Sunday, December 28, 2008

Of Christmas dinners, winter chill and not needing to save anything for best

"Well, it's all over till the next time"...I can hear my Dad now, hear his lovely Irish brogue ...that was his pronouncement at the end of Christmas dinner each year. It was usually followed by "back to old clothes and cabbage "... a reference to discarding the "go to church best" clothes we'd been forced to endure at family gatherings. The "best" table clothes, the treasured pieces of silver and the opening of the front parlor signaled either a major religious holiday or the priest stopping in for tea. Seems so long ago now. I was raised in a family where the "good" things were saved; where not everyday was celebrated as special; where emotions were kept tightly held to the chest; where compliments were rare and basking in one considered boastful. I think how different is my life today and wonder what seismic shift moved me from rigidity or 'sensible" to open enjoyment of each moment.
Being 'sensible' was a virtue in my childhood. Gees, how stifling. Barefooted running through grass was usually admonished as " unladylike"; wolfing down a piece of cake and wetting fingers to lift the last crumbs from the plate was "unladylike" - for my brothers it usually meant a cuff on the ear. It wasn't an unhappy childhood by any means but it was a childhood constrained by worry over what the neighbors, the priest, the relatives might think.
I don't think I can pinpoint a specific time in my life when I said , to quote a Maurice Sendak character..."higgledy, piggledy pop, there's more to life than this." But a slow erosion of what was considered proper, sensible, happened and the bare bedrock of my life is much more honest, joyful, open than it was in those early days of adulthood. Not that I don't, on occasion, draw up to my full 5'4' and cast a withering glance in someone's direction and use my 'queen' voice to stop malingerers in their tracks! Not often though - yesterday I came close.
My heating system went down and wouldn't you know....on the coldest day of the year in Tucson. Three servicemen and $683 later we (me, cat (elderly so I cosset her) and dog) had heat. We also had a new thermostat at $249 and a new defrosting plate at $219....neither of which appeared to need replacing - it was, as the somewhat contrite young serviceman explained, "done in the course of eliminating the problem"- the problem it appears is in wiring. I've spoken with the service manager and am assured that my original thermostat and defroster will be replaced this coming week and I shall be credited. But I wonder , were I really a little old lady, if I'd have had the wits about me to question what is obviously a sanctioned scam. If they fail to make good, I will disclose the company name in the Tucson pages of'll do the same if they do make good.
So the Yorkshires rose a treat, the roast was bloody enough to keep the carnivores at the table happy and I did break out all the 'good' china and crystal...what am I saving it for and if something gets broken at least it was being enjoyed rather than preserved. It was a raucous kids one upping each other telling stories ...the Christmas that... and so on. They have wonderful stories to tell and the teasing is all in love.
Tomorrow I'm heading up the the cabin with cat, dog and grandsons (11and 8) it will be a long drive punctuated with the "are we there " "no we're here" routine. "Do you need to pee" as we come close to a perfect stopping place and not three miles further up the road "grandma, I've got to go...NOW". A treasured memory of a road trip with my two boys involved what appeared to be very heavy breathing and then gasps from the back was quickly followed by raised voices and an appeal to Mom. It seemed that as one boy breathed out, the other leaned over to breath in his air...provoking the charge of, "Mom, he's stealing my air". At least it was a break from the "he's touching/looking" at me routine.
Part of me resisted this jaunt tomorrow...the weather down here is lovely and up there it's snow, snow and more snow but what's the point of saving a day for 'best"...having just had a birthday I'm conscious of the dwindling rather than accumulation of time and why save this day for mundane tasks around the house when I could be with my grandsons and participating in the memories that will be the subject of dinner table talk long after I'm gone. I'm trying to apply the same principle to "using" all of my life to my determination to use all of my stuff. Closets keep things means no experiences, no challenges.
My father died suddenly at 72; my mother talked of all the sacrifices to get to the point where they could enjoy life and yet they put it on hold. My husband died at 61 and I know full well how much of the time we spent building the business was accompanied by promises to do all sorts of wonderful things when we just got the business to the next stage....
Onwards....trails to be discovered, good chocolate to be eaten, dinners to be cooked, snow to be played in, memories to be stashed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Special Day

I would be remiss not to say that today is a very special day in the life of Connections for Women. You see, some years age (the number not being important) a remarkable lady was born. And I am very grateful that this event did occur.

This lady is my partner in Connections for Women, Gerry. I have had the distinct honor to work with Gerry and now call her friend, and good friend she is. She has pulled me through some rough times over the last few years as well as celebrated the extraordinary successes we continue to see with Connections for Women. She has been my rock and my sounding board. I am indeed very fortunate to be able to count on her wisdom and expertise. From the bottom of my heart Gerry, thank you. And..........

Happy Birthday!

Hold on to your hat as 2009 opens and Connections for Women takes off.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Transitional Relationship

My house, I think, knows that I do not love it. We have an uneasy relationship. It became mine in a hurry, at a time when I was not clearly focused yet had to make a decision. The house into which I had poured passion and hard work sold very quickly. It had become my prison and part of me was joyful for the liberation, part of me mourned its loss. I was defiant with friends and family stating that I would not miss an acre of gloriously cultivated gardens, colors that reflected light in the desert and the vibrancy of Mexico, courtyards and fountains that encouraged contemplation- fourteen months later and I do miss it. True, I have carved out a small walled in garden, refurbished a dismal pool and created a wonderful outdoor room in the back and, I do have spectacular views of the mountains, sunrise and sunset.
Yesterday I took advice from one of Connections For Womens' contributing writers and decided that my somewhat inelegant dumping of furniture into space did nothing to create a sense of home. I spent the day moving furniture, rearranging use of space and unpacking some accessories that had been banished to the garage storage room. I resolved to call a handyman Monday to fix some of the annoying things that, thanks to a botched and cleverly disguised re-model by the previous owner, I'd inherited. I resolved to start being more considerate of the house hoping in return that it will agree to a truce and allow me to feel at home. It does have good bones perhaps all it needs now is some love.
Sense of home is an extraordinary thing. I spent my childhood moving. My father was in the military and I was in boarding schools. Sometimes I'd start a semester from one house and head home for the holidays to a place I had yet to see. My mother had an ability to make any place feel familiar and home was a series of associations - things I knew. This house now is my very first totally 'own' house. When I purchased a house after divorce my children were still at home; when I re-married we searched and bought together; this house is just me and that may well be the cause for unease.
I don't think I'm meant to be solitary. I enjoy a sense of 'ours', of creating with another person. I'm beginning to think of this house as my transitional house, much like the transitional person you meet between relationships. The man you meet who helps restore spirits, sense of self; one you enjoy being with but know he's a passing event. I'm not at all sure what my transition is leading to - I've always been fiercely independent, too independent I've been told more than once; I don't need to be taken care of financially and yet I feel that I'm without anchor these days...drifting. I know I'm moving towards something special in my life but have yet to figure out what or who it is.
I'm coming up fast on a birthday and the anniversary of my husband's death...perhaps it's these events that are foremost in my mind of late and causing the questioning of purpose. I returned from Costa Rica two weeks ago but left my suitcase unpacked until yesterday and I'm beginning to think that I need to do more unpacking....figure out what's going on in my head, put away some old ghosts and make peace with my life as it is now.
Connections For Women has been and continues to be a source of joy, focus and discovery....I'm really not sure what I would have done without its presence and associations in my life these past 20 months.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Be Mine but I’m Not Giving You any Hints
I've been doing some research this week in preparation for launching a new feature on the Connections For Women web site. We're planning, in conjunction with our experts, to offer on-line dating makeovers to members; a sort of coaching opportunity where we will review profiles, photos and goals. We'll encourage honesty and a clear vision of what the reader is after. And here's where my research has left me reeling. Over the past week I have read literally hundreds of profiles of both men and women 40 plus years old. I've been into the big sites and the boutique sites and I've come away rocked at the banality and obvious lack of thought that goes into marketing ones' self. Oh there are some good ones and they stand out big time but the dross that you have to wade through is extraordinary.

I'm not just talking about the clich├ęd 'likes walks on the beach' stuff but the dismissive, I'd say rude, biographies and statements that some people write. "Don't contact me if......" and a long list of what FoxyGal in Boston isn't looking for. Or BigAl in NM's insistence that "my lady be willing to be put on a pedestal". Come on people, get real. My absolute favorite “horror” that I came across in both men and women on one big box site was, “I’m not a paid member so can’t contact you but you can reach me at lonelyladintucsonathotmaildotcom …” That tells me someone is cheap and certainly not serious. My all time favorite typo was from a male who wrote "give me a chance and you'll find I'm not shellfish". Nor chopped liver we hope.

On-line dating IS socially acceptable - chances are you know more that one person in your work place or social group that has given it a try. Sons do it, daughters do it, ex-husbands do it even educated grandmas do it has achieved the status of the norm. Read the glitzy NYT wedding announcements and you'll find people who met through the internet – and if you are reading this there is real likelihood that you’ve either given it a try, are currently trying or are thinking about it.

We’ve posted several articles on internet dating, doos and dont's, honesty, first meetings and, we’ll continue on the subject because it is of interest to many of our readers. I’ve had reason lately to post a couple of un wanted house-hold items on Craig’s List and am convinced that people put more care into describing a table they are selling than they do in describing themselves. In discussing this with a friend we’ve concluded that we are a nation divided. We fall into the category of shy, modest people or flaming extroverts with little regard for the truth. Either that or we simply do not recognize that in going on line in search of a partner is no different than heading out for the kind of mixer we used to go to in the dark ages. Remember how you used to set your hair, take time over choosing what to wear and then repeatedly ask a friend “do I look ok in this. Is my hair too big ….” There was swirling in front of the mirror and even the fantasized meeting someone, “hello, I’m Jessica….” and the smile practiced in the mirror.

On-line shouldn’t be any different. You want to look your best, feel your best and put the real you out there. I had a lunch date with a much younger friend last week who wanted my help I writing an on-line version of herself. Lap top to hand, we looked at her original posting. The photo was a rather tacky looking glamor shot taken 5 years ago when her hair was blond and she’s had one to many margarita’s…she’s gone back to her natural light brown now. She’ got a unique hobby….she collects retablos but there was no mention of this interest that consumes a lot of her time and takes her to neat, out of the way places in the south west. Why not, I asked. “Well, people will think I’m weird”. Instead she lists skiing as a passion…she last hit the slopes when she chaperoned a school group some 7 or so years ago and I reminded her that she hated it. We’ve got work to do here. I suggested she throw in her hat with Connections For Women next month and follow the on-line dating makeover we’re offering.

Kafka and the Existentialism of the Financial World

I tend to be somewhat cavalier about checking bank balances, on line accounts and so on. In God some of us trust, me, I'm a sucker for believing in the innate orderliness of "the system". My faith was dented this week when I discovered that my mortgage company (don't ask which's been sold so many times I'm dizzy) has snuck in yet another charge. Due on the 1st. and up until this month, no penalty as long as you pay by the 16th. Not so anymore. Now, if you pay between the 12th. and 16th. you get zapped a $12.50 fee. With that warning shot over the bows I checked on a couple of my on-line automatic bank withdrawal payments...and guess what? two of them are now imposing a $5.00 transaction fee. I guess the ease with which money flows directly from my account into their account on a given day, come hell or high water, warrants a surcharge. Beats me how they justify it but I'm mad . A phone call produced a Kafka like exchange.
Me: can you explain the reason for this additional charge.
Unknown employee with a name that sounded like Marie Antionette and who declined to spell said name for me: it's because we give you the convenience of paying automatically.
Me: But that benefits the company. It's an automatic deposit.
Madame Defarge: we have to make money someway and because you're never going to be late we can't do late fees. (I swear this is true)
Me: so I'm being charged for paying on time.
Madame Defarge: you can look at it that way if you want to, that's not why we have the program. We consider it a service to the customer.
Me: may I please speak to a supervisor.
Madame Defarge: why, they'll only tell you what I've told you.
Me: (mistakenly thinking a little levity was in order: is this call being recorded for training "porpoises"?
Madame Defarge: I'm putting you on hold....
and I think had I not hung up, I'd still be suspended in that state between the real world and the banking world....that dark, deep outer space where you are constantly lulled into feeling safe.
The moral being is take nothing as given. Check everything. Close friends of mine were the victims of a credit card number stealing scam last week. Some business' they had visited in the past few days obviously copied the card number and all information; info was sent to an outfit in Nevada which makes cards and in a 24 hour time frame, someone had a spending spree that involved one charge of $700 to Victoria's Secrets. Their credit union, sensing something was wrong with the spending pattern, called to verify the final charge. With original card still in his wallet, my friend had no reason to believe anything was wrong. For the foreseeable future, I'm logging into my accounts on a daily basis.
Bemoaning the lack of anything even close to personal banking these days I was reminded of an incident from my wicked youth. First year up at university my parents opened a checking account for me at a local branch in our home town. They promptly left the country for a three year assignment. I received a letter from the branch manager, gently chastising me for over-drawing in a sterling amount equal to about $5.00. He told me that he had personally covered the over-draft but advised me to "remember, as you grow up (I was 19!) that banking is a privilege and good habits are the mark of a successful person; your over-draft, should you continue in this mode, will prove contrary to sound banking practices." Wow, was I told off and he also informed my parents who were mortified.
My partner in Connections For Women, Genny, posted earlier about civic responsibility and jury duty. For the third time I have been told my group is not needed and I have yet to have the chance of serving. I was looking forward to the opportunity. So with an open day ahead of me and the rain falling in buckets, perhaps I should take this opportunity to reconcile bank balances and start looking forward to tax time!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Boxing Day Blues and Yorkshire Pudding

The round of holiday open houses has begun and I'm beginning to feel guilty about not hosting my annual Boxing Day (antiquated British holiday!) Open House. For the first time in many years I do not have a full complement of children in town and so the holidays are going to feel a little empty. My daughter is judge pro-tem at juvenile court Christmas morning and that decided us against going up to the cabin for the holiday. I rallied out of my slump and decided that I would do the proper mother thing and host Christmas dinner at my house...since I've downsized I've been reluctant to host large gatherings unless they can be held outdoors but with diminished numbers I know I can make a sit down dinner work. Will also stir myself out of a year long lethargy about unpacking and get to the boxes containing the best and festive china.
 Our tradition for Christmas dinner is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. I used to get myself in knots about the Yorkshires and one of he very few arguments I had with my late husband was when he opened the oven whilst the puddings were in and caused them to collapse! My mother once yelled at me for stomping around the kitchen during the cooking of the Yorkshires claiming I'd make them "fall". I've pretty much devised a fool proof recipe and method now and will post it in . The trick for Yorkshire's is hot, hot oven and cold batter! oh, and no peeking. I remember years ago stationing my kids at the oven door to watch the puddings rise. My greatest disaster came 3 years ago when I came close to losing my "mother" badge. I used a fancy organic flour for the puddings and they were a total flop. For those of you curious as to the origins of this dish, I was always told that it was a way of stretching the meat. It was common in the north of England to get a great slab of Yorkshire Pudding covered in gravy and a very small portion of meat. My mother remembered getting the Yorkshire Pudding first to fill you up and minimise the craving for meat. Another must have for this traditional dinner is what my kids call "grandmother potatoes" named for my mother who somehow managed the crispest exterior on roast potatoes with soft centers. She also made the lightest and best Yorkshire puddings.
Back to Boxing Day - in both English and Irish history it's also known as the feast of St. Stephen and this saint had a reputation of visiting the poor and leaving boxes of food and clothing on their doorsteps ...or so I've been told. In Victorian England it was the day that the staff got their holiday and the family made do with a cold dinner of leftover beef, cold pies and trifle. In my family it was part of Christmas to box up, the day after, clothing, toys and preserves that would be taken to the church for distribution to families in need. Not a bad idea today either...might want to think ahead of the game and put togther your boxes for the community food bank and other charities .
As a child I loved Boxing day. If we were in England we went to the pantomime and then high tea was a wonderful mixture of cold roast beef, cold pork pie, salads, trifle and mince tarts. We didn't have to sit at the table and could take our plates close to the fire.
No matter where we were living my parents opened the house to friends and friends of friends on this day and it always struck me as being more joyful than Christmas itself. It was perhaps 35 years ago that I began to host a Boxing Day Open House ... maybe I'll do it again this year. I'll have to unpack the trifle bowls and find the antique pie mold that belonged to my grandmother for the pork pie. Those wonderful cold pies were also part of my heritage. My mother was a great cook and thrift was part of her make-up. She could look in the pantry and produce a meal with little effort...she scorned recipes and shopping lists. She guarded her cooking skills as her secrets and never taught me to cook, she probably didn't realise it but her very secrecy made me curious and turned me into a passionate cook.
 All my children love to cook and one of the best things about the holidays is the sharing in planning and cooking. The son who is the uber cook amongst us is out of the country this year but he assures me that he'll be doing a New Mexico dinner Christmas eve for new friends in Ethiopia. The New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition started about 12 years ago when he was in college in Santa Fe and it quickly became a favorite...he's got my mother's light touch and working with sopapillas rather than the Yorkshires it's apparent. My daughter is the baker of fantastic birthday and wedding cakes and is always asked to bring the desserts. I love the way that the creation of a meal and presentation of food brings us together as a family.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Trickle Down Effect

It's not only in the financial sector that the trickle down effect comes into play. I left my hotel at 5:30 a.m. in Costa Rica for the airport at Liberia to catch an 8:00 a.m. flight to Houston. No plane! A massive storm in Houston had prevented the flight into Liberia from leaving the night before. Plane finally arrived at 1:30 p.m. and departed for Houston around 2:15 (praise should go to the ground crew of Continental Airlines who did a fantastic job organizing the turn around and were unstinting in making telephone available to anyone who needed to make a call and in putting out a breakfast for us...acts of kindness like that forestall the major "grump" effect that usually accompanies any kind of inconvenience). We lost time because an incoming passenger on the flight originating in Houston was denied entry into Costa Rica and was put back on the flight to return to the US. Ashamed to say that the woman was British and probably in my age range...she cursed, screamed, made disgusting racial statements about Costa Ricans' and in general was a supreme example of how not to behave. Quite a disturbing end to a week away - needless to say I missed my Tucson connection and the trickle down effect began.
Musing on my fairly recently acquired habit of vacationing alone and have decided that whilst I manage very well...I don't especially like it! No one to share the events of the day with and worst still, no one to commiserate with when things go wrong.
And when things do go wrong I've noticed that people who are normally polite and considerate become monsters. I've watched grown men throw tantrums and women whose country club set would never imagine it possible, use the foulest of language. Wonder what it is about human nature that makes us feel so entitled; I watch world news and see impoverished people enduring unimaginable hardships and yet throw a curve into someones' path in these parts, and especially when a service agent of some kind is involved, and they become horrible people. I've never understood how someone feels that literally screaming in the face of airline desk personnel can make a plane seat open up or cancel a delay. I was stranded at Heathrow in the days following 9/11 and witnessed the best and worst of human behavior. I saw airline personnel who had been on duty upwards of 48 hours be endlessly patient with people who were abusive and demanding. I watched one very well dressed woman instruct her husband to grab a wheel chair in which she seated herself and then once wheeled up to the desk claimed priority for seat on account of her inability to walk more than 3 or 4 steps. She recovered miraculously, rising from her chair when her ruse failed, screaming "some one will pay for this, do you know who I am?". Yet another trickle down effect. Meanwhile other stranded passengers entertained children, gave up seats to people in genuine distress and in general gave me hope for the human race.
Back home in the wee hours of the morning and greeted by dog and cat. The sitter had left mid evening. There's nothing nicer than the welcome your animals give when you return home - it's one of unbridled joy and, I swear that if they had fingers they would willingly have made me a cup of tea. One cat from an earlier life, Mr. Tubbs, was not in the least gracious when I returned home; he would make a point of ignoring me and holding back on gifts of little mouse bodies for weeks! After days of pointedly ignoring me and curling up with anyone who came near he would finally come out of his funk and present me with a gift...but never the choice mousy was more often than not a lizard tail left in the bed. Still. I know deep down he loved me. Mr. Tubbs finally died of kidney failure but not without first losing his hair. I found a little tee shirt for him to wear that proudly proclaimed "Jingle my Bells" but one look at his grumpy face discouraged such levity. A serious cat , indeed and a very fine one.
I've returned to glorious Arizona winter weather and am trying to get into the holiday spirit but without much success. I need to make a wreath or two and put the thanksgiving pumpkins out to pasture.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Civic Duty

Now I know there are actually people in America that have never received a jury summons in the mail. It does seem strange but is a fact because my mother is one such person and has always wanted to serve. I thought I would be one of those people as well until recently. A little over a year a go I received the summons "You WILL report on such in such date for jury duty." I did. I think there was bad air that day because in the room of over 250 people there was such a rumble of grumbling about how unfair it is to force someone to do this. To miss work and pay to come down to sit here all day and possibly be put on a lengthy trial that would keep you off of work for quite a long time. One lady was down right vulgar in her disgust for the set of circumstances that came her way this day. I kept looking for the armed guards thinking they really do need them. I did not have to serve on a jury that day but on the drive home I got to thinking about it. What if I was the defendant? What if that lady who was so vulgar was the defendant? Wouldn't we want a jury full of people who wanted to be there, who felt that it was their civic duty to fill this temporary role?

A little more than a year later and I am summons again. How does this happen? Not summons all my life and then bang, twice in 15 months! Lucky I guess. So I go deciding to enjoy and examine the process. The actual process itself is quite efficient, at least here in Tucson. They know how to move the masses through, getting the sampling of prospective jurors to each court room exactly when needed. I was included in the first group to go to a courtroom and as it would layout, selected to serve on a criminal case involving possession of a dangerous drug, Meth. Both sides of the case were heard and we were sent off to deliberate with what was so apparent to be huge holes in the case. These holes, or missing information like fingerprints, more information about the other person actively involved, timing of events or size of the purse the drug was found in to name a few, made it impossible to come to a guilty plea. After 5 hours of deliberation we unanimously concluded the defendant was "not guilty" because the State was unable to provide a case without reasonable doubt.

Here is the point to my rambling. I went home last night believing the system had failed. That there were flaws allowing a possible guilty person to go free. After a good night sleep (isn't it amazing what sleep can do for you) and with a clear head this morning I realized that this system, although maybe somewhat flawed, is working just fine. The "holes" my jury group encountered were there probably because the defendant was not guilty. This system we have in place is a pretty darn good one, beats any out there, and I am happy to say that I have done my civic duty.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Solo vacations

I'm no stranger to traveling and vacationing alone...since my husband's death four plus years ago it's been the norm for me. In this particular resort in Costa Rico I'm convinced that I am the only person not connected to spouse, lover, family. Normally I'm not over sensitive to an awareness that solo travelers tend to be in the minority...particularly women of a certain age and then some. Villas Sol's clientele is over 70% native Costa Rican with the norteno contingent very much in a minority. It's what I like...I don't travel to recreate a 'little USA' wherever I am...I travel to broaden my mind and gain insight into other cultures. Costa Rican's are very family oriented , hence my standing out like a sore thumb here. The women are openly friendly towards me...especially those with young children...maybe I have a grandmother aura hovering above me! Between my atrocious Spanish and their far superior English we have fractured conversation that invariably leads to a polite enquiry as to the whereabout of my spouse. My response leads to much hand wringing and hugs.
In my youth I went boldly forth back-pack in place and traveled a great deal of the world solo...for a young person there were no raised eyebrows; now it's different and I feel that my solo state causes anxiety in some circles. Canadians I have met here are friendly and inclusive as are some of the younger US couples but US couples my own age appear to be wary of the single female traveller. Wonder why? it reminds me somewhat of divorce in my early forties...the way in which the jointly held circle of 'friends" dissipated as though divorce were a contagious disease. I read somewhere once that divorce is contagious...that in groups of friends, one couple divorcing leads to others. strange society we live in.
I've long fought against singles' supplements in travel; the hotel that charges more for one than for two deal. I've not encountered any of that discrimination here but the subtle avoidance of a woman traveling alone is obvious. I conjure up the whispered conversations "wonder why she's alone...probably divorced...." for my part I prefer to be absolutely at ease and offer no explanation for my single state unless someone asks. I don't have any hesitation about eating alone and I don't hide behind a book. I've tried a new tactic this trip...making eye-contact and not being deterred - interesting that it's usually the North American men who respond and open conversation...once that barrier is broken, the women join in. I guess we still have a long way to go.
I don't gravitate towards other single travelers...I figure that adds to the stigma.
Still on my balcony overlooking the pacific and thinking wearily about the flight home tomorrow - if only instant transportation were available.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Out Of Control

Gerry and I have been delighted with the number of talented authors that believe in our purpose and want to be a part of our community. We get excited with each new author that comes aboard. It was no different when Jenny Anchondo, a certifed personal trainer and anchor for the KOLD TV 13 CBS morning news, joined our community writing about her passion to educate people about fitness.

Her first article for us is fantastic. "Choose to be Fit in December" Gerry suggested I enlist some of my family members in the exercises to help readers visualize what Jenny was saying. Brilliant idea, in theory. Containing my family for a photo shoot was quite the exerience. I thought it would be fun to include the photos here that did not make the cut for the article including "Pris, my hunter poodle" trying to get at the flour bag. (What she would have done with it if successful is anyones imagination.) All in a days work.

From a balcony overlooking the Pacific....

So I'm not escaping horrendous winter weather states side but I am luxuriating in a perfect December day in Guanacaste province, Costa Rica. This is my second December visit to this lovely country...I'm hooked on the flora, fauna and even the 3 ft. long (make that 52ft. long when it scared the wits out of me last night) iguana who seems to appear in the path between my villa and the dining pavilion whenever I head that way. I did a punishing day trip to Nicarauga yesterday that I'll write about for January because of the tour van driver who was a maniac and the amount of time we sat at the border crossing...all in all though I'm glad I made the trip and will most likely go back to the time with a more trustworthy tour company.
Costa Ricans are uniformally warm and giving...nothing but smiles and help offered and unlike other south and Central American countries, the use of children for begging is frowned upon and one can walk freely without being badgered.
Exciting news for connections readers...I've negotiated with the owners of Villas Sol (where I stay) a fantastic package as a give -away for our registered Platinum members ...more in January but I can guarantee you'll like it (includes a massage and sail boat trip!) anyway, what's not to like about this vibrant country.
Lunch calls....
and lest I forget...a congratulations to my partner in Connections for Women, Genny Esterline and to Chip Shaw....they announced their engagement this weekend. Couldn't happen to a nicer couple.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cold Snap In Tucson

This morning I received an email from a Chicago based friend complaining of the bitter cold and snow. By way of contrast our weather report here in Tucson is for a "cooling" trend which means we probably won't get above 74F today! Sometimes I miss those bad weather days that forced you to stay indoors, clean out closets, do the filing you've been putting off and, my favorite bad weather activity - make soup. I'm looking out into my garden where roses are in a final bloom of the year and where frost tender plants have been draped in "plantkets" (clever marketing) to protect them from the frost...we do get significant daily temperature variations and a frost at this time of the year is possible.
I'm heading to Costa Rica for a few days in the morning and am taking along Baby Mac and a lot of Connections homework. January issue is shaping up well and we are excited about new 'specials' available to Platinum members...hopefully I'll launch that news whilst away...just fine tuning some of the behind the scenes stuff involving web site . I can tell you that we have a really fun idea involving an on-line dating makeover! Stay tuned.
If you are in this blessed part of the world check out the Tucson Page lead article...some really neat things to do around the area that won't break the bank (some free and all under $10) that are guaranteed to give you a taste of the holidays Old Pueblo style...what we lack in snow we make up for in wonderful traditions.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The last of the turkey!

Nov. 29 2008 It's a sparkling, frosty morning up here in the north eastern corner of Arizona at about 7,400 ft. elevation. Bright blue sky which gives hope for a clear sky tonight and an opportunity to see the conjunction of Saturn and Venus with the new moon...will be a spectacular sight.
House guest numbers are dwindling along with the many more variations on turkey left-overs are there? We made a mammoth BOF (bottom of fridge) soup last night using up all the left-over vegetables. One thing about being 40 miles round trip to a store is that it brings out the 'make-do' gene in all of us - necessity certainly is the mother of invention in this kitchen.
With three dogs eager to get out and run , a major walk through the woods is planned for the next hour or so and then Chris and Jim are loading their wagon train and heading back to Tucson. I'll be left with 11 and 7 year old grandsons and I think their favorite uncle is also staying on until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, thanks to the wonders of technology (no radio or TV up here but I do have wireless internet) , Genny and I have been back and forth finalizing the Dec. issue of Connections ready for a midnight roll over on Sunday. It's the first issue of our second year and we are excited by the quality and breadth of authors we continue to attract. Happy New Connections Year and a massive thank you to Genny who could not be a better partner. Genny, your efficiency, common sense and all round good humor continue to warm my heart. To Heidi and Jeffrey Peltier of Peltier Effects...we could not be happier that you are on the team - continue tickling those spiders!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Morn!

Far too many dogs and family and friends in sufficient number, nestled into the cabin on a rainy morning....snow dusting the mountains across the valley suggest (and boys are cheering on this thought) that it might turn to deeper snow. Canada geese are gathering on the pond and small boys are trying to entice adults into their version of Monopoly ...involves lots of ribald 7 and 11 year old male humor. Chris just introduced us to omelet in a bag for breakfast that was a great success. One mini almost disaster, the turkey that Chris and Jim brought up turned out to be a partial bird - breast only, in the pioneering spirit that cabin life nurtures, it's now in the smoker out on the deck. Our other house guests are planning on cooking the complete turkey they brought on a rotisserie. I'm in charge of vegetables and Lisa, as always, is the dessert queen. She had no knowledge of my earlier post on the subject of the green bean and crispy onion dish and arrived yesterday announcing, "I'm making the Lutheran potluck green bean casserole"! Apparently this is an upscale version using fresh beans and the recipe is sourced from Trader Joe's. So far nobody has volunteered the red, white and green jello salad.
It's really not a secret that our talented logo designer is my son Benjamin (and Genny's talented daughter Rachel is the source of our other graphics) now living with his family in Ethiopia. This morning began on a high note when we were able to use SKYPE to connect with them in Addis Ababa as they were getting ready to join people from the US Embassy for a "real" Thanksgiving dinner.

Late yesterday afternoon I marshaled the troops for tamale making and we had a great time and superb crew. 5 lbs of masa yielded around 70 tamales. Some are to be steamed for lunch today and the rest bagged, tagged and frozen....I hope that when they eventually make it to table the recipients will have some sense of the fun and love that went into making them.

The great glove hunt has begun as the kids are determined to get outside and look for any possible hint of snow. I'm holing up to do some editing for the December issue of Wishing all of you who stumble across this post a joyous day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Home stretch

Ever since my first experience of a Thanksgiving Dinner, 1964 just six weeks after I got off the boat, I've been in love with this holiday. My first stop in the country was Newport, RI and on the boat over I met a nurse who lived in Providence. She invited me to join her family at Thanksgiving. They had a big, rambling house on a tree lined street, it was crisp, frosty day,the house was full of cousins, grandmothers, distant relatives and me, a total stranger. I don't think I ever felt more welcome anyplace in my life.
I was introduced to that strangest of strange TG accompaniments - the cranberry jello that had a green layer and a white layer (cream cheese maybe?), a sweet potato souffle topped with marshmallows and, of course, pumpkin pie. Over the years, with in-laws in the Midwest, I was treated to many versions of Thanksgiving favorites and still, today, my favorite from that era is the green beans in cream of mushroom soup topped with crispy onion rings ...all coming from cans!
More than anything, I love the spirit of sharing and welcome that comes with Thanksgiving. I didn't host my own Thanksgiving until 1981 when we moved to Tucson and that day it was so warm that we set tables out on the patio for dinner. Subsequent Tucson thanksgivings have been outdoors. This year we'll be at the cabin up north and in the spirit of this holiday, will be joined by new and old friends and family to share memories and good food.
Armed with stacks of cookbooks and magazines , we've jointly created a balanced menu that includes old favorites (roasted root vegetables) and new takes on everything from Brussels sprouts (slivered, steamed and tossed with nutmeg and brown butter) to trifle. The children will have their tasks, a sought after one being to create turkey rolls (bread rolls twisted and shaped like very abstract turkeys...I think the idea came from a long-ago Sunset magazine recipe), playing with the dough is cathartic for all ages. Given that we'll be up in the mountains there will be a log fire burning and, according to the forecast, a touch of snow. No matter what the weather, it will be warm with friendship and family. What has changed is the incorporation of a more global approach to food and recipes,and the inclusion of Southwest influences -
check out Tamalada party . I'll post the details in our Tucson pages.
Thank you all for the de-stressing hints you've sent in...there's room for more.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Year To Celebrate

I can not believe it has been one year already that we have been "live" with Gerry and I are about to put the 12th issue to rest and bring in the new year Celebrating all of the wonderful choices we have made along the way. Alot of reflecting has been going on. What is working, what isn't, what do you ,our readers, like and what would you like to see in the future.

We have been so fortunate with the authors that have come on board believing in our mission to support you in every way we can. From the beginning Lorie Marrero, from has contributed dynamite articles for us. Thank you Lorie, we look forward to every month's words of wisdom from you. We were blessed to have Dr. Jackie Black with us for almost a full year. Dr. Rosie Kuhn has been adding and will continue to add her joy in our relationship section. Stephanie Chadwick, our marketing guru from the state of Washington, has been writing for us and even during these trying economic times is able to put pen to paper with great positive words for our members to walk through difficult times. Laurie Mandato, our new fashion expert, has been a huge hit right out of the gate. Dr. Julie Garden-Robinson, an Associate Professor and Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND, is writing articles that will hit home for all of you and help you look at how and what you are putting in your body. We have had fun travel articles from Bridgette Aflalo-Calderon. These just represent our authors outside of Arizona that contribute to our magazine on a regular basis. Heidi Peltier from Austin Texas wrote a heart stopper about the Tooth Fairy, one I will not soon forget. Megan Sanatori in Madison, Wisconsin wrote about her passion with saving the abused animals. So many to name.

Then I travel to the local authors and there are many talented people that have helped make Connections for Women what it is. I always knew that Tucson was special but am still amazed at how many wonderfully talented, giving people continue to present themselves. A very special thank you to Our "Attorney at Love" Jim Duzak for his wonderful words of wisdom to all our women and men each month in our relationship section. Jim's articles have been and I am sure will continue to be a huge hit with our readers. Anne Perry, you have delighted our readers with your wit and to the point life lessons. We look forward to your continued pen. Thank you Sylvia Edwards, Bonnie Marson, Lisa Abrams and Wools Lavelle for continuing to find time to put you thoughts to paper for our members. We and they love you. Northern Trust Bank and Smith and Barney have been very supportive in continuing to provide us articles that help you, our readers, navigate through the financial world. Thank you. There have been so very many more authors that have contributed this last year. We are very excited about our new regular contributing authors from Tucson. Jere' Webb, our financial planner has the knack for putting it simply to help demsytify what our financial markets are doing and what we can do about it. We look forward to your contibution! Joanna Westcott is also helping you, our readers, move forward with your money, your retirement. Thank you. Carie Bauman has a delightful twist on the real estate market helping all of us focus on what we have! Chef Mary Ann Brody has already given great stress relieving tips for holiday preparation. We can not wait for the next article to come around. Her journey to her passion will be quite a tory some day. More new authors to come.....

Behind the scenes there is always something, someone that stands out as an incredible source of support in getting the issue live and working out all of the little bugs each month as well as getting us out there. Hands down Gerry and I are the luckiest people on the planet to have PeltierEffects as our SEO (Search Engine Optimizers). Jeffrey and Heidi, thank you for becoming a part of Connections for Women.

When I sat down to write this I had not intended it to go in this direction but what better way to move forward than to look at what you are so grateful for! Gerry and I want to thank all of our immediate family of Connections for Women for their contributions. Thank you to all of our members and readers for making us what we are today! Remember that we mean what we say...we want to hear from you. What you like, what you don't, what you would like to have here in the future, what can we do better for you.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Penny pinching without being Scrooge

Good Morning world. Never thought researching an article could be so much fun but Holidays Without Going Broke is turning out to be a joy. Researching all the events in the Tucson area that are both kid and grown-up friendly ways to get into the holiday mood without getting out the credit card. There's Luminaria Night at the zoo, Luminaria walk in Tubac, and Luminaria at the Botanical gardens....we're big on luminaria in these parts! It's so beautiful on a crisp desert evening to walk around some of these beautiful places lit with the traditional soft candle light of luminaria...smell the roasting chilis and cinammon scented Mexican hot chocolate. It will all be in the Tucson pages for December. We're hoping that readers around the world will share with us favorite local sights, scents and sounds of the holidays. Go to and click on Your Voice.
Check out our favorite blog at . Our logo designer, Benjamin Ilka, his wife Annie Wallace and 13 month old Maxine, have just moved to Ethiopia and are deep into culture shock and adventure. Annie is going to start a column for us on advice for moving to a Third World Country. Tip # 1...don't go to Ethiopia without a Visa card...Mastercard is rarely accepted there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Launching the blog

Signing on - join us for the journey as Genny and I keep you updated on editorial processes, diversions and out-right disasters! We've just published the 12th. edition of an e magazine for women in matter what stage of life you are in, transition is involved. Working on the December issue today with Celebration as a theme and how our writers' interpret that is going to be interesting. From traditional tamale recipes to a "reindog" fundraiser, from appreciating the simple things that solidify a relationship to avoiding the choices that can destroy a relationship, from understanding the basics of a 401K to simplyfying holiday's all in the December issue. Come along for the ride.
Genny and Gerry

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Welcome to Connections for Women's Blog

Welcome to Connections for Women's Blog

Connections for Women sprang from the friendship between women. Aware of how precious friendship is in the good and the bad times we were also aware of how easy it is to become isolated, to believe we are the only woman experiencing a particular type of grief, hardship, loneliness. It is our belief that by bringing women together in both a virtual and real world, that we can foster within women the drive for dignity, independence, success and prosperity that we all have buried somewhere in our being.

We believe that by connecting women we can empower women, imbue women with purpose, inspire women to be passionate about living each day to its fullest, lead women to live lives of prosperity both in the spirit and real world.

Genny Esterline and Gerry Hogan