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Don’t call me Ma’am

There is a single word in the English language that has the power to ruin my whole day.  That word is Ma’am.

I could be having a perfectly fine day — a great day even — the kind of day where my car starts on the first try, my kids get off to school without a ton of screaming and, when I check myself in the mirror I actually think, “Hey, I don’t look half bad.”

Then I stop by the local coffee place and the hipster barista dude, the one who wears the gross earring gauges, hands me my non-fat latte and says, “Here you go, Ma’am.”

Ah, come on.  Really?  Did you have to?

Of course I politely say “Thank you,” back to the little whippersnapper, but in my head I’ve added a very irritated, “Don’t call me Ma’am, d#$%khead.”

Because whenever I hear the term “Ma’am” I feel anger inside me.  No, that’s an understatement. Ma’am makes me feel homicidal.  I realize it’s not healthy.

Ma’am is a slap in the face.  It feels like one day you’re young and turning heads and everyone treats you nicely.  When they talk to you, they call you, “Miss.”

Then suddenly, almost overnight, people start to talk to you like you’re a doddering old fool.  They speak louder.  They over-explain things like they think you can’t understand simple transactions; “Use this stylus to sign your name.  You see it’s like a pen, but it’s not.”  Then they put salt in the wound:  they call you “Ma’am.”

I know it’s vain of me to care.  Obviously I’m in the age range of the Ma’am group.  I’ve had three kids.  I won’t be having any more.  I’m clearly not a young Miss, but I don’t feel like a Ma’am either.

I don’t like that our culture makes this separation with language, especially on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.  One day I’m allowed to stand in the group with the other young and fertile maidens, then the next, “ No, no, no.  You come out of that group and move over here.  You belong with the old and the barren now.  And what are you doing shopping in Forever 21 anyway?  I hope that skirt in your hand is for your granddaughter and not for you . . . Ma’am.”

Men don’t have this issue.  They’re only called “Sir,” end of story.  It’s viewed as a sign of respect.  Even when they’re in their twenties, people don’t say, “Would you like a drink, young dude?”  They say, “Sir,” and it never changes.  When men reach middle-aged, the valet doesn’t suddenly say, “Here are your keys, old man.”  Not if he wants a tip anyway.

I understand that when people use “Ma’am” they intend for it to be a sign of respect, and that the term is more common in other parts of our country.  In fact, a friend from South Carolina once told me that his child got in trouble for saying, “Yes Ma’am,” to his teacher at his new Los Angeles area school.  My friend had to convince the principal that his son was not being smart-mouthed, and was just using the Southern manners they had taught him.

But where I’m from, people only use “Ma’am” for women of a certain age.  I’d feel really silly calling a 20-year-old, “Ma’am.”

At work, we’ve eliminated the distinction between married and unmarried women by using the title Ms. on emails and letters.  I wish we could somehow eliminate the distinction between young and old women when we speak.

There needs to be another option, a term that could be used when speaking to women of all ages — the young, the old and the in-between — regardless of marital status.

I say we ditch both “Miss” and “Ma’am” and for lack of a better idea, bring back the antiquated Victorian term, “M’Lady.”

Isn’t that a nice word, M’Lady?  Any woman could be a M’Lady without feeling insulted because it’s a mixture of Miss and Lady.  It is like you’re addressing both the young misses and the sophisticated older ladies at the same time.  M’Lady is sort of sweet and elegant sounding, too, isn’t it?

I realize that using a different word might feel a little funky at first, but I’m sure over time we’ll get used to it.  Really, all we need is for one rapper to use it in a song and it would instantly become the norm; “I’ll tell you what the sitch’ is, Straight up from McShady, You hangin’ with your bitches, But I’m hangin’ with M’lady.”

I can already imagine how much better my mornings will be, “Here’s your double espresso, M’Lady.”

“Well, thank you, kind sir.  I will see you, and your repulsive earlobe, anon.”

So much better.

— Kristen Hansen Brakeman

Los Angeles essayist and blogger Kristen Hansen Brakeman is currently one of the 12 finalists in the Blogger Idol Competition. Her essays have been published in The Washington Post, Working Mother Magazine, LA Parent, Christian Science Monitor, Orange County Register, as well as guest posts in Ooph, Scary Mommy and the New York Times Parenting blogs. She’s currently searching for an agent for her collection of essays, Where to Dump a Dead Body and Other Life Lessons.

Nasturtiums askance

Nasturtiums are my favorite annuals.  Their orange blooms make the mornings brighter, the evenings glow.

This year my nasturtiums have performed as never before. They make beautiful color combinations as they twine through the weathered gray fence, romp around the beruffled hot pink rose, lollop under the rusty birdbath. Any day now they’ll insinuate themselves into the fuzzy, soft green sage.  They are brazen hussies. I love that about them.

At dusk, their brilliant orange fluoresces — they look as if they’re lit from within.  Not all nasturtiums are orange, of course.  There’s a creamy yellow, a vivid Crayola yellow/orange, a deep red, and sometimes, a wussy melted sherbet shade.  Generally those “other” colors don’t last a full season, at least not in my garden.

Nasturtiums are more than jeweled bouquets on my kitchen table from early summer to first frost, though.  They’re edibles that can brighten a salad with their color and peppery taste.  Their scent is similar to that of peaches cooking down for jam.  And as the flowers die away the seeds can be pickled to make “poor man’s capers.”

A few nights ago I wanted to perk up the “look” of our dinner — predictable green peas, bland white baked potato and broiled salmon. I garnished our plates with one orange and one yellow nasturtium each.  “They’re edible you know,” I said to Peter.

He looked at me askance.  My husband does askance better than anyone I know.

“Just try one.” I munched on a flower head. “Mm-mmmm!

Again with the askance.

“C’mon, if you can eat eel sushi, you can try nasturtium,” I ragged.

He nibbled, but was not convinced.

The meal tasted exceptionally good to me, and Peter cleaned his plate saying, as he does when I’ve fixed something he especially likes, “Thank you, ‘Mum.’”

“You liked the salmon then?” He always likes salmon, or just about any fish.

“Must’ve been good,” he said, tipping up his plate. It was as clean as if the dog had licked it.

I chuckled.  “Know why it tasted so good, what the difference was?”

He was wary.

“I rolled the fillets in minced nasturtium blossoms,” I said.  “That’s what gave them the spiky bite.”

He eyebrows went up, but his lips didn’t move.

The next day our friends Shelia and Jerry were here. I told them the nasturtium-encrusted salmon story while we ate lunch outside. Jerry wrinkled his nose, but Shelia was interested, so I ran to the herb garden the nasturtiums had claimed, picked several each of the different colors, and encouraged a tasting.

Shelia decided she’d plant nasturtiums next year, Jerry didn’t say no, and Peter? The phrase “you can lead a mule to water but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind.

— Judy Clarke

Judy Clarke is a wife, mother of two daughters, grandmother to two grown grandchildren, reader, writer and blogger in southwest Virginia. Her two non-fiction books, Mother Tough Wrote the Book and That’s all she wrote, can be found on her friends’ and family’s shelves, and she’s working on a novel, But why? (That’s the title of the novel, not a question to self).

How to boil water with Marka Stewhart; It’s a bonne chose (a good thing)

You will need a new copper-bottom saucepan. Make sure that it is of a very good quality. It is ideal if you visit the factory and watch the process as your pan is being manufactured before you learn how to boil water correctly. It is a bonne chose.

When you receive the pan, wash it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Decide on the type of water you are going to use. Mountain water, spring water, distilled water, the special French brand or water from the Swiss Alps. I prefer the French brand and find it to be a bonne chose.

Pick a very fine cup for your beverage. They come in a wide variety of materials, but in my opinion, plastic is not a bonne chose. I prefer a hand-painted porcelain nine-ounce cup which has room for cream, sugar or lemon or all three. Mine was created in the private kilns of an ancient Chinese Emperor. I had the privilege of being taken to an antique tea shop, secretly, by an elderly peasant on one of my many trips to the Orient. There, I found my delightful cup which is painted with lotus flowers, meaning elegance.

You are now ready to choose your beverage. Tea or chocolate. If you prefer tea, it should be  the best quality. I love the tea that has been grown for several hundred years in the city of Agra, India. The present tea gardener’s father, grandfather, great grandfather and third cousin were husbandmen in the formal gardens of the descendants of the Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal.

He faithfully tends to the tea harvesting and kindly let me snip a handful of leaves from the best of the species. I did find it a little difficult bringing it back through the airport, though. I won’t go into detail, but it came close to not being a bonne chose.

When you arrive home, you will want to place your very expensive tea in a pretty container, which I’m sure you will appreciate as your friends come to call, and you bask in their glowing remarks. If you choose chocolate, you will want to have on hand some very fine whipping cream. Mine is made fresh weekly from pedigreed cows in my back pasture, descendents of the sister of the famous Elsie, and her husband, Elmer, of bygone days.

One of the best places to find very good chocolate is in a wonderful little restaurant in old Mexico. It was there that I was introduced to Chef Ricardo who makes a bi-annual trip to Central America with his friend, Juan Perone, to obtain these very special beans. They trek up the mountains on a mule to bring back the choicest pods from the cacao trees. They are then roasted and powdered, resulting in the finest cocoa. I have a standing invitation to meet with the chef each time when he returns so that I may purchase this yummy product while it is at its freshest. Of course, you may obtain Swiss chocolate, but the trip will take much more time and preparation and would not be a bonne chose if you wanted a cup right away.

You are now ready to boil the water. Fill a clean measuring cup with eight and one half ounces, to allow for evaporation, with the water of your choice and pour it into your new copper-bottom pan. Place it on the burner, turn the heat on and watch the water. In spite of the old adage, it will boil. Check at intervals until you reach the ideal temperature of 212 degrees. Once the water is bubbly, you are ready to pour it into your cup and add the product of your choice. If tea, place the dried leaves in a diffuser in the cup, remove after three minutes, add cream, lemon or sugar, or all three if you wish. Stir well.

For chocolate, have ready in your name-brand blender one-half teaspoon of the extract of a freshly pureed vanilla bean. Add this and the fine cocoa powder to the water in the cup. Add one tablespoon superfine sugar and stir for 10 seconds. Top with your freshly whipped cream. You are now ready to relax and enjoy your beverage — a bonne chose.

But first, make sure that the fabric on the chair you are going to sit in is….

— Lenna C. Wyatt

Lenna C. Wyatt, of Scottsdale, Ariz., has written dozens of short stories, many with O. Henry-style endings. She’s nearly finished with a mystery and continues to work on an archaeological novel about the first 2,000 years of human history.

An alternative to divorce

A lady wanted to be rid of her soon-to-be-retired couch ballast and figured out how to do it without being a suspect.

The Internet site offered one of those little odometers in the bottom corner, ticking off the number of hits the site had received. Thirteen thousand, three hundred and three. Was this information being aggressively consumed by a bevy of unhappy, homicidal spouses?  Isn’t that illegal? How many wives are going to run to the Internet as soon as they finish this story? Should aged husbands everywhere be trembling?

Xerox these directions and take them to your next tea.

The first step in this devious behavior is for the woman to buy him a flashy red sports car and a subscription to Playboy magazine. At first glance, this appears to be more aiding and abetting than a plan of action, but it subversively sets the wheels in motion and can readily convince you to wonder if this is right for you. And of course it is; what’s better than being single again and free?

Your husband, of course, will be ignorantly excited. “What a babe! She bought me a sports car. How great is that?” You’ll note no mention of the Playboy subscription is being made at this point. That’s because he doesn’t know about it, since it will later become evidence that disposes of your need to come up with an alibi.

Rain-x will prevent bugs from sticking to your smile.

A guy with a sports car is very mistakenly going to think he is once again a hot property. He’ll be tooling around town — not down to the senior center, mind you — but over to the college campus where there is a higher incidence of hitchhiking, giving every hot chick the opportunity to be overwhelmed by his red sports car and brilliantly white teeth covered with dead bugs.

This shiny-new-red-sports-car approach is merely a routine behavioral anomaly of the male libido and ego running amuck. Think “Bon Voyage.”

If you happen to have a 50-inch waist, don’t leave a thong.

Once the new state of mind is well established, a necessary intermediate step is to purchase several skimpy, gossamer negligees and while never being seen wearing any, casually drape one here and one there from time to time for their increased-anticipation value. This will instill a high level of anxiety, forcing the intended target to feign renewed virility.

Keep a well- stocked pantry chock full of comfort foods.

The next thing to be done is to arrange a full-blown celebration at your nearby Hooters restaurant. Pay in advance for an extravaganza. Tip the carhops generously so that the shiny red sports car remains glaringly omnipresent, and assign very generous tips for those waitresses who show exemplary enthusiasm.

Oh! I almost forgot. On the eve of the festivities, extend sincere apologies and wishes for his enjoyment and then beg off the testosterone-surging event with some lame excuse. Let his imagined prowess direct his behavior, and you go home and enjoy a quart of Haagen Dazs.

Stop giggling with glee; it’s not over yet.

The odds are in your favor. There are many upwardly mobile chicklets but just one silver-haired, red-sports-car-driving big spender within flirting distance. Thus, an aneurysm or some sort of chest-clutching motion should reward you with the house, retirement benefits, yacht, life insurance proceeds, LP collection, and, last but not least, shiny red sports car. You will then be the recipient of the sympathy vote, and no one will be the wiser.

And the award for best actress goes to… 

The insurance detectives and the coroner will note the red sports car in the drive, find the stack of old Playboy magazines secreted away in his underwear drawer, and count the number of Hooters’ waitresses who attend the funeral and will unwittingly arrive at the wrong conclusion.

Caution: Do not drive the red sports car or wear a bright red dress to the cemetery, as this will cause unwanted glances of doubt and invite a review of your Haagen Dazs therapy.

Ron Smalt

Humorist Ron Smalt, 76, is a full-time carpenter in Orchard Park, N.Y.

The dreaded hostess gift

Some moron in the 12th century came up with the idea of offering a gift to someone who invites you to dinner. There is nothing wrong with this concept, but how do you know what kind of an event it will be, and you’ve already given them a thank you gift before you know what you are thanking them for. What if the food is lousy, the coffee is cold, the host spills his martini in your lap and the dog humps your leg all night? Hardly worth the $13.76 you spent on the gift, which, of course, you can’t get back.

When this tradition was introduced to yours truly several years ago, we would take a bouquet of flowers from our garden. This did not necessitate a 45-minute shopping nightmare trying to find something unique and clever, different from all the other offerings to be displayed on the cook’s counter.

There are two issues here: pocketbook and pride. First, how do you give something useful and yet inexpensive. If you go out and buy a bottle of fine wine, your bill could be upwards of $12-$15. If you purchase, not grow, a bouquet of flowers (those that won’t die four hours after sucking the vase water), the price could be close to $20. Secondly, if you buy something inexpensive, like my favorite, a package of cocktail napkins, you look like a real jerk next to the guy who popped for the Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape (vintage 1971, barrel #9,411).

There are more than 147 packages of cocktail napkins in our pantry decorated with everything from tennis trivia to ta ta jokes. The typical plastic wrapping makes them impossible to stack, so they keep slipping off the shelf. There are not enough shelves to line them up in rows so these “gifts” have become a source of serious stress at the old homestead.

Everyone knows that no one has the time or the desire to go out and search for just the right wine for whatever occasion, so all of the wine that is so carefully placed in fancy wine bags is nothing more than the first bottle that has been re-gifted over 100 times.

A better tradition might be to wait until after the dinner party to send a gift. This way if it was a first-class event, the gift would more accurately reflect the credit due. If the evening was a real bomb, then perhaps a Boone’s Farm or a Gallo Gris might be more appropriate.

— Sandra Moulin

Sandra Moulin, a freelance writer from Wilmington, N.C., is a retired master French and humanities high school and college teacher. She has self-published two volumes of humorous essays, Before and Laughter and Laughterwards. She writes for four local publications and gives humorous workshops and presentations.

Andy Garcia and me

The AARP Life@50+ Expo has come and gone, and I must say it far exceeded my expectations. So much to see and do and learn.

Though the connections made — and the dogs met — were delightful and well worth the trip, my favorite experience there was hands down the Movies for Grownups screening of “At Middleton,” which stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga.

You may recall the trailer for the film, included in this post here. (And if you don’t recall the trailer or didn’t watch it then, go watch it. Seriously.)

You may also recall from that post that I mentioned Andy Garcia would be at the screening. Which he was.

After the lovely movie that I enjoyed from beginning to end, Andy Garcia, along with Adam Rodgers and Glenn German — co-writers of the sweet story of two parents who meet during their children’s college tour — took the stage for an “At Middleton” Q&A session with the audience.

Mike wranglers roamed the crowd, giving those in attendance the chance to ask questions. I so wanted to ask who chose the musical selections integral to the story, having seen Arturo Sandoval’s name in the beginning credits (whom Andy Garcia played in a 2000 HBO film on Sandoval). But… though I can write for crowds, I sure as heck can’t speak in front of crowds. At all.

So I kept my mouth shut, listened to others and shot frame after frame of the handsome men on stage.

Then the topic of distribution of the independent film and support for it came up. Suddenly there was some mention of the support for the film on a site called Grandma’s Briefs, with Andy Garcia saying something about there being a special request and… something else I can’t remember at all because I somehow found myself standing and waving my arms and declaring to the men on the stage, That’s me, I’m Grandma’s Briefs!

And then Andy Garcia asked me to come up front.

Oh, <cuss>! I said in my head.

“Oh, no,” I said out loud.

I quickly asked the gentleman behind me to please take my camera and get some photos, someone thrust a microphone into my hand (Here, take this!) and I headed up front.

Right into the arms of Andy Garcia.

Unbelievable.

I wanted to say, “Wow! What a wonderful, touching film!”

I wanted to say, “You are a good, good man, Mr. Garcia!” (I think he is. In part because he and his wife have been married as long as Jim and I, and his family is top priority. Need more? Google him.)

And I wanted to say — once we hugged and I melted into his unbelievably soft jacket that simply felt like home — “Gee whiz! Let’s just stay right here and hug all freakin’ day!”

I didn’t say any of those things.

Instead, I said, “The other grandmas are going to be so jealous!” Yes, at that very special moment, I thought of you all.

Andy Garcia kissed me on the forehead, he thanked me for my support. And I just babbled: “Thank you, thank you, thank YOU….”

(As I mentioned, I can’t speak for <cuss> in front of crowds.)

But Mr. Garcia was kind and seemingly genuine as he hugged me again — comfy, cozy hugs that, well, just felt like home. And we posed for pictures.

Then I somehow managed my way back to my seat — after a quick hug to Sue, the PR rep taking photos… whom I also thanked profusely. The gentleman who used my camera gave it back, I thanked him several times, as well, then I sat back down and tried to stop shaking.

A few questions from the audience later — what the Q was or the A that followed, I couldn’t tell ya — then the whole thing was over. Just like that.

Poof!

Surreal.

When the lights came up and the crowd began exiting, the first thing I did was dial my husband. It’s the normal response when a long-time married woman hugs another man, right? Tell your husband?

I simply had to share with Jim.

And Jim was immediately jealous — jealous that he didn’t get to hug Andy Garcia!

But as he always is, my husband was thrilled for me.

“Was it a good hug?” he asked, as he and I put a lot of stock in a person’s hug, agree that so much of one’s character is revealed in their hugs.

I confirmed that it was.

And it certainly was.

Such a wonderful hug from a good, good man.

One truly unexpected, truly unforgettable moment.

Thank you, Andy Garcia.

Lisa Carpenter

Lisa Carpenter is a freelance writer, most often for Grandparents.com, NextAvenue and The Huffington Post. She blogs at Grandma’s Briefs. One of her posts, “The grandma in a box,” was named the 2013 BlogHer Voices of the Year People’s Choice selection in the humor category.

Authentic and edgy, with heart

(Leslie Marinelli, editor of You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth and Other Things You’ll Only Hear from Your Friends In The Powder Room, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the book. Besides Marinelli, the book features pieces by six other EBWW alumnae (Dawn Weber, Wendi Aarons, Shari Simpson, Alexandra Rosas, Julie Stamper and Su “The Suniverse” ) as well as a recent Humor Writer of the Month, Abby Heugel. Marinelli is editor-in-chief of  In The Powder Room, an online global community for women. She blogs at The Bearded Iris: A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All.)

What’s the premise behind the book?

“You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth” is a humor anthology of 39 original short stories written for women, by women, about being women — bodily changes, relationships, careers, motherhood, aging, etc. These are the kind of brutally honest, embarrassing stories women usually only tell their closest friends, often from within the haven of a ladies’ room. So aside from the voyeuristic entertainment value, the purpose of this book is to forge connections between women and help readers experience the solidarity of those “me, too!” moments that happen when friends reveal their deep dark secrets with humor and heart.

What’s been the response?

The response has been incredible. Right out of the gate we became the #1 top-selling book in our category on Amazon, and for several weeks following that we were the #1 top-rated humor book on Amazon as well. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews, there seems to be a real hunger out there right now for authentic and somewhat edgy women’s humor.

How long did it take to produce the book, from soliciting pieces and editing to production?

It took about four months total from creating the book cover to publishing, but we had a small team of editors working around the clock with caffeine IVs and adult diapers to pull that off.

How did you find a publisher? Why did you choose to self publish?

Choosing to self-publish was a no-brainer for us. The beauty of independent publishing (or “artisanal publishing” according to Guy Kawasaki) is that you maintain 100 percent control over your product and you get to keep the lion’s share of the profits. In The Powder Room has been around since 2009 honing our skills in humor writing, curating, editing, online publishing, and marketing. So extending our online community to include published books was just a natural progression for us.

How have you marketed the book?

Most of our marketing at this point has been through word of mouth…mainly by my mother who has bought and distributed 20 copies (and counting). If she buys any more, I’m going to have to make her a shareholder. Truly, though, this is the kind of book that women love so much they’re buying it for all the other women in their lives. We also have a built-in marketing team of 40 very enthusiastic co-authors who are out there proudly sharing it across their social networks. It’s really been a thrill to watch them take so much pride in the book, and rightly so — the competition was pretty fierce to earn one of the 39 coveted spots in the book, which is one of the reasons why the quality of the content is so extraordinary.

What tips would you give other writers who have a book in them?

My number one tip is to hire a professional graphic designer to create your cover. (We used Lisa Knight of Designs Done Now.) This is critical! The whole “Don’t judge a book by its cover” cliché exists because people really DO judge books by their covers. Also, make your book available in as many e-reader formats as you can. E-books are a win-win: the price point for customers is better, and your profit margin is much higher.

The single greatest lesson you learned from the experience?

As a humor writer, the single greatest lesson I learned was to swallow my pride, expose my jugular, and seek input from peers during the writing process. In addition to the professional editing I received from my team (Di Hayman and Kim Bongiono), I also sent a draft of my story to Abby Heugel (Abby Has Issues) and Julie Stamper (A Day in the Wife), two of my co-authors whose writing style and humor felt similar to my own, and they both gave me invaluable advice for how to improve my story.

As an editor and book publisher, the learning curve was pretty steep! I definitely learned to outsource some of the administrative and formatting tasks next time. But overall, the experience and final product were so fulfilling that we are already working on the sequel. Look for “How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?” an anthology about finding the funny in the face of tragedy, early next spring!

A healing journey

Dear Self,

As a little girl I used to keep a journal of all my thoughts and dreams.  I haven’t done that in years, and it occurred to me that now would be the perfect time to start a new journal after something miraculous happened to me.

How good it felt to leave my worries behind, waving good-bye to anxiety and stress and welcoming calmness back into my soul.

A miracle happened to me on this trip. My non-disabled body was returned for four glorious days while in Santa Fe. With no humidity, I was able to spend an entire day — AN ENTIRE DAY — fully awake and functioning without the need to nap. My legs and arms were never weak. I felt like I did 30 years ago.

It was phenomenal, and something I won’t soon forget.

How sweet it was to start our journey by spending time with family in Scottsdale that I rarely see and to renew relationships kept on hold while life continues to take us in different directions.

My journey continued to Santa Fe as I joyfully celebrated my silver wedding anniversary with Gary. It was a blessing. We spent quality time together in an area where art, architecture and landscape intersect to create a Mecca of beauty in a quaint, picturesque town.

It was thrilling to be here because this trip has always been on our l-o-n-g Bucket List.

I could breathe again and be myself. Wearing scarves, boots and turquoise, I fit right in with the rhythm of the creative culture.

The adobe buildings were captivating, housing unique galleries, museums, restaurants, shops and homes that colorfully dot the landscape.

Walking along the unique Canyon Road was bedazzling. As we took our time strolling along the area, we discovered that each adobe building housed new and creative artistic treasures of sculptures, jewelry and paintings.

The nature in Santa Fe reinvigorated me. We drove our rental car out of the city and into the narrow two-lane highway of High Road that brought us into the majestic mountains that offered breathtaking views at every turn.

Along the way we stopped at several charming galleries and walked around El Santuario de Chimayó, a National Historic Landmark church that is famous for the 300,000 yearly visitors it receives in search of their holy healing dirt.

We fell in love with one gallery in particular because of the sweet nature of the artist/owners, their creative pieces of art and the magnificent property they’ve owned for more than 30 years.

I imagined myself sitting outside, listening to the wind chimes created by the owners, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.

We could finally understand why Georgia O’Keefe moved from New York to Santa Fe after losing her husband, famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz. To be alone with her art, and with the landscape she loved. Now it all made sense.

I loved the blending of Native American, Latino, White and Asian cultures who peacefully coexisted. I loved the vibrant colors of the textiles, jewelry, clothing and artwork.

Every meal was another adventure in delicious cuisine, whether it was authentic New Mexican or French food, or a small bakery (Sage Bakehouse) where using only organic, farm fresh ingredients is important to them. Their policy of providing leftover food to charities that feed the poor endeared them to me.

There was so much to explore, and we made a concerted effort to live fully in every moment, savoring each experience together while toasting to the next 25 wonderful years together.

With love and thanks,

A Grateful Girl

— Cathy Chester

Cathy Chester is a writer and health advocate from New Jersey whose blog, An Empowered Spirit, helps people live a healthy and vibrant life after 50. She’s a blogger/moderator for The Huffington Post, MultipleSclerosis.net and Healthline.com. She’s a peer advocate who also provides professional education presentations on behalf of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to nursing homes about the basics of living with MS.

Reflections of Erma