Refuge Re-dux

Filed Under All Posts, Family, Melissa Howden, Relationships | 8 Comments


It used to be that every summer afternoon in Santa Fe, New Mexico was cleansed by a monsoon. As a child, I spent many summers in Santa Fe with my grandmother, my Nana. Those summer monsoons came like clockwork—hard rain with thunder and lightening for about an hour—cooling and cleansing everything in the high desert.

Until the storms rolled in, my brother and I would play outside creating forts, running races, building little villages out of sticks and leaves peopled by rocks with painted faces: imagination unfettered. When the rain thundered in we’d head inside for tea and cinnamon toast.

My grandmother’s mother was English, so tea with milk and sugar was a staple in her life. Admittedly the tea my Nana made us was a little milkier and sweeter then, but still it instilled in me the sense of tea and toast as refuge—from the storm. Read more

To Buy or Not To Buy: Sometimes It’s Best Not to Question

Filed Under All Posts, Prudence Baird, Relationships | 17 Comments


What do you do when a friend—or worse, relative—writes a book? Are you expected to buy it? Or, should you say you’ll buy it, and then don’t? If you buy it, do you have to read it?

What if the book is a nine-pound, seventy-dollar obscure tome on chess entitled, Chess Advantage in Black & White?

I haven’t played chess since I was beaten by a six-year-old back in the 1980s. I’m sure my brother-in-law is still waiting for me to show up and ask for his John Hancock on the copy I promised to buy (but never did). I have more than enough unread books lying around this house—some of which I even want to read.

The decision is a little less black and white (ahem) when the book is affordable, lightweight and fluffy. I apprehensively bought—then gobbled up in an unexpectedly delicious afternoon—my friend Carine’s juicy memoir, Sex, Cheese & French Fries. Read more

A Few Good Men

Filed Under All Posts, Connie Stetson, Courage, Relationships | 10 Comments

Strongman Eugen Sandow, 1893

Strongman Eugen Sandow, 1893, Library of Congress

I want to sing the praises of good men. Men who teach, love and protect children. Men who deny their own needs in order to put their families first. Men who really like and seek the company of women. Men who are called to service, or art, or creation, or justice; who can fix broken things, can build and farm, who cook, and men who use their strength to stand for those who cannot.

It often becomes so easy for women in our righteous anger, disappointment, frustration and worse, real fear, to disparage our brothers. Some of the most hilarious, satisfying, nasty conversations I have with my girlfriends are over martinis and indulging in a little cock talk. (And you can take that any way you want.)

But it hurts my soul to feel that we need to see men as adversaries, that we feel the need to brace ourselves in their presence waiting to see if we’ll be assaulted, and that we feel essentially unsafe in their company. So we get snarky and funny, and blame them for what has and has not happened to us in our lives. Read more

Is it Hormones or is it Me?

Filed Under All Posts, Carine Fabius, Health, Relationships | 12 Comments

Ballerina Marina Franca, 1941, photo by Weegee, International Center of Photography

Ballerina Marina Franca, 1941, photo by Weegee, International Center of Photography

Is it hormones or the economy?  Am I just a bitch or do I have multiple personality disorder?  It’s so easy to blame weird moods on hormones that I figure it must be something else.  Aren’t clichés and lazy, hackneyed, knee-jerk reactions meant to be busted?  For some reason, my husband sees no earthly reason not to blame my shifting moods on my hormones.

Like a dummy, I recently asked him, “Do you think the reason we’re bickering so much lately is because my hormones might be making me overreact?”  His response was such an unqualified and enthusiastic yes that for a minute there I thought he’d decided to take up ballet—such was the bounce in his step and high-flying leap to foregone conclusions.  Right then and there I knew it had to be something else.  Like maybe he was the one in a bad mood?

However, like so many of us, I am given to self-analysis; so, just in case, I called my gynecologist to ask if the recent adjustment to my bioidentical hormone formula Read more

My Purposeful Life

Filed Under All Posts, Melissa Howden, Relationships | 10 Comments

Photo by M.A. Howden

Photo by M.A. Howden

I try to be an adult.  By this I mean I try to act with maturity, awareness and with consideration of others. I am, after all, 51 ½ and “this many” months old. Sometimes though I just want to act on my impulses, which is to say ACT OUT!

Recently, I was having a difficult time with a loved one. We were in one of those cycles of talking and fussing, fussing and talking. It was a circular form of talking in which nobody was being heard and nobody was listening.  Going nowhere.

I guess one sign of maturity, which I’d like to think comes hand in hand with age, is that I am able to recognize patterns and occasionally access some of my adult tools to improve the situation. In this case I knew that what I needed was to just quit talking and get quiet, while my loved one, on the other hand, wanted to forge on through to a resolution.  Read more

Nice Girls Finish Last

Filed Under All Posts, Cathy Fischer, Courage, Rants | 13 Comments

Top Chef finalists Stephan, Carla and Hosea

When will women stop being such people pleasers?

Case in point: “Goody Two Shoes” is an expression reserved for females. It conjures up images of a child, a dimpled Shirley Temple-type, in a starched white dress, bobby socks and Mary Janes. “No more Mister Nice Guy,” on the other hand, is reserved for men. Picture a driven, successful executive. Mad Men’s Don Draper comes to mind.

After watching the finale of Top Chef, I was peeved. The three remaining finalists, two men and one woman, were asked to cook a $100k-winning meal. I was enthusiastic about Carla Hall, a 44-year-old woman with her own catering business, a great sense of humor and a big heart; an underdog who eventually found her stride and became a real contender.

Carla has personality as big as her hair. She cooks with love, and is proud to say so, plus she has classic French training and southern roots to boot. But Carla did not win. Why? Because, like so many women, Carla is just too niceRead more

What, Me Worry?

Filed Under All Posts, Christie Healey, Politics | 12 Comments


I think I tend to be more Alfred E. Neuman than Pollyanna.  I like the hefty dose of self-delusion with a side order of mischief.  Mad magazine’s iconic celebrity has yet to meet his reality equal, if you don’t count George W. Bush.  Actually, I don’t think GW can count.

We are all worrying too much these days.  Take a leaf out of Alfred E.’ s book.  Lighten up, stop listening to the news, stop wondering if the stock market could go lower, listen to Rush Limbaugh and laugh, laugh, laugh!

If you can’t stop worrying, then at least be selective about the things you are going to grieve over.  I heard Oliver Sacks on NPR the other day.  He has certain fixation problems, so he decided to reduce his worries.  He chose to stop worrying about what he was going to eat.  He has the same thing for dinner every day: tabouli and sardines.  Presto, no more agonizing, worry reduced.  He told a visually exotic tale about when his daily diet was kidneys and his butcher misheard and gave him 22 lbs of the slithering purple things instead of 2 lbs.  He made his way through about 15 lbs before developing a lifelong aversion. Read more

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