Samsara, Silence, and School (or, How to be Simultaneously Pissed Off and Incredibly Grateful)

Samsara goddess

Look me in the eyes to see if I am telling the truth.

Samsara eyes

Look me in the eyes to understand me.

Samsara monks

Look me in the eyes to understand yourself.

The above images are from the extraordinary film, Samsara.  I saw it earlier this week now have to ask myself:

Is it possible to be both incredibly pissed off and extremely grateful at the same time?

Grateful because this film makes me realize once again how incredibly blessed I am to live here in my oh-so-comfortable little Newport Beach life.

Pissed off because 98% of the world (I’m guessing at this number, but 1.4 billion people are confirmed to live on less than $1.25 per day) do NOT enjoy my hedonistic lifestyle, and the film forces me to look these people in the eye. 

In high resolution.

I’m also back at screenwriting school this week, which used to be inspiring.  But now I’m a little lost because the two best movies I’ve seen in recent years have no dialogue.  (The Artist is the other one.)  How can my weak little pen compete with all these brilliant 1000+ word pictures?

And after seeing the epic cinematography in Samsara, I’ve changed my mind about travel too.  Who really needs to leave home when you can see the entire world in a ninety-nine minute film?  I’m not kidding … you have to see this movie to believe it.  Shot in twenty-five countries over five years, it’s nothing less than the story of what it means to live on this incredible planet during this extraordinary time.

In the context of Buddhism and other Eastern religions, the term Samsāra refers to the repeating cycle of  birth, life, death, and rebirth (reincanation).  But in the film, I believe Samsara is used more broadly to describe what it means to be a human being living on this overcrowded planet right now.  It does so by showing us the vast array of worldly activities which occupy us, our myriad sufferings and joys thereof, as well as the universally unsettled and agitated human mind through which we perceive reality.

It’s both beautiful and disturbing.

And it makes me completely underwhelmed with myself and this crazy dream of trying to create anything of artistic value with mere words.

Wimpy little words.

You really need to SEE this film to understand.

I hope you do.

In the meantime, I’m off to an Equine Therapy retreat in Tucson this week.  (Because this is the type of self-indulgent activity I choose to pursue in my frivolous little life at the moment.) 

Equine therapy

Nevertheless, I’m hoping to learn something valuable from the horses.   At least I’ll be doing my best to work with these creatures consciously and gratefully.  Does mere awareness count as a start?


Have you seen Samsara?  What did you think?  And how does it make you feel about your life?

Travels with Tasha (our Dog-cation in the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country)

Tasha in Santa Barbara

I’d say hello, but as you can see, my mouth is full … My name is Natasha (“Tasha”) and I’m Kate’s first guest blogger.

I’m also her dog. 

We just arrived at my favorite canine-friendly beach in Santa Barbara, right in front of my preferred hotel, the Biltmore (Four Seasons).  Unfortunately, we’re not staying here this time and the surf is so high today there’s no beach:

surfer dog

surfer dog

It’s a good thing I know how to swim.

By now you’ve heard an awful lot about my mom’s birthday (December 21).  I don’t get what the big deal is … Sure, it’s the purported End-of-the-World as well as Jane Fonda’s birthday, but my own birthday (January 27) is just as special — I share it with Mozart, Baryshnikov, and Bridget Fonda.

Why does Kate want to take another trip on 12/21 anyway? Frankly, I don’t understand why my parents ever insist on going anyplace without me … I’m an EXCELLENT travel companion.

Like on this trip.  As you can see, I am extremely useful as a navigator:

Tasha is a front seat dog

I don’t know why Kate keeps strapping me into the back seat with that harness, as I’m obviously a much better co-pilot than she is.  Besides, sitting in the back deprives me of the view:

Santa Ynez wine country

My parents don’t fully appreciate my talents as a tour guide.  I swear if I didn’t alert them with my LOUDEST BARK every time I see a cow, horse, or motorcycle, they wouldn’t notice anything.

In case you can’t tell from the picture, we’re driving through the Santa Ynez Valley wine country.  Right now we’re passing through the town where my parents adopted me in 2009:

Buellton - famous for split pea soup and mini-Australian shepherds

Buellton – famous for split pea soup and mini-Australian shepherds

Dad keeps joking about dropping me off at the breeder’s, but I don’t find this funny at all.  We finally reach our destination – a little Danish town called Solvang.  Mom calls it “kitschy” but I love it because most of the restaurants and hotels welcome dogs.

Solvang - California' town of Danish kitsch

Mom still tries to feed me dog food every morning though … can you imagine?  Of course I refuse to touch it, and hold out for omelettes, sausage, and those wine country cheese plates.

Our hotel, the Royal Copenhagen Inn, is not quite the Four Seasons.  They don’t have dog beds or toys here, and they don’t serve filet mignon for breakfast either.  But I guess not many dogs have the discriminating taste I do.  (I do live in Newport Beach, after all ...) I think it’s funny this place has a “Secret Garden” for dogs to run around in:

Tasha in the "Secret Garden" at the Royal Copenhagen Inn, Solvang

The garden isn’t bad, but they don’t let dogs in the pool.  So much for “dog friendly” — I wonder where I can file a complaint for false advertising?  They also won’t let me into the breakfast room where all those Danish pastries are.  So when Mom isn’t looking, I let myself in and run eight laps around the diners before she can catch me.

Overall I’m having fun, but I still don’t understand why they call it “wine tasting.”  Even though they let me into a couple of tasting rooms, no one offers me any wine.

Babcock Winery with Tasha

When do I get to taste the wine?

But even so, it’s been a pretty okay weekend.  More importantly, I think I can solve Kate’s problem of where to celebrate 12/21/12:  With ME, of course.

At the Biltmore Four Seasons in Santa Barbara. 

Where they know how to treat a dog well.  Plus, I’ll be sticking with this blog’s “B” theme … from Barcelona to the Biltmore?


What do YOU think?  Please tell Kate she really should be with her dog for the end-of-the-world.  (I would NEVER abandon HER on such an important date!)

Berlin, Beijing, Bali, Burkina Faso, Brisbane, Berkeley, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Bora Bora, and Buellton (or, the Travel Moments that Transform Us)

From Barcelona to B_____________?

When I launched this blog on 2012’s summer solstice in Barcelona, I was searching for a great place to wrap things up for the winter solstice on 12/21/12, the infamous “End-of-the-World” (or start of a new era?).  Belize seemed the perfect choice – not only for its Mayan heritage, but for the alliteration:  “Barcelona to Belize” just has a nice ring to it.

But I still haven’t decided where to spend my last day on this planet.

This morning I started thinking about some of the other “B” places I’ve been, and what these trips have meant. The places listed in the title of this post span a travel period of 25 years; each journey has been transformative in a different way.      

Here’s what can happen if you travel to “B” places:

You may get frustrated because you can’t speak the language.  You may learn humility for the same reason.  You may diversify your palate.  You may find a second family.  You may discover Wanderlust is part of who you are.

You may witness a revolution.  You may be followed by mobs of people like a movie star. You may be disgusted by local habits (or you may join in and learn to spit).  You may spend time in a hospital without modern hygiene.  You may learn to live with cockroaches in your room. You may be given snake venom, tiger balm, and foul spelling mystery brews as medicine.  You may be surprised when this works. You may ride a bicycle everywhere and decide to paint it in bright colors after your third one is stolen.  You may learn to bribe low level officials in order to get even the simplest things done.  You may have your identity card and your allowance stolen.  You may spend endless hours on trains. You may get shoved around a lot.  You may get used to your mail being read and your room bugged.  You may wish you could afford a $12 Mai Tai in the city’s only Western hotel. 

You may find yourself breathless gazing at the beauty of a tropical ocean.  You may vow to yourself never to let corporate life stop you from seeking beauty.  You may have an affair with a much older man. 

You may have to sleep on the  ground and not be able to shower for ten days at a time.  You may get dysentery so bad you feel you might die. You may learn to attract butterflies with your mind.  You may learn to truly appreciate clean sheets for the rest of your life. You may hallucinate in the desert.  You may use your travel time to read all the classics.  You may fall in love and get married. 

You may move to the other side of the planet and start a completely new career as a “witch doctor” (naturopath).  You may learn this choice is not compatible with your decision to marry a “real” doctor.  You may learn that no matter how large an American spider is, it’s not really BIG.  You may miss ants that do not bite. May may miss central heating (and air conditioning even more). You may regret not getting that law degree.  You may miss home.  You may get divorced even though you still love the man. 

You may feel broke and broken.  You may go back to law school.  You may become roommates with a crazy French lady who talks like a poodle. 

You may miss a catastrophic tsunami by mere hours on your honeymoon with your next husband.  You may feel blessed.  You may become a lawyer. 

You may learn to tango.  You may learn to appreciate the amenities of five star resorts. 

Your vision may go spotty as you gaze upon the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.  You may have the best sex of your life.  You may be be inspired to cut back your hours in what you’ve decided is the world’s worst profession.  You may lose your job. 

You may buy a puppy.

You may decide to write about it all.

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

The bottom line?  No journey is wasted. 

In case you didn’t recognize “Buellton” in the title of this post, it’s a small town in Santa Barbara County, right in the middle of the wine country where Sideways was filmed.  It’s where we bought our dog, Natasha, three years ago and near where we’ll be wine tasting this weekend.  Tasha adores road trips and will be coming too.  (She may even be my first guest blogger next time?)

Cheers, until then …

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Question:  When was the last time you took a quick inventory of lessons learned in YOUR past journeys?  Do you find such exercises useful?  And if you have any ideas on where I should end this journey, I’d LOVE to hear them!

Politics and Family in the Land of Beer, Brats and Cheese …

Barack Obama consults his campaign itinerary and looks at my little brother.

“How the heck do you pronounce the name of this place?”

My brother pauses for a moment, and decides to answer with candor:

“Well, white people pronounce it “Ruh-SEEN.  Black people say “RAY-seen.”

Barack gets that slightly puzzled look we’ve all seen so often now on TV.

“Ok, thanks.  That’s … helpful.”

The town President Obama and my brother were referring to is Racine, WI.  It’s about 65 miles from Janesville (the ostensible home of Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan) and roughly 40 miles from where I’m sitting right now.  (Little Bro is not currently in politics, but was the former WI governor’s press secretary during Obama’s 2008 campaign.)

Hubby and I have been spending this week at a lakefront McMansion in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

I had nearly forgotten how peaceful Midwestern summers can be.

Powers Lake - view from house (Lake Geneva, WI)

view from the McMansion

The only catch? (besides the mosquitos)

We’re sharing the house with my entire family — all 15 of us (including five flaxen haired little monsters children).  If this were a reality TV show, it would be some strange combination of The Simpsons, Family Feud, Survivor, and Yo Gabba Gabba.

The adventure starts with our drive from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to the Flatlander-Cheesehead (Illinois/Wisconsin) border at about 10pm Tuesday night.  Hubby is famished, but I am morally opposed to (and physically disgusted by) fast food.  We see few other options.

Right after we pass another vetoed McDonald’s, Hubby spots his mecca:

The Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI

He slams on the brakes and does a U-turn.  I whine a little as we swerve into the parking lot, but what can I really do?  We’re in Wisconsin, and avoiding bratwurst and cheese here is like going to Italy and trying to stick to a carb free diet.

If you’re not from the area, you may not realize that “brat” is not the term used for high maintenance housewives and spoiled children; in Wisconsin it’s pronounced BRAHT and is shorthand for “bratwurst.”

We enter the Brat Stop and I’m immediately transported back to my high school days.  Every appetizer on the menu is deep fried (how many ways can you fry cheese?), the beer choice is seemingly unlimited, and house wine (the only available option) costs just $4.50 a glass.

The bar is humongous with at least a dozen large screen TVs blasting the day’s sporting news.  Most of the guys sport baseball caps and tattoos; all drink beer.  The woman next to me must weigh about 300 pounds, which would stand out pretty much anywhere — except for here.  In the restroom, a poster of one of the place’s most loyal patrons (think Norm from Cheers) pleads for donations to help cure his liver and bowel cancer.

And yet … the place is packed.  Late on a Tuesday night.  People keep eating their brats and deep fried cheese.

Hubby enjoys his brat.  I steal a few potato chips and stick to my house Chardonnay.  I’m actually quite enjoying myself (I feel so thin here!), and am tempted when Hubby offers to buy me a souvenir t-shirt.

But somehow, even though I’m rapidly approaching Cougar-dom, I can’t quite bring myself to wear a shirt promoting myself as a “Brat Stop.”  (And I can’t help but wonder if Senate candidate Todd Akins would link the wearer of such shirt to an “illegitimate rape” should a guy take advantage?)

The next day, back at the McMansion, the plumbing goes out.  Nothing brings a family together more quickly than having to work out an emergency toilet plan.  Brother-in-law does the only sensible thing and hightails it back to Chicago, leaving my sister and their baby to fend for themselves.  My two brothers and their families quickly disappear too, leaving poor Mom to nurture Sister through her crisis-of-the-day.  No one knows where Homer Simpson Dad went.

Hubby and I do the only thing we can think of to help: we buy a bunch of wine and host a tasting for the family. By the time the plumbers finally arrive to pump the family sludge out of the basement, we are all buzzed and happy again.

I don’t know if our actions were correct, and I really doubt that blogging about my relatives will endear me to them.  But what I do know is this: families are complicated, complex, and messy.  Even for those of us with “happy childhoods” and “fully functional” adult relationships.  (Tolstoy was wrong?)  Our families force us to face again and again all those issues we convince ourselves we’ve left in the past.

But for those of us who are lucky, our families are the people who know us the best in the world and hold up the clearest mirrors.  In most cases, our families didn’t choose us and we didn’t choose them — and for me, that makes the love I feel for my relatives the most remarkable gift of all.  They know I don’t eat “brats” and that I’ve been a “brat” in one way or another most of my life.

Somehow we manage to love each other, warts, scars, and all.

But I haven’t finished the Obama story.  “So which pronunciation of Racine did Obama choose? The black or the white? ” I ask my brother.

My brother didn’t remember (or wouldn’t tell me).


Question:  Which pronunciation of “Racine” would you have chosen in Obama’s situation?  Do you feel that getting along with your family is similar to politics?  Have you ever gone on vacation with your family as an adult?  Tell me all about it …

Like, Literally, I’m Just Saying, Like, Seriously, Yikes! (and I’m NOT dying, OK?)

The older I get, the more annoyed I feel about the way people speak.  Especially young people.

And that’s a sure sign I’m getting old.

It just seems the rules I grew up with have all but disappeared.  When did every third word become “like?”   And why does everyone now add “just saying” (jus’ sayin’) and/or “seriously” every time they have a point to make?

Please don’t get me started on the overuse of “yikes!”

Even teachers no longer know the difference between “lie” and “lay.”  (My dog, on the other hand, knows to disobey whenever a trainer tells her to “lay down.”)

It's LIE down, Stupid.

And what’s up with the ubiquitous misuse of the word “literally?”  The next time someone tells me she “literally shit a brick” I’m going to ask her if she’s ever considered moving to a third world country.  (Such talent might come in handy in places where they LITERALLY build houses out of cow dung?)

But why am I ranting about English on a travel blog?

I’ve heard rumors some people are taking this site a tad too literally.

So, to clarify, once and for all:

I DO NOT believe the world is going to end on December 21, 2012.

I’m not planning to off myself or do anything (too) self-destructive on that date either.

But 12/21/12 will be significant in my little world because I will be turning 45 — which  isn’t really that old, for a cougar, but does increase one’s Botox budget significantly.  (And yes, I do like Botox jokes.  I can’t help it, living in The OC for as long as I have has that effect.  Please try not to take my humor too literally.)

On a more serious note, getting older has definitely made me more aware of time.  And just realizing that one day this party will have to end makes me appreciate what a gift life is.

So maybe the whole 12/21/12 thing on this site is a gimmick.

If this offends you, I apologize.

But if thinking about the “End-of-the-World”* makes me more aware of the literal fact that our lives are finite, I don’t see the harm.

* A slightly sarcastic note for the literally minded: Quotation marks as in “End-of-the-World” are sometimes used to convey the thought, “Do not take this literally.”  But don’t worry, I, like, “seriously” have no intention of teaching remedial English or punctuation on this blog in the future … jus’ sayin’.

When I launched this site eight weeks ago, I wasn’t sure about the whole travel blog idea, as I had no concrete travel plans for the second half of 2012.  But it’s interesting what opportunities present themselves once you open the door.  I hadn’t planned to go to Europe this year, but started out celebrating June’s Summer Solstice in Barcelona and will be at Stonehenge for October’s New Moon.  I hadn’t intended to meditate for a week in Taos (last month), nor practice telepathy with horses in Tucson (next month) but feel confident both these trips are important steps in my journey.

But I still haven’t decided where to celebrate 12/21/12.

And there are only 127 days left.

This leaves me with just one thing I can possibly say:



QUESTION:  Do you have any strong opinions about how others should speak and/or write?  Do you have any stories of others taking your remarks literally when you meant them figuratively?  Tell me all about it …

Why Protagonists Must Always SUFFER and a Friday Koan for YOU

I’m afraid my story is flawed from the start because even assuming that I am the protagonist of this blog (and who else would seriously want to be?), this blog suffers from other serious storytelling violations.

Writing Rule #1: Protagonists ALWAYS MUST SUFFER:

wet unappy cat

Protagonists must ALWAYS suffer!

But quite apart from my aversion to undue pain and general unwillingness to suffer as true heroines must, this blog has another problem: my goals are far too squishy to form the spine of a good story.

Let’s face it.  What precisely am I seeking here?  Health, Love, Adventure, Abundance, Beauty, Wisdom, Self-Actualization??  (See my “About Page” for my  slightly sarcastic thoughts on becoming Wonderful, Wealthy & Wise.)  Despite the fact that Elizabeth Gilbert earned big bucks for the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love, none of my fluffy aspirations usually work in movies because they are non-specific, internal goals (i.e., not cinematic).  And in real life, Tony Robbins would say they’re not even decent goals, because they aren’t measurable.

At least I have one solid story element going for me: a deadline.

December 21, 2012 is just 139 days away.

So what do I hope to achieve before then?  The travel schedule* is still in development, but this is the least of my problems.

(*For those of you who simply can’t stand being left in the dark, here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: playboy clubs and family confrontations  celebrations in Bridesmaids’ territory (Lake Geneva, WI) later this month, equine therapy on a dude ranch in Arizona in September, various adventures in London, Stone Henge, Paris & Normandy in October, the first international Baja Film Festival in Cabo San Lucas in November, and an as yet undetermined location (help by voting!) for my end-of-the-world/45th-birthday celebration on 12/21/12.  Plus, various writing & wine tasting (the only way to write!) adventures in California will be interspersed throughout.)

But what are my specific, achievable, external goals during the next 139 days?  (Believe it or not, this is NOT Tony Robbins speak, but rather screenwriting lingo.)  Here goes:

  • I want to re-write my three screenplays to a presentable level and land an agent.
  • I want to stop feeling guilty for no longer practicing law.  (Shoot, that’s  a pesky internal goal again …)
  • I want my work to pay for my travels, so that I’m not just another trophy wife.  (Is that an external or internal goal?)
  • I want to move to an oceanview home.   (We’re 2.5 miles away now, but those miles cost A LOT, even in this economy.)

Frankly, I have no idea whether these goals are achievable by 12/21/12, but there you have it:  I’ve at least stated my desires publicly and assigned a deadline.  (Tony, you would be so proud!)

But here’s the problem:  Protagonists must always suffer.   Remember the myth of Prometheus and ChironRomeo and Juliet?  Without suffering, there is no story.


Chiron saves Prometheus

Chiron saves Prometheus

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, despite what all the gurus say (right before asking you to spend $20K on a “personal intensive”  day with them …)  If I truly want these things (and if I truly did, wouldn’t I already have them?), I’m going to have to spend my time and energy wisely, and be prepared to make some sacrifices.  Just watch any movie; the downfall of the protagonist before she finally sees the light is almost always due to her wanting to gain the most while giving up the least.   (This may sound great in a motivational seminar, but would bore a movie audience to tears.)

Which brings me to the promised Friday KoanWho Are You Without Your Story?

We are all so attached to our stories; and no wonder, neuroscientists now say that attaching meaning to what happens to us is no less a survival skill than learning to run from bears.  Not only do we learn from our pasts, but our very memories are constantly reshaped in order to bring sense to what is happening in our lives right now.

The beauty of Zen koans is that they have no answer.  Or better said, only YOU know the answer.  So, if you could let go of being the protagonist (even for just a second) in your own story, how would that feel?  Is there a suffering you could let go of?  How would that feel?

And isn’t that feeling alone worth it?  Even if you never get that agent or oceanview home or (fill in your goals here: __________________)?

Happy Friday …

50 Shades of Purple and Where is this Blog Headed, Anyway?

One of the many things I’m learning about travel blogging (other than Hubby’s constant reminder that it’s getting to be an expensive hobby), is that it’s difficult to pull together an entire life (or even six months of a life) and spin it into a good story.

A story that makes people want to know what happens next.

Because let’s face it; boredom happens.  As does lethargy.  Sloth.  Laziness.  Reality TV.  Time between trips.  All the stuff best left out of screenplays and books.  Many authors might even say:

Today’s post has no business being part of a travel blog.

It’s August already, and I’m at home planting yet more purple flowers for the hummingbirds:

More Purple Dreams

Remember that cheesy song, Deep Purple

And as long as my heart will beat, sweet lovers we’ll always meet, here in my deep purple dreams …”

Purple Dreams - more flowers for the hummingbirds

It topped the charts in 1963 (even before my time), but I remember Donny and Marie Osmond singing it on their show in the mid-70’s.  The song is so schmaltzy, it’s hard to believe anyone ever liked it — much less the entire country.

It’s also one of those super annoying songs that once you think about it, it’s impossible to get out of your head.  And the more purple flowers I plant, the worse this gets:

Sweet Purple Dreams

But what does this have to do with this blog and where we’re headed from here?

Even though I do have at least one trip (both international and domestic) planned every month between 6/21 and 12/21 (will disclose all soon!), I’m afraid a lot of my journeys (the hardest ones) still take place at home.

Like this morning, when Hubby and I argued about my potential plans for 12/21/12 (none of them cheap).  Haven’t we traveled enough in the past ten years together?  And what is the purpose of blogging when I’m not even selling anything and have no plans to monetize all this online activity?

I’m not doing this for the money.

I’m not doing it because I haven’t traveled enough.

I’m not doing it (despite what you may think) to get attention.

And I’m definitely not doing it for my health.

I blog because otherwise I might sit at my desk and write about something completely useless, unpopular,  and unprofitable like erotica, vampires, or magic.

I bet Harry Potter and Kristen Stewart dream in 50 shades of purple.

Like my garden.

And even though that corny Purple Dreams song makes me feel nostalgic (living in the past) and planning my travels for this blog propels me into the future, watching the hummingbirds feast on their own purple dreams keeps me here.


Right here and now.

And for now, that’s enough.


I will be disclosing my travel plans soon, but I need your help …

Question:  Where would YOU spend 12/21/12 if you were me?

A).  Somewhere Mayan (Belize, Guatemala, Mexico) with about a billion other tourists;

B).  Somewhere off the beaten track, like swimming with dolphins near the Bermuda Triangle or meditating in Bhutan;

C).  Somewhere productive, like at a writers’ retreat in Hawaii; or

D).  At home with the people I love because who knows, it might actually be the end-of-the-world?

I appreciate your input!

How to Lose an Entire River and Tame Your Dragonfly …

Hubby always jokes that if map reading were on the bar exam, I never would have become licensed as an attorney.  I’d love to refute this in some clever way, but last Friday I couldn’t even find the Rio Grande:

Rio Grande near Taos, New Mexico

As you can see, the water level was extremely low but I’m pretty sure that only I could manage to miss the country’s fourth largest river and drive an extra forty miles through the entire 20,000 acre Arroyo Honda land grant before realizing it.

My week in New Mexico was supposed to be about learning MIndfulness.

But even though we meditated every day, sometimes I feel like all I accomplished was just more wallowing in my overly sensitive hypochondriac selfishness.

And I still managed to miss my turn.


But getting lost is part of the journey.

A good portion of our week was spent on the theme of permission.  Dani Shapiro (author of the excellent memoir Devotion about the quest for meaning and spirit in middle age) delivered a keynote address where she pointed out that no one is going to fall out of the sky and give us permission to call ourselves writers.

Nor is anyone going to give you permission to do that big, magnificent thing you’ve been fantasizing about for so long now.

And that’s just one more reason why I adore travel so much … once we put ourselves in a new setting, after we’ve given ourselves permission to do something different … anything can happen.

I was expecting to spend a lot of time writing in New Mexico, to get inspired by the many talented writers, perhaps do some sightseeing, and maybe make a new friend or two.  All of that certainly happened, but what I didn’t foresee was the start of a new healing journey I will be writing more about soon:

In September I’ll be attending an Equine Therapy retreat … that’s right, horse therapy (not for the horses).  I’ve never owned a horse or taken riding lessons, but according to the website, working with horses is supposed to “compel you to reconnect with the truth of who you are through the mirror of the horse.”

Equine Healing Retreat

But that’s not the scary part …

I invited my mother to come too.

She said yes.

(Someday I’ll learn that those invitations you extend just to be polite can backfire.  Of course I’m just kidding, Mom, if you’re reading this … I really am scared shitless about looking forward to our coming adventure.)

So now I’m back at home trying to figure out what other adventures to take before 12/21/12.  And there truly is not much time left, as I was reminded of again last night when we attempted to rescue this poor little dragonfly from a huge spiderweb:


It wasn’t easy; I had to get him down from a web about 18 feet high and gently wash the gooey web remnants off his super delicate wings.  He was traumatized and clearly couldn’t fly; I didn’t think he’d make it through the night but left him in what looked like a safe spot with a lid full of water.

It turns out that dragonflies spend the vast majority of their lives in a yucky larvae-like state (up to four years!) but then only live a month or two as pretty iridescent flying things before they die.  Those that believe in animal totems say the dragonfly is a symbol of transformation and gratitude, reminding us to be present right here, right now, before it’s too late.

This morning the dragonfly is still alive, but won’t move.  He even lets me stroke his tissue thin wings; I’m pretty sure the rescue was in vain and all I’ve accomplished was to deprive a hard working spider of her meal.

But when I check on him a couple of hours later after the sun has come out, he’s gone.  So either he stretched his wings and gave himself permission to fly away, or he stayed where he was and was eaten by a crow.

I’ll never know.  But I hope he flew.

And I hope you do too …


Question:  Is there something in your life you have always wanted to do, but have yet to give yourself permission to?  What’s holding you back?   What will need to happen for you to decide otherwise?

Under the New Mexican Sky …

New Mexican sky - Taos Pueblo

Just this.

(Can you tell I’ve been meditating with a Zen Priestess all week?  😉  More coming soon, I promise …)



Tanzanite, spotted lynx, and other New Mexican treasures I crave but shouldn’t (or, the REAL cost of being a High Maintenance Newport Housewife)

“I KNEW I shoulda took that left turn at Albuquerque.”

Bugs Bunny: I knew I shoulda made that left turn at Albuquerque

Bugsy sure had it right; I shoulda turned LEFT at Albuquerque rather than heading north to shopper’s paradise in Santa Fe.

That wrong turn made me lose more than the median annual income of a person living in Sweden, Slovenia, or Spain.

It all started with an innocent stroll around the square in Santa Fe’s Old Town.  If you haven’t been there, it first strikes one as rather charming with all the adobe shop fronts and cute galleries.

The Square in Old Town Santa Fe - donkey sculpture

But don’t be fooled by the old world rustic charm … they know how to wrangle you out of your money here!

For instance, the sales clerk at the very first store I stop at forces me to try on a tanzanite, diamond, and opal ring:

tanzanite, opals, diamonds and gold!

tanzanite, opals, and diamonds – Oh My!

Everyone oohs and ahhs, and insists it’s a perfect fit … The price?  A mere $14,000.  But wait … they will give it to me for just $11,000, IF I buy it right now.  (Plus, no sales tax!)  What a bargain …

How can I say no?

And I’m on a roll … right around the corner at the next store, I try on the softest, most luxurious, exotic spotted lynx fur coat you can imagine:

spotted lynx fur coat

I can’t stop petting it.

(Nevermind that I don’t live in the right climate for wearing fur.)

I HAVE to have it. 

(And I’m too embarrassed to  tell you the price.)

So I walk out of the store, draped in my new jewels and fur.  It’s about 90 degrees outside.  The ring feels tight and I’m starting to sweat.  Are people looking at me a little oddly?

Meanwhile, Hubby texts me a picture showing that he and my puppy are at home breaking all the rules:

naughty dog

And, knowing I am in Shoppers’ Mecca, he also texts me the warning: “the more money you spend, the more rules we’re going to break.”

This gives me pause.

In screenwriting, the protagonist almost always discovers that WHAT SHE WANTS IS NOT WHAT SHE REALLY NEEDS around the MIDPOINT of the movie.

I’m forty-four years old … could this possibly be my midpoint?

I lovingly stroke my new fur and admire my sparkling gems.

It’s getting damn hot out here.

I take off the coat and visualize what a living spotted lynx looks like:

smiling spotted lynx


And suddenly I feel like Cruella Deville (and NOT because of my Botox):

Cruella Deville and pups

Botox … you too can have eyebrows like mine!

And I’m forced to ask myself a tough question:  I wonder if I can get a quick Botox fix anywhere around here?

Am I a Travel Writer, or just another bored Real Newport Housewife on a shopping spree?

I so much want the answer to be the first one. 

This is my moment of truth …

So, like any heroine who has just had her epiphany, I find an as yet untapped source of inner strength and race back to the stores, doing my best not to spill my Starbucks all over the spotted lynx.

I arrive at the shops sweaty and breathless, yet strangely powerful — I am the protagonist of my own life, after all.  I somehow manage to pull together every trick I remember from my litigation days to negotiate the return of my splurges.  (And getting that ring off was no mean trick!)

Whew, that was close.

I collapse into my rental car and TURN RIGHT this time, heading straight to the refuge of a Writer’s Retreat in Taos.  I’m checking myself in for rehab here for the next week:

2012 Writer's Retreat in Taos, New Mexico

room with a view

I’ll be camped out here, diligently working on my writing projects for the next five days.  Because this is what I NEED right now: time, community, and space to develop my creative voice.

As Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want, but  if you try …”

WAIT!  Someone just told me that Taos is filled with galleries and jewelry stores too?  I’m sure no one will mind if I leave my room for just a little while …


Question: Have you ever bought something you thought would make you happy, but discovered something else instead?