remember — Grandma spotted buffalo in a field. “Look, Susie! Buffalo!” she said excitedly, no doubt rousing me from what appeared to Mom and Grandma to be a sound sleep.

“Where?!” I promptly sat up and looked out the window, excited to see an animal that I’d only read about in books.

For some reason, Grandma found this very amusing and infinitely entertaining. A few hours later (I’m sure I was asleep again), she said it again: “Look, Susie! Buffalo!”

Again, my eyes popped open and I scanned the flat lands surrounding our truck for the animals. There were no buffalo, though — just rolled haystacks. Grandma laughed like a lunatic. From then on, and for the rest of the trip, Grandma would regularly awaken me with “Look, Susie! Buffalo!” And right down to the last time she said it, I couldn’t keep myself from at least checking to see if she was telling the truth. In all the years since then, I have never seen another one, until very recently.

Dan, of course, has heard this story. So, a few weeks ago as we passed through Texas, he thought I was kidding when I said, “Look, Danny! Buffalo!” Just like I had all those years ago though, he looked. And there it was: a single buffalo in the middle of a field.

Grandma Millie is probably laughing her butt off right now.

Look, Grandma! Buffalo!

May Fallout

Some of you may know that my mom fell and broke her arm last month. No, not that arm — the other arm. That’s right…my mom has two broken arms right now. Guess what? When you have two broken arms, the hospital doesn’t send you home — they send you to rehab. So, in honor of Mom, here are the Top Ten Things to Know about Rehab.

10. Some guy will be pulling your pants down and back up every time you need to use the toilet. Rehabs are less gender-sensitive and more touchy-feely than the TSA.

9. Just in case you still have some modesty left after the toilet experience, the same guy will be undressing you for your shower and hanging out to make sure you’re able to scrub your body clean. If you aren’t, he’ll be helping you out.

8. Occupational therapy = housework or games. Don’t piss off the therapist or you’ll be washing dishes and folding clothes while everyone else is playing Yahtzee.

7. The next time someone accuses you of wasting time playing games, just tell them it’s your occupational therapy.

6. If you want to avoid having a roommate, set the air conditioning to seventy and watch TV at random times in the middle of the night. If you aren’t alone from the start, you soon will be!

5. The best place for your many flower arrangements is on the ledge of the air conditioner — another reason to keep the temperature down and the roommates out.

4. Diabetics: you know that blood-sugar thing you’ve been more or less ignoring? Yeah…they don’t ignore it in rehab. Be prepared to have the tips of your fingers converted to pincushions. On the plus side, the doctors may discover the proper combination of drugs to keep your sugars in check.

3. The food is surprisingly good, and your friends and family can eat with you on the cheap.

2. If the rehab staff is buzzing about the main item on the lunch menu, trust them: they have been in the facility longer than you have.

And the Number One lesson learned in rehab is:

If you want to feel better about your life, talk to other rehab patients. Chances are good that something worse happened to them.

Mom's floral collection.

Mom’s floral collection.

 

Heightist

This morning, I read something in one of my many reference books that surprised me: cuffs at the bottoms of men’s pants may have originally been brought into fashion by tall men. Apparently, these self-conscious giants  began rolling the bottoms of their pant legs in an effort to make themselves seem shorter. The thought made me laugh: why would one want to appear shorter?

And then I realized: I am a heightist. Some of you may have already come to that conclusion after reading about the personal ad I once placed, but I honestly had no idea. The moment of clarity I experienced must have been akin to a white man suddenly realizing that endorsing “separate but equal” facilities for other races made him a racist. I even made similar excuses: I have lots of short friends, I’m happy to help those who are height-challenged, and shorter people don’t understand the challenges of being tall (okay, so there aren’t a lot of challenges – mostly, they involve ducking).

I even have a stereotype regarding short men: they suffer from Napoleon complexes. Back when I was younger (and more open-minded about such things), I dated a few shorter men. On the whole, they are responsible for my belief that short men are more interested in dominating their partners and conquering the world. In general, tall men don’t seem to have that problem. Maybe that’s because tall men can see more of the world from their vantage point and, therefore, already know the world isn’t worth conquering.

My whole life, I have been surrounded by tall men. My father is 6’4”. One of my uncles is 6’6”. Both of my grandfathers were 6’0” or a little taller. As I grew toward adulthood, I surpassed the height of every woman I knew, eventually stopping just shy of 6’0”. As a tall woman, I can fully utilize all of the cabinets in my kitchen. The dangers shorter women face (the potential for being easily overpowered, for instance) seem remote. In fact, the only thing that throws me off my game is meeting a woman who is taller than I am. It really is the oddest sensation – I suddenly feel as though I’ve had a nip from Alice’s bottle.

So, I would like to offer an apology to every short person (5’6” and under) person that I know: I’m sorry if I have treated you as a second-class citizen. Now that I am aware of my heightist tendencies, I will work doubly hard to treat you equally. I will not flaunt my height by reaching for items placed on high shelves. I won’t make a big deal out of low ceilings or small cars. And if you ask me for help, I will give it without comment, shorty.

Sorry. That was the last one, I swear.

Napoleon on his Imperial throne

Napoleon on his Imperial throne — still not very imposing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Turtles Make Terrible Salesmen

On Monday night, just as I was settling in for a nice evening of television-watching with Dan, my dear friend Nikki called. “Would you meet me at Metrocenter at six-thirty?”

Now, to be perfectly honest, my instant response to that question was “no.” I was not dressed for going out, I hadn’t fixed my hair or makeup, and I was comfortably ensconced on my new couch, watching Once Upon a Time. But, realizing that Nikki wouldn’t call on such short notice for no reason, I asked her what was going on.

“I’m supposed to go to a Lia Sophia event and the friend who was going with me backed out.”

Okay, now I’m the runner-up for the event – other women might have been offended, but I was actually relieved that she hadn’t invited me to begin with. Don’t get me wrong: I like their jewelry. However, I have no interest in hosting a party or becoming a vendor, and those are the two activities the current vendors are most interested in having you do. I know – I’ve been a Mary Kay salesperson twice and a Quikstar vendor once. The sales pitch is always so promising that I forget I’m about as extroverted as a turtle.

Nevertheless, I agreed to attend the event with her…because she is my friend and I wouldn’t want to go to any kind of an event by myself. I put on my makeup, fixed my hair, and left the house on a freezing-cold night because I know in my heart that she would do the same thing for me.

“Will you be buying anything?” Dan asked as I was heading out the door.

“No,” I answered resolutely.

He gave me disbelieving look; I tried to ignore it.

The event in question was the launch of their Spring/Summer 2013 catalog. We stayed for the whole spiel, and I ended up buying a mother-of-pearl necklace and matching earrings. I did not, however, book a party or become a vendor, so I’m calling that a win.

As it turned out, Nikki won two raffles: a pair of earrings and a necklace. Since I came out to join her on short notice, she insisted on giving me my choice of the two items. I took the earrings.

“I thought you weren’t buying anything,” Dan commented when I came home.

That’s what I love about him – he’s so good at not rubbing it in when he’s right.

The earrings Nikki gave me.

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Happy 2013!

First and foremost, Happy New Year, Dear Readers! I hope you enjoy a happy, healthy 2013. Is anyone else concerned about this being the thirteenth year of the new century?

Good. I’m glad it’s just me.

Let’s start the new year by looking back. In 2012, I completed the first drafts of three novels, which isn’t too shabby. I started this blog at the end of June, and a few of you found me over the past six months. In case you only recently stumbled across me, here are the most popular entries of the past year:

  1. Scorpion Queen – if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live with an infestation of poisonous scorpions, this entry is for you.
  2. 10 Ways to Recognize a Native Arizonan – not that you’d want to.
  3. Diapers are Optional – about being childless in a family-centric universe.
  4. Happily Ever After – about the perils of children’s fairytales.
  5. Baby Ate the Cow – my personal favorite, involving my mother and a grazing bovine.

And here’s one you probably missed but shouldn’t have: Superdog and the Gate.

One of the best things we did this year was adopt a new fur-baby. Truman Jack joined the family in September and he has been raising heck around here ever since.

Dan and I celebrated our eighth year together and our seventh anniversary. Despite his inability to “stay-cation,” he’s still my soulmate. There’s no one on earth I’d rather sit at home with.

My goals for the next year are as follows:

  • I’m going to write a sequel to Forsaking the Garden, one of my earlier novels.
  • I will lose at least twenty pounds.
  • I will continue to post on this blog twice weekly, every Wednesday and Saturday – so stay tuned.
hAPPY NEW YEAR

HAPPY NEW YEAR (Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi)

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Dan Has a Better Sense of Humor Than I Do

Okay…even though election season has passed, I felt the need to share this little gem that my husband dashed off a while back. I had forgotten about it until he forwarded it to me earlier this week. I think it’s hilarious. If he had read something like this to me at the beginning of our first date, I would have known immediately that he was a good catch.

Bim Bam the Clown’s gubernatorial candidacy under fire

SURPRISE , AZ, USA(AP)–Early today, the Maricopa County Recorder and Election office had the dubious honor of informing one of Arizona’s latest political newcomers that his campaign for governor has abruptly come to a halt.

Archie Huzenga, a spokesman for the Recorder’s office, relayed that “Mr. Bam’s candidacy has been temporarily rescinded as we investigate complaints about the veracity of certain information on his candidate packet.”

The complaint stems from an anonymous note about candidate Bam’s past, which was taped to the election office door. “It brought to light several issues that will require investigation,” said Mr. Huzenga. Though the elections office would not comment publicly about an ongoing investigation, a source within the office leaked to the media that the subject of the investigation was Candidate Bam’s declared education level and his military service.

Candidate Bam’s website clearly states that he served in the Confederate army under Colonel Nathan Forrest with distinction. He enlisted in 1861 and served the duration of the war.

It is also indicates that he earned his doctorate degree in circus engineering from Klown Kollege in 1913. His dissertation was considered groundbreaking and definitively proved that 40 clowns can successfully and consistently be crammed into small spaces.

Dr. Bam was contacted for a comment on this story but as he is a strict Marxian (Harpo), he was only able to communicate by tooting his horn once for “yes” and twice for “no.” When asked directly whether he believed the Tea Party was responsible for instigating the investigation against him, he answered by emphatically squeezing his horn bulb once.

English: Smilie The Clown

This is Smilie The Clown. As far as I know, he is in no way related to Bim Bam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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